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Santa train

We didn’t get a whole lot done this weekend due to general blahs (all of us seem to be coming down with something), but we did manage to have a park meetup with one of Griff’s daycare buddies and do the Santa Train at the Museum of Life + Science, all on the same day.

Indian Trail Park off Hillandale Rd is still one of my favorite Durham parks. It’s never crowded, and the equipment is so much more interesting than the standard Boring Blue Plastic Slides in Two Sizes (Little Toddler Kid and Slightly Bigger Kid). Griff and his friend had a blast; he never plays nearly as hard with just us as he does with another kid. (I’ve edited his friend out of the photos since I don’t have permission to post his picture.)

I’d like to point out that I made that shirt for Griff 30 minutes before we left for the play date because I became convinced that he needed to have something festive to wear to the Santa Train. (Griff was unaware of this requirement and really could have cared less, although he was happy enough to have a Rudolph shirt.) There was some frantic fusible applique and stitching going on, but it turned out pretty cute. I got the templates from here.

Indian Trail Park

Indian Trail Park

Indian Trail Park

We stopped at Elmo’s for dinner after the park, and Griff was seriously exhausted after running around like a rabid wombat for two hours straight. We were afraid he’d fall asleep in the car on the way or be a tired, cranky mess at the museum, but he did great.

Sleepy Griff

The park was all dolled up with lights.

Lights near the butterfly house

Lights at the NCMLS

There was a big tent set up near the station with free hot chocolate, some craft stations (making baggies of reindeer food, pipe cleaner ornaments, etc), a bin of instant snow to play in and baggies of it to take home, and face painting.

Instant snow

Griff really wanted to have a train painted on his face, but the artist didn’t have that in her repertoire and talked Griff into being the Grinch instead. He sat patiently through the process and it turned out pretty darn cute.

Face painting

Face painting progress

You're shorter than I expected, Mister Grinch

The train ride to the North Pole was fun, although we were pretty annoyed that we paid for three tickets but had to squeeze into a single seat together. Sean barely fits into the train seats as it is, and Griff was pretty much squashed between us. The train stopped at Santa’s polar HQ, and Santa walked down the train to chat briefly with all the kids while an elf handed out coloring books and got the kids prepped to be on the lookout for runaway Rudolph on the trip back to the station. Griff needed a little prompting, but he managed to tell Santa that he wants Cranky the Crane. Little does he know that Cranky has been patiently waiting in the basement closet for the past 2 months. 🙂

After the train

Life update, with pajamas

With the help of my new sewing machine, I’ve been whipping out some pajama sets for Griff. I bought a really simple toddler pants pattern that consists of all of two pattern pieces plus some elastic, so I can cut out and sew a pair in less than an hour with Griff playing in the same room. The shirts are just plain long-sleeved t-shirts with various designs ironed on with fusible web and then sewn on to make sure they’ll last through lots of washing. I’ve been buying a ton of novelty flannels and cottons on sale, and I’m sure I’ll be making a lot more of these.


In other (much more exciting) news, I’ll be spending a lot more time with this photogenic little dude come January! I’ve resigned from my job, and I’ll be a full-time mom again very soon. If anyone knows any web-focused sysadmin types who are looking for a new job, please let me know, because the search is on for my replacement.

Holiday Griff

Arboreal festivities

It took us two trips to the tree lot, but we got our tree today. (During attempt #1 this morning, someone was being such a pill that we just gave up and went home.) The afternoon went much more smoothly, possibly because Mister Grumpypants located mommy’s frozen stash of peanut butter cups in the interim period and was promised one upon his return home, if he behaved himself during the planned Target/tree lot run. On the way out the door he started singing “Silver and Gold” from the Rankin-Bass Rudolph special, which set a festive tone.

Too many trees

At the tree lot

Finding a tree

This was the first year Griff was able to put ornaments on the tree. He got first dibs with his brand-new triceratops.

Putting on his ornament

First ornament

He managed to hang a few more ornaments before he got bored and moved on to hitting the eggnog. This was his first taste of eggnog, and he loved it (even though he thinks it’s called “eggnot”).



And here’s our tree, covered with a motley assortment of ornaments collected over the years and our new favorite tree topper that doesn’t require thrusting a branch up some unsuspecting cherub’s rear end or attempting to get a cheap metal sproingy thing to cling firmly enough to the top branch to hold up a too-heavy decorative doohickey that ends up listing to one side no matter what you do.

Our tree

Village People

For space and Griff-related reasons, we haven’t been able to put up our Christmas village for a few years now. The new house has a much bigger dining room,  and Griff is now at an age where we don’t have to hide everything that might fit into his mouth or might be broken if he tried to knock it off the table.

As usual, we have the various little villagers going about their holiday business.





We can’t forget the village drunks over at the Melancholy Tavern!

Village Drunks

And best of all, this.


Trifecta, baby!

I’m really, really glad that three years ago today, I married that awesome guy right there!!! Happy Anniversary!!!

Griff sock

(Also, I finished the first Griff sock and I have slightly more than half the yarn ball left. Yay.)

There and Back Again


Our first “real” family vacation is over. We spent three nights at Bear Creek Lake State Park in Cumberland, VA (Pop. 393), nationally famed as being the location of our honeymoon in October 2009. (There’s a commemorative plaque outside Cabin 6.) As an experiment to see if we could have an actual vacation with Griff, we think it was a success. Not without its bumpy spots, but with enough great moments to make it worthwhile.

Griff spread out his toys and made himself at home right away.


While Daddy spent a few minutes resting on the back porch.


The park has a central lake, with cabins on one side, and a sandy artificial beach/playground/boat house/campground on the other. Various trails follow the lake shore, and we divided our time between the beachy playground and taking (necessarily) short hikes on the trails.



Griff did pretty well on the trails, considering his age. The main issue was that Sean and I were dying to just spend a couple hours full-on hiking, and this simply wasn’t happening with a 2-year-old who wanted to spend his time alternately sprinting up the trail and stopping to examine every acorn and pebble on the path. (He was also obsessed with handing out railway tickets made of leaves.) On the other hand, we had a nice time sitting on the various benches while Griff threw things into the water.









Griff really enjoyed the beach playground area.


Daddy tested the equipment for safety before Griff used it.





Mommy even got some knitting in!


Trees were hugged, both big and small.




One morning we decided to drive outside the park to the northern trailhead of the Willis River Trail, which sounded interesting because it supposedly had a swinging bridge at mile 0. Griff giggled hysterically as we bumped and vibrated along the dirt roads in the Cumberland State Forest (within which Bear Creek Lake Park is located), and we arrived to find a sketchy-looking bridge over a really pretty bit of scenery.


Griff and Daddy braved the bridge first.



The end of the bridge led to exactly nowhere, which was weird and disappointing. The view was very nice, though,



After this adventure, we headed for the trailhead, and found this piled up right at the start of the trail.


Aside from being annoyed at the type of hunters who give hunters a bad name, at this point we remembered that it was hunting season, that hunting was allowed in the state forest (although not within the park), and that none of us were wearing blaze orange and we had a 2-year-old with us. So we got back into the car and that was that.

Books were read, by daylight and firelight. (The same 10 books. For three days. Next time we’re renting a cargo van and bringing ALL of Griff’s books).



Griff enjoyed his first s’mores.


Mommy finished most of a Griff sock.


I photographed a mysterious blue, glowing entity in the woods. It looked just like that mysterious blue, glowing entity that took over that crew member in that one episode of ST:TNG.


All in all, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be back in the Spring. 🙂




Pumpkin love, a new sweater, carnitas, watercolor leaves

I promised myself that I’d blog at least twice this month, and now October is almost half over and this is the first post I’ve managed to write. Blah.

This weekend felt really full, even though the only official plans we had were tickets for the Pumpkin Patch Express at the Museum of Life + Science on Saturday.

First thing Saturday morning, we made our ritual visit to the Durham Farmers Market for breakfast.

The Monuts were offering mostly savory stuff this week (and I won’t be buying the bagels again), but we were able to get an emergency donut muffin from Scratch as well as our usual pigs in blankets.

Breakfast at the DFM

We bought a Mexican hot chocolate from the bikeCOFFEE folks to share, but Griff took one sip and promptly decided that this was actually “coffee”, and it was exclusively his (“MY coffee!”).


He carried it all over the market, looking like a miniature caffeine junkie.



The breakfast pizza from PiePushers was delicious.



After Market, we headed for the Museum. Word is that there are plans to renovate the Loblolly Park area; this is pretty much Griff’s favorite place at the museum, so I hope the changes aren’t drastic and it’s not closed too long.



The arrival of the Pumpkin Patch Express was greeted with cheers by the mob of toddlers and parents.


The train stopped about halfway through the normal circuit (shortly before the tunnel, where the bottle tree and mossy farm animals live) and let us off at the “pumpkin patch”. Griff chose a pumpkin, and the world stood still. (More on that later.)


There was face-painting, bag and pumpkin decorating stations, snacks, and a pumpkin-chunkin’ setup where you could pay $1 (donated to charity) for the opportunity to fling little pumpkins at targets with giant slingshots.

Sean had a go at it and did pretty well (that orange blur in the shot is his pumpkin flying off towards the targets).



Sean paid for another round, and he and Griff had a blast shooting more pumpkins together.



An apple was munched, and hay bales were sat upon.


The event was pretty low-key, but Griff was tuckered out on the train ride back.


Was it worth the money? Griff loved it, so I’d say yes. There wasn’t that much to do and the “pumpkin patch” was a little lame, but it was just right for a young toddler.

Griff has been totally obsessed with his pumpkin since he brought it home. He’s decorated it with markers, and carries it from room to room like a stuffed animal. It must be the toughest pumpkin ever, because he’s dropped it at least 20 times, and the only breakage so far has involved a small piece of the stem.

Pumpkin in the bedroom…


…pumpkin in the kitchen…


…pumpkin on the couch, watching “Dinosaur Train”.


He even tried to take the pumpkin to bed tonight, but we convinced him to let it sleep on a bookshelf with a blanket on top.

Now, on to crafty things!

A few weeks ago I finally got my new sewing machine and finished the project I had been working on, namely a little toddler backpack for Griff. (Pattern bought on Etsy.) He asked for the backpack to begin with, he asked about it several times while I was working on it, he showed initial interest when it was finished, but he really just does not really want to wear a backpack at this point. Sigh.



I spent a lot of time on it and I’m proud of it, so humor me and look at some more pictures, ok?



Ahem. Moving on to Griff’s sweater. This was a paid pattern that I modified to use up a bunch of odds and ends of my handspun and commercial yarns.


Getting a photo of Griff wearing it was more challenging than expected. When Mommy really really wants you to hold still so she can take your picture, this is clearly a cue to hide in the bushes, giggling and shrieking, “I HIDING IN THE BUSHES!”



And here were go. It fits fine; in fact, it’s big, which is good, because this kid is nearly out of toddler sizes at 2.5 and shows no signs of slowing down.



What else…these watercolor paper leaves from Discount School Supply are about the coolest things ever. I’d seen them on a ton of craft/mommy blogs and bought a couple packs to give them a try.

Griff was not too interested in painting them. He’s in a very tactile stage where he’ll sit and work with Play-Doh or play in his bin of beans for an hour at a time, but he’ll only paint or draw for a few minutes.


As a result, almost all of the painting was done by me and Sean. We used liquid watercolors for some, and regular solid watercolors for the rest.


They look nice enough when painted up.


But when you hang them in a window, they look like stained glass. Really beautiful!



I’ve been in a cooking frenzy lately as well. We had our first batch of carnitas since we moved, and they were so good.


The homemade corn tortillas are almost my favorite part of the meal


I really need to come up with some way to make these more efficiently. I use a 10″ All-Clad pan and I can only do one at a time. Each tortilla takes 45-60 seconds per side, so the batch of 15 shown below takes, yes, 30 minutes to make. A bigger round skillet won’t help much due to their size. I’m thinking maybe a cast-iron griddle? Since you cook these on a bare, ungreased surface at fairly high heat, I’d be reluctant to use nonstick.


And that’s enough for tonight. I need to go make sure someone’s pumpkin hasn’t rolled off its shelf and into someone’s bed. 🙂


It’s funny that I’m blogging less now than I did when Griff was a baby. In a lot of ways, things are easier as Griff gets older, but in other ways, the days are fuller because there are so many more things do with a two-year-old. And infants don’t hand you a book every 10 minutes with a curt, “You read dis!” 😉

It’s been a full weekend. Mid-morning Saturday the friendly FedEx man stopped by with an Amazon Prime order of a Big Box o’ Generic Train Tracks. Griff knew exactly what to do.

New tracks!

Griff created a flowing, organic layout…

Griff tracks

…while Daddy look a more linear approach.

Daddy tracks

Eventually, with some fiddling, the tracks were joined.

Griff tracks plus Daddy tracks

And there was much rejoicing!

Lots o tracks

For layouts this big, having one of the battery operated engines really adds to the enjoyment. Hello, James, you vain little twit! But you’re lots of fun. Reportedly.

Griff helped make these cinnamon rolls for Sunday breakfast (I was too tired to make the rise-overnight kind on Saturday evening). He stirred the cinnamon sugar filling while asking to try on all of my aprons.

Mixing the filling

Mixing the filling

He chose to go apronless for rolling out the dough. This kid knows how to use a rolling pin.


Partway thought the rolling-out process he got bored and ran off to “pway Wegos”, but he returned to assist in cleaning the cream cheese icing off the beaters.

Licking the icing beater

Cinnamon rolls

We went to the park, and had lunch…

Cornwallis Rd Park

Griff and Daddy at lunch

..and mommy got lots of knitting done during naptimes. Griff’s sweater is only missing one sleeve and the button band!

Griff's scrappy sweater, 1 sleeve down

Looks like it’s going to be a good fit with a little room to grow.

Griff's scrappy sweater, 1 sleeve down

This pose cracks me up. “Hey baby, want to see a Really Useful Engine?”

Hey baby, look at my Thomas

After a year, he still loves his big container of beans, although he doesn’t fit as well as he used to. 🙂

Beano, anyone?

I even managed to finish spinning another bobbin (Shetland that I dyed). I’m alternating between spinning bobbins of black Shetland and various braids of my hand-dyed fiber in shades of blues. My plan is to ply them and knit something for me. Crazy, I know.

Shetland singles

For some reason Griff prefers to have mommy or daddy draw things for him, but at least he’s happy to embellish what we draw.

Drawing on the sidewalk

And here’s what it would look like if you were 4″ tall and hiding in the Liriope while Sean was mowing the lawn.


The End

Chapel Hill Community Park, or Heather goes nuts taking rose pictures

Inspired by pictures of our friend Jenn’s recent visit, we stopped by Chapel Hill Community Park this morning. The last time we visited, all the playgrounds were roped off with construction tape, so we were happy to see that everything was open again. It appeared that the ground under all the play equipment had been resurfaced with the rubbery bouncy stuff, too.


Griff sliding

Griff hiding

This really is a fantastic park. We first visited it back in May (although we’ve been back many times since): we stopped on Erwin Road to buy a box of Dunkin Donuts, drove to Chapel Hill, and ate my Mother’s Day breakfast at a picnic table next to the playground. Then I grabbed my coffee and took a long stroll around what I still consider to be the park’s main attraction: the rose garden. The roses were gorgeous in May, and they’re even more beautiful now. So beautiful that I went a little insane snapping pictures. Yes, I know that there’s no greater photographic cliche than a dewy rose, but come on, these flowers are a-freaking-amazing. These photos are all from my crappy point and shoot; someone with a real camera rig would be able to take some mind-blowing pictures in this place.

Griff loves the rose garden also: it’s a fantastic maze to run around in if you’re two.

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

And now, a sampling of the roses!

I’ve never really cared for miniature roses, but these Rainbow’s End roses may be on my birthday or Mother’s Day list next year.

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

And here are more random rose pics.

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Chapel Hill Community Park Rose Garden

Oh forget it, here they all are. 🙂

Roses at Chapel Hill Community Park

Booze jam and other updates

It’s been forever since I’ve posted anything here. This working-full-time, having-a-toddler, moving-to-a-new-house thing really sucks a lot of time away from the optional parts of your life.

We stopped by “the old house” in North Durham this morning to put a lock box on the door, and worked in a visit to West Point on the Eno on the way home. A nice little hike was had (if you don’t count the whining, demands to be picked up, and the fact that we had to haul Griff back to the car while he screamed “NONONO!” and struggled like a rabid weasel). Here are some pictures of the nice parts of the visit.

Walking in the park

Puddle poking

Add a severed pig’s head and you have “Lord of the Flies”!

A terrifying Lord of the Flies moment

Griff looking pensive

Griff enjoying the rock wall

The most exciting part of the visit was this fallen tree blocking the road when we tried to leave. Apparently that storm last night hit North Durham a lot harder than us!

Tree down in the road at West Point on the Eno Park

In crafting news, I’ve managed to get some spinning done lately! Griff is finally old enough now that I can leave the spinning wheel undefended in the living room full time. This is a huge leap forward in terms of me being able to plunk down and sneak in a few minutes of spinning while Griff plays nearby.

Right now I’m alternating between spinning the black Shetland fleece I bought at SAFF and spinning random 4oz bumps of other stuff (in this case, some Shetland that I dyed). I’m toying with the idea of plying all the various other things with the black Shetland and using it to make a sweater for me.

I've actually gotten some spinning done!

Speaking of knitting, I had a real bummer lately. I cast on for the Scrap Cardigan in the “medium” size, which purportedly should fit a “4-5-year-old”. Griff has been wearing 5T shirts for a while now (even though he’s not even 2.5), so I figured I’d be safe making this size and increasing the length as needed, since it’s top down. Well, not so much. I knitted my way through most of the yoke, and after putting it on waste yarn and offering bribes of Oreos and much begging and pleading, I finally got Griff to stand still for 30 seconds and try it on. It was way, way too small. 🙁 🙁 Rip rip rip.

Griff's stripey sweater, attempt one

So I found another pattern that was similar, and bought it and started knitting on it in the 5-6 year old size. I’m over halfway through the yoke, and if this one doesn’t fit I’m just going to wrap Griff in all the yarn like a mummy this fall. I’m using a variety of oddballs and leftover yarns and I’m planning to make the stripes on the body and arms totally random so I don’t have to keep track of row counts or make sure I have enough of each yarn to match stripes. Random is how I roll these days.

Griff's crazy stripe cardigan, attempt 2

The past two weekends I’ve been on a jam-making frenzy due to all the great fruit at the Farmers Market. This weekend I made two batches of peach-blueberry-Grand Marnier jam. I was inspired by this recipe, but added some freshly grated nutmeg and a few teaspoons of cardamom to each batch, and added a pint of blackberries to one of the batches along with the blueberries. I used Ball Low Sugar Pectin because that’s what I had.

The start of something delicious

It starts out looking like this…

Jam, just starting out

and then this…

Jam, cooking down

and then this…

Jam, cooking down

and then…

Jam, ready to jar up

Jars of jam in the hot tub

…it’s jam!

Peach/blueberry Grand Marnier Jam

Peach/blueberry Grand Marnier jam

On a random note, we bought these alphabet cards recently and love them. We had a wall that was begging for something, so I used some Command adhesive thingies to put them up (while watching the Olympics, as you can see).

Alphabet cards

The illustrations are adorable, and I love the way the landscapes on some of the cards flow together, like this road:

Mind the P and Q

and this pond:


The End!