Friday, December 10, 2010

3 Years Old!

Last week my baby boy turned 3. We had a small gathering of family to eat cake and open presents. I let Embry pick out the cake, since Matthew showed little interest and she picked out this...


A not so seasonally appropriate swimming pool cake from a Jello kids cookbook that I bought a couple of years ago. Complete with swimming/floating/sunbathing bears (adult and child bears due to my mistake of buying "mini" teddy grahams instead of the regular size).


It was fairly easy to make, just a 13x9 yellow cake with most of the middle carved out and blue jello poured in. Frost with cool whip (I'm not sure why, other than to sell more products of the same brand) and accessorize with graham crackers, gummi life savers, mini oreos, and cocktail umbrellas.

I was kind of weirded out by the whole jello/cake combination, and the fact that the cake didn't have much cake in it. But, everyone seemed to like it ok.


Matthew was not much interested in opening his presents, so Embry did most of the opening. He loved the toys that he received (once they were unwrapped), but somehow we couldn't convince him that it was OK to rip apart paper and boxes. He kept looking at me to check if it was all right. Silly kid.

His favorite present, by far, was this back-and-forth car ramp thingy...

He's been playing with it pretty much non-stop since he opened it. Thanks Uncle Nicol!!

Overall it was a great afternoon. Matthew even learned to say that he's three when we asked him how old he is. This amazes me because he wasn't yet saying anything on his last birthday. How far he has come in one year - 1000 words and about 6 inches! This will definitely be the last birthday he'll have being shorter than his big sister. :)

Happy birthday Matthew!


video

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Denial

Normally, this time of year is my favorite. Putting up the tree, baking cookies, writing out Christmas cards, shopping! I don't even mind my (retail) job, which gets exponentially busy this month. More hours = bigger paycheck, and busy days go by really fast. But there is something that has been looming in the back of my mind for a while now. It's something that I have tried very hard not to think about for months. It used to seem far away, but as the year gets closer to ending this thing is creeping closer to the front of my thoughts.

My baby, who will be turning three tomorrow, is starting preschool full-time in January.

I was forced to come to terms with this when I bought Matthew a lunchbox yesterday. I just about lost it right there in the aisle at Target. Now, this lunchbox, which represents a huge change in our lives, is sitting in our front room, and every time I walk past it I get sad.

I don't know what is the matter with me. When Embry started school at roughly the same age I was excited. I may have shed a tear or two when I dropped her off on her first day, but mainly my emotions were positive. I knew that she was going to a great school, and that she would flourish. Even despite a few "I want my Mommy" episodes the first semester, I really pushed her to go on, because I knew how good this would be for her. I was right, of course. Embry is doing fantastic in a class that we still love everything about. So, why can't I feel the same excitement for Matthew?

I know that he is going to do well. He gets the same great teacher and will be in the same class as Embry for the first semester. All the teachers and staff at the school already know him. He's familiar with the classroom, he plays on the playground, and even knows some of the kids that will be in his class. I think the entire experience will be even less scary for him then it was for Embry. He is ready. I... am not.

My thoughts are simple and irrational. I am not ready for my baby to leave me. Matthew and I spend every morning together after J and Embry head off to work/school. We sit in the recliner in the livingroom and share breakfast while watching the news. We are both content to snuggle and tickle and read books and sing songs all morning long without doing anything productive like taking a shower, starting the laundry or cleaning up the house. I love my life as a stay-at-home Mom, and I don't want it to change.

But, I keep reminding myself that change is inevitable. Matthew has to go to off to school eventually. J and I discussed it at length and we agree that now is the best time for him to start. I'll just have to soak up as much Matthew as I can over the next few weeks. And once he starts, I'll be counting down the days until summer break when I can have both of my babies home for a couple of short months to snuggle and tickle and read books to and sing songs with.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fun Things to Do in the Fall

Pumpkin picking!







First we have to play in the dirt.





Then we have to convince Grandma to carry us, even though we are perfectly capable of walking ourselves.





There is tractor riding...




...and lots of time spent trying to pick up pumpkins that are too heavy.



WAY TOO HEAVY!!!



Matthew found one that was way too small (hee hee).




Finally, we found two pumpkins that were juuuussst right.




Next up was flying,





then goat feeding,



then parakeet petting (um, ok).



And finally some camel riding?! I honestly didn't think Embry would be up for this, but anything is possible when Uncle Nicol is around! Go Embry!!



My New/Old Job

Two weeks ago I worked my last shift at Costco. After a whole year of getting home at 10:30 or 11:00 at night, I'd decided I'd had enough.

One week ago, I started my new/old job at Williams-Sonoma. The staff there was desperate for a Keyholder/Tech Class Instructor, and I apparently fit the bill. It was a bit scary at the first few nights. Especially since it had been over two years since we left Huntsville and I had worked at WS, but my coworkers assumed that I had just moved here last week. In the first 2 days, I was running errands, taking conference calls and closing the store. I figured my first couple of shifts would be filled with sweeping the floor and taking out the trash until I got the lay of the land. I guess not.

Fortunately, everything has come back to me pretty quickly. I remembered all the register functions, how the gifts are supposed to be wrapped, and even how the associates are supposed to answer the phone. I just have to remind myself to not to say "Costco food court" when I pick up the phone.

Yesterday morning I arrived at work preparing to "assist" with the first Technique Class. It's a good thing that I over prepared, because my manger said to me after we walked into the store, "You seem pretty knowledgeable about this stuff, why don't you do all the talking and I'll back you up."

Uhh...ok?

So, essentially I ran the first class, and it went great. Thirty people attended, which is about the most I have ever spoken to. I have been informed that the next few classes (the Thanksgiving ones) usually draw around 50 people. I don't know where they are planning to fit all of these people, but bring it on! At least I no longer have to wear a hairnet.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What happened to September?

Three months ago, I had a birthday. Instead of presents, I asked everyone to give me Home Depot gift cards so that I could get a new screen door for the house the we had very recently acquired. The screen door that came with the house was annoying. The screen was halfway ripped out. The door didn't latch on its own and you had to wait about 30 seconds after walking through it in order to pull it closed because the hydraulic thingy that closes the door was broken. The door jam was cracked and every few months I had to move the plate that the door latches onto because the screws kept pulling out of the wood. See? Annoying.

But on Tuesday, the install guy from Home Depot came and put in our new door. Because we had gift cards, we splurged and got a nice one. The install guy put in a brand new door jam, so it opens and closes like a dream. It also has this button that you can tap with your foot to hold the door open (without putting down your groceries or your kids), and then you just tap the door and it closes again. But the best part is that it is "fullview." The entire door is essentially one big floor to ceiling window, and I love it! I think Embry said it best with, "Mama, I feel like I'm outside!" It lets in so much light in an already pretty bright room, that when you walk past the door it really does seem like there isn't a door there at all.


It is our first official home improvement since we bought the house and I never thought I'd be so excited about a screen door.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Funny Story

Where to begin...?

Ok, a couple of weeks ago I woke up at about 2:30 in the morning to what sounded like a crash (or maybe a really loud thump.) Being the paranoid person that I am, I immediately assumed the worst. I thought for sure that someone had broken into our house to murder us. After sitting up in bed listening for sounds of intruders for a couple of minutes, my panic subsided a little and I started coming up with more rational explanations for the sound that woke me up. I got up and checked on both kids. Embry has a tendency to fall out of bed, so the noise I heard might have been her, but they were both safely asleep in their beds. I checked the front and back doors - they were both locked. I peeked out the blinds into the front yard - no burning wreckage from a car crashing into our house. Hmmm. I was starting to believe that I had imagined the entire thing, or maybe I had dreamt it. But, I could've swore that I not only heard something, but that I had felt something as well. Surely, I didn't imagine that. I was too tired to debate it any longer and I went back to bed.

Two days later I went downstairs to my basement to wash a load of towels. I got to the bottom of the stairs and I almost tripped over something. I was carrying a huge laundry basket, so I couldn't see what it was right away. I put down the towels, and picked up an empty plastic bottle. Well, actually, I was half of an empty plastic bottle. I turned on the light to examine the bottle and to try and figure out why it was lying at the bottom of the stairs. In an instant I understood what the noise was that woke me up 2 nights earlier.

You see, J likes to brew small batches of beer. He received a kit a few years back, and he has successfully made several batches of pretty decent beer. He bottled his last batch about a week before the middle of the night incident. Apparently there was some sort of flaw in one of the bottles, because when I turned on the basement light that morning I saw that beer had covered just about every surface in our basement... floor, ceiling, wall, furnace, washer/dryer, boxes, shelves. Everything was sprayed with beer when one of the bottles exploded. And I don't mean exploded like when you drop a soda can, and it foams all over your arm. I mean exploded like a bomb. Boom! I could see where it had hit the ceiling directly underneath our bedroom.

You'd think that I would be upset about the gigantic mess all around me. About the fact that I had a ton of stuff to do that day, had both kids at home with me, and that I had to go to work that night, and therefore had no time to clean up such a mess. That all of that sticky beer would have to stay on the walls and the ceiling for a day or two before I would get the chance to spend hours cleaning it up.

But, I just laughed. I actually laughed out loud because I was so ecstatic that I had not imagined that noise in the middle of the night.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Birthday...

... Another ridiculously complicated cake (cupcake) recipe.

I don't know why I do this to myself. Everyone would be perfectly happy with a chocolate boxed cake mix and canned frosting. But, no. I have to ask my husband, "What kind of cake do you want? Let's make something different!"

Husband - "Hmm. How about churro cupcakes?"
Me - "Churro cupcakes!? Where did you come up with that?"
Husband - "I dunno."

I wondered if there even was such a thing. But where there's the Internet, there's a way, right? Lo and behold, I found these and I decided to give it a shot. I mean who can resist those adorable mini-churros?!


The cupcake "assembly" is actually three separate recipes (if you don't count the whipped cream). 1. The cake recipe, flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, turned out tasting just like snickerdoodle cookies...yum! 2. The dulce de leche filling for the cupcakes was actually super easy, but time consuming. The hardest part of that was opening the store-brand can of condensed milk. For some reason I could not get the top to come off, so I ended up scraping the stuff out with a spatula. Way too messy! Anyway, it turned out tasting just like the Kraft caramel cubes that you melt to make caramel apples...double yum! 3. The fun part was making the tiny churros. I don't have a lot of experience with deep frying things, but I figured these would be easy since they were so small. They didn't require a whole lot of oil to fry in, and they cooked in about 2 minutes. Pretty easy...and SO CUTE!


The best part was, that after all of the fun of filling, and topping, and miniature churros, the cupcakes tasted amazing! I was afraid that all of the additions would be too much, but they went together perfectly! One of my favorite cake recipes ever.

Oh, and J had a great birthday too! Happy birthday honey!



**Side note - Embry picked out the candles a month ago, long before we decided on cupcakes. I forgot about them until about five minutes before this picture was taken. Lesson learned = pick out your dessert before you pick out your candles.**

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Update!

Around the House: OK, so it's not like nothing has happened in the last three weeks. It's really J's fault for my lack of blogging. You see, he bought me (for my birthday) the new Harry Potter Lego game for Wii, and I have been using every free moment I have to play it instead of blog (or cook, or clean, or do yardwork.) It is so incredibly addicting. According to the game, I am 54 percent complete, so that means only 3 more weeks of nonstop playing and I should be finished, right? That is unless the game gets harder as I get closer to finishing it, or unless there are a bunch of bonus levels, or extra characters to try out. Who knows how long this may go on?

We did actually celebrate my birthday rather quietly this year. I decided that instead of having a big cookout, and making a fancy cake that we would buy a cake...


(I know) and go out to eat all weekend long, so that I could spend my time relaxing with my mom and my husband and kids instead of cooking and cleaning. It was a great plan, I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier! Of course, no birthday (at least, not MY birthday) would be complete without fireworks. So we headed to a "smaller" event, rather than fight the huge crowds downtown. It was Matthew's first fireworks, and although he was a little unsure at first, he seemed to enjoy them after they got going. He had just learned the word "birthday" that weekend, and he kept shouting it all during the fireworks show. We might be setting him up for disappointment when his birthday rolls along sans fireworks.

In the Kitchen: Not much going on here (see previous mention of new Wii game). I did however make my award winning (ok, 3rd place) chili last week, and chicken and dumplings this week. The chili recipe is great because it makes a huge amount. We immediately freeze half of it and then eat leftovers all week long. Chicken and dumplings is one of my favorite recipes, although the "from scratch" recipe takes all afternoon to make, it is well worth it. My only complaint is that my biscuit dumplings are never as fluffy as my grandma's used to be. If anyone knows the secret to fluffy dumplings please let me know.

New with Embry: Embry finished her first session of swimming lessons a couple of weeks ago.

It was only 8 half-hour sessions, but I feel like she progressed a lot. Before this, she would never get into the pool without her floatie and she would never EVER get her face wet, or even think about putting her head under water. But now, she hops right in the pool, goes with me into the deeper water, doesn't complain too much if her face gets splashed, and will occasionally agree to go under for just a second. She can float by herself on her back for about 10 seconds, and she can swim great with a kick-board, but she still can't really swim on her own yet. We are debating whether to continue the lessons (and another $60) this summer or let her practice at the pool on her own and wait until next summer to do more lessons. So many parents tell me that kids often will just teach themselves if they get enough time at the pool. We'll see.

Also, Embry's two loose teeth are still there, just a little looser.

New with Matthew: In that same department, Matthew has two new teeth, both molars. If I didn't brush his teeth every day I'd never know he was getting any new ones, since he has never once complained about getting them.

He has made up for the lack of whining though, when it comes to getting his haircut. It has been about 9 months since his last official haircut. He will tolerate a few snips every few weeks, but that's it. I was able to trim the 2 inch tail off of his neck and get his bangs out of his eyes this month. The rest looks horribly shaggy. More than one person has compared his new look to Ringo Starr circa 1964.



Also, people keep reassuring me that longer hair is "in" for boys now-a-days. Well, call me old-fashioned, but I believe boys should have short hair that doesn't touch their face or their neck or their ears. It is driving me crazy! We have tried everything...cutting his hair in the bathtub or the sink, in front of the tv with his favorite show on, using clippers instead of scissors, giving him a sucker, even watching Daddy or sister get a haircut to show him that there's nothing to be scared of. If he doesn't get over this soon, tranquilizers may be in order.

I am Grateful For: The gift cards I received for my birthday for Home Depot. I'm going to use them to get a screen door that actually closes and new locks for the front door. And if there's any left, maybe some paint. That one takes a lot more planning, though, so we'll see.

The Weather Outside: Typical July...hot, humid, the occasional thunderstorm. Not so bad that we can't enjoy the park for a couple of hours in the morning, but the slides start to get too hot by about 10:30am.

I am Obsessed With: Do you have to ask? I need to hurry up and finish this post...only 45 minutes of naptime left to play Harry Potter!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Matthew's New Dance

It has always been amazing to me how as soon as babies can sit up, they will dance to music. How do they know how to do this? No one teaches babies this concept... at least I didn't teach my kids to dance. Who knows what they would've ended up doing then? Anyway, Matthew loves to dance! Practically all kid's shows have music in them, and he has a specific dance for each one. His dance for Dora is different than his one for Wubbzy and so on.

Now, despite my best efforts, both of the kids are now obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba (thanks a lot J!). The show is way too weird for my taste, but it does have lots of interesting music. And I have to say that Matthew's dance to this song is my new favorite of all his previous dances. He dances it the same way every time, so it's not random. He definitely has a very specific method. And it is pretty funny...even if the song gets stuck in my head so much that I need a sledgehammer to get it out.

video

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June Update

Around the House: The week after closing on the house (Yeah!) we had our annual yard sale. If it was up to me I would've given myself a week off after all of the stress of buying the house, but I wanted to have it the same day as the city wide sale. I was so tired from the week before that I forgot to put the signs up until late the night before, and I forgot to advertise on Craig's List until a few hours before. Despite my lack of effort, the sale was a success. I got rid of an entire room full of junk. We sold all of our big stuff except for our old entertainment center, which we just dragged out to the street afterwards. We were too lazy to carry it back in, and it was gone within a couple of hours. The few things small things (mostly clothes) that were left, we packed straight into the car and J dropped them off at Goodwill. My rule is that nothing comes back in the house. The weather was miserable hot and sticky, but no rain. And my newly empty basement is worth all the sweat in the world.

In the Kitchen: The only thing I have really "cooked" recently was blueberry muffins made from fresh-picked-out-of-Grandma's-yard blueberries. She brought up a ton of them, and even though I made a double recipe, there were still lots left for freezing. They'll be perfect for pancakes or waffles over the next few weekends.

New with Embry: A few firsts for Embry last week...(1) She has two loose teeth. She was a little freaked out about it at first, but now I think she's looking forward to when they actually fall out. She keeps asking me every morning, "Did my tooth fall out yet?" I keep reassuring her that she will definitely know when her tooth falls out and she won't need me to tell her. I can't wait to see how cute she looks with one or two missing. (2) She got her first library card. The purpose of actually visiting the library was to return a book that I found in my piles of yard sale stuff. It was purchased from eBay a while back and I noticed that it had "St. Louis County Library" stamped on it. So, I thought I would return it and get Embry a card while we were there. She was very proud to pick out a couple of books and check them out all by herself. Of course, she's already tired of the two that we borrowed and after 3 days wants to pick out some more. I suppose there are worse things for her to be into than reading a whole bunch of books, right?

New with Matthew: Matthew has become a master at immitating people. From acting out entire scenes from Max and Ruby, to mimicking every word and action of his sister. Embry thinks it's funny for about 5 minutes. Then she goes into my bedrooom and closes the door to make it stop. It is pretty cute. Especially when Embry is reading and Matthew grabs a book and sits down next to her and pretends to be reading too.

I am Grateful For: See above for clean basement!

The Weather Outside: Well, at the moment, its sunny and hot. Two hours ago it was downpouring, and it's supposed to storm later this afternoon. Pretty typical. No complaints unless it decides to storm on my way to work.

I am Obsessed With: Now that the house is ours (well, technically it's the bank's), there are so many things that I want to change. They all cost money, of course (which we don't have) but it's nice to know that we don't have to ask permission to paint a room or hang something on a wall. I'm asking for gift cards to the Home Depot for my birthday.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is it Summer Already?

It must be since school is over and Embry had her last soccer practice last week.





And summer is for swimming...


We're using a blow-up pool that we bought last year as a back-up for the now infamous "dragon pool." That pool (which was actually a dinosaur) lasted through about 2 swims before ripping and being left in a pile in the corner of the patio. No one seemed to care, however, because we swam at the school pool every Friday night. Now that I work most Friday nights, that won't be happening this year, so the kids will want to swim in the backyard more often.

So far, the $5 back-up pool is working great. And Embry's $4 goggles are working great too. She wears them, not to see underwater, but to keep the water from getting into her eyes when Matthew splashes her... which he does about every 30 seconds.

I also love the new swimsuits that I found at Target this year. Matthew is sporting some cute shark themed trunks, and I totally dig the trend in girl's suits the last few summer of covering up as much as possible. I let Embry pick out her own suit and she chose this super cute yellow one.


Here's to great summer!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Couple of Recipes

Here you go Mom...two of my favorite lunch recipes (well, one is a recipe, and the other is more of a technique).

Wilted Spinach Salad

This recipe makes enough for one big serving or two smaller ones. Sometimes I like to throw some pieces of cooked chicken on top for a more filling meal. You can easily double or triple this recipe for more people.

2-3 strips of bacon (I like 3)
6 to 8 oz fresh spinach
1/4 of a yellow onion, sliced very thin (original recipe calls for red onion, but I never have that around)
1 T minced garlic
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 cup cider or red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper

Fry bacon in a large pot that you have a lid for. If you don't want to fry up some bacon you can use leftover bacon drippings, but you won't have any bacon pieces for the salad. This can be either a good or a bad thing depending on your dietary needs. When bacon is crisp and most of the fat is rendered out, remove bacon pieces to some paper towels to drain. Pour out any extra drippings, you'll need about 2-3 tablespoons in the pot.

Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar to the pot and cook over medium-high heat until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Working quickly add the vinegar and mustard to the pot and scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits in the bottom of the pot.

Remove pot from heat, add spinach to the pot and quickly cover, allowing spinach to steam until just starting to wilt. This will take about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Remove lid from pot and toss the spinach lightly with tongs to distribute the dressing. Garnish with reserved bacon pieces and serve. Yum!


Boiled Artichokes

Prep artichokes by cutting off the top 1/4 and the stem right at the base of the artichoke. Peel the stem to remove the woody outer layer. If the tips of the leaves are sharp, you can trim them with scissors, but this part isn't necessary.

Place the artichokes upside down (and the stems) in the bottom of a pot with a big pinch of salt and fill with cold water, enough to cover the artichokes. The artichokes will float, so put something heavy, like a heavy pot lid on top of them to keep them submerged.

Bring pot to a boil uncovered and turn down to simmer for about 10 minutes. Test for doneness with a paring knife inserted into the stem end. The artichoke should be tender but not mushy.

Serve with lemon butter and enjoy!

For more on how to eat an artichoke or for a couple more yummy recipes go to YouTube.com and search for Alton Brown and artichoke.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

End of April Update

Around the House: There is so much going on here that I barely have time to write this. But, I am in the middle of baking cookies for our trip to Rock Falls this weekend, and this is the only thing I can do keep myself from falling asleep in between batches. First up is our trip home this weekend for my Grandma H's surprise 80th birthday party. The surprise is that about 75 of us (yeah, it's a very big family) are getting together to celebrate. A lot of my relatives live near my hometown, but a lot don't, so getting everyone in the same place at the same time has taken a ton of planning. It should be great. Catered Mexican food, lots of new cousins for the kids to play with and hopefully lots of pictures to show you later.

Next, and maybe most importantly... we are buying a house. More specifically, the house that we already live in and are currently renting. We are finally over our biggest (possible) hurdle as of today when the inspector came out to do his thing. He gave us the best possible news that the house has no major defects. Now, we pretty much knew that already, having lived here for the last two years, but we were very afraid that he'd find some sort of hidden potential catastrophe like termites or mold or something. So, now that that's done with we just have lots and lots of paperwork and phone calls to complete... and I mean a lot. But, if all goes well, we'll be the new owners of our house in a few weeks. Yeah!

Lastly, we are super busy with school as it winds down for the year. I spent all day yesterday sorting through the kids' clothes for donating to the school Rummage Sale. I am helping out with a plant sale tomorrow morning. I am observing Embry's classroom as well as an Elementary classroom (since Embry may transition sometime next Fall) next Tuesday. Next Friday morning, Embry's class is having a Mother's Day breakfast, and the week after that we are participating in the school's first ever Trivia Night. Whew. I keep telling J that I'm afraid I'm going to show up to something on the wrong day, because I can't keep everything straight.

In the Kitchen: Aside from the chocolate chippers that I'm baking right now (a road trip must have for us), I tried yet another yummy recipe from Our Best Bites. I made the peanut butter and jam bars. The best part about this recipe? I didn't have to buy a thing. I already had all of the ingredients right there in my kitchen. Easy peasy!

New with Embry and Matthew: When Matthew was born, we explained to Embry that although she will always be older him, having a brother means that someday he will be bigger than her. J and I were both speaking from personal experience, of course. (J being a taller little brother and me being a shorter big sister). Last week we had to sit her down and further explain that this event was going to occur much sooner than we thought. I don't particularly remember when my little brother surpassed me in height, but I'm sure it was sometime in high school. Yet, I am predicting that Embry's "little" brother will be bigger than her sometime this year. Matthew now weighs the same as his big sister and wears the same size shoes. He is now in a size 4T (yes, 4!) clothes, while Embry is just barely in a size 5. I caught them standing next to each other yesterday and noticed that he has less than an inch to go before he reaches her height.

If they didn't look so much alike I'd never believe that they were related. Embry is small and petite in every way. Her waist is about the size of my forearm. She has baby fine hair still, and ever her voice is small and high pitched. Matthew is built like tree trunk. A very fast growing tree trunk, you know...like a birch or something they make paper out of, that grows back really fast after you cut it down. Even his hair is thick. It's just hard for me to believe that they both came from the same genetic mix. Someone should do a study on them. Seriously.

The Weather Outside: It's been a pretty typical spring, so far. Chilly enough in the morning that you still need a jacket, but warm and sunny enough in the afternoon for shorts. And absolutely perfect at night for leaving the window open in the bedroom while you sleep. Ahhh.

I am Grateful For: I am going to change this section just this once to "I am Hoping and Praying For..." Safe travel for us and for all of the members of the family as they trek towards Sterling, Illinois. And also for great weather, so that we can enjoy each other's company as long as possible.

I am Obsessed With: I am going to change this section just his once to "I am Re-Obsessed With..." LOST. The series finale is coming up in a few weeks, and I have finally convinced J how great this show is. So, he started going back to watch all of the old episodes. Of course I had to watch a few with him and now I am totally re-obsessed with watching all of the old ones again before the finale. I know it sounds cheesy, but there are so many things that I am picking up on this time around now that I have watched them all before, and it is making the new ones that much better. LOST is quite possibly my third fav show of all time, behind M.A.S.H. and Seinfeld. And with everything else going on, it is the worst possible time for me to be obsessed with watching anything on TV. But I find ways to make it work. After I finish this blog post, I'll be putting the laptop in the kitchen so I can watch LOST while I finish up the cookies and wash dishes. Too much?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ABC's and 123's

I finally got Matthew to say his numbers and letters on camera. He was only a little bit distracted...

video

And in case you're not yet convinced of his genius, here he is counting his loot on Easter morning...

video

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kids are Funny

Why is it that little kids enjoy manual labor? Scrubbing the sidewalk, digging holes in the dirt... doesn't sound like much fun to me. But to my kids, it's apparently a great time.

This video actually went on for about 15 minutes. At one point, they were raking as well. Good times, good times.


video

Easter Sunday

I know this post is a little late, but I've been spending Matthew naptime...well napping (instead of blogging). Getting home from work at 10:30pm and trying to watch the episode of Dances with the Stars or LOST that I missed that night before falling asleep is taking it's toll. Hopefully once the summer gets here and there aren't any new shows on, I can get to bed a little earlier.

Anyway, we had a busy but fun Easter weekend. We started out by taking Embry's new kite for a flight at a field in Forest Park. It was a nice day, but the wind was very sporadic. Every time we'd successfully get the kite up into the air the wind would completely die and the kite would crash. It's a good thing that Embry was content with flying a few feet above her head. Just as satisfying for her I guess.


After the kite flying got boring we went to the drive-thru at Steak-N-Shake for some lunch, and since it was so nice out we decided to eat at the little park a couple of blocks from our house. The kids played some more and we headed home for naps.

When Embry woke up, she and I dyed Easter eggs. Embry did it the traditional way with fizzy tablets in coffee cups.

I chose a different method (see previous post). My silk tie-dying turned out pretty good.  Although I would've liked the colors to be darker.  After the water came to a boil I turned the dial from 9 to 7 and the stupid stove must've thought I meant 2 because it cooled down too much too fast and I never did get it back up to a boil.  I think that's why the colors were light.  It was still pretty neat, though.  You can actually see the elephants from one of the ties on its respective egg.  The blog post that I got the idea from was right...1. You can find the ugliest ties at a thrift store and 2.  The ugliest ties make the prettiest eggs.  I mean, who buys (or wears) a tie with circus elephants on it?

All the eggs turned out great. After more playing outside and a "snack dinner," we called it a day.


Saturday was uneventful, since I had to work all day. And by work, I mean brave the insanity that is the Costco food court on the day before Easter. I think it might have been worse than Christmas.


Sunday started out great with the kids opening the Easter baskets. I found some cute stuff to put in them this year, without adding too much candy. I was right in thinking they might get way too much of that later. Embry got a jumprope, "the Very Hungry Caterpillar" book, a chocolate bunny, a flower headband, and some Cadbury eggs. Matthew got a board book, a super high bouncy ball, and a smaller, cheaper chocolate bunny.

After breakfast the kids hunted eggs in the backyard and then we packed up to go to J's Aunt's house.

It was a nice drive there (2 1/2 hours), although neither of the kids napped like we'd hoped. They stayed in a good mood the entire time we were visiting, and ate relatively well. After a third egg hunt (the first one was at the Botanical Gardens a week earlier). ..

















...with roughly 240 eggs for 4 children, they had amassed enough candy for the next 5 years. Embry also found 12 eggs with dollar coins in them. Cha ching!

We had a slightly less pleasant ride home. Matthew fell asleep for about 30 minutes and woke up in a terrible mood. He was completely inconsolable, and when we stopped at a gas station to let him out for a few minutes, he refused to get out of the car. So we drove the next 15 miles or so with him screaming bloody murder, and after a while he got tired of screaming and rode the rest of the way home just fine.

We got home just in time for baths and bedtime. Then J and I collapsed on the couch and ate 2 platefulls of leftover Easter dessert for dinner. We were tired but happy. I hope everyone had a great holiday too!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Update

Around the House: It is Spring Break for Embry this week, which means my days are harder and easier. Harder because I am not used to picking up after and entertaining two kids all day anymore. Easier because we are not rushing around trying to get ready for school in the mornings, and I'm not waking Matthew up from his nap to pick Embry up in the afternoons. Overall, I like that I get to spend more time with Embry, but it makes it a little harder to get the house clean.

In the Kitchen: I have always liked avocados for as long as I can remember. But, when I was pregnant with Matthew, even the thought of them turned my stomach. It took me a while to warm back up to them, but now I can't have them enough. I buy them 6 or 7 at a time from (where else?) Costco and eat one almost every day. My favorite thing to do is mash one up with some green tomatillo salsa and some lime juice and eat it with tortilla chips. I have that for lunch 3 or 4 times a week, at least. Yum.

New with Embry: Embry went to a gymnastics class last week with a friend from school. She loved it, of course and wants to go back for more. She was also upset, when at the of the class some of the little girls went on to dance class in the next room. "Is it time for dance, now?" she asked. And my heart broke that she wasn't signed up for that one too. So we are considering a summer class for her at the community college. But what subject? She wants to do everything from dance to golf. I really want her to take swimming, mostly for practicality, but I want her to enjoy it too. We'll discuss it some more and, I guess decide later.

New with Matthew: Since the weather has been so nice, we have been going to the park a lot. The kids have a blast, but it completely wears me out, because Matthew is a total dare-devil. He refuses to stay on the little kids area of the park that is clearly designated for "ages 5 and under." He wants to climb on the huge parts of the playground, and slide down the biggest slides. Of course, he doesn't want any help, all the while getting pushed and shoved by all of the 12 year-olds running past. I want to let him be brave, but it is exhausting running around after him, ready to catch him if he stops paying attention for 1 second and walks off an edge. Whew!

Matthew is also very much into counting, right now. Rather than explain how cute that is, I am trying my hardest to get a video. Stay posted.

I'm Grateful For: All of the time that we are going to be able to spend with family in the coming weeks.

The Weather Outside: Spring is finally here! It is sunny and warm... and a little wet. But that's spring in St. Louis, right?

I'm Obsessed With: I remember seeing this egg dying technique on Martha a few years ago, but like a lot of things on her show I figured it would never work if I tried it at home. But, the same technique was featured on a blog that I follow, along with lots of comments from readers who had tried it and were successful. I'm so excited to try it, I can't wait for Easter!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lost and Found

The day of Embry's birthday we pulled out the video camera and discovered that the battery was nearly dead. Five minutes later we discovered that we had lost the power cord. We managed to tape a minute or two before it conked out, but I wasn't able to download what we recorded with no way to recharge the camera.

A couple of weeks later we ordered a replacement from Amazon and when it arrived we promptly left it on the box on top of a pile of junk mail for another week. Last week, I finally remembered to charge the camera and download the video to the computer. So, sorry Mom for the delay, but here is a couple of minutes from Embry's party.

video

Today, when I was putting away the kids' hats and gloves I found the original charger... in the coat closet in a bin of old hats and gloves. I don't why I didn't look there before. At least we have a spare now, right?

Banana Bread

I am just finishing up the last piece of the banana bread that I made a couple of days ago. It is one of my favorite recipes for two reasons. It is super easy, and it is so yummy! The recipe is from my favorite and well worn cookbook, The Best Recipe. My copy is so stained and torn and burned, it is definitely time to get new copy.

Anyway, I thought I would share it with you today (the recipe that is; you're too late for the bread).

Recipe makes one 9-inch loaf.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, chopped coarse
3 very ripe bananas, mashed well
1/4 cup plain yogurt (the secret ingredient, do not omit, and be sure not to use vanilla or any flavored yogurt as a substitute)
2 large eggs, beaten
6 Tbs butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. *TIP* I like to put the walnuts in the oven to toast while its preheating. By the time that the oven is ready the walnuts are done about 10 minutes.** Grease and flour bottom only of regular (not nonstick) loaf pan. If you use a nonstick pan the bread will not rise as much and will be a little too dense.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and walnuts together in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold wet mixture into the dry mixture gently. Do not over mix or the bread will be tough.

4. Pour batter into pan and bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Easy peasy! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

March Update

Around the House: I'm trying to organize toys this week. It seems like all of the sudden, we have no place to put anything, and I am tripping over toys everywhere. Embry has agreed to fill up one huge box with stuff for the yard sale, so that will help. The best part is that I may have to make a trip to Container Store!

In the Kitchen: I made a super easy cream of broccoli soup for the kids' dinner last night. The recipe was so easy that I made it from start to finish in the 40 minutes between bringing Embry home from school and going to work. All while getting dressed for work and wrangling the kids during their usual after school craziness. I can't find the recipe online anymore, so I'll try to post it later.

Also, I'm making Puppy Chow tomorrow since I can't stop thinking about this recipe I saw on my new fav food blog last week. Hello, sugar coma!

New with Embry: It's going to be a busy weekend for Embry. She has the day off from school tomorrow because of parent-teacher conferences. We're gong to meet with her teacher to discuss her upcoming transfer to the Elementary class. Yikes! She's going to a friend's house to play Friday afternoon, and then a birthday party on Saturday. Phew. I never remember being this busy when I was 5.

New with Matthew: It's been so long since Matthew's last haircut, that he is starting to remind me of a tiny werewolf. He has an appointment next week, and I am dreading it. Holding him down for his last haircut wore me out and gave me a sore back for 2 days. maybe I should just let him grow it long until he gets over this. Ugh. I just can't. I cannot have a little boy with long hair.

I am Grateful For: Matthew and I finally feeling better. He and I both slept through the night a couple of times this week. Yeah!

The Weather Outside: It's looking a little like spring outside...45 and sunny. I'm sure we're not done with the cold yet though. It is St. Louis, after all.

I am Obsessed With: Well, if I have to think about it, there must be nothing, right?

Monday, February 22, 2010

He's a Growing Boy

Matthew has officially outgrown his last piece of baby furniture. After a month or so of sleeping diagonally in his crib (the only way he would still fit), we decided that he was ready for a big boy bed. We found one on super clearance at Pottery Barn Kids and they just happened to have twin mattresses at Costco that week. Done and done.

Still, I knew that hardest part would be convincing Matthew to actually sleep in his new bed. Why? He loves his crib. He sleeps in it. He plays in it. He chews on it. He has a little ritual of running his hands back and forth along the rails before bed. But, the thing that has me the most concerned? When we got Embry her big kid bed, she loved it immediately. And everyone knows that if Embry likes something, Matthew will hate it. If Embry does something well, then Matthew will resist that same thing for weeks. They are opposite in every way possible.
So, in preparation for la resistance, we decided to keep the crib up in his room, so that we could ease him into the new bed gradually. We were totally prepared to go back a forth a few times before making the switch permanent.

Well, we have finally found something that Embry and Matthew have in common. Yes, they both like to prove their parents wrong. Matthew jumped into his new bed on that first night and slept like a champ. For the last week, when bedtime rolls around, he runs into his room, climbs up into bed and lays right down without so much as a whine. And did I mention how cute and small he looks when he's asleep in such a big bed. It still makes me say "Awww," every night.




On the same subject, Matthew has also outgrown his carseat. Well, it was actually Embry's carseat; the last one that she had before the booster. We stupidly assumed it would be the last non-booster seat we would have to buy. (He's getting really good at proving us wrong lately.) It seems that the old seat, as huge as it was (especially when trying to fit it through the security x-ray machine at the airport), it has a weight limit of 50 lbs. And although the salesperson at Babies-R-Us didn't believe me, Matthew is dangerously close to that number, and will surpass it far before his 3rd birthday. For anyone who doesn't know, you're not supposed to put kids into a booster until they're at least 3. So, I had to shop for a special (read expensive) seat with a higher weight limit that still has a harness. Babies-R-Us had one, and it was a Graco which I know to be a safe brand, but it was $180! Yikes. Fortunately, the same salesperson reminded me that they were having a "trade-in" sale, where you could bring in an old carseat and get 25% off of the new one.

Now, I was planning on keeping the old carseat and selling it at our next yard sale. But, I decided to trade it in for a couple of reasons. 1. (selfless reason) You're actually not supposed to use carseats for much longer than we have because they start to become less effective with age. And I would hate to think that I sold an unsafe carseat to someone. 2. (selfish reason) I would never get $45 dollars for it at a yard sale, which is how much I would be saving on the new one. Plus, I would have to spend at least an hour getting it clean enough for a yard sale (yes, it is that disgusting). So, I dragged the old dirty one in and wheeled out the fancy new one. Matthew loves it because it has a cupholder like his sister's. Bonus: the new seat is convertible to a booster for kids up to 100 pounds. Now that sounds like a lot, but I'm sure that Matthew will grow out of this one before he is old enough to go without a booster. (Come on Mattie, prove me wrong on this one).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Birthday!

It was a very snowy Valentine's Day this year. As a result, Embry's party got cut a little short. Grandma and Pawpaw had a long snowy drive home ahead of them, but I think Embry had a good time while they were here. Her friend, Olivia, also came by to play (her first official playdate with a school friend). She opened lots of presents...



And ate puppy cupcakes...



I made these from Hello, Cupcake! A very cute decorating book. They were incredibly easy, which is good because I made them at the last minute and after a very long and busy day at work. At about 9pm, the night before Embry's birthday I assembled the cupcakes while J put together Embry's dollhouse...


...which Matthew loves just as much as Embry does. Not that I didn't expect a boy to play with a dollhouse, but I wasn't sure he would be old enough to be interested yet. The good part about this dollhouse is that it actually has two big halves that can be separate or together, so they can both play without fighting... too much anyway.

Matthew also had a good time with the balloons.


I can't believe my baby is 5 years old! Happy Birthday Embry! I hope your wish comes true!!!



Monday, February 8, 2010

Mid-Month Update

Ok, so January was not a great blogging month. However, I am vowing to get back with it this month (what's that, February is halfway over already?! Hmmm.) with a few more posts.


Around the House: A busy week this week. Embry's class is spending an evening at the Magic House on Thursday and I am both baking treats and helping to organize and serve them at the museum. This year will be slightly different than last, since we are taking Matthew. We agreed that he is old enough to enjoy the museum now, and old enough not to get tired and cranky at 6pm. We'll see. Embry is off of school Friday, her birthday is Sunday, and she is off of school again on Monday. So, a very long weekend for the birthday girl... lucky her! We are having a very small party at home on Sunday afternoon with me, J, Mattie, Grandma and Pawpaw, and one friend from school of Embry's choosing. I have a feeling that having a friend over to play will be the only thing she remembers from this birthday.

In the Kitchen: We are not football watchers in this house. So, the only part of Superbowl Sunday that we celebrate is the food. I picked up a couple of frozen appetizer things from Trader Joe's, including mushroom turnovers and arancini balls with bruschetta. I made this yummy hot cheese and red pepper dip from my new fave recipe blog, Our Best Bites, and of course, little smokies. Because you can't watch football without little smokies, right? Ok, so we didn't watch any football. We watched Big Love instead, which is absolutely great this season!

Last week I also made Cheesy Rice and Broccoli Casserole.




Amazingly it is one of my favorite foods to eat at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I have never made it myself. I was inspired by the recipe in my Cook's Illustrated weekly email where you make it (get this) from scratch. No cream-of-something soup, no frozen broccoli, no instant rice. The whole thing from scratch. It took me nearly an hour, and dirtied up a sink full of dishes, but it turned out SO GOOD! It had way more broccoli in it than usual (2 1/2 pounds), so I didn't feel guilty having it for lunch 4 days in a row. That same afternoon I whipped up these Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars.


So easy and delicious, and the crust tastes just like those peanut butter sandwich Girl Scout cookies. (Hmm? I wonder if my Girl Scout cookie order is in yet? Anyway...) Try this recipe from Angie at Half-Assed Kitchen; it takes about 10 minutes and is just as satisfying as the casserole that took much longer.

New with Embry: On the verge of turning 5, Embry is excelling at school, more than I ever thought she would. She loves to write in cursive now, she's reading everything, and a pro at adding and subtracting really huge numbers. The most shocking thing to me? Geography. Montessori schools like to brag that before kids enter the Elementary class (around age 6) they are able to name and locate on a map, every country in the world. "Yeah, right," I always thought. Alex Trebek can't even do that. But so far, Embry has learned the countries in North and Central America, South America and Asia, as well as all of the provinces in Australia. She is currently working on Europe. Wow! I don't think anyone ever attempted to teach me the provinces in Australia. I'm certainly impressed. And I know that she did not inherit this particular talent from me. I got a D (my only D ever) in Freshman Geography in high school. Ok, so some of that was because the teacher hated me, but still.

New with Matthew: Since I can't think of anything for Matthew, and since I haven't posted and pics of the kids of the kids for a while, I'll just do that instead.





I am Grateful For: Not living on the East coast. For lots of reasons, but mostly because of the recent weather. The news said that D.C. got 32 inches of snow last week. I like snow, but not that much.

The Weather Outside: We got between 1 and 2 inches of snow out of that same storm that hit the the eastern U.S. And it was finally the kind that you can make a snowman out of! The kids were very happy.

I am Obsessed With: Nothing at the moment, so I'll talk about movies instead. My husband and I both had the opportunity to go to the movies this weekend. (Not together, of course.) I went to see The Lovely Bones. J went to see Avatar. Now, although the film I saw was not perfect, it was beautifully shot and directed, and had a good story. The ending left me very unsatisfied, but I was entertained nonetheless. And that is the key concept to a good movie. Was I entertained? Or was I checking my watch half-way through thinking, "Wow has it only been two hours?" I am not one of those people who only like serious, meaningful movies. I love a good slapstick comedy or action flick, too. But, sorry to all you Avatar fans out there (especially Susan who has at last count seen it 5? times)... I will not waste $10, plus $3 for the 3-D and 3 hours of my precious freetime on this movie, because I do not think it will keep me entertained. I'm sure it really is visually spectacular, and I'm sure it will win 11 Oscars. But looking good can only get you so far. So, if you haven't seen Avatar yet, don't. Save your $13 for the Lovely Bones, or Young Victoria (very good), or rent Funny People, or Yes Man. Those are just a few of the highly entertaining films I have watched recently.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thank God It's February

Around the House: It's a good thing that we have the new Wii Fit game to keep us occupied during the cold winter months. Even Matthew loves to watch. Just like all of their games, this one is quite addicting and has become the thing to do around here.

In the Kitchen: I actually had two days off in a row this week, so it seems logical that I would spend some time in the kitchen. However, we've been using the excuse that we get so very little time together that we do not want to spend it cleaning up the kitchen. So, last night, we got Chinese takeout. And although I am perfectly capable of whipping up some pasta and garlic bread tonight, we'll probably just heat up some leftovers. There's always next weekend.

New with Embry: Embry is now counting down the days to her birthday. She still gets upset that she's not having a huge party like all of her friends from school, but I think she'll be OK when she sees her dollhouse and her puppy cupcakes.

New with Matthew: I've noticed that Matthew's attention span has gotten significantly longer lately. He has always loved books and puzzles, but he'd lose interest after a few minutes. Even quicker if it was something he couldn't figure out immediately. But over the last couple of weeks, he seems more patient. More willing to work things out before asking (whining) for help or walking away. Definitely a positive development.

I am Grateful For: The love and support of my extended family through what was a very rough January... for all of us. Our new year officially starts now.

The Weather Outside: Not nearly as bad as it could be in the Midwest in February. It is cold and dreary, but not icy and windy and dangerous to drive in. At least not this week.

I am Obsessed With: Yes, I am excited about Lost tomorrow, but not nearly much as I am to make these...Single Serve Pie in a Jar. I found the recipe on my new favorite blog, Our Best Bites. I am already obsessed with make-ahead and freeze desserts. They are perfect for snacking when I get home from work at 10:30 at night; a few cookie dough balls or an apple strudel popped in the oven. And now these little individual pies. They are so cute and look so yummy! I am ordering the jars from Amazon today. I'll try to remember to take pictures, so I can let you know how they turn out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Update

Around the House: Well, it is a new year and the chaos of the holidays is over. Embry is back to school, J and I are back to work, the house is back to its usual mess. I guess I feel like I get to slack off on the cleaning now that it's just us here.

In the Kitchen: All of the leftovers are finally gone, so it's back to the same old stuff. We did so much cooking for Christmas, but almost none in the week after. I kind of miss it. I definitely miss having lots of cookies around to snack on. I'll be posting pictures from Christmas dinner on Facebook soon. It was our most ambitious dinner yet with a crown roast of pork and a croquembouche (which was apparently a popular dessert this year).

New with Embry: She hasn't even played with all of her Christmas presents yet, and she has already made a list for her birthday. And what does she want? An airplane. Not a dollhouse (my idea), or a bicycle. An airplane. I'm not even sure what exactly she means, but I guess I'd better find out.

New with Matthew: Newly 2 years old, and jabbering non-stop. Of course, I can't understand what he's saying most of the time, but he will carry on quite a conversation with anyone he meets. The cashier at the grocery store found it very amusing this morning.

The Weather Outside: I think the high for today is supposed to be 15 degrees. 5 inches of snow tomorrow and the high for Friday... 2. 2 degrees! Yikes. I miss Alabama.

I am Grateful For: Warm blankets, warm slippers, and warm kids and husband to cuddle with.

I am Obsessed With: I'm not sure if it's quite an obsession yet, but I can't wait for the new TV to start. Big Love next week. Lost in February. And the Tudors in March. I need to start warming up the TiVo.