snow(ish) day

When I opened my eyes yesterday morning I could see the shiny whiteness peeping in through the curtains. Snow! It wasn’t much, but it was snow. Snow means a snow day and, buddy, we lived it up!

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We started the day off right with some pop-up pancakes topped with berries and syrup (you should try these).

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Crazytown was begging to go out, so I put Sweetboy down for a nap and dug out the long-johns. Last year she would not even touch snow and freaked out when it got on her shoes. I’m so glad that phase is over! When we stepped onto the porch she said, “It’s so beautiful today. It’s really pretty!”

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We made a (sad) snowman named Trotro, smashed snowballs on the sidewalk, and talked about what we would do when we got back inside. Our hands were cold.

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So we snuggled on the couch, watched Sesame Street, and ate cookies. Yay!

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We also had tea parties, colored pictures, took naps, ran around like crazy people, and played dress-up, per usual. The afternoon highlight for Crazytown was a bubble bath, always fun. We ended our fun day with a very brief Skype call with a good friend, a pumpkin smoothie (recipe below), and a little vacuuming (special treat in Crazytown’s world).

Lately we’ve been doing lots of naptimes and bedtimes together, piling into the “big bed” and reading books together. That’s my highlight of the day, snowy or not. It is such a blessing to me to cuddle up with my two little thumb-suckers in their sleepsacks, feel their warm little bodies relax (hopefully), and finish out the day peacefully. Thankfully, there’s not too much angst around here, but no matter what we make a point to have a happy bedtime. No one likes to go to sleep feeling out of sorts. A good story, a prayer, and a few rounds of “Jesus Loves Me” go a long way.

I keep forgetting to measure the smoothie ingredients, but here’s my best guess:
1 frozen banana
1 cup pumpkin puree (make your own!)
1-2 cups almond milk (or any other milk)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon real maple syrup, optional (good either way, but the syrup makes it extra tasty)

the girl who cried potty

When we learned that I was pregnant with Sweetboy, we immediately started putting Crazytown on the toilet. She was about a year old and happily peed if we timed it right. We hoped that it would make the “real thing” a little easier when the time came, and it has, for the most part. Fifteen months later, she is finally initiating the bathroom trips. It took a while, but it was never stressful. She has recently realized that if she mentions the potty, Dave or I will most likely drop everything and run. And she’s trying to use it to her advantage, most often while stuck in the high chair. (We’re trying to move on from the high chair, but sometimes she just needs to be restrained.)

So tonight, an hour after bedtime, I heard her start talking. I couldn’t understand at first, but pretty soon it turned into, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommay! Mommayyyyy!” I rolled my eyes and went back to washing dishes. Then, “I have to go potty!” Sure you do. “I have to go potty! Mommy! I have to go pottayyyyyy!” Maybe it’s the real thing. I went in and had this conversation:

“What’s wrong? Do you have to pee?”
“I want that cat.”
“No, you have enough animals. Do you have to go potty?”
“I want a book.”
Uh huh. Just what I thought.

So I fixed her blankets and animals, sang a song, and turned to leave.

“Oh, pray! We should pray!”

So I prayed…and fixed her blankets and animals, sang a song, and went back downstairs. She quickly started up again. “Mommy! Mommy! I have to go potty!” The screeching escalated to wailing and sobbing and gnashing of teeth. “Mommmmmmaaaaayyyyyyyyy! I have to go POTTY!” I trudged up the stairs thinking something along the lines of, You want to go potty? I’ll put you on the potty. Let’s see how you like getting out of your cozy crib and going into the cold bathroom.

She peed. A lot. And I apologized. We did the bedtime routine again, and she went right to sleep.

Potty training is awesome.

stumpkins pumpkins, etc

First, a confession. I have a pumpkin/squash/melon addiction. There are at least eight different varieties on my porch right now, and autumn’s not over!

Second, what a pleasant and interesting weekend we had! We had planned to be in Chicago celebrating Dave’s grandparents’ 64th wedding anniversary/family reunion. Then Crazytown caught a nasty cold at daycare and shared it with Sweetboy and me. We were too sick to travel on Thursday but feeling stir-crazy enough to get out of the house a bit this weekend. We were seriously bummed to not make it to the party, but we had a little family fun anyway.

So, Stumpkins Pumpkins. Dave heard about a pumpkin patch from someone at work. The last pumpkin patch we visited was Eckert’s outside of St. Louis, and we headed out the other day expecting to find acres of pumpkins, bumpy hayrides, cups of steaming cider, and family-friendly games. We followed some hand painted signs down a winding road and pulled into a driveway…in front of a house…in a neighborhood. We found a yard full of pumpkins, a deserted tractor, an “honor system” money jar, and a chicken coop. We were literally the only people there. It was certainly not what we expected, but we had a great time! We just made ourselves at home and enjoyed the little homestead.

Sweetboy enjoyed picture time with the pumpkins, and Crazytown would have stayed on this lawnmower all afternoon.

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We talked to the donkeys, tramped through the crusty corn maze, and pretended to go on a hayride.

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I did feel disappointed by the absence of autumnal snacks, so we made our way to Sweet Frog for some frozen yogurt.

Yay for family adventures!

Yesterday we made our weekly trip to the farmer’s market and the produce stand. The farmer’s market was a sad sight, with only two farmer’s selling their produce. It seems to be dwindling down, and I will miss it over the winter! I did buy some rhubarb and chestnuts on a whim, simply because I’d never cooked with them before. (The rhubarb, and all its glory, deserves its own blog post. Stay tuned…)

But then we got to the produce stand and found a fall festival in progress! This place had everything: ice sculptures, winos, Germfs – German smurfs – a Teddy Ruxpin wearing mascara, an old lady wearing Kid ‘N Play hair, and none other than DJ Baby Bok Choy. Oh wait, I’m getting it confused with New York’s hottest club, TasteThis place had face painting, pumpkin painting, live Gospel/bluegrass music, autumnal snacks (!), pumpkins for sale (!!!), and most of our groceries for the week. Dave gathered and purchased our produce while Crazytown ran around like a heathen and I tried to keep Sweetboy from choking on the banana he was eating/smearing all over me. Then we ate cookies and listened to the “I Saw the Light.”

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Today I managed to let go of my typical wonder-how-much-I-can-accomplish-today attitude and rested. Our church nursery prefers that snotty kids stay home (totally awesome when you’re the non-snotty ones), so we read The Jesus Storybook Bible over cold pie (Did I mention rhubarb?) and coffee instead. Dave carved a pumpkin, and we sat on the porch for a while, enjoying the overcast day and watching Crazytown run around with the neighbor girls. Sometimes it’s nice to just be.

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P.S. Dave took most of these great pictures.

perfect granola

I began adapting Alton Brown’s recipe over a year ago, and I think I might have perfected it! I mean, he’s an okay cook I guess, but anything can be improved, right? Dave and I agree that this granola is the perfect combo of sweet and salty, crunchy and chewy, fruity and nutty. Plus, it doesn’t have any of the preservatives or unnecessary ingredients that a lot of store brought granolas.

 

    Mix in a big bowl:

  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup sweetened shaved coconut
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar

 

    Warm in a saucepan:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • capful (?) pure vanilla extract

 

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture, and stir it up so that everything’s gooey. Spread it out on two small cookie sheets or a big jelly roll pan. Bake at 250* for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. You really should stir it every 15 minutes. When it’s finished, stir it one more time and leave to cool completely. It will harden into some nice crunchy clumps. Add 1 cup of dried blueberries, and store it in an airtight container. 

Now, you can really do whatever you want with this. I usually just use whatever nuts, seeds, and fruit I have on hand, but this combo is my favorite. Sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts, cranberries, crystalized ginger, whatever. Go crazy! You can also experiment with the proportion of syrup to honey, just staying within the 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons amount. I used to use regular old shredded coconut, but I finally found shaved coconut at Dekalb Farmer’s Market. It’s amazing! But either one will work.

I believe this granola is best enjoyed with Stonyfield whole fat yogurt or unsweetened almond milk.

What do you put your granola on? Do you wear socks with sandals?

pig, the sweet potato

One of my daughter’s favorite things to do is help me in the kitchen. If she hears me so much as pick up a fork, she runs in, drags the step-stool across the floor, and climbs up to see what I’m doing. This morning I was chopping sweet potatoes, beets, and turnips to roast for lunch (toss with olive oil, s & p, and thyme: yummy). She picked up a snub-nosed sweet potato and said, “It’s like a pig!” Huh? “It’s like a pig! I can give her a kiss. It’s my buddy! She’s really so nice. It’s like a baby!” and so on. She was enamored. She hugged, kissed, diapered, and fed her little Pig. Unfortunately, I was unable to capture Pig rolling over, which she did with great skill.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage “That’s her diaper…It’s too little.”

 

P.S. See that pasta maker in the background? It’s my birthday present from Dave’s parents. I’m going to have a date with it very soon. With any luck, we’ll enjoy our fresh spaghetti as much as this kid.

a trip to the garden (and a cream puff update)

Crazytown went to school today, and while Sweetboy was taking his morning nap, I ran around back to dump the compost and check on the garden. (I had planned to do a garden “tour” with pictures, but most of it is pretty crusty at this point. You didn’t miss much.) I found some green beans, a couple of stubby carrots, a lovely beet, and the last of our cherry tomatoes. It was a nice little haul, here at the twilight of our summer garden.

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Oh, yeah. An entire branch of peppers had snapped off, so I brought it along too. I see stuffed peppers in our future…

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But I was particularly struck by the beauty of the morning. It’s that autumn business again – gets me every time. It was still cool but sunny. Everything was all dewy. I broke off the beet greens but decided they were too beautiful to cast aside. Have you ever had a beet green centerpiece? It feels a little jungle-y, and I like it.

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Gardening is some sort of therapy for me, and I wish I had time to do it more. Or a giant fenced yard where I could garden and let the children roam free. With the chickens. Some day…

One of my favorite bloggers wrote about autumn today and shared two quotes that say exactly what I’m feeling these days.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”     – George Eliot

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”     – Anne Shirley (L.M. Montgomery)

Okay, you guys. Yesterday I mentioned some pumpkin cream puffs. They did not disappoint! I told Dave we need to have a dinner party so I can serve them and impress people. Wanna know the best part? The recipe is so easy you wouldn’t believe it! I did exactly what she told me to, and they came out perfect. I didn’t even have to scoop out the insides before I put the cream in. Go make them, pronto! Here’s the tray of freshly baked puffs. (I took a “before” picture, but the lighting was horrible and they just looked like blobs anyway.)

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And the plate of puffs with cream…

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The recipe makes extra cream, which Crazytown appreciated. She mostly licked pumpkin cream off a spoon.

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In any case, I will definitely be making these again. Oh, here’s a good recipe for pumpkin pie spice if you don’t have any on hand. And apparently cream puffs are best if eaten the day they’re made. So guess what my late-night snack will be? I’d better be careful or I might just turn into a cream puff.

feeling autumnal

It’s that time of year again when I vow to never forget that autumn is my favorite season. Of course, come May, the Smeagol in me will insist that, no really, spring is the best. It’s an ongoing debate. In any case, my pumpkin pureeing frenzy has begun. It just tastes so much better when you roast and puree the pumpkin yourself. I like to stock the freezer for the year. Fortunately, my produce guy Jim has a whole shed full of pumpkins…and cushaw squash and permelons. We tried the cushaw last year, and it made an awesome pie. But according to Jim, the best thing for pie is the permelon. It’s healthy to boot! And I quote, “Yeah, some hippy-lookin’ guy came up here the other day and flipped out when he saw those permelons! They’re full of anti-oxidants or something.” Great! Sign me up! That’s it there, the long peachy colored one. For now, it’s part of my decorative autumn display (aka pile of squash, pumpkins, and gourds). Crazytown picked out the tiny ones.

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But yeah, this autumnal weather just gets in my bones. I take pictures, knowing that they will never fully capture the sights, sounds, and smells of autumn, especially here in West Virginia where it’s so wild and wonderful. (Note: Whenever my grandfather mentions West Virginia he calls it “W Vahhh.”) I love the silence of autumn. The mowers are quiet, the fans are off, the cicadas have hushed. I feel calm.

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Tomorrow I’ll be using some of my freshly pureed pumpkin to make pumpkin cream puffs. Booyah! I’ll let you know how it goes. They will probably be delicious.

these are a few of my favorite things (for baby)

Every once in a while friends will ask me about baby must-haves, and I’ve always wished I could just direct them to a pre-made list. Well, now I can!

books:

websites:

  • Baby Led Weaning is, hands down, one of the best parenting decisions we have made, for so many reasons!
  • Ask Lenore I just recently came across this website. It seems to cover several issues, but I wish I had seen the breast feeding advice when Crazytown was born.
  • Modern Alternative Pregnancy I haven’t used this website much, but I subscribe to Modern Alternative Mama. Again, I wish I had known about this website with Crazytown.

stuff:

We had/have plenty of other stuff too, of course, but these are the things I really love. I’m sure I’ll think of fifty more as soon as I hit “publish.”

Oh, and if I could bottle up the sweet aroma from the top of my baby’s head, I would add that to the list. He smells deliciously of oatmeal and new chicks, with a splash of milk. (Emily D, you know you would buy it.)

man cannot live on bread alone…or can he?

I just realized that I forgot to share one of my fave new recipes! One day I wanted to make bread but didn’t feel like looking up a recipe (can you say lazy?). Lucky for me, there happens to be a recipe on the bag of King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour so I tried it. Delish! I did make a few changes. Instead of just throwing all the ingredients together as the recipe suggests, I mixed the yeast and sugar in warm water (reduce your milk by that much), then added the other liquid ingredients, then the dry. I also melted the butter first. But yeah, it’s a tasty and easy bread, a new go-to recipe for me.

And these brownies. Boy howdy! If you’re looking for a chocolate fix, you must make these. They’re whole wheat! Basically a health food!

Okay, have you people heard of cooking in the dishwasher? My mom recently brought this novelty to my attention. I happen to be at her house right now, so maybe we’ll give it a try… If you have any tips leave a comment!

We might also try baking “boiled” eggs in a muffin tin. Have you tried that yet?

baby, month by month (warning: photo influx)

Poor little second-born baby. I think I took all of four preggo pictures with him, and we didn’t have a newborn photo shoot. But I’ve managed to get monthly pictures…except for month 5. Think he’ll forgive me? Today I did a 25-week photo shoot to make up for it. That is a thing, right?

My mom took a bunch of family pictures when Sweetboy was a couple of weeks old. I love them because we look like ourselves. We have fun, and we love each other!

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1 month:

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2 months:

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3 months:

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4 months:

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25 weeks:

ImageBlue eyes 🙂  He’s laying on a beautiful quilt made by my lovely and talented Aunt Jenn.

IMG_5700Too bad you can’t see the action going on here…a bit of pelvic thrusting, if you will.

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IMG_5719so Grandfather got involved 🙂

 

 

(I’ll make the photos less giant next time.)