Saturday, April 26, 2014

Joint Birthday Lunch at American Girl

The girls requested a joint birthday luncheon at the American Girl store.  That's a fairly easy request to fulfill - we live about half an hour away from the Boston location, and with the girls' birthdays being 16 days apart, we picked a weekend in between their special days . . . today!  The girls dressed their dolls like themselves (or is it the other way around?), and we were ready to celebrate.

As is standard in any American Girl Bistro, lunch comes with a soft drink, an appetizer and an entree.  Evelyn started her meal with a Shirley Temple (her favorite restaurant drink) and french fries.  Julia opted for chocolate milk and fruit kabobs.
 The girls ordered the same entree - chicken fingers with macaroni and cheese.  Their entrees also came with fruit kabobs.  Julia and Evelyn shared their lunches with Kit and Rebecca (their dolls), and were so happy to find that the dolls enjoyed eating their lunch, too.
 When I made the lunch reservations several weeks ago, I requested the birthday package.  That means, in addition to the regular lunch fare, the girls and their dolls get paper crowns . . . and they get a birthday cake with candles!  So exciting, and exactly what Julia and Evelyn were hoping for.
 The cake was absolutely delicious, as was the ice cream.  Everyone had a fun time celebrating Julia's and Evelyn's birthdays - I think even Troy enjoyed himself in the land of pink.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Dress Progress

I can't help thinking about the history behind the sewing pattern for Evelyn's party dress.  And then that gets me to thinking about how my work area looks so much different than someone's sewing set-up 80 years ago.  The table is a conglomerate of old and new.  The pattern is from the 1930's, the sewing machine is from the 1990's, the material and music (Pandora on my smartphone) is from the year 2014.
 The doll's dress that is my inspiration has piping details here and there.  Evelyn chose a color of piping, and I figured out a way to add piping to the collar and sleeve cuffs of her dress.  I may be having problems figuring out the blouse's button placket, but I know how to add piping detail!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts

How did we end up going to the Museum of Fine Arts today?  Two reasons:  the girls wanted to eat lunch with Troy, and his office is less than a 10-minute walk from the museum; and kids get into the museum for free during school holidays (like the week of April vacation).
 We girls also wanted to see the special Impressionism exhibit currently on display.  Two of the girls' favorite artists are Degas and Monet.  The exhibit didn't disappoint - we enjoyed quite a few paintings by both of those artists.
 There were four different kids' art projects the girls could create.  Since we were only at the museum for about five hours (we left in the middle of the day to have lunch with Troy), we didn't have time to do all of the projects.  We chose the two that sounded the most interesting:  painting impressionistic art and making stained glass (with colored cellophane).
 The girls were given a palette with four colors and white.  Using those paints, they created their own skin tones and purples to paint dancing ballerinas (influenced by Degas, possibly?).
 They had great fun making stained glass window collages, too.  In between the art projects, we saw as many exhibits as we could.  Evelyn and I found ourselves comparing this Boston art museum with the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Our conclusion was, both museums had the same kinds of exhibits, but the museum in New York City had a lot more art on display.  We all enjoyed our time at the museum, and we will probably return another time to see new exhibits.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lazy, Rainy Wednesday

I wanted to treat the girls to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast this morning, and we were all super-lazy.  We didn't even get out of our pajamas for the drive, and we went through the drive-thru to get our sugar fix.  We hit the jackpot today - our munchkins were literally bursting out of the box.
 After lunch, we went to the library, which is the usual routine for Julia and me.  Evelyn enjoyed tagging along, picking out a new Nancy Drew book for herself.  Then we spent a good part of the afternoon reading the books we had checked out.  Just a lazy, rainy day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Julia's Checkup

Julia's birthday was a couple of days ago, and today was checkup day!  Our little Sunshine was over-the-moon excited to find out that she is now 48 inches tall.  That's the minimum height to go on the water slide at the pool (the important things in life).  She checked out with a clean bill of health, ready to take on the world as a six-year-old.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

'Twas the first day of April vacation, and we girls headed to Amherst, Massachusetts to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  Even though this museum opened over a decade ago, I only first heard about it earlier this year.  I had read one of Carle's new picture books - What's Your Favorite Animal - and in the back it talked about the original illustrations from the book were on display at Eric Carle's museum.  Since this museum is less than two hours away from our house, I made plans to pay a visit during April vacation.

 The girls love art, and the girls love learning about authors and illustrators; this museum was a perfect fit for them.  We spent six hours at the museum (from its 10:00 opening to its 4:00 closing time), taking advantage of every opportunity possible.  We browsed through the three gallery displays, soaking up original picture book artwork and learning the back stories behind the pictures.  We saw two short movies, which featured stories from the galleries.  We went to a story time.  And . . .
 . . . we spent close to two hours in the art room.  Julia first created a flower on the light table with some laminated Eric Carle paper - so cool.
 Then the girls took their time making watercolor paintings.  April is Poetry Month, and there were several poetry anthologies scattered about the art room.  I read various poems to the girls while they worked.  I even created a couple of paintings.  What better souvenir of our day at the Carle than art?  We really enjoyed our day here today, but we probably won't come back until an illustrator that we absolutely LOVE is featured - it was fun, but it's an all-day excursion for us.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Julia's 6th Birthday

Happy Easter Birthday, Julia!  After attending the 8:30 church service, we did what was next on Julia's agenda for her special day:  open presents.
 Julia opened the gifts from Evelyn first.  Somehow I managed to help Evelyn find the retired pajamas, robe and slippers for Julia's Emily doll (could it be I stocked up on accessories before they retired?).
 Julia was overjoyed with her sister's thoughtfulness.
 Once upon a time, Julia told me how cool it would be if they made a puzzle of the United States, with the puzzle pieces being the shapes of the states.  What's cooler than someone making that puzzle?  Getting one for her birthday!
 The last big gift was Emily's bed.  After getting several bedtime accessories for her 1940's doll, Julia had to dress her doll and make her bed.  Now Emily is all set to sleep in Julia's room.
 After spending the day playing outside - it was a beautiful, sunny day - and eating a birthday dinner at Applebee's, it was time for birthday cake.  Happy Birthday, Sunshine!  Hope you enjoyed your day!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Julia's Easter Egg Birthday Cake

Julia wanted me to make an Easter egg cake for her birthday this year . . . because this year her birthday falls on Easter Sunday.  She wanted egg-free chocolate cake for the cake, and she was happy to help measure and mix her birthday cake . . .
 . . . and lick the spatula when she was done mixing.
 After baking the chocolate cake in two 9-inch round cake pans (and letting them cool completely), it was time for me to shape and decorate the cake.
 I layered the two round cakes, one on top of the other, just like I would with a normal two-layer round cake.  Using a bread knife, I sliced off pieces of the cake to shape it like an egg.  It wasn't completely symmetrical after being cut, but I made it look even when I frosted the cake.
 Per Julia's design, I added colored squiggles and lines, as well as pastel M&M's.  Voila!  Julia's cake is ready for her big day tomorrow!

Hiking and Ice Cream

It was such a beautiful, sunny day today we went for a hike on a trail near where Troy lived before we girls joined him in Massachusetts.
 What kid doesn't like going for a hike/run in the woods on a gorgeous Spring day?
 There were butterflies zipping all around us.  The one in the picture below held still long enough for me to snap a picture of it.  (I only had my phone with me, which doesn't have a very good zoom, so this is the best picture I could get.)
 Our reward for hiking was stopping at Crescent Ridge Dairy for some ice cream.  Troy and the girls got cups of ice cream - strawberry, chocolate and chocolate chip cookie dough - but I loaded up on a deluxe sundae.  Yum-o!

Evelyn's 1930's Skirt

After looking at the directions for sewing the blouse of Evelyn's 1930's birthday dress outfit, I decided to work on the skirt first.  I have sewn skirts before, and I wanted to start with familiar territory.  The tricky thing about Evelyn's skirt was making pleats in the front and the back.  I had to work with a lot of fractions (and measure Evelyn's waist a zillion times) to make sure the skirt would fit my Peanut.  I figured it out, and it fits!  I guess this means now I have to start on the blouse . . .

Friday, April 18, 2014

Let's Begin Evelyn's 1930's Party Dress

Kit, Evelyn's 1930's doll, had a birthday dress made for her out of feedsack material.  Here is a picture of Kit's birthday dress (aka my inspiration for Evelyn's dress): 
Evelyn and I chose material that came as close to Kit's dress as possible.  After washing the fabric (aka pre-shrinking the fabric), I ironed it.  And then I had to piece together the puzzle.
My 1930's pattern directions offered a suggestion for laying out the pattern pieces, but I had to make some modifications.  And Rosie had to supervise.
After cutting out all of the pieces, I only had a smidgen of material left.  It was really close.  Actually, if I weren't making the collar and sleeve cuffs a contrasting color (which is not pictured), I would have run out of material.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Evelyn's Honors Band Concert

A couple of months ago, Evelyn auditioned for the Honors Band.  She scored very well on her audition - she earned the highest rank (blue ribbon), which she proudly wore at tonight's concert.
Evelyn only had a week to learn four complicated songs for tonight's concert.  But she was focused and driven, and she practiced her little heart out.  The entire band sounded great - and Julia loved hearing all of the instruments play together.  We're proud of our little clarinet player for working so hard and earning such a distinguished ribbon!

Snow . . . in April

This morning we woke up to . . . snow.  It was just a little dusting, but it still surprised us!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Cardio Class . . .

A couple of weeks ago I tried a new cardio class - kickboxing.  I was told by friends and the class instructor that I could safely modify the class to accommodate my knee.  The outcome is pictured below - the end of today's physical therapy session.  In other words, I need to stick to spin class and the elliptical crosstrainer for cardio exercise.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vintage Sewing Pattern

About a month ago, Evelyn and I chose a theme for her birthday party - a 1930's mystery party that centers around her American Girl doll, Kit Kittredge.  Everyone at the party needs to come dressed to play their role, especially the birthday girl.

After bidding (and losing out) on two vintage sewing patterns, I finally landed this pattern for $12.  When the pattern arrived last week, Evelyn and I were in awe.  We don't know exactly what year this pattern is from, but the style definitely looks like it's from the 1930's.  The pattern's tissue paper is in excellent condition, except one piece is missing.  The instructions, however, are very fragile.  They are very clear and easy to understand...I just need to be extremely careful with the delicate paper.

Yesterday Evelyn and I went to the fabric store to choose material.  She wanted fabric that looked like the birthday dress she has for her Kit doll, and this material was as close as we could get.  Today I washed (aka, preshrunk) and ironed the material, and I also ironed the pattern tissue paper.  The next step is to lay out the pattern pieces onto the fabric, in the hopes that the pattern directions are accurate.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Soccer

Julia's Spring soccer season started today with her first game.  She couldn't wait to get on the outdoor field and play the opposing team.
 Last Fall, I was the assistant coach for Julia's soccer team.  This season, Julia promoted me to head coach.  Well, it might be more accurate to say she blackmailed me - she said she would only play soccer if I was her team's head coach.  True, I have never played a soccer game in my life (and never will with my bad knee), but I enjoy working with kids and thankfully there aren't very many rules when it comes to soccer.  ;)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Julia's Tea Party Birthday Party

Who's ready to host Julia's tea party birthday party?  We are!
 Evelyn was the DJ for the first activity:  freeze dance.  This was a good activity to do as the guests arrived because everyone could jump right in and play.
 After dancing up an appetite, it was time to settle down for snacks and pink lemonade.  Julia introduced everyone to the idea of holding their tea cups with their pinky up, and I told the girls that their tea cups had a special name - demitasse.  Fancy, fancy!
 Next up was the big craft of the day:  newspaper party hats.  First, we wrapped the girls' heads with three large pieces of newspaper.  I went around each girl's head several times with masking tape to keep the newspaper in place.  Then Evelyn curled up the newspaper to get it out of their faces.  Finally, the girls had an adult help them attach feather boas and fake flowers with a hot glue gun.
 Look at all those big, bold tea party hats!
 Next, we played "Pin the Ring on Minnie."  Three girls completely missed the poster, which made everyone burst out laughing.  After that game, I read a story to the girls - Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman.  They all loved the funny, unpredictable story as well as the clever illustrations.
Then it was cake time!  Julia had to take a couple of breaths to blow out all the candles, but she got the job done.
 After everyone indulged in some yummy chocolate cake, Julia opened her presents.  She wanted to thank each guest for their gift...and she did so with bear hugs.  Finally, as I put the guests' tea cups and saucers into the proper goodie bags/purses, Julia's friends played BINGO.  Before we knew it, the two-hour party was over and it was time to bid farewell to the guests.  A good time was had by all - especially the birthday girl!