Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dating a ditch witch

For weeks Erik has been toiling before dawn and after dusk (with some hours at his day job in between on weekdays) relentlessly chipping away at one of our most ambitious diy projects to-date. We have almost completed an irrigation system to efficiently supply water to all the trees and shrubs on our property. The project began with Erik tapping into our main water line, a somewhat daring endeavor considering the fragile old pipes that supply our house. While he was at it he replaced a decaying segment of galvanized steel pipe in the main. Yum, right?

With those two warm-up exercises complete, the real adventure began, with trusty Elsa (the suburbanite’s pickup) doing the heavy lifting.

Just renting the machine was a bit of a headache when Erik got partway home and realized he wasn’t given the necessary key and had to drive the ditch witch back past a big accident to retrieve said key. But eventually we were set to go. At first the cool controls were another power tool dream come true.

But I think that sensation quickly wore off. With our ultra-dry soil, the ditches just wanted to cave themselves in, and maneuvering was tricky. Ultimately Erik mastered the finer points of ditch witching and the trenches held.

Erik rigged up a sophisticated valve system to control the different tree, shrub, and spigot zones separately. Note the color-coding.

Countless trips to Home Depot later, we had all the PVC pipe and accessories we needed. Erik laid a mind-boggling 1000 feet of PVC pipe in the ground to service all the plants in our yard. Just thinking about all the angles, cuts and, connections that required makes me tired. But finally the pipes were all laid, the risers installed, and then the smaller hoses and tubes attached to shuttle the water to individual plants.

Now we’re just waiting with bated breath to find out… will our tubing survive the packrats? (I’m referring to the pesky rodent rather than to people with too many boxes in their attics.) Here in the desert packrats are known to chew on irrigation tubing in pursuit of the water inside. Here’s hoping they leave ours alone. Until then Erik and I can be found checking our bubblers and hoping our parched-looking trees will soon be on the mend!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pirate party: The grub

Perhaps to my family’s detriment, I can be inclined to prioritize premium d├ęcor over premium food. Shop for deals on special grocery items or look for deep discounts on table linens? I’d probably opt for the latter and you’d find us eating mac and cheese or pasta marinara yet again that night. So when it came to Luke’s pirate party, we rigged the food table as a gallant pirate ship first and then started working on its edible cargo.

Below is a post-party shot of our snacks – the remains of Cap’n Hook’s Hummus with carrots and celery, as well as a few types of goldfish, er, Shark Bait. Smile

There was a pirate-y jug of water, and a cooler for sodas and juices.

For dessert I made my family’s standby birthday treat, chocolate cake with cream cheese icing, and served it as cupcakes with pirate themed sticker flags.

As a dairy-free alternative, we served orange ships atop a blue Jello ocean. These were so easy to make, we might have them again soon for a game night. You just pour the blue Jello into a plastic cup, let it set, and then stick an orange wedge with a toothpick sail on top.  The crew relished sinking their ‘ships’ into the ‘sea’ and then pulling them back up again.

That was it for our very simple pirate spread! Each time I ask Luke what he liked best at the party he has a different answer. Today he told Nika and Papi that the cupcakes were his favorite, but I think that was because there’s just a few of them left now and he was hoping to have one for snack. We love you scallywag sunshine boy (who demanded tiger whiskers with his pirate costume)!

{Looking for the full party scoop? Check out all our pirate photos here, the invitation here, the decorations here, and the activities here.}

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pirate party: Activities

After Luke’s pirate crew picked up their new names, it was time to look the part!

We had all manner of pirate garb… bandanas, eye patches, face paints, tattoos, and two kinds of hats. Plus a basket of one-piece pirate suits to fit the 4 and under kids.

With all those cutie-pirates and Erik’s photo-zeal, of course we had to set up a station for Pirate Polaroids.

Most of the crew posed for a group shot.  They were supposed to be saying “Argggh” here, but it looks like Luke’s saying, “¡Arriba!”

For the first half of the party the kids moved between the costume and photo booths and a few other stations.

There was Treasure Dough, with gold coins and other play-doh accessories at a table,

A plank for walking,

Which we made by just setting some heavy old pieces of wood on garden pavers.

And the playroom offered Literary Pirates, a pirate/ocean themed book basket, as well as Ship Painting.

There, the kids used watercolors to paint paper sails that we threaded onto kebab skewers and stuck in jiffy pots filled with soil and grass seed. Here’s hoping they sprout!

Then we played Pin the Parrot on the Pirate and awarded prizes.

After refreshments, came another pirate standby: the treasure hunt! To keep it simple, the ‘clues’ used a little pirate lingo to state the next location rather than describing it. Because even that can be a little mystifying at four years old. Smile

The kids loved racing to each location,

And searching for the next white card.

It surprised us how much looking it took to find rather plainly hidden items…

But at long last the treasure chest was found and opened. The box revealed… pirate swords! I hope no parents hated me for these. I must admit that they were Luke and Eleanor’s first swords, so we tried to use them for a non-violent purpose. The parents blew bubbles for the kids to pop with the swords. It took some vigilance to make sure no one got poked by mistake, but in the end the kids did a great job taking those bubbles down without any collateral damage. We got so many amazing photos of the bubble-popping, but this one was our favorite. Can you handle the intensity!?!

And that concluded our party activities! It seemed to work well to avoid competitive games (except for pin the parrot) and stick with more self-guided, cooperative activities for this age group. I think the crowd favorites were the temporary pirate tattoos, scavenger hunt, and bubble-popping!

Just one party post left now… rub-a-dub-dub, pirate grub!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pirate party: Setting the scene

What a fun time we had preparing for and hosting Luke’s Pirate Paarrrrty! Our little pirate friends entered Captain Luke’s Hideout here.

Once inside they took on more suitable names of course! We went for alliteration with kid-friendly pirate or ocean terms, and then printed them onto labels and pinned them on a bulletin board. A few of the shipmates who couldn’t join us included: Grant of the Green Galleon, Anya of Octopus Isles, and Cap’n Henry Hook.

With their new names firmly affixed, the crew joined Eagle Eye Ellabelle and Long John Luke in pirate paradise (aka the patio).

The weather was glorious, warm and sunny with a slight breeze to ruffle the sails. Erik made those for the tables by stapling fabric to some scrap wood and lashing it to a pole.

The fabric pennant garland was quick to make too and I loved its whimsical, colorful touch. I think I have a weakness for textiles in general, because the other ocean/pirate themed fabrics were my favorites as well...

Of course we weren’t able to execute everything in my initial party brainstorm, but given that we set the date and started to plan only 36 hours before the party, we were in pretty good shape when the start time rolled around. Maybe last-minute planning is the best way to go for themed events like this, because you can only plan and prep for so long and then the party starts! I think my family may have benefitted from that too, because I wasn’t distracted and honey-doing for too long, and the kids’ patience wasn’t overtaxed with awaiting the big event.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more party details. We took so many photos I didn’t want to cram them all into one super-long post!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ahoy there!

In typical last-minute fashion, we’re planning a pirate parrrrty for Luke this Saturday. Yes it was back in February that he turned 4, but that was a busy month and the weather wasn’t ideal, so we’re stretching out the birthday season. I happen to have a lot of cute pirate party supplies from some impulse purchases at a major clearance back when Luke was a baby. But after I bought them I started to rethink the pirate theme which froze my party plans for some time. Can we really throw a pirate party? Are pirates good moral influences? What about the violence and the plunder? Does Luke really understand what a pirate is anyway? But then I decided I was overthinking it and kid pirates engage a playful pirate fantasy rather than the grim historic realities. And there are so many fun activities to do with a pirate/nautical theme that make it ideal for kids.

So I took the plunge. The invite was easy to make – I just put the text on top of a free clipart image and dusted off my pirate lingo. Now I’m looking forward to coming up with pirate names for all of Longjohn Luke’s friends!


Well, it’s back to swabbing decks and loading canons so we’ll be ship-shape for the big event. A pirate’s life for me!

PS: Here’s a few old pics of Luke in one of the pirate costumes that I found for pennies. The scallywag!