Creeper Dolls

They are finally done — creeper dolls!

It took way too long to get these done, but that is just how it happens around here. I used these instructions, only I made the dolls about 3/4 size, since they are for small arms. I made two in an effort to avoid creeper-contention, and that has been about 80% successful.

They have been very well received. Both kids enjoy using them with the “ssss… boom!” sound effects, but they also serve other purposes. Nathan has informed me that his is a baby creeper. He was curled up the other day watching a Minecraft video with his creeper in his lap. Ryan just likes to snuggle his. Occasionally a creeper gives kisses to somebody, or to the other creeper. Occasionally Nathan hurls one through the air like a creeper-shaped javelin. All in good fun.

Secret Door

You know how parents are incessantly telling you about all the neat/funny/crazy/exasperating things their kids do and say, in loving and entirely unnecessary detail?

Those of you who just nodded and rolled your eyes should stop reading this post now and go find something constructive to do.

For everyone else: I’m about to show off Nathan’s first computer program. Well, so to speak. You see, in Minecraft there’s a set of tools and items which basically allow you to build circuits, which can then interact with the Minecraft world to move blocks or turn on lights or open doors… whatever you can dream up. Someone out there built a (limited functionality) graphing calculator in Minecraft. I swear this is true.

Dave naturally got interested in this capacity, and a while ago spent some time devising secret door or stair projects, in which a door or stairway would appear with the flick of a switch. Nathan was so fascinated by this work that Dave gave him a copy of the world for Nathan to mess with. Which he promptly did — mess with it, that is, and break pretty much every one of Dave’s test projects. That’s why he got a copy.

Life moved on. Nathan kept playing Minecraft. Dave stopped. Nathan watched countless Minecraft videos on YouTube. And then one day, out of the blue, Nathan presented us with this:

The open door. The doorway is the two-block-high open space in the middle of the screenshot.

The closed door.

This is not a copy of one of Dave’s projects, although I’m sure it’s modeled after some of them; nor, so far as we can tell, is it a direct copy of anything he’s seen on YouTube. This is Nathan, at four years old, understanding the working of redstone, repeaters and pistons sufficiently to create his own working secret door project. Dave considers it Nathan’s first computer program.

And yes, I felt it necessary to take screenshots and add them to our family pictures directory. It’s like saving his artwork… only geekier.

S’mores For Lunch

For about two weeks it felt like summer. Now we are back to rain. I don’t mind; I love that sweet, dusty scent that comes with the first rain after dry weather. (Ok, I do mind a little, since I can’t just send the kids outside to play.)

It’s seemed to grow colder each day. Yesterday we lit a fire in the morning, and Nathan immediately asked if we could roast marshmallows over it. We’ve only done that once, but apparently it made a big impression.

Well, why not? A little celebration of what may (hopefully) be our last fire until fall.

Chai And Chocolate

I’ve been making a lot of truffles lately — for totally good reasons, mind you, as gifts for wonderful people who really deserve a special treat. Not just as insanely decadent indulgences for myself. I can’t help that there are leftovers. I just want to make that clear.

Where was I? Oh, right.

So when my brother sent us a sampler of really nice teas from Market Spice, the inevitable happened. I still had cream in the fridge from the last batch of truffles; I had fresh, incredibly aromatic chai spices; and I had a note mentioning that the latter could “also be used to flavor milk or cream for puddings, etc.”

I am all about “etc.”

Picture this: a very good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped and heaped in a white bowl. Next to it, a small saucepan in which rich cream is slowly being raised to scalding temperature. In the cream floats a spoonful of spices, with seeds left whole or cracked into large pieces. Cardamom and cloves scent the air. When the hot cream is strained over the chocolate, the mass of shards shifts and settles. Gradually the chocolate is overcome, and begins to meld into the spiced cream.

And that’s just making the ganache. Don’t even get me started on shaping and dipping and rolling in chopped filberts.

Just in case you are now tempted: the ratio is 4oz chocolate to 1/3 c cream. Scald the cream and pour it over the chocolate, then stir until smooth. Chill until workable and roll into small balls. You’ll need another 4+ oz chocolate to dip the truffles (freeze for about 15 minutes before dipping) or you can just roll them in cocoa powder. Or you can — not that I’ve ever done this, mind you — eat the ganache directly with a spoon.

Cut And Paste

I’ve mentioned before that I have had limited success doing anything crafty with the boys. Occasionally they get into it, but usually they just don’t seem that interested in making things. I don’t think I’m insanely focused on the end result of drawing or painting or whatever; I understand that the process is the whole point at this age. But I admit to getting a little impatient when the “process” devolves after about two minutes into hurling handfuls of the relevant crafting materials at each other. Come on, guys. That’s what dirt is for.

So I was pleasantly surprised when an attempt at cut-and-paste worked out rather well. Both of them helped with cutting (or tearing, in Ryan’s case) our papers into various shapes, and gluing them onto a big piece of butcher paper. True, Nathan mostly made long strips that he promptly attached to his truck (aka our couch) as flags to indicate that it carried an oversize load. And Ryan was very, very interested in what he could smear with the glue stick. But so what? No one threw anything that I recall, and we all had fun in our own ways.

I have no pictures of them actually working on the project, unfortunately. This wasn’t entirely because I was busy saying things like “please don’t lick the glue stick.” Mostly I just got involved in the process. I loved how Nathan glued down some of the narrow scraps left from my cutting out leaves — I just would have thrown them away, but they gave a great twiggy sense. And Ryan’s torn pieces of blue paper meant that instead of making more leaves from them, they turned into water, changing the scene entirely from what I’d originally envisioned. I guess that’s what made this project so satisfying: it felt like we grew it together.

Brothers

I swear I did not pose this picture.