Halloween (OR: Let Me Show Off My Mad Costume Making Skills)

That is it.  It is decided.  Halloween is my favorite holiday.   I like it best and I'll tell you why:

1) I don't have to give anyone a gift.
2) I am not subjected to the same cheesy music everywhere I go.
3) I get to wear a costume.
4) CANDY.

Also, our Halloween traditions are such fun.  Every year we go to a pumpkin patch to kick the month off, then we decorate scary cookie houses, carve pumpkins, and make Halloween decorations. Not to mention that the weather has just turn all autumny and beautiful, the cooking is more delicious and life in general takes a turn for the better.

Halloween as a parent is fun because you can dress your babies as whatever you want.

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2010 6

2011 2

But eventually they reach an age where they want to pick their own costumes. Sometimes you get lucky and they pick something awesome and so fun to make.

2010 5

And if what they want to be is Sheriff Woody, you can throw together a pretty great costume if you already happen to have a pair of cowboy boots.

2011 1

If you have boys, chances are at some point they are going to want to be Batman.

2012 2

But not to worry!  That is when things start to get exciting!  And if they BOTH want to be batman, Even Better!

2012 1

Craft Foam, and Fusible Web are a costume makers greatest friends.

If they've already been Batman, what are they going to want to be next?  Why, Superman of course!

2013

But no matter how much you love putting together costumes for your kids, inevitably the year will come that they insist on a STORE BOUGHT Spiderman costume, and you will have to give in.

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Does that make anyone besides me sad?  I had a hard time letting go, so I had to make SOMETHING, and settled on these:

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I ordered their costumes from Amazon this year, thinking they might have some higher quality costumes, but I am pretty sure they are the same ones we could have picked up at Walmart.

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Here is the tag from Colin's Costume:

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Yes, you read that right.

"Do Not Wash. Do Not Dry. Do Not Dry clean."

That's right. The quality is so poor that even taking the costume within the vicinity of a washing machine may cause it to begin the process of disintegration. This doesn't really matter if the costume is only going to be worn once anyway, but my 5 year old will wear his every single day if I let him. He has worn it 3 days so far and several parts of it are already giving up the ghost. (Ha Ha! Halloween Humor!)

Stay Tuned for future developments of this exciting story.  Will his costume last the week?

PROJECT DARKSTONE: Day 270

Here is what is happening at my house at the moment:


That is a painter laying on the porch cleaning up the existing soffit and fascia to get it ready for paint.  To which I say, "Woohoo!"

See this window here?  It is in the hallway that leads into the office and downstairs bathroom.  You might notice that it is partially covered up.  


That happened when we rebuilt the stairs years ago.  The original stairs were crazy steep, so to adjust them to a comfortable angle, we had to bisect the window.  There has always been about a foot of window sticking up on the landing in the stairwell. We always planned to just take the window out and brick it up, but then we changed our minds.  It is nice to have a little natural light in the area, and it would have looked so weird from the outside to have the window gone.  So it is going to stay there, partially covered up, forever and ever.  Lani the Builder built a little wall in front of it up on the top half so that you can't see the window from the stairway.  And here is how it looks from the outside.


You almost can't tell.  It will be obvious at night when the lights are on, but I think it is something we can all live with.  

Inside the builder has been prepping the walls for plaster:




He said he would rather patch the plaster on the existing walls than pull off all the plaster and do drywall, so we said Knock Yourself Out.  That yellow mesh is there for the plaster to adhere to.  I think he had planned to start plastering right away, but then decided to go back to working outside while the weather was nice.

And in insulation news, apparently the insulation guys got in a bad shipment of Urethane Foam.  They are now waiting for a replacement shipment, but it has put them behind schedule by about 6 days.  So they will insulate our house sometime next week.  


In other news, last night we carved pumpkins.  The boys always draw faces on the pumpkins and we carved them out for him.  Here is Colin's.


He really had a good time with the sharpie.  There was clearly two eyes and a nose and then almost endless scribbles around the pumpkin.  It is usually understood that where he draws lines, that is where I cut.  So when I hestitated before stabbing it he kindly told me, "You can just cut out the face if you like."


AND, this is just for you Susanne.  Here is a picture of R2-D2, 3-D printed, assembled and painted by Boydell.  And maybe Lance.  


Pretty Amazing, right?



PROJECT DARKSTONE: Day 259

Yes, we had our inspection.  And yes, we failed.  HOWEVER, all the things he wanted us to change were things he would still be able to see after the insulation is put in, so we got the OK to put in insulation, and he will inspect all the remaining stuff when he comes back to inspect the insulation.

So we are good to go!

Insulation will probably happen in a week or so, so the builder told us it was time to get the rest of our stuff out of the house.  (ie all the tools and plumbing and electrical supplies that had been laying on every available surface for the last 8 months)  We also still had to run the internet wiring.  And thanks to some very, very, VERY nice people, we did it!!

This big ol' mess of blue wires is Cat6 wire from all over the house.  And though it looks like a pile of tangled up blue spaghetti, each group of wires is taped together and labeled so we know which room it came from.


A pile of wires down in the crawl space may not seem like success, but it actually is.  All we have to do is bring those wires up through the floor into the closet that is right above them and our resident networking ninja can attach them to Whatever it is that Internet wire gets attached to.

After all the wiring was done and the stuff was all cleaned up we loaded up our car with all of the stuff we have bought for the house but didn't use:electrical boxes, pex pipe, abs pipe hubs [seriously, a giant tub full of abs pipe joints and elbows and tees] heating ducts and who knows what else, and returned them all to Home Depot. And even though we didn't have reciepts for 80% of it, they took almost all of it back without batting an eye. Wanna guess how much we got back?

$557.14.

Kaching!

Now the only tools and crap laying around the house belong to the builder and are not my problem anymore.


And since my Dad was nice enough to sweep for us, it will actually look a little bit tidy until the builder comes back and messes it back up again.  


Someday soon there will be so little left for us to do that we can actually do something fun with our KIDS on a Saturday.  What would that be like?

PROJECT DARKSTONE: Day 252

Well, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, we are ready for the inspection.

Ok.  Not true.  Here is what is left on our list:


Install boxes for Exterior Outlets
Install Range Hood Power in circuit breaker
Redo Pantry Lights
Run ground wire to outside box



Yep.  Just four things.  I want to give you a minute to let that sink in.  They are all small and pretty easy (as soon as Richard finds somewhere he can actually buy the ground wire he needs to run to the outside box). We will go finish those things first thing Monday morning and Shazam!  We're done!

I love that Redo Pantry Lights is on the list again.  This will be the 3rd time I have put up the boxes and wires for the pantry lights.  Every time someone installs something they decide to run their vents right where my boxes are and take the boxes down when they see they are in their way.  3rd time's the charm, I'm sure.

After we finished today I swept so much that now I have blisters on my hands.  I tell you that to elicit lots of sympathy. (If you want to send me a card that would be a nice gesture.)  I also tell you that so you can appreciate how clean the floor looks in the following picture.  I know you can't see much, but it hadn't been swept in about 6 months, so believe when I tell you that it looks so much better!  More exclamation marks!!!!


Coming up you will see the beauty that is the breaker box.  This took almost a whole day all by its lonesome.


Next is the Hot Water Heater, and the Plumbing manifold.  (If I'm calling everything by the wrong name, please don't tell me.  I like to feel like I know what I'm talking about.)


See what a mad genius my husband is?  He soldered all those copper pipes together (or maybe sweated them together?  I don't know.  Plumbers are weird.) to create this work of art.  He's so clever.


And so, based on the evidence I have just laid before you, you can clearly see that we are, indeed, ready for our 4 way inspection.  So let's all cross our fingers that the inspector will be able to come out on Tuesday!  Hooray!

Oh!  And here are some new exterior shots, just for kicks!


I'm surprised how much I like just the plain, unpainted siding, but yes, we are going to paint it.  



Blurb Review

This review is not sponsored by blurb.  It is not even sanctioned by them.  They don't even know I'm writing it.  If they did they might send me a message saying something like, "Please don't review our products on your dumb blog.  Thank you."

But we had a REALLY long (apparently boring) conversation at my brother's house today about where we all print our photo books and I really wished I had one of my books there to show off.  So this post is mostly for Arlene and Faralee, who wanted to know if I was happy with my photo books.

I always order from Blurb.  Ever since I found them I have used them.  One of the best things about them is that they are all about self publishing books, so they don't charge as much for every page over 20 like most photo-book sites do.

My books are usually about 100 pages, and cost around $50.00 with the hard cover.  I always wait for a sale, (I've signed up for their email list) so for my most recent book, including $4.99 shipping, I paid $47.39.  It was 104 pages long.  I assume that is a good price, but now that I think about it, I haven't really researched photo book pricing in several years, so who knows?

Let's look at it in detail, shall we? (I decided I didn't want you Yahoos knowing my last name.)


Aw what a charming family.  Really good at smiling, that is what those people are.

This book was ordered in a hardback with an image wrap, meaning they print your image directly onto the book cover itself.  It is super nice. Really my only complaint is that they always have a hard time getting the label on the spine centered.


But these are the sort of difficult, first world problems that we will just have to learn to deal with.

They have several photo templates available, or you can just drag and drop the pictures where you want them, then re-size them as needed.  You can choose from several assortment of text and photo layouts, or you can put text boxes anywhere you want, use the fonts already installed on your computer, and just personalize the heck out of it.



I know they have some borders and patterned paper you can use for backgrounds, but I have never used them, so I can't tell you how cute they may or may not be.  After years of hard-core scrapbooking I am perfectly contented with the simple, minimalist look of my pictures on a white background, and just some fonts for decor.



Their customer service is great too.  I think their policy is that you have to notify them within 15 days if there is a problem with your book.  I ordered the above book last year in November, and then wrapped it and put it under the Christmas tree without even looking at it.  And then when Christmas rolled around and I finally did open it I found that about 20% of the fonts had printed all wonky, and some of the words weren't even legible.

I figured I had missed the "Error Notification Window" and so I just didn't worry about it, but it has always bugged me and finally last month I decided to order another copy of the book.  I sent them an email first telling them what happened, wondering if it was just an error in printing, or if the font itself was a problem.  They responded saying they were having a problem with some fonts at the time, but they had since corrected the problem, and then gave me a credit on my account that could be used to order a replacement book.  That was nice.

So that is all I can think of.  What else needs to be included for a thorough review?  Beats me.  This is all you are getting.  Good night.

PROJECT DARKSTONE : Day 245

Ok. Big surprise,  we're still not done with the plumbing and electrical work.  It just takes so darn long! And Richard only has a limited amount of time available to work on it.  We were hoping to be done two weeks ago, but we're getting close.  Here's how the To-do list stands today:

hot water heater
mana block
Range hood ducting & power
Run ground wire to outside box
Plumbing for fridge
Plumbing for dishwasher
drain for heater and hot water heater
Attach AC wire to breaker box
Upstairs bathroom vent
Fix light in utility closet
connect all wires in electrical boxes
Put up metal plates to protect wiring as needed
Power to laundry room light
Redo kitchen hallway lights, run wire from light to switch near kitchen
Kitchen island light on steel beam
Cut holes for back door, patio lights, exterior outlets
Internet wiring

Yeah, yeah, it is still super long, but I swear we are making progress.

One of the things I've been working on when Richard is doing something he doesn’t need help with is finishing up the wiring in the electrical boxes. Richard taught me how, and look what I've managed to do!



I took a picture of every box after I finished it, but I'll just show you those two. I'm pretty pleased with myself, can you tell?

There are still tons of boxes left to do, and I have been staying as far away as I could from boxes like this one:


However, now that I understand the basic science of how the wiring works, I think maybe I can figure it out.  With help from the internet. And Richard's electrical book.  And Richard sitting right next to me telling me what to do.  

Back to work!