Monday, October 31, 2011

{crafts} Owl Halloween Costume

Happy Halloween! Here is the full tutorial of the crafted Toddler Halloween Owl Costume.

My 22 month old son loves this adorable Twinkle Twinkle Little Star video on youtube.

He watches it over and over and sings along. It has a cute little owl singing to a star. The owl is his favorite character, so I decided he should dress up as him for Halloween.

To start the project I am crocheting an owl hat. I figured this would work best because he would never wear any kind of mask, but he may keep a hat on. This project will be posted in
steps, the base of the hat will be the first step.

I found this very clear tutorial and was able to make the base of the hat in just a few hours:

Art of Crochet by Teresa - Baby Crochet Cap with Earflap Option -

After creating the base, I then added the ear flaps, colored trim and the tassels. I am using this video by Brooke Till for the details, but I found the previous video to be a little bit easier to follow when it came to
the basic hat.

Here is my basic hat, ready for the facial details:

The next step in creating the owl hat is to create the eyes. I have used the brown and green to match the hat and added white for contrast. This was fairly easy to do because it follows the same pattern as beginning your hat. I now need to sew on the eyes and then move on to the beak and ears. Here is the video tutorial:

After creating the eyes, sew them on with a large needle. Following the video tutorial, sew on the beak. Then you will create the tassels for the ears using the same colors in the braided tassels hanging from the ear flaps. Here is the video tutorial:
Once you are done with the hat, we can move on to the body. I am going to use an old, long sleeved onsie. I found one that is the same color as the green in the hat. I put it on my son and marked where it will be tucked in, only on the front.

We are going to use the back flap of the onsie to create the tail. The next step will be to create the feathers. You will need dark brown fleece or felt, and tan fleece or felt. I got 1/2 yard of the dark brown
and 1/8 yard of the tan.

I created a template for the feathers. There are many different sizes on this template, so you can print and use what will suit your needs.
I started at the bottom of the onsie, using the larger sized feathers. I cut enough to fit around the front and back. I used a hot glue gun to attach them.

On the back, I filled the onsie flap with feathers to create the "tail" of the owl.

I worked my way up the front and back, gluing the feathers so that they overlapped each other. I made the feathers a bit smaller as they reached the top. This made the process longer, but the results were worth it. The change in size helped create a more realistic look. I used the lighter tan fabric for the belly. Here is a final image of my son in the costume, photos courtesy of Kit Abeldt.

I then took the photo and placed him into a screen shot of the Twinkle Twinkle video. I can't wait to see his reaction to this photo. My final step to the project was creating a star for him to carry around. He would not wear the hat at all leading up to this weekend. When the star was complete, he understood the costume and then would not take of the hat! Sometimes things just work out!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Anything can be!

"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me ...  Anything can happen, child. Anything can be." -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

{read: magical debut} The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book is imaginatively conceived, impeccably plotted, and elegantly written. The Night Circus is one of those books that makes you both happy and said when you're reading it. While you can't wait to find out what happens next, you're also dreading turning the last page.

The plot revolves around a "game" in which two illusionists train their students and pit them against each other. Yet the illusionists in question - in this case, Marco and Celia - don't know the rules of the game or its stakes. They start to find out what exactly they've become enmeshed in when they discover that one of the circus's performers was the winner of the game's last round.

Morgenstern explores the delicate interplay of love, trust, loyalty, responsibility, and consequences in this amazing first novel. While magic is part of the novel, it is the tool that the author uses to illuminate the characters and the relationships among them rather than the central showpiece of the story.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, 2011)
My rating: 5 stars

Monday, October 24, 2011

{crafts} Pumpkin Balloons

I love these pumpkin balloons from Martha Stewart, and how easy! Check them out at

Pumpkin Balloons

From felt fiends to sinister silhouettes, these handmade touches are sure to give your home an extra-spooky feel this Halloween.

A gaggle of helium-filled jack-o'-lantern balloons hovers near the refreshment table. The simple features are drawn onto the inflated balloons with permanent marker; choose an assortment of geometric shapes that are easy to create freehand.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Life's mystery

The real trick is to let life, with all its ordinary missteps and regrets, be consistently more mysterious and alluring than its end. -- Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

{read: spy thriller} Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carre

In honor of the upcoming movie remake of the John Le Carre 1970s classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy novel, I offer this review of his most recent spy thriller.

This is the first book by le Carre that I've read, and I would definitely pick up another one. The plot was engaging and the characters were real enough to be interesting even though they felt a little two dimensional at times. I wanted to be entertained, and I was. Two young English people, Gail and Perry, go on holiday only to meet up with Dima, a self-proclaimed Russian mobster looking for asylum. He latches onto Gail and Perry, who then get tangled up in a web of British intelligence officers and their plans for Dima and his family.

** spoiler alert **

At the end, I had a premonition of bad things as soon as Luke said that he was looking forward to the beginning and the ending of what was to come. By the time they got to the airport, though, I thought they were safe and the explosion took me by surprise. I liked the ending, although I think it left many unanswered questions. Some are easy (who did it? probably the Prince, although it's also possible it was just an accident or that it was rigged by the British people who didn't want the whole thing to come to light) and others are more complex (what happens to Tamara and the family? where do they go now? What do Gail and Perry do?). Le Carre doesn't get into any of that. Dima is dead. The story is over. I have to admire an author who doesn't try to tie up all the loose ends in a pretty little bow.

Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carre (Viking Adult, 2010)
My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, October 13, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Seize the moment

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. -- George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

{read: Do you believe in miracles?} The Unspeakable by Charles L. Calia

The plotting, character development, and pacing of this debut novel make up for the writing that could still use some editing, especially after p. 50. A priest has to investigate a friend from seminary who has lost his voice (although medical experts agree he should be able to speak) and is healing people at his Minnesota church, which has a special congregation of deaf, mute, and mentally challenged people. To complicate matters, $12,000 are missing from the nonprofit he used to lead. The story flips back and forth between the past and the present and illuminates these two priests and the circumstances that have shaped their lives.

Just when you think the story is straightforward, another twist is introduced and you see another level of complexity. Nothing is quite as it seems, and you're not even sure if you can trust the priests as they look back on their pasts. What aren't they telling us? What are they making up? What have they changed? It's a testament to the power of the story in this book that I was able to look past the editing flaws, which increase as the book goes along. These usually throw me right out of the story, but I found this book hard to put down and am looking forward to finding some more work by this author.

The Unspeakable by Charles L. Calia (William Morrow, 1998)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, October 10, 2011

{crafts} Handprint Bats from Reading Confetti

Here is a really cute and easy craft from Reading Confetti (

This would be a fun decoration for a Halloween Party!

Handprint Bats

It all started with the book Stellaluna, which is not really a Halloween story but still seems fitting for this time of year. If you haven't read it, you are missing out! It's about a little bat who is separated from her mother and tries to fit in with the birds. After she is reunited with her mother, she learns that all the things that made her "different" are things that she is supposed to have been doing all along.
After the story we made some handprint bats.
I may have gone a little overboard. They are just so cute.
Here they come:
There they go!

Friday, October 7, 2011

{featuring friday} thinly sliced cucumber

For our first "featuring friday" post we would like to feature a brand new blog. Check out Amanda Watson's blog thinly sliced cucumber. Here is her latest recipe for Healthy Apple Banana Muffins. They look wonderful, and perfect for this time of the year. Enjoy, and be sure to stop by her blog often.

Healthy Apple Banana Muffins


Its October and autumn has officially arrived. Around here that means hillsides dotted with deep gold and brilliant red foliage, eager tourists crowding the roads, restaurants, and hiking trails, pumpkin and harvest festivals in every town, fresh apple cider and cider donuts, farm stands stocked with mounds of squash in every variety, shape and color…I could go on and on. This is New England after all and we do love the autumnal time of year.While I profess to enjoy all the things autumn has to offer, by far my favorite thing about this time of year is cooking and baking.


Don’t get me wrong, I love both these activities at any time of the year, but there is something special about cooking in the fall that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the smell of freshly baked apple pie wafting throughout the house, or the comfort of making butternut squash mac and cheese on a dark and dreary October afternoon. Perhaps its because for me fall signals a general slow down of life; a time when I do far less digging in the garden and far more creating in the kitchen. One thing I am sure of is that my love of autumn cooking is inspired in huge part by the seasonal produce that is abundant this time of year. Fall greens and root vegetables, garlic, squash, pumpkins, and pears, I love them all. But in my opinion it is the apple, with its bright red skin and crisp yet juicy inside that is the king of fall produce.

TAW20339Malus Pumila, better known as the common apple is possibly the most widely grown and consumed fruit in the world. There are thousands of varieties boosting different sizes, colors, and flavors. The humble apple is the inspiration for countless dishes that are savory, sweet, spicy, and everything in between. In addition to its beautiful shape and subtle yet sweet flavor, it is the versatility of the apple that draws me to it the most. The ease with which it is inserts itself into a spicy curry stew, melds perfectly into a balsamic glaze over roast pork, or pairs seamlessly with cinnamon and pie crust is at the same time inspiring and overwhelming. Faced with an overflowing tote of recently picked apple I am almost at a loss as to what to create first. Almost. Luckily I quickly recover my senses and decide to start with a basic muffin.

TAW30426I make muffins at all times of the year using countless combinations of ingredients and because of my love for muffins I have been on the quest to create a healthy muffin that I can consume everyday without guilt. I used to be of the opinion that the best muffins are the huge ones you find in the local bakery. You know the kind I am talking about. Big enough that you could share if you really wanted to, decadently moist inside with a crispy,crumbly topping that spills over the edge. This is my kind of muffin. Unfortunately, eating these muffins is simply not a sustainable practice. I recently read somewhere that many muffins contain more sugar that most cakes, and as much fat as some fast food breakfast items- yikes!

TAW20283There has to be a better way. A way to have your muffin and eat it to. Over the past few weeks I have been working on a healthy version of the muffin. One that is not loaded with butter and sugar, yet still retains that moist texture and sweet muffiny flavor that I crave. I went through many versions of this muffin. I experimented with plain yogurt, apple sauce, small amounts of canola oil, honey as a sugar substitute and other countless failed attempts. Finally I came to the conclusion that the key to moist, yet healthy, muffin is the addition of a banana mixed with milk, a small(er) amount of butter, and a combo of several flours and wheat germ. I will not proclaim that this is a true rival for the legendary bakery muffin, but it comes close. It is a sensible size, lacks a sugary topping and doesn’t have that extra soft texture that can only come from pure white flour. However, this recipe contains almost half the amount of butter than a traditional muffin, at least a 1/4 cup less sugar, and a whole lot less guilt. Muffins lovers rejoice! Now you really can have your muffin and eat it too.


Makes 12 muffins

1 cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup white flour
¼ cup wheat germ
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick unsalted butter)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup 2% milk
2 apples, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In medium bowl mix together dry ingredients. White flour through salt. In large bowl beat together butter and brown sugar until light an fluffy. Add egg one at a time, beating well after each.
  3. In a separate bowl mash bananas with a fork and stir in milk. With the mixer on low, alternately ass the flour and banana mixture. Mix only until combined. Fold in grated apple.
  4. Divide batter among muffins cups and bake 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Quality or quantity?

"I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special." - Shelby in Steel Magnolias

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

{read: Danish crime thriller} The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I am stingy with my 5-star ratings, but this one deserves it. It's the best Nordic crime thriller I've read and perhaps also the most accessible to the American audience. (OK, so I'm an ordinary reader). Carl is the head of the new Department Q in Denmark, which is assigned the job of investigating cold cases. The first of the 40 or so that they tackle is the disappearance of Marette, a politician who was assumed to have committed suicide after she disappeared from a ferry en route to Berlin five years ago. But no body was ever found, and there was no evidence that she might have been contemplating suicide. With the help of his energetic, mysterious assistant Assad, Carl reluctantly digs into the case. He's more interested in sinking into his own depressive state after a shooting at a homicide scene left one of his partners dead and another paralyzed from the neck down. Carl blames himself and just wants to sleep away the hours to retirement, but he gets drawn into the case despite himself. Assad provides some comic humor and contrast to Carl's gloomy mood and later, some unexpected investigative expertise.

If you've read the Nordic authors (Larsson, Mankel, etc.) and liked them, you'll love this. If you've been hesitant to try them, pick up this one first. You won't want to put it down.

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton Adult, 2011)
My rating: 5 stars

Monday, October 3, 2011

{crafts} Owl Halloween Costume - Part 3

After creating the eyes, sew them on with a large needle. Following the video tutorial, sew on the beak. Then you will create the tassels for the ears using the same colors in the braided tassels hanging from the ear flaps. Here is the video tutorial:

Once you are done with the hat, we can move on to the body. I am going to use an old, long sleeved onsie. I found one that is the same color as the green in the hat. I put it on my son and marked where it will be tucked in, only on the front.

We are going to use the back flap of the onsie to create the tail. The next step will be to create the feathers. You will need dark brown fleece or felt, and tan fleece or felt. I got 1/4 yard of the dark brown and 1/8 yard of the tan. Stay tuned for the next steps!