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Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Wishing everyone a spooktacular Halloween! Now that we've professed our love for Halloween and pumpkins a million times over, it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thank you for reading along this month as I started to really get organized here on the blog. I'm slowly figuring this whole blogging thing out. You guys are the best and the stats show that you are liking what you are reading! If you ever have suggestions or questions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you. Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

October Recap:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween: Pumpkin Carving Tips & Tricks

Our 7th Annual Chu Family Pumpkin Carving Contest  was held over the weekend and it was as much fun as ever. I love the trash talking, friendly competition and grubbing on good food. I came in 2nd place! I thought my design was pretty dope but I have to admit some of the thin lines of my sister Karen's winning design looked really impressive. We take our pumpkin carving seriously and I thought I would share some of my tips and tricks so you can take your carving skillz up a notch too.

Tips for Pumpkin Carving like a Pro

-Carving tools. I'm not talking about the cheap plastic tools you can find at Target. I bought this Pro Carving Tool set from Zombie Pumpkins years ago and it is amazing. The blades are a lot thinner and finer so you can make those small cuts which are essential for a winning design.
-Transfer paper. Transfer paper is a must if you are tracing a design onto your pumpkin. I like using Saral Transfer Paper in Blue. It's also available in other colors but the Graphite is a mess and gets everywhere and the other colors are too hard to see. Sulky also sells Stick and Carve which I might try out next year. None of that poking the design onto the the pumpkin stuff. That is such a waste of time and then you have to figure out which dots to connect. Mess.
-Tape. You'll need to tape your transfer paper and pattern to your pumpkin.
-Pen to trace your design. Preferably a fine tip ball point. 
-Pumpkin gutter. I hate gutting and prepping my pumpkins. A pumpkin gutter with a serrated edge is a must. I also own a pumpkin gutting tool that attaches to an electric drill which makes things go a lot faster but is a bitch  pain to clean.
-Wood carving tools. In the last two years, we've added wood carving tools to our arsenal. These are really handy when you have to scrape as part of your design.
-Stencil. Some of us use patterns. Some of us create our own patterns. Some of us just free hand our designs. The one thing everyone had in common this year was that they came prepared. You have to have a game plan in order to successfully execute your design in the time allotted (in our case it was from 12pm - 6pm). Study your design. Decide which lines you will cut and which you will scrape. This year I carved a sugar skull inspired owl. I was really attracted to the fine lines and intricate design.
-Candle. The brighter the light, the more your design will shine. I recommend something bigger than a tea light or using multiple tea lights.

Congrats Karen for winning this year. More photos from the party will be posted by next week. Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boredom Buster: Halloween Sensory Play with Edible Gelatin Eyes

I made these gelatin eyes a few days ago and finally let Parker play with them over the weekend. He's been dying to get his hands on them since he saw me using Easter eggs to form them. I found this fun Halloween themed sensory play idea on the Fun at Home with Kids blog. Asia's blog is a great resource for sensory and imaginative play for toddlers and babies. She also has a book out! My photos are not as great as hers but it doesn't really matter because Parker had a BLAST squishing, throwing and stepping on these edible gelatin eyes. Ready to get started? Here is what you will need.

Edible Gelatin Eyes

1 packet of Knox unflavored gelatin
Food coloring 
Cooking oil
Bottoms of plastic easter eggs or this eyeball chocolate mold
An old egg carton (not needed if you use the chocolate mold)

1. Add 3/4 cup of boiling hot water and food coloring to one packet of Know gelatin. Stir until dissolved.
2. Oil the inside of your Easter eggs bottoms/mold.
3. Add one raisin for each. This is your pupil.
4. Refrigerate for 30-60 mins until gelatin has set. You can make these ahead and keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to play with them. I left mine in the fridge for 4 days. The raisins started looking a little creepy but otherwise the eyes kept really well.

I started by cutting open a trash bag and taping it to the floor to minimize the mess. Then I let Parker go crazy with whatever he wanted to do with them. At first he was nervous to touch the eyes but after a little instruction he was happily grabbing them and squeezing them in his hands. 

Parker loved moving the eyes from the floor to the container and then dumping them back out again. He did that at least 4 times. It was fun to watch him run from one side of the plastic bag to the other moving the eyes around. He kept saying, "Eyeball!!" After 20 minutes or so, he accidentally stepped on an eyeball and felt it squish under his foot. He thought that was so funny and began stepping on all of the eyes and saying, "Whoa!" 

He insisted on sharing the eyeballs with me and tried to stack all of them in my hand at the same time. 

The aftermath of our sensory play was a lot of gelatin pieces all over the floor. Thank goodness I thought to lay the plastic bag down before we started playing. This was a fun sensory play activity! Now I regret getting rid of all my chocolate molds.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween: FARE Teal Pumpkin Project

[Photo taken with the Canon and edited in lightroom]

I remember when my sister discovered that my nephew Noah had a nut allergy. After eating some cookies a neighbor had made, he complained that the cookies "hurt" him. She thought he was joking at first until she realized he was having an allergic reaction to the nuts in the cookies. Now, she always carries an epi pen around in case he accidentally eats something that contains nuts. It's tough being a kid with a food allergy! Being a parent of a child with a food allergy is just as rough, especially during Halloween when all sorts of treats and candies are handed out.

[Photo taken on my iphone 6 and edited in VSCO]

This Halloween, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is starting a new tradition called the Teal Pumpkin Project. FARE is encouraging families to paint a teal pumpkin to leave on their porch as a sign that non-food treats are available at your home. This is a fantastic idea not just for kids with food allergies but for kids with diabetes (an issue that is near and dear to my heart) and kids who can't eat food coloring. Instead of buying a giant bag of candy to hand out, consider buying some Halloween toys in bulk from Amazon or The Oriental Trading Company. Who needs all that extra candy laying around after Halloween is over anyway? If you do end up with candy that you can't consume, consider the Halloween Candy Buy Back program and send the treats to troops overseas.

To learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project, visit I'm going to print out a couple of extra flyers to post around my neighborhood to get the word out.

Ready to paint your teal pumpkin? This project cost me less than $5 (including the pumpkin). Here's what you will need.

Teal Pumpkin Project

Martha Stewart Crafts Acrylic Craft Paint in "Mermaid Teal"
Paint pen (I used silver but I think white would have used better) or Sharpie

Paint pumpkin with two coats of paint. Let paint try and write #tealpumpkinproject on it with the paint pen. Put the pumpkin in front of your house with the Teal Pumpkin Project poster. **Whatever you do, do NOT tape anything to the pumpkin. The paint peels off easily and you will be mad when you have to repaint the pumpkin. Just saying...

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

San Diego: Review of the Waterfront Pumpkin Patch

The Waterfront Park downtown has been high on my list of local parks to visit for a while and I'm glad we finally made it down over the weekend for the Pumpkin Patch event. 

The Pumpkin Patch opened at 11:00 AM and I knew it was crucial to arrive early for any event offering FREE stuff so were there by 10:45 AM. The parking spaces directly in front of the park were full but meter parking was plentiful across the street along Harbor Blvd. We parked right in front of the Star of India and strolled over to the park.

We were greeted by a large colorful lawn full of games and activities for little kids including hoola hoops, building blocks, inflatables, giant jenga and giant connect four. Parker's eyes lit up when he saw the water fountains and wading pools. We played with blocks and hoola hoops for a while and then checked out the San Diego Parks and Rec booth which had some taxidermied animals and live snakes on display. There were also a couple of food trucks on hand but we didn't have the chance to try any of the food.

Parker's Outfit
BOO(yah) baseball tee from & Apparel
Skinny jeans in light wash indigo from Gap
My Spooky baby shoes from My Darling Boutique

**My Darling Boutique is currently offering 20% off all their baby shoes. These shoes well constructed, comfortable and perfect for play dates at places that require you to take your shoes off aka Chuck E Cheese and inflatable parks.

Many of the kids we saw were about 5 and under. Parker had a blast meeting some new friends while playing with these mega lego blocks from Lakeshore. We need a set at home!

People started lining up 5 minutes before 11am for the pumpkin patch. The line grew quickly and by the time we had picked our pumpkin and left the patch, there were at least 100 people in line.

They may not be on the vine but these pumpkins were just as fun to walk through. Most of the pumpkins were your standard jack-o-lanterns but there were also a few Cinderella pumpkins and mini pumpkins available for picking as well. Parker loved picking up the smaller pumpkins and carrying them around. He tried to pick up some of the larger ones too but quickly learned they were too heavy. After picking out a pumpkin, kids had their hand stamped as a way of tracking who had already received a pumpkin. There was a craft station where kids could decorate their pumpkins with foam stickers and markers. We ended up with a big, fat, perfectly round pumpkin that will be used our annual family pumpkin carving contest this weekend. Thank goodness we brought the stroller along! It would not have been fun to carry that thing around. 

A handful of exhibitors were in attendance including San Diego Parks and Recreation, Pinkberry and First 5. Many of them handed out information and freebies like reusable bags and frisbees.

Gorgeous day for a game of frisbee on the lawn.

Thanks for putting on a great event! We will be back next year.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

San Diego: Fall Fun at Bates Nut Farm

It's still sunny and warm most days but Fall is definitely here. I love driving through light fog in morning, wearing cozy sweaters and seeing pumpkin spice lattes on the menu at Starbucks. One of the family outings that really signals Fall for us is visiting the pumpkin patch at Bates Nut Farm. Driving to Valley Center is a bit of a trek but it's totally worth it to arrive at the farm to see fields of Big Macs in all their orange glory. The Macs were a bit smaller this year, probably due to the drought, but they were still awesome to walk among. I remember when we went last year, Parker was barely sitting on his own and we kept worrying that he would fall off a pumpkin. This year, he was walking about pointing at all the "balls" in the field and fearlessly putting his hand in a goat's mouth to feed it corn kernals. He's getting so big! Truthfully, he was grumpy for most of our visit because his morning nap had been cut short but we were able to capture a few good photos. Besides the pumpkin patch, Bates also has goats and sheep you can feed, pony rides, quilt displays and a whole bunch of tractors on display that the kids can sit on. 

Mom tips:
1. Arrive early, especially if you want to take photos. The later it gets, the more people there are ruining your shot. The farm opens at 8:30 AM. The lighting is terrible later in the day. 
2. Bring plenty of wipes/antibacterial handsoap. There are no hand washing stations where the animals are. Grosssss.
3. This is a porta potty situation. 
4. Wear the right shoes. You will literally be walking through a field so wear the right shoes. 
5. Last year there were food trucks when we went. This year the only food offerings I saw were kettle corn and ice cream from Mariposa. I would suggest leaving the farm if you want to have a good lunch.

15954 Wood Valley Road
Valley Center, CA 92083

[That dimple though. This kid is growing up so fast.]

Parker's Outfit
Shirt and sweater: Letter Cardigan Zara Kids

[Less we ever forget that he's a little boy through and through]

[80% of his photos looked like this. Poor kid. So over sitting on pumpkins.]

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Halloween: Spooktacular Bandit Bat Plushie Tutorial

Ever spend so much time on Pinterest that you feel compelled to just make something? This happened to me last week. I was so overcome with the need to make something that I went fabric shopping during my lunch break after finding Gleeful Things' Halloween Bat Plushie Tutorial. I used the PDF template from Julie's tutorial and modified it to look a little more like Udder's Bandit Bat. This project took a total of 1 hour but I think I can make this faster now that I have completed one. Enjoy and have fun creating this fun little plushie bat! It's makes for a great, inexpensive Halloween gift.

Materials Needed
-Flannel in black and white (I bought 10 inch pieces from Beverly's)
-Coordinating cotton fabric 
-Embroidery floss + embroidery needle
-Sewing machine and basic sewing supplies

1. Cut. Download, print and cut out the template pieces from Gleeful Things. Make any desired modifications to body shape or face shape. Use template to cut out your fabric pieces. You should have 2 body pieces (Mary's modification: 2 head pieces and 2 lower body pieces sewn together), 2 wing pieces, 2 sets of ear pieces, 1 bandit face mask (Mary's modification), 2 eye pieces.

2. The face. Sew head and lower body pieces together. Using a zigzag stitch, attach the bandit mask to the face. Attach the eyes to the bandit mask using the zigzag stitch. Embroider any desired details onto the face. I added a little mouth and X's on the eyes.
Note: I didn't add the face details until the end but it would be smarter to add this now.

3. The ears. Sew ear pieces right sides together using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Flip ears inside out. Top stitch around the edges. I added a couple of extra stitches for added detail. Fold ears in half and pin in place to create a crease.

4. The wings. Sew wings pieces right side together using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 2 inch spot at the top so you can turn it right side out.

5. Lightly stuff the wings to give them a thing layer of poofiness. Don't stuff too much or else the next step will be quite difficult. You just want a thin even layer of stuffing. Top stitch around the edge of the wings to seal in the stuffing and close up the hole.

6. Using a chalk pencil, draw lines going to all points on the wings. Top stitch over those lines. The result should look like the photo below.

7. The body. Attach the wings to the middle of the back side of the body with a single stitch.

8. Pin the ears in place at the top of the head. Roll the wings up and pin the rights sides of the body together. This part is a little tricky since the wings are stuffed.

9. Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew the body pieces right sides together leaving a small hole so you can flip it right side out.

10. Stuff the body and sew up the hole. Now admire your handy work and have fun playing or gifting your new bat plushie.

[I love how the wings wrap around the body.]

Thank you for sharing this fun tutorial, Julie! Parker loves his new bat plushie.