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Decorating our mantle is a little difficult, since it usually ends up being a catch-all for everything we don’t want dogs, cats, or toddler getting into. But with all the inspiring mantles I’ve been seeing, I thought I could give it a try.

The vase on the left was a wedding present and is filled with peanut butter candies.  The lyre candelholder is a gift from one of my AXO sorority sisters.  Various other wedding gift candles and a halloweenish one I’ve had for a few years.  The flower bucket is filled with branches from our yard with a quick coat of black spray paint.  The pumpkin lantern is a hand-me-down from my Mom.  The light bulb was burned out, so I just popped in a tea light for the photo.  It will probably not get a new light bulb this season.  The book is a collection of Edgar Allen Poe works that we already had.  The print isn’t specifically Halloween-y, but it’s Magritte’s Empire of Light and I’ve always thought the surrealism with the daytime sky and nightime house was a bit creepy.  I am also quite thrilled to replace the abstract expressionism Bleu II by Miro that was there previously – it was a red slash and some black dots against a blue background that I never really liked.  Maybe Dave won’t notice if it doesn’t return to the mantle!   The bowl with the rocks in the middle are our wedding “guest rocks” in a wooden bowl we got in Bora Bora on our honeymoon.  Instead of a guest book, we had everyone sign a rock.  I’d put them somewhere else for this, but I don’t have a good place to move them to, and nothing specific to fill the space in the middle.  So, they can be Halloween guest rocks.  The wall color was already pumpkin – Dave has a fondness for this color and it’s in our sun room, dining room, and over the mantle.

I think I have a few other odds and ends that I will add to this, and I think I’ll do some kind of a garland or drape across the print.  Either way, it’s better than it was and forced me to put away the junk that was just cluttering it up.

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A local animal rescue sponsors a Dirty Dog run each year where you can run with your dogs on the trails.  Last year I ran with Laser and the oaf dragged me over hill and dale for the entire 5k.  Normally, he poops out and I’m dragging him after the first mile or so.  Turns out he’s not lazy, he’s just bored and it was exciting to run through the woods chasing other runners and dogs.

They encourage costumes, so this year we’re going to try running Sophie and dress her up as a princess to go along with a pea costume I made years ago for a different race where I was the princess:

Princess and the Pea

So here’s how I made Sophie’s princess hat – keep in mind I’m making this for a dog, so I’m not all concerned about finished edges and durability.  This was also a stashbuster project – yay!

I started by measuring Sophie’s head to get the circumference of my hat – 16″ worked fine.  I arbitrarily decided I wanted the cone to be about 8″ tall.  Then I tried to find something round that had a 16″ diameter to use as a pattern.  My chip and dip tray came close, so I used that for starters.  I traced right onto heavyweight fusible interfacing:

Who needs a compass?

I broadened the circle to get my desired size, then I measured the edge of my semi-circle until I got to my 16″ + 1″ and drew a line to the center of the circle:

Rough pattern

Then I cut the shape plus some extra out of my fabric – a bunch of taffetta I had left over from a purse project several years ago:

Press to fuse, and then I turned the bottom edge up and stitched with about ¼” seam allowance.  I didn’t bother to pin or anything since it didn’t need to be perfect:

Turn and sew

For a little whimsy and because I wanted to play with Jane (my new sewing machine), I added a decorative stitch:

Decorative stitch by Jane

Then I added a bunch of ribbons into the top and stitched the back closed with right sides together, keeping the ribbons inside the hat:

Check the fit on Sophie and add some elastic to keep it put:

Princess Sophie

This took less than 20 minutes during naptime – pretty slick I think!  Any suggestions on what to do with another yard or so of the taffetta?

Since I’ve been in a little bit of a project funk lately, I thought I’d take the time to share some parts of my life since this is supposed to be about Life. Family. Crafts.  So, I browsed through some of my photo albums and lo and behold, one of the largest is the one where I toss all the random photos of our dogs.

Picking Laser up at PAWS

What a sweet face

Laser came to us via the PAWS With a Cause organization.  We volunteered to be foster puppy raisers with the hopes of raising a puppy for about a year and then turning him over to PAWS to help someone with a physical disability.  Laser had other plans.  Laser was a “difficult” puppy.  My poor husband who was new to dog raising told me that I seriously undersold the difficulty level.  I told him that not all dogs are like Laser.  We had to walk Laser twice a day for VERY long walks to try to tire him out.  When that didn’t work, we got special permission from PAWS to run with him in an attempt to wear him down enough to be manageable.  At this point in our lives, both Dave and I were running marathons, so Laser built up to some serious mileage.  He just became a very fit high-energy dog with greater stamina.  Laser was smart enough to learn everything – he was just so smart that he tried to figure a way around the rules.  If you’ve read the book or seen the movie Marley and Me, they must be cousins because pretty much if you take away the fear of lightning, Laser was a whole lot of Marley.

Laser was donated to PAWS from a private breeder, likely because his tail was accidentally docked as a puppy and thus “non-standard” for the breed.  I’ve since learned there are two main lines of labradors – Show and Trial Bred.  Show are the stocky, blocky CALM and affable labs bred to amble around conformation shows and look pretty.  Trial Bred labradors are leaner and longer with a tighter coat and thinner tails.  According to Wikipedia, they are “commonly higher energy and more high-strung” and “as a consequence may be more suited to working relationships than being a “family” pet.”  Any guesses which line Laser is?

LASER stands for Light Amplification through Stimulation of Emission of Radiation.  My husband Dave is a physicist who works with lasers and Laser was on the list of PAWS approved names we got to choose from.  He could also have been called Quark or Kafka, so I think he got the best of the lot.  (Dave’s other pets have been named after physicists and mathemeticians, which is how Otto and Erwin got their names and I eventually played along by suggesting Sophie.  Bonus points if you know the last names without Googling.)

One of the neat things about being a foster puppy raiser is that you’re encouraged to take the puppy with you everywhere you go.  Laser wore his little PAWS cape and went with me almost every week to the grocery store.  We took him to festivals and races.  I took him to the library, and to Toronto when I ran the marathon there (he refused to pee outside for nearly the entire weekend because it’s such a dog-intense city and the smell overwhelmed him).  We flew with him to San Diego – yes, he got to be in the cabin with us, go NWA for their policy for dogs in training to be service animals.  While in San Diego we took him to Sea World along with countless coffee shops.

Toronto Marathon

San Diego Sea World

Needless to say after lots of encouragement and coaching from Ellen, our wonderful PAWS field representative, Laser was officially career changed after trying to drag his caregiver at doggie daycare across the street.  Career changed is really just PAWS speak for “He’s too much of a spazz for our program and we would never trust him to be left alone with a person using a wheelchair”.

Sadly, the caption is true

Through contacts with PAWS, we tried to find another career for Laser because man, he needed a job.  He was too big for arson since the investigators might need to carry the dog up a ladder.  He was ironically not insane enough for bomb or drug detection.  They use balls as the reward for those dogs and while Laser is a retrieving fool, he didn’t try to dismantle a dresser when the trainer put a ball in one of the drawers.  Laser was just like “Uh, the ball’s in here – where’s my treat?”.

PAWS would have placed Laser with a family – apparently there’s quite a market for highly-trained purebreeds who are past the puppy phase.  But, masochists that we apparently are, we decided to keep Laser as our “forever” dog. 

Laser has mellowed with age.  A little.  PAWS dogs aren’t allowed to go swimming since they don’t want a dog pulling a wheelchair to be attracted to the water.  Once Laser was released from service, we found that he LOVED the water.  He would retrieve until he could hardly haul himself out of the water.  He also shows a pretty good aptitude for agility, and placed several times in his first competition.  He loves to go to the dog park and will retrieve endlessly.  We even discovered that he would fetch in the dark.  He waits until he hears the ball hit the ground and then runs in that general direction. 

Laser like swim!

He still has his faults.  He’s a champion counter surfer and will get into anything that he can reach.  I have poison control on speed dial specifically for him.  He’s eaten muscle relaxers, an entire bag of Halls, organic weed preventer, and ant traps.  So far he’s still with us.  Poison control seemed to get a kick out of the Halls call – after telling us there should be no ill effects the operator said “his breath will smell good”.  He still tries to drag me where he wants to go and has caused me to fall a couple of times.

The main thing about him now is that he does amazingly well with Arden.  Now that she’s more mobile, he’s had to become even more tolerant of her.  She loves to “ride” him – straddling him and bouncing up and down when he’s laying on the ground.  His docked tail is actually a nice feature, as he doesn’t whack into stuff or Ardens head like Sophie’s does.  Arden likes to dress him up and he just sits there nicely looking up with big sad eyes as if to say “what did I do to deserve this?”.  See above buddy.  See above.

So, that’s the story of our loveable but frequently infuriating dog Laser.  Next time I don’t have any fun projects to post, I’ll introduce you to Sophie.

Arden is 18 months old!  Crazy toddler alert!

 

 

Arden is now a confident walker and working on running.  Turns out she might have struck out on her own a little earlier, but she had a persistent respiratory infection which was probably causing her ears to be congested.  As soon as we started an extended round of antibiotics at the end of June to kick out the infection, she was off to the races!  This coincided with a trip to Idaho to visit Grandma and Grandpa DeShazer, so they got to witness the developments.

gMa and gPa Sunshine flew in for a visit in July, and were here for some firsts – first fireworks, and they also got Arden her first wagon, which gPa assembled with some “help” from Arden.  We went to the Saginaw Children’s Zoo along with Uncle Jeff, Aunt Amy, and cousin Nathan.  A couple of days later she got to ride in the Kid’s University float for the Cornfest Parade.  It was a hot day, but she liked waving at everyone and ringing her cowbell.

We’ve had some garage sale and swap shop successes this quarter.  I found a play kitchen at a garage sale while I was running with Arden in the jogging stroller.  She loves it!  I made a matching play refrigerator over Labor Day weekend that she likes just as well.  I also found a play set with swings, a little climbing fort and slide on our company’s swap shop.  She climbs right up the little ladder and swings in the “big kid” swings.

Along with walking and running, she also enjoys spinning, somersaults (parent-assisted), and climbing, sliding and swinging on her play set.  She likes to boogie down and entertains her friends and caregivers at daycare with her creative dance moves – she does a really cute “booty bounce”!  It’s fortunate that the dogs and cats are all very tolerant of her, as she likes to lay on whoever has the misfortune of standing still long enough for her to catch them.  If they aren’t in the proper position, she’ll grab on and try to drag them to wherever she wants them to be.  We’ve been working on “pet nicely”, and sometimes it sinks in better than others.  She also discovered that it’s fun to play spin the cat when Poe was lounging on the office swivel chair.

We started potty training “light” at one year, and in August we tried an intensive Potty Weekend.  The concept was to have her be bare bottom during the day for the entire weekend, but by the end of day one it had dissolved into a pee-on-the-floor free-for-all, and we went to training underwear for days two and three.  Much better.  She had one day where she didn’t have any accidents until bedtime, including keeping a cloth diaper dry for two trips out of the house.  Since then we’ve used the training unders some more, but she hasn’t done as good keeping them dry.  I think I’ll give a training weekend another shot in a little bit and see if it sticks more as she gets older.

We had a play date with Arden’s friend Ethan to LeCronier’s Baby Acres, a local petting farm.  Arden had a ball with all the animals, though she was so fixated on the kittens in the beginning that she hardly noticed the more exotic animals like chicks, goats, sheep, piglets, bunnies, chickens and peacocks.  After a little while she caught on that there were other animals, and even formed an odd attachment to one particular chicken.  He/she was not so keen on being caught by a screeching toddler.  She even went on the barrel train ride and rode in a barrel painted like a sheep.  Ethan was not so fond of the ride.

Arden had her first visit to the dentist.  Dr. LeBlanc looked in her mouth at all 12 of her teeth and said everything looked fine.  She did pretty well, but is not a fan of anyone looking in her mouth.  Her favorite part was the kid’s play area. 

She’s using a fork and spoon at meals with pretty good success.  She’s a proficient “scooper”, but needs help with “poking”.  Sometimes she cheats and uses her fingers while still holding the fork.  I guess that counts as using it.

Arden had her first pony ride on Sweet Pea, my cousin Angel’s pony, at our annual chicken BBQ family reunion this year.  Arden had a ball, but she was laughing so much it made Sweet Pea nervous.  She also got her first hay ride that day.

So, this is where I’m supposed to say something incredibly witty about myself and why I’m starting this blog.  Well.  Umm.  Here goes nothing.  Can’t promise witty, but it will be about me and why I’m starting this blog

I’m a 30-something mother to Arden, my adorable little girl who I love more than my arms can hold.  My awesome physicist husband Dave and I have been married for 3 years.  We have two black labs named Laser and Sophie, and three cats named Erwin, Otto, and Poe.  We didn’t start out intending to have a menagerie, but between his cats (Erwin and Otto), my cats (Bailey and Frank), losing two cats (Frank and later diabetic Bailey) fostering a PAWS With a Cause dog (Laser), the PAWS dog getting “career changed” and we decided to keep the frustrating but loveable lug, adopting a friend for said lug (Sophie), and finding a discarded black cat (Poe) just before Halloween one year, stuff happens.  I’m a sometimes runner and former (and hopefully future) marathoner.  I spent over ten years training and teaching Muay Thai and while I miss how empowered and fit that made me feel, I really don’t miss the time investment or all the bruises!

I’ve been crafting as long as I can remember.  I made doll’s clothes while staying with my grandma on her antique Singer.  My mom taught me how to cross-stitch when I was little, and we sewed a whole bedding ensemble for my cabbage patch doll Krissy Lynn.  Later Mom taught me how to crochet (which I’ve since forgotten), and let me go with her to her monthly craft group, and occasionally sit in on her weekly stitch gathering.  As an adult, I learned how to quilt, and tried to start my own craft group where a friend taught me how to knit.  During my pregnancy, my nesting instinct took the form of sewing and knitting, and I made burp cloths out of cloth diapers, quilts for expecting friends, and knitted like a woman posessed.  After Arden was born, I made my husband and my brother-in-law “man slings” after Dave kept poaching my pink one.  Now, I’m trying to begin a small business selling “simply sweet designs for tiny people” on Etsy.

My Dad was a home builder and instilled in me a can-do attitude.  I’m not afraid of power tools, and am willing to try anything once.  I’ve tiled my own bathroom, re-fashioned an antique window into a shadow box/shelf, made a rolling ottoman out of a drawer, and re-screened a sliding door to name a few.

I hope you find something I write here interesting, funny, helpful, or inspirational.

Gotta run,

Jenn