Friday, October 31, 2008

Fall Cooking

We made pumpkin rollout cookies yesterday. I love this recipe because it's easy to work with, is low in its sugar content, and uses real pumpkin. I can also sub some of the flour with whole wheat flour, and Sucanat in place of brown sugar works fine too. Rollout dough is fun to use with kids because, even if they don't help make the dough, they typically enjoy the cookie cutter and decorating parts! In these pictures, Caroline is doing her favorite part: peeling the scraps of dough from between the cookie shapes. She used to call this scrap dough the "wrapper," which I thought was cute.

She is covered in flour because a lot is needed to keep the dough from sticking. We used pumpkin and cat cookie cutters.

We decorated about half of the cookies using raisins, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips. Caroline liked giving the cats eyes, noses, and mouths. The raisins and cranberries didn't stick too well... but we made an attempt, anyway. Caroline also made a random gingerbread man and put raisins on it too. She's holding a baking sheet of unbaked cookies.

And here she gets ready to enjoy the finished product for dessert. This is a cat she decorated with chocolate chips. Perhaps mini chocolate chips would have worked better and made the cats look less possessed!
A few people asked me about the Cranberry-Apple Chicken recipe. So here is a photo of it. It was nothing spectacular, but it was easy, healthy, and Caroline requested seconds (which is a compliment since she isn't a huge fan of baked chicken dishes). I thought it tasted a little boring... salt and pepper helped. If I make it again, I may try soaking the apples and cranberries in a little orange juice, maybe with a pinch of brown sugar...

And finally, tonight I thought I'd add a simple, fun touch: melty cheese pumpkins in our bowls of chili. I had the chili cooking in the crock pot all day so it'd be easy to eat whenever and be able to work around trick or treating. Caroline was excited to come back in after trick or treating to find a cheesy surprise in her bowl! I stole this idea from a picture I saw on the cover of a magazine in the grocery store checkout line, by the way.

I love fall cooking! There are so many foods that evoke thoughts of this season. The chili may have to become a tradition for our All Hallow's Eve meal.

Bad Mommy, Part II

I set Cecilia down on the sidewalk while Caroline and I were eating lunch on a bench at the outlet mall. She was really squirmy and wanting to explore. Well, she fell on her nose as she was crawling. She howled, then nursed and was all better... just this red, skinned nose.

Today, she crawled headfirst off a mattress on the floor and hit her nose against the rug. What had been a minor abrasion yesterday became a bloody sight from a horror film. It didn't even bleed yesterday, but it had gotten a little scabbed, so she interrupted the healing process. You can see how it looks even worse once I post Halloween pictures. It's too late to change her costume to Rudolph or wrap her in gauze and have her be an accident victim... she'll just have to be a gruesome pumpkin.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Can you baby-proof a baby-proofing product?

teething + mobile = eaten fireplace guard

What is it? A guessing game for you

Does anyone remember the 1996 Atlanta Olympic mascot, "Whatizit," later shortened to "Izzy"? Nobody knew what it was... which I suppose was the point, but it went over like a ton of bricks. Well, there is a new "Whatizit" that I found the other day in my Trader Joe's animal crackers.

I love Trader Joe's. I have no complaints about their store of their products. But I cannot figure out what this is supposed to be! Their animal crackers are rather oddly shaped. There are other indistinguishable ones, but I think this one is the funniest-looking in the container. I mean, it appears to be a blob with three legs, does it not?

So, if YOU have a great guess as to what this is supposed to be, please leave your idea in the comments! After several evenings of raiding the animal crackers (they are really good!!), I finally had an epiphany and I think I know what it is... I'll share my idea after I hear some of yours!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Definitions by Caroline

Caroline (overheard while playing Chutes n Ladders with Daddy): "I'm on six two."

Chris: "When the six and two are together that way, it's called sixty-two."

Caroline: "This one is thirty five."

Chris: "That's right."

Caroline (running excitedly into the kitchen): "Mommy!! I'm learning to spell my numbers!"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I love this idea... I'm going to copy it. Imitation is the best form of flattery, right? I have noticed on some other blogs that people have their weekly dinner menu listed. I love that idea, and since I already write down my weekly menu plan on paper, why not add it here? It will appear on the right side sometime soon. I can't guarantee it will be kept up to date...

Our friends are moving :(

We had a going away party yesterday evening for our friends who are moving to Iowa. Caroline and Matthew are only a month apart in age and have known each other since they were about five months old. They have been best buddies for three years now (well, as much as babies can actually be friends). We met at La Leche League and from there joined some playgroups. This party was thrown by our moms group.

Here's Ryan enjoying the view while we all eat dinner. We had a pot luck type meal, with chili and hot dogs as the main course... good fall food!

Caroline and Matthew had a blast playing with the balloons.

Amy, our moms group leader, gave a card to Kara that we all signed. We will miss them so much! But we're happy for them, as they will be living much closer to their extended families once they move. We wish them all the best as they embark on this transistion in their lives!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This cracks me up...

total relaxation

Monday, October 20, 2008

Flower Girl

Caroline was the flower girl for my brother's wedding this past weekend. Uncle Mike is her godfather as well as her uncle. She had never been a flower girl before and was excited to get to wear a pretty dress and drop flower petals down the aisle!

Here she is admiring her dress while she waits to be in some pre-wedding photos.

She was so mature about the whole thing... she went with the bridesmaids willingly when thy needed her for photos, she kept the petals in the basket until the time came to drop them, and she kept her hairbows on... a major accomplishment in and of itself!

And here she is walking down the aisle. I was in the front and on the side as she walked down, so I didn't get a good view of her, but I got a perfect view of my dad crying... so I got teary-eyed, too. She was so beautiful, and it felt so special to have her participate in such an important part of family life: a marriage, a sacrament.

And, of course, I am going on and on about my daughter... but here is the happy couple, my brother and his bride:The ceremony was beautiful, as was the bride! And what a beautiful setting for a wedding - so gorgeous, especially in the fall!

And here's Caroline dancing with the groom as a final shot:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On large family gatherings

I love getting together with extended family. My family is a pretty large and loud bunch, and I like it that way. People everywhere, talking. There's always somebody to talk to, always something going on. My dad's side of the family is bigger (and therefore louder!), but this weekend, we had both sides of the family together for my brother Mike's wedding.

Mike and Caroline play Chutes 'n' Ladders while Grandaddy looks on

We had the rehearsal dinner on Friday evening, where we took up a very large section of the restaurant - we had easily doubled the number of other people in the restaurant. Most of my cousins on my dad's side were there, most of them with their wives and children. Nearly all of my aunts and uncles were in the room... only one wasn't there. It was a busy evening, full of mingling about, chair-swapping, and catching up with each other. Caroline was well-occupied between some activities at the table, eating dinner, and sitting with Gramma and Grampa for dessert. With all those relatives, there was no shortage of people for conversing with Caroline or improvising a changing table in the bathroom so I could get Cecilia into a clean diaper!

The next morning brought more family gathering time, as everyone was invited to the rental house for brunch. My mom and several other female members of the family (plus my husband, who helped out too, as well as trying to figure out why the microwave stopped working and the stove was taking 45 minutes to preheat!) prepared the food... baking quiches and hash brown casserole, cooking grits, brewing coffee and hot cranberry cider, getting out breads, rolls, ham, fruit. Plenty of food for all! The groomsmen were also staying with us, so we had a full house! And where there's a gathering of a large family, there has to be a large quantity of good food! The kitchen is the heart of a home (and the same holds true in a rental home where the oven and microwave are both broken), and we all gathered around the table, counter, and found places to sit in the open living/dining/kitchen space.

my aunt and mother working in the kitchen

So, the gathering included the following: my parents, my family of husband and two daughters, my three brothers, my mom's brother and his girlfriend, my mom's dad and his wife, four groomsmen and the best man's wife... and those were just the people who were sleeping in this rental house! The rest of the family who was staying in other rental houses came to the brunch as well: my dad's two sisters, one of which came with her husband and their son and his wife, and my dad's older brother and his wife and youngest son (whose other two sons, their wives, and collective six children didn't come to the brunch because one of the kids was sick, but they were there for the rehearsal dinner and wedding). I hope I'm not leaving anyone out ;)

This is something else I love about family gatherings... the laid-back atmosphere that allows for the older children to interact with a wide range of people, and the babies can just take it all in. Caroline had great fun watching football with Uncle Mike and his friends, and she enjoyed playing with and talking to whoever would engage her. Cecilia watched the goings-on from her cozy spot in the sling as I moved about, preparing food and taking photos. Humans are social creatures, and being amidst all this social interaction is just a real-life lesson for a baby. She experienced the sights and smells of cooking, the sounds of happy conversation and football announcers, and, as is typically the case, she dozed off as I busied myself, which just comes so naturally when I am not worrying about a schedule or quiet or that she might not be getting enough sleep. All those worries are lost when I can let go of them amidst a bubbling, busy gathering such as this.

Cecilia, tired out from being carried around while watching people

There was such a wide range of topics we could discuss - I found somebody to talk to about natural childbirth and natural family planning, as well as somebody who could reminisce about the Florida Gators football team from the early-mid 90's (we talked about specific players and plays even, both of us having recorded many games and watched them repeatedly!). We found one family member who said she was voting for Obama (we only found one total, actually). We found people to discuss parenting, the playoffs, and politics.

my brothers, Mike and Tim, and my husband

And once she was awake, there was no shortage of people to hold the baby! She was quite willing to interact closely as long as she wasn't too tired, and as long as I wasn't too close by...

Cecilia with her great-Grandaddy

Cecilia with her daddy

Cecilia with her godfather and uncle, Tim

So, if everyone generally gets along (and maybe even if you don't), make some time for your family and close friends to get together with no real plans (well, we had to get to the wedding, but our morning and early afternoon were wide open to just be... and to eat, of course!). Big families all together can be overwhelming sometimes, but they are quite an enjoyable blessing more than anything.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Domestic Contributions

I am learning to love domesticity. Preparing healthy meals from scratch in my kitchen with a baby on my hip... this is the life. This is where I am meant to be, serving God by serving my family. I forget who said it, but there's a quote something along the lines of a woman finding herself only by giving of herself. I am trying to focus more on thanking God for the simple household moments... Baking cookies. Hanging laundry out in the sun. Washing the dishes. Reading to Caroline while nursing the baby.

My mom asked me if I'd help out in preparing for my brother's wedding by baking some breads for a family brunch to be held the morning of the wedding. Since baking is one of my favorite domestic ways of serving others, I was quite happy to do this. And what a great time of year... I chose cranberry bread, pumpkin bread, and apple bread (recipes to be added eventually). By simply baking healthy, homemade breads, I can personally contribute to a special celebration... and I can include Caroline as well.

She helped me out as she desired... measuring the flour for both the cranberry and pumpkin breads. I am slowly growing in patience here; I am really working at it. I am past being concerned about the flour she spills on the floor or the fact that she always wants to taste the Sucanat or the honey... this morning, I was a bit stressed with preparing the last loaf while also packing so we could leave for the wedding rehearsal right after lunch (we were only 15 minutes late - whoohoo!). I failed in my attempts at patience with a three year old who inhaled cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in an attempt to smell them, resulting in stinging and crying which disturbed the falling-asleep baby on my back. I apologized for getting angry and we moved on. I want to make the domestic chores we do together to be pleasant times for enjoying simple tasks together. Mother gathering ingredients, daughter measuring and stirring, baby looking on alertly. The spilled flour and other imperfections are just minor bumps adding interest... just a part of the beauty of life. In the actual moment, I resolve to try to remember this.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

At the Pumpkin Patch

There is a pumpkin patch at the church where Caroline goes to Mother's Morning Out once a week. The classes each visited the patch this week. Some of the parents came, like me, obviously. The kids listened to stories and sang songs, then watched their class pumpkin get carved. Cecilia and her buddy Ryan enjoyed sitting with the pumpkins and playing with (er, trying to eat) the hay.
Caroline and Matthew are in the same class. Caroline wasn't wanting to pose for the camera.

Sadly, this is probably the best picture I got of her, and I took just over 100 pictures! She was curious about these bumpy pumpkins.

Cecilia remained her usual laid-back, photogenic self.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We got a new (old) couch

Chris had been talking about finding a couch for the sunroom. We have some wicker-type furniture out there, and it's not comfortable to lounge on for long periods. So when he moved things around in his office and decided there wasn't enough room for the couch that was there, he asked if he could bring it home. It's in really good shape and is comfortable and not hideously ugly - thus meeting my lax standards for our household furniture (clean, decently comfortable, no more than moderately ugly :) While we have kids, I really don't care what my couches look like as long as they aren't fuschia or something like that. And slipcovers can come in handy in that case! Anyway, this couch really isn't even too ugly... it goes with the carpet, anyway. God really does provide ;)

A fellow Catholic mother and blogger has been doing "Thrifty Thursday" posts, which I love the idea of. Talking about money-saving ideas with other moms in single-income families is something I enjoy, because we can all share our tips! So, one of my tips: try to find gently used items whenever possible. I gt most of the girls' clothing from consignment sales, where I can typically find good quality stuff at a fraction of the cost.

Anyway... Caroline helped carry in the cushions - they are really firm, sturdy cushions that she couldn't quite handle, so she carried in all the small ones. The crown she's wearing is something that was handed out at a parade, I think... it's been kept in her collection of dress-up clothes.

Not too crafty... Thoughts on Play

My three year old is just not all that into doing art projects. I can get out all kinds of interesting materials like new feathers and such, and her interest in it is still short-lived. I think part of this is her personality, because she always wants me to do things with her. This project I got from - sticking various collage items onto clear contact paper - only entertained her for about six minutes.

I am trying to get her to create her own fun more often in an effort to encourage more creative, independent play... Carrie wrote about this recently at The Parenting Passageway. Getting out craft supplies doesn't always help, but she really enjoys creative play with stuffed anmals and dolls. She is maturing to the point that she can play on her own with these kinds of toys for longer periods. I like to play games and do activities that have an end or a set goal or plan: reading a book, playing a board game, taking a walk. And I also love involving Caroline is my daily tasks, teaching her about the work that must be done to make our home run smoothly: sorting laundry, cooking meals, washing the sinks, doing the dishes. Even though she doesn't really "help" as in do some of the work for me (it often takes longer when she works with me, actually!), it is helping foster a sense of responsibility and usefulness in her. I think children like to see that they are needed in these ways and that their contributions are appreciated.

Since she was my first child, I often just sat there on the floor with her, trying to play with her for much of the day. Now, I'm not saying that has no merit - of course, it is important to spend some time in play. But if it becomes the center of our life, then what does that do for us? I need to take the lead in the family since I am the adult and they are the children - if we need to do laundry, then we need to do it. If we need groceries, then we need to go to the supermarket. We have to accomplish certain things, and I am working to involve my children more in the daily details of life. Cecilia just kind of goes with the flow... she is always either playing at my feet while I work or riding on my hip or back, learning about the running of a household with a close-up view. And she's getting old enough to play with Caroline bit, too... last night, while I finished up the dinner preparations, the two of them were in the living room, with Caroline rolling a roll of tape along the floor for Cecilia to chase (Caroline, in her typical interesting way, called this game "Juggling Triumphantly"). Both were laughing and enjoying themselves. Caroline felt useful by helping me keep Cecilia happy and she was having fun to boot. I made sure to tell her how much I appreciated her help with the baby (not that it's always this walk-in-the-park kind of situation... usually, Caroline is knocking Cecilia over and taking toys from her in an effort to show her how to use them "correctly").

One thing that worked really well for us yesterday was when Caroline set up a party of stuffed animals... the fun was more in the process of gathering the animals, dressing them in fancy clothes (I was asked to assist with this a bit ;), and setting up the food and dishes. After I finished what I was doing, I attended the party (it was Ensa's third birthday party), and we played together briefly. She got to enjoy engaging in her own imaginative play as well as interacting with me. It was meaningful for both of us!

So, I am trying to foster a love of imaginative play, one I had as a child. I loved spending hours playing with stuffed animals, toy horses: building elaborate towns for them. My younger brothers were my greatest playmates. In this age of the "overscheduled child" - having numerous outside activities and commitments - I hope to helpmy children learn to enjoy "just being" and being motivated to make their own fun in the areas they enjoy. So, she may not care for art projects, but she is beginning to learn to follow her own interests.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why didn't I think of this before?

We have metal closet doors in all our bedrooms and on a hall closet. They are heavy and were a pain to take off when we wanted to paint them all white soon after moving in to this house. But I came up with a use for them, too, and in this way they are so much better than wooden doors... magnets will stick to them! Caroline can work with her letter and animal magnets on this surface. I am envisioning further uses too - she has a magnetic calender that can hang on one of the knobs, and the extra pieces can stick to the door! They can stay out of baby sister's reach that way, too, if Caroline keeps them up high enough on the door!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

mmmm... Asperagus.

Four whole spears of it... not that all of the stalk part was swallowable for her, really... but four spears nonetheless

More Fall Fun

Caroline and I made these fall-colored suncatchers today. We used coffee filters and Do-a-Dots - red, orange, yellow, and Caroline wanted to use a little purple too. :) She doesn't stick with art projects for too long, so I did a lot of the dotting myself. She did the one in the center and on the left. I filled in the space near the edges.

After dotting, you spray the whole thing with water to make the colors run a bit. Then, once dry, hang them in a sunny window. Just a simple way to let Caroline take part in the fall decorations around the house.
One other simple way to get into the fall spirit: using a pumpkin cookie cutter on biscuits. We eat biscuits fairly often here, and Caroline loves to make some of the biscuits into shapes using cookie cutters.

Mel tagged me with this... thanks for the award!! You are supposed to give one word answers with no explanation, and then tag five bloggers with the award.

1. Where is your cell phone? pocket
2. Where is your significant other? work
3. Your hair color? brown
4. Your mother? preparing
5. Your father? working
6. Your favorite thing? chocolate
7. Your dream last night? forget
8. Your dream/goal? heaven
9. The room you’re in? bookroom
10. Your hobby? photography
11. Your fear? illness
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? homeschooling
13. Where were you last night? cosleeping
14. What you’re not? patient
15. One of your wish-list items? book
16. Where you grew up? Atlanta
17. The last thing you did? diaper
18. What are you wearing? jeans
19. Your TV? off
20. Your pet? imaginary
21. Your computer? laptop
22. Your mood? okay
23. Missing someone? yes
24. Your car? Mazda
25. Something you’re not wearing? socks
26. Favorite store? Target
27. Your summer? over
28. Love someone? absolutely
29. Your favorite color? clear
30. When is the last time you laughed? today
31. Last time you cried? Tuesday

And now I am supposed to tag five people. Problem is, I think all the people I will tag already have been tagged by somebody else! And not many people read my blog anyway, especially not other people with blogs...
Kelly, Charlotte, Lisa, Mel, and... uh, can I name a guy? The award looks kinda feminine! Oh well, my husband is the fifth (but you don't really have to do it, honey!).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Logic 101 with Professor Caroline

Caroline and I were discussing animal families yesterday. She likes to pretend that the cow in her toy barn is the mommy of all the other barn animals... the sheep, the cat, the pig. So, I was curious whether or not she really thought a cow could give birth to an animal from another species. So, I asked her who the mother of Mason, my parents' cat, might be. Caroline said, "Probably another orange cat."

I said, "So, Gramma isn't Mason's mommy?"

Caroline answered, "No."

"How do you know?" I asked.

And Caroline's answer?

"Well, she's not orange!"

Yes, this side-by-side comparison proves it. The distinguishing characteristic between Gramma and Mason is that Gramma is not orange.

BTW, if anyone knows how to actually get these photos side-by-side in Blogger, I'd appreciate the advice!!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Why I should stop quoting The Simpsons

I haven't watched The Simpsons in years, but Chris and I used to watch frequently in our pre-parenting days. So from time to time, we'll make reference to a relevant Simpsons quote. The other day, Caroline, while finishing her dinner, randomly said, "Thank you, Ping Pong!"

Now, this would only be funny if you have seen that particular Simpsons episode (so perhaps my brothers might find this amusing... probably nobody else), which I could not find on Youtube, unfortunately. But let's just say the quote could be offensive to those of Asian descent if you know the context. So, we had better be careful what we say in front of her, especially if she just says these quotes at random!

Another one that she repeats a lot - and this one is actually not a problem, unless offending Barney the Purple Dinosaur is a problem:

And we have sung the "Roofi" songs to her as well... and I can't find them on Youtube either! I did find MP3s of them but don't know if it's possible to get them into a blog post...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fall is here!

Fall has become my favorite season in recent years. Summer was always my favorite throughout my childhood, because of the summer break, trips to the swimming pool, my birthday, and beach vacations. None of these happen every year any more (well, my birthday does, but now I'd rather than it not come 'round each year!), so fall has become my favorite season. I love it for its smells, foods, and decorations. As Marge Simpson says, "Next to spring and summer, fall is my favorite season." I've got to stop quoting The Simpsons - more on that in another post.
To celebrate the season, we decided to make an apple pie yesterday. But not just any apple pie... a sour cream apple pie. An online friend of mine posted the recipe, and it sounded so good that we had to try it out! Caroline helped me prepare the crust by rolling it out with her own rolling pin. The waxed paper really helps the dough to not stick!

Caroline helped cut up the apples. We chose Granny Smiths, which were fresh from the tree. A friend of mine brought us these apples from a recent trip to Ellijay, to the same orchard we visited last year.

Here is the pie with the apple filling before it went into the oven and before the topping went on.

And here is the finished product!

Sour Cream Apple Pie

1 unbaked pie shell (9 inch!), bottom only
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream (can use light but not fat free)
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp flour, divided (can use whole wheat)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups peeled and chopped apples (can also use rhubarb or other fruit)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 Tbsp cold butter or margarine

Prepare bottom crust. Preheat oven to 375*F. Beat eggs, add sour cream. Stir in sugar, 2 Tbsp flour, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Stir in fruit, pour into shell. Will be full! Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. After the pie has baked 15 minutes, pull out of the oven. Sprinkle crumbles even over top of pie. Return to oven for 20-25 minutes. Cool to set before serving. After one day (or if your kitchen is really warm) store in the fridge.

We used Sucanat in place of the sugar, and we used slightly less than a cup in the filling. I like to try to make desserts a bit healthier than they would be otherwise, and this is one way I do it.

Caroline gives her approval. It looks like she's giving the thumbs-up sign, but really she is not. She liked it all except the crust - no surprise there. She never likes pastry-type crusts - not in sweet pies or chicken pot pie.

Today we made this fall centerpiece for our dining table. I got some fall leaves from the craft section of Wal-Mart (tip: do not buy the little pumpkins at WM - two out of the five in the bag I bought were rotting - ewww! I didn't know those little pumpkins could rot!). I cut out a ring from a paper plate, and Caroline glued the leaves on (with help from me, to fill it in completely). Then we put some loose leaves in the center and topped them with the little pumpkins. Now we have a fall centerpiece! We'll have to move it to the empty fourth position at the table when we eat since our table is so skinny... but oh, well, it seats us all fine, so it serves its purpose well for now!

Happy fall, y'all!