Sunday, February 21, 2010

Danny's creations

Danny has been amazing me with his building skills lately. He's actually beginning to plan and strategize and it's so fun to watch the wheels turning in his little head.

The first is his railroad track. I moved the railroad tracks to a bin in the living room and it's amazing the surge in popularity we've seen! Both boys make their own tracks--Isaac's are pretty random, just whatever piece he grabs. Danny started making small circles, and then pulls this out:  
I was a little surprised. He was so proud of himself. And then Zeus broke it, though Danny took it very well.

 And then there's his own Lego house. Him and Isaac were awake very early this particular morning and quietly went out and played Lego's and let me sleep. They love me :) Danny finally came in to wake me up, and did so by saying, "Mama, mama, LOOK at my house!" It was such a nice thing to wake up to.
Zeus, again, getting in on the action. Maybe he's a little jealous that he lacks opposable thumbs?

I swear this kid will be some sort of engineer. He chooses to watch the likes of How It's Made or Heavy Metal Task Force over cartoons and he's obsessed with taking apart and rebuilding, figuring out how this wheel spins or what to do if it stops. Though he assures me he wants to be a policeman with Jack :) I'm ok, either way!

Daddy's boys

I  couldn't resist posting a few pictures, all taken the last four days, which Chris had off.


The next two pictures are Danny's Lego house, which Chris was building for him until at least 3:30 am. I woke up and heard him scrabbling around in the Lego bin. He's crazy. I guess it's better than playing on Facebook though.

And Chuck, sleeping with Chris. Yes, he's sitting. And yes, he's weird. He stayed like that long enough for me to run and get the camera and take FOUR pictures.

Chris did do a lot more than sleep during his days off :) Like trim up the pine tree in the backyard to give me more landscaping fun and the grass a little more light. Thanks, babe!

Outer space pancakes!

The last time I was at my grandma's house (about three weeks ago?), I was perusing a Williams-Sonoma catalog and happened to comment aloud about some outer space pancake molds ("Oh, how fun!").

If you know my grandma at all, you wouldn't be surprised to learn that on Thursday, a box from Williams-Sonoma showed up on my doorstep! I actually left it by the door forever, not able to figure out what I'd ordered, thinking maybe it was an early birthday present that I shouldn't open. After we returned from a Costco shopping trip that night, it dawned on me, so the boys and I ripped it open and found the outer space pancake molds. Danny and Isaac were VERY excited. So I promised pancakes in the morning.

Of course, they were a bit of a pain in the butt. And mine do not look nearly as pretty as the ones that Wiliams-Sonoma shows, but whatever. We loved them. And the recipe was absolutely delicious.

The last moon and planet got a little brown--there were a couple little boys who felt like fighting all morning and Mama got distracted.

Now for the delicious recipe:

Outer Space Pancakes
2 eggs, beaten until frothy (I think this was the secret)
2 C flour, sifted (I used all soft white wheat, of course)
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
3 T sugar
1 t salt
21/2 C buttermilk (had none, so I used sour cream watered down slightly--wouldn't have ever known!)
4 T melted butter
1/2 t vanilla
Beat eggs, set aside.
Whisk together dry ingredients.
Stir everything together, but just until it smooths out. Don't over beat. 

YUM! I think these could have been soaked, too, of course I'll plan on trying it in the future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cars and trucks and things that go!

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go! is a book, a very big book, by Richard Scarry. It is one of Danny, and now Isaac's, all-time favorite books. It has given me many hours of peace and quiet. I was brain storming preschool themes with Danny, and this book happened to be lying in eye sight, so I suggested it, and of course it was a winner.

For preschool each week, whichever family is hosting picks a theme, and most of our stations revolve around that theme.

For art this week, we had "painting" with cars: the kids drove a few various small cars through a shallow pan with some paint, then drove the cars onto the paper. I think Danny is waiting for a new piece of paper, here, and watching Grace work on hers. Painting seems to always be popular.

The sensory bin was our box filled with cornmeal, some black beans and some hard white wheat grains. We put in every small construction vehicle we could find, and the construction bin was born. Danny and Isaac played in this for several days prior to our preschool week, and are still playing with it a few weeks later.

Science on Tuesday was rolling different size cars down a ramp (not popular); on Friday it was building balloon-powered "cars" out of small cardboard milk jugs and lid wheels (very popular). The writing station had big pictures of various "things that go", with the words written underneath: "car", "bus", "airplane", "train", "motorcycle", and "van". This was not popular either, I think maybe because of me moving our table to a slightly lighter traffic area. Usually the kids really like writing. 

Math had nothing to do with our theme, but I was excited to use these for preschool! Chris' mom bought the boys these magnetic triangles and squares, and they stick together to form 3-D forms. This was very popular; Danielle and Isaac played with them almost the entire first choice time. I've kept them out on the table and Danny and Isaac have been playing with them quite a bit. As a bonus, every time the cats or dog get close to any laying on the ground, they stick to their collars's hilarious. So hilarious.

I think our last choice station was the role playing one; for that I had our car rug out in the living room, with the kids' parking garage. They didn't really play with that either. It's so funny, the things they like and dislike. Things that I think will be winners, flop. Things I'm not so wild about, they love. C'est la vie. I had actually come across an idea for playing "ice cream truck" for role playing, and I came up with all of these ideas to make fake ice cream and popsicles, to make the ice cream "truck", coins for "buying"...and I ran out of time and it just didn't happen. I think they would have loved it, so I'm kinda ticked with myself for not following through.

We played Red Light, Green Light several times throughout preschool this week. They loved it, and now Danny and Isaac and I are playing it fairly often. 

It was a fun preschool week though, aside from fighting over the Strider bikes (totally on Danny and Isaac's part) during outside time on Tuesday. Preschool has been very fun this year, I think Danny is going to be very sad to possibly lose some of his buddies to kindergarten : (

Sprouting lentils

I was cleaning out some nooks and crannies in the kitchen last week and found the sprouting screen I bought....last summer. I had made one (failed) attempt at sprouting immediately after buying it and gave up.

In case you're wondering: a sprouting screen is simply a piece of fine mesh-type material that fits perfectly over a Mason jar (a wide-mouth, in my case), under the screw band; they cost about $1-2.

My first sprouting attempt failed because I failed to pay close attention to the details. I soaked hard white wheat berries overnight, and then instead of rinsing and draining, I just kept filling the jar back up completely with water. No, no, no. After 4 days, they looked and smelled very gross and there was no sprouting happening.

What you're supposed to do: soak your grain/bean/seed, completely submerged in water, overnight. Very important to use filtered water, too. Chlorine is not conducive to life! The next morning, you drain, rinse, then set at a 45-degree angle to allow it to continue to drain. And you rinse as many times a day as you remember (ideally at least 4), and continue with the draining. This is why a sprouting screen is so handy--you keep the grain/bean/seed in the jar and just drain them through the screen.

I have what seem like millions of types of grains and beans around. I decided on lentils, just because they sounded good. I only have plain, old brown lentils; I've wanted to buy green French Puy lentils and the tiny black beluga lentils, but Azure doesn't carry either, and I forget to check every time I'm at Whole Foods. I'm at a loss for where else to look.

So...I filled up my Mason jar (a wide-mouth quart), approximately one-third full of lentils (probably about one cup), rinsed them a couple times, then filled the jar to the top and left them overnight.

Then, the draining and rinsing. To drain, I propped the jar at an angle in a cake pan, which turned out to be a bad idea, as the pan was metal. You'd think living in the Pacific NW, I would have a better grasp on what happens when metal is exposed to moisture continuously. My screw band, cake pan and sprouting screen were sporting rust within a couple days. So YOU should use a better contraption for draining, as I will next time :)

I started this on a Friday night, and the sprouts were about a half-inch long by Monday afternoon.

My jar was very full; next time I'll use a bit less lentils.

As it happened, the day after starting the sprouting, I checked, one of my fave food blogs, and she had Palak Daal (an Indian lentil and spinach dish) posted as her newest recipe. I love daal. My lentils were sprouting. I had a huge tub of spinach from Costco. It was fate. 

This picture is the lentils right when cooking started. Apparently I forgot to take one of the finished product.

In addition to reaping the health benefits of sprouting, the recipe cooked in one-quarter of the time (a bonus to soaking grains, also). I also reduced the water to only 4 cups, as the lentils had already absorbed quite a bit, and it was perfect.  I didn't have the asafetida the recipe calls for; again, hard to find. We ate it with some homemade whole wheat flat breads (which I even managed to soak the flour for!) and yogurt, and I called it good for dinner. The recipe was really good, I'd recommend it, sprouting or not. 

And now, I am planning more sprouting adventures. Chia seeds from Azure are next, then some soft white wheat, I think.