Archive by Author | Mary-Hall

DIY Darth Vader and Baby R2D2 Costumes

Whelp here is one whopper of a #latergram.  I meant to post these costumes last October but ended up working on the baby’s until you know, midnight on 10/30.  Then I intended to post as a May the 4th celebration.  And now here we are, a full year later.

But hey, Star Wars mania is in full force, and these are two kid costumes you can literally turn out at the last second if you ha.

My older son was dead set on Darth Vader for weeks ahead of time so I was prepared for that one.

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What you need for Preschool Darth Vader:

  • Black t-shirt and sweatpants (got mine at Wal-mart)
  • Black gloves (Target has these for $1)
  • Embellishments: I used cheapo craft felt, plus a section of black strap I found on the cord aisle at Joann.
  • Black satiny fabric for cape
  • Velcro
  • Lightsaber (which we already had) and helmet (which cost more than the entire rest of the costume but it gets a lot of use.  It does the Darth Vader voice effect, so yeah, worth it.)

The cape is velcro’d on at the shoulders so it can come off if needed.  The felt decor and belt were just pinned in place then slowly sewed right around the edges with my sewing machine.  Boom.  Most impressive. (That is a Darth Vader quote, Bethany.)

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For poor Davis, we had decided to stick with the villain theme and make him a Jabba the Hutt tail to wear.  At that point in his life, Davis and Jabba sort of had similar body types. You know, the “rolls on top of rolls” look.  (I miss those rolls!!)  But then it was turning chilly and the Jabba tail just wasn’t coming together well.

And I ran across a picture of an R2D2 onesie on pinterest on approximately 10/29 that was just too cute.

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So for this Baby R2-D2 costume you will need:

  • White onesie
  • Gray pants (Also wal-mart)
  • Gray knit fabric to make your own infant cap
  • Blue, black, gray, red felt for decorations

Decorating the onesie is easy: cut out the felt, pin it in place, and then sew around the edges with coordinating thread on the sewing machine.  I had to sew the pieces on the arms by hand because the sleeve of the onesie was too tiny to fit my sewing machine. The sewing by-hand is a little tedious, but with the machine its shockingly easy.

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Now about the hat… I searched the tri-county area for a gray infant cap but alas the ONLY available colors are pink, blue, and yellow. After panicking a bit, the fog cleared and I realized that such a thing could be made from scratch.  Here is the tutorial and pattern I used, although I upsized it by about half an inch to fit a 6-month old (sniff sniff). The hat probably took an hour to figure out, and as any DIYer knows, an hour is practically nothing at all. I believe the entire R2D2 outfit took from about 9pm-midnight on Halloween Eve with at least 2 scrapped hats along the way.

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And that’s what we did in 2014.  I’ll be back in a year to show you what I’m sewing this week. (more capes, duh!) Happy Halloween and may the force be with your sewing machine between now and then!

Circling the Wagons

– A Bandwagon Roundup –

I suppose we can thank social media for keeping us informed about what’s trending and what everyone else is doing. All these little ideas come floating into my world – try this diet! roll your jeans like this! here’s the perfect 365-day cleaning schedule!  And I like to throw my own bandwagon experiments onto this blog, mainly to add my two cents to the collective knowledge. So, there are a healthy handful of bandwagons described here, and I was curious how many we’ve kept up.  I did some reviewing of the blog archives, and here is the resulting status update.

1) Running. Bethany did a handful of half marathons. I did a 10K and kept up a jogging habit up for a year or so. Running/biking/racing in general is totally the exercise fad of the times, is it not? (Think of all the exercise fads! pilates, yoga, rollerblading, step aerobics, sweatin to the oldies, jazzercise. I digress.) For me, the move got in the way of my routine, and then pregnancy totally squashed my interest. The baby is now 9 months old, and I still haven’t put on any running shoes. I think about it occasionally but yeah, I probably won’t bother until the weather perks up, the hours of daylight get a little bit longer, and swimsuit season is on the horizon.

2) Bangs! Bethany’s still rocking hers. Mine are gone, but I need a haircut, big time.  Jump back on? I think I’m gonna get a LOB.

3) Paleo. Bethany and Keith are still in on a casual basis, as evidenced by the numerous Paleo recipes she posts here.

4) Whole30. I tried this once (and blogged about it). I actually went for Round #2 recently and my husband even joined me. The second time, I was a little bit too lenient I guess, because I didn’t really feel all that much ‘better’ per se.  I did drop a few lbs of babyweight so #winning. And in general, I think my cooking style has expanded to include more vegetables, coconut oil, and actual made-from-scratch recipes, so yeah.  More #winning.

5) Oil pulling. Yuck, Bethany: how long did that last?

6) No ‘poo.  Here we have our first bandwagon->lifestyle conversion!! Two years later, there is still no shampoo in my shower. This is saving us at least like $20 a year. Seriously though, my life is simpler this way, and my hair is still happier than it was in previous decades. Baking soda for me.

7) Juicing. Bethany – what is your game plan here? My take on juicing: I will continue to refuse to watch “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”. Will not. That show must be the most compelling documentary on the planet, and I just really don’t want a juicer. Actually I like juice though. Hmm.

8) Blogging. I think blogging is going to be one of those things you look back on and go “oh wow that was so millenial.”  Like how I feel about hotmail – so 90s. (Another aside: what will this particular decade go by?  The Tens?) But here we are, 3 posts into our FOURTH year of twogirlsblog.

So, what am I missing here? I know a few I haven’t tried: essential oils. StitchFix. Chalkboard paint. I bet chalkboard paint is almost done by now.

The Last Paw Paw Muffin

Oh yeah hey blog! Its 2015, time for my annual post. Actually when Bethany posted her paleo recipe earlier week, she reminded me of this half-written post from last summer. Since 1/1/15, our paleo posts have been seeing an uptick in traffic, which I can only assume is due to new years resolutions.  Meanwhile, I am trying a diet called “eat all the sugar and drink all the soda” (don’t recommended). So sorry to disappoint, but much like my diet, there’s nothing healthy for the remainder of this post. Womp womp. But there is a reference to the Jungle Book movie.

—–Written in August 2014—-

Well, its an exciting time over here in Johnson land.  Having been here just over a year now, we’ve made it through all the seasons at least once and yet are still discovering new plants here and there.  Since spring we’ve found a sizeable stand of wild blackberries, a mulberry tree, and two pawpaw trees.

Pawpaw, you ask?

Why yes, apparently they are the largest indigenous fruit in North America.  I had never heard of such, outside of the Jungle Book song Bare Necessities.

bear necessities

Here’s the youtube if you’re craving some Baloo now. So good. Anyway.

One afternoon earlier this summer, Ransom’s Pawpaw (no joke) was walking through our yard and asked August about a tree bearing some unusual fruit.  We had never even noticed it.  I don’t think the trees had much fruit last year, or if they did, we missed it completely.  A few google searches later, we learned that we were proud owners of two pawpaw trees.

As I learned from wikipedia, pears, apples, citrus, etc. were all brought from elsewhere. Besides pawpaws, the only actual indigenous fruits are basically berries and grapes.

That was in May and now, after much anticipation, the paw paws are ripening. The internet will tell you that they taste like a mixture of banana and mango. In my opinion, they are in the same genre as a mango, banana, or papaya (i.e. mushy) but really have a flavor all their own. Honestly to me they taste kind of like a starburst candy.  And that being said, if a mango and a pawpaw were sitting next to each other on the shelf at a grocery store, I’d definitely grab the mango.

pawpaw1However, we’re not talking about grocery stores here.  These are in the yard, and so obviously we’re going to eat them.  And so what did we do first?

Pawpaw Sherbet

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pawpaw puree
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups very cold whole milk

1) Mix it all up, and then freeze in your ice maker.

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———– end of old text, resume Jan 2015 ——

Step 2) would be:

2) Leave the sherbet in said freezer and then throw 90% of it out a month later when you need the container for a new batch of non-pawpaw ice cream.

The ice cream was fine but I like my ice cream to be AWESOME. We barely ate it.

I also made some pawpaw muffins and in fact, I am consuming the LAST one right now, in honor of this post. I made a big batch for the freezer in August and we’ve been working our way through them. They are kinda awesome with a unique flavor that’s closest to…. strawberry cake, maybe? They even turned faintly pink inside.

I just took my favorite banana bread recipe and substituted paw paw and slivered almonds for bananas and pecans, respectively. Most reviewers agreed that they were awesome, although in to be fair, all the reviewers were related to me (mother, father, sister-in-law, brother, husband, sons). Husband actually said he’d rather have banana bread.

And now, The World’s First Pawpaw Muffin Selfie
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The end!

Bethany turned 32…. too.

Well, some years you go all out for birthdays (see: 30th) and some years you don’t.  Apparently this year Bethany and I are exchanging .jpg files on the internet.

Its a new thing.

Bethany, I loved the chicken graphic as much as anyone possibly could.  For your gift, I’m pulling something out of my back pocket that I’ve been sitting on for a while, probably good enough for a chuckle or too.  Its that random blog comment you got ages ago from an extra-poetic spam bot.  Enjoy!

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Happy 32th old friend!

May we forever be blogging soul-mates.

*wink*

Composting for Dummies

Bethany mentioned composting in her awesome post on Monday, so today I will share about our new compost pile.  We just so happened to start informally composting several months ago.  {Read: not an expert.}

I happened to visit Bethany during her last composting phase, I think, although this was years ago now.  I believe there was a plastic bin and some worms involved.  I believe she referred to the composting process as “feeding her pet worms”.

That is one way to do it, yes.  Maybe this is what is making Keith shudder – more mouths to feed.  So much responsibility, and so forth.

So take heart, this composting thing does not have to be complicated.  Here are my pointers:

1.) You can’t really mess this up.

Last summer, I let a patch of morning glory vine really get out of control.  Here it was:

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One afternoon I decided to reclaim my flower patch, so I spent a couple of hours literally rolling the Morning Glory vine into a giant lump.  The lump was so big that I could roll it but not exactly pick it up.  I’d say it was approximately the size of bathtub.  And so there it sat in the middle of the garden the several months.

Do you know what it had turned into by springtime?  Compost, {morning} glorious compost.  (har har)

2) Add some brown, add some green.

Sure, there are some complicated composting methods out there.  Lots to learn about ratios and turning and so forth.  My “Self-sufficient Gardener” book has a whole chapter on it, complete with diagrams.  However, the simplest method I’ve come across is, just dump about equal amounts of green to brown.

Sources of green: watermelon rinds, squash necks, all other veggie waste, fresh grass clippings, morning glory vine.

Sources of brown: dried leaves, dried weeds, dried grass, chicken poop, dryer lints, shredded newspaper, dirt

We’ve been following this formula very loosely for several months and haven’t had any odor problem.  (Except for the time that August threw some dead fish in. That was stinky.  Fish are neither green nor brown matter and don’t go in the compost pile, fyi. )  I suspect we add more green than brown in general, just because we have so many garden scraps, but nothing bad has happened to date.

3) Don’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good.

(My life motto these days.)

I spent several months thinking about starting a compost pile but was held back by all the complications.  Forget about all that.  You just need a place to pile the compost, a shovel/hoe/rake, and a container with which to carry the kitchen scraps out to the pile.  After that, just get started.

I looked around for a suitable kitchen container for a while to no avail.  So now I use chip bags or other soon-to-be-trashed items.  Then when they get funky with slightly too old kitchen scraps, I just pitch them.  No need to wash.

Here are our duel compost piles.  Right now, Bin 1 is the compost for use in the garden.  We used a lot of it in the garden this spring, and now as you can see, its grown a healthy layer of grass.   Bin 2 is where we are actively composting.  Once we use up all the compost from Bin 1, we’ll switch.  The door on Bin 2 is removable and fits either bin.

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Having the piles right there on the ground means that the worms and other critters can just make their way in and out as they please.  i.e., no responsibility.  August gives our pile a quick stir with the hoe when we are adding a batch of scraps, but otherwise there’s no maintenance.

For urban composting, I’d probably use some pallets for walls in order to make it match my chicken coop.  But if that’s holding you back, perhaps just find a discreet corner behind the shed or something.  Its just a glorified dirt pile, you can always move it.

4) Chickens get first dibs.

More customized advice for those of us with urban chickens:  I think the chickens are more efficient composters.  So, I’d give them priority on any veggies or fruits you would normally feed them.  Then you can add their poop to the compost pile.

Here at the Johnsons we are composting very haphazardly and its working out just fine.  Our weekly garbage back is much less “messy” and of course I love making something valuable from trash.  Who doesn’t love that?

Moral of the story:

Make a small pile of dirt and dried grass clippings.  Start collecting your kitchen waste and throwing it out there.  The end!

 

What I Did With My Maternity Leave

Just like that, my new baby is 11 weeks old and I am back to work.  What?!?  Where does the time go?

So instead of ‘what I did on summer vacation’, here’s my essay on  my 11-week break from working.

First, I attempted to grow the largest baby on the earth.  Although I didn’t exactly achieve Guinness Book-level baby, I came close enough.  We have a seriously large child over here.  I mean, they all grow up too fast but one Sir Davis has grown VERY quickly.  It hurts a mama’s heart a bit to be constantly putting whole groups of onesies back into storage.  We have blown tall the way to the 9-month stuff.  9-month old baby clothes!  Sniff.  17 lbs.  Also, #backache.

   IMG_3185And this picture is several weeks old.

Second, we have also pretty successfully grown the largest tomato plants on earth.  They are threatening to take over the entire garden.  Well, the cherry tomato is trying to take over all the other tomatoes at least.  I can’t really claim this as a maternity leave activity because we have done exactly nothing to make them so huge.  I do sneak out there when I can to tend things when I can.  Up next: canning tomatoes?  What are we gonna do with all these?

IMG_3186Fun times in the garden.

IMG_3183Large tomato.  Our secret is… nothing.  Luck.

Third, we have all taken luxuriously long naps, day in and day out.  Yes that is a LIE.  Ransom’s daily nap has gone from a solid 2.5 hours to more like 45 minutes some days.  I can’t complain, many kids his age don’t nap at all.  Meanwhile Davis has become the champion of cat-napping.  No, its not good for his little 11-week-old brain development, but I mean honestly, what am I gonna do.  There’s no arguing with babies sometimes.  They wake up when they feel like it.

IMG_3182No one is actually sleeping in this picture.

Fourth, we have played with the LEGOs. Pirate ships, tree forts, castles, race tracks, all manner of wheeled vehicles.  Ransom is a die-hard Lego lover, and he has entirely too many of them even at the tender age of 3.5.  (They are hand-me-downs.  #daddyisapackrat.)  While playing Legos with Ransom, I have been cogitating on the most efficient Lego organizational system.  I’m still tweaking it, but once we get done, I promise to share with the internet.  When I do, a light will shine down from the heavens (with a chorus of angel voices) I’m sure because this has got to be one of the most enduring problems of the modern era.  I mean, what do you do with ALL THESE TINY PIECES?  His room is a serious construction zone/disaster area ALL THE TIME.  Really though, what’s clutter in the grand scheme of things.  Although stepped-on legos do hurt a lot.

IMG_3184Ransom has entered the ‘weird picture face’ phase.

Fifth, I dabbled in Paleo cooking & eating again.  I wanted to try to recapture that “energized” feeling I felt during that Whole30 (okay whole25) I did last year.  This year we made it just under two weeks (Whole11?), and then we had some travel plans and it wasn’t worth sticking to the diet while staying with family.  Plus I really wanted to eat some gluten.  ha.  But, now that the garden veggies are coming in, I am determined to up the health-factor in my cooking.  So get ready for some OKRA recipes because we are going to have a lot of that to eat.

That’s most of it!  There was also: replacing the cabinet pulls in the kitchen, two weeks of swimming lessons, a stomach virus, a couple of trips to Columbus, a couple of power outages, a partridge, and two pear trees.  Oh, wait, make that a couple of paw paw trees.  yes, seriously.  More on that later.  Now we are three days into the next ‘new normal’, and struggling to adjust to another new routine.  I’m now working half-days for the rest of the summer, and looking forward to it, but also missing our totally carefree do-whatever-slash-survival days.

 

 

 

2014 Garden Tour

Besides our actual new baby, we sort of have another new baby right now, albeit one that is much much quieter – the garden!  Knowing we’d be having the baby this spring, I was envisioning more of a “3 tomato plants and a pot of basil” type of garden for this year.  Happily, I underestimated and we’ve got a lot more going than I expected.  (Tip:  Low expectations can be so rewarding!)  Both my husband and I really enjoying working out there, so I find it easy to run out there for a quick errand to pull a few weeds or stir the compost.  And, I should also mention that we got off to a great start due to a heroic effort on the part of my parents.  My mom (and dad and husband) spent an entire afternoon out there, and those of you who know her well will probably be amused by that.

Additionally, the previous owners really put a lot of work into their garden and we definitely got a leg up by picking up where they left off.  The dirt is super rich from being heavily composted and “worm juiced” and so forth.  Its all soft and easy to till up.  Plus there are several semi-raised beds which help make things neat and tidy. And there may be an irrigation system that we aren’t sure how to use exactly.  Thanks previous owners!  (We’re not as ridiculous as you thought.)

Anyway, this year we are growing:

  • 5 tomato plants
  • 4 types of peppers
  • A bed of strawberries
  • Two beds of okra
  • About 50 sweet slips
  • Two long rows of lady peas
  • Peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm
  • Plus the previous owners’ leftovers: cilantro, leeks, onions, garlic, and asparagus

I’ve been meaning to pick up some oregano.  There is talk of planting corn.  And I think that should cover it.

In case you are wondering, “lady peas” are my husband’s favorite and frankly they are about the best type of peas I’ve had.  I’m not a huge fan of peas in general.  However, they are hard to find, even at local farmer’s markets.  But, I believe I found some on a website appropriately titled “rareseeds.com”.  My husband is skeptical that they are the “right” thing, but only time will tell.  The little seedlings are definitely doing good, so we are pleased with our purchase from that aspect.  And I’m kinda looking forward to making some future purchases of weird produce from them – like red okra or purple tomatoes.

Now for the “tour” part:

 

IMG_3168The blueberries are looking good.  Last year we gathers at least two gallons worth.  And this year looks about the same.

IMG_3169It appears to be a good year for produce in general.  I guess the plants appreciated all those polar blasts.  The peach tree has a promising crop (as do the plum, the pears, the apples.)  Fingers crossed!  I wonder if we should be spraying with something?

I should start making plans for jams and jellies.  Mmmm.

IMG_3170Asparagus from the previous owner, now gone to fern.  We harvested about 8 servings worth, of which I ate at least half – so good!  Better than store bought.  Now we wait for another crop in the fall.  I also want to look up whether there’s anything we could do to get MORE asparagus out of these plants.  More is always better in the garden.

IMG_3171Onions in “flower” mode?  I don’t know.

IMG_3172Tomatoes and pepper plants, all in a row.  I took this pic last week and those tomatoes have doubled in size.

IMG_3173Strawberries in the foreground, garlic in the rear.  Leeks on the right.  Still haven’t eaten a leek.  Mom had to identify them, I was clueless. 

Nowadays they are looking kinda worse for the wear, so I suspect their season may be ending.

IMG_3174This is our wild forest of cilantro.  I’m hoping to harvest some seed (coriander) off these puppies, in order to eat it, and also in order to plant more cilantro in an actual pot or bed, and not just out in the middle of everything.

IMG_3175(It appears that something is on/in my camera lens.)

These are the little sweet potato slips, growing like crazy.  They know they’re in Mississippi where the best sweet potatoes come from, I guess.

IMG_3176Peas in the front, okra in the rear.  The okra ain’t looking too hot. August thinks its the shade, I wonder about the quality of the seeds we bought.  We are thinking about putting a few more seeds out.  However, okra is a heavy producer.  Theoretically I still think we’ll have more okra than we know what to do with.

So friends, come visit us later this summer.  I will cook you stuff straight from the garden and it will be fabulous.