Monday, October 28, 2013

Kiddie Brunch

Kiddie Brunch / Craft day

This morning we hosted brunch for a few of our favorite preschool aged friends. Each of our guests brought something delicious which made it fun because the contributions were all a surprise. And it proved much easier on me as the host. Potlucks are the best, aren't they?

For the crafting table I put together some super simple projects for the kids to work on as they pleased - mostly just paper puppets and dollar bin items they painted and seemed to really enjoy. Plus their crafting gave us time to catch up with one another over coffee and all those tasty new plates. The cool weather and a little rain lent a nice and unexpected touch as well. We were all starting to worry about our Fall warming up too much again right when we were all ready for a change. 

As for the holiday season, it's just starting to fall into full force. We know too well things only become more and more hectic and schedules fill faster than we know what to do with in the coming weeks. This past weekend, for example, nearly swallowed me whole. If I counted right, we made it to 3 Fall Festivals, 2 birthday parties, one annual pumpkin carving neighborhood event in addition to two haunted houses! We are all spent. After this morning's gathering we all changed into pajamas and collapsed on the couch. We haven't moved much since. These next couple days we plan to rest up and prepare for one more party and then trick r' treating Thursday night. 

Until then, I'm giving in to a long overdue netflix date starting tonight. 
No glue guns, no emails, no laundry, no clean up whatsoever. I'd say it feels well earned this time. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mummy Makings

2 yards of shredded muslin, soaked in 2 cups of water + 2 cups of coffee and a couple drops of black (acrylic) paint (air dried) and wrapped over a pair of Hane's long johns = one of my favorite kid costumes of all time. 

This year's spin was the addition of a skateboard, and a few cool new tricks to debut in costume. Because, not much beats a skatemummy when you're the best skater in all of second grade. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thrift Picks

It's been awhile since I've done a thrift post - probably because my hunting trips have been far and few between, and my scores, less than noteworthy the past few months. 

This week however, my luck was back on. Every piece I put in my cart was something I had felt strongly attached to immediately, like each and every piece had been pushed out spefically for me to scoop up. Especially that old wire tree topper. One of those items I've had my eye out for forever now.

It's just so prefect in all it's sparkly gold glory. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Great Expectations

As far as *exotic pumpkin patches go, we somehow manage to fail at them every time.

Breakdowns, pouting, fighting, frustrations. Complaints. And utter disappointment,
Every. Single. Time.

I can vividly recall the first time we attempted a massive patch with Arlo as a toddler. The fact that the blow up lion slide allowed only older, taller kids sent him into his first real hysterics. Us, being first time parents of an otherwise perfectly behaved baby, left the place in a panic, near tears wondering how - what should have been a fun loving evening - ended with our sweet boy turning into some kind of demonfolk over a missed turn on a rubber slide.

See, every couple of years I start feeling guilty about our convenient parking lot pumpkin traditions, i.e: Trader Joe's storefront set up (so easy, no fuss, and so much cheaper than what you pay at those patch boutiques) and so I vow to make more of an "effort" to give them a well rounded (dare I say slightly more "authentic") seasonal experience, that includes either of the following:

A. Those bright buzzing tented lots littered with ridiculously overpriced amusement park rides & piles of massively overgrown pumpkins in every shape, color and texture imaginable that suck our wallets dry and leave our heads spinning.
B. In this year's case, Tanaka Farms - a lovely, wide farm lot in the middle of Irvine where I've seen plenty of my friend's kids in photos around Facebook for years now, waving happily atop the wagon, wandering open fields of wild pumpkins, feeding goats and loving every second of their time there.

That, was not us.

From the get go I felt slightly baffled, and eventually annoyed by all the "don't touch" "don't run" "don't jump on hay bail" signs lining our hike around the farm. What? Why? It's a farm for kids after all!
And then I overheard Arlo deem the place "boring" - begging for his skateboard while Leon proceeded to become entirely disgusted by the petting zoo idea we had already paid for (that kid, not a huge fan of animals in general . . . ) while Rex was hell bent on stealing as many pumpkins as possible every time we turned our backs because he believed he must be entitled to a few because, well, wasn't that why we were there in the first place?

By the time we reached the corn maze (and only section of the farm that was actually free) we were one frazzled, dust ridden and noticeably agitated crew. By day's end we had seen our share of fits and more fits. All kinds of pumpkins and one long, begrudging wagon ride around the fields. It took everything in me not to let the bunch of them wander at their own accord along that long, long, long, long corn maze while I stopped to catch my breath, and regain some sense of composure while possible.

Funny thing is, on the way home each of the boys, finally buckled and beat by the sun and their exhausting romp around the farm grounds, seemed strangely content and downright satisfied with the trip on a whole. "That was a fun day, Mommy!" Rex mumbled as we headed back towards the freeway home. Made me realize that sometimes, even though we as parents armed with good intentions and all these grand ideas about what these kinds of trips should entail, are too often setting ourselves up with false expectations. In other words, just because something doesn't play out exactly as we might had envisioned or planned for, doesn't mean it can't still count for something special.

In the long run, memories are complex. Built upon layers of little moments we don't all process the same way. That being the magic of them in the first place.

So I can't say how Tanka Farms might fair in their long term remembrance for the day, but I do know it made an impression. Of some kind. Even if it wasn't really the one I had hoped for.

For now though we're sticking to our trusty Trader Joe's 3$ pumpkin lot. Lit by a single strand of bulb lights glowing at dusk and the cheesy scarecrow in the corner tipping his hat to our little red cart. We are headed there tomorrow, as a matter of fact. Just in time for all the Halloween festivities we have planned for the weekend. One of which includes our neighbor's annual pumpkin carving / costume party. It's a big ordeal. As they go.

Go ahead, wish us luck.

* meaning simply not grocery store / home depot parking lots.

And a sweet thank you to our lovely farm dates stella and lucy for remaining stoic bystanders through each and every Kraus boy meltdown that day. Love you girls.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Stuck ON

BigBang Studio

Because: Lilly Stockman is everything I love in a blogger. 

Well written, full of sharp insights, dreamy photos of her constant travels and killer book recommendations, effortless prose that draws you in easy, and immediately even when referring to  sometimes unfamiliar reflections on art in general. She also happens to be co-founder of the ever lovely block printing textile company based in India, Block Shop which I'm sure you've heard of?

 Lots of creative pulses flowing in this gal's corner.

- from her recent Violence, Vanity, Wilderness post

"The comfort of old friends in the wilderness: howling coyotes, a pair of great horned owls, uppity cactus wrens, a covey of Gambel's quail, a despotic hummingbird buzzing the microphone at 2:20. I talk and write about how the physical landscape of Joshua Tree fundamentally shifted my perception of light and space, but now I realize I've been narrow in my argument; the aural landscape is just as profound. (I feel guilty for finding comfort in this, guilty in general.)"

 ~ Take my word, and visit her when you get the chance

Thursday, October 17, 2013

gift picks

This time of year I am always on the hunt for new and unique toy shops for the boys. Lately online ordering has become a serious blessing in my life. At this point, the less shopping we do, the better. And with so many places now offering free shipping, it just makes things, so, much, easier.

Plus, it's nice to have the option to support smaller business rather than simply dumping your hard earned dough into the regular (major) chains. I know for me, selling on Etsy for the past two years has totally changed my views on where I put our money when it comes to gift buying in general. We have seen nothing but loyal, solid support and gratefulness from the people who purchase our teepees and seem to truly appreciate all those goes into a handcrafted item, even if it means waiting a little longer and paying a littler more for something with old fashioned quality construction. Makes me conscious of giving back to a community where so many others are making all kinds of very cool products sitting sweetly under the amazon radar. Not to mention, these folks are genuinely thankful for every order that rolls their way. So buying actually feels good for a change!

Don't get me wrong, we have our fair share of target / toys r' us runs for plastic batman figurines, hot wheels, skate gear and whatever else they happen to become enthralled with on TV commercials these days, but I try to balance a few of their "wants" with a healthy mix of unexpected picks like a few listed below.

Magic Cabin is one of my favorites this year - relying on "old fashioned make believe" products made here in the states, that feed an "innate need to intact with simple, natural toys and crafts"

For Rex: 

Cherry Tree Blocks - 
"Made from the salvaged branches of clear-cut cherry and alder, they are cut in precise increments of length to enable easy stacking and building. Make fantastical natural towers, gnome castles, jungle habitats and more" - all good things. I think R & L will enjoy these equally. 

Alder wood sculpture blocks 
Each of these sculptural versions are beautiful and fun to rearrange, even outside of it's intended shape. 

Lady Bug Maracas
Because they're just so cute. And cheap! 

Green Tones Beginner drum set
This little contraption is super fun. So much fun I had a hard time putting back in the box for safe keeping. I'm a sucker for all musical toys. 

8 piece Wood Doctor Kit
Best quality version I've seen yet. And not something he even knows he wants, which makes it that much better.

There you have it. I have my eye on a few other things here for Leon too, but for the most part (outside of super heros) he and Rex share the same interests so I have to be careful that I buy wisely for the two of them.  As for Arlo, I'll be sharing some of his gift picks as they come this month and next. As well as a few of my go to Etsy shops I visit all year round.

Oh and please, feel free to share any favorite toys picks of your own. Fresh recommendations are always welcome.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scenes From a Weekend // Civil War

Sunday we took a short step back in time, down the street from our house where we experienced our first Civil War reenactment show.

In all honesty, I had my doubts going into something like this. Wondering about the people behind the event, spending all this time and energy trying to create such a fierce and bloody point in our nation's history for these traveling weekend shows seeming just a tad creepy for my tastes . . .  I had them pegged as battle hungry grown men with a penchant for old war glory. And worried that something of this nature might be too violent and confusing for Rex or Leon to fully grasp. That explaining "fake" deaths, from fake bullets might get tricky.

Turns out, I was mostly wrong about all of it. The folks participating seemed genuinely (if not exceptionally) nice - not socially inept war mongers but regular history buffs mixed - with what I'm guessing were a few theater hands with some acting backgrounds thrown in. The women in their petty coats and the girls in their bonnets were beautiful. The children involved were adorable and so incredibly polite. The grounds were set up great too. Very authentic detailing that was fun to wander around in. The worn pup tents, and booths filled with old fashioned toys and flags, clothes hang drying, old guns, dried snacks and home made dresses.

Watching the actual war play out wasn't so bad either. Nothing like I had imagined. In fact the boys seemed to pick up right away on the fantasy behind it all. The canons booming were their favorite. The horses, the uniforms and the dusty field band were mine.

In short, I'm glad we made it down to see it. It isn't every weekend you get to meet Abraham Lincoln, eat gold mine bubble gum while shopping for wood muskets and bumping into rebel forces between tents.

I say if you get the chance, try one of these shows out. Especially with little boys in tow. Mine usually don't agree on much, but this, they all three really enjoyed.

Father John Misty / video version 

civil war from Mrs. Habit on Vimeo.