Friday, December 11, 2009

the second week of Christmas

If you're interested in some new holiday music, check out this free link to a holiday album on iTunes. FREE! It's free for a week. found via lifehacker via stephmodo

I'd like to claim that my helpers were responsible for this mess, but I'm afrait they were fast asleep. This one is all me. HAD Katie been helping me, it would have been a much tidier job.

This week's activities have included making jingle-bell wreath ornaments - now I want a big one for my door! (Yes, that construction hat is permanently welded to Alex's head, but Cinderella only comes out about once a week now.)

Picnic in the living room - this ended up being even more bananas than I expected. Next time we do this (?) I'm going with hamburgers and fries.

Animal 'magic scratch' ornaments.
Pop-up tree - template found on Martha. (I reduced the tree by 70%). Why is cutting paper so much fun?

Paint Christmas nails - Alex went with sparkles, Katie now has two different shades of pink on her hands, and even mom has some colored nails.

Date night with mom or dad - this one is still being planned.

Camping in the bedroom - we'll see how long they last in the tent, and whether or not ANYONE gets any sleep!

Camping in the bedroom worked out better than I expected, in that ONE child acdtually made it in the tent through the night. Alex had a hard time staying put, so he ended up in his bed sometime around 11 pm.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas countdown

Part of the problem with starting Christmas preparations really early is that I just end up adding more things onto my list. Seeing a picture of these trees on Kari's blog, coupled with a gift of some tiny ornaments from Mag from Ikea resulted in this project:
Please note Katie's decorating choices. She put different colored ornaments in each row, and where there were multiple hooks in a row she alternated matte and shiny. With no prompting from anyone, although that is probably how I would have arranged them myself. I guess that trait would be genetic. :)

For our Christmas countdown this year, we've put a different activity to do everyday in the pockets of the advent calendar. So far we've:

Made cinnamon/glue ornaments, complete with glitter. (1 C. cinnamon, 1 C. apple sauce, and 4 oz. glue - this made a ton.) I love how glitter jazzes up everything. I was in charge of glue, Katie and Alex do all their own glitter. This is a tough one to mess up, and man do they smell delicious!

Had a hot chocolate party. We had to switch to straws when the pouring to be a little more fun than the actual drinking.

Here's Alex's perfect cup of hot chocolate:

Made Christmas cards. I got this idea from Kid's Crafts weekly. I got to cut out the shapes, Katie and Alex got to run the glue, although I did cheat and help Alex olace one of his trunks. Now to determine the lucky recipients . . .

Cut out snowflakes. We need a little more practice with the scissors for these to resemble actual snowflakes, but 'cutting confetti' was just as fun with our crowd. And I busted out my 'Kirigami a day' calendar from 2008 and did a little cutting myself.

Max decided to add his own advent adventure: Let's see how many baths I can have in one day. Luckily he still fits nicely in the kitchen sink. So far we're at 2, but the day is only 1/2 over.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

mr. freeze

Last night it snowed a bit and today the high is supposed to be a balmy 22 degrees.

Naturally, Alex had to go outside and ride his 'motorcycle' to celebrate.

post script: Yesterday, Alex asked again to go outside. As it was only 15 degrees, I voted no. Alex: But mom! I'm a motorcycle boy!

the tornado

Here are a few of Max's recent adventures:

He has moved on from eating dog food to filling up the dog's water dish with the dog food.

He DOES still enjoy eating dirt. Just picture that same little face with a ring of brown around the lips - the same face you'd get if you gave him an Oreo cookie. And for him, I can't tell yet if there's a taste difference.

He is very good with ladders. We put the Christmas lights up the day after Thanksgiving. I untangled lights, Roger put them up. At one point I turned around, and there was Max at the top of the ladder. I would have grabbed a picture, but figured that I was already pushing my luck regarding him taking a nose dive, since I wasn't entirely sure how long he'd been up there. I look forward to him figuring out the ladder on the bunk beds.

After telling him 'HANDS OFF' approximately 100,000 times, I finally learned my lesson and chose to keep the glass ornaments in the box. The tree this year is about 99% metal, which should prevent most of the damage Max could cause. And I moved the toy bench across the room, so his only access is by taking a leap off the back of the couch. More on that when he figures it out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

happy halloween!

I finally got the pictures off of our old camera - it was on the fritz for a while and then finally gave up the ghost. These pictures are a little grainy, but here is the chronicle of some of our Halloween adventures. I don't have any pictures of cute little Summer because our camera died for good just after Katie's Halloween party at preschool - hours before Summer's arrival. Mag will just have to post some photos of all the cousins. Alex still can't stop kissing that cute little baby!

I love the difference between Katie's and Alex's cookie decorating technique. Alex would decorate a cookie by dumping on the sprinkles and then chow it down. Katie was very methodical and concentrated very hard on getting the sprinkles exactly where she wanted them. Again, Roger has no doubt who she is related to!

Katie had a little Halloween party at school - well, officially a 'holiday' party that the kids just happened to get to dress up for and walk around the building 'trick or treating.' The boys got to come too. It was cute watching purple Cinderella and her heavy equipment operator - backhoe loader driver to be specific - walk arm in arm around the school.
Here are our two little lobsters. Katie was 8 months when she wore the costume; Max 13 months.

And one finally shot of purple Cinderella. Thanks Oma for making the dress, and to Amy/Aunt Nancy for the gloves and tiara - yes, we know that the REAL Cinderella should be wearing blue and only have the headband, but you try getting that tiara off of Katie's head! Alex wears his construction vest at least part of every day, and Cinderella graces our presence as often as she can. Even Max didn't try to pull the hat off of his costume. I'd say those are good indicators of successful costume choices!


Katie and Alex like to sleep together these days - heads at opposite ends of the bed, feet meeting in the middle. This usually works out, but naturally there are exceptions. Last night I still heard noises coming from their room at 10 pm, so I poked my head in. This is what I found:

(photo re-enactment)

Katie was behind the door showing Alex her dress-up clothes, Max was jumping in his crib, and Alex was 'ready for work.' When he saw me he said: 'Hey mommy! Is it good morning time?' Not even close, buddy, but still adorable.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

happy birthday tom!

Today's birthday fest - a day late - is brought to you by Katie. She made Uncle Tom a skeleton - scissors are her new favorite thing. The head initially had a face of two star eyes, a heart nose, and a rainbow mouth. I left the kitchen to go change Max, and when I got back the stickers had multiplied. My favorites are the 'band aids' on the legs and arm - we've had a lot of boo boos lately. Best of all, she wrote her name just for you Tommy.

Here's a basket full of the kids that sang to you this morning.

These are just some cute boys.

This is one of my favorites. Katie loves to take self portraits - I don't know why she has to go cross-eyed, but so far she does it in every one she takes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Miller farm

Katie's preschool class took a little field trip to a nearby farm. A tractor pulled the group around the farm in a trailer, and made stops along the way so we could pick stuff: red potatoes, celery, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, Indian corn, pumpkins, etc. You could pick as much as you wanted.

The kids were of course much more interested in the other attractions at the farm. There was a huge pile of dirt - Alex could have dug for hours with the excavator and dump truck. There was some bouncy dome thing - maybe next year my crew will be ready to brave the crowds and go for it. There were old cars painted like the characters from Cars. There were a few animals to check out - smart Kat got her thumb bit by the horse - luckily it only turned a great shade of purple.
No one was too excited by the unlimited vegetables, but the pumpkins were another story. Katie could not get enough. After we got home, we busted out the paints and did a little decorating. As you can see, Max's is the most detailed. Today I finally figured out what the crazy smell in my house was: two of our pumpkin creations had taken a turn for the worse and had started to go soft. Luckily we have plenty of backups.

I made some delicious soup with the veggies - which is so delicious that I am the only one who has been eating it for the past week or so. The only thing I've made lately that scored a 5/5 for eaters is . . . pumpkin gnocchi. Martha's show is good for an idea every now and again, and this one really is a hit. It might sound crazy, but how can butter, cream and lots of Parmesan cheese go wrong? This only took about 30 minutes to make, and for the first time in forever EVERYONE ate it! Katie loved helping cut the gnocchi.

pumpkin gnocchi - courtesy of the Martha Stewart Show - modified by moi

1 can of pumpkin -reserve 1/4 cup for sauce - Martha cooks a pumpkin, I cheat and use canned
2 cups flour, plus more for work surface
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for serving
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
20 medium chanterelle mushrooms, trimmed - I re-hydrated a mix of dried mushrooms
8 fresh sage leaves - I used powdered sage
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream - I should have used less - this is a TON of cream

Mound flour in center of a large work surface; add 1 tablespoon salt and the nutmeg. Using a fork, mix until well combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add 2 cups pumpkin and 1 cup grated cheese to well. Slowly incorporate flour, beginning with inner rim of well. When flour is incorporated, gather dough together to form a rounded mass; knead mixture until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes.

Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a cylinder about 1 inch in diameter; cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. Transfer gnocchi to a baking sheet and cover with a clean, damp towel. Repeat process until all the dough has been used.

Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Generously salt water and return to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they rise to the top, about 4 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and add butter and shallots. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until shallots are golden. Add mushrooms and sage; cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup pumpkin, chicken stock, heavy cream, and 1/4 cup grated cheese; cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet and toss to combine. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan and nutmeg.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

in short

It's past time to get Max's 1-year pictures taken. For fear of being reported to child services for the 'unicorn look' he's sporting, I keep putting it off. Just as Max's forehead was healed from the first bruise - acquired while climbing out of a box - he landed in the EXACT same spot crawling along on the floor. At the current rate, he'll be 3 before we get those photos taken.

This is for Elizabeth: my photography skills are totally lacking - let's blame the camera, shall we? - but just try and tell me these transfer sheets aren't amazing! Fun times ahead. For anyone who wants to come over and sample, these would be dark chocolate with nutella centers.

Oma needs to go get one more pair of halloween pajamas, since cousin Summer will be joining us this year! The ghosts even glow in the dark. On a side note, cumpulsive Kat has been scouring Ebay in search of Thomas the Train engines, track and features. If you or anyone you know has outgrown their train set up, let me know. :)

I've been debating about renewing our Zoo membership for the coming year. If Katie will sport excellent outfits like this everytime we go, I think it's a must! Apparently it was still a little too warm for most of the animals to put on a good show, but the bears were fun - the black bear was at least sleeping in an interesting place. The gorilla was excellent - he was totally posing for us. Katie might even be brave enough to try sitting on a MOVING carousel animal next time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

blue bird lake

In honor of my friend Betsy, I took the troops up to the trail head for BlueBird Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The ranger SWORE to me that the parking lot at the trail head was full, and that we needed to park down below. Why not? We were there to hike, right?
A wiser woman might have given more consideration to the fact that the trail was not wide enough for the stroller - leaving the 2 year old under his own power for the adventure and Max in the backpack - and the fact that I am not the queen of spatial memory.

It took us 2 HOURS to get up to the actual trail head. I'm pretty sure that Alex needed to stand on every rock we came across. For about half the time I carried Alex on my shoulders. We had lunch at the trail head, and I seriously considered turning around and starting back to the car, but I just couldn't go that far and not actually hike any of the trail. Calypso Falls was only .3 miles away, so off we went again. The rejuvenating powers of goldfish and yogurt are quite impressive.

Katie and Alex had a good time playing on the bigger rocks by the falls, and on each and every rock on the trail up to them.

On the way back down, the question of how we were going to get back down to our car became more pressing. I did not have it in me to carry Alex on my shoulders all the way back down, and by this time Katie was wanting to be carried too. A number of people passed us on the way back down, including a lone girl in a red sweatshirt. I ALMOST asked her if we could hitch a ride, but she was going to finish too far ahead of us and I didn't want to push her potential good nature by asking her to give us a ride AND wait 30 minutes for us to get to her car. So we soldiered on, got back to the trail head, and started down the road back to our car.

A few cars drove past us as I was praying for some help with my predicament - and some courage to flag someone down for a ride. Then some folks in an SUV stopped and asked if they could give us a lift. Inside the car was the girl I had thought about asking for a ride, sitting behind her parents. They were on their annual vacation from Texas. HOORAY for Texans! A cynic might argue coincidence, but seeing that girl - who I had already had a good feeling about - in that car assured me that we were being looked after.

When we got back down to the car I drove up to the trail head to see how far we had walked. OVER 1.2 miles!! Katie and Alex are total troopers, and I am a superhero!

We all had a lot more fun when we went back in August with Roger. We made it up to the top of the falls (Calypso again; we're not quite ready to make to to Ouzel Falls), and the kids had a blast throwing rocks in the water.

I about had a heart attack because little billy goat Katie likes to jump from rock to rock - sometimes jumping towards the water. There was much more energy for playing since we actually started at the beginning of the trail, and skipped the 1.3 mile introductory walk. Even Max got to escape from his cage for a little climbing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

county fair

Alex's obsession with trucks has been steadily fed by the construction going on at the end of our street. What could have been a HUGE inconvenience and major source of irritation has instead actually been great. When we're really lucky, they park the spare dump trucks right across from our house. At least 3 times a week I load up the stroller with some # of children - ALWAYS including Alex - and we go and check out the construction guys. Scoop - scoop - dump. Sometimes Alex brings a truck along with him, sometimes one of his truck books. He is equally excited about cement mixers, dump trucks and excavators. One of the excavator operators is AMAZING. He knocks water bottles out of the way with the bucket. He hopped a cone out of his way with a huge sheet of metal. The company should have me write the evaluations for all the workers - I totally know who hustles and who is just there.

The county fair was in town in August, and, because this is Longmont, there was an exhibit of farm equipment. There were signs everywhere saying not to climb on them, but we did sit in the wheels. One of our party could have stayed there all day.

The fair had special activities for kids every morning. The day we went kids could make stick horses and then compete in a 'rodeo.' We skipped the rodeo, but we rode our horses around the entire fair. Going into the exhibit hall, a photographer for the Longmont Times-Call snapped a few photos, and one of them actually ran in the paper. Luckily her outfit sort of actually matched that day! (When I can figure out how to run the new scanner, I'll post the picture.)

One of the cool things about the small town fair is that, well, it's small. The owners of the animals are right there, and are excited to talk about their buddies. A couple of cute little 4H girls were practicing with their goats, and let Katie (Alex was NOT interested) and her friend Grayce walk them and pet them. Did you know you can actually RENT an animal if you want to participate in 4H? I always thought you had to live on your own farm. Who knew?

This quilt reminded me of Donna. (My hand is there for scale - I'm not touching the quilt!) The piecework was amazing, and it reminded me of the quilt show we went to the week after Max was born.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

best mini-vacation ever!

Last weekend Rog hatched an idea for a little getaway. We haven't gone anywhere this summer since the Young family reunion in Mancos. He hammered out the lodging and activities, I was on snacks and packing - the perfect division of labor. We had a great time! Katie announced early on that she wanted to go swimming 3 times - we almost met that request.

We drove down to Manitou Springs - right next door to Colorado Springs - Friday afternoon. We were hoping to swim before dinner, but traffic did not cooperate. The restaurant had animal heads and other 'western' stuff all over the walls, so between the decorations and mini-corn dogs we were off to a good start. Playing in the pool afterwards - which was the warmest pool I've ever been in - sealed the first day as 'totally fun' (Katie).

Saturday morning we went swimming again after breakfast and cartoons - so far a banner day for Katie once again. We then rode the cog train up Pike's Peak. The steam engines have been retired on this track too, but the train enthusiasts in our family had fun anyway. The original plan was to have one pair of adults ride up with the kids while the other drove up the mountain in the car and then switch at the top, but the road was closed because of snow. It's only September!
(Katie repeating over and over: Momma, I'm chilly!)
When we got to the top of the mountain, it was easier to understand the closure. The temperature when we started in Manitou Springs was around 70 degrees - at 14,000 feet it was 20 degrees, plus the windchill factor. We did not spend too much time running around outside, although Katie and Alex did have a small snowball fight and enjoyed stomping in the drifts. The kids had no trouble with the altitude; it seems to be the most challenging for folks over 6 feet tall - at least in our family. Luckily the gallon of water Rog drank on the way up helped him recover quickly on the way back down. Thankfully Max slept on the way up, because it was wiggle-mania all the way down.

And there you have the first - and thus far BEST - mini-vacation. Hopefully it won't be long before the next one.

input please

My Grandmother Kathy hand-knit Christmas stockings for everyone in my family - parents and brothers and sisters. My mom would like to carry on this tradition and have matching socks for all the spouses and grandchildren, and me and my needles have finally gotten busy to try and comply. I have a number of socks to catch up on - and Carol is always hoping for more additions! The socks my grandmother made have pictures knit into them - I am no where near that patient. Too much counting for me. I decided to use the same palate, but change the design for each sock. After a number of consultations with my grandmother and some searching, I figured out how to do the toe and heel - it's not an exact replica, but it's close to the originals.

Now, as to pattern.

What do you think? I like the different stripes for the boys. Now that I see Roger's argyle next to them, is it too busy? I mean, he is a complicated fellow - wink wink - but is it too much? And what should I do for Katie's sock? She said she wanted snowflakes - she's complicated too - but is that too different? What other patterns fit in with the mix?


Sunday, September 27, 2009

july adventures

We were pretty good about hitting the park at least once a week - at least during the first part of the summer. There are a couple of parks here that have water features, which makes it cool enough for everyone - meaning ME - to enjoy! The Denver Botanic Gardens had an exhibit of dinosaurs this summer, so we had an adventure day with our buddies the Chapdelaines. The gardens were amazing. It's funny how many years I drove past them and thought I should go check them out but never did. I decided to wait until I could make it a real adventure! The kids were not as excited about the plants as the big girls were, but they did have a blast searching for dinosaurs everywhere.
The Longmont Museum had an exhibit called 'Little Builders.' We didn't discover it until near the end of its run, otherwise I'm sure we would have returned again and again. There were all sorts of things to build with - giant Lego-type blocks, wooden blocks, PVC pipe and fittings. Alex was - surprise! - most interested in the displays that involved movement - the crane, the conveyor belt, and the 'air cone.' Katie liked climbing in the little play houses and up on the 'construction work site.'
Roger got his boat out to the reservoir a handful of times. Unfortunately, he didn't have too much luck with the wind this season.

In case your name is Carol and you're freaking out about the lack of life jackets on everyone, the depth here is only a couple of feet. Roger had just sailed over to us on the shore.The discovery that Katie not only fits well on top of the stroller but loves to ride up there really made my life easier this summer. With the carabiners on the handle for holding more of our paraphernalia and Seven's leash, our traveling rig is about as good as it can get.