August 2011 archive

Back to School – DIY Decorator Lunch Box

Anyone who has a kid knows how quickly favorites come and go. I laugh because it's just like Project Runway – One day you're in and the next day you're out. While the latest and greatest character is in right now when the parent shells out $10 -$15 for the lunchbox, 2 months into the school year they are old news.

I came up with an awesome way to create a great lunch box that is durable, yet changeable.

First I used the Cricut cutter and the vinyl sticker sheet. I cut out some simple  matryoshka dolls in pink vinyl.

I picked the design removing pieces I didn't want. I rub on the transfer paper.


Next I picked a plain lunchbox and applied the design. I added some text to complete the design.

 This vinyl is durable and removable. So as long as I love it, they can stay. As soon as I love something else more – I just peel off the decal and start over.Lunchbox9

This can be a way to personalize water bottles, lunch boxes and pencil cases.

Circus Obsession – Visiting the Hartford Circus Memorial

Since reading Stewart O'Nan's book 'The Circus Fire', we had to visit the location while we were in CT.

Last weekend we ventured to the North End of Hartford to see the location of the Hartford Circus Fire. The circus rented a large lot owned by the city, after the fire they used the lot for several different things the most current is a school. We pulled the car around back to the rear parking lot.


First is a large stone engraved with the tent and a brief summary of the event.  We followed the stone path, which is lined with time-line pictures, to the center ring.


In the center is a brass marker showing the layout of the tent and has the names of the victims around the outside. This marks the center pole of the tent. The memorial bricks make up the center ring. There are trees marking the perimeter of the tent.


We spent more time here than we expected. The overall size of the tent, the amount of people that were inside, standing in the center ring, the fact that the whole fire took only 6 minutes to devour  tent, it was emotionally overwhelming. The Kid brought her elephant and "Rosie" performed in the center ring for everyone, since the elephants never had the chance to perform.


After that we traveled over the town line to Windsor to the North Wood Cemetery, the final resting location of the unclaimed victims of the fire.

Again, a somber experience. Why weren't these people claimed? The marker from the city of Hartford ends with "Their Identity Known But to God" 


Hot Dog Tour 2011 – Connecticut

Adorned with our fantastic Tour T's, we piled into the car around noon on Saturday headed for our first stop, The Dawg House in New Britain, CT. Hotdogtour-3
Famous for their chili dog called the Strand Lunch Hot Dog, the boys ordered one each without question. I decided on a dog with kraut. The non-dog eating member of the team tried a side of loaded potato wedges. The first dogs went down easy with praise for the kraut since it's loaded with bacon.Hotdogtour

The small stand has two indoor tables and a couple of picnic tables outside. 
Large Parking Area 
Extra Bonus points for carrying locally made Hosmer SodasHotdogtour-2

Next on the trip was Capitol Lunch, New Britain. 
They have been voted Best Hot Dog in CT and are known for their chili sauce. We ordered two chili dogs and a coffee. Their sauce was voted better than the Dawg House. The New Britain battle has been made and Capitol's sauce won out – but I still loved the Dawg House Kraut.Hotdogtour-5

Plenty of indoor seating
On Street Parking
Extra Bonus Points for Mustache Vending Machine

Back to The Dawg House to meet up with our Massachusetts pals.

After a round of hugs and "how ya' beens" our newest members ordered 2 Strand Lunch Dogs and we all got another round of Hosmers.

Off to Portland, CT – where we're not sure, just somewhere on RT 66. It shouldn't be hard to find, it's a Checkered Cab pulling a Large Hot Dog Trailer. The actual trailer is in the shape of a Hot Dog.  Just a short distance on 66 there it was in all it's Hot Dog Glory. Hotdogtour-7
The caravan of cars pulled into the parking lot and we headed to the window. They didn't have a house "special", so everyone got something different.  The New Orleans, A Bacon and Cheese, A New Yorker, &  something hot and spicy completed our order.


Let's just say that the atmosphere and fun of the location made this drive out to Portland worth the trip.


Plenty of parking
outdoor seating
No Bathroom
Extra Bonus Points for the coolest Venue of the Day

On the road again, now the rush is on, can we get to the Dragon Boat Races on the CT River before the race is over and keep the caravan together? Working our way through town toward riverfront, we pulled over and 2 of the Hot Doggers took off to the Race. The rest of us headed to the North End of Hartford to the Ranch House.

This place was found while Husband worked in CT at a  car dealership located nearby. The Junk Yard Dog is the dog of choice, a lengthy dog, not quite a foot long and loaded. Hotdogtour-14
We ordered 3 Mild and 1 Hot, plus sodas. The Mild is hot, the Hot is unbearable but still tasty. The overall location is a little scary, but worth it for the experience.  This one was instantly a favorite of all, of all time, not just the day (so far).


Plenty of parking
No Bathroom
Outdoor Seating

The afternoon turned to evening and we lost our MA Doggers, but the rest of us still pushed on.  On the road headed to Newington, the destination was undetermined because a stand by the name on the list could not be found, just an address. WELL, that's because no one asked me. Husband misinterpreted my handwriting, telling our navigator that we were looking for Chet's when it was actually Chef's, with an "f", Dog House. Hotdogtour-16
We walk in the door and are overwhelmed by the Largest Condiment Bar in the state. We belly up to the counter and ask, "What's the best?" We were told everything, we ordered 3 dogs and a chicken sandwich.


Dog #1 – Hot Dog wrapped in bacon, covered in cheese, chili and sautéed onions

Dog #2 – Hot Dog wrapped in bacon, covered in baked beans and sautéed onions  

Dog #3 – Hot Dog covered in Sweet Pulled Pork BBQ and Cole Slaw

These were the most gourmet dogs we've ever had. Flavors blended so well together – I didn't even mind the Slaw. My mouth waters as I think about my dog's awesomeness. Never before have I had a hot dog meal that filled me but left me wanting more. We are in love with Chef's!!!! The variety makes this place somewhere you can come back to over and over again and never eat the same thing twice, unless you want to.

Side note – The Chicken sandwich was huge and the Non-Dogger raved about it.


Located in a plaza, so good parking
Indoor seating
Super Friendly Staff, an Owner who takes pride in his food
The Largest Condiment Bar in CT
Birch Beer in the Soda machine
Bonus Points for the cute conversation cards on the table and the Hot Dog Statue.Hotdogtour-17

Almost filled to the brim we load the car for the last stop on our tour.  We head to Waterbury for a taste of the famous Frankie's Hot Dog.  


We pull into the crowed parking area. I am in desperate need of a bathroom, which there is none. The boys each purchase a  chili dog, while I take the kid to get ice cream next door.  The dogs are a foot long beef/pork blend with a heavy tomato meat sauce. Surprised by the overall size of the dog, the boys shoved them in.



Parking is tight when busy
Car eating or standing room at a little counter
Beside an ice cream shop for desert
No Bathroom
Bonus Points for a great sign and vintage hot dog stand feel.Hotdogtour-22

Overall the day ends with 156 inches of hot dog consumed by the team along with 7 lbs of condiments.  One chicken sandwich, side of potato wedges, bag of chips, dish of ice cream, 1 milkshake, 2 cups of coffee, 1 beer and undetermined amounts of soda and water.

Our 2011 Hot Dog Tour of CT decided the Junk Yard Dog from the Ranch House is the favorite, but that location is a one hit wonder.

The New  Favorite  – All of Chef's Dog House Dogs are fantastic – so fantastic that it's already on the Tour list for 2012.

All of these locations are worth a visit.

Circus Obsession Continued

Husband is on the search for his family roots. In a recent conversation with his father we found out that he was at the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford 1944. For any Circus obsessed person that show is infamous . They  were living in Hartford's Northend, in the Italian area. Dad went on to say that his Uncle was working at Colt Firearms Second Shift (which is cool on a totally different level, war time gun assembly) so his Aunt, took Dad and his cousin to the July 5th evening performance…who would know that less than 24 hours later the Big Top would be burnt to the ground. He was 4 years old.

The search was on for more information about one of the biggest tragedies in Hartford's history.  After a very quick search at the library I found Stewart O'Nan's book, 'The Circus Fire: A True Story'.  A wonderful, well researched step by step retelling of the events that make me fear large groups and mass hysteria.

O'Nan masterfully takes several hundred accounts of the circus fire, places them in chronological order and leaves no detail untold. The victims and survivors stories are retold so vividly, your heart breaks with every line.  The story makes you want to hate the circus, but it was no one's fault,  in the end it was just tragic. Circus managers ended up doing time and Ringling changed policies but "the show must go on".

It sounds like a trip to the North end this weekend will be added, to see the area where the event happened, as well as the memorial that was built on the exact location of the center pole of the big top. Also a trip to North Wood Cemetery to see the Memorial Grave for the unidentified.

Sticky Vinyl meets Silk Screening

Sticky Vinyl meets Silk Screening

We really wanted to make shirts for our upcoming weekend of Hot Dog Tour 2011. Husband wanted a vintage look but didn't want a press on ink jet transfer. I really didn't want to shoot a screen and all that goes into it.  How to do it, how to do it????

The Cricut – the magic machine that cuts all kinds of shapes and when attached to my computer makes my designs into the most fantastic die cuts. I have sticky vinyl, I have a screen, a design and a cutting machine – Viola! Instant T-shirt Printing!

Step 1. Scan hand drawn image into computer.

Step 2. Add text, trace image and create layout in Illustrator.

Step 3. Save file and import into cutting program

Step 4. Attach computer to machine and start cutting

Step 5. Pick, Pick , Pick this is removing the material from the image to be printed. I am removing the part that I want printed and leaving behind the "white space". It's a little hard to imagine, so for the first time have your image printed out and lay it beside you. The black that is to be printed is the vinyl your want to remove.Vinyl-2

Step 6.  Cut a piece of transfer paper. This is a sticky parchment like paper that holds the vinyl cutout in place as you transfer it to its final destination. I used the wooden stick that came with the vinyl to rub the transfer paper over the vinyl. This helps all the small pieces stick to the transfer paper when the backing is removed from the vinyl cutout.Vinyl-3

Step 7.  Peel off backing on the vinyl image, Vinyl-5line it up on the screen and press. I used the wooden stick again to run the image on to the screen.Vinyl-6 
Then carefully peel back the transfer paper.Vinyl-8 

Step 8. Mask off the rest of the screen. I used a painters tape. Easy to remove and it doesn't let any ink through.Vinyl-11

Step 9. Ink it up and make a test print. I slopped on the ink and pulled the squeegee across the image. I made sure to hit the whole image back and forth a couple of times. Then carefully lifted the screen. I checked the image for any leaks in the tape and that the vinyl was cut correctly.  The image looked good so on to the first shirt.Vinyl-12

Step 10. I place the shirt on a board, well the board goes inside the shirt. This does 2 things. First it makes a solid, flat printing surface and second it protects the back of the shirt from ink seepage.  Once the shirt is ready, I place the screen, hold it down and pull the inked squeegee across the screen.  In this case I had help available, so I made husband hold the screen while I printed.  I carefully check the image by lifting the bottom of the screen, with a firm hand on the top keeping it in line, in case. If the print looks good, I lift. If the print it too light I gently replace the screen and pull a little more ink over it.  NOTE: If this is not 100% lined up, it will have a halo of double printing, so it better to pull the ink over then image a couple more times the first time than to try and line it up to reprint.

Step 11. Once printed, I remove the shirt from the board, place on the ironing board. I place a clean towel over the dry printed image and press it with my iron set on Med-High heat.

Step 12. Repeat for all prints with this design.

Step 13. Wear the shirt!!! Also, wash the ink off of the screen.Vinyl-13

Once this design is old and over all you have to do is pull the painters tape and vinyl off.  That's it, no chemical to clean the screen it's just ready for the next big design.

Circus obsessed.

It started out as a simple facebook posting, " I need a book to read this summer, what does everyone think of 'Water for Elephants'?" I ended up with some very good feedback about not only that book but others that I should look into. I ordered my copy of 'Water for Elephants' on Amazon and patiently waited by the mailbox for it to arrive.

As I was waiting for the book, I saw an advertisement for the movie with Rob Pat and Reese Witherspoon.  Ok book -  get here now before the movie comes out.

The box arrives, is ripped opened and the first chapter was devoured in minutes. What a fantastic well researched book about early circus life. I loved every page of the story. Every character became my favorite.  I wanted to be Marlena, with her beautiful costumes riding the horses.

The book review: A well researched book about the early train circus. The hard life of the Depression era when tough decisions had to be made just to keep the show on the road. Ruthless choices striving to become better than the "Greatest Show on Earth". An emotional trip through a young man's life, set on a course for greatness, it gets turned upside down and kicked in the nuts. Love, passion, romance and circus. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be sick to your stomach and you're heart will ache all for the love of the show.

LOVE – I was in love, with Jacob, Marlena, Rosie, the circus. I read the book again, and as of right now, again. I convinced my husband we MUST see this movie.  With little details of the story, he said sure. We went, sat with our popcorn and while the movie is different from the book it was still the circus. The main points are the same and although at first was upset that it was different, grew to love it in its own right. Vintage Circus, oh how I love you.

EvecircusI soon bough tickets for Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey when they performed at Hershey's Giant Stadium.  When went to the preshow, the little one went down in the Ring and saw the Elephants, the main attraction with cotton candy and snow cones in clown cups. A souvenir of a large stuffed elephant, whom she rightfully named Rosie. Then a tour of the menagerie after the show.  Then Husband won tickets for a circus that was touring through the area, let's call it "The Not So Greatest Show on Earth", but fun for the tiny one. Between this book and our family adventures an obsession was born -  A love of all things Circus.