Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to our American Girl!

Ellie's birthday started off with her requested breakfast "Pancakes with Whipped Cream and Sprinkles". She opened her gifts for us, and it was so fun to watch her open "Kit". She didn't think that she was getting it, and was so surprised and excited! She also got matching dresses for her and Molly, which they wore to the party.
After lunch we got ready for her party. She has really been into the American Girls, so we had an American Girl birthday party. I made this banner for her out of images I found online, and strung it together with letters that spelled out "Happy Birthday Ellie" I then decorated with red, white and blue streamers, and sparkly garlands. I also got R, W, and B star balloons. We had a doll's table made out of a sheet of plywood sitting on paint cans that I covered with a matching tablecloth and a table topper decoration. I then made 8 little mini cakes for the dolls (which the girls took home as favors) and set them around the table.
When the guests arrived, they had a picture taken with their doll, and then they sat their dolls down at a spot at the doll table. The first acitivity was making play food out of model magic to go into mini picnic baskets. The girls had a lot of fun with this, and I finally had to tell them to clean up so we could fit some games in. I had printed out a short bio and pictures of each of the American Girls, and I had found games that might have been played in each time period. Starting with Kaya, I read about her and then we played the "Moccasin Game". The girls took off their shoes and left the room while I hid a bead in one of the shoes. The girls then took turns guessing which shoe I put the bead in. I then split them up into partners, and had them take turns hiding and guessing. Next in line was Felicity's "Ring" game. The girls sat in a circle with one girl in the middle. I then had the girls on the outside pass a ring around while the one who was "It" closed her eyes. When I said,"Stop", the girls all put their hands behind their backs and then the one who was "It" had to guess who had the ring. Once she guessed correctly, the two girls switched places and we continued playing until every girl had a chance. For Josefina, we played a variation of "La Loteria". I had made up a matching set of cards with a different American Girl on each one. I dealt out one card to each girl, and then laid the matching set face down on the carpet. I then picked up a card and asked the girls to raise their hand if they thought I had picked up their card. If they raised their hand, and I was holding their card, they got a bead. They also got a bead if they had left their hands down and I hadn't picked their card (so either way, if they guessed correctly, they got a bead). We played 4 rounds, with me increasing the amount of cards I turned over by one each time. We then counted the beads at the end to see who was the best guesser (It ended up being N since he never raised his hand, and the odds were in his favor for most of the game). Although I had planned on one game for each American Girl, time was running out so I skipped to Kit's "Hobo" game. I had found images of Hobo signs online, so I copied them onto paper. I then gave the girls two options of what the sign could mean, and they had to guess which it was. Sometimes I switched it up and asked them what they thought the sign might mean. By the time this game was over, I decided we needed to do the cake.
The cake had a picture of the American Girls on it, which was fun because everyone got to pick a piece with a different girl to eat. Ellie decided on eating her name, since she doesn't like to eat anything with a face :)
After cake, Ellie opened her presents and then I passed out the matching fleece ponchos that Ellie, Ed's mom and I had made. They were really cute, and not too hard (although I can't sew, so Ed's mom did sew the necks for us). There were 3 different patterned fleeces. I had planned to get a picture of all the girls with their dolls in the fleeces, but by this time parents had arrived to pick up, so I didn't get a chance.
It was a really fun party to give, and I felt that I could have let it go another hour, and we still would have had plenty to do. But, I am glad it ended when it did because I was exhausted! I pretty much collapsed after making dinner (Ellie's request of quiche) and went to bed after we put the kids down.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let it Snow!

We have been wishing for some playable snow around here. So far, the winter has been either freezing cold and dry, or slightly above freezing and rainy. Yesterday we were excited to see some snow actually falling and sticking! We were out at the mall, and when we emerged, there was a layer coating the street. Although it made for some tense moments driving, we made it home safely, and the kids immediately went outside.They were able to sled a little, and E even made a cute snowman.

K stayed inside, content to eat a cookie and watch her siblings play.

N quickly tired, and came inside to make sure I made good on the promise of hot chocolate.

This morning there was a 2 hour delay, so after breakfast they headed out again.

This time K insisted on joining them, although she wasn't quite ready to go sledding. After one run down, she preferred to stand at the top and watch.

Besides being fun, the snow completely transformed our barren backyard into a place of beauty.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little bit of bliss...

This morning was a frigid 23 degrees, and I needed to run some errands. One of them took me a little off the beaten path- up to Wegman's in Warrington. I shop there occassionally to get N some GF products, but it's not a regular stop.
This morning I ran through the parking lot clutching K to me, trying to get out of the cold as quickly as possible. As I stepped through the doors of the "Market", warmth surrounded me. The air was fragrant with all sorts of delicious aromas, like roasting chicken, baking bread, and brewing coffee. I steered my cart around various stations were employees were busily working on preparing food.
As I went by the bakery, the muffins caught my eye. There was a sign that advertised "Fresh Muffins! Made Here Daily!" Apparently they caught K's eyes too, as she eagerly pointed and cried,"Gukkie! Gukkie!" (which is her word for any baked good) I paused, and sensing my weakness she asked, "My Gukkie?". "Why not?" I thought. I had always been intrigued by the seating area that was a floor up, and overlooked the"Market".
There was an inviting patio feel to it, and I have wanted to try it out.

So, I grabbed a couple of muffins and bought a cup of coffee before heading upstairs. My first instinct was to sit right next to the railing,
where we could get a good view of what was going on, but then I noticed a section that had "small children" written all over it. There were child sized tables along with regular ones, a train table, and a tv with Playhouse Disney on. There was only one other mom there, so I chose a table and I settled us in, giving K her muffin and cup. As K stuffed chunks of muffin in her mouth, she kept giving me grins, completely delighted with herself for sitting in a "big" chair, and the good fortune of eating her "gukkie". I devoured my muffin and the rest of hers, as they were absolutely delicious. As K finished up, I noticed the plentiful seating options that included couches and tables, as well as attractive plants and other decorative touches.
The only thing I would have changed was where I chose to sit- I probably should have gone for that balcony seat since K wasn't really interested in the TV or trains. It was a great option to have (especially if I had the older kids with me) but since it was just me and K, I probably would rather have sat somewhere that "Handy Manny" wasn't playing in the background.

That being said, it was delightful to spend time one on one with KK. I had so many of these moments with E, since she and I would go on daily shopping trips. But with K, I am not usually alone with her, and even if I am, I don't usually take time to sit and get a little treat with her. I just want to get all my errands done when I have the chance to do it with only one kid. It was fun to see her enjoying herself and I regretfully warned her that it was time to go. She immediately protested with a plaintive, "No..." which got more forceful as I kept insisting. After a few of these exchanges, I finally started to clean up her spot and she reacted by throwing her muffin crumbs across the table with a screech, "NOOO!". Ah well, we need to work on her reaction to unpleasant news.

All in all, it was a great break that left me feeling refreshed and energized the rest of my day. I am already planning another trip back there next Thursday morning after I drop off N at school. Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Slow cooked Thai Pork

This recipe is A-ma-zing! I found it last week, had to make it, and I am so glad I did. It was really easy, and so delicious- everyone ate it right up. I have noted changes I made to the original recipe in italics.

Slow Cooked Thai Pork

The pork is a perfect match for the blend of teriyaki,peanut and lime sauce, with just a little spicy kick.


2 pounds boned pork loin, cut 4 pieces
2 cups julienne-cut red bell pepper (I used 2 whole red peppers)
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
(I used Soy Vay "Very Very Teriyaki")
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp crushed red pepper
(I used 1/2 tsp because my kids have sensitive tongues)
2 garlic cloves, minced
(we like garlic, so I put in about 4 cloves- crushed)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

6 cups hot cooked basmati rice
(I don't like bismati, so I used Jasmine)
1/2 cup chopped green onions (I used 1 bunch)
2 Tbsp chopped, dry-roasted peanuts
1 lime

1. Trim fat from pork and discard.

2. Place pork, bell pepper, and next 4 ingredients in an electric slow cooker
(I didn't realize that the PB wasn't one of the first 4 ingredients, and mistakenly added it at this point. It still was delicious, so I'm not sure it makes a difference)

3. Cover with lid, and cook on low-heat setting 8 hours.

About an hour before you're ready to serve:

4. Cook rice. While it is cooking, remove pork from slow cooker, and coarsely chop. Add peanut butter to liquid in slow cooker; stir well to combine. Stir in pork.

5. Chop onions, put in a bowl to use as a garnish
(I don't like raw onions, even if they are green, so I added them to the pot so they could cook for a little bit)

6. Chop peanuts, cut lime into wedges, and place in bowls for garnishes.

7. Serve pork on top of rice. Top each serving with onions and peanuts. Garnish with lime wedges.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

....and just when you thought you had dodged a bullet

This past week has been full of sickness in our family. Not the bad, puking kind, just the cough and congestion kind.

But still, it is hard to have a toddler that won't let you put her down, and follows you around crying "Mommy!" because you had to put her down to do something, like carry a full basket down to the laundry room, or to chop some food for dinner, or to stir boiling hot pots on the stove. It's hard to hear your eldest daughter coughing a lung out at 4:30 am, and then put her in a steaming bathroom and force her to take medicine(something she is loathe to do) when you would rather be sleeping. And it is hard to sit through a production of High School Musical 2 at the local high school while your son sits in your lap getting warmer and warmer, complaining that he wants to go home. Then feel guilty that you didn't leave sooner when you see his flushed cheeks and bright eyes as you walk outside, and notice how miserable he looks.

But all that you can handle if you are well yourself, if you are spared from catching it. But I guess it is inevitable that you would get it too, after you got coughed in the face one too many times, or wiped a nose and forgot to wash your hands, or kissed many a flushed (and germy) cheek in comfort as you cradled a miserable 1...4...7... year old in your arms. So, that is why you might find yourself waking up at 2:30 a.m. to calm a baby that cried out in her sleep and feel that scratchy feeling in your own throat. You might even go downstairs to gargle with some salt water and end up sitting down to blog about it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Dying Art

The presents are all opened, played with, and lying throughout the house. It is a week after Christmas, but there is still one more task to complete: the writing of Thank You notes. My mom always impressed on us the importance of writing Thank You's as we grew up, and we would faithfully churn out the notes following Christmas and birthdays. I have noticed my siblings and I are among the shrinking minority of people who send out Thank You's. I feel that if someone has taken the time and effort to pick out and purchase a gift for you, the least you can do is write a short note expressing your appreciation. Where I have noticed this lack of manners most is in E's classmates. I can think of only a couple of friends who have sent thank-you's for presents after a birthday party. And this on top of the fact that they rarely open the gift in their guests' presence anymore (they save them for after the party) so there isn't even a vocal thank-you and expression of gratitude. I find this not only maddening, but downright rude. I can't understand parents who neglect to teach their children these things. Yes, it is a lot of trouble to get your small children to sit down and write, but even the littlest can scribble a picture next to a note that the parent writes. And then as they grow, they can add their name and eventually write the whole note themselves. As I set my kids down at the table yesterday and today, I reminded them of the joy the had when they received their presents, and the time that people took to pick those gifts out. I even threatened that if they failed to write a note, next year we would have to ask people not to give gifts to ungrateful children. That made them sit up a little straighter and turn their pencils and crayons earnestly to the job at hand! But to be honest, there wasn't much complaint because they have come to expect it. They just know that it is the right thing to do, and so they do it.

(and no, that tear on K's cheek isn't the result of me forcing a pen into her chubby toddler hand, but because I had made her wait to write on the envelope as N sealed it- see above picture)