Category Archives: I make things

Well, gotta keep busy.


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

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.)

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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.

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

Well, it *did* look a lot like Christmas

So . . . Long time no blog, eh? I thought it’s provide a few glimpses into the holiday festivity preparations here at the Fun Apartment, and we can all pretend I posted them last month and we’re just now getting round to reading them, ok? Great! Communal suspension of disbelief when faced with illusion!

One project we carried on from last year: We made wrapping paper, using the  craft foam stamp technique I learned at a crafternoon many moons ago. I feel really weird about wrapping paper in general and its inherent disposability, but I feel better about this kind.

In the North Pole, the elves probably wear clothes.

In the North Pole, the elves probably wear clothes.

They must make craft foam with adhesive backing. I didn't have that kind.

They must make craft foam with adhesive backing. I didn’t have that kind.

Here we also extended the holiday theme to our meals, because for some reason, all our meals require some context. Also, my willingness to perform loaves and fishes type miracles for healthy, or at least somewhat harmonious meals is well documented.

Man, do I get a lot of mileage out of these eggs.

Man, do I get a lot of mileage out of these eggs.

Oh, and I made these. They are my traditional “Hey, you’re a toddler, here’s your name, with bumps on it!” Gift. I couldn’t say why exactly, but these are remarkably satisfying to make.

She can't read. Yet.

She can’t read. Yet.

But he can. Good thing I have a LARGE collection of buttons.

But he can. Good thing I have a LARGE collection of buttons.

So there you have it! Some holiday cheer from the Fun Apartment! Not all of our gift ideas turned out so hot. You’ll see no photos of the laminated “Eat with your cousins!” placemats. And the body scrubs were a hit, but we’re running quite low on baby food jars and I’m reluctant to put the kids back on a diet of Stage 2 foods simply to help with the glass shortage. My own scrub is in a jar that still smells faintly of peanut butter, despite many washings. Actually, I might be imagining the peanut butter.

Hmm. I wonder if anyone else would enjoy peanut butter body scrub?

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Filed under Home Ec, I make things

Hey, the kid knows what he likes.

Communicating with a two year old can be tricky. They can understand a lot of what you say, as long as it’s not a State of the Union address, or an admonishment not to grab something from their brother. You can understand a lot of what they say, as long as you have some context or a UN translator.

I should have remembered this when I asked Little “What kind of cake would you like for your birthday?” Without hesitation, he eagerly replied “A Trash!” (Which means “garbage truck” in his language.)

I might have just smiled and distracted him with some veggie sticks (Veggie! Sticks!), so that I could proceed with the minimalist cake with little balloons on sticks that I already had planned. Alas, his big brother, the enforcer, was listening. “A garbage truck birthday cake! Little can have a trash birthday cake! That’s what you want, right Little?! A garbage truck birthday cake?”

Rats. Thanks a lot, kid.

So on Little’s birthday, we didn’t have a big party with a lot of other toddlers — after all, where would we put them? We just did things that the birthday boy likes to do. We ate scrambled eggs for breakfast. We went to the park. We had garbage truck birthday cake.

Apparently caught in the post-Sandy flooding.

Apparently caught in the post-Sandy flooding.


Again with the witch’s kitchen.

Who would throw away raisins and almonds?

Who would throw away raisins and almonds?

And he loved it. That is, until we went to cut the cake. Apparently his second birthday was Little’s time to learn that you can have cake, or you can eat cake, but you can’t do both.Tough life lessons, eased by ice cream.

(The pattern was rather easy to do, and the man of my dreams was thrilled beyond words to have Entenmann’s chocolate covered doughnuts in the house. Also, salty pretzels dipped in frosting and I had a torrid affair over lunch one day.)


Filed under Home Ec, I make things

Faster than Guantanemo

On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in the construction site that would become the Fun Apartment, biting my cuticles and listening to the radio. Tired of watching me shred the bloody bejesus out of my fingernails, The Mr. handed me some orange yarn and knitting needles. I started a scarf. There was a lot of stressful news coverage around that time, so I finished my September 11th scarf before the War in Afghanistan was finished. Oh. Wait. . . .

Anyway, I finished the scarf fairly quickly, but promptly lost it wandering around Camden Market in London. I believe I was more hungover than jet-lagged, but I can’t be sure.

On September 11, 2011, I started the scarf again. And I finally finished it. This week. Look, here it is:

I'm in Gryffindor.

I’m in Gryffindor.

There are larger, more poignant metaphors to be drawn here, but as I was knitting both scarves, I had a sense of time passing, of tragedy moving further away while still leaving a trail behind it. And I felt the palliative power of making something.

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Filed under I make things, Uncategorized

More holiday economizing

I’ve never been big on wrapping paper. It just seems weird to me that it’s paper you buy–paper whose main purpose, paper whose reason for existing is–to be thrown away. Almost immediately.

But I do like surprises, and I understand that wrapping paper is part of the surprise. And it does work better than just holding something behind your back. So usually I just go through the paper we have laying around and wrap the presents in them in a vaguely creative way. In fact, last year, I wrapped all the books I gave like snowmen and they were really cute.

Now, I *love* Christmas and am working my tail off to make sure the boys do, too. Granted, it is not too hard to convince little boys that a holiday during which they are showered in gifts is awesome, but I mean the parts of Christmas that are not the tearing open of presents. I mean the parts of Christmas that make you feel like the world is magic and all things are possible, provided you remember your mittens. So I am involving my little elves in any number of secret holiday projects so that they too might spend December with their chests fit to burst from happy excitement.

This year, we made our own wrapping paper. And it wasn’t a horrible, painty nightmare. See for yourselves:

Sponge painting

Sponge painting

You might think I stripped the boys down so they didn’t get paint on their clothes. You’d be wrong. This is how they look all the time. Ask anyone. We don’t call it the fun apartment for nothing.

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Filed under Home Ec, I make things