I’ll be gnome for Christmas (Women’s Halloween costume review)


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Much like Jack Skellington, I am a firm believer that there is plenty of room for Halloween at Christmas. Specifically, Halloween costumes! I fell in love with this little gnome costume so I decided to review it. That meant Jesse had to take pictures of me dressed like a gnome in the middle of December for no apparent reason.

Jesse: “Why are we doing this?”

Me: “What? Like I need a reason to dress up like a gnome?”


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I had a lot of fun with filters on this particular photo shoot. I love how some of them look like old fashioned watercolor illustrations from the fifties.

See Dick. See Jane. See the gnome.


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Surprisingly the super tall hat was the least annoying part of this costume. The costume came from Wholesale Halloween Costumes. (I’m just going to go ahead and get this other obligatory link out of the way: Party Ideas because throwing a random link to Pintrest Halloween boards seems totally relevant, right?) Anyway, back to the review:

As I mentioned earlier, I loved the look of this costume. It’s adorable with its bright colors and mushroom pockets. Sadly, adorableness is the only thing this costume has going for it. I know better than to expect excellent quality when getting a costume like this, but the quality of this particular costume was quite poor. It came with a felt hat and felt shoe covers. The hat was wrinkled and had several creases in it, and the shoe covers were such a disaster I didn’t even bother trying to make them work. It also came with matching leg warmers that kept sagging and falling down my legs.

The “petticoat” (I use that term very loosely) is a strange material similar to an industrial strength paper-towel. There’s no way this costume would make it through a wash cycle – even on the most gentle setting, so consider it a one-time wearable. The main dress was a bit awkward too. I’m not busty by any stretch of the imagination, but it didn’t  provide any room for The Girls to rest above the bodice. instead the bodice section kept creeping up, turning the puffball buttons into comical nipples.

I would recommend this costume for something like a quirky photo-shoot where you could tweak it and pull it into position for a quick picture, but I wouldn’t wear it to a party or any public function because there’s no way it would last through hours of abuse. (And by “abuse” I mean just walking around like a normal, sane person.) By the end of my ten-minute photo-shoot the paper-towel “petticoat” had already ceased to function. I spent the last few shots holding it in place like only a seasoned professional can do.

In the end, I love the pictures I got out of this review. Gnome is where the art is! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

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The nuts and bolts of The Nutcracker

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Karis was a little mouse in The Nutcracker this weekend. She had her first performance on Saturday. As I signed her in backstage she was nervous and excited. When I picked her up after the show she was still riding the high. On Sunday, Jesse dropped her off and walked her back to the greenroom. He said she was strutting all the way and feeling very much like a prima ballerina.

We had tickets for Sunday’s show. Karis was excited that I was dressing up “like a real mom”. (Every time I dress up for an event she makes sure I know how much she likes it, then she asks me why I don’t dress up and put make-up on every day. Then she will run through a role call of all the moms at her school that always look fancy and wear make-up. Forget about the antiquated ideals of always looking your best for your man, the new rule is always look camera-ready for your eight-year-old daughter.)

Brecken begrudgingly agreed to come to the show despite having seen it two days before with his school. He declared it to be boring and long, the highlight being when one of the ballerina dolls “showed her underwear” to the audience. Seeing Karis dance was apparently worth having to subject himself to such torture again. The first half of the show he was a delight! He would excitedly whisper to me what was happening onstage, and what would happen next. He made sure both Jesse and I were paying attention for the much celebrated showing-of-the-underwear event. After intermission he was a beast. He was very displeased at the prospect of sitting through another hour of ballet without any contraband cookies to sneak when the lights were dark. I bribed him with the promise of mochi when we got home and that did the trick.

Aunt Danielle and her friend Jessica came too! (Apple Josh feels much the same as Brecken about ballet, but we’re sure he would have come anyway to throw roses at her feet and call out “Brava!” if he didn’t have such pressing early morning obligations the following day. He is, after all, her number one fan.)

The night of dress rehearsal I volunteered backstage and managed to get some great shots of the little ballerinas. I will leave you with them. For some reason a few of them remind me of the gritty dance dramas of the eighties.


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Killing the moment

I volunteer in Brecken’s first grade class every Tuesday. One of the activities I do with the kids is write a word or sentence on the board and they use the letters available and make new words. This happened today:


Creepy kid with a speech impediment: “Modor”

Me: “Motor? No, we would need another O to make that word.”

Creepy kid: “No, modor.

Me: “I can’t hear you, ya gotta speak up. Mother?”

Creepy kid. “No. Mo-dor.”

Me: “Spell it.”

Creepy kid: “I don’t know how to spell it. M-o-r… Like I’m gonna modor you.”

Me: “Oh, murder.” *Quickly checking to see if we have all the letters needed to spell murder. Yep. Writes “murder” on the board without even thinking.

Innocent kid: “What’s murder?”

Me: “It’s when…” *Looks at teacher like a deer caught in headlights, only to see teacher looking back with the same expression.*

Teacher: “Uh, it’s just a word…”

Me: (silently in my head) I know I can make “murder” appropriate for first graders. Think, Phillips, THINK.

The kids start lining up to go to the book fair, I head out of the classroom. As I reach the edge of the library area I realize how to make “murder” okay for first graders! I turn around just as the class is entering the library.

Me: “A murder of crows! A murder is what you call a group of crows.”

Teacher: “Really?”

Me: “Yes. Did you hear that kids? A murder is a group of crows.”

Creepy kid: (Loudly and with strangely perfect annunciation for once) “AND IT’S ALSO WHEN YOU KILL SOMEONE.”

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The Tree.

This is my favorite thing today.


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Does this stump make me look fat?

We got our Christmas tree last weekend and true to form, it proved to be a nightmare experience. The first part was okay. The kids ran around in between the trees, we picked out a good looking Noble Fir. All was going smoothly. Then, as we loaded it atop the space shuttle it began to rain. Yes, RAIN, for the first time in, oh, I don’t know, seventeen months? But that wasn’t so bad either – we’ll take the rain! We got the tree home, set it on the porch to dry a bit, and I went off to buy a new tree base because the one we’ve used for the past eight years sucks so vehemently badly that neither of us are willing to subject ourselves to having to deal with it again this year.


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As I was looking at bases I noticed all of them specified a trunk diameter. I called Jesse and asked him what our tree diameter was. SEVEN FREAKIN’ INCHES you guys! The most robust base available boasted the ability to take up to a five and a half inch diameter trunk. This would not do!


 photo tree9_zps4b4beda4.jpgI like seven inches as much as the next girl, but not in Xmas tree diameters!

I schlepped myself all across town, twice, finally buying the biggest base I could get my hands on. It was similar to our current base-from-hell, but it was the only one that looked like it could handle seven inches. Except it couldn’t.

What followed was a very long, obnoxious phone call to the tree people where I talked to a woman (?) or Helium sniffing elf with a thick southern accent (?) and after much hemming and hawing we decided that the best thing to do was to go pick out a new tree and trade back our girthy friend. So we did. (I just gave you the extremely short version of this story – you’re welcome.) So we had a tree that fit in the new base!

The kids enjoyed decorating it – even Seren got into the mix.

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 photo tree5_zps398df458.jpgChristmas beauty

The next night we made hot cocoa and gave the kids Italian cookies to eat while we enjoyed the ambiance of the room. The baby was asleep which meant we could all relax without having to hear the incessant sounds of her grunts and screeches of disapproval. (She has become extremely verbal.)


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That last picture? That is the calm demeanor of a woman secure in the knowledge that she doesn’t have to wrestle a Christmas tree into some semblance of straightness for another three hundred and sixty-four days or so.

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Karis loves having long hair, but she doesn’t love taking care of it. She will go to great lengths to avoid having to brush her hair. Half the time she goes around looking like a little Rastafarian. Even so, I love her long hair too. I have been itching to do a mermaid photoshoot with her and that  hair for several months, but couldn’t come up with just the right style of mermaid headdress in my mind.

Last Friday when Mimi suggested we go to the beach I thought I better take advantage of being at the beach because I am honest with myself and I can admit to avoiding the beach as much as Karis avoids brushing her hair. I love the beach, but like many who live so close to the ocean, I almost never go. I quickly threw together a few mermaid-ish headdresses and charged the camera.

Here are a few of my favorites:

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I really dig that pearl headdress. It reminds me of the childlike Empress from the NeverEnding Story. I have a few more photoshoot ideas marinating in the back of my head – some even featuring yours truly! I’ll have to see if I can get Jesse to slog along to a few locations for me.

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So much to be thankful for

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Apple Josh cooked another amazing bird (or so they say. I’ve never actually tasted Apple Josh’s birds, but everyone raves about them, so they must be delicious. My Gardein Holiday Roast was gross, and tasted like sausage.) and there were plenty of beautiful, tasty dishes to accompany said bird.

Karis was quite the little helper this year. She really got in there and acted as sous-chef for Josh.


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Just look at my sexy husband with his platter of gluten free crackers. He’s giving you all free tickets to the gun show! #sexyarms #hewillhatemeforputtingthishere

The day after Thanksgiving is black Friday. Most people go crazy and shop and stampede people for deals on crap they don’t need. I spent the morning making mermaid hair accessories (as one does) then met up with Mimi at the beach to do a quick photoshoot with Karis because her hair is uh-mazing right now, and I have been wanting to do a mermaid thing with her hair for months. Mission accomplished. Pics to follow in a different post.

Our beach visit was such a delight! Mimi and I chatted and lounged and shooed away saucy seagulls while the kids collected an army of hermit crabs. As the sun began to set the hoards of photographers arrived. Everyone and their great aunt Mildred was there to get a beach family Christmas card pic. Oh Internet, the bad photo clichés to which we bore witness… There was one family that was all dressed up and trying to get a family pic, but their photographer (the dad’s mom) didn’t make the trek down to the water’s edge, so I took a few family shots for them. They were adorable, dammit. The best cliché family beach shots ever taken. I even got a sailboat in the background at the dad’s request.

Mimi took great pics of the kidlets frolicking in the tide-pools, but she hasn’t sent them to me yet, so enjoy these pics from my cellphone:


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Saturday found us in Compton at The Greater New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church. They had organized a wonderful meal for the homeless and the kids have been expressing an interest in serving their community lately, so we volunteered to be servers. We met so many nice people with truly giving hearts. The kids had a blast! They both really enjoyed serving the people in line, and afterward they played hide-and-go-seek with a handful of other kids.


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The kids getting ready to serve.

 photo IMG_3280_zps0f4e0f7e.jpgKaris with her new friend. (I didn’t catch her name. The woman in white was so sweet and shy. The woman in black is Q, and she was awesome.)

 photo IMG_3281_zpsd148f3f1.jpgBrecken with Daren on roll patrol.

 photo IMG_3283_zpsc1e17cb3.jpgSeren helped me with turkey duty.

I will end this post with a special gift I got in the mail from my dad, Bob. It has a bit of a back story, but I’ll just give you the short version. When we were at Disneyland a few weeks ago I turned to my dad toward the end of the second day and said, “Dad, I have monkey butt.” He replied, “That’s TMI.” (too much information) and I said, “No it’s not. You’re my dad. You are obligated to listen to me complain about things like monkey butt.”

Shortly thereafter this came in the mail:

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Apple of my eye

I am running around like a loon, preparing for Thanksgiving like most of my mommy brethren. This year will be a little more challenging due to Jesse’s new diet. (He’s having issues. He’s very private so I wont share without his permish. The end result is he now must eat essentially a Paleo diet, or in layman’s terms The Opposite Of My Diet.) He is all meat, all the time, and I am no meat, any of the time. (Not true – I do eat wild caught, pole caught fish on occasion.)

Because I am a loving, devoted wife, I find myself making things like bone broth and beef jell-o. Yeah, I said BEEF JELL-O. You should see me praying over the knuckle bones as I lower them into the crock-pot. I thank each bone for its sacrifice. I have also started researching appropriate recipes for alternate ways to make Jesse’s favorite dishes. Tonight I will make him a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free apple pie. (I realize we have officially become the WORST couple to invite to a dinner party. How much more annoying can our diets get? Not much. Combined, we are impossible to feed.)

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to. I will leave you with adorable pictures of Brecken making apple sauce at school. What? Oh, yeah, I have a son. I have an older daughter too. I know you haven’t seen them much lately as this has become The Seren Blog. I can assure you they are both still adorable, and still very much around. Oh, and fair warning – Brecken insisted on getting a haircut. *wipes a single tear*


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13 months!


Seren is 13 months old today!


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Some stats:

She still only has two teeth. She is flirting with walking – she will take two steps and then sit down. She is still OBSESSED with Daddy. She coos to him and squeals when he walks in the room (don’t we all?). She is communicating more and more every day. She likes to play clapping games. She says “hi” when she means “bye” and vise versa. She loves bath time. She is not shy about screeching to let everyone in a five mile radius know when she is displeased. She can melt your heart with a glance.

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A sensory board for when her senses are bored

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I recently went down a things-to-do-with-your-baby wormhole I found on Quirkymama’s Facebook page. I tried to find the exact post, but it was already buried by millions of other similar posts that make me want to cook and craft and parent until I explode. (In a good way.) One of the projects was a lift-the-flap book that used old diaper wipe tops as the flaps. Genius! Another project was a sensory board that had different textures and carpet squares glued to a board. Cool, but kind of blau to look at. I decided to combine the two and make it cute!


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The whole thing cost around ten bucks and the result is a big hit with the little people. First I bought a piece of plywood ($5.00) at a home improvement store. While I was there I grabbed a sheet of sandpaper for the roof ($1) and I raided the sample squares in the carpet department ($0). I got several different textures of carpet, including fake grass. Next stop was the craft store for textured paper. I bought a woven style for the house, a shiny yellow style for the sun rays and I lucked out and found a tree bark style for the tree trunk! Each sheet was on sale for a dollar ($3).

I painted the board blue and sealed it with Modpodge. I glued the house and tree and sun rays down, glued on the sandpaper roof, cut out carpet samples to look like tree leaves and hot glued them as well. I added pom pom apples for extra texture. The grass was simple – I just cut the sample into strips and glued them along the bottom. I printed out photos of each family member, protected them with clear tape, and placed them on the house, then glued the diaper wipe cover “windows” and “doors” over them. I wanted the clouds to be washable because they are fluffy scrap material, so I glued them to cloud shaped pieces of plastic (yogurt lids) then glued Velcro pieces to the back of them and to the board. (In theory I will be able to wash them gently and stick them back on the board.) I had a battery powered touch light collecting dust in the garage so I attached that to the board as the sun. If you have to buy one they are under $5.


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 photo sensorytextures_zpsd0255aea.jpg  So much fun to touch!

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The flaps looked kind of naked to me, so I printed out a door and hot glued it to the “door”. Now the windows look weirdly blank, but I don’t know if I’ll get motivated enough to find cool looking windows to print out and glue on. I’ll wait and see if Seren tries to pick at the door. So far so good.


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All in all Seren is a big fan. Not even the man of steel can resist the allure of The Board.

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