Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cinco De Mayo....Menu

As you can probably tell by the stream of my posts this week, I'm inappropriately excited to have a Cinco de Mayo party with Aubrey's cousins this weekend. I recently made this rice as an accompaniement to tacos and it was fantastic. And also easy. It's not really even a recipe.

Cook rice according to package instructions.
Add salt, cilantro and juice of half a lime.
I also always add tumeric to my rice when its cooking to turn it that beautiful yellow color. I think this is mostly because I have terrible memories of plain white rice with ketchup that my dad used to gobble up for dinner during my childhood (my poor mom for having to cook for that man).

And a few other suggestions for a Cinco de Mayo Party:

Pork, beef and chicken tacos
Fresh Salsa
and possibly some Quesadillas

Monday, April 29, 2013


With Cinco de Mayo quickly approaching this weekend, it's time to get our game on with festivity planning. You may be thinking that you don't have anyone of Mexican descent in your family to warrant celebrating this holiday, but margaritas, tacos, pinatas, maracas, salsa, guacamole - these are all customs I want to embrace as my own. If your still not sold to jump on board with this holiday use one (or all) of my favorite excuses:

Your children really like to watch Dora and Diego (I know Aubrey couldn't live without either)
You are searching for a reason to throw a party
You have a lot of pent up anger and want to hit something (i.e. a pinata)
Avocados are on sale at your local grocery store
It falls on a Sunday this year and you feel you must celebrate its weekend status.

Any of the above reasons will work. If none of these apply to you - then you can find solice in the fact that Cinco de Mayo is a holiday mostly celebrated by Americans - undoubtedly people like myself looking for a reason to throw a party.

Moving forward....

If your children are anything like mine, they are going to love maracas. Aubrey calls spice jars maracas and runs around the kitchen shaking them. This is something I wouldn't recommend letting your child do while you're cooking (we've swept up a lot of spices as a result of this practice). So, what better time to give her an actual maraca than on Cinco de Mayo.

Toilet Paper Rolls
Dry Beans or small stones
Stapler and Staples
Children's Paint (or any art supplies you prefer)

To make the children's paint:
Mix together equal parts flour, salt and water. I used 1/3 cup of each and split between two bowls and it was plenty.
Incorporate food coloring to desired colored into the mix.

A note about this paint. It works pretty well, but is definitely more pastey than paint-like. It has the added bonus that you don't have to worry about your two year old getting it all over her legs or the table.....(not that that would happen around here!) but it definitely isn't as high quality of a mix as actual paint.

To make maracas:
Paint your toilet paper roll and let dry (this paint take a while to dry. We let ours dry for a few hours.)
Staple one end of the toilet paper roll together
Drop a handful of dry beans or small stones into the tube (we used some dry pinto beans on hand)
Staple the other end together.
Shake yourself crazy! Aubrey toggles between calling these maracas and my favorite, rock and roll machine. (As in, I need to play my rock and roll machine)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Don't Worry, Sylvia

The other day, I didn't go into work until after lunch. It was beautiful outside with picture perfect clouds so Aubrey and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather while Sylvia took a nap inside. I had the monitor in my pocket when Sylvia awoke and began to cry just before lunchtime.

Aubrey: Can I hold the monitor?
Me: Sure. It sounds like Sylvia is waking up.
Aubrey: Yeah. (holding the monitor to her ear like a phone) Don't worry Sylvia, we're coming to get you! Mom, Sylvia really needs our help.

And then Martin came home from the farm to eat lunch with us!
Martin: Don't be blogging about me doing nothing in the middle of the day.
Me: But it's lunch.
Martin: It doesn't matter. You don't pose for pictures during lunch.

I hadn't been thinking about blogging about his lunch appearance until he told me I shouldn't.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring Surprises

As our first spring in this house, every plant that springs forth is new and exciting. Our yard doesn't really boast much for plant life, but there are a few clusters of daffodils that have been flowering this week. Aubrey and I decided to pick some and use them to spruce up our home.

I was getting pretty bored of my picnic basket centerpiece which has been up for over 20 days so fresh flowers were a perfect replacement! And I have some sort of weird obsession with narrown white vases which I always find at the Salvation Army for less than 50 cents!

We now have daffodils on our kitchen island, our dining table, our mantle and tucked into our bookshelves. Yay for spring!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Like a Moth to a Flame

Lately, Aubrey has been really into washing dishes. Or washing her hands. Or washing Sylvia. Or really doing anything that involves playing with water in the sink. I usually try to wash dishes when she is absorbed in something other activity because despite all my greatest precautions - the experience always ends with her shirt covered in water and begging for dry clothes. Unfortunately, it is really hard to distract her from the dishwashing process. As soon as she hears the water running she is making a beeline for the kitchen and pushing her table up to the sink to "help". Once helping, she really prefers to play with water that is running from the faucet, but since I never let it keep running she has to suffice herself with playing in the sink water. But...she's always on the lookout for running water. As soon as you turn the water on to rinse off a plate or some other dish her eyes bug out and she quickly races her cup to the water to fill it to the top. It's almost ridiculous how quickly she reacts to the water turning on every single time and Martin and I have started randomly turning it on for half a second just to amuse ourselves as she tries to reach it before we quickly shut it off.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mother's Day Suggestion

I made a photobook for my mom for Christmas a couple of years ago (which she loved) and then one for Aubrey for her birthday this past year featuring all pictures of her from the previous year (this is a tradition I would like to keep up for both the girls each year). Aubrey loves her book and can't get enough of looking at pictures of herself. During my maternity leave, I started thinking about all the pictures and memories filling my computer harddrive and going nowhere and I got mildly obsessed with turning them into photo books. You really can't beat a beautiful hardcover book featuring all your favorite pictures and memories. Also, arranging pictures seems to be highly addictive.
I made one for each year since we've been married ( I still have one more to print because I've been ordering them as I get coupon emails and I originally had a groupon for the one I made Aubrey). If I can ever retrieve my college photos from my college computer (the screen doesn't work but the harddrive is still good, I think) I think I might make a college album.


Anyway, these books are really fun to make, there are a ton of different online photo companies to choose from, you can customize them with your own text and quotes (in Aubrey's book I listed some of her favorite things and also a few of her more stellar quotes) and, speaking as a mother, I think they would make an awesome gift!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Raspberry Pie Bars


You should probably think about making these for dessert sometime this week. I'm not usually much of a sweet tooth, but when I saw these Blackberry Pie Bars on Annie's Eats - I knew I had to make them......quickly. I didn't have any blackberries on hand, but I had a bag of frozen raspberries from my mother-in-law in the freezer and I figured that would fit the bill. Really any fruit would work well. I barely changed the original recipe at all.

To make the crust/topping:
Mix together (in a food processor)
1 and a half cups of flour
3/4 cup of sugar
Pinch of Salt
Zest of one Lemon
To this add
 12 tablespoons of butter, still hardish, and cut up into little squares. (12 tablespoons is a stick and a half)
Mix together until all the butter is incorporated (at this point it is supposed to be crumbly, but mine seemed more solid)
Reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture for the topping and pack the rest onto the bottom of a 9 x 13' pan in an even layer to form the bottom crust.
Bake at 350 for about 12 to 15 minutes.

while that is baking make the filling:
Mix together until incorporated
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup greek yogurt (or sour cream)
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Juice of one lemon
Whisk in
15-16 oz fresh or frozen berries of your choice (thaw frozen berries and drain of any juices)

when the crust is done baking:
Remove from oven and let rest about 15 minutes so it can set.
Pour filling on top of crust
Sprinkle the reserved 3/4 cup of crust evenly on top (I did not think my crust/topping was crumbly enough and so put it back in the food processor with a couple additional tablespoons of flour and sugar and remixed. This seemed to do the trick.)
Bake until the top is beginning to brown. About 45 minutes.
Let set for a little bit, but try them while they are still warm...because they are absolutely AMAZING.

I really think it's the lemon with the berries that make these so spectacularly good and I will forever feel indebted to Annie for posting this incredible recipe.

Friday, April 12, 2013

On Raising and Eating Animals

Growing up on a dairy farm, we've always raised our own beef and at times, pork. I've never felt a sadness eating these animals because I know they lived a great life. They get a very high quality diet (how many people can say that a nutritionist took samples on all components of their food to make sure each daily meal is healthy and balanced?) And they basically get to wander around as they please all day (they are in a spacious barn with their friends, other cows, doing as they please all day). Even their sleeping quarters are built with maximum comfort in mind (Martin and my dad just recently spent an entire day driving around to area farms and comparing cow mattresses to decide what would be best to put in the new barn being built this summer).

We know that as Aubrey and Sylvia grow up on the farm, they will also learn to appreciate the animals for what they provide to us and also to appreciate what we are able to provide the animals. There is a lot of information (both positive and negative) on this topic that you can read out there, but if you're looking for my opinion, I've never met a farmer who didn't treat their animals with respect. I've never met a farmer who thought of their farm as a factory. And the fact of the matter is that over 96 percent of farms in the United States are family operated enterprises. Over 96 percent of the farms are people just like my family raising and caring for animals to the best of their ability.

We've most recently started in on our newest animal endeavor...Chickens! Aubrey got eight meat chickens for Easter that we will raise for the next few months until they are large enough to eat.....and then we will celebrate their life with a big party (probably at the lake) and a chicken barbeque. We are hoping Aubrey will understand the chicken's life when this time comes, but for now we're just enjoying playing with the little guys. Aubrey loves to hold them and pet their wings and it's really incredible how much they've grown just in the last two weeks!

And if you're wondering why the chickens are caged in - we've had some issues when I was growing up with animals killing our chickens (once a wild dog and another time a weasel) so we're trying to keep them as safe as possible.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bathtub Trickery

Aubrey is at times an incredibly complex child. Incredibly complex in the fact that she does not want to do anything that you want her to do. So the trick is to convince her that whatever you would like her to do is actually her idea or that her choice in the matter is endanger of being taken. For example, if you want Aubrey to eat her dinner the best way to get this accomplished is to tell her if she doesn't hurry and eat it someone else will eat it up. If you want her to take a bath the best way to get her to jump in the tub is to tell her that you are going to make a bubble bath that only Sylvia is allowed to play in. My sister-in-law, Ingrid, witnessed this phenomenon the other day (via phone).

Me: Aubrey, let's take a bath.
Aubrey: But I don't want to take a bath.
Me: You don't want to take a bubble bath? You can play with your toys in the tub. That will be fun, won't it?!
Me: Ok, fiiiiiine. I guess I'll just make a bubble bath for Sylvia. Come on, Sylvia - let's go upstairs.
Ingrid: Is that really going to work.
Aubrey: But I want to take a bath.
Me: Sorry Aubrey, I'm giving Sylvia a bubble bath. You can't take one.
Me: Well then I guess you better get upstairs and get in the tub before Sylvia does.
Ingrid: Wow, that was fast.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Doctor, Doctor

Sylvia had her two month checkup this morning. As a result, she's pretty drugged up at the moment and sleeping off the long list of vaccines she was given mid-morning. While Sylvia, had she known what was occurring, would definitely have been dreading today's appointment, Aubrey was extremely excited about a visit to the doctor.

Aubrey: They have lots of toys at the doctor. I'm going to play with toys!

Aubrey: I'm going to help the doctor check up Sylvia.

Aubrey to an older woman in the waiting room: This is my sister Sylvia. She has a checkup. The doctor has to check her ears....and her nose.....and her legs.... I'm going to help the doctor check my sister.

For a girl that spends most of her time playing with toys making one toy rescue another and whom routinely plays a game during which a man climbs a mountain and then falls off the mountain, breaks his leg and rides in an ambulance to Doctor Aubrey who then fixes his leg and sends him back up the mountain to repeat the process - a trip to the doctor's office is basically a visit to a candy store.

Other than wooing the hearts of everyone in the office (one woman was so intent on watching Aubrey play she didn't hear the nurse call her name, and Aubrey somehow conned the nurses into giving her three stickers, even though she didn't even have an appointment today), we did manage to get some stats on Sylvia's growth. In comparison to Aubrey (whom has never been below the 75th percentile in either height or weight), Sylvia is a little nugget measuring in the 25th percentile for both categories.

Height: 21 inches
Weight: 10 lbs

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Go Fly a Kite

Aubrey got a kite from the Easter Bunny and even though Sunday was a gorgeous day for flying a kite - Sunday was spent running from one home to another and eating lots of meals. And then spring decided to leave us for a few days, so we didn't get a chance to take the kite out for a spin until last Thursday when we were blessed with gorgeous Spring weather once again. Flying the kite with Aubrey was awesome! She really loved it and I was also weirdly excited about the flight. There are a couple of explanations I can come up with for why I had so much excitement over the kite flying experience: 1. I was possibly so excited because there was more than a few moments in the beginning when I was trying to instruct Aubrey to hold on tight to the handle and attempting the get the flight started while also holding Sylvia and not letting Aubrey tangle the string around herself that I thought we might never get the kite off the ground. or 2. I have been spending so much time in the last seven weeks with children 2 and under that I have actually turned into a toddler myself and thus derive the same satisfaction from flying a kite.

Either way, it was incredible and I couldn't stop telling Aubrey how awesome it was and how good she was doing and how cool she looked. After a few minutes of kite flying, Aubrey clearly picked up on my jealous lust for her joy and offerred to let me fly the kite. She handed it over to me with very specific instructions

Now mommy, hold on tight to this handle. Don't let go of the kite.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Cheering Squad

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that my nieces came over one Sunday afternoon. This particular Sunday happened to fall during my potty training boot camp week with Aubrey and so I was giving her two jelly beans each time she went to the bathroom on her own. She happened to go to the bathroom while the girls were over, and so earned two jelly beans.

Kendyll: Can I have a jelly bean too?
Me: Yep, you went pee in the potty so you can have some.
Leigha: Can I have a jelly bean, please?
Me: No, I'm sorry Leigha, I can only give them to girls who go in the potty.
Me: (to Megan) Sorry, I just can't let Aubrey see me give a jelly bean to someone who doesn't go to the bathroom right now.
Megan: Hey, that's totally fine, whatever you have to do.
Leigha: (stands there for a second and then runs for the bathroom)

At this point we are all running to the bathroom after her and the scene that played out next is nothing short of comical as Megan is standing in the doorway with Sylvia, I am trying to get Leigha's diaper off, and both Kendyll and Aubrey are standing on either sides of the toilet totally cheering for Leigha to pee.

Come on, Leigha! You can do it!
You're going to get an M & M (Aubrey doesn't seem to know the difference between jelly beans and m & m's)

If nothing else, they are definitely cousins that support one another.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Thrift Shop

Over a month ago, Caton was in town for a weekend and we went out for a delicious Mexican dinner. During dinner, Caton brought up the song Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and asked if we had heard the song. I hadn't, but Martin was instantly excited about the song. Caton mentioned that the song reminded her of us. Then I forgot to look it up when we got home. Finally, on the way to St. Louis, I heard the song on the radio.

It was only fitting that when we were in Missouri we visited a Thrift Shop.

Ingrid: I'm telling everyone to wear something green tonight for St. Patrick's day.
Martin: Wait! No! We have to make sure I can get a green shirt first. Wait till after we go to the Goodwill. Are they open on Sunday? Maybe we should go check first. Don't text people until I have something green!
Ingrid: Too late, I already sent it out. Ooo, Pam said she is challenging everyone to a contest to see who can wear the most green. (sidenote: see here)

A few minutes later in the thrift shop:
Ingrid: How about this for a green shirt. I feel like I'm the only person on task here! You guys are in heaven or something.

Meanwhile, Martin is consumed with hats and workpants, Aubrey is caught up in children's toys, and I'm finding good deals all over the place.

Me: Check out this awesome water cooler. It's only $1.50! And look I got a brand new bathing suit bottom, $2! All children's jeans are only $2 a piece, Aubrey really needs some.

Long story short, we didn't find a green shirt but we did spend $31 and came home with
3 pairs of jeans and a pair of overalls for Aubrey
3 pairs of work pants for Martin
2 bathing suit bottoms for me
A small plastic train for Aubrey
A hat for Martin
And a water cooler.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

When Aubrey was a baby, I dropped in with a ridiculous number of short posts updating the world on every "milestone" that occurred in her baby life. I haven't really been doing that with Sylvia. I'm not sure what the reason for that is, probably a combination of things, but most definitely trumped by the fact that I spend a lot less time paying attention to Sylvia than I ever did to Aubrey. That's not to say that I love Sylvia any less - because that is definitely not true, just that I have a lot less time to devote to solely her, meaning none - I have no time to devote to her alone. Sometimes I worry that she is going to be developmentally stunted because I spent so much more time just watching and coaxing Aubrey to grow than I do with Sylvia - but, she's a resilient child and I'm sure she'll be just fine.

All that aside, I'm dropping in with a quick and random fact about Sylvia. She loves the Itsy Bitsy Spider. That song will make her crack a smile every time, unless of course the time you're trying to get her to crack a smile is in lieu of feeding, then she's all about the food and not so into the spider song.

And Aubrey loves participating in walking the spider up her face and down the back of her head.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Little Man

This is one of Aubrey's all time favorite toys. She lovingly refers to it as "little man" As in where is my little man. Don't worry little man will save you! As you might be able to tell - that is a woman. It is technically Noah's wife from a Noah and the Ark set she got as a baby gift, but come on that bun is really tight. You can't expect a two year old to pick out those feminine features. And besides, she has a tough time with the pronoun she so it's just as well this way. Sylvia is a he, I am a he, as is ever other girl and woman Aubrey has ever met. When I try to get her to repeat the word she back to me, it somehow comes back as a six syllable word. So - I just let her go on referring to everyone as a he. All that aside, Aubrey takes this Little Man pretty much everywhere and keeps very close track of his whereabouts. We have probably spent as many hours looking for Little Man as we have for Baby Jesus. So, of course, he joined us on our trip to the midwest.

And as luck would have it, one of Ingrid's friends showed up at her house on Sunday afternoon for St. Patrick's Day pizza celebration decked from head to toe in green. With the addition of the red scarf and her hair pulled back in a military style bun - she was a life size "Little Man". It was like a real life Toy Story!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's Complicated

When Aubrey takes a nap everyday, I shut the door to her room and then when she wakes up, usually at four, I go upstairs and open the door.

Me: Good afternoon, Aubrey. Did you have a nice nap?
Aubrey: I need to throw this poop in the potty.
Me: What??? (I look down at Aubrey's hands to find fistfuls of turds)

If you ask me if I potty trained Aubrey during my maternity leave as a yes or no question, I would whole-heartedly respond yes.....but the actual answer is it's complicated.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

All About Eggs

Saturday was all about eggs. Egg hunt. Egg Decorating. Eggs.

Caton and Kerri arrived for egg decorating with at least a couple dozen plastic eggs for Aubrey to hunt for in the lawn. They headed out to hide the eggs as I was getting shoes on Aubrey and putting Sylvia in her backpack.

Me: Aubrey isn't really that great at this, so don't hide them too well. Really just get them scattered around the lawn.

I look out the sliding glass door as I'm putting Aubrey's shoes on to see Kerri politely walking around the yard and softly placing eggs on the ground - one by the slide, one by the pile of wood, one by the tree. Caton, on the other hand, is standing in the middle of the lawn and throwing eggs in every direction.

Aubrey found four of the dozens of eggs and walked back to us proclaiming she had found all the eggs!

No Aubrey, I can see at least eight just from where I'm standing! (I'm a really encouraging parent) Keep looking!

She did eventually find all the eggs without much guidance, just a lot of sending her back out to find more (with every egg she found she was convinced she had found them all)

Then we started decorating eggs. This picture makes it look like we really knew what we were doing - those eggs look pretty awesome. And, yeah, when you group them together and turn them at the right angle for a picture - it looks like a success. But when you're in the trenches of egg decorating all you can think is - These look so awesome on the internet and I have no idea how people get them to look so good! And look at the giant goose eggs! So cool!

Conversations Worth Repeating

Amanda: I heard that breast milk makes babies high?
Me: Huh? What??!
Amanda: Well, not actually high, but they are so happy after they drink it, they just act high. See look at Sylvia - she's just like 'ooo I just had breastmilk, I'm all messed up'
Me: Haven't heard that one.

I did attempt to do a little internet research on this one but my google search "does breast milk make babies act high" yielded no results.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Centerpiece

This morning, as I was packing up all things egg-related and putting them away for next year - I contemplated what theme I should be decorating to now that Easter is over and we have some time before the next big holiday. So, I started grabbing random items to create a picnic themed centerpiece - perfect for urging on warm weather!

Creating a Picnic-Themed Centerpiece:
-a basket and a towel are essential
-produce that doesn't need refrigeration
-some old bottles
-its not a picnic without bread
-sunglasses to urge warm weather and bright sunny days

My basket was a housewarming gift and I filled it with some cute glass bottles (a field find), some sparkling grape juice (a gift from my pregnant days), onions and grape tomatoes, a jar of peppercinos (these always remind me of picnics), brightly colored sunglasses (Aubrey's present from the Easter Bunny), rye bread (out of the wrapper only for the picture), a wine bottle opener (for easy access on the counter) and two dyed goose eggs (I just couldn't bear to part with them yet)

I really just grabbed random stuff. The key is to use things that you always have on hand and naturally use and replace. This way, you can continue to update and change your centerpiece throughout the season as you use and replace the perishable products.