February 2016
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How to Train Your Dragon (to bring you fun sized Snickers bars)

Halloween is pretty much my favorite of all the holidays. I love the candy, the decorations, the costumes… (when I was a freshman in college, I outfitted about a half dozen friends on the spur of the moment with just what I had in my closet). I love love love making costumes for Lilian.

Her first Halloween, I was too exhausted to get all that creative. So she wore a hand-me-down Lobster costume and I tried to not eat her.


Next year, I got to have a little more fun! She was a winged monkey from the Wizard of Oz. I loved how the little fez came out (it was a mini Ben and Jerry’s carton that I covered in red felt).

winged monkey winged monkey

Last year, she was Sulley from Monsters Inc. It was a fairly easy pattern to sew, but fake fur is no joke! I think I broke about 17 needles while I was working on it. At the last minute, she almost didn’t wear it, which would have just about broken my heart. In the end, she got very excited about going “rawr!” and people giving her candy.


This year, she was Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon. We thought we’d be all smart and spend the end of September/beginning of October getting her excited for her costume. Which was a great idea… until the power in our attic went kablooey and I had to start sewing with the help of an extension cord from the bathroom. Not a lot of light up there these days. I almost wished that I’d just bought her an Anna dress and called it a day. ( Almost ).


I did one thing right, which was to get started early. I did some research (aka, spent an evening on Pinterest), gathered up most of my supplies, and started sewing with plenty of time to spare.

For those of you who are interested in these sorts of things, I got most of my inspiration from this post . I started with her basic process and then went from there. The little skulls and spikes are all model magic. I painted mine using some glittery acrylic paint, which ended up being the biggest pain in the ass. Model magic isn’t porous at all, so I had to dab the paint on with a foam brush. It took forever and got all over my hands. After it was all done and dried, I read this post about how you can color model magic with markers. I soooooo wish I had done that instead. Lilian loved the sparkles, but I have a sparkly marker set that probably would have worked just fine.

The skirt I pretty much improvised on. I measured Lilian’s waist, divided by 10, and then used that number to cut out a template for the maroon flaps. The leather under-skirt and headband I made using a bag of leather scraps that I got on Amazon (these are all affiliate links). If anyone is desperately trying to figure out how to make one of these things, feel free to leave a comment, but I pretty much made it up as I went along. It was pretty gratifying to know that I have enough sewing technique in me to put it all together without a tutorial.

The “armor”, I’m pretty proud of. It’s just regular quilting fabric from Joanns, but I sewed interfacing into it to make it nice and stiff. This one I also did without a pattern, but I can say that it’s three rectangles, each one about an inch shorter from the last. I sewed it directly to the shirt, and it held up really well. I folded it in half and then ironed it to give it some of its shape.


The shirt I ended up sewing from scratch. Partially because I didn’t have much luck finding a ready-made one with the right kind of stripes, and partially because Lilian fell in love with the fabric when she saw it at the store. It’s not really the right colors, but like I said, Lilian loved it. And isn’t that what really matters? It’s also super soft. I might have to make her a non-viking version. The pattern is this one . I didn’t bother with any of the ribbing/hemming. Partially because I wanted a little bit of a rough viking look, partially because I was under a time crunch at that point (I ended up having to travel for work and lost a few sewing days the week of Halloween).

My sister Melissa recommended epoxy to glue all of the skulls and spikes on, and I should have listened to her! We didn’t have any epoxy, so I used hot glue instead. I figured I’d see how they held up during a trial run, and if they didn’t stay on I’d get some epoxy. We took Lilian to visit Beans at work the afternoon of Halloween, and everything stayed on just fine. Of course, when it came time to get dressed for trick or treating, everything started falling off. I ended up pulling off anything that felt loose, scoring the backs with my fingernails, and then re-gluing everything. Luckily, hot glue dries super fast and we only lost one spike after that.


Lilian wanted me to dress up as Astrid as well. But that would have been a) weird and 2) way too much work. So, I bought this  dragon hoodie instead. “I’m going to ride you mama!” was Lilian’s response. Eeks.


Gracie was a dinosaur with a little caveman riding on her back. Dinosaur/dragon, caveman/viking, potato/potawto. Pepper made her own dragon costume and joined us for pictures and trick or treating.

I got Lilian a little axe and shield to go with her costume. Which was probably  a terrible mistake, but was also a lot of fun for all of us. She was surprisingly good about not whacking us all with the business end of the axe. She mostly just banged it on her shield to make her mama dragon go to sleep (she remembered that from the movie). She’s starting to push her limits with the axe now, but is good about settling down when I remind her that she’s not allowed to hit anyone (or anything but her shield) with it.


Trick or treating was a lot of fun. It seemed like there were a lot of neighbors (even more than last year) that just turned all of their lights off, but the ones who were participating put up a lot of decorations and got all into it. One woman had a super detailed Ghostbusters costume (including backpack, gun, etc). We also saw a lot of parents in costume, which made me feel like a little less of a weirdo in my dragon hoody. Lilian was really good about saying “trick or treat” and “thank you,” although she did yell “let’s go get some morrrre cannnnddyyyyyy!” as we left most of the houses. Anytime she got to pick, she either went for the M&Ms or Whoppers. Whoppers ?!? I have no idea where she got that one from. I gave her a pack to eat, just in case she was just grabbing them because she liked the color of the wrapper. At least I won’t be tempted to eat all of them while she’s asleep.


Pepper loved the shadow that her costume made. It was pretty sweet.

We did about three blocks, which took us a couple of hours. We had a great time chatting with all of our neighbors, and showing off Lilian’s costume. Nobody had any idea who she was, but they all thought that she looked adorable. She very proudly told everyone, “I’m Astrid!” I like the idea of her seeing herself as a strong viking who doesn’t take any guff.

Next year, I will probably get no say in Lilian’s costume. Hopefully, she will pick something fun!

A Few Quick Updates

First things first, I have been totally remiss in not giving y’all an update on our dog Gracie’s cancer . The surgery went well (the recovery was a bit of a nightmare, but at least all of that is over). We got the biopsy results back last week, and they were good but not great. On a scale of 1 to 3, Gracie’s cancer was a 2. Which means that it has a medium risk of reoccurring/spreading. Better than high risk, not as good as low risk.


They got good margins. Which means that, as long as it didn’t spread, we should be able to put this all behind us. That’s a pretty big if, but I choose to be positive about all of this. What alternative is there?

Did I mention that the recovery was a bit of a nightmare? Because it was a total nightmare. She cried non-stop for days, bled all over our kitchen, had to wear the cone of shame and an old t-shirt to keep her from scratching at the incision, needed all sorts of pills, had to be carried out to the backyard to go to the bathroom… Basically, none of us slept well and the house smelled something horrible. At one point, she knocked a baby gate over in the middle of the night, ran upstairs to our room, and I had to carry her crying and panting back downstairs (she could get up stairs, but not down them).

(Have I mentioned that she weighs 45 pounds?)

She’s all healed up now, so we’re back to giving pills 2x a day to just one pet. Yay? I’ve gotten pretty good at grabbing Tabitha, throwing a pill to the back of her mouth, and then feeding her some yogurt to make her swallow it. We’ve only had one pee incident since we got her on thyroid medication, so that’s pretty good. I’m still not sure how we’re ever going to go on vacation again without spending a fortune on a cat sitter, but I guess we’ll figure it out eventually.

We finally bought a new oven. It’s nice to be able to bake things again. Not so nice to have to pay for a new oven… But, hey, now I can drown my sorrows in freshly baked cookies.

(I have not been baking cookies.)

( Yet .)

Yesterday, we discovered a major electrical issue at our house. Which means that we currently have no power in the 3rd floor or LJ’s room. And will be paying a pretty penny to fix it.

(I know houses and pets are expensive, but did they all have to be quite so expensive all at the same time ?)


I’m not going to lie, the past few weeks were pretty overwhelming. It seemed like every time we turned around, something expensive was breaking, or we were getting some more bad news. The half marathon was a welcome distraction from it all, but now I’m feeling a bit of a post-race letdown. Being all tired and sore probably doesn’t help either. I’m hoping that a couple of good night’s sleeps will help.

(Nothing else breaking in this #@!%$! house would be nice, too.)

Things that I am currently grateful for:

  1. Our family’s health. Sick pets suck, but it’s so much better than sick children.
  2. The fact that we actually have savings. If all of this stuff had broken about 6-7 years ago, we would have been totally screwed.
  3. We caught the major electrical issue before it became a major fire.
  4. Kind and supportive family and friends who have been shoulders to lean on and who supported me every step of my fundraising and race.
  5. A wonderful husband and daughter who cheer me up at the end of every day.
  6. The fact that I actually enjoy my job. I know, I know… who actually enjoys their job? I do, apparently. Life is a lot less stressful when you spend 40ish hours a week doing something that you actually enjoy doing.

So, that’s where I’m at these days. A little tired, a little overwhelmed, but mostly ok.

(Let’s help that things settle down.)


Kitty Purry: The Recap

A couple of months ago, I made a deal with the internet.

“Internet,” I said, “help me raise more money for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth and I promise to do silly things for your amusement. In fact, if you help me to raise at least $2000, I will run the last mile of the half marathon in a Katy Perry costume and giant cat head. We shall call it Kitty Purry, and we will all get a good laugh while helping the children.”

The internet, it would seem, loves nothing more than cats and laughter.

And, thus, I was Kitty Purry.

The logistics of driving up to the race as a family didn’t really work out (our pets, they need so many pills ). So, I ended up taking the bus by myself. And then my sister proceeded to spend the entire weekend making me feel like a rockstar.


Because I raised over a thousand dollars last year, we got an invitation to a reception the night before. They did a great job of honoring sponsors, volunteers, fundraisers, etc, while still reminding everyone about why we were there. My sister and I both left feeling incredibly inspired. Sorry, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but I think we’re going to do this all again next year.

(Now I just need to come up with a crazy costume idea that’s equally amusing, but maybe just a smidgen more aerodynamic.)

Sunday morning was race day. It was also snowing. Because, who doesn’t love to run in the snow?

(Me. I do not love to run in the snow.)

I thought I trained better for this one, but apparently I trained 2 minutes slower.

(Those hills! Those hills!)

My sister did her best to motivate me up the worst of the hills (at one point she resorted to yelling “wheeee!” and throwing leaves on me), but I was… not speedy. Things that make me feel better about this.

  1. I raised even more money than I did last year. I will take more money for sick kids over a faster time any day.
  2. I might have been slower, but I was definitely steadier. Last year, there were a few times when I was legitimately not sure if I was going to finish. This time, I knew I had it in me. I did some walking on the last two hills, but otherwise I ran the entire thing.
  3. Also, that cat head really did slow me down.

My sister ran the last mile with me (dressed up like #leftshark), and I’m so glad she agreed to. Because, otherwise I probably would have tripped and seriously injured myself. I knew going into this that it would be hard to see out of the head (there’s a little window that you can look through, but it’s encased in styrofoam, creating literal tunnel vision), but I hadn’t factored in the bounce factor. As in, the head was bouncing around and my little tunnel basically just gave me strobe vision. But my sister held my hand and she made sure I didn’t fall.

We rounded a corner and the finish line was in sight (well, not my sight). All of a sudden, I heard the announcer say “is that… is that a giant cat head?!?! it is a giant cat head! go cat head, go!”

(I’m more than just a head, people.)

My sister turned to me and said, “everyone is staring at us now.” So, of course, that’s when my grass skirt fell off. So, I leaned over to pick it up… and dropped the cat head.

(If I’m going to run in a ridiculous costume, I’d like to do it with some goddamn dignity.)

(This probably added seconds to my race time.)

I got myself sorted out, we ran in, and I managed to cross the finish line without tripping over the timing mat. Mission accomplished!

I’m not going to lie, it was an emotional weekend for me. Last year, most of what CHaD does was a bit of an abstraction to me. This year, because we had been to the reception the night before and met some of the CHaD kids and their parents, it was all a lot more real. Ahead of me on the course, I saw a couple of the moms that had spoken the night before. One of them had a good outcome, one of them didn’t. But they were both clearly having a very intense experience. I ran the same miles as them, but not in their shoes. I can only begin to imagine what it’s been like. I’m so glad that there are places like CHaD, where children and their parents are truly loved and cared for.

It was an incredibly humbling and inspiring weekend, one that both made me realize just how fortunate I’ve been in my life, but that also pushed me to want to help out however I can. I’m already dreaming up ways that I can embarrass myself next year. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

At the reception, I met the girl who was one of the stars of the CHaD Roar video. She’s a young adult now, doing well, and getting cutting edge treatment for her cystic fibrosis. I told her how much she had inspired me (I did the run last year in good part because I saw the video and wanted to help out). She thought my Kitty Purry costume was pretty funny. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, except that sometimes it’s really nice to know that things turned out ok.

If you’d still like to make a donation, you can do that here .

Quick Update

Crazy times around here!

I started a new job a few months ago. It’s going great, I love it, I’m super happy, but… I’ve been insanely busy. A lot of time spent in front of a screen during the day. Or setting up other, bigger screens. When I get home at night, I just want to play with LJ and do craft projects and read and not look at any more screens . I would ask if there’s a way to write blog posts without using a screen, but I’m pretty sure that’s just an old-fashioned journal.

For the most part, things have been good and I’ve been feeling relaxed and happy. There have been a few little hiccups, though.


  1. Cat pee. All over the house. (Ugh.) It took us some time to figure out which cat was responsible. Kristian ended up setting up a camera and we caught Tabitha in the act. It turns out, she has hyperthyroidism. Which means giving her a pill twice a day. Which is quite an improvement over a pee-stained house. But is still kindof a bummer.
  2. Our dryer died. So… we decided to get an all new set. So… we really needed to redo that bathroom (it was pretty horrible in there). So… things went wrong. So… it stretched on and on and on and on. So… we didn’t have a washer or dryer for months . We never packed for vacations this summer. We just hauled all our dirty laundry to wherever it was that we were staying. By the end of the summer, I was hand washing my work shirts and then hoping that they’d air dry enough to wear the next day. We finally got the bathroom (mostly) up and running again and…
  3. Our oven died. The range works, but the oven itself is dead. We still haven’t replaced it. Because: argh.
  4. Our upstairs bathroom. The tub is still leaking. This is going to end up being a complete gut renovation. Get in line, crappy bathroom, get in line.
  5. My car. It’s a TDI .

I was kinda sorta maybe ok with dead appliances and pilling the cat and owning a car that screws over the polar bears, but this last one is the final straw…

Kristian found a sore on our dog Gracie’s stomach. He mentioned it to the vet when he brought her in for her annual exam a few days later. They were concerned enough to take a biopsy, and it turns out it’s cancer. :( She’s scheduled for surgery next week (move farther back in line, crappy bathroom), and that’s when we’ll find out what the extent of it is. Hopefully, it’s just the one tumor, and they can get it all out. If not? Well, I don’t want to talk about it.

It’s funny… people have asked me over the past few days how things are going, and without hesitation I say “oh, they’re pretty good.” And I’m not just doing that small-talk thing where you say that things are good without thinking too much about it. I actually feel pretty good these days. Partially, I’m in deep denial about our dog’s prognosis, but a big part of it is that life is actually pretty good these days .

(Weird, right?)

Obviously, I wish we had fully operational appliances at our house. And the cat is probably going to make me bleed a lot one of these times that I give her the thyroid medication. And I have no idea what we’re going to do about that leaky bathtub. But our family still manages to have a lot of fun. We can afford medical treatment for our pets (something that I am very, very grateful for). My new job keeps me busy, but I actually have a great work/life balance, and I love the work that I’m doing. All-in-all, life is not too bad. Life is expensive as shit these days, but it’s not too bad.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.


My step-dad’s sister’s husband (we just call him Uncleish) is super into biking. He’s also super into supporting his niecishes on social media when they post about biking (or running, or boating, etc.). You could write that you ran 50 feet, got tired, and then sat down and ate a cheeseburger… and he’d tell you that it’s good that you knew your limits and got some protein in. He’s supremely positive, in a way that makes you want to run just a little bit farther and faster next time. I don’t know how he does it. It’s a pretty impressive super power.

Uncleish goes on some pretty long bike rides. I mean, his short rides would be long rides for me. And, every year, he makes sure to do a ride that’s the same mileage as his current age. He’s more than a few years older than me, so riding his age is pretty impressive.

I thought it would be pretty neat to start up a tradition of riding my age as well, both as a personal challenge and has a hat tip to Uncleish. Now’s the time to do it, when I’m young enough to not require serious training to get the mileage. I asked a bunch of people in my family if they’d like to join me, and two of my sisters, plus a brother-in-law, plus Kristian all decided to ride along.

(There were a few other folks that wanted to join as well, but work and dislocated kneecaps got in the way.)


In case you weren’t sure, I turned 34 today. So, 34 miles it was! (My sisters and brother-in-law get extra points for riding their ages+2, Kristian technically needs to do a few more laps around the parking lot.) We picked Labor Day, because it seemed like as good a day as any. And then we picked the Farmington, CT rail trail, because it’s super flat and scenic.

We mostly kept to the path, but we did make a quick detour to the Old Drake Hill Flower Bridge . My sister says it’s even more impressive at the height of the summer, but it was still quite pretty.

flower bridge


I’m not exactly inspired to take a bazillion selfies after spending miles on a bike in the hot sun, but I did take a couple at the bridge.


Most bike ride recaps are pretty boring, so I will say that it was a nice challenge, but not impossible… and then I’ll pretty much leave it at that. Kristian and I were the only ones without road bikes, so we were kinda slow compared to everyone else, but we mostly stuck together and it was nice to get to spend the morning with everyone.

A family friend was kind enough to watch Lilian while we all rode, and then he met all of us for lunch afterwards. My sisters had some fun with the little bendy toys that the restaurant gives to kids.

"pay the rent!"

We ended the day at my Grandmother’s house, where we consumed a good chunk of a peach pie that I baked for the occasion.


(I’m not usually super into food photos, but this pie was seriously tasty and it totally hit the spot after a long bike ride. I wouldn’t mind remembering just how good it tasted.)

Having a long biked ride planned for Labor Day weekend was a great motivator to get out during the summer. We probably could have done some more training, but I think we did ok. I wouldn’t mind making this a yearly tradition.