Sunday, October 27, 2013

Requisite October

SOMEONE in this house up and turned 7 last week. And determined that his front upper tooth is decidedly wiggly.

SOMEONE ELSE in this house is having trouble with all of this "growing up" nonsense.

We waffled on the idea of a birthday party - they are so much work, and the kids just EXPECT them now, like it's a first amendment right. We thought about letting Finn just invite 2 or 3 friends to go to the movies instead, but in the end we couldn't pass up a deal - the new Tae kwon do studio the kids take lessons at was having a special on birthdays, so big birthday party it was.

[Wait, what?? Just saw a commercial for a showing of the Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood. With Heidi braids. What the what? I don't think this will go well. What was wrong with just showing the original, eh? Gah.]

Side note over.

He also wanted me to make him a Tae kwon do themed cake, so this is what I did:

It's supposed to be a Gi with a black belt (though Wikipedia tells me that Gi is actually the name of the karate uniform, and the Tae kwon do uniform is called a dobok? We'll go with Gi since it's shorter and I'm lazy). You'll notice, of course, that the belt is not actually black, but is in fact yellow. I decided to try my hand at making fondant (I made the marshmallow kind, if anyone is interested in that kind of thing) for the collar and belt of the Gi (the rest of it is frosted with buttercream because it tastes much, much yummier than fondant). I made a big batch of fondant (which is white), and then tried to color half of it black. The amount of black food coloring I had to add, and resultant cocoa powder to sop up the extra gel/liquid, to make something actually black rendered the stuff useless. So yellow it was!

I figured it was all the same to a kid who's only a white belt, right? Plus yellow is his favorite color at the moment.

Working with fondant is not for the faint of heart. This is what my kitchen looked like afterward:

Just keeping it real

The party was a big hit. They ran the kids through their paces for about an hour, and then we sped through pizza and cake. Finn got to cut the cake with a "Samurai" sword:

(sorry, am too lazy to white balance the photos)

You can see more photos of the rest of the birthday weekend, including Finn's breakfast in bed and his new fish (PETS! We gave him his very own pets for his birthday) if you follow me on Instragram. I don't know how to link to that here. Hmm. My handle is allisonmilutinovich if you want to look for me, and I will see if I can figure out a way to create a link in the sidebar of this blog. I've been taking lots of photos and sticking them on Instragram, and it is not easy to collect them all into a blog post (unless it is? And I don't know the trick? I just end up e-mailing myself each photo if I want to download it and stick it in a blog post. So mostly I don't, which means all these photos will eventually disappear into the Instagram ether, I'm afraid). So if you are interested in seeing them, follow me!

That was all LAST weekend. THIS weekend, we went to a pumpkin patch. We did a search for "Maryland corn maze" and pretty much went to the first place that popped up - Summers Farm. It was a HUGE hit with the kids - we were there for about 3 hours before we even contemplated heading to the pumpkin patch. There was a bouncy thing (not a moon bounce - more like a huge bubble lying on the ground?), slides, goats, ducks, apple guns, homemade doughnuts (though not as good as Smolak's, Massachusetts peeps), a big corn pit, random games, and a ridiculously large corn maze.

Entering the corn maze. Full of energy, bounding ahead.

By the end, M. was carrying Lucy. It took almost an hour. Lucy claims now that she was mostly just disappointed that M. and I didn't abandon her and Finn in the maze to make it out on their own. But I know the truth - girlfriend is NOT fond of walking.

Finally on the tractor toward the pumpkin patch

And after, with their spoils.

And since Halloween is only a few days away, we couldn't let any moss gather, or whatever that expression is. We dug right in with the scrapers and serrated knives as soon as we got home, elbow deep in pumpkin guts. The results are good, as are the roasted pumpkin seeds.  The pumpkin on the far right is Lucy's (she went with an arching cat design), and the one that looks like it's just at the bottom left edge of our front door is Finn's (it's a reaching, claw-like mummy thing). The other two that are lit up are actually fake.

Posing near their creations.

Am officially exhausted. But glad I've finally posted SOMETHING here. :-)

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Most Valuable Thing I Learned in Grad School

In a former life, I was a fruit fly geneticist. I spent many hours sorting flies (separating the boys from the girls), collecting virgins (true story), looking at flies, talking to flies (probably), and above all, killing flies. I keep saying that if karma really is a bitch, I am due for a huge swarm of fruit flies to descend on me and dump me in a vat of caustic liquid any day now.

I learned many things as I toiled away on my dissertation research, but I think that killing fruit flies is the one practical thing I have put to use most. I thought I had shared the simple art of fruit fly trap-making with my entire family by now, but just this past summer I schooled my uncle, who may be a retired Navy Commander of a nuclear submarine AND a lawyer AND current Ph.D. candidate, among other accolades, but he did not know how to properly get rid of the fruit flies buzzing around his kitchen.

And now I will share it with you. All you need are a handful of items you probably have in your house right this very second:

Some paper (an index card, probably the 4X6 size, would also work great), vinegar (I used red wine vinegar, but any type would work - please don't use expensive, high quality vinegar!), liquid soap (hand, dish), a jar or cup of some kind, and tape. I also needed scissors (not pictured).

Take the paper and tape, and make a funnel out of it. The funnel is going to sit in the opening of the jar/cup, so you need to make sure that it is not so long and/or thin that it will touch the bottom of jar. To achieve this, I first cut my paper (regular computer paper) in half:

Now, when you take one of these half sheets of paper and make it into a funnel/cone shape, you can see that it's still a little too long for the jar:

I snipped off an inch or so of the bottom (narrow) part of the funnel, and then re-formed the funnel so that the bottom was much narrower than the top, securing it with tape:

Then I added a little vinegar and 2 pumps of hand soap to the jar before resting the cone in the opening:

The cone should not be touching the vinegar

Simply place the trap somewhere prominent/near where your fruit flies have been appearing. I put mine on the edge of the pass-through between the kitchen and the living room:

Then I left to go help M. finish up bedtime with the kids. When we got back downstairs, less than half an hour later, I already had 5 fruit flies at the bottom of the jar: 

I would expect this in my mom's house, where the empty wine bottles outnumber the people by about 16 to one. But we've been living off of boxed wine (no empties!) and the occasional beer, and I've only seen the occasional fruit fly buzzing around, so I wasn't expecting such a quick response. It's like magic! Or science!

Now you, too, can amass bad karma by going forth and killing fruit flies. But please remember - with great power comes yadda yadda...