Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jonah, 18 weeks

Just this week he's begun "talking", and his belly laugh is priceless.

More birthday(s) and a different look at fingerpaint

At the post office yesterday, we picked up a box from Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Bob for Lavella's and my birthday. I have to say -- I love it when the birthday gifts are spread out like this. It's more fun to open things at a slower pace, and it's nice to be able to really enjoy each gift, rather than sifting through a pile.

When Lavella pulled out the little Ralph Lauren dress, she yelled "Oh my! A dress!!"

Thank you Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Bob! Lavella loves her new clothes and tiny stuffed puppy (which she's been carrying around all day, but I somehow didn't get a picture of!), and I look forward to using my gift to get some books on my wishlist. Hugs and kisses to you both!!

Speaking of birthdays, on Sunday, the children and I ended up accidentally attending the birthday of one of our neighbors.

We went out for a walk before dinner, and two of our neighbor families were out having a cook-out together (complete with a swinging grill -- I wish I'd gotten a picture of this regional way of cooking.)

When we returned from our walk, they urged us to stay and eat, and I found myself at a loss for the proper conduct in such a situation. If we were all speaking the same language, I would have argued, put up a little fuss "oh, are you sure? Can I bring anything down from my kitchen? ???" but instead, the only answer I had was..."OK!"

So. There we were, sitting at a table of Germans speaking German, almost all of it going straight over my head. One neighbor speaks fluent English, so she translated somewhat, but mostly I just tried to eat as unobtrusively as I could. It felt like dining in a fishbowl.

After dinner, it was mentioned casually that it had been the one little girl's 4th birthday a few days ago...and out came a huge cake!

My children were very impressed.

It was a little strange (to me) though; no one sang anything, and the candles were lit and blown out 3 or 4 times, pictures were taken with different children next to the cake...there didn't seem to be a direct order to things. Perhaps that's just how they do it.

In spite of my discomfort, however, my children had a wonderful time playing and eating and running around with everyone, so I was able to enjoy it for them. It did really make the evening fly, and when I put them to bed, they were asleep almost before I turned their light out.

Entirely unrelated, but I was organizing and cleaning today, and ended up purging my make-up bag. I was just about to chuck the old eye shadows and lipstick palettes, but then I realized that they looked just like finger paints.

The boys spent a very enjoyable hour or so of their quiet time this afternoon digging out every last bit of color.

In case anyone's wondering though, it takes a heck of a lot of dish-soap to get make-up out of little hands and table.

I thought it was interesting that to the boys, the whole joy of finger painting is in the tactile sensation. If I had been painting, I would have wanted to have a separation of the colors, and a distinction between parts of my picture. Andrew and Elijah, on the other hand, were completely taken by the way the pigments felt under their fingers, the way the creme to powder formula blended to a glittery finish, to the contrast between slick lipstick and powder shadows.

Life through the eyes of the young. It's what keeps my world fresh.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Smells your butt

Lavella, feeling supremely rude a few weeks ago, came up with the worst phrase she could think of: "Eww, yucky, smells your butt". I know that I shouldn't encourage it, but I had to get it on video for posterity.

Here you go:

Your welcome.

The other day while on a webcam chat with Greg, we put Jonah in his Jolly Jumper for the first time (given to Andrew by Poppy and Nana when he was a baby).

The only danger is being "swung" too hard by exuberant siblings.

Once he starts actually jumping in it, I'll get a video of that too.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Date Nut Bread (or muffins)

Thank you everyone for your birthday wishes! You all made a very special day even sweeter.

It's time for another recipe!

Occasionally, when I have a tiny bit of extra time, I like to make these muffins or bread. It takes just a bit of extra work, since the dates need to be chopped very finely (although you can cut this step if you can find them already chopped at the store), but it's so worth it. (Sarcy, I think of you every time I make it!) I made this recipe the other day for my birthday/spinning day, and realized that I've never shared it on this blog. I've lifted the recipe straight off of my (now defunct) podcast site, so here it is at last:


(Shown here as baked into mini-loaves, and next to a loaf of my Honey Whole Wheat Bread)

Chewy, moist, dark, dense, delicious. I'm not sure how else I can describe this bread, except to say that I've never tasted anything like it, and it's one of the best things I've ever put into my mouth.

My friend Sarcy's family used to bake up truckloads of this in coffee cans for Christmas, than give it out to everyone they knew, wrapped in foil, topped with a stick-on bow. Everyone looked forward to the "coffee-can bread", although some people couldn't figure out how to get the bread out (hint: use a can-opener to cut the bottom off and push the bread through), and would eat it with a spoon straight out of the can. It's that good. My favorite way to eat it is cold, with lots of cream cheese. Sarcy eats hers lightly toasted.

Combine and let stand while preparing other ingredients:
1-8 oz package dates, finely chopped (approx 32 whole dates or 1 cup finely chopped)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 cups boiling water

Mix together:
2-1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 cups sugar

Add the soaked dates and liquid to flour mixture, along with:
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, of course)

Pour into greased loaf pan (or coffee cans) and bake at 350 (F) for 1-1/4 hours, or until toothpick comes out clean.

I always bake these as muffins too (better for the little guys to hold onto, easier to serve), and it takes less time to bake. Keep an eye on them, but it should take between 25 and 30 minutes.

Very important: when making any kind of sweet bread, cake, or muffins, never fill more than 3/4 of the way full, at most. Othewise it's going to overflow and make a huge mess in your oven.

These get even more sticky, dark, moist and delicious with time, although I usually don't have that much self-control.

One regular and one mini-muffin

Friday, April 24, 2009

Twenty Nine Years

Today, I turned 29, and what better way to celebrate, than with a customized Stitch 'n Bitch? I invited a bunch of fiber (and one non-fiber) friend(s) over to celebrate Lavella's and my birthdays with cake, BLT's and SPINNING! Yay! What a great way to spend the day.

Lavella and I accidentally coordinated:

OK, so the colors looked more coordinated in person. You'll just have to believe me.

Dudes, for real, I need to clean that mirror.

For posterity's sake, here's my hair, long as ever:

(I've got a chopping plan. But it will not be executed yet. I will discuss further in a future post.)

During the party today, Lavella, hilariously, had yet another cake-related meltdown:

She seemed to be either offended or overwhelmed that the group's singing was directed towards her.

Oh dear.

Things were OK again once the candles were blown out.

The cake was Cinnamon Squares from (need I say?) Baking: From My Home to Yours.

It was Very Important to my boys that we use the awful sugary candy decorations on the cake. They've been looking forward to it for months, and they helped me stick them into the frosting. I got an extra sheet of the candies too, in case some child was errantly handed a piece of un-candied cake (the horrors!) Also, I made sure to stick enough candles in so that every child present could participate in blowing them out. Because child spit is important, when it comes to birthday cakes.

The only modification I made to the recipe (besides the child spit) was to double the recipe and serve it straight out of the Pyrex baking dish, rather than turning it out onto a plate.

I think I burned the frosting a tiny bit (it's made of butter and chocolate gently melted together, and I suppose I wasn't all that gentle), but the end effect was that of tiny bits of cocoa nibs in it, which I rather enjoyed.

The cake is made of a cinnamon batter, with a layer of chocolate/sugar/cinnamon/espresso baked into the center. I used Saigon Cinnamon (McCormick's Select), and the sweetness of the higher quality cinnamon really came through. I find that the "regular" cheaper kind can tend to have a bit of a dusty taste, so I now use the Saigon exclusively.

It is clear that I love cinnamon. Also, I'm a bit hopped up on the caffine buzz from COFFEECHOCOLATEYAY!! I would have another piece, but seeing as I do hope to sleep at some point, that would not be a good plan.

The party wasn't a "gift" type of party, which I made clear to all invited, but some of them bent the rules anyway.

Heather brought me flowers:

Tiffany brought a freaking adorable handmade card (yes, she made that) with a Spunky gift certificate inside (I shop there so regularly that I am now friends with the owner.):

Greg had a huge, beautiful cookbook sent to me from Amazon:

I'm not even going to try to explain Alinea restaurant to you, so you'll just have to click through the link. It's crazy, and it's unreal. But now I can make the food too. (If I happen to have the time, equipment, and exactly 0 children hugging my legs or throwing balls at my head.)

Not photographed, but also included in gifts were some yummy hand cream and a candle for me and a princess bracelet/barrette set for Daisy from Lori, and a garden play-center from Tiffany.

Thank you to all of the ladies (Heather, Tiffany, Lori, Elaine, Hilary, Chris) who came to the party. Each of you made my day wonderful and special. Having friends like all of you make me feel like the luckiest girl around.

My house is tidy, the children are in bed, and I've just spent a good portion of the evening visiting with Greg on the webcam, while working on my latest sweater:

I also talked with other members of the family. It's been a great day.

I intend to finish out the night spending some quality time with a little pure silk:

(Quality time: spinning it into yarn.)

Also, check out what's just hit the loom:

Yes Aunt Susie. Soon this baby will be all yours.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Proud new momma

This morning when I went to get Lavella from her crib, I found her wearing only a shirt. ONLY A SHIRT. And she didn't look the least bit guilty either, which meant....oh yes, you guessed it: she took it all off last night. LAST NIGHT. Wet crib sheet: check. Wet stuffed animals: check. Wet lambie (lambskin): check. Dudes. And we were off first thing in the morning for Bible study too, so I couldn't even get it in the washer before we left. Hurrah. I love the smell of pee in the afternoon. (That actually wasn't the only wet sheets I had to deal with, but I'll spare the details to protect the innocent. I swear I just finished with last week's laundry.)

At times like this, I think: just wait until they're older. Then they'll be the ones cleaning it all up. And then I realize: just wait...and then they won't be making these ridiculous toddler messes anymore. Ah well. Oh! But I can be comforted with the fact that: their children will do this to them! Ha-ha! OK, I feel better now.

Today we brought home another box from Aunt Terry (the post office must not have put all the mail out the last time we were there):

A boy baby doll!

That talks! (Oh joy.)

Lavella loves it, and it took me about 3 hours to find the "off" switch. I promise though, I'll turn it back on for her in the morning. Maybe.

We went to the Eis cafe after dinner to get some cones zum mitnehmen (to go).

I got hot chocolate.

Lavella was clutching the doll to her all the while, and when it fussed, she would say "Shh, shh, shh, OK, babe, it's OK", and other such things that she hears me say. Here she is, looking exceptionally snotty and protective over her baby, which she is holding by the head. With her armpit. Safe. I hope she hasn't learned that from me.

Cute flashback: here's Lavella opening her birthday gift from Aunt Terry last year.
(And for a little trip down memory lane -- should you so wish -- here's the whole post from last year.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blossoms, seedlings, and a morning on my own

Do you remember these buds?

Well now they look like this:

Spring. There's nothing like it.

Even the rain smells good at this time of year. To me it smells of freshly turned earth, of green shoots, of damp flowers. For the past two days it has rained, and, while I can't easily go out walking with the children in it, I've enjoyed looking out my windows at the raindrops, and breathing deeply when I step out on my porch for a moment.

Speaking of my porch, here's my garden, which the children and I have now moved outside. (It was quite the parade, pushing them through the house, stopping when Lavella threw a fit because I wasn't "letting" her push the super-heavy pot-that-weighs-more-than-she-does by herself...yeah.)

I didn't harden them off properly, since...well, I sort of forgot them outside that first day of "hardening", and then just ended up never bringing them back in. This is why I've always had a "black thumb" with plants. But anyway, these seem to be pretty hardy seedlings, and are still alive.

It'll be interesting to see if they survive. I hope so! If not, I'm sure I can replace most of them with similar varieties from the nearby plant nursery, but there's something satisfying about starting them from seed myself. Kind of like washing a fleece and taking a project from there. We'll see what happens.

Today the sun came out to shine again. I got a babysitter for the children this morning, put on my Gucci sunglasses, and got into my tiny blue car. No carseats to buckle, no snacks to hand out. I felt like I was missing a limb. Pedal-to-the-metal, I nudged the car up just a bit past my usual 85-miles-per-hour comfort zone. It was weird. I was free.

All I really had to do was go grocery shopping, and it felt like a true luxury to do it alone. I stopped for lunch: a slice of plain cheese pizza and some scary looking buffalo wings at the BX food court. Nasty, but I couldn't even care. I got the food to go and ate it in my car while looking at magazines. Then I knit a little bit. AND NO ONE BOTHERED ME. It was amazing. But then I started missing those little faces (you know, the ones that might possibly Bother Me), and then... I went back home.

Seriously. I think they get cuter every time I look at them.

And of course they're extra cute when I haven't seen them in a little while.

It was refreshing to have just a brief break.

Jonah, visiting with the neighbors

It'll be good to have Greg home with us again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lavella's day (and yet another milestone for the little guy!)

Pictures from Lavella's birthday yesterday:

Opening boxes from Aunt Terry.

Eating Twizzlers (always included in Aunt Terry boxes!) In this photo you can see a pizza peel for me (!!!!), and a stroller for Lavella. Thank you Aunt Terry, we love our gifts!!!

Lavella's cake was a very simple, quickly put together skillet cake from....Baking: From My Home to Yours (are you sick of that title yet? Then BUY IT! NOW.)

Swedish Visiting Cake

The best birthday face ever.

Here's what happened:

Once the candles were blown out, her world was set all to rights again. Who knew that lighting the candles would threaten to ruin her life?

"Yay cake!"

We tailored the day around her, to include all of us lying in the middle of the living room floor, building with blocks, cuddling on the couch to read some books (well, she walked around with her own book, "reading" to us while I read to the boys), and talking to family with the webcam on Skype.

In other news, this little dude turned 4 months old today:

(Photo by Andrew)

I know, I can't believe it either.

I'm making it an effort to cherish every moment with this guy; every cuddle, every kiss. I know from my other little ones that time, especially with children, flies, and I need to make these moments count. Every stage is precious.

And last but not least, here is a building that the boys made. They wanted Greg to see it. I'm just amused by their expressions behind the blocks: