Category Archives: Home Ec


Now that the holiday craziness is over, I have time to write everything I have been thinking about holiday craziness. So, guess what happened here at the Fun Apartment in Decmber? It was projects! A. Lot. of Projects! We were very busy in Santa’s Sweatshop.


I have no idea why your hammer smells minty. I think you are imagining things.

For instance, there are the Christmas cookies. The fourteen kinds I made this December, and then forbade my household to eat. And now I have lots of leftover, slightly stale cookies. That was bad planning on my part, especially for my new January theme: “cleanliness is next to Momliness.”


White chocolate. Peanut butter. Marshmallows. Grandma was right.

But Midwesterners often express their love through butter. And one thing I love about the holidays, among the bajazillion other things I love about the holidays, is that it is one thousand percent acceptable to invite people over and ply them with cookies and drinks and call it dinner! Cheers!

There is also this job I invented for myself: making embroidered felt ornaments for everyone. I love making them, but I have to make rather a lot, and I am running out of holiday themed items that can be reproduced in felt. Somehow I have a sad feeling that next year’s ornaments will be a mini felt Christmas potholder and roll of scotch tape. (Suggestions gleefully accepted!)

And let’s not forget these dudes. Apparently all the dinosaurs at the Fun Apartment never heard about that whole K/T barrier business. Or I am running some sort of dinosaur safe house in the Mesozoic extinction level event witness protection program.

Also, if I ever hear the words “shutter” and “fly” together, I will start to throw knives around.

But, really, I love all the doing. Because, for us, or well me at any rate, Christmas is just a lot of projects! In fact, the lads and I spent most of Christmas Eve engaged in one sort of holiday craft or another, largely because I needed them to be occupied while I was madly embroidering, and because the YMCA insisted that I spend the day with the boys, rather than dumping them in childcare while I went to kickboxing. But it was fun, because, well, they’re my kids after all, so they love complicated projects.

Because of this tremendous project list, however, I have very little energy to disguise my handwriting to fake correspondence from Elf on the Shelf. I wish he were back in Africa. One wise woman told me recently, “Don’t you know? All magical creatures type!” She’s right. They do (now).

However, we encountered one major holiday problem here at the Fun Apartment: the deplorable lack of good hiding places for presents. In a normal household, people just hide their presents in some secret, out-of-the-way spot. But at the Fun Apartment, those secret out-of-the-way spots were colonized long ago by summer clothes or sea monkeys and therefore cannot possibly accommodate a large Lego set. Mommy had to get creative. Sometimes, I had to rely on the fact that they are not overly curious about the piles of random crap err detritus that seem to form all over the place without any encouragement from me and at a rate that would alarm the CDC. So, I just arranged these piles more artfully around holiday gifts shrouded in many layers of plastic shopping bags. I’m a little discouraged to say that this approach worked pretty well. Perhaps they are a little too accustomed to living cheek by jowl with those random piles. But I spent the whole week leading up to Christmas cringing inside whenever the boys gasped or said “Mommy! Look!” Luckily, though, none¬† of my stash houses were raided.

But this was also a problem when, at 11:30 on Christmas morning, my older son looked at his payload curiously. “Hey!” he said, poking through his Legos and whiskey for a gift he had already glimpsed bringing it home from school (Damn you Scholastic and your ridiculous packaging, too !) “Where’s my weather station?”

I stopped mid-coffee swig. I had hidden the weather station, and its co-presents, the oft-requested remote control monster trucks, somewhere so secret that I had forgotten its location entirely. But, of course, I couldn’t exactly go on a room to- um, well, a room search anyway, because then I would be revealing all my hiding places and expressly destroying my children’s belief in Santa.

Happily, the lad seemed to accept my snorting coffee out of my nose as an answer to this query, and I was able at last to locate these stray items by surreptitiously searching the one cupboard that I can reach without a ladder. And Santa trotted them at the next Christmas celebration we attended (We had five. Check the Shutterfly calendar: It’s a big family.)

Actually, one of my favorite holiday moments was sitting at Fika with a cup of coffee and a candy cane while I wrote out my holiday cards. Never mind that this cozy “holiday” moment happened on January 6. It still had that feel.

And, your holiday card is (finally) in the mail!



Filed under Home Ec, I make things, Living Small, Mistakes I have made

Shelf Life

When we are (okay, when I am) looking for new and innovative ways to clear some space around the Fun Apartment, the answer usually involves the local Salvation Army or more shelves. When considering the bathroom, I figured that toilet paper is generally useful and not really an item one outgrows. So, I began my campaign for some bathroom shelving.

Really, the bathroom is not pulling its weight, storage-wise. I mean, look at the place:

The potty isn't there anymore, but when it was, it was like having 1.5 bathrooms.

The potty isn’t there anymore, but when it was, it was like having 1.5 bathrooms.

It is practically monastic in there. It’s also acidic, thanks to all the vinegar.

My request for bathroom shelving was hung up in committee for a while. (You know the old saying: if a man tells you he is going to take care of something, he is going to take care of it. There is no need to remind him every six months.)

But, finally after the annual shelving sale at this blank-ity blanking place, and after one weekend of having to kick the work crew out once in a while so I could pee, well, looky here:

Trust me, they are *level*

Trust me, they are *level*

Now all I need is are some bins, because I don’t really want to discuss the function of tampons with boys of any age, but particularly not those living in my household, aged four and six.

And since this whole shelving thing was working so hard for us, we looked around to see what else we could store on shelves. Here’s what we came up with:

Tiger Sharks! The Giant Squid!

Tiger Sharks! The Giant Squid!

That’s right! Two can sleep more efficiently than one if they are stacked up on top of each other!

This is exactly the kind of sleeping arrangement I wanted when I was a kid, largely due to this exhibit at the Milwaukee Museum. I was fascinated by those the little pretend houses, where curious strangers from the future can peer in the windows. One of them–maybe Dutch? German? Not sure–had a little bed cabinet built in the corner with a curtain drawn across it. I don’t know if English has a strong enough word to express how badly I wanted to sleep in that ¬†cabinet/caboose/magic tent. But, alas, it didn’t happen for me. So, in order to live out my dreams through my children, I seem to have recreated it for the boys.

After all, isn’t this a little bit magical?

Scoot over, kid.

Scoot over, kid.

It’s going rather swimmingly. After all, we reasoned, a four year old could probably stand to stop sleeping in a crib, even if we did pull one of the sides off to make it look more like a toddler bed. And–even more thrilling!–at least two square feet of floor space reclaimed! The boys love sleeping in their little compartments and, unlike some of our neighbors, they don’t really keep each other up with raucous parties.

And now bedtime is less fuss, more fun. But we still have to whisper. Eh, I’ll take it.


Filed under Home Ec, Living Small

We don’t make it look easy.

Sometimes, my life feels like a string of unrelated and inexplicable tasks, perplexing projects, and quests for bizarre items, interspersed with the repeated cleanup of the Same. Exact. Things. I put away only hours before.

Like Valentine’s Day. All four of us sat at the kitchen table trying to eat breakfast and assemble super hero valentine lollipops. We needed 44. And we ran out of tape on number 7, thanks to the older son and his tape fetish. His “I’m a fixer!” Phase suddenly became an “I’m a problem!” Phase. The discovery of some double sided tape helped a little, but not much. The man of my dreams wanted me to cut it into two millimeter strips so that it would better affix the tiny masks. I didn’t show him my middle finger, but I did show him the one with the wedding ring, which means “Nope. We’re married, dude. Now start taping,”

After this fun family project, I had a quality four minutes to get dressed, because, you know, a girl likes to look her best, and then get the kids to school. With both of them safely ensconced, I could go on a mad tear through the city in search of toy sharks. Party City 0, pet store 1.

This day also included assembling Lego Star Wars separatist commandos (who the . . .??), caving to demands to put AC/DC’s Thunderstruck on our playlists, pulling an architecture coloring book from thin air, making an origami dinosaur, “helping” to clean up the knocked over cat food, and researching the role gladiators played in the society of Ancient Rome. And in preparing dinner, I spent rather too long trying to make my hard-boiled eggs heart-shaped. This whole process was not overwhelmingly successful, because when I asked my kids what they thought they looked like, my pensive older son looked at them for a long time before he finally guessed “Turtles?”

Sometimes I wonder: why all the effort? We don’t need to eat turtle-shaped eggs. Drug stores do sell valentines. But I guess life needs the exciting moments to drown out the screaming tedium of the repeated daily routine. Even if nobody follows the routine without me reminding them twenty times at exponentially increasing volume.

I guess that’s how we put the fun in the Fun Apartment.

I heart you.

I heart you. Or I turtle you.


Filed under Home Ec, Mommy, Not cool

Scrub a dub

The Man of My Dreams and I are alike in many ways. We both hate mushrooms. We both love old stuff nobody else wants. But we are also different, which is how things work, right? Here’s a way we are different: When it comes to cleaning, I am a straightener. He is a scrubber.

That means, in practice, that I keep the Fun Apartment from looking like a storage unit / Devil’s library and he cleans things that are gross, and does not shudder. It also means that before someone comes over to visit, our conversations go something like this:
Me: Dinner guests will be here in 30 minutes! I’ve got to stack all these books, gather the newspapers, fish the underpants out of the bathtub, clear off the counters, and do the dishes!
MOMD: Great! I’ll scrub the floor under the refrigerator!

Training, people. It takes training. And I do think you need both a straightener and a scrubber in the house. Lately most of the scrubbing falls to me, because of the weekend directive.* And I am not terrifically good at it. But I did buy myself a mop for my birthday. I was thinking that it would help to make mopping the floors more than an annual event.

(Hyperbole, you are telling yourselves. Exaggeration for the sake of humor. To which I reply: Err. . . .yeah.)

I had not thought about what cleaning personalities the boys have, beyond “frustratingly little.” At least, based on the fact that they can dump out a bin of dinosaurs and then immediately lose the ability to see those dinosaurs, it’s unlikely they are straighteners.

But yesterday, I discovered that perhaps they are scrubbers. Based on some early enthusiasm, I bought them each a little spray bottle and animal themed mitten washcloth for cleaning. So yesterday, I mixed a very simple, kid-friendly vinegar and water spray, and set them to work in the bathroom. Spray and scrub. Spray and scrub.

Actually, it was more spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray and scrub. But still. It was cleaning. It put us all to work toward one goal — clean bathroom. And it worked. They cleaned the tile and the toilet while I cleaned the woodwork and bathtub. I actually tried to hold them back from cleaning the toilet, until I realized that it is possible that I will never have to do that job again! (To be fair, cleaning the toilet would not need to be done that often if there was any aim in their game.) I feel like a damn genius! And the bathroom smells like a chip shop!

Does this violate child labor laws? Or child pornography laws?

Does this violate child labor laws? Or child pornography laws?

I think I’m on to something here. . . . A fun afternoon resulted in a clean bathroom.
Why a clean bathroom, you ask?

Grandma. Is. Coming.

*The weekend directive, for the Man of My Dreams is basically this: Take the kids somewhere. For several hours.


Filed under Home Ec

Productivity, with pictures to prove it.

We’ve really hit our production targets here at the Fun Apartment lately. Our bosses are thrilled and we are expecting a generous year-end bonus.

For instance, the kitchen staff has really stepped up. There was this:


Which turns into this, in just a few easy steps:


And then there was granola, because cereal’s expensive. Even at Trader Joe’s.


And then we had a dinner guest, so we fed him from our Russian / Irish menu:


Adoring Husband actually is Irish (well, -ish) and yet the making of the soda bread falls to me every year.


And then there was the knitting.

This was my birthday present for my newly-minted three-year-old, a pattern from this volume essential to any collection. The frill is slightly cock-eyed, which just makes the triceratops look very attentive and curious.


He has a friend, too.


What I do to justify watching TV in the evening:


What happens if I watch too much TV:


I just want it noted for the record: nobody’s just sitting around on their duff here at the Fun Apartment. Those dinosaurs don’t knit themselves, after all.

(Also, last week’s post seemed to fall into a strange interwebs limbo, so here it is, if you, poor thing, were desperate to read it.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Home Ec, I make things

Even more bathtime fun

I know. I didn’t think it possible either, but for a little while, the Fun Apartment got even more fun. It was like pioneer days fun.

Remember when I suggested that every family should have their bathtub in their kitchen? Here’s yet another reason why you should call your contractor now.

See this? This is a pipe that used to be under our kitchen sink. Not anymore, however. It developed a feature less than ideal in kitchen plumbing. In any plumbing, really.


Awesome, right? Suddenly, no kitchen sink. So where we did we wash the dishes?

You guessed it.

And you know what? The man of my dreams took it in stride. And he turned up after work with a replacement pipe! So vast is his skill set that he began to replace it all by himself. And so great is his confidence in me that he assured me that this job was so easy that even I could figure it out. He even used the moment when the trap tore apart in his hands, not as a cursing moment, but a teaching one! See, I now know what a trap is! It’s not some screen thingy hidden somewhere deep in the sink–it’s just the bendy part!

Of course, the trap coming apart in rusty flaky bits did put off the repairs for a little while. But less than 24 hours and a couple meals on paper plates later, there was this moment:


Without any plumber bum, either! New pipes, new confidence, new experience washing dishes in the tub to help me appreciate the sink=win, win, and hey, sorta win!

(And yes, that light under the sink goes on when you open the cabinet door. It’s elves! Fun Apartment elves!)

1 Comment

Filed under Home Ec, Living Small

Chemistry set

In my quest for DIY presents–maybe I should say DIM, since I’m the one making them–I started making lip balm to give away. It makes a great gift because people use it every day, and (hopefully) think of me fondly. And there’s another thing. There’s a secret about lip balm:

Are you ready? Sure?

Lip balm’s secret is . . . .

It’s really easy to make. I mean really easy. Look!





Ta Da!

Between this and the bath scrubs, I began to see myself as head of a cottage beauty industry, making little kits with scrub, lip balm, soap, and those fizzy bath things (these are not yet in my repertoire, but how hard could it be, right?) and knitting little mitts for the shower. “I’m a genius! I could totally make this stuff! People love to buy crap like that!”

Then I realized yes, people do love to buy crap like that. And they already do.

It turns out most of the stuff I can make doesn’t really cost a lot to buy. Bread, body scrub, lip balm, knitted baby hats, laundry soap: Nobody goes broke buying that stuff. Lip balm, when it costs $1.49 at the drugstore. It’s kind of like how I can sort, fold and put away all my family’s laundry entirely in the dark. It’s a feat and a wonder, but not one that anyone is about to pay me to perform.

Until the day comes when I learn to make something like electric toothbrush replacement heads, I’ll console myself with the fact that it’s not about the thing. It’s about the making. And that’s the best part.

Leave a comment

Filed under Home Ec, I make things, The outside world