Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another New Begining

Happy New Year's Eve! Our friend's birthday is today and we have a tradition of celebrating with a group of friends this night. I hope everyone has a safe evening tonight and a blessed new year!

Family is beginning to depart and tomorrow things should be getting back to normal. It's been pretty non-stop around here, traveling back and forth to my parents house (where all the rest of our family is staying, fortunately it's only 30 minutes away.) We had a wonderful time visiting and there were some fantastic pictures taken. Hopefully we'll be able to share some soon.

In the meantime, even though family is heading home, radio stations are no longer playing carols, and neighbors are taking down decorations it's still Christmas! And will be so until January 10th when we celebrate the Lord's baptism. Anyone have any plans for Epiphany this year? I'm thinking we'll bake a king cake and make some paper crowns for the kids to wear.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Mystery Afoot

This is what happens when I sit to feed the baby and forget to close off the kitchen.

Now if there was only a way to find the culprit...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Who turned out the lights?

There was a baptism this past Sunday during Mass. Well, technically two, they were twins. :) In our Church the baptism comes right after the homily. The priest and families made their way to the baptismal font and the lights were lowered so a live image could be displayed on one of the Church walls (we are part of a very large parish.) As they made their way back all the music stopped and it grew very dark. One certain little girl who had been wonderfully quiet and content suddenly looked up with big eyes and said, "What happened?!" in a loud and concerned voice. When our shushes, pointing, and whispers of "babies are being baptized" were not enough she repeated her question even louder complete with shrugging shoulders. Snickers and chuckles erupted around us and we couldn't help but join in.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Reminder

Take some time, remember what Advent is about.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Homemade Vanilla Extract

If you haven't noticed, I like to bake. A lot. Much of what I make calls for vanilla extract so you can imagine that I go through a bottle pretty quickly. It's not cheap either, with a 2 oz bottle of Madagascar vanilla costing between $3 and $6. I decided to make my own so I could save some money and have a large supply on hand.

4 Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans
1 1/2 cups vodka
1/2 cup dark rum
tall glass bottle or large canning jar with lid

Cut each vanilla bean lengthwise to within one inch of the end (to help it stay together.) Push each bean into your jar or bottle and pour the liquor on top. You want the beans to be fully submerged so I used a tall, narrow bottle. Shake a few times then place in a cool, dark place. Shake every day or so for 6-8 weeks.

Now, I just have to be patient.
I hate wait. (*bonus points if you know what that's from*)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekly Tidbits

1. Addie likes to eat onions. Raw. She stole a few from the cutting board as Steve was cooking dinner and munched on them like apples.

2. Juliana is close to rolling over. She gets to her side easily but her arm still holds her back. She can make it from her stomach to back without a problem though and is enjoying her tummy time much more. And she's five months old today. Where is this time going?

3. Gabe will try to divert your attention from an infraction (like standing on the table or playing with the laptop) by breaking into a dance. "Ot dog" (hot dog, as in the hot dog dance at the end of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) he says while bopping up and down and shaking his arms from side to side.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St Nicholas Day

Today... was a great day. (Unfortunately, our camera is dead so we had to make do with a phone camera, and all the pictures turned out blurry.)

We spent yesterday talking about St Nicholas, reading a book about him and trying to prep them for today. We hung their stockings and they seemed excited by their "big socks." This morning the kids came downstairs to advent music playing, stuffed stockings, and a lit tree with a special new ornament.
"Teh-yee Berrs!" (teddy bears) was the first exclamation of the morning. (They were really stuffed reindeer with tiny bags of mini candy canes but, close enough.) We said a prayer and then took their stockings down for them to go through. Aside from the stuffed animal they each got a clear bouncy ball with glitter in it, a mini board book and a little chocolate santa. The santas were eaten as soon as they heard they were "Chock-et!"
While they sucked on their santas we read The Saint Who Became Santa Claus.
We enjoyed a nice breakfast and later the kids helped to make Speculatius (German spice cookies.) I didn't have a special cookie cutter or the time to decorate them so we just made circles and they turned out well. Next time I might add a bit more cloves, I like them spicy.

We had a great time finding ways to make this day special (As the kids get older we hope to add a tradition of helping out at a local soup kitchen) and are looking forward to our kids growing up celebrating this great saint.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Beginning New Traditions

It's been a busy week. I have been working on finishing up several projects and haven't had much extra time left at the end of the day, but it's been worth it. Some of these I completed just in time for Advent. I know I had said that I wasn't going to add much to our Advent and Christmas traditions this year, but I changed my mind. If I waited until I was able to do everything just the way I want it then it would be years before my ideas came to life.
I was fortunate to happen upon a site that has printable Jesse Tree ornaments with corresponding reflections and bible passages to read each night. I printed all 28 ornaments and had my mom laminate them for me. I punched a hole in the top of each ornament, threaded some thin purple ribbon through and secured with hot glue. Done! Now all I needed was a special way to keep these items together.
As I was browsing the shelves at Michaels I saw some small wooden, hinged boxes for $3. I picked one out along with two shades of purple acrylic paint, some foam paint brushes and a spray-on sealer. I took the hinges and closures off, applied two coats of paint in each color, allowed them to dry, then used the sealer. The whole process only took one evening.

Now I have a beautiful box which holds the ornament and reading for the day along with two Hershey Kisses for the kids to enjoy. It's worked out quite well.

I don't have the extra room for a separate tree so we put up our beautiful 7.5 foot pre-lit tree and strung it with purple lights. (We'll keep the white lights off until Christmas day and put up our family ornaments on Christmas Eve.)

Each night we all come and sit by the tree with the box and our Bible. One of the kids "hangs" the ornament and then Steve reads the reflection while I help the kids with their chocolate. Then we open the Bible and read the passages while the kids wander the room. (I'm not going to push them to sit still, as long as they're quiet and in the room, I'm happy.)

I keep the box and the Bible on our mantle as the centerpiece of the decoration. I reused my glass vases from fall by surrounding glittery, snow-covered twigs with small purple and silver ball ornaments then wrapping a wide purple ribbon around the top.

Between these vases and the box stand two 8x10 frames with an image of St. Nicholas and a beautiful representation of the Jesse Tree.

My sister referred me to a wonderful blog where I saw this great idea for O Antiphon ornaments. There are several ways to incorporate the O Antiphons into your family traditions with ornaments, houses or wreaths. Perhaps if I find some more time I may try my hand at putting something together. If not, there's always next year. I am pleased with what we have put together for this year though, and am excited to be celebrating this season with my family.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fruit and Nut Bars

I've been looking for a better snack lately, one that's healthy, filling and full of flavor. I settled on granola bars but wanted to try my hand at making them because store bought are so expensive, not to mention full of preservatives. I decided to use peanut butter to make them more appealing to Steve, who's never been a fan of granola. They turned out great; chewy, nutty, sweet... super tasty. Steve and the kids love them, too which is a huge bonus. Actually, he's told me that I'm not allowed to make any other kind. Not that I'll listen, though. Heh.

2 cups old fashion oats
3 Tbsp chopped or sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped, dried cranberries, cherries and blueberries
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Heat the oven to 400F. Spread the oats and almonds in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, Combine peanut butter, honey, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring until fully melted.
Put dried fruit, coconut and toasted oats and almonds in a medium bowl. Pour the peanut butter mixture on top and stir until fully coated.
Press into a 9x9 pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Remove paper from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Once cooled, cut and wrap each bar in plastic wrap.
Makes 18 bars.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preparing For Advent

Did you know that Advent begins next Sunday? This is my favorite season in the Church's calendar; the time to reflect on the history of God's people, prepare with joy for His coming at Bethlehem, and look forward to when He will come again. There are many books, activities and prayers available not only for children but for adults looking to celebrate, learn, pray and enjoy this wonderful time.

I recently found a post by Karen Edminsten, The No-Panic Advent Series. In it she has combined all her posts about advent, making it a one-stop-shop, so to speak, of all her ideas for making this season special. She covers so many great topics; The Jesus Stocking, December Feast Days, The Jesse Tree, balancing secularity with Christian heritage, simple traditions (advent wreaths and calendars, prayers and books), Santa, last minute checklists, and the Twelve Days. It's a very long post but is simply a gold mine of tips, links and ideas.

I have posted before about wanting to start some traditions for this time with my family. The Jesse Tree is top on my list but I have come across so many more wonderful ideas, it's almost a little overwhelming. Taking the advice of more seasoned mothers though, I have started a folder compiling ideas, activities, and websites full of prayers and meditations. There is no way I can do everything in one year, nor should I try, and this will allow me to hold on to these ideas for future years. We'll try more ideas as the years go on and hold on to those that are most meaningful for our family.

As time is in short supply this year I think the only new addition to our calendar will be the celebration of St Nicholas Day. We will make and hang stockings on the 5th (St Nicholas Day Eve) and read his story. The next day they will find a few fun trinkets, fruit or candy in them. We'll read some more, bake some Speculaas cookies, say some prayers and enjoy a special dinner.

What special traditions do you have for this season?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Addie The Enforcer... Part 2

Sitting on the couch next to her daddy after dinner last night Addie was chatting away and holding a cup of juice. Suddenly, her jabber takes on a concerned tone and she begins saying, "Oh no. no juice. Tahm Out. Tahm out, juice."
We watch, jaws dropped open and barely containing our laughs, as she takes her sippy and puts it in the time out corner. "Tahm Out, Juice" she says again as she walks away. A few moments later she says, "OK, ah dun. Sorry? Sorry, juice." and kisses the cup as she returns to her place on the couch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Our dinner tonight is a new favorite; soups are one of the best things about cooler weather.

1.5 - 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup tomato sauce
30 oz chicken broth
1 can cream style corn
2 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
Thyme and Oregano to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan

In a crockpot combine onion, carrots, potatoes, tomato sauce and chicken broth. Season lightly with thyme and oregano. Add chicken and cook 3.5 hours on high.
Remove chicken, cut into bite sized chunks and add back to soup along with the corn and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and cook an additional 15-20 minutes.

Serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tired? Surely You Jest.

This is what "wind down before bed" time looks like around here. I promise, they don't eat sugar for dinner.

From Movies

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Gabe has developed an aversion to wearing pants. It's to the point where the only bottoms he will wear are overalls and only because he can't figure out how to get them off. Pajama bottoms aren't safe either. After nap time the other day he had stripped off his diaper along with the pants. Whee.

Addie can count to 15 now. She can recognize some of the numbers, but sometimes gets carried away with the counting and skips ahead. She will correctly count items though. Peas, cans and blocks are slid one by one as she counts them out. She can also draw a circle. Really. Drawing is one of her favorite activities.

Juliana has started laughing. But only for her daddy. It's quite possibly the cutest sound I've ever heard; quick, chirping giggles that leave her daddy in a puddle. (Just in time for a visit from her Aunts, too. They'll be thrilled.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day

To those everywhere that have sacrificed and served. My grandfather. My Uncle. My father. My friend.

A Nation's Strength

Not gold, but only man can make
A people great and strong;
Men who, for truth and honor's sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly --
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

-Walt Whitman

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pardon me?

Addie was standing at the bottom of the stairs yesterday trying to get her fathers attention. "Daaaaadeeeeeeeeeee!" she called out. "DAAAAAAAAADEEEEEEEEE!!!!" Steve, however, was in our room with the door closed and was unable to hear her. After waiting for another moment, considering her options, she decided to try the "mommy" approach. Oh no, she didn't turn to me for help, she did a great imitation. She reached up and knocked as hard as she could on the wall and said, "Seeeeeeeeeeeeve!" "SEEEEEEEEEEVE!"
Daddy emerged eying her curiously. "What did you call me?"
"Tanks, Seeve!" Was her only response.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Well, we tried...

These past few months I've had a great time trying out new baking recipes. From new sweet bread and cookies to pies and brownies, we've had something new in our kitchen almost every week. As delicious as these recipes have been, they haven't been helping our wasitlines, and it's something we need to be more conscious of. So yesterday I got down a book from my cabinet that I've had for a while but never really went through or tried out. Secrets of Fat-Free Baking.

I have a weakness for chocolate and was looking through the book to find something quick and easy that I could make with ingredients I already had on hand. A recipe for Honey Oatmeal Brownies seemed to fit that bill so I set about mixing them up. The original recipe calls for honey and unbleached flour but as I didn't have either of these I used orange marmalade (there's a whole chapter about substituting sweeteners) and whole wheat flour. I had the brownies in the pan in less than 5 minutes and the whole process cleaned up before Steve came down from getting the twins to bed.

On the whole we weren't impressed though. I have a feeling that chocolate and orange, though a popular combination of flavors, is something of an aquired taste. The texture of the oatmeal didn't really help matters much. I could tell Steve really wanted to like them, he came back after his first bite for another taste, but shook his head and gave up on them. I wasn't quite so bothered. The orange flavor was quite strong, I have a feeling it would have tasted better with the honey or perhaps a raspberry preserve.

On the plus side though the kids gobbled them up, and I didn't feel bad about them eating brownies. Also, they only have 75 calories and 0.5 grams of fat per serving. That's impressive. Although, if you're turned off by the flavor and texture so you head back to your stash of halloween candy, it kind of defeats the purpose. I'm hopeful that other recipes will turn out better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Afternoon Out

We took the kids out to a park yesterday for some fresh air and to burn a little energy. We're all getting over some mystery illness and had been cooped up for far too long, but the bright blue skies and cool, crisp air did much to lift our spirits.

The kids played on the parks large playground for a while before we started a walk down one of the trails. They had a great time pointing out leaves and squirrels sauntering down the path with us.

We got to see a few unexpected sights as well, like a huge spiderweb spanning the path (which I only narrowly missed walking through) and a giant praying mantis chowing down on some unfortunate bug.

The kids did get tired eventually and asked daddy to carry them. It was a little bittersweet, noticing how big the kids were getting and realizing that we won't be able to carry them both together for much longer.

When they weren't being carried by daddy, however, they were more than happy to join hands and trot off on their own.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Last night was the first Halloween that we dressed the kids up for trick or treating, and we had a great time. They went as pirates (I figured this will probably be the only year I can dress them as I wish so, darn it, they're going to coordinate!) They were anxious to get started and losing patience as we got everything together, but we made it out the door around 6:15.

Addie was very outgoing with everyone she met, saying hello, pointing out decorations and showing them the stars and moon. Gabe was more reserved, but always replied when prompted. We had been practicing saying "Trick or Treat" for several days, that may have been the best part for them. "Tick oh tea!" they would say when the doors opened. Then they would thank them and get out a wish for a Happy Halloween. Addie starting condensing her responses to "Tick oh Tea! Tanks! Ta Ta!" Gabe's attempt at Happy Halloween came out as simply "Ween!" So precious.

Some of the houses had dogs and Gabe became rather frightened. He refused to even walk up to several houses, opting to wait with me in the driveway. Only after a few of the homeowners came out and assured him they didn't have dogs did he cautiously make his way towards them.

By the time we had walked the streets of our neighborhood they were tired and the baby getting fussy so we headed home. We made one last stop across the street from our house. After getting his candy Gabe turned around and sat down on the step with the woman, plunked down his pumpkin and put his feet out. I think it's safe to say he was done.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Our nickname for this baby.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Practice and Progress

Addie has gotten so much better about allowing me to work with her hair. Granted, she is allowed to have her paci while I'm fixing it, but it still counts as major progress. She stays very still in front of me as I comb through it and twist it up into pony tails or pig tails. Yesterday I decided to try something new and see if I could get a small braid in before she pulled away. I made a side part, swept it to the side and quickly braided it. It stayed in place for the whole day (even through nap time!) and was successful at keeping the hair out of her face. I am hoping that I can try more and more ideas with her hair. As a kid I never really played with hair very much (I can do a simple braid on myself and that's about it.) I'd like to try a french braid, but I have no experience with that at all, and am doubting if Addie's head is the place to practice. We'll see what I can learn with her new found patience.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Small Successes


1) At a recent auction Steve was able to purchase a specialty oven worth $10,000 for $400.
2) After being surprised by a 2 inch wolf spider hiding under one of the kids toys I was able to capture and release it outside without any screaming or arm flailing.
3) I cleaned off the top of my fridge yesterday! After finding more appropriate homes for some items and chucking others my fridge top only has our bread box and dry produce storage. I'm also able to easily access all my cookbooks now (which I sorted through and organized) located in the small cabinet above the fridge. As an added bonus we found a few bottles of liquor in there, too. It may be time for a cocktail! :)

A Calmer Moment

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Me at age One

Addie at 2 1/2

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Have you heard

Of Pomplamoose? It's the band started by two very talented people. They play every instrument and Nataly sings every line of harmony. Her voice is very unique and I find it quite beautiful. We have watched several of their videos and they seem like funny, quirky people just enjoying making music. What kind of music? Per their facebook page, crazy funk awesome.
I'll second that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Accusations and Distractions

At the breakfast table this morning the kids jabber back and forth as we clear the dishes. All of a sudden Gabe starts to make the potty sign and say, "Ah-ee" (Addie.) I ask him if he's going potty and he says, "No. Ah-ee. Ah-ee pah-ee." And points to her frantically.
"Umm. Addie's going potty?"
"Ah-ee! Ah-ee pah-ee!" (more urgent pointing.)
"How... Addie, are you going potty?"
Gabe grunts his information again, but this time as he throws out his arm to point he gets distracted by the Mickey Mouse on his pajama sleeve.
"Ah-ee! Ah... Mah Mouse!"
He spends the next 2 minutes staring down the cartoon and promptly forgets his earlier accusation.
(For the record, Addie did not go potty. I have no idea what prompted him.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Addie figured out what that button on the top of the camera does.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rosary Bracelet

Faith and Family is hosting a giveaway with the gift of a beautiful rosary bracelet. I followed their link to the online store and was blown away by how beautiful they are. This one in particular. I have been meaning to pray the rosary more frequently and this would serve as a great reminder. Perhaps I will ask for one this Christmas. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Walk With A View

We've started taking the kids on walks much more frequently. Now that the temperature has cooled off (quite dramatically in fact, isn't fall supposed to come between summer and winter?) The distance we've been able to walk has been increasing gradually and we're able to go 2 miles comfortably now. (That may not seem impressive, but hey, I was out of shape before having Juliana. ;) We've enjoyed finding new places to walk and have been rediscovering parks and lakes in our area. Yesterday we took a walk on the trail around a nearby lake. It was a perfect 2 mile distance and provided so much scenery and wildlife for the kids to look at. We will be going back frequently.

A view of the lake

There were ducks everywhere.

A perfect seat.

A plethora of turtles. Three of them ducked underwater just before I took this picture.

Bundled up for the ride.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reeces Krispie Treats

I wanted to bake something yesterday for Steve's birthday, but since the kids all had fevers (and Gabe was vomiting and not eating much) extra time was nil. I decided to throw together some rice krispie treats, at least he would have something. When I was getting out the marshmallows I noticed we had a bag of Reeces peanut butter chips. I figured those would perk them up (not to mention he loves peanut butter.) But that got me thinking of how else I could add to them. I settled on something chocolate, the perfect complement. They did not disappoint. They were fast, easy and delicious.

6 cups krispie cereal
3 Tbsp butter
1 bag (or 10 oz) mini marshmallows
8 oz Reeces peanut butter chips
2 Tbsp Devils Food pudding mix

Melt butter in saucepan over med-low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in pudding mix.
Pour peanut butter chips and Krispies into a large bowl. Pour on marshmallow mixture and quickly stir to coat all cereal. Press mixture into a greased 9x13x2 pan and let cool.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Funny Faces

She was obviously startled when I began snapping pictures. A good 1/3 of the pictures I took had this expression actually.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

6 Years

Today is our anniversary! We've been spending it playing with our kids and visiting with Steve's mom. She brought her special Chicken Ziti and an apple pie for dessert... I can't wait for dinner. A tasty ending to a wonderful day.

O God, we thank you that you have given us another year of life together. We thank you for the love which grows more precious and for the bonds which grow more close each day. We thank you for the happiness we have known together; for the sorrows we have faced together; for all the experiences of sunshine and of shadow through which we have come, up to today.

We ask for forgiveness for any failure on our part; for any times when we became difficult to live with; for any lack of sympathy and understanding; for anything which spoiled even for a moment the perfect relationship which marriage should be. Spare us to each other to go on walking the way of life together, and grant that for us it may be true that the best is yet to be: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Evening Prayers

For the last year and a half the kids have said their evening prayers in their bedroom. Steve and I would put them down together since he was usually home from work at that time. Since we've had Ana though, only one of us puts them down so our time to pray as a family stopped. As the kids have gotten older it's also been increasingly difficult to get them calmed down enough for prayer time. In the past as long as they weren't playing with a toy, reading, or running around flailing their arms we were ok. We don't want to force them to pray or make it an unpleasant experience by making them sit still, so we gave them leeway. They are only 2, after all. After reading a post on my sister's blog about the evening prayer routine with her kids I decided to give it a try.

After their baths last night they got in their pajamas, brushed their teeth and then came back downstairs. We all gathered at the kitchen table and I explained what was going on. I lit a candle and we folded our hands to pray. I was astonished at how well it kept them focused. Gabe stared the whole time at the flame, giggling every now and then but mostly staying quiet and listening. Addie prayed right along with us. Most of what she said were gibberish words, but every now and then she would say the correct word at the right time. It was nice to hear how much she'd actually been paying attention all those other times. When we finished the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be I told them it was time to blow out the candle. Just like my sister said happens with her two, both kids wanted to blow it out so we took turns. Everyone was happy and calm, and honestly the experience was over too quickly. We will do this again tonight (with 2 candles this time) and perhaps introduce a new prayer.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Best Banana Muffins

These muffins are flavorful, filling and actually pretty good for you. A wonderful combination made all the better by the fact that they're easy to eat and transport. Plus, the kids love them.

makes 12 regular sized muffins

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 mashed bananas
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup applesauce

Combine first 6 ingredients in medium size bowl. Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Stir wet intro dry until just moistened. Spoon into greased muffin pan or liners and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great Song

I have been fond of Death Cab For Cutie for a while but have never played any of their songs while the kids were around. They were in the room when I listened to this song for the first time and loved it. They danced, jumped, spun and bopped their hearts out for the entire song. If I hadn't been nursing I would have joined them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another Year

Today is my 27th birthday! We have no big special plans for the day, but I rather like that. It's a wet and dreary morning here so we're taking the kids to a mall to play at their indoor playground. I'll take the baby for some quick shopping and then we'll return home for a hot lunch and naps. This afternoon we'll have some popcorn and hot cocoa and watch The Iron Giant with the kids, and that's as much as a plan as we have. What a wonderful way to celebrate and thank the Lord for the gift of another year, enjoying the small things in life.

**To mark another milestone, Juliana is 3 months old today! To quote my sister, she's a baby now and not a newborn. My sweet little chub, this time is flying by.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our Little Nut

She actually lays like this a lot. It reminds me of a picture of my sister when she was young, balancing on a chair doing a headstand with a friend. It must be in the genes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Decorating

Michael's was having a sale on fall items and I went a little crazy. I have never decorated my home for fall and decided to make some simple pieces. The first things I did were to put moss and assorted gourds and squash into glass vases and tie the tops with raffia ribbon. I followed that up by cutting the tops off of 2 small decorators pumpkins, putting in dry florists foam and making arrangements with more moss, leaves, flowers and berries.
Next came a glass basket filled with mini scented pinecones

Followed by the large pumpkin arrangement.

Then Mom showed up last night with this gorgeous birthday gift she quilted for us to hang in our kitchen

Last night I finished this wreath of leaves, mums and berries. This is the first time I've ever put one together and I am quite pleased with the results. The base wreath is grapevine and I wove the stems through and secured them with hot glue.

The last craft I put together was the "Welcome" garland. I had said I was going to string it from the wreath but I think it would make it too busy, plus the letters are rather large and would end up crowded. I settled on hanging it from the mantle to balance out the vases and pumpkins.

In the coming week we will head out to pick our real pumpkins that will stagger down our porch steps, maybe with some potted mums. I may paint them somehow, I've come across some really cute ideas, we'll have to see. But that will complete our decorating for the season. I really enjoyed putting them all together instead of picking up pre-made items from a store (not to mention I saved a pretty penny.) I'm so glad I finally have these made, and best of all I can keep them for the coming years.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

My house has smelled wonderfully fall-like for the last two days. I've finally made cinnamon ornaments, something I've been wanting to do for years but just never got around to. They're terrifically easy, and don't make as much of a mess as I had expected. Here's my recipe:

1 1/8 cup cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground cloves
2 tsp allspice
3/4 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp tacky glue

Mix all ingredients until well combined, the mixture should stay together but not be sticky. Work the dough in your hands for a few minutes. (It will turn your hands brown, but it washes off simply with soap and water... and maybe a little scratching.) Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness and use your cookie cutters (I got 13 large.) Use a straw to poke holes for ribbons (be sure to poke two per ornament if you want it to face you when hanging.) Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 200 degrees for 2.5 hours, flipping twice to prevent the edges from curling. Use white fabric paint to decorate (it looks like icing.) Voila! Simple, easy, ornaments that will smell good for years.

I've been throwing around the idea of making a gingerbread house from the dough so that I'll always have one to put out, even if I can't get around to making the edible ones. This time though, I used letter cookie cutters to stamp out "Welcome" and I plan to string it from the wreath I'm making for the front door. I also cut out the letters for the first names of everyone in our family to decorate and hang on our tree this Christmas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Having my hands full, and loving it

Yesterday afternoon I took all three kids on a walk, by myself, for the first time. The twins were in their double stroller and I had Ana strapped into the Mei Tae Carrier. It was hard to keep from laughing as all the people driving by were gawking at us. I will admit, we were a sight. But I was used to getting looks from people when we had the twins. Mostly it was just a double take or a quick smile. We would sometimes get the usual comments, "oh, are they twins?" or "You sure have your hands full." But almost always people were polite and happy for us. Now that we have an infant as well, it seems we've passed over into "crazy" territory. When I was still pregnant with Juliana we were walking through the grocery store and a clerk stopped us. He looked at my belly and then at the twins and said, "They're twins? I'm so sorry." I've had similar reactions out shopping where people just say "wow" or stare with their eyes bulged out and shake their heads.

We are a counter-cultural family. I am (almost) 27 years old, have three children under the age of 2 1/2, stay at home with them, do not intend to go back to work and plan to homeschool them. That is enough to make some people scratch their heads or say, "I could never do that." Giving up their career to stay home with children (and several of them) appears to be too much of a sacrifice. What about their dreams? Their career? Their time to themselves? Isn't it boring? Don't you get lonely? I don't have the patience for that. I would go crazy cooped up all day.

My dreams are likely different from yours. I have always wanted a family more than anything else. When I look at the faces of my children I am overcome by how much I love them, by how much joy they bring into our home. At times I get teary-eyed watching my husband play with the kids, everyone laughing and happy, and our sweet baby cooing in my arms. It seems as though every child makes your heart grow bigger, allowing you to love more than you thought you could. How anyone can think more than one or two children is a bad thing is beyond me. Yes, it is hard sometimes. We don't get as much sleep as we would like. There are always dishes, laundry and cleaning to be done, diapers to change and time-outs to be given. Sometimes I lose my temper. Sometimes I just need a break. But never, ever will I regret my choice to have a family and be open to new life. Being at home with them allows me to share in their jokes and antics, take beautiful walks outside, watch their eyes light up as they experience museums and parks, hear their laughter as they play together, receive countless hugs and kisses and hear "I Love You" several times a day. I would miss seeing my children grow as individuals, sharing in their accomplishments and comforting them when they are sad. I would miss my children being children.

The fact that we don't use birth control (NFP only) and I have some 15 or so childbearing years left can be a little daunting. We are not setting out to have 10 children, but if that is what the Lord blesses us with we will be happy. If we don't have any more than our current three, we will know we are blessed abundantly. Children bring so much more to our lives than they could ever keep us from experiencing. Wherever our lives take us, God will be there, showering his graces and blessings down upon us. Seeing us through the hard times and rejoicing with us in the good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Addie The Enforcer

We have known for a while now that Addie is... headstrong. She already has definite ideas about the way things are supposed to work and has no problem making them known. For instance, our kids are not allowed to touch the security system. Whenever one of them touches the buttons it's an automatic time-out. That doesn't stop them from trying though.
Yesterday afternoon I'm in the kitchen and hear the beeping of the alarm followed by, "No! no l'am. Tahm out! Tahm out!" I come around the corner and sure enough Gabe is standing on the chair looking guilty and Addie is next to him wagging her finger. Literally. I took Gabe over to the corner and sat him down for his two minutes. I stepped back and nearly tripped over Addie who decided to make it her job to be sure this time out was strictly followed. She initially came and sat right in front of him (I pulled her back to the stairs) and eyed him closely. He leaned forward to scoot and she jumped forward, wagged the finger, repeated "No, no. Tahm out. TAHM OUT!" and reached toward him to push him back on his rear. I was able to get her to go in the living room while he finished his sentence, but boy was it hard to keep from laughing. Of course she conveniently forgot her own rules when she touched the alarm 30 minutes later. Of course.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Easy Homemade Caramel

We had had two cans of sweetened condensed milk sitting in our pantry without a purpose for far too long. Yesterday afternoon we pulled out a stock pot and set about making our own caramel. It's really very easy: remove the labels from the cans, keep the cans fully submerged with roughly 2 inches of water over the tops (be sure to maintain this depth to prevent the cans from exploding) and maintain a low boil for 4 hours. Let the cans cool completely in the fridge then pop them open and enjoy the creamy result. Steve put some in his coffee and I made a small batch of caramel popcorn. That hasn't made a dent in our supply though, we're brainstorming ways to use the rest. Right now caramel apples and dunked chocolate pretzel rods are topping our list. Mmmmm.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A New Favorite

Last night we made Parmesan-ranch crusted chicken. We've made shake-and-bake before and tried a few other variations on breaded, baked chicken but this was by far the best we've made. There was plenty of the mixture left after preparing the chicken so I chopped a zucchini into circles and breaded them, too. I should have cut up two, even the kids scarfed them down.

For roughly 1 lb of chicken breasts, in a medium bowl mix the following:
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan
4 tsp dry ranch mix

Break and beat an egg in a separate bowl. Dip breasts into egg then transfer to crumb mixture and coat thoroughly. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees 20-30 minutes.
To make the zucchini, cut the circles about 1/4 inch thick and follow the same procedure. Bake for around 12 minutes, flipping once.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Toddler Speak

Some of Addie's favorite words and phrases:

Come on! (with the beckoning arm)
All beh-rer (better)
wahr-er (water)
What's wrong?
Watch! (usually while holding up a tupperware lid and looking at you through it.)
No, no... tahm out!
Tinky feet! (while sniffing her toes... I know.)
Mo choc-ock! (more chocolate. she's her mothers daughter.)
Hahm (ham)
ticken (chicken)
Goofies (Goofy, by far her favorite)
Mah Mouse (Mickey Mouse)
Big Jet! (when she sees an airplane)
Yoh-K? (you OK?)
Bacca (Chewbacca)
Whas-at? (what's that?)
dey-ih-goes! (there it goes)
oh yea, dey-ih-is! (there it is)

Some of Gabe's favorite expressions and words:

Sing! (with the arm motion. Swing: a desire to hit golf balls)
Goh (golf)
gauh-gock (chocolate. he's his mothers son.)
Rah-ret (rocket. accompanied by emphatic gesturing of the sign.)
Saine (sand)
Duck! (truck, or in referece to Donald Duck.)
Yuh-yoo (love you)
Peeees! (pea)
cohn (corn)
Yion (Lion, always followed by *raaahhr*)
Sit (sip)
bahng-it (blanket)
heh-yo dadee (his greeting to his father upon waking up)
Si-ehn (siren)
Yahh?! (yard; a desire to run amok)
Whas-at? (what's that?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Planning Progress

This past Friday I put together the first meal plan I've made in months. Having the baby threw us off schedule and that kind of advance planning went right out the window. But I sat down with the last weeks coupon mailers, perused online coupon sites and checked out the weekly sale fliers for grocery stores near us. Harris Teeter happened to be having triple coupon week. How is it that I've never paid attention to these things before? So I marked down all the items we would actually use that were on sale or special then set about making my meal plan. (This meal planning website I found was a big help, allowing me to search for menu ideas by ingredient and then drag them to a calendar to put together the weekly plan.) I have to say this is the first time I've done it this way. Usually I just say, "Oh, that sounds good, lets have that" and then get to the store and see that all the ingredients I need are full price.

After I inventoried our pantry and freezer I typed up a detailed list with the item names, amounts, and sale or coupon information for each item. That may seem excessive, but I was sending my husband to the store and wanted his shopping to go as smoothly as possible. Have you ever been to a grocery store during the weekend of a triple coupon sale? Have you been with a toddler?

I am most pleased to say that all said and done we saved over $60 on this shopping trip, our biggest savings ever. Coupled with last weeks total our weekly average for the last 2 weeks is $100 for the four of us. Not bad. I'm hoping to bring that number down even further but it's an excellent start. The next change we're making to our shopping habits is to only go to the store once a week. It's hard enough to stick with just what's on your list, and if you run to the store two and three times a week you're opening yourself up for impulsive buying. Was I planning on making chocolate chip cookies but somehow managed to forget the chocolate chips? Well, then it's applesauce cookies this round and I'll keep a running list for next week. Rarely is there a situation where we can't get away with substitutions or simply leave a recipe for a later date.

It was actually quite enjoyable, seeing how much money we could save, and I can see how people can start to think of it as a game. I'm excited to see what we put together for next week and expand our recipe index at the same time. I think eggplant was $0.99 a lb....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bored to sleep?

I had been rocking a fussy Juliana for 20 minutes or so when I stepped into the kids closet to pick out their clothes for the day. I placed her on the floor in front of me so I could grab what I needed and pick her up again quickly before she became too upset. Except she became very quiet, studying the white walls, rubbermaid drawers and rack of clothing hanging above her (impressive, I know.) After roughly 2 minutes her eyelids began to droop and she promptly fell asleep. Not wanting to move her for risk of waking I let her stay there, konked out while the kids and I played in their room. Whatever it takes.