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Adventures of Mrs Pen

Musings from a Very Lucky Penny

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Making Stuff

Diary of a Sweet Potato Garden

I’m going out on a limb in writing this post. My hope is to keep a running log of how the half of a sweet potato in my window sill right now turns into beautiful sweet potato vines that eventually produces sweet potatoes that can be eaten. However this story may abruptly end because I have a notorious black thumb. These are strawberries I was growing just a few weeks ago:
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I wish I could show you a picture of them now, but they’re dead as a door nail now. Just like the tomato plant I faithfully watered and sweet-talked for months… Dead as a dead nail now.

To make matters worse, prior to executing this experiment, we went to a plant nursery and asked the botanist how to grow sweet potaters. She told us the best thing to do is just buy sweet potatoes from a grocery store like a normal American. She said sweet potatoes are labor intensive and finicky. I took her comments under advisement, yet I’m still taking a whack at growing them myself. Here we go..

December 15

A few weeks ago, I cut a sweet potato in half, and used lollipop sticks to suspend it in a jar of water.
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January 15

After a month of soaking up water and sunlight, my little tater had two roots shooting out of the bottom.

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January 24

Now, exactly 23 days after being “planted” in the jar of water, my little tater has a tons of roots coming out of the bottom.

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All around the top of the potato, little baby potato plants are beginning to sprout. If this experiment goes as planned, each of these like sprouts will turn into its own potato plant.

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Ok that’s all for now. I will continue this report when I have more to add.

Love,
MrsPen

PS- I accidentally called my potato plant a tomato plant for half of this post.

March 18

Dang, where has the time gone?! I blinked and I’m like way way past due for an update on my taters. Ok here’s a quick catch-up sesh:
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By the end of Jan, my little guy had developed a healthy root system and was starting to get some nice little stems a’goin!

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Somewhere near Valentines day, the stems were ready to go live a life of their own. So I clipped em and put each stem in an individual jar of water to develop roots.

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About a month later, each stem had grown a pretty set of roots and big ol’ happy leaves. Now its ready to be planted! This is where I go rogue. I don’t know much about gardenology… So I’m making this part up y’all. If you have a suggestion, please pass it along!!

That Brings Us To Today

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As the sun was setting on our little ranch, and my baby played in his playpen wearing only a t-shirt and undies ‘cuz we’re classy like that, I started pouring soil in a big ol’ barrel.

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I was planning to have a big raised garden bed, but as my adorable hub started making plans to build it for me, I decided I didn’t want him to put so much effort into it if I’m really not cut out for the world of growin crap. So we decided this season, I’d grow stuff in pots. If it goes well, we’ll start a real garden next season!

Following the instructions on the miracle grow bag, I filled the barrel about 3/4 full of dirt, and then buried my little plants almost entirely, leaving about one leaf exposed to photosynthesize.

Ok y’all, there ya have it. You’re all caught up. Cross your fingers from here, we’re in uncharted territory!

Signing off,
MrsPen

May 14

Bad news y’all! Ok I had been watering them suckers and fertilizin them and my sweet potatoes were looking beeeeyoooteeeful! They’d turned into lovely vines that were taking over. Even a super windy day that took my tomato plants out did not harm my sweet potatoes. I was biding my time until approximately July when I was planning to dig them up and see what I got. I wish I’d taken a picture at this point.

A few days ago I was thinking how happy it makes me to see my lovely sweet potatoes every day and I went outside to water them, and they were GONE! dum dee dum dum dummmm. Apparently our local jack rabbit (which is the size of a coyote, mind you) took it upon himself to eat my whole garden. My sweet potatoes, the rest of my tomatoes, zucchinis, and cucumbers. Gone gone gone. I wish I could be mad, but he just did what jack rabbits are meant to do.

So that’s the end of my sweet potato story. We’ll try again next year! Thanks for sticking it out with me.

Love,
Mrs Pen

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How to Make a Fancy Magnetic Dry Erase Organization Board

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I have been meaning to put this together for a whole long time, but my little gentleman likes to demand my undivided attention at any moment that I’m not already giving him my undivided attention. Anyways its 2:00AM and at this moment he’s sleeping and I’m making Twinkies for my sweet suga dumpin and I’m waiting for them to cool before I fill them with magic so I have a moment to write. This magnetic dry erase board thing was fun to make and is slowly turning into my brain. It helps me keep track of documents I need to retain, checks to deposit, to-do lists, shopping lists, upcoming events, and most importantly, lots of pictures of my baby. It was pretty easy and I wanted to share:

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It all started with this cool frame I found at a thrift store for $3 a few years ago. It was used as a prop for photos in two of my girlfriend’s weddings and then it sat in my mom’s garage for a while.

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Then I stumbled upon this .28 gauge steel at Home Depot and remembered from my goin-ta-skool days that steel is magnetic. And then, as the guy from Despicable Me would say, the little voice in my head said, “LIGHT BULB!” And I went and dug the frame out of my mom’s garage.

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My bright idea included using my handy staple gun from my reupholstery days to staple the steel to the back, however that did not work out so well. The worst part of this is my hubs told me before I ever started that the staple gun wasn’t going to work and I was sure I was going to prove him wrong. So then I had to giggle and look cute and adorable so he wouldn’t bust out with the Told Ya Sos. No one like a gloater, honey.

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So this was when I left the whole project in the hands of my handsome handyman. I cannot tell you what he used to attach them because I was too busy thinking about how adorable he is to pay any attention. But I do know he got the screws for it at our local Ace Hardware/post office.

So in summary, here is the math equation-

Thrift Store Frame+Steel Sheets+Screws+one heck of a handsome husband= this awesome magnetic board

And in conclusion, here are the Twinkies I made tonight. I’ll let you know how they turned out once the resident Twinkie expert gives em a try.

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Also, I almost published this post with every reference to “steel” spelt “steal”. Oh how embarrassing!

Love,
MrsP

DIY Chair Reupholstery for Beginners (Or: If you give a girl a staple gun, the world is her oyster)

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery

If you are a upholstery-ologist, stop reading now. You don’t want to see how I did this. The entire extent of my research for this project consisted of watching part of a YouTube video until the spotty satellite Internet we get out here went on the fritz. Well, my dad and my brother are in the furniture-making biz so they gave me some pointers. But mostly, I just made this up. Eh, it’s not rocket science, this got the job done. But let that be a warning to any furniture-ologists that might be reading this.

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This is Uncle Davey and my baby discussing refinishing options.

It all started when I found an awesome and extremely cheap table on Craigslist. The table has 3 extensions, so it can fit approximately one thousand people at it at one time! I refinished it a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t very difficult (thanks to my brother’s guidance) or interesting, so that’s why this is the first time you’re hearing about this.

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery

The downside to this awesome table is the chairs that came with it looked like something I’d find in my grandma’s house.

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery

I knew that I didn’t care for the chairs, but didn’t have much inspiration until yesterday when I stumbled upon a store downtown that sells mexican imported building materials and furniture at outlet prices. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial for them, but this store is so cool. Anyways, I found some awesome vinyl there for $5/yard and immediately knew what I needed to do.


I happened to have all the tools I needed for this on hand: A hammer, a phillips-head screwdriver, a staple gun, and scissors.

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-UpholsteryThanks for the floral print toolset mom!

To start out, I just flipped the chairs over and unscrewed the little screws that were holding the seat on to the chair.

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery
Next, I put the seat face-down on the vinyl and traced the shape of the seat, giving it about 3 inches of slack on each side.

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I contemplated removing the old upholstery and replacing the foam, however the foam was still in good shape and that would have been a pain in the rump, so I opted to just cover the upholstery with my new vinyl.

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery

Next, I just pulled one side of vinyl over the edge of my seat and stapled it right in the middle.

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery
Then I pulled the vinyl over the side parallel to the side I just stapled, pulled it nice and taught and put a staple square in the middle on that side. I did the same with the two other sides, so that my vinyl was stretched nice and tight over the seat.

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery
Then I went to town with my staple gun and made sure that vinyl was stuck to that chair for all of eternity (leaving the corners unstapled til the end).

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery
I’m not sure how to describe the corners other than that I wrapped them like I would a Christmas present and then put a few staples in there to hold it down. Then I cut away the excess vinyl and my seat was ready to be reunited with its chair!

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery

A little more work with my screwdriver, and my chair was done!

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery

After I finished the first chair, my baby woke from his nap, so I gave him a good page-turner to keep him busy.

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Then I just followed the previous steps 3 more times, and that’s how my set of chairs came to be!

mrspenpen DIY Chair Re-Upholstery

I learned how to spell “upholstery” and “vinyl” today!
Love,
MrsPen

Easy DIY Recycled T-Shirt Owl Tutorial

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You might recall the Hedwig owl my baby and I made for our friend Les Iast week (if this is the first time you’re hearing this news, read all about it here).

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I debated whether or not to write this, because how many times in a person’s life does the knowledge of how to make an owl out of a t-shirt come in handy? Then I figured with the economy and Hurricane Sandy driving us nuts, maybe this world needs some more adorable stuffed owls. Maybe that’s what we need. Plus it’s so freakin easy, I made this up literally the first time I ever used a sewing machine on my own. Anyways, this is a tutorial on how it was made.

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1. Get yourself an old shirt you don’t want no more. In this case, I found this shirt in my clean laundry from the last time I did laundry at my parents house. It belongs to my baby brother. I decided it would be the perfect shirt to recycle for this project and figured he wouldn’t mind. Sorry Mikey!

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2. I drew a quick “template” on the back of an envelope and pinned it to the shirt. (I pinned it through both the front and the back of the shirt, since I would need two owl shapes)

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3. Then I cut out my template and had two identical owl shapes.

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4. Now I cut three ruffle shapes out of the sleeve of the shirt. Since I did not take a picture, I supplied this totally realistic reenactment for your reading enjoyment.

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5. I sewed the three ruffles to one of the owl shapes. Just three simple sewing lines in a row, bam bam bam.

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Ta-da! My owl has feathers now.

Side Note: This would have been the perfect time to sew the eyes and beak on.. I did it after I’d made the owl and that was a little difficult.

6. Now I put the two owl shape together with the ruffle side facing inward (so the owl was inside-out) and sewed the perimeter of it about 90% closed, leaving a little gap in the bottom.

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7. I utilized the gap in the bottom of the owl to flip it right-side-out, and voila! I have a skinny owl now!

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8. I fattened that sucker up with some batting through the gap I left in the bottom and then sewed it shut.

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9. Now I stitched the eyes and beak on by hand since I already sewed the whole thing together. As I already mentioned, this would have been easier if I’d done it before-hand.

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10. Then we added a cute note to Aunt Les across the owl’s buttocks, and she was good to go!

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This whole project cost a few pennies and took about 20 minutes. So simple. That’s all there was to it. No fowl play here. Get it? Har Har Har!

Love,
MrsP

The Cutest Little Batman Evvvver

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It’s no secret that we’re a Batman family. Our baby was almost named “Grayson” after Robin’s alter-ego, Dick Grayson. Im not kidding. And that was after my hubs tried to convince that we should name him “Robin” (“It’s a good name for a boy OR a girl!”). I’m not kidding again. But to be fair… Today I found a text conversation in which I tried to get my husband to agree to name our son “Jupiter”. I’m not kidding again.

Anyways, so we love Batman. Our baby got his first Batman onsie before he was born, and guess what his first toy was? That’s right! A set of colorful plastic keys!

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His second toy was a little stuffed Batman though.

In a weird twist of fate, I’m sure you’re all shocked to hear his first Halloween costume is going to be Batman! So here is my account of how the Dark Knight rose:

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To make the hat, I used this owl hat pattern, and then I used a YouTube video tutorial for crocheting fox ears for the little bat-ear points. I swear, I learned most of my important life lessons from YouTube. If anyone is the slightest bit interested in how this hat was made, I would be delighted to explain it. I’m just assuming that 99% of the world does not accept crocheting as a form of entertainment though.

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I totally cheated for the suit and used this awesome onsie my baby inherited from his cousin who’s a year older than him. His cousin obviously has a refined sense of fashion. So that part was easy.

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For the utility belt, I used my awesome sewing skillz I acquired a few days ago and sewed two pieces of yellow fabric into the shape of a utility belt. I don’t want to delve much into this because anyone who knows sewing will know that I have no idea what I’m doing.

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The utility belt is crucial because it holds all of Batman’s most important tools.

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I would love to sound technological and intellectual about the cape, but the truth is, I just cut it into the shape I wanted and then sewed one small strip across the top to hold it in place. That is all. I made it this morning. It took like 59 seconds.

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For the tights… Or whatever you call the man-baby version of tights… I just put him in his finest black sweat pants, and then put his Batman onsie over it.

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I just realized I didn’t really explain how I made anything, but as you can see its more like a random collection of things that come together to make the cutest Batman ever came to be. How does one explain that?

Anyways, I put this costume together because we’re taking our little guy to a baby Halloween party tomorrow, but I just couldn’t wait until then to show y’all what it looked like! Oopsies. I’m horrible with surprises.

Love from Gotham,
Mrs Pen

My Baby’s First Halloween Costume… Sort of.

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial

Ok its not really a Halloween costume, but I did use the upcoming halloween holiday as an excuse to dress my baby up for a totally unrelated event. Today is one of my very best gal friend’s birthday! Happy Birthday Leslie! Both my baby and I woke up excited to celebrate with her. We just adore Les! One of the things I love most of all about Les is her innate dorkiness. She’s a dorkus maximus. She likes things like Star Wars. We have that in common. Our dorkiness… not our love for Star Wars. I haven’t even seen half of them. Please don’t tell my husband that.

Anyways, when Les told me she spent her birthday on Harry Potter movies, I got a brilliant idea. Since we both love Harry Potter and I love putting costumes on my little guy, I decided Les needed a personal visit from HP himself for her birthday. And so began my Harry Potter costume making journey.

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial
I started with the scarf. The most exciting part about making the Harry Potter costume to me was this itty bitty baby scarf. It’s so cute and so little. If any crochet nerds are reading this, this was a simple case of 5 double crotchets in a row, changing colors every 7 rows. If anyone is interested in becoming a crochet nerd, I have two words for you: YouTube, man. I swear you could learn how to perform brain surgery by watching YouTube vids.

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial

Next, I made the robe. Now, this was long before I learned how to use a sewing machine a few hours ago. My first attempt at hand stitching the little robe didn’t go so well. The good news is, we already have the Hunchback of Notre Dame half done now.

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial

My second attempt at Harry Potter’s robe went a lot smoother. I just bought an oversized shirt at Wal-Mart for $3.88 and cut it into the shape I wanted.

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Now when it comes down to it, this robe is nothing more than a graduation gown without the Gryffindor patch. I found a patch on Amazon for 1 cent (plus $4.99 shipping), so I ordered it. Problem solved. Except the stupid patch still hasn’t gotten here. So instead, I took matters into my own hands and made the patch myself with an old t-shirt and some sharpies, and then glued it to the robe. Note- I probably wouldn’t use regular sharpies to do this again. When my baby slobbered on it, it smeared and got ink on him.

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial

I added a tie onsie my friend Jessica had made my baby and the costume was almost complete!

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial
This was when my baby and I decided that we should give Hedwig to Les for her birthday. That way she can send letters via mail owl and save a ton of stamps. Luckily, about the same time I learnt how to use a sewing machine, so this was very easy to whip up with the same old t-shirt I made the Gryffinder patch with. I might write about how I made Hedwig at a later date, this post would be longer than the 7th HP book if I wrote out everything here.

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial

For the glasses, I was planning to throw them together with some pipe cleaners, but when I stopped at the dollar store on my way to the party, I was dismayed to discover they didn’t sell pipe cleaners. Thank God for weird clown glasses at the Dollar Store. At least I think thats what it is. Anyways, when I popped the lenses out, it was perfect for my little Harry!

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial

This kid is so cute I could die! Also, I felt slightly judged when I walking through the Dollar Store with my baby and his lightning bolt forehead.

MrsPen's Baby Harry Potter Tutorial

And finally, after all our hard work, Harry got to meet the birthday girl! Even though he’s teething and congested and bit uncomfortable, when Aunt Les held him, his face lit up. He just loves that lady. By the was, my baby wants to say Happy Birfday Aunt Weswie! I wuv you!

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So that is how I threw together the first of my baby’s several Halloween costumes this year. Prepare yourselves for the next one. It’s so cute it’s deadly.

Love,
Mrs Pen

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