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Return to Witch, er, Occoneechee Mountain!

Four years and four days ago, Jag and I hiked the trails at Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. Today we returned, with the three-year-old who was a month or so away from popping into existence the last time we visited. Ch-ch-ch-changes….


Griff was a trooper and handled the 2+ miles really well. The climb up from the quarry (his favorite area of the park) was pretty long and steep for him, so Jag carried him the last few hundred feet to the top.



The last time we were here, the quarry overlook was closed. It was nice to reward our climb with the view from the top.


We also hiked a mile or so on the Cedar Falls Park trails in Chapel Hill on Sunday, so we’re getting a good feeling about being able to start doing this with Griff more regularly. Several times this weekend Jag and I said some variation on, “Six months ago, there’s no way we could have done this!”

I haven’t updated with any crafty projects lately, so here’s what I’ve been working on.

I made Griff a pair of shorts with the Space Grid fabric I designed. He seems to like them, which is the important thing.

Space grid fabric

The Spoonflower fabric printed on Kona cotton fades. A LOT. If I do this again, I’ll look into the cotton canvas, poplin, or some other fabric that has better colorfastness reports.

Alien shorts

I’ve been messing around with watercolor pencils quite a lot lately, and got myself a set of Prismacolor watercolor pencils for Mother’s Day. (They’re quite a bit nicer than the set of Reeves pencils I started with.) Add a pack of inkjet t-shirt transfers from Dharma, and we have t-shirts!

For our little treehugger:

Hug me tree

(Yes, he’s kissing Charmander. No, he’s never seen Pokemon. That’s mommy’s Charmander, bought unironically 10-15 years ago.)

Hug me tree shirt

This was a kind of conflation of all the google images of Brachiosaurus artists’ renderings I could find. (Griff has a toy Brachiosaurus that he loves.) The colors printed out much darker the the original for some reason. I also discovered (after making the shirt) that the latest theories have the brachiosaurus nostrils not so high up on the head, but I guess this’ll have to do for now.

I’m going to try a giraffe next, since he currently has a minor giraffe obsession.

Original watercolor and finished shirt

Dino transfer shirt

I made Griff another button-down shirt, because nothing says “button-down shirt” like pillaging axe-wielding Vikings, amirite?

Viking shirt

Last week we had some time to kill before an appointment, so I hauled out some oatmeal cartons and TP tubes I’d been hoarding and we painted them with craft paint. I cut out doors and glued on construction paper windows and crenellations, and now Griff has some towers to play with.

Cardboard castles

Currently he likes to set them on “fire” and have one of his 43 rescue vehicles come put out the flames and rescue the plastic pirates and dinosaurs.

Cardboard castles

Sometimes a train track mysteriously emerges from one of the towers. I assume it’s some kind of portal to the Island of Sodor.


Spring on the Eno

One of the enjoyable activities Jag and I have been forced to put on hold through Griff’s infancy and young toddlerhood (hey, get your mind out of the gutter!) is hiking. Griff loved his mei tai carrier until he didn’t (once he started crawling at around 6 months), and by the time it occurred to us to look into a backpack hiking carrier for him, Mister 97th Percentile was already well over the weight limits of the ones we could find. I remember griping about this to my physician at my last physical around a year ago, and she said, “Well, in my experience, things like that really do start getting easier by around the time they’re three.”

Today Griff is 3 years and almost a month, and we managed a 2-mile walk at Eno River State Park without having to carry him (at least until we had to drag him back to the car so we could get some lunch). So I think things are looking up on the hiking front. 🙂

We’ve been itching to get out to the Eno ever since the weather turned warm, and today we decided to head out to the Fews Ford entrance to check out the suspension bridge and get some exercise. It was lovely.

The riverbanks were covered in bluets and violets.




There was a big bridge and a little bridge.

Fews Ford suspension bridge

Suspension bridge, Few's Ford

Itty Bitty Bridge

There were trees and rocks to play on and around.

Hanging on the rock

Tree sprite

Griff and mommy

And the river was framed with newly leafed trees. All in all, a perfect spring hike, if a little shorter and slower than they used to be. 🙂

Spring on the Eno River

View from the suspension bridge


Paint swirls

I have been totally enamored of this DIY toadstool/fairy circle since I first saw it. We already had a large circular patch in the yard I’ve been planning to use as a flower bed filled with a variety of fun stuff (miniature sunflowers, scarlet flax, zinnias, marigolds, etc), so I decided to surround it with homemade tinfoil and plastic egg mushrooms and make a giant fairy circle.

I spent about a half hour constructing the shrooms from two sizes of plastic eggs while Griff played in the yard. The blog tutorial shows the mushrooms being painted inside and then “planted”, but the weather was great and I didn’t really see the point, so I created the shroom circle and then we painted them in situ.

Here’s what they look like unpainted. Tres blingy.

Shroom circle, unpainted

Silver shrooms

I collected a variety of cheap acrylic craft paints, squirted a selection onto a paper plate, and Griff and I went to town painting. Griff was way more into it than I expected, and it only took a half hour for us to finish painting the entire circle. In the afternoon, after they dried, we went back around with silver, gold and white paint to daub on some spots.

Shroom painting

Painting the shrooms

Painting Shrooms

Shroom painting

Finishing the shroom circle

Et voila! I can’t wait to see what it looks like with flowers in it!

Fairy circle flower bed

Shroom closeup


Here’s what it looks like via the miniature-ize filter on my camera.

Fairy circle with minaturizing effect

Here’s Griff pretending to be on a really old-school phone (he requested that I take this photo of him). We haven’t had a landline for years, so this amuses me.

Hello operator?

And here’s Griff having some fun with Daddy before dinner.

Daddy's home!!!


In which I do battle with my sewing machine’s buttonhole foot, and win

This has been a good week for sewing projects. I finished a shirt each for me and Griff, and ended up with two actually wearable projects!

One of the problems I’ve found with sewing clothes is that unless you live in NYC and have access to real fabric stores, almost all the affordable “apparel” fabric available locally or online is, to be blunt, ass-ugly. On the other hand, there is a huge range of good-quality quilting fabric available just about everywhere for under $10/yard in a dizzying array of great novelty prints, florals, geometrics, kids’ prints, etc. The problem is that quilting cottons are on the heavy side and don’t drape well. Well-made, soft, drapey, shirting-weight fabrics (voiles, gauze, lawn, etc) aren’t cheap. Liberty of London Tana Lawn (*drool*) runs over $30/yard, and imported Japanese double gauze costs around $20. So I use quilting cottons and try to enjoy the fun prints while ignoring the fact that the stuff I make never quite drapes right, is heavier than it should be, etc.

This is all said to introduce the shirt I made myself from some old Kaffe Fassett quilting cotton that’s been marinating in my stash since before Sean and I moved in together, which is to say, a while. It’s the tank top variation of New Look 6871. I wish the fabric wasn’t quite so stiff, but I don’t think it’s bad enough to take this into maternity-wear territory (but if it looks that way to you, no, there’s nothing I need to tell you). I like the end result and I’ll be making more. I have an idea involving some cheap white cotton gauze and fabric paints percolating in my head.

Here I am in some of my favorite catalog-model poses.

The Waving At The Plastic Bag Caught In the Tree Branches.


The Thinker.


The Thinking About the Plastic Bag Caught In the Tree Branches.

My new shirt

And of course, The Superman. (Superman likes a Shiner Bock now and again, OK???)


Griff’s project was made from the Fishsticks Designs Everyday Camp Shirt Pattern (I used the Big Kid version of the pattern and made the smallest size, a 5). I found the pattern easy to use and the instructions clear and thorough. (Why can’t the big commercial companies’ patterns be this nice to use? Sigh.) The boys’ size 5 turned out to be a perfect fit for Griff, who has graduated from toddler sizes in shirts to a big kid XS-S and now takes a 4T pant. Griff picked out the rocket ship fabric at Joanns, and I picked a coordinating fat quarter for the pocket. My machine’s buttonhole feature isn’t the most intuitive, but I got it figured out and managed to get them all cut without ripping a gaping hole in the fabric. And the buttons all fit through the holes but don’t pop out randomly, so hooray for me.

He seems to like it, and it fits perfectly. I’m currently fighting the urge to buy every cute cotton novelty print I can find to make him a whole batch of these things.

Here’s what you get when you ask Griff to smile for photos these days. Erk.


Not much better:


Approaching normal!



It wasn’t all modeling clothes this weekend, though. Among other things, we got our pole bean teepee set up and laid down cardboard and mulch underneath. I still need to do more digging/amending around the base and add some wires or strings between the poles.


Griff got a Stomp Rocket for his birthday last month, and today he just totally clicked on figuring out how to tromp on the air bladder to get the rockets to launch. He had a great time shooting rockets across the yard this afternoon.




The spring garden is doing well (we had our first spinach and lettuce salad this weekend).


The tomato plants will be going in the ground next weekend unless it actually snows, because they are getting HUGE.



Today was a day for egg hunting in the rain.

Egg hunt

Egg hunt

Egg hunt

Egg hunt

Egg hunt

Egg hunt

Egg hunt

And hatching all the little dinosaurs and pirates out of the eggs you collected.

Egg hunt treasures

And once the rain stopped, dancing barefoot in your Daddy’s hat.



Daddy might join in, too.


We painted a few real eggs, but the paper eggs we painted last week were much more fun. I need to keep reminding myself that I am a “product” artist, and for now, Griff is firmly a “process” artist. He was basically uninterested in the Perler bead dinosaur/egg melts we made that morning, which was a little disappointing, but once I got out the paints and he had an opportunity to mix colors and get into a big squooshy tactile experience, he wouldn’t stop painting til we ran out of paper eggs. Then he painted himself. 🙂

Perler bead melts

Painting "eggs"

Painting "eggs"

Painting "eggs"

And often, the “process” stuff turns out pretty darn well.

Painting "eggs"

Griff egg

Egg art

I also made up a batch of fabric eggs to hang from some branches as a seasonal decoration. I’m sure these have been made before, but I winged the process and couldn’t find a tutorial to link to. Basically there are two layers of fabric and a layer of stiff interfacing in between. Layer three squares along with some yarn or ribbon for hanging, mark the egg shape with a template, stitch around the line with a reasonably coordinating thread, and cut out the egg shape. Particularly nice for those little scraps of fabrics you really love and can’t bear to throw away. I can see making a bunch of these for Christmas ornaments. Maybe some pumpkins and ghosts…pretty wide open.

Fabric eggs for hanging

Fabric eggs for hanging

Fabric eggs and forsythia

Griff keeps hitting little milestones. He can swing on the big kid swings without help now.


And he drew his first happy face. 🙂

Griff's first happy face

Also, he’s obsessed with the TARDIS without ever having seen an episode of the show. All he knows is that The Doctor lives there. 😉



Spring is finally almost here.


West Point on the Eno March 2013

West Point on the Eno March 2013

West Point on the Eno March 2013

West Point on the Eno March 2013

West Point on the Eno March 2013

Plus, sugar snap peas are coming up in the garden!!!

Baby Snap Peas!!!!

Good riddance, January

All three of us were sick at various times for most of the entire month of January, stuck inside for long periods and generally feeling exhausted and crappy, and I feel like we’re just now able to start settling into some kind of routine.

I saw this rainbow salt tray described on a blog a while back and decided to give it a try one morning to keep us busy. This is one of those things that provides a ridiculous amount of entertainment given how cheap and simple as it is. I used a printer paper box lid (remember to tape off the corners to keep salt from leaking out, oops). The fact that salt is used makes it cheap, safe (it’s edible, yet a kid will only try to eat it once, if they are so inclined) and it will certainly kill off any pesky house-slugs wandering nearby.

Griff made a bunch of various abstract designs and then decided that the three paintbrushes were Bash, Dash and Ferdinand (“the wogging wocos!”) from Thomas and made up various adventures for them.

Griff enjoying the salt tray

Hands on in the salt tray

Mommy couldn’t keep herself from drawing something every time she walked by. It really is addictive.

Salt rocket

Salt flower

Salt sun

Salt kitty

There’s been a bit of knitting around here as well. I ran out of things to sew for Griff, so I cast on this mildly cabled hooded vest for him. I don’t know if I’ll finish it before it gets too warm to wear it, but I’m making it big (in bigger yarn than the pattern calls for) so it will work well for the fall. I’m finding that vests are a good choice for toddlers; they’re less likely to overheat in them, and the lack of sleeves means no restriction of movement.

Griff's in-progress vest

I also cast on and finished a new hat for Sean in less than a week. I’m a pretty slow knitter, so this was good progress for me. I used The Natural pattern and the same Malabrigo worsted yarn/colorway that I used to knit him his scarf, lo these many years ago. (January 2008, to be specific. Wow.) You can see in the photos below that the scarf has faded, pilled and fluffed up, as Malabrigo will, so I’m expecting the hat to be a featureless ball of fuzz within 6 months. Still, it turned out nice and looks good with Sean’s beard. 🙂

Sean's new hat

Sean's new hat

Here’s what the scarf looked like 5 years ago (and Sean, too).

Jag in his new scarf

I’m constantly amazed that Griff can manage to get so much food on his face with so little effort. Captain Blueberrybeard here just finished his smoothie.
Captain Blueberrybeard

Potty training is going much better now, and we’re also working on letters and numbers. It should come as no surprise that Griff summoned me into the bathroom today to demonstrate his growing mastery of both skills. “Mommy, I pooped a letter! It a ‘J’!” (It really did look like a ‘J’).

A few other projects: I’m making garden markers for the veggie garden with popsicle sticks, permanent marker and a couple coats of Outdoor Mod Podge to try and protect the writing. I bet you didn’t know there was an Outdoor Mod Podge. My friend, there is a Mod Podge for every occasion. The Podge abides.

Garden markers

I’m also working on a very very simple scrap quilt for me and Sean’s bed. We currently have a cheapo plain blue comforter from Target and it offends my sense that we should have handmade stuff wherever possible (and also, it’s not very warm). I’m going through my entire stash and if a fabric is vaguely blueish and I like it, I cut a 10″ square or two and stick it on the pile. Once I have 90 squares cut I’ll sew them together, add a border and do the same fleece backing I did on my last quilt.

Makin' another quilt

Defy Gravity

I had originally planned to head to the NCMLS this morning with Griff, but he still mainly enjoys the outdoor areas and it was in the low 20s this morning, so I quickly made a Plan B: Defy Gravity.

Defy Gravity is a trampoline place in Imperial Center, just down the road from the Sheraton. They have special 6-and-under bounce hours from 9-10am every weekday morning. The cost is $8/kid, parent jumps free. You can sign the required waiver online (it stays on file for a year) and pay an extra $1 fee to buy your ticket online if you like, although there’s probably no need unless there’s a holiday, school workday, etc. We had the place to ourselves from 9-9:25 or so, and when we left there were only three other groups bouncing.

It. was. awesome. They have a big bounce field, two side areas where you can play with balls, and the moon pit, where we spent at least 20 minutes. (I forgot my real camera, so I apologize for these shaky phone pics.)

The moon pit is a huge pit filled with foam blocks. There are two trampolines to bounce from into the pit. I only got to try it once because Griff kept needing my help to climb out after he jumped in; I advise going with your spouse or another mom so you can trade off watching the littles and enjoy the pit. 🙂

Preparing to leap into the moon pit

Loving the moon pit

In the moon pit

Here’s a view from the “dodgeball” area, looking out at the main jump field.

Looking out at the main jump field from a side room

And in the dodgeball area:

One of the side areas

I really can’t recommend this place highly enough. It seemed clean, the staff were friendly, and it was a fantastic workout (my legs are still sore from all the jumping). I can see us heading here once a week during the really cold parts of winter just to let Griff go crazy getting some big-muscle movement. I enjoyed it just as much as he did and since it works out to $4/person, it’s not too expensive. The location right off 40 is nice, too.

Non-angry birds

The birdseed “ornaments” Griff and I made last week are definitely being consumed, at least by the resident pair of cardinals. I got a photo of the male snacking away this past weekend.

Cardinal eating the birdseed ornaments

His mate has clearly been chowing down quite a bit more than he has. She is HUGE. I did some research and cardinals aren’t supposed to have their first mating of the season til March, so I don’t think her rotundity can be excused by eggs.

HUGE female cardinal eating the birdseed ornaments

I’ve been finding some time to spin here and there over the last few months when Griff lets me. Here are 4 bobbins of singles: two black Shetland, two of my hand-dyed (Shetland and Finn).

Recent spinning

I have around 2lbs of the black Shetland from a fleece I bought a while back, and I’m planning to ply it with various hand-dyed stash braids and then knit something for myself. I’m thinking maybe another Liesl. This is the first plied batch, just over 5 oz. Have not checked yardage or weight yet, but guessing in the DK range.

Handspun (black Shetland and handdyed Shetland)

Sean and I have been working on getting the yard ready for spring (again, as Griff allows). The part of the yard that’s most heavily travelled was having a tendency to get muddy and the grass was never going to grow back, so we bought a bunch of little pavers and used some free mulch from our tree-service-guys-needed-to-empty-their-truck mulch pile to make a path.

New path

We put together our two 4×8 raised bed kits as well. I’m also planning a bean teepee for some pole beans, and I think the watermelons I have planned will go somewhere else to keep the vines from taking over a bed. (Note that we dropped the raised beds over the existing broccoli plants! The main heads are long gone and the plants will be pulled up soon when we fill the beds, but they keep making delicious little florets that Griff and I snack on when we’re out in the yard, so they stay for now.)

Raised beds

I finished Griff’s second fleece vest (from this pattern) and he really likes it. I discovered that my machine does a really nice blanket stitch and used it to applique a couple cutouts from the lining fabric.

Fleece vest for Griff

Fleece vest, flannel lining

Griff actually napped today, so he was pretty agreeable about doing an afternoon photoshoot. 🙂 If only he was so amenable to POOPING IN THE @#&!%@& POTTY. Ahem.

Vest model

Vest model

First real week at home

I left my job on January 4th to stay home full-time with Griff. Then we all got really sick, and we spent the first week I was home going to the doctor and running to CVS for prescriptions and the grocery store for orange juice and watching way too many episodes of “Thomas & Friends” on Netflix to keep Griff amused while we all recovered. Finally, this past Monday, we were all feeling relatively decent. Sean went to work, and we started easing into our new routine.

Things have been going pretty well. Griff is at an age where he can amuse himself for periods while I’m working around the house or cooking a meal. He’s happy to hang out in the basement craft/play room while I run a load of laundry, or sew.

For example, this blue pyramid scrap quilt! I finished piecing the top in February of 2011 using all kinds of fabric stash scraps, tried tying it, hated how it turned out, ripped out all the ties, and left it in a box until this week. I decided I just wanted it to get done so it could be used, so I backed it with some blue patterned polar fleece and treated the fleece as both batting and backing. Then I machine quilted it in the ditch, turned under the edges of the backing, and self-bound it.

New Pyramids quilt

Quilt backed with fleece

Quilt self-binding

This was my first machine-quilted quilt, and it turned out awesome! The fleece was very forgiving. My sewing machine is technically a 3/4 size machine and the harp space is not that big, but I had no trouble at all stuffing this 70″x54″ quilt in there and using my walking foot to quilt it. I am very excited because this means I should have no trouble using the same technique to make Griff a twin-sized quilt once we get him a big boy bed. The fleece also makes it so very cuddly. I think I’ll be making all my quilts this way until Griff is older and I once again have the time to hand quilt.

Pyramid quilt

Griff and I had fun making birdseed “ornaments” this week as well. We used this tutorial. It was a great hands-on toddler activity, although I’ll be finding millet and sunflower seeds in the kitchen for a few months.

First, you mix the seed, flour, water, gelatin and corn syrup.

A creature is stirring

Then you pack it into molds. We used some mini Bundt pans and some big cookie cutters. The mix is very sticky, so greasing the molds is a must.


Pack it in as firmly as possible to get the best results.

Packing in the birdseed mixture

Birdseed mix packed in

I stuck in some straws to create a hanging-hole in the ones that weren’t Bundt pans. It’s really important to let them dry in the molds 24 hours, unmold, and then dry another 24 hours. I got impatient and one of them started falling apart when I unmolded it too soon.

Birdseed ornaments drying

Here’s how they look once they’re done.

Birdseed ornaments unmolded

I strung them with yarn scraps and we took them outside to hang once the snow had melted this afternoon. I have no idea if the birds will actually eat them, especially since we had to hang them fairly low on branches Griff could reach, but we had fun making them.

Hanging the birdseed ornaments

Hanging the bird feeder

Griff is wearing another very recently finished sewing project, the Tie Dye Diva Reversible Fleece Hoodie. (I had to start making stuff other than jammies when I realized there was literally no more space left in Griff’s jammie drawer to add any new ones.) I used polar fleece on one side and some dinosaur-themed flannel on the other. I love how it makes him look like a little gnome. Vests seem really practical for toddlers, especially with the hood.

Gnomey vest

Griff in his gnomey vest

Griff’s getting pickier about his clothes (for example, he refuses to wear the socks I knitted for him because they “feel funny”), but he loves this vest and is very excited about a second one I’m making him in red fleece with fireman-themed flannel lining.

It’s hard to believe that this afternoon…

Griff trucking along

…came after this morning.

Enjoying the freeze

Checking out the ice

Playing in the snow