Monday, June 29, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...June 29, 2009

Outside my window...the sweet chatter of squirrels and happy tweeting of birds. Our big backyard tree is a happening place.

I am thinking...about my wonderful family. And about my friends, that are just like family. :)

I am thankful husband's altered work schedule this week: he'll be home more than usual, which I love!

From the kitchen...several crock-pot recipes to try (since the heat is really making me shy away from my oven): lemon and dill salmon (fish, in the crock-pot --- who knew?), tamale/cornbread pie, and chicken wraps (PF Chang-style, the recipe says). Hopefully, we'll have some winners out of the bunch.

I am wearing...jeans, yellow floral tank top, and sandals.

I am reading...still working my way through Playful Parenting, but now I've added Heaven on Earth. I'm loving it so far. It has really struck a chord with me and the atmosphere of learning and living I'd like to implement in our home.

I am hoping...that our new-house situation, which is currently in limbo, sorts itself out this coming week. I hate when things are just up in the air, waiting to come crashing down (or not). Whether or not things go the way we hope, I just want it settled one way or the other. Patience is not one of my strengths.

I am creating...a new (again!) menu rotation for summer. I am too busy right now to keep changing it up, so to speak. I need a solid 4-week rotation to see us through the hot months.

I am praying...that God will give us the answers we are seeking, help us find the right path on which to tread.

I am hearing...Roo trying to coax Rascal through her dilapidated couch-cushion tunnel: so far, he's not falling for it!

Around the house...chaos and disorder reign supreme. Must gain control over that immediately. My mind can't take much more of this...stuff...everywhere I look.

One of my favorite my son's face beams every time he sets eyes on his big sister. She can get smiles from him when no one else can!

Some plans for the rest of the week...print up pictures to include in some thank you notes I'm sending out; grocery shopping (since that didn't happen this past weekend); a visit from my Mom and my sister; a Fourth of July BBQ on Saturday; and a strict earlier bedtime for myself!

Here is a picture thought (or two, or eight!) that I am sharing...We spent a lazy Sunday at the park: having a picnic, gathering sticks, capturing ladybugs, kicking the ball around, swinging, spying mushrooms growing under the trees, admiring the gardens in front of the surrounding houses...

While Peggy from The Simple Woman is taking a much deserved break for the summer, Grandmother Wren is graciously hosting the links for the Simple Woman's Daybook Society. Please meet up there for more inspiring Daybook entries!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Roo and I were cuddled on the couch reading a book. One of the pages we were looking at had several dogs pictured.

Roo: "Look at those dogs all lined up."

Me: "Can you count how many dogs there are? Try counting with your eyes instead of your finger." (If there is more than 3 or 4 of anything, she counts using her finger pointing to each one as she goes along, so she doesn't skip one or count another one twice, etc.)

Roo: "Hmm...I can do that. 1...2...3...4...5...6......7! 7 dogs in a row."

Me: "Yay! You did it. You counted the dogs just by using your eyes!"

Roo: "And my mouth!!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

4-Cheese Lasagna

Oh my. I really meant to get this post up a couple of days ago, like I said I would do. But, better late than never, I guess. And I think you just might think this one was worth the wait:

4-Cheese Lasagna

(Although as I was typing, I realized it's actually 5. However, we've gotten so used to calling it 4-Cheese, I think we'll just stick with it. Maybe because I don't really consider cottage cheese a cheese, per se, perhaps that's why my mind has latched onto the number 4. Of course, if you don't consider cottage or ricotta to be in the "cheese" family, you can call it 3-Cheese Lasagna. Or, lasagne, if you prefer it that way). Anyway, moving on...

1.5 lbs. ground turkey (Just a side note, my husband and father-in-law don't like lasagna made with turkey, they usually only eat it made with ground beef. That being said, they both thought this was made with beef when they tasted it. It has so much flavor that it wins over staunch beef lasagna-eaters. Try it, you'll see. On the other hand, I don't like the taste of ground beef. So even if the beef-eaters think it could pass for beef, it tastes like turkey to me. Really, it works on so many levels: 3-cheese, 4-cheese, 5-cheese, beef, turkey, etc. How many one-dish meals can you say that about?)

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 16 oz. can peeled and diced tomatoes, undrained

2 6 oz. cans tomato paste (one regular can of paste and one can that comes with the oregano and basil added to it)

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried sweet basil

1/8 tsp garlic salt

9 lasagna noodles, cooked

1 1/2 cups small-curd cottage cheese

1/2 - 3/4 cup ricotta cheese

8 oz. swiss cheese, shredded

8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

good handful parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Brown turkey and onion in skillet. Add tomatoes, both cans tomato paste, and spices. Simmer 10 minutes.

Arrange 3 noodles in a 9"x11" pan. Add half the swiss and mozzarella over the noodles. Then add half the cottage and ricotta cheese. Next spread about half of the meat/tomato mixture. Repeat with 3 more noodles, cheeses (Swiss, mozzarella, cottage, ricotta), and meat mixture. Add the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 or so minutes. This can be assembled the day ahead and refrigerated. Bake a refrigerated lasagna for 45 minutes.

Now I got to making this lasagna so frequently that I prepared some things in advance to speed it along. For instance, I made several batches of the spices (salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic salt) and stored each bundle of spices (good for one pan lasagna per bundle) in old black film canisters. {I know, you are probably wondering who still possesses the old 35 mm film canisters. Well, I do. I thought they were cute little containers and I just knew I'd find a use for them. Obviously, if you are not a pack rat such as myself, you could use those little snack baggies or some small tupperware pieces.}

Occasionally, I also browned the turkey and onions in advance and froze them in ziploc bags. That way, I could just take the turkey/onion combo out of the freezer the night before. On baking day, I would throw the meat and onions in the skillet and add the tomatoes and spices. Cutting out that browning step seems small, but it does save time. I will say that I prefer the taste of the meat and onions cooked the same day as the lasagna is assembled. Something about the texture of the thawed onions was off-putting to me. But hey, experiment and see what you think.

Also, you certainly can make the lasagna using two cans of regular tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. Because the recipe calls for added spices anyway, it doesn't alter the taste a great deal if you skip the part about using 1 can oregano/basil flavored tomato paste. I just happened to substitute one can of regular for one can of oregano/basil by mistake one day. Turns out, we liked it better that way and so that's the way I continue to make it.

I would love to give credit where it's due for this recipe, but I can't remember to whom that would be. I've been making this for about 7 years and my mind can only hold so many bits of information. I will say that I have a hunch it came from Deniece Schofield, author of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, but don't quote me on that.

Lastly, I apologize for not having a picture of the finished product. It disappeared so quickly after I made it, and before I thought to snap a photo. I am one of those people that won't make something if it doesn't come with a picture. If you are one of those people too, I'm sorry. But, try it anyway. And take of picture of it. And send it to me. Then I'll have a photo to put at the top of this post!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

I had a couple of requests for the cinnamon crumb coffee cake that I made a couple of days back, so here it goes.

Now, this recipe is courtesy of Lucy's Specific Carbohydrate Diet Cookbook, so I can't take any credit for it. Although I do alter it a bit. It is made for people on a special diet due to Crohn's disease, Ulcerative colitis, and other digestive diseases. Frankly, I know that my tastebuds are "tainted," to a degree. When you must follow a strict diet for medical reasons, you develop a taste for non-traditional baked goods because they are your only option. However, I've served it to several guests who weren't following such a diet and they liked it. So, it must taste pretty much like a traditional coffee cake to those with "normal" palates.

Now that I've laced this post with all sorts of disclaimers, I bet you're totally ready to just dive in and make this non-traditional/could-possibly-pass-for-traditional coffee cake! Really, though, it's pretty tasty.

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup homemade yogurt (you can absolutely substitute plain yogurt here)
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup raisins (Personal preference here, I leave them out because I can't stand raisins in my food)

Topping: (I triple the amounts for cinnamon, honey, and butter shown here -- I'll explain why later. Leave the almond amount the same)

1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup sliced almonds

For the cake, mix together butter, honey, yogurt, and eggs. Stir in almond flour, baking soda, salt, and chopped nuts (and raisins, if using).

In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, honey, and butter. The original recipe calls for this topping to go only on the top of the coffeecake. However, I like to add some to the middle of the cake and double the amount I put on the top of the cake.

So, if you tripled the topping amount, add about 1/3 of it to the middle of the cake by pouring half the batter into the buttered pan, adding some of the topping mixture to make a middle "layer", then add the other half of the cake batter over the topping. Then add the remaining topping (you should have about 2/3 of it left) over the top of the entire cake. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake @ 310 degrees for 30 minutes.

If you didn't choose to triple the topping amount (you're crazy and you'll be sorry later -- just kidding!), then just pour all the batter at once into the buttered pan. Pour the (scant!) topping over the batter and finish off with the almonds. Bake at 310 for 25-30 minutes.

Sometimes I eat this warmed up, as-is. Other times I add a dollup of homemade jam: that is strawberry rhubarb pictured up top. Yum!

*Note: goods baked with almond flour can overcook quite easily and become very dry. Do not overbake!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Flylady would be proud!

A little background on me: I have a tendency, as a stay-at-home-mom in a one-car household, to stay in my pajamas all day. Generally, the kids follow suit. It's not something I'm proud of, and I cringed a bit when I typed that opening sentence. But, it's true more often than not.

I did the FlyLady thing for awhile and I did find that my efficiency and productivity increased when I "dressed to the shoes," as suggested. It perked up my attitude too. That whole, "If you look good, you feel good," thing.

So, feeling in a rut lately, mentally and domestically, I decided we would all start getting dressed before going downstairs to breakfast. Here's a little shared dialogue from the other morning:

Me: "Let's get dressed."

Roo: "Where are we going?" [Reason #1 that we usually get dressed]

Me: "Going? We're not going anywhere today."

Roo: "Who is coming to visit us?" [Reason #2 that we usually get dressed]

Me: "We're not going anywhere and no one is coming to visit today. I just think we should get dressed."

Roo: "Yay! I love getting dressed!" [she yelled as she ran off toward her closet]

Hmm...she's sure easy to please, isn't she? The fact that getting dressed is such a novelty around here is a bit concerning. We'll have to work on that.

Wait until she sees Mama taking it a step further tomorrow (which will be: brushing my hair and putting on a wee bit of makeup) ---- she'll think somebody really impressive, like the Pope or the Queen, is paying us a visit (of course, a "really impressive" guest to a 4 year old would probably be Curious George or Thomas the train, not the Queen or the Pope).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...June 22, 2009

Outside my garden looks to be thriving, surprisingly. Hmm... it seems the more I leave it alone, the better it does!

I am thinking...about how to sneak some fun into the week ahead. Most of what we have going on is pretty much boring (but important), adult stuff -- the kids will most likely be feeling lost in the shuffle of our busy lives this week. Where can we squeeze in a trip to the park or a visit from Grandma?

I am thankful for...the never-ending support we receive from our family: my parents, my sister and her family -- they have been so wonderful as we are undergoing some major changes and challenges in our lives.

From the kitchen... For this morning: cinnamon crumb coffee cake (substituting almond flour for all-purpose flour). For lunch: chicken salad. And for dinner tonight: 4-Cheese Lasagna and green beans in lemon butter sauce.

I am wearing...pajama pants and a tank top (it's still pretty early and I had to dash out of the bedroom this morning before getting dressed, as my son was crying and I didn't want him to wake his sister up).

I am creating...some new lounge pants for my children. We cleaned out my husband's closet this past weekend and I found several super-soft (read: worn a few too many times) t-shirts that would make comfy pants for the littles. Yay! That will keep me out of JoAnn's fabric store -- at least for this week! ;)

I am draw up a master to-do list, so nothing slips by me this upcoming (and extremely busy) week. I need to delegate certain tasks to my husband and break my tasks down by day. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to freeze up and do nothing. If I dish out a little to be done each day, hopefully I can divide and conquer!

I am reading...Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen

I am hoping...that my son (who is breastfed) is NOT allergic to chocolate, as this not-having-cocoa-thing is really tough for me on these bleary-eyed mornings. I need to avoid it for another week to get a better idea of how it's affecting him.

I am hearing...the hum of the ceiling fan above my head as I type. Racal's barefeet are pitter-pattering around in the front hall.

Around the house...a plumber is coming to fix the faucet and pipe in our tub/shower. I hope it's fixable and I hope it's not going to cost a small fortune! I have an overflowing laundry basket with my name on it, so I better tackle that today.

One of my favorite things...taking my daughter to swimming lessons while my husband stays home with our son. That way I can just sit and focus on watching her instead of walking around and around with my antsy little guy! My daughter likes it too: "Just the girls," she says as we leave together for class each week.

A few plans for the rest of the week...the plumber today, a consult with a specialist at Children's for my son tomorrow, an inspection on a prospective future home on Wednesday, and even more appointments for Thursday and Friday. Somewhere in there I have to do a big grocery shopping trip and run to the library!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing...During this crazy week, I'll be trying to channel the peace I felt gazing upon this lake on vacation a few weeks back. Ahhh...I can almost feel the cool calm washing over me (repeat to self as needed) :)

Grandmother Wren is the gracious hostess for the Simple Woman's Daybook during the summer. Please hop on over to visit Grandmother Wren and read more Daybook entries.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Start of Summer...

It was Lobster Day yesterday. We've had an annual lobster dinner in my family now for almost 30 years. It's the traditional way we kick off summer around here. The festive spread makes my mouth water: fresh lobster with plenty of butter and lemon, potato salad with asparagus and bacon, coleslaw, corn on the cob, warmed sourdough bread, and a light and fluffy dessert (this year my sister made a layered something-wonderful: Oreo cookie crust, chocolate pudding, whipped cream: simple and super yummy).

Here's Roo checking out our dinner. She pet them, carried them about, and named each and every one of them (just like I used to do when I was little). Fortunately, she didn't seem to make the connection between the lobsters crawling around in front of her and the lobsters that showed up on our plates!

My family, like many, is steeped in tradition. I love it. I thrive on tradition. It provides a kind of rhythm that soothes me. Lobster Day? Must be the start of summer. Croquet and jarts on the lawn? It must be 4th of July. Crabbing, body surfing, sandcastle building, and feasting on Jersey tomatoes = August, down the shore. Orange rolls and cocoa? Time for the annual Christmas tree cutting.

Traditions comfort and nurture us. And when we take part in traditions that go back several generations, we feel apart of something bigger than ourselves. When I look at old black and white photos of my great-grandfather and his family down at the shore, I feel that it's more than a beach vacation that we're taking. It's building on who we are and where we've come from as a family. Going back to our roots. Every time we take part in long-standing traditions, we send those roots down a little deeper.

Some people like to change things up -- give traditions a modern flair. My sister is one of those people. She appreciates tradition, but longs for something new. She is completely comfortable with the idea of skipping the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing recipe handed down from our grandmother, and getting take-out Chinese food instead.

I, on the other hand, am a traditionalist. A deviation from tradition is okay once in a great while. But, on the whole, I want it the way it's been for as long as I can remember. That's why I look forward to days such as Lobster Day. Not only because the menu is mouth-watering, but because it just how we "do" the start of summer. They're synonymous.

As they say, the only constant in life is change. Isn't it nice to have something you can always count on?
The centerpiece: freshly-picked roses from my sister's garden. Aren't they gorgeous?!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cheap Thrills

I mentioned in my post the other day about receiving some packages in the mail containing birthday presents. Well, I left those boxes out a little too long and Roo asked if she could play in the popcorn (she meant the styrofoam packing peanuts). Since I had two special meals that I needed to prepare for a party we were going to the next day, I said "Sure." I was thinking a couple of things when I gave the go-ahead: 1.) I needed an uninterrupted block of time in the kitchen to cook, and 2.) This was part of that goal I mentioned -- saying "yes" more often.

You know the old adage about kids wanting to play more with the empty box a toy came in than the toy itself? Add some styrofoam peanuts to that empty box and you have yourself a goldmine of fun! Almost an hour and a half of fun, I might add. Not only did I complete the dishes I wanted to make, but I started a load of laundry and decluttered a kitchen cabinet.

The kids were a sight to see. At one point, Roo stood up in the box and turned in a circle, stomping as she went. Round and round, faster and faster. Heaving her knees up higher and higher. The faster she went in her tiny circle (after all, it was a tiny box), the more she started slipping and sliding on the peanuts. The scene reminded me of that "I Love Lucy" episode when she's stomping the grapes in that big wooden barrel. You know the one I'm talking about?

Rascal was happy to sit in the box and kick and squirm, slip and slide around on his bottom. The look of sheer joy on his face was indescribable. He's not one of those toddlers that will sit and stay with one activity for any length of time, so I was amazed that this kept him occupied for so long.
As I cooked, I noticed that my instruction to keep the peanuts contained to the box was disregarded. But, since I needed more solo cooking time, I ignored the fact that Roo was making it look like a ticker tape parade had come through our living room.

Before long, even I couldn't stand the peanuts strewn from one end of the house to the other -- and I have a high tolerance for chaos and disorder! I insisted on cleaning up (especially since my husband would be home in less than an hour, and, I've said in the past, he hates messes).

All in all, a fun and cheap little sensory activity. However, it was not one I was looking forward to repeating. So, the next day, when Roo saw the box of peanuts on the staircase and wanted to do it all over again, I had to quickly think of another activity with which to bribe her. And then, the first chance I got, I hid the box of peanuts when she wasn't looking. I'm all about saying "yes" more often, but I don't necessarily have to say yes to the peanuts!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Finding the Fun

Yesterday we never got out of our pj's. We were too busy playing with toys, old and new. I think that's a pretty good excuse. Dinner was cooking away in the Crock-Pot, and laundry was relatively caught-up, so I gave myself permission to get down on the floor and play. We moms have to give ourselves permission to do that sometimes, don't we? I did just as I was instructed (4 year olds love laying down the rules and calling the shots with the grown ups in their lives). I built elf houses, set up water and valley scenes with playsilks (the Kool Aid worked great as a dye), loaded horses in trailers to take them camping, made mountains out of cushions, pushed wooden lawnmowers around the floor, lent my voice to various dolls and stuffed animals.

We were delighted to get a couple of packages delivered from distant relatives, for Roo's and Rascal's birthdays. My great-aunt sent a handmade quilt for Rascal in various blues and creams (so soft and scrumptious) and a horse-themed backpack for Roo (also made by hand--she's so talented!).

A day spent in pajamas and playing was part of my plan, "Operation: Fun Mommy." Too many times on too many days, I say "no" more than "yes." I am actively striving to change that. Usually I put the kibosh on the fun because I'm anticipating the mess, or the time to set up/take down the mess, worried the fun will end in tears, or I'm behind on all things domestic (meals, cleaning) and need to put my energy there instead of indulging in what my children consider fun.

Now, I'm not so delusional that I expect to be in fun mode every moment of every day. That's not realistic. I think it's important for the children to see me doing my "work." Cooking meals, cleaning house, folding laundry: these are the things that seem mundane or rudimentary, but are actually the cogwheels of a smooth-running home. A smooth-running home is key to feeling secure and cared for and enjoying time with one another. A hot meal to fill their tummies is one way of saying "I love you." Clean sheets on their beds is another way.

But despite the importance of work, room must be made for fun. A while back, one of my "Something to Think About" quotes was this one: "There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million." So, I guess you could say that our day of "anything goes" yesterday was my attempt to see the seven million. ;)

Roo modeling her new backpack

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Fun that is "Four"

Oh, we had a special day around here. All the magic that makes up a birthday for a little girl who is old enough to understand what the day is about, and expect wonderful events to unfold one after the other. She is very "into" her birthday this year. Four is such a fun age!
This is part of a conversation we had last night after the lights were out and I was tucking her into bed. She said to me, in an excited whisper:

"On the night before my birthday, the birthday fairy will fly around looking for letters. She will flutter through my window and swoop down over my head. Girl fairies visit birthday girls and boy fairies visit birthday boys. They don't use sleighs, just Santa uses a sleigh. Fairies have wings so they don't need to borrow Santa's sleigh.

The birthday fairy will bring lots of balloons and leave them floating around my bed. If I hear fluttering in my ears tonight, I won't be scared, 'cause it's just the birthday fairy and she's nice. She will bring me a prize."

Translation for adults: We wrote a letter to the birthday fairy the night before her big day. I wrote what was dictated to me, and Roo decorated it. In our note, we told the birthday fairy how many balloons Roo wanted: four, of course! :) I told Roo that I would post the note in her bedroom window. I explained how the fairies fly around during the night and stop in the bedroom of any boy or girl with a note in their window. The fairy reads the note and leaves the requested number of balloons right above the sleeping birthday girl (or boy). When they awake, they see the balloons bopping about the ceiling, and know that the fairy was there during the night. I also leave a little trail of glitter along the windowsill and on the strings of the balloons --as they must have been clutched very tightly in the fairy's hands as she flew about the night sky! Surely, one of the most magical of the birthday surprises (or "prizes," as Roo says).

So, after starting her morning off with a balloon bouquet above her bed, Roo rose to start her special day: breakfast and snacks of her choosing; a visit from Grandma; making bug soap while wearing her new bug shirt, naturally! Also on tap: opening presents (some for her, some belated gifts for Rascal), helping Grandma in the kitchen: making and eating birthday cupcakes, reading new books, getting special deliveries from near and far -- complete with "Happy Birthday" wishes and drawings on the outside of the packages.

While feeding Rascal in bed, I was hoping my birthday girl would stay awake until I was finished. But, after the day's excitement, she was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. So, after Rascal drank himself into a little milk coma (thankfully! he's teething horribly and suffering so), I tiptoed over to Roo's bedside. She was hugging her new doll and was snuggled so peacefully under her quilt. I glanced at the clock and noticed it was 6:57 pm. Exactly 10 minutes (plus 4 years) past her "birth." I climbed into her bed, wrapped my arms around her, and I was transported back 4 years earlier: to when I held this brand-new life in my arms, stroking her velvet-soft cheeks and downy hair. Now here I was, 4 years later, my arms still wrapped around her and stroking those same cheeks and hair--still so velvety-soft. Waves of emotion swept over me. I said a little birthday prayer:

God to bless this precious life before me. Keep her safe, happy, healthy. Help her to keep You front and center in all that she does. May she fearlessly chase her dreams and embrace life fully. Lord, guide her steps and help her become the person You created her to be. Please, may I be blessed to learn and grow alongside her.

After I prayed over her, my eyes welled with tears. Motherhood has been the most heart-expanding, soul-stirring, fulfilling, and challenging metamorphosis I've ever undergone. I'm thankful. I'm grateful. It's good to be Mom. Definitely the role of a lifetime.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Princess and the Pea, Part Two

Well, 8 hours and 6 cans of frosting later, I had a Princess and the Pea birthday cake. And it almost turned out the way I envisioned it. My original plan included buttercream frosting made from scratch, but I quickly realized my frosting recipe would not yield the amount I was going to need: this cake was 6 layers (even though the mattresses give the illusion of only 4 layers), so that ate up a great deal of frosting. Plus, I had to put a few coats on the outside, before tinting it different colors and making the mattresses. Quite the project, I tell you.

I was pretty nervous about the chocolate scrollwork for the headboard and footboard, but using cocoa melting candies instead of just melted chocolate chips really made it more sturdy. Although, I did resemble one of those chefs on the Food Network Challenge shows (you know the ones that make those fragile, elaborate cakes that run about 5 feet high?) when I carried the cake from the refrigerator to the table, as the crowd assembled to ooh and ahh and keep the path clear of any obstacles.

In the end, I had one very surprised girl (it wasn't easy working on my confectionery masterpiece without her seeing it -- I told her she mustn't see it beforehand). It's important to keep the birthday cake a surprise, I think. So, she cutely covered her eyes with one hand while feeling around blindly with the other, every time she passed through the kitchen -- which happened often because, as I mentioned, this cake took me 8 hours over the course of 2 days to finish. Totally worth it. Thank goodness for video cameras, because I didn't get to see the look on her face when I brought it into the room. I was too busy trying to sing "Happy Birthday" and not drop the towering inferno onto the carpet (no one else wanted the responsibility of carrying it, lest if fall apart from point A to point B).

Roo's real birthday is this week, and we will celebrate with just the four of us on that day. I will be making a second cake for this second party. No, I'm not crazy enough to try to pull off another themed cake. In fact, cupcakes are sounding pretty good (and easy!).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Princess and the Pea, Part One

For Roo's 4th birthday, we are celebrating with a Princess and the Pea theme. The Princess and the Pea fairy tale has been one of her favorites since receiving a big book of rhyming (I know, there I go again with the rhyming) fairy tales when she was 1 year old. The book was from a librarian friend of my mom's, and it has been opened up more than half of our books put together. My husband loves it because the stories are short and sweet, each fairy tale nicely wrapped up in 12 pages or less.

So, it seemed fitting to make this particular fairy tale the theme for our princess.

I've been working on a canvas and fabric decoration to hang above Roo's bed. I gathered a dozen or so of her most worn and loved clothes from her babyhood. This is a great way to recycle baby clothes you couldn't part with (especially ones with stains, since you can snip around the less desirable parts. And yes, I saved many, many outfits: stains and all). I certainly had no shortage of pink fabric to choose from! But it is Princess and the Pea, after all, isn't it? A palette of pink seemed like a must. For the headboard and foot board, I used some chocolate brown corduroy that I used to make her some winter pants a few years back. I think the wales in the corduroy lends a nice, grainy, wood look.

I merely layered swatches of fabric as the mattresses. I made some striped fabric yo-yo's out of one of her co-sleeper bed sheets. Inside each yo-yo I placed a fabric-covered, circular piece of cardboard. All that's left to do is use my alphabet stamps and some sage green ink to stamp her name: one letter per circle. Then it will be all set to adorn her bedroom wall for many years (I'm hoping she'll want to keep it forever, maybe even take it off to college for her dorm wall?? A mom can dream!).

My next post will cover Princess and the Pea, Part Two: the birthday cake. Other than the cake decorating class I took as part of 4-H when I was eleven, I haven't had much practice decorating cakes (proof of evidence: Rascal's robot cake). Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our Boy turns the Big "1"

The Birthday Boy peeking outside, awaiting the arrival of his guests.

We celebrated Rascal's first birthday on the heels of returning from our trip. (Note to self: Don't plan on returning from vacation the night before hosting a big party -- especially if you haven't baked and decorated the cake yet, shopped for party food/decorations, or wrapped any presents. Yeah, not sure where my head was on that one).

Despite my lack of pre-planning and a very, very late night of birthday party prep-work, it was a fun day filled with balloons, laughs, family, and the excitement that swirls around children and birthdays. We went with a robot theme, mostly because Roo really likes robots, and Rascal is too young to care. Roo was more than happy to help Rascal open his presents, and play with them for him too.
I appliqued him a robot outfit to fit with our theme (and I was feeling nostalgic, so all the fabric I used came from his infant onesies and receiving blankets).

The robot cake, which Roo helped me decorate. You think you know what a robot looks like until you try to make a cake that resembles one!

Unfortunately, Rascal did spend a good part of his birthday feeling under the weather. He was feverish and congested at the start of the party. By party's end, he was flushed, glassy-eyed, and a limp ragdoll in my arms. Poor guy.

I took him upstairs and rocked with him while reading the birthday book I bought for him. It's called If I Could. It is simple and sweet. It's one of the few books I've come across that celebrate the relationship between mother and son. I've seen lots of mother/daughter or father/son books, but very few mother/son books geared toward the younger crowd. Anyway, it doesn't have many words on each page (and the ones it does have, rhyme -- I know I've mentioned my affinity for rhyming text in children's books), which is one of the reasons I bought it.

Rascal just doesn't have the attention span for reading books that his sister has (and had, even at less than 1 year of age, she could sit and listen to me read until my voice was hoarse). The fact that he sat completely still and we shared a tender moment reading together confirmed what I had already suspected: he was sick, sick, sick. For the first time in history, he didn't even attempt to grab at the pages or close the book prematurely. And, sure enough, he got sick, sick, sick just shortly after I put him to bed. Literally. All over the sheets, comforter, and floor. Ugh. Not a good way to end his birthday. Fortunately, as my husband said, "At least he won't remember it."

On to some of the "loot":

Any child of the 70's will recognize this toy: the Fisher-Price garage with elevator! My sister and I played with this exact one. My sister's son and my daughter played with it, and now Rascal gets to see what all the fun is about! (P.S. Thanks for saving it, Mom!)

This delightful board book edition of Virginia Lee Burton's "The Little House."
We have two other books by her, "Katy and the Big Snow" and "Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel," which are regular reads around here.

Wooden fire truck from A Toy Garden
(yes, that is the crown I so lovingly and painstakingly sewed for him, tossed aside in the background)

A piggy bank (that is actually a puppy) from Archiver's. Roo received a piggy bank for her first birthday from my aunt, and I thought that was such a classic gift idea! I especially liked that this bank says, "Little Buddy," which is what Roo calls her brother. :) She was more than happy to fill it for him with the little bag of money that I included with it.

Rascal is a joy and a treasure. At the same time, he has pushed me way beyond my limits as a parent. And yet, each day I get up I can't wait to go back for more! My feelings for him have certainly evolved over the past year. And while it took a little longer than I had hoped, he"fits" with us now. Or, more accurately, he has molded us to fit him!! ;) We are blessed indeed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Sibling Love

I hope these random acts of kindness between sister and brother continue for years to come.

-Head on over here for more Wordless Wednesday links-

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Back to Normal

We have returned. What a trip. It was so nice to take a break from the day-to-day routine. Even though the weather was less than cooperative:

The rain began almost the moment we pulled away from the house. By the time we reached the mountains, the rain had turned to snow. Blowing, whirling, snow mixed with hail! Hmm...this was going to be interesting.

The snow had ceased, but the wind off the water made the rainy day feel twice as cold!

We were determined not to be deterred by the rain! We drove along the winding roads, always on the lookout for moose--which we were told were everywhere. I really wanted to see a moose up close and personal, so as to snap a picture. But no luck.

Roo so wanted to go swimming, but I was pretty sure hypothermia would put a damper on our vacation. She settled for running along the water's edge and drawing pictures in the wet sand.

Mark, who is normally not known for observing or noticing nature's subtle beauty, snapped this photo of the mountains in the morning mist (just around the corner from our cabin!).

We had one partly sunny morning, so I let my children (who both must be part fish or something--they cannot get enough of the water) dip their feet in. Those cute, pudgy piggies turned purple in a hurry!

A pile of dandelions lovingly picked and set out for me by my sweet girl!

Ah, here comes the sun (less than an hour before our departure -- figures, doesn't it?). We took the kids to a huge dandelion meadow that I had been eyeing for days, thinking a romp through there would be fun. Roo protectively helped her brother walk among the flowers because "the ground is lumpy and he's going to fall and smoosh too many 'dannalines.' "

Make a wish, Roo!
I made a wish for more moments like these.

These horses made for pretty scenery right outside our door.

Gorgeous, snow-capped peaks in just about every direction you looked!

Lots of lush, green meadows at the base of the mountains.

It was wonderful having the freedom and time (read: no agenda) to just meander down any path we chose, looking for neat spots to explore ("let's go 'sploring' " was a common phrase used by our adventure-loving daughter).

So nice to take a journey together! And even though the unpacking and laundry piles have seemed endless since our return, there really is no place like home.