Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Halloween, A Puppet Opera Style

It's no secret that we LOVE Halloween here at A Puppet Opera. And this year, like last year, we had a frightfully fun party with ghosts and witches, and a family of spook-tacular birds.

Our scary Edwardian fireplace is very frightening even without the jack-o'-lanterns, but we like a good spooky squash so this year, we had eight of them. Plus a whole bunch of candles and some creepy books. Perfect atmosphere for reading The Raven next to. 

Miss Lady wanted to go as an owl this year, and let me tell you, she looked adorable in her calico feathers and owl mask by Aunt Susan. We added purple striped tights and a spooky little "too whit too whoo" and she was the belle of the ball. I secretly love that Isabelle has not yet asked to be a princess for Halloween, and am even more grateful that she still lets me have some influence over her Halloween costumes. She was the neighborhood's cutest little trick-or-treater in a sea of shop-bought witches. 

On the other hand, Billy's costume really gave me the opportunity to stretch my design muscles. He decided he wanted to be a peacock, and among all the ideas for a peacock costume on the web, there wasn't a single one for little boys. Lots of girls in be-feathered ballet tutus, but nothing for boys. Again, this one really hangs on the mask (another Not Your Old Socks) production, but the rest of the costume came together easily, once I decided what to do. I will post a full tutorial in a day or so, so the next mom who needs help designing a peacock will have some help. 

Okay, so here's where it goes totally off the rails. You can't host a party without a costume yourself, so I made Jules and myself some crepe paper bird masks, following the tutorial on Martha Stewart. He looked dapper as a bird of indeterminate origin... I think my cardinal costume was less successful, mainly because the mask with a short nose didn't quite look very bird-y once it was finished. Who cares? Not me. 

Spooky window ghosts.

Party buffet table (minus the creepy pizzas but plus the 23 orange pinwheels).

Creepy party candy bags. We gave away craft kits as favors. So fun! 

Dad's painting with follow-you-everywhere googly eyes blue-tacked on. 

And finally, to cap our crazy Halloween celebration off, once the kids were in bed Jules and I enjoyed an "eyeball highball"-- a delicious dirty martini with an eyeball ice cube--while we watched The Woman In Black. Since watching that scary movie, I have not slept a single night through. Eurgh... Creepy.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Things I Love Thursday: Mom and Dad Halloween Costumes

Halloween season is, of course, upon us, and I hope I'm not giving too much away in posting these pictures, but our Halloween has gone to the birds this year. On the workshop floor are a couple of fancy bird costumes for the kids, and I'm also busy magic-ing up a couple of simple costumes for Jules and myself to wear to the party. It's tricky finding a costume that will be festive, not take the focus away from the children, but also not scare our 6-year-old guests. There is such a thing as too far when it comes to Halloween (I have vivid memories of being scared witless by our neighbor's realistic vampire answering the door on trick-or-treat night), especially when celebrating with little ones. But I've always been so inspired by the way they throw themselves into Halloween over at Martha Stewart, and this is not the first time I've been sucked into one of her mask projects, but I think these fancy bird people might make an appearance at our party. In a non-creepy way, of course. In any case, if you, too fancy having a go at some birdie attire, here is the tutorial. I'll post our results once finished. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Welcome, Autumn

There is a sense of life beginning again in the autumn. Today is the first proper drizzly day of October, a day for Wellington boots and splodging through fallen leaves, and daydreaming.  A stack of new books on the bedside table, hot coffee, a new black pen. Reheating a pot of soup on the stove and thinking of all the adventures we'll have! 

Image via here

Friday, October 3, 2014

I Survived the Paleo 30-day Challenge and I am Here to Tell the Tale!

I am now completely, officially finished with the longest, healthiest month of my life. This September, I indulged in the Whole 30 challenge, to undo some of the sins of a month-long holiday of excess (donuts, beer, Italian beef sandwiches, the works). My goal was to eat only whole foods, no grains, dairy, legumes, booze or added sugar, and you know what? It was the hardest but healthiest month ever. I didn't take any before/after photos because to be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to make it all the way through, but on the top left is a lardy cake, roughly the shape I was in before starting the Whole 30, and on the right is a carrot, which is more or less the shape I am in now. Victory. 

Before I go into my Whole30 story, please remember this is my personal experience during my 30 day experiment and I’m not a doctor, nutritionist or trainer. As with any diet or exercise routine, it’s wise to check in with a doctor before you begin.

So, here's how it happened: I came back from a super-fun vacation in which I ate whatever the heck I wanted, did basically no exercise, and ate every sweet or bit of junk food that came my way. After dropping all my baby weight a couple of years ago, the scale had inched firmly upwards again (not all the way, but, you know, upwards), my jeans did not button, my skin was terrible, and I was not happy. So I decided to try giving myself 30 days to clean up my eating habits: out with the cheese! No desserts! No pasta, rice or baked beans! Goodbye Saturday cocktails and craft beers! Hello coconut milk in my coffee, zucchini noodles and lean grass-fed beef. It's only for 30 days, right? 

Yes, but it seemed like a long month. HOWEVER, having a clearly defined, long-enough but not too-long window was just right (for me), and knowing that I was cutting out all my favorite things not permanently helped me to stay on track, but interestingly I went without just long enough to defeat cravings. Around day 12 I was confronted with a tray of stinky French cheeses, and I was able to say, "no thanks, just an apple for me." That, my friends, is willpower. 

Notable results: 

1. Clear skin. I am not a teenager anymore, but I still suffer from acne. What's that all about? At the end of this month I can report for the first time in my life I have NO SPOTS, NO UNDEREYE CIRCLES, and an actual glow. Look! My eyes are bright and my skin looks as good as Isabelle's! Happily, my makeup routine now consists of three products, not 17.

2. Weight loss. The whole point of a Whole 30 is to eat better, not lose weight, and in fact the instructions tell you not to weigh yourself during the month, but to concentrate on eating nutrient-rich foods. However, at the end of 30 days of clean eating, I lost 15 pounds and dropped a dress size. Booyah. 

3. More energy. Yes, it's true, I juggle two small children, but now I feel like I could easily juggle a couple more. Not only that, but I'm waking up without an alarm and not falling asleep in front of The West Wing. 

4. Better moods. Because I wasn't eating sugar or refined carbs, I wasn't experiencing energy spikes and crashes throughout the day which led to severe mood swings. Now, no more crabby mommy. I know, I know! Better moods, happier kids, smilier Jules, all thanks to less rice, more kale. 

5. Inventive menu planning. I only forced the whole family to eat a paleo meal at suppertime, when we were all together, but searching for whole-food recipes opened up a whole new universe of creative cooking. We didn't have a paella, risotto or oatmeal all month, but learned to love burgers without the bun, shredded sautéed cabbage instead of spaghetti and a weird little egg and spinach pancake served with a ton of Tabasco. 

And best of all, now I'm done, so I can go back to the occasional cake and glass of wine with a totally clear conscience. But what's interesting is that I don't really want to. I can have a donut, but frankly it doesn't appeal.... Am I going to stick to the pale diet forever? No; for one thing it's too expensive, for another, I don't think it's the healthiest way for kids to eat and it's too much of a hassle to be cooking separate meals at each sitting--we are not a restaurant. BUT, I am going think long and hard about indulging so mindlessly in food that's nutrient-poor (I'm looking at you, pasta), and try to enjoy treats (booze & sugar) when they are treats, not as a regular part of my diet.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The light in September

If I were a poet, I'd write a whole collection about the light in September, which at the moment is at its golden, hazy best. The flowers in the back garden are fairly glowing in the afternoon light, the bees are buzzing around what's left of the lavender and oregano, and the sun is warming up our modest apple harvest, which should be ready for picking in another day or two. 

Oh yes, and it's also the most beautiful time of the year for playing demolition derby with a balance bike and a giant, yellow ball. Kids are weird.

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