Now, Where did I File that Tapeworm?

It all started a year ago when we replaced the "extra storage cabinet" in our kitchen with this new & more attractive one. The moment we set it in the kitchen I realized those glass doors were not going to hide the clutter of kitchen miscellanea I was busily transferring from the old cabinet to the new... My solution was to house the clutter in a series of tidy storage boxes.

The boxes had little metal frames to display labels hinting at the contents of the boxes. So, I dutifully got to work creating some helpful labels.

Above you can see the result of my endeavors at label making (I take these things very seriously.)

Then I got to work on some older storage boxes tucked into our book shelves...

Now I know where to find those emus!


Fun Science Experiments

This works because soap breaks up the molecules in the milk:

And this one works because soap breaks the surface tension of the water:

Have fun!


What We're Reading this Week

In our house the current reading obsession is D'Aulaires Greek Myths -- a book of stories, adapted for children, originally published in the 1960's and, 40+ years later, still in print.

The illustrations are quirky and sweet, done in pastel (or colored pencil?) and the stories have enough action to satisfy any 6 year old boy. Apollo sending a giant scorpion to kill Orion? Artemis turning Actaeon into a stag resulting in death by hunting-dog attack? It's all there. These stories certainly offer an interesting opportunity to talk about acting out of jealousy or anger and taking responsibility for one's own actions...

We rarely buy books (no more room in our vast & crowded bookshelves!) but this hefty tome called out to me from the small used-book shop in the foyer of our local library... $3 well spent.

We've also been reading from Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. This has resulted in lots of giggling -- esp. over the poem Spaghetti and the poem Boa Constrictor (who knew it would tickle to be nibbled by a hungry boa constrictor?) Then there's the poem Ma and God... A perfect reminder to keep our parenting-priorities in order:

God gave us fingers -- Ma says, "Use your fork."
God gave us voices -- Ma says, "Don't scream."
Ma says eat broccoli, cereal and carrots.
But God gave us tastys for maple ice cream...

...God gave us fingers -- Ma says, "Go wash 'em."
But God gave us coal bins and nice dirty bodies.
And I ain't too smart, but there's one thing for certain --
Either Ma's wrong or else God is.
Are you reading anything wonderful this week?


Garden Magic

Last summer, after a visit with the grandparents in Los Angeles, my Mr. Bloom was packing up the car, preparing for our drive home. I was inside the house helping Little Mr. with his shoes when big Mr. B. came running in. He said, "You have to talk to your father. For some reason he is filling the car with all these gigantic plants... We don't have room! Where are we going to put all these plants!" I went outside, and sure enough, my father was trying to find space for 2 enormous buckets full of dirt and leaves. One bucket had a bunch of clivia plants he had dug out of his garden and the other bucket contained a bunch of cymbidium orchid plants. I rearranged a few things in the car and whispered to Sweet Husband that I'd figure out what to do with the plants later, when we got home.

The clivia went into the ground in our garden but I don't think they like where I planted them -- (too much shade) so I'll have to move them. Then I found some orchid potting mix and stuffed the cymbidiums into 2 large terra-cotta pots which had been lying around. I dumped them on back patio and forgot about them. I've never had luck with orchids so I figured these weren't worth the effort.

Yesterday, I went with Sweet Child into the garden (to release yet more caterpillars he'd found.) Lo & behold, orchids! It feels like magic...

Truly, our whole garden feels like magic. When we moved into our house 9 years ago the garden was a pile of dirt and weeds. There was a fence cutting off the back half of the garden, and the area behind the fence was impenetrable with brush, overgrown oak & ponderosa pines. There was garbage & broken glass which had been tossed over this "half-way" fence by the former owner (out of sight, out of mind) and yet more garbage dumped by passers-by from the road running behind the property. I wish I had some "before" photos... it was sad and depressing.

We've worked hard on this garden... and lest you think things around here are fancy & palatial because of the giant chess-piece in the middle of the garden... I found the cement thing in a statuary supply salvage shed and they practically paid me to take it away!

These days our hillside is perfect for sliding and we are planning our first vegetable garden in a small side yard. I'm looking forward to more garden magic as spring progresses into summer and we bring in our first tomatoes...


Rod Puppets

We've been making rod puppets for years... Simple ones like these...

And shadow puppets, too...

But lately we've been more ambitious (this lovely lady was made at our kitchen table by a darling neighbor...)

We've been adding moving parts (heads & tails and arms) and 3-D wings, too...

Yesterday we made the Tomten and the Fox (based on characters from the book by Astrid Lindgren.) Below are instructions if you want to make one (or two or three) moving-part-puppets in your home.

1 wooden paint mixer or strip of heavy cardboard (approx. 1" wide x 12" long)
1 head approx. 2" high cut from construction paper or thin cardboard (a manilla folder works well)
1 body, rectangle cut from thin cardboard or manilla folder
2 strips fabric approx. 1" wide x 6" long
2 puppet hands cut from construction paper or thin cardboard
2 wooden skewers
a stapler, glue stick, white glue (and maybe a hot glue gun)
yarn, fabric, paper, paint, markers, crayons, glitter, feathers, etc... for decorating

1.) Attach the head and body to the top of the wooden paint mixer (or long card board strip.)2.) Hot glue skewer to end of fabric strip and then staple hand on. Alternatively, put some glue on the end of the fabric strip and then roll the end of the fabric around the skewer. Staple the roll shut when you staple hand to end of the fabric strip (you need some glue inside the fabric to hold the skewer in place.) If you want to hide the staple and the back of the "wrist" you can glue a small scrap of fabric over it (if you look closely at the photos of my finished Tomten, you'll notice I did this...)

3.) Staple the other ends of fabric strips to body to form arms.

4.) Decorate!


For the fox, Little Mr. B. made his drawing on colored construction paper. Then we used glue-stick to affix it to a manilla flolder (here you can see him making some minor adjustments to the nose...)

We cut it out...

Added some decorative touches...

Then glued down a small strip of fabric to hinge the tail to the body and glued another bit of fabric over the skewer to control the tail...

Please use your little movable hands to wave to our friends, Mr. Tomten. Tell them we'll see them later because now it's time for a puppet show!

Bless the Trees

I read the comics in the newspaper every morning. Mutts is my favorite. Happy Earth Day...


Hedgehog Love

A few weeks ago I was talking with some friends about Legos. After complaining about how difficult it is to clean up all the tiny pieces (and how painful it is to accidentally step on the aforementioned tiny pieces) we ended up discussing whether, if we were to buy a set for ourselves, which set we'd like best (and what this said about our hopes, aspirations or fantasy lives -- a little Jungian analysis courtesy of Legos...) I thought to myself, I really don't like any of the Lego sets. I don't like Legos or most plastic toys, for that matter... but then I spotted this Playmobil set and found myself charmed. It's all because of the hedgehogs...

Sometimes when I buy a new toy for Little Mr. Bloom my mother teases me that I'm really buying the toy for myself. Well, this time it's true. I did buy it for myself (but I let my sweet child play with it...)

Then I had a look around my house and noticed we've been amassing a small hedgehog collection without quite realizing it. An Ostheimer hedgehog...

A hedgehog cookie-press...

We've baked little hedgehog bread buns (recipe here)...

And, of course there's Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle...

Do you collect anything?


The other morning Little Mr. B. set up the tiny plastic Playmobil hedgehogs like this and said, "The baby hedgehogs are drinking milk from the mama hedgehog." Most days I don't spend much time thinking about the fact that I had a double-mastectomy when Little Mr. was 9 months old, but moments like this bring memories.

The nursing hedgehogs brought me back to an afternoon about 4 years ago (Little Mr. was almost 3.) We were playing with 3 stuffed-toy kittens. Little Mr. told me they needed milk so I found a little bowl, pretended to pour some milk and presented it to the kittens. Little Mr. said, "No, they need milk from breasts." While I was rummaging around to find a suitable stuffed toy to represent a mama cat, he said, "But they need milk from your breasts." Well, I thought to myself, even if these reconstructed water-balloon breasts aren't good for anything much, at least I can nurse some stuffed toy kittens." Bitter-sweet, indeed.

Every day I'm grateful. I'm grateful my mother is alive after receiving treatment for breast cancer. I'm grateful for medical technology which can isolate the familial genetic mutation which conferred to me an 80% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. I'm grateful I had medical insurance which covered the genetic screening, the double mastectomy and reconstruction. I'm grateful for my sweet Mr. B. who picked up Chinese food on his way home from work no matter how many times as week I asked for it. I don't love the fact that I have reconstructed orbs (sometimes referred to as my "feminine enhancements") but I'm grateful.

I volunteer through a peer support program at a local agency which provides free services to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. At least once a month they call to ask whether I'd be willing to talk to another young mother who is facing a mastectomy. It's not easy to feel gratitude while dealing with chemotherapy and surgery, but it's my hope that every woman I talk to will, at some point, be able to feel grateful.


Fairy Wood Fragrance

Did you know you could buy tiny boxes of Fairy Wood Fragrance? Imagine that!

Milk Carton Mechanicals

My father is a rocket-scientist (I'm not joking.) I am not a rocket scientist. I am not clever with mechanical things. I'm a neo-luddite at heart. However, a few weeks ago, I was over at a friend's house and flipped over a little mechanical toy -- when I saw the mechanics exposed underneath, I thought to myself, "I can make that!" I spent about an hour making one yesterday morning and then Sweet Child and I made another one when he got home from school. These were so much fun to make that I have to share them with you...

In anticipation of the project, wash out and save a milk carton, or two.

Cut off the tops of the cartons and trim the bottoms so that they're 3 1/4 inches high.

Cover the flat bottom of the carton and then the sides with paper. The bottom of the carton is now the top of your mechanical toy. Poke a small hole in the center of the top and then poke small holes in 2 sides of the box, opposite each other.

Using a needle nose pliers and stainless steel wire (19 gauge works well) create your crank and internal "camshaft" (this "camshaft" terminology was just supplied by my handy and technically-inclined Mr. Bloom...)

Insert your camshaft through one of side-holes. Maneuver the wire through the hole on the other side and bend it at a sharp angle (or into a large loop) so the wire will not pull back through the hole.

Take a straight piece of wire (approx. 5 inches long) and push it through the hole in the top of the box. Using your needle nose pliers, bend it in a small loop around the center of the camshaft inside the box. (TIP: You can pre-bend the little loop which will go around your camshaft. If you pre-bend your loop you will need to insert the un-bent top of the wire through the center hole from underneath the box.)

On the outside of the box, measure the wire approx. 2" from the top of the box. Bend the wire 90 degrees and create a loop (see photo above.)

NOTE: The first time I made one of these, I made plenty of mistakes bending the wire. I did a lot of bending, unbending and re-bending to get it right. When I made the second toy, it was much easier!

Now, you need to keep the "piston" (technical word again supplied by my Mr. Bloom) in the center of the camshaft. To do this, cut 2 small pieces of corrugated cardboard, 1/2 inch x 3/4 inch each, and 2 small strips of tape.

Roll the cardboard around the camshaft on either side of the piston and affix with tape.

It's a little tricky to work inside the box. I think this was the most difficult part for me...

Test your crank, and make adjustments. Now you're ready to create the little figure for the top of the toy. You will need a front and back for your figure -- glue them so they sandwich the loop on top.

If I were not too lazy to use photoshop, I would have loaded up the clip-art of the flying-fish and made a mirror image to use on the back of the figure. As it is, I used plain turquoise paper on the back of this figure to sandwich the wire.

Here's a little dragon Little Mr. B. and I designed together... And at the very end of this post is something my clever husband helped me set up...

If you have any questions about this project (or anything else) please feel free to post in the comments or find my e-mail by clicking on "VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE." I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. I tried adding a little bell to the camshaft of the fairy mechanical so there would be a little bit of fairy-music as she rode along on her flying fish. The little bell did not work, but I may yet take the whole thing apart (again) and try a different bell. I'll let you know if it works...