Friday, November 27, 2009

A very thankful Thanksgiving

I was hoping to get something posted last night, on actual Thanksgiving, but...didn't. We had gone up to Olympia, for dinner with both of my aunts on my Dad's side, all of their families (5 out of 7 of my grandma's grandchildren in one place!), my grandparents, plus a bunch of my aunt's husband's was quite the gathering. I'd been very excited for it though and it was so wonderful to see so much of my extended family. Plus, Chris got to go, which is a rarity, so that made it extra special.

However...the drive home. Was. Not. Fun. It was raining (of course, kind of the way things go here). Here is a glimpse from the drive up (which Chris drove):

It was raining much harder on the way home, plus it was dark, there was lots of standing water, there was quite a bit of traffic...ugh. I don't like being the one in control of the vehicle driving 65 mph down I-5, containing everything that is the basis of what I am thankful for. And that is all I could think of the entire drive home. It was nerve wracking. I think I could have cried when I saw our exit.

Ok, I am slightly exaggerating--but only slightly. Next time, I will be taking the offer to sleep on any spare space and not set out for home at 7:45 pm, on a stormy night. Or, maybe I won't let Chris drink four glasses of wine so that HE can drive! (Although I really do think that whoever is with the strange family should be allowed to drink, y'know, just to make things more enjoyable!)

I am very glad that I wasn't aware how crappy the drive would be though; at least I got to have fun at dinner without it hanging over my head! I hadn't seen my cousins for a quite awhile and they're all getting so OLD! (I am the oldest, on both sides of the family, so it makes me feel old to see Siraj as a JUNIOR in college, and Jamal almost graduating high school, and Naseem almost driving, and Lizzie as such a pretty, mature, young woman). Don's nephew brought his three-year-old daughter, so there was even a new friend for Danny and Isaac.

Reema and Don cooked an excellent dinner (I think the other Michelle had quite a hand in several of the dishes, as well); Don even did cornbread stuffing, so I was in heaven. I think Chris was very happy to have a ham, too, alongside the turkey.

I don't know how they'll all feel about their pictures being on the blog, but since everyone is adults, and no one is engaged in any compromising behavior, I'm going to post some pictures. :) I will probably leave out Danny and Isaac's little friend though; I have some really cute pictures, but I don't want to post pics of other people's kids w/o their consent--I wish I would have thought to ask before we left. But then I feel like a bit of a dork: "Hey, can I put your pictures on my blog?!" Um, yeah...

A disclaimer before the pictures: Danny took many. He's gotten pretty good with the camera, and I thought he might be able to get more candid pics, as little and unobtrusive as he is, but I ended up with lots of pictures of the chandelier, some white flowers, and a vase full of Christmas balls, not to mention the angle (think a 3 foot person taking pictures vs. a 5 1/2 foot person taking them...). Maybe I'll hang on to the camera during the Christmas festivities.

Danny and Isaac chasing Bosco, Reema and Don's mini-schnauzer, around the dining room table. You can see the boys' little blurry heads on the opposite side of the table. They did this for the first hour we were there, then intermittently throughout the night.

The kitchen: Reema rooting around in the fridge; Don carving the ham; Chris pouring glass of wine #2. Josh, the other Michelle's boyfriend, is wayyyyyy in the background.

My cousin Lizzie and the boys. I can't sing Lizzie's praises enough, she is the most wonderful 13-year-old I've ever met. The boys love her, too...if only she lived closer and could babysit :)

Already taking pictures of himself!

Me, Liz and my grandma. Wait, she's Liz's grandma, too!

Josh and Siraj...and Bosco, of course! The boys (Reema's boys, that is) were up playing video games a good portion of the night, so I don't have many pictures of them, which is a bummer. Siraj looks so much like Dad, though you probably can't see it too well, here.

Great-grandma loading up the dessert plate, of course! The first thing she did when we got there (at 2 pm, mind you) was feed Danny a rice krispie treat.

 Remember, Danny took the picture! It would actually be great if Jamal's head weren't chopped off. Michelle had the idea of taking the pictures on the stairs, "just like they do for prom!" So there were quite a few sets taken...

All the cousins...Grandma, you must be so proud :)

Hmmm...Grandma probably should stand in the front!

 Uh-oh, what'd I miss?! Danny caught Chris in the act.

Happy thanksgiving! (You may see this on our Christmas card, if I manage to send them out this year, that is.) I hope everyone had a wonderful day with lots of friends and family and food! I would list everything I'm thankful for, but...I think the blog and pictures probably give you a pretty good hint! 

Monday, November 23, 2009


--a term of endearment (I think...!), frequently used by my dad when I was growing up to describe my sister, brother and I on days when mischief and mayhem ruled (which was probably most days in a house with 3 kids, each a year apart--my parents were insane, apparently).

My kids are hellions today.

It started last night, at 3:30 am, when I was awoken by the laundry room door opening and shutting. Danny was in there, looking in his muddy jeans' pocket for his police car. Really? At 3:30 am?

He came and got into bed with me and Isaac (why we have a king-size bed!). Isaac woke up and decided he needed water. I got up and found a water bottle. After getting back in bed, I realized the cat had been let into the house when the laundry room was opened, so I got back up and threw the cat out. Got back into bed only to realize Zeus had been trapped in Danny's room (he goes crazy when he's trapped--scratching and whining and I did briefly, very briefly, consider just leaving him to learn his lesson), so got back up and freed the dog.

Luckily they let me sleep until 8 am.

By 10 am, my coffee had been spilled twice (though admittedly, Chris spilled it the first time--he's a hellion, too, I guess); a bowl of Indian corn had been spilled beneath the dining room table; oatmeal was smeared all over the kitchen counter and Isaac's head and pajamas; there had been approximately five fights; Isaac was throwing everything he could get his hands on and alternately riding and hitting Zeus; Danny had smashed his mouth on the dining room table...

We'd been up for TWO hours!

I had given myself the go-ahead to skip the gym today, too, but after all this, I decided I'd rather be running and lifting weights! So at the last minute, the boys were Kid's Club bound and I got a blissful, sweaty hour to myself. It was so worth it.

And now, some pictures of the hellions on their new bikes, on a walk we took yesterday evening before dinner. There's a ton of construction a block away from us--a housing development AND a major road being torn up--and it had been begging me to take the kids for some good dirty play for a few weeks now, and I finally got around to it. Plus, when there are construction vehicles involved--Danny and Isaac need no more incentive!

Look at that balance!

Danny fell in this mud about two seconds after the picture was taken. He then tried to convince me to wipe his muddy seat and handlebar on my white coat...ha! Right, kiddo! A deep mud puddle did the trick.
Isaac, looking for the moon...

And man, are they getting fast on those bikes! I had to jog a couple times, but it's a nice change from the snail's pace we sometimes take :)

I love you, little hellions!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lacto-fermented cranberry chutney

My grandma gave me a ton of fresh cranberries about three weeks ago--my grandparents and my parents are former cranberry growers, so I guess you could say cranberries hold a special place in all of our hearts. I still miss the smell of harvest (um, but not getting home from school, putting on hip boots and having to go help!).

Anyways, I am bad and still had a stash of LAST year's cranberries in my freezer. I had purposely left some in the fridge, so that I'd get moving on them, instead of continuing to accumulate them...

I'm making cranberry sauce right now (part of tomorrow's snack for Thanksgiving week of preschool!), but there were way too many for just sauce. A friend had mentioned cranberry chutney to me, which got me thinking about fermented cranberry chutney.

What did I do before google?! It took a me a little while, but I found a thread in a Mothering forum (YES! Reason #149 why I love Mothering!), with a recipe for lacto-fermented cranberry chutney. I probably would have just done it myself, but I had a few bombs trying to adapt pickling recipes into fermented recipes this summer (watermelon rinds, yuck), and I hate wasting the ingredients. The woman who posted the recipe happens to live in Portland, too. Would it be creepy to try and contact her?!

Danny helped me make the chutney--if it involves the food processor, that kid will help with anything. You'd think pushing the "pulse" button on the Cuisinart delivered an IV shot of chocolate, the way he acts! But it's nice, I like him to be involved in the kitchen--I'm hoping my sons will be able to cook. Future daughters-in-law, you're welcome :)

For my family, who may think I'm weird with the fermenting stuff and not want to eat my food anymore, read what Sally Fallon has to say and eat up!

Lacto-fermented cranberry chutney
  • 3 cups of cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of nuts (pecans was suggested in the recipe I found, we used hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup of rapadura 
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 cup of whey
  • 1/2 cup of prune juice or other juice (I used apple juice)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cloves
  • juice from 1 orange
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
Pulse all, except raisins, in food processor. Stir in raisins. Ferment 48 hours, then refrigerate.

Usually the fruit ferments are good for 1-2 months, I've found. I weighed mine down with a smaller jar, to keep the solids under the liquids. And--I totally forgot the raisins. Maybe I'll stir them in afterwards. Or maybe I'll just chalk it up as a good excuse to make more of this later on in winter!

And this is what the boys were doing, while I played with cranberries:

 UPDATE! This is delicious. We will be making it again. Danny and Isaac both liked it, too :) I did let it ferment for a little longer than the recommended time--probably more like 60 hours. It just didn't taste tangy enough for me at the 48 hour mark, and probably could have gone even a full 3 days. Maybe next time...

My baby is not a baby anymore...

I had to do a post about Isaac. He's been amazing me lately with way too many things to keep quiet! And as the baby, I feel like his accomplishments (maybe a big word for a two-year-old, but whatever, I'm his mom and I think he's amazing!) sometimes go unnoticed in big brother's shadows.

A little after Isaac's second birthday, I realized the poor kid did not know colors, whatsoever. Bad mommy. With Danny I'd been so good pointing out the "black cat", the "orange pumpkin", the "green tree" get the idea. Danny and I also used to read all the time. I mean, an hour a day type of reading, even more on some days. Of course we still read quite a bit, but not like that anymore. So I enlisted Danny to help me teach Isaac his colors--we read a lot of color books, I quit slacking on pointing out colors, and Danny continually quizzed him ("Isaac! What color is this truck? Isaac! What color is the chair? Isaac! Isaac!"). Isaac was recognizing colors within a week. I was amazed, and very proud, at how quick he picked it up. Quiz him next time you see him, it's fun :)

Isaac really really loves going to preschool with Danny. He gets left behind with Chris on most Tuesdays to accommodate the carpooling schedule and is always very upset to know Danny and I are going to school. Fridays aren't so tough, b/c I don't usually help and then he gets 1-on-1 time with Mama, though he's still sad to see Danny leave. Anyhow, he's really picking up letters and numbers. He sings parts of the alphabet ("Q, R, S" and "X, Y, Z" are his favorite parts--he sung throughout the grocery store the other day); he does funny counting to play hide and seek ("2, 4, 2, 4, Ready or not, here come!"; the number 18 is very popular with him, too...).

And let's talk about Tommy the cat. Dad bought Isaac this cat for Easter when Isaac was, oh, 8 or 9 months old. Isaac loved it when he was a baby--he'd suck on the tail in the car for quite awhile, it was a little gross to be honest! Anyway, Danny busted it out of the animal bin one day awhile back, with HIS cat that Mom bought for him, and named them both: Nikshi is Danny's black cat (no clue where the name came from); Tommy is Isaac's orange cat. Ever since, Isaac has been sleeping with Tommy, often times packing him around the house. There's usually a cement mixer in the crib, too; for some reason Isaac really likes cement mixers. He's lately started naming the different types of vehicles and construction equipment, no doubt influenced by big brother :)

One place he's not influenced by Danny is his interest in music and instruments. He's forever turning things into "drums" and runs around banging on them and saying, "Drum, drum, drum!" Danny will actually copy Isaac in this area! Bongos have made it onto my Christmas list for Isaac :) He loves to sing and dance, things Danny practically hated at this age. We can calm him down with the Itsty Bitsy Spider; turn on any type of music and get him to dance; he sings songs by himself; he likes library story time type stuff (Danny refused to participate, even from my lap!).

Ok, this is long...I probably shouldn't even post it, but I decided that a bonus to keeping this blog would be that we'll have something to look back at--almost a digital scrapbook, I guess. If you made it this far, you must love Isaac almost as much as I do :)

I love you my little Shooey, never quit amazing me!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Honey ginger muffins

I got it into my head last night that muffins tasting like gingerbread would be great for breakfast this morning. Danny and Isaac agreed. After a bit of searching (googling "ginger muffins" did not get me the results I wanted, but "gingerbread muffins" did), I found this recipe and got really excited.

Until, for the SECOND time, I made the mistake of thinking I had molasses, when, in fact, I did not. There is a bottle of Karo dark corn syrup that keeps tricking me (which I could probably use in place, but yuck, I reserve corn syrup for only when necessary, like fudge or, b/c those are necessary sometimes). Molasses is now on my grocery shopping list :)

I'd already started soaking my flour (you can read about why I soak flour here and here, if you're interested), so the show had to go on. I'd used honey instead of molasses in the gingerbread people, and it worked, so I subbed the honey in. I also used coconut oil instead of butter; replaced 1/4 c. of the water with whey (for the soaking); used 1/2 c. rapadura instead of sugar; and added a few grinds of pepper (I love the peppery-ness of gingerbread items, and when I was refilling my pepper grinder last and smelling it, I decided that the next time I made something like this, I'd try adding pepper--and it was good!). I think the recipe is now mine!

I think the original recipe would be delicious, but if you'd like to try mine (I think I know at least one person who will)....they were delicious, and of the 15, only 4 remain and they will not make it through the day. Well, bread baking is commencing, so the fresh bread MAY save them for the morning...we'll see.

Honey ginger muffins

Night before:

Whisk the dry ingredients,

  • 2 3/4 cups soft white wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 or 4 grinds of pepper
  • scant 1/2 cup of rapadura
Melt and whisk together, then whisk into dry ingredients,
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of whey (or just plain yogurt, or buttermilk, or kefir...)
  • water to bring the whey up to 1 1/3 cups
Mix all of this well, cover and leave on the counter overnight.

In the morning, whisk in 2 large eggs (or 3 small, which was all I had) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sift in 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda, whisk one final time, fill muffin tins, sprinkle a tiny bit of rapadura on top and bake at 375 for about 20 min. I baked mine for 12 min, then rotated and did another 10 min, and I think they could have come out a minute earlier.

I didn't do the glaze, either; too much work in the morning, plus I try to save powdered sugar for frosting, not breakfast!

I'm also trying french bread for the first time today.  I can't decide which is better: the heat of summer and NOT turning on the oven, or the cold of late autumn/winter and having the oven on all day, making the kitchen all warm and yummy smelling...

Friday, November 13, 2009


I love buying weird food that I don't know how to use.

My parents did this as much as possible when I was young (though living in a town of 1000 is slightly limiting), and through my grandfather's cooking, I was always being exposed to different stuff. Now that I have kids of my own, I want to make sure that they grow up appreciating a variety of foods, from different cultures.

Plus--it's fun for me. I like to think of this as stay-at-home-mom continuing education. A google search always yields recipes I can't wait to try. Most of the odd stuff I buy comes from Azure: parsnips; dulse (seaweed flakes); adzuki beans; millet; plum vinegar; and now, when I saw persimmons last week, I figured, "Why not?"

And now, I have to figure out what to do with them. They're sitting in the middle of the kitchen island, lest I forget about them, stashed away somewhere. Every time he sees them, Danny asks me, "Mommy, can we eat the persimmons yet?"

No, we can't. Azure sent me Hachiya persimmons, which fall under the "soft-ripe, astringent" persimmon label; there are also "firm-ripe, non-astringent" varieties. We have to wait until the persimmons feel "like a water balloon" before they're ripe, and therefore not nasty tasting. The other kind can be eaten just like an apple.

All the recipes I've found for the Hachiya persimmons are mainly for baking, which is ok with me! I did see in a few places that some people like to eat the liquidy-pulp inside the skin, or freeze it as a sort of sorbet; we'll probably do that with one, just to get the full on, unadulterated persimmon flavor! The others...I have plans. The James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread and Persimmon Oatmeal Cookies are at the top of the list.

Now to wait for the ripening. I will be updating with how they turn out!

As a bonus, you can predict your winter with persimmon seeds!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The one billy goat gruff

Danny and Isaac have NEVER heard the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff (which is unfortunate--I really want to find a nice book that has stories like this in it).

Yet the other night, while I made dinner, they tore the couch apart and totally re-enacted the story! Danny made a couch cushion "bridge" between couch and ottoman, which Isaac repeatedly crawled under. I came to see what was going on when I heard Danny saying, "No little babies under my bridge!! I eat little babies who go under my bridge!!", and Isaac cracking up and crawling/running away.

Hmmm...Danny's even making a bit of a troll face in that one picture.
Uh-oh, and now Daddy is going to be mad that they were jumping all over the couch. Unfortunately, necessity sometimes trumps house rules (like when dinner is going and the kids are clinging to me and whining, and Daddy is getting ready for work [in peace!] so I suggest, "Go make couch forts!!" Yes, necessity...)

Homemade apricot scrub

 Ever since I can remember, growing up, there was always a tube or jar of St. Ives Apricot Scrub residing in our shower. My mom used the stuff all the time, and probably around age 11 or 12, I started caring about my skin and was thus inducted into the cult worship of apricot scrub. And it has been residing in MY shower ever since, in its various incarnations.

Until...about a year ago. When I really started getting crazy about the whole minimal chemicals, minimally processed, all natural, organic-as-much-as-possible life. My dear St. Ives Apricot Scrub went on the chopping block. According to the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database, the St. Ives Apricot Scrub products had scores ranging from 7 to 10 (on a scale of 10, with 0 being completely innocuous, so far as we know, and 10 being pretty-much-guaranteed-to-give-you-cancer/allergies/ADHD/asthma/autoimmune get the point). I was slightly alarmed.

The reasons for the high scores? Fragrance and methyl-paraben. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG; they're responsible for the Skin Deep Database) there is a lot of evidence that methyl-paraben effects the endocrine system, as one of those wonderful estrogen mimickers (there's a whole slew of chemicals like this...BPA and phthalates also come to mind). Which also means it's being implicated in estrogen stimulated cancers. Parabens are also known to be irritating and cause skin allergies. Methyl-paraben has been banned as a use in fragrances in the EU (but it's because it can cause "skin depigmenting" in some individuals, not b/c of hormone-disrupting effects or cancer). You can see more information on methyl-paraben here.

Fragrance is kind of a confusing one. I mean, it's pretty obvious what it's used for in products, but why is it bad? Because the FDA has allowed companies this catch-all term for proprietary purposes. Gotta love the good ole' FDA. So basically, a company can put anything into it's "fragrance" and they don't have to disclose it to the consumers. I can see where the FDA was trying to protect property rights here, but...really? All sorts of nasty chemicals show up in "fragrance", including the aforementioned parabens and phthalates. You gotta wonder if some of these companies aren't dumping the hazardous chemicals into their "fragrance", just to bypass the labeling--or is that just me being crazy?!

So on closer inspection, my beloved St. Ives was, uh, not working for me anymore, to say the least. I didn't even mention the sodium laureth sulfate, the PEG-100 Stearate or the triethanolamine, b/c the fragrance and parabens were enough to convince me. I just don't believe that we need all of that crap in our skin care products to make our skin look good.

At first, I switched to a "natural" apricot scrub that I found through my beloved Azure. This one was by a company called Earth Science; I initially bought it b/c I could find NO facial scrubs, easily available to me, that did not contain fragrance. This one at least contained no parabens or sodium laureth sulfate and only scored a 5 on the Skin Deep Database (this is still considered a "moderate hazard" though), again mainly b/c of the fragrance. But, they seemed a more truthworthy company, and the label says "fragrance oils" and it was the last listed I figured it would do, until I could find better.

And then life caught up with me and I switched my all-natural bent to more of our food and the apricot scrub got lost in the shuffle, until now. And I am again purging my skin care and cosmetics, b/c the food is under control, for the time being.

So I am sick of paying money for ingredients I don't know (or trust). This was the most expensive item in my shower, at $5.90 for 4 oz. It was amazing, when I started paring down the chemicals, how the products became cheaper...

I have embarked on a quest to find the perfect homemade scrub though! It's one of my favorite products, and I think exfoliating is very important--I'd like to look 27 for awhile!

The first "recipe" up was a very simple one that I found in a Reader's Digest book I bought at Fred Meyer's about a year ago. The entire book is comprised of stuff you can make at home, rather than buy. It ranges from Oreo's and pizza crust, to facial scrub and lotion, to bathroom cleaner.

The facial scrub: 2 tsp of finely ground oatmeal + 1 tsp of baking soda. Mix with some water when ready to use. I made up a quadruple batch to store in the shower; I'm not into making fresh stuff for every shower by any means.

And the verdict, after four uses? It definitely makes my skin feel nice (I think even softer than either apricot scrub), but it's very messy to apply and doesn't stick to my face very well. And it smells like oatmeal, which I don't mind too much, but other people might! I wouldn't mind something with a little more grit either, like the ground up nutshells commonly used in the commercially available apricot scrubs. (I have found ground nutshells available through Mt. Rose Herbs, too, so I will be looking for a recipe that incorporates these.)

On a side note: I made a wonderful discovery a few days before I made my oatmeal scrub, that definitely made the job easier. Most blenders (including my cheap Oster), will work with a Mason jar instead of your huge blender top. So you just screw your blade and gasket on like you would to the blender base, and voila! a tiny little jar to grind tiny amounts! Plus, it's already in a storage jar! My blender base works with wide-mouth half-pint jars and the normal mouth pint jars. I'm almost kinda ticked I have a separate coffee grinder now :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Even on a bad day... children make me smile :)

On the way inside, from an errand, Danny and I were discussing the mold growing on our pumpkins. One pumpkin is a cat, and I commented, "The kitty has fur growing on the inside!"

Danny said, "Wait, the fur is supposed to be on the OUTside!"

And just now, Danny is upset with me, b/c I couldn't change the handlebars on his bike like I'd promised--they're just too hard for me to peel off. I told him he'd have to wait for Daddy to do it, so he's been sitting in the kitchen, sulking. I told Isaac that Danny was sad and that he should get him his favorite toy to cheer him up. Lo and behold, Isaac returns seconds later, with a squishy frog Danny had received for his birthday. And then he went and got this shake and go car (also a birthday present) that Danny also loves. These really are two of Danny's favorite toys right now, and it's amazing that Isaac is so observant!

And now Danny is happier. Way to go, baby brother!


At the grocery store the other day, Danny saw the huge display of pomegranates and begged me to buy some. They were 2 for $3 (this was at Safeway), and since they'd been $3 apiece at Fred Meyer's, I complied. Plus I was impressed he even remembered what they were.

After his quiet time, while Isaac was still asleep, Danny and I cracked them open and got all the good stuff out. Danny ate every.single.seed that he removed...guess he really likes them!

Now we've been eating them for a couple days, and every time I pull them out of the fridge, the conversation goes something like this:

Danny: "Yay, pomegwanates!!!"

Isaac (10 times louder, and clapping): "Ayyyyyyyyy, papa gwandmas!!!!"

Danny: "No, Isaac, not 'papa gwandmas'; say pomma. gwanate."

Isaac: "Papa. Gwammas."

Danny: "No, no, Mama, Isaac can't say it right. Isaac, say POMMA. GWANATE."

And so on and so forth.

I love their conversations. I love that now they have them without any prompting or encouraging from me.

Family fun day: block foam recycling!

Ok, weird, but we had a nice day yesterday, and it was centered around going into Vancouver to recycle a TON of block styrofoam that I'd insisted on keeping for such purposes, instead of throwing it in the trash. I wish I would have taken a picture of the collection: it was occupying a good 4' x 6' space in our garage (maybe bigger), and stacked about 4' high. At least it was there, and not in a landfill though.

If you'd like info: Clark Co. Solid Waste Calendar of Events. They do the recycling events once a month.

Chris woke up early to come with us; we got the car loaded with the foam while the kids played in the driveway. I promised them a stop at a park for complying with the drive. It was raining, hard, when we got to the collection area--I felt so bad for all those old people out, volunteering--that's some dedication to recycling.

We went to Marshal Park, which was right there, and it was still pouring; I assured a hesitant Chris they'd only play for like, 5 minutes before the rain got to them. But nooooooo...they wanted to stay out, even though they were soaking, Isaac didn't even have rain boots, Danny was wearing a fleece coat with next to no hood...when they are properly attired, at home, it is a battle to get them to go out and play in the rain!

We eventually drug them away with a promise of hot cocoa (which I was more than happy to give, so that I could have egg nog latte #2 of the season).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gingerbread friends...and cars, and motorcycles

I went to Costco on Tuesday, just for dog food, and came out with the dog food, a bottle of wine, two types of cheese, and Gingerbread Friends. I can't resist her books. I can't resist Costco's ploys, either, apparently.

We read it before naps that day, and of course it led to Danny wanting to make his own gingerbread baby and friends. We got the dough made that afternoon, while Isaac was still napping, but the baking of the cookies got postponed until Wednesday.

Danny got to use his new rolling pin and cookie cutters that he'd received for his birthday. Isaac actually used a rolling pin correctly! And resisted eating all the dough. I was so proud of my baby :)

The cookies were great, sorry we can't share over the computer :( You'll just have to console yourself with some pictures!

And here they are, enjoying the finished product:

Nana was in town and stopped by, later in the day, and got to sample some of our goods. And then she took some to Brenda, Tom and Bean for us, so I guess they did get dispersed a little.

Poor Mom got mauled, I couldn't get a single picture of the boys holding still! They were very excited to see her, and show off their new bikes and skills, and jump all over her.


For Danny's birthday party we bought this little cardboard house that is completely undecorated, so the kids could paint it at the party.

Unfortunately, it rained the day after the party and the house was in sad shape out on the deck.

It was raining all morning, and our house was somewhat picked up, so I decided to resurrect the cardboard house (we did pay $20 for the dam thing), let it dry a little inside, and have the boys redecorate it. And it kept them occupied for a almost an hour, though I did have some marker to clean off the walls and floor, but this is what Magic Erasers are for.

Danny drew himself and Isaac, anatomically correct even, and then a cow next to them. The cow is the upper left picture (with 4 legs, even); Danny is to the right of the cow; and Isaac is down below.

He's just begun drawing actual pictures that resemble actual things, so this is exciting, though I'm a little surprised (and can't quit laughing) over the fact that he's drawing genitalia!

After I oohed and aahhed over this picture, he told me, "But wait, Mama, now I'm going to draw something really cool!"

And proceeded to draw a whole array of fire trucks, ambulances, Life Flight helicopters, and fire rescue vehicles, with a single firefighter thrown in.

He was very proud of his artwork!

Now while Danny was working diligently, you can take a peek at what Isaac was doing:

That's right, eating markers and crawling in and out, in and out. Mischief and mayhem as usual, for the little Shooey. He only drew on the wall once though, and on the floor accidentally, so I'd say we're improving :)

What a nice, quiet morning! (Oh geez, and then I add this last picture, and here's Isaac trying to dismantle the house!)

Good eats!

My kitchen adventures have been yielding some impressive results lately! I love it when that happens--too often I come up with concoctions that only I like and the leftovers sit in the fridge and don't get eaten. Sometimes even I don't like what I come up :) But I get bored so easily, cooking the same thing over and over, so experimentation keeps me interested in, and enjoying, the cooking process--much to Chris's chagrin!

Tuesday night was definitely one of my successes, though: squash and sausage pasta sauce over gnocchi. Chris went back for seconds and Mom wanted to know how I made it--that means it was good!

I had a roasted buttercup squash (from our CSA, I have no clue where to find it otherwise, but acorn, delicata or pumpkin will make good subs) leftover from Halloween--apparently the kids had no room for squash, what with grilled cheese and cocoa in front of them.

I had heard (or read) Rachael Ray talking about using cooked veggies as a pasta sauce--she'd done cauliflower, which I still have yet to try--so I decided that the squash could work as such. Monday afternoon, Danny and I pureed the squash in the food processor, using whole milk and a little bit of chicken broth to thin it to a sauce-like consistency. We added some fresh sage, nutmeg and of course, salt and pepper. Normally, I probably would have just let that be the sauce, but Chris was going to be home and he isn't too fond of my vegetarian meals. So I needed meat.

Alas, the dinner didn't get made Monday night b/c of picking Chuck up at the vet late, and my poor planning--we had Annie's mac and cheese and fish sticks that night, which is probably Chris and the kids' favorite dinner. Why do I bother?!

 And as luck would have it, at the gym Tuesday morning, Rachael Ray was on (apparently she's really influencing my cooking right now!), and making a lasagna from a pumpkin sauce, coupled with Italian sweet sausage. I didn't have Italian sweet sausage at home, but I do have tons and tons and tons of ground beef, so I decided I'd season that with some fennel seed and it would be close enough to sausage. Because, you may have discerned from above, this family doesn't have nearly sensitive enough palates to discern beef from pork. :) So I sauteed up my beef with the seasonings, and then simply dumped my already made squash sauce over the top and let it simmer while I dealt with what went underneath the sauce...

And, b/c I have to make life as hard as possible for myself, I didn't want regular old pasta, either. We'd eaten too much of it lately. Gnocchi, which is an Italian potato pasta, came to mind. Danny was excited to help me out again, and I have to say, it's great having such an enthusiastic little kitchen helper. He's even washing dishes for me now! The gnocchi was super easy to make though, and very kid-helper friendly. Danny was very happy to be eating the "milky", as he called them, that he'd helped to make.

If only he would have been so enthusiastic about the spinach I served on the side!

Here's the finished product, but disclaimer, the picture doesn't do it justice. I think I've found a new respect for all of the cooking blogs out there, with all of their pretty pictures. I have no clue how to make my food look pretty!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An 'F' in pet ownership

Ah, our poor animals.

About a month ago, Chuck--the cat we ALL love, even Chris--came home with a small hard lump on his side. I made Chris check it; he said that it wasn't fluid filled and we could just keep on eye on it. So we did. And it got smaller and disappeared.

Then, Saturday, as I mentioned in the Halloween post, I was petting Chuck up in Danny's bed (he loves to sleep with Danny) and the lump was back and very big. I brought him out to the living room to keep an eye on him for awhile and decided that he most definitely was not feeling good: wouldn't eat breakfast, was obviously in pain, very lethargic. Chris checked it again, declared it a fluid filled abscess and suggested that if Chuck were to live, we should get him to the vet.

Maybe I'll change our grade to a 'C', b/c at least we kept an eye on it and rushed him to the vet.

Luckily, our vet clinic was open (ER vets are not fun, or cheap, we know this from Zeus) and they squeezed him in. One of the reasons why I am still driving down to Salmon Creek instead of finding a new vet here. Plus, the visit came in actually under their estimate, and was pretty reasonable.

Poor guy had a raging fever and was dehydrated, so they admitted him to drain the abscess and then kept him until Monday evening to make sure the infection cleared up. I was very excited to find out there is now a broad-spectrum antibiotic for cats that requires ONE injection and lasts for 10-14 days. No shoving pills down his throat!

And I had to share a picture, b/c he looks hilarious with his cone head thing on. We've been taking it off to allow him to scratch and lick non-open-wound areas, but he goes right back to licking the abscess as soon as we turn our heads.

You can see in the picture, he's waiting at the door to be let out, but he's supposed to be inside for 10-14 days. We'll see how long that lasts.

Ok, now I sound like a crazy cat lady, but we were all fairly concerned for poor, sick, Chuck and babying him has taken up a substantial amount of our time.

Zeus, Oscar and Biscotti and more neglected than ever. Chuck better sleep with one eye open...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Countdown to turkey day!

I totally pirated this idea from a friend, who got it from a magazine, and so far it is working like a charm.

We made a turkey (just construction paper), with a feather for every day from November 1st until Thanksgiving (the 26th, in case you need to know). On the front of the feather is the date, on the back is a clue to where a piece of Halloween candy is hidden (well, two pieces in our case, one for each kid). We rip off a feather each afternoon and away they go! Kind of an advent calendar/treasure hunt combo.

The kids love it; it keeps them occupied for awhile, searching for the candy; and this way the candy gets eaten a little more slowly and I don't get bugged for it. As a bonus, Danny has been making collages out of construction paper, every since helping me make the turkey. Wait, that might not be such a bonus, judging from the million jillion teeny tiny bits of construction paper all over the floor in his room...

Simple loves

Every night before Danny goes to sleep, we cuddle for a little bit and talk about our day. Tonight, when we concluded and I told him that I loved him, he responded with this: "I love candy. And rocamatrol [remote control, the way Danny says it] cars. And red." I wish everything I loved could be summed up so simply!

And by the way, great grandma: good job with the b-day present! If only it would have been made of candy...