Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gingerbread House Disaster

The evening begun with simple joys. Pouring out all the candies in divided plates, adding more candies than what comes in the silly kit. There was fondant which we kept pronouncing FUNdant and laughing all the way. We let the girls use the rolling pin which they thought was awesome! Though the FUNdant never really expanded in the rolling process, perhaps foreshadowing the construction of our gingerbread house woes.

The laugher, the candies and rolling all stopped. It stopped because that damn gingerbread is heavy and that squirt bag of frosting was not enough. We tried in several different orders. We even read the directions, but nothing was working. The house had beat us. We had to get back up frosting which luckily we had a in the fridge. At one point a frosting battled occurred, many were hit only a few injured.
 
Way past a traditionally recommended bedtime, bellies filled with more candy than Halloween night and various vanilla frostings we constructed a building block version of a shack. We happily stuck the candy d├ęcor all over the outside as best as possible with extra frosting and gooey fingers. Then we had to dunk everyone in the bathtub to take the sticky, ickies off and then try to convince them to fall asleep. 

Not all family projects go successfully. We learned that we should have started this one a little bit earlier and we need to remember to let the pieces all harden before planning on pouring 3 tons of candies on it if we hope that the walls simply don't slide apart every time the fan blows. Clearly, I am still working through  a little of my frustration. But more important than a well made gingerbread house was the amount of laugher and silly that we had. Not every family moment will be a Hallmark commercial in the making but if we are honest those are usually the best ones.

And if I add a little bit more to my own parenting reflections, sometimes it's good to show kids that not everything has to be perfect. Sometimes things just need to be fun. Sometimes things need to be flexible. Perfection isn't the ideal. The ideal is joy. The ideal is love. The ideal is laughter. We accomplished that  ideal for sure.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Playroom Order

We are lucky to have a playroom. It is perfectly located next to the family room. It will likely some day be a guest room (or craft room if I get my way) but for now it is filled with Ikea furniture that holds all the toys. Neither girl has toys in their room at this point, (which will likely change in a couple of weeks) but for now just books.




Since this room has a door I could close it and ignore what's inside. However I don't do that at all. I have organized the bejesus out of it. Everything has a place most things had sticker labels for pictorial reference (until Vivi realized they we removable.) I try to consider what the area would best be used for and place accordingly. For example next to the kitchen is a couple of cubes of storage that have all the kitchen items, food, pots and pans and such. There is a puzzle section, dress up, cars, princesses, etc.




My daughters are very fortunate and have an abundance. The room is well used and thus sometimes there is a need for little people to be in the (play) microwave because they were "hiding" or "hungry." Sometimes Mickey needs to be in the ball box because he wanted to "play soccer." These sort of things just happen.




My problem is that I really enjoy having everything in the "right" place. My compulsion is to put it back. Most of the time I do. Hours of life given to cleaning up this one room. It takes a lot of will power, focus and control not to have the immediate gratification of having a place for everything and all of those things in their place.
The room is well played in. My girls have a vivid and healthy imagination which should be encouraged. My new mom mantra is:
Playroom doesn't have to be in perfect order
Playroom doesn't have to be on perfect order
Playroom doesn't have to be in perfect order
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Big Farm Breakfast

Lydia goes to preschool 3 mornings a week. Her class however does meet 5 days a week and on a day that she was not there they had a farm breakfast. We saw the pictures on Facebook and decided that we could have a farm breakfast dinner.

They have been talking about farms at school and Lydia was quite surprised to learn that so many foods came from animals. When I told her, her response was, "No, Mom that's silly." After a while of convincing she proudly explains that eggs and chicken nuggets come from chickens. Milk, cheese and hamburgers come from cow and strawberries come from trees.

I like to let the girls cook. For Lydia this was not her first time in the kitchen. However for Vivian it was. She worn a very fashion forward hot pink apron and enjoyed mixing things with dad.

On the Farm Breakfast Menu was:

  • Pancakes
  • Fruit
  • OJ
  • Eggs
  • Bacon

Lydia pours the ingredients into the bowl and mixed them. I let her use an Ikea kids knife to cut strawberries and bananas. She cracked the eggs for the scrambled eggs but she really did not like getting the sliminess on her fingers. She did happily mix them up.

 We cooked everything in an electric griddle that way Lydia could actually make it. And she did. She poured the batter in, sometimes overly excitedly and she stirred the eggs. We cheated a little and made bacon in the microwave, but for a 3 year old it worked perfectly.
Our dear friend Aunt Brigitte came over to eat and help! She brought OJ and oranges which Lydia peeled for each of us, well I think she made it peeling alone only hers. We ate a great farm breakfast! It was a really fun evening.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Largo Central Park

Largo Central Park is the best park in Pinellas county. We have been to it several times and it is always...well, AWESOME! There is no other word for it. It is the best park. There is a ton of playground equipment in a fenced in playground area. Even when it appears that it is overcrowded there is so many options and places to play you don't get the feeling of too many people in a small space. Partly also because it is not a small space.

Everything imaginable to play one. From bridges, slides, swings, houses, merry-go-rounds, trains, sandbox, climbing walls, and to be honest there is more. Speaking of trains the first weekend of each month there is an actual train to ride for free. There is a huge field to run and play. At this particular visit there were people setting up a live action role playing game similar to in the movie Role Models. Awesome.

Outside of the playground area there are covered shelters to host parties which there are always many. There is an area with exercise equipment for adults, a running path, fountain, sculptures to see,  and shady tree areas. In the same grounds, but technically not the park is the Largo Library and Largo Cultural Center both of which offer great resources and events for the community, particularly my area of interest is the children's programming.

Some of our favorite times at this park have been just throwing down a blanket and watching the clouds. It is really a fabulous place however in all public spaces even awesome ones, as a parent you have to keep an eye on your children. Seems like a reasonable idea, especially with small kids like mine, but it is always surprising how little this occurs. We had 4 adults this time and 2 kids and all of us were "on" the entire time. Several of the structures are very large and the girls were climbing and sliding down giant slides. We had 2 adults up top and 2 on the bottom and we still had to signal each other. It's a park not a babysitter, so go out and have some family fun.
 

 

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

North Shore Park or Flora Wylie

The weather has been amazing, breezy, cool, and sunny. On Sunday evening we took advantage of the beauty that surrounds us and went  to North Shore Park. We picked up some dinner and had a picnic by the Bay.

This stretch of  St. Petersburg is gorgeous and is home to a series of outdoor spaces. North of North Shore there is stretch of park that runs along side of the bay. There is a long sidewalk for walkers, runners and bikers. The center portion is frequented by pick up soccer games and Spring Easter egg hunts this is called Eva Rouse Park. Connecting Eva Rouse and North Shore is a beautiful arboretum. The Gizella Kopsick Aboretum has a gorgeous array of native plant life showcasing over 200 different types of palm trees. It's a lovely area with great richness. The spot that we chose has a chunk of beach. Many locals come to swim and sun instead of fighting traffic to the Gulfside.
We of course ate and went to the playground. The playground is positioned right at the bend of the shoreline right behind the North Shore Aquatic Center which is the only pool in the Southern Pinellas that is open all year round. We enjoyed a summer day of kid water fun there a few months back. This park is recommended for kids 5-12 but both girls were fine. We learned that Vivian does not have any fear. So she will just attempt to walk right off the jungle gym if no one is with her. At one point, she walk right onto the slide, fell and slid all the way down with a look of panic and joy simultaneously.
At this park you have to keep an eye on your little ones because it sits near the corner that runs along the shoreline. The beach area and the park area are on different levels of the ground so there is a ledge that has a drop of about 3 feet. On the other side there is a parking lot and with all the activity in the area this too is quite busy. It has a sandy foundation which is not my mommy favorite because it gets everywhere and comes into your home as a stowaway in kid sneakers.
The thing that can not be beat is the scenery. It is spectacular.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gaurkee O' Lanterns

Over the past month we have participated in various Autumn celebrations all of which have pumpkins at the center. Instead of buying huge pumpkins every where this year we bought small pumpkins along the way and purchased our big pumpkins at the grocer which was a rather massive savings. 

In my eternal craftiness I wanted to be sure that both girls had something that was age appropriate to do with their respective tiny pumpkins. I spray painted two of them for no reason except I had the paint and I wanted to do something a little different. My mom had gotten both girls Halloween coloring books with stickers. So for Vivian who is almost 15 months, I pulled her stickers out and let her stick them on the pumpkin. The stickiness of the stickers was a new experience for her, and her dexterity wasn't quite ready to unstick them from her fingers at first but she did great. Above all she really enjoyed turning her pumpkin to see all her Sesame Street favorites.

For Lydia I let her squirt her ever favorite glitter glue all over them. She sparkled them all over with various glitter colors. About midway through, dad got smart and out a plate underneath the pumpkin. I purchase a pack of glitter glues that were Crayola and I don't think they were as nice. These ran a little too much in my opinion. I am perpetually annoyed with myself when I don't by Crayola. The couple of bucks I save aren't every worth it, I think at least. However, Lydia didn't notice and she loved it.













The next creative pumpkin endeavor was painting them. This was Vivian's first time painting and I have to say, that she was very good at it. She dipped her brush in the paint and wiped it on the pumpkin. Occasionally, she painted her face and the inside of her mouth but she figured out on her own that it wasn't too tasty.

Lydia for the first time was a little frustrated that mixing all the paint colors didn't mean a rainbow on her brush. She didn't like her brown that manifested from her casual dips in the colors. I got her more paint and a couple of other brushes and it helped a little, but I think it may be time for her to have a brush for every color. We will see if that works a little better for her.
Meanwhile, Eliot was cutting the tops off the big pumpkins. Just when the creative portion was finished he was ready for a little extra help from the girls. Lydia was a little apprehensive at first. She's not one for surprises, so sticking her whole hand, well really whole arm into a large orange vegetable, was not a great idea according to her. Once she saw Vivian, who is totally the kid that will do such things, not lose a limb she was extremely helpful in this process. More importantly she really enjoyed it.
When Lydia was about this age we purchased a potato head pumpkin person. I still think it was one of the greatest ideas. We craved same holes onto another pumpkin and let Vivian work on this one. She loved pulling the pieces off and putting it back in.
Meanwhile, Lydia drew the face of her own pumpkin. I gave her a marker and she just drew whatever she wanted. It was a great one! Once it was craved out and we put a candle on the inside, she was thrilled with her creation. She was very pleased with her big girl self.


For the other pumpkin Lydia wanted us to make Priscilla, the cat. So I did my best but I still think hers was better. The girls colored $1 masks which were fun throughout the night especially as they chased each other and smacked each other on the head. When all the carving and coloring was completed we took the pumpkins to our stoop and lit them, so we could be proud of our work as they glowed in the crisp of the night. We ate candy and laughed and it was a great Halloween night.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cooking Lessons

I love to cook. I wish I did more of it all the time to the point that I often think that if I had all the money in the world I would go to cooking school and become a real chef. It's in these big dream rants that Eliot reminds me that real chefs work every weekend and evening always and spend little to no time with their families which at the end of the day is my real love and passion. Not to mention that I really do love teaching and working with youth, so I am not exactly hiding from my calling either. I digress. I like to cook. And when possible I like to encourage Lydia to help me cook. I had been wanting to try a  couple of appetizers for awhile and so I put together an appetizer meal. Admittedly it is one of my favorites types of dinners.

We have a plethora of string cheese. Not kidding. We have so much string cheese I am not sure our family can consume it all before the expiration dates. I wanted to used some up, so I went on the beloved pinterest  and I saw a very easy recipe with pepperonis and string cheese inside of a crescent roll. I have been dieting again this I purchased the reduced fat rolls. Pepperonis are actually not as bad as one may think, a serving size is 16 pieces of pepperonis.

Lydia help me. I pulled on the crescent rolls and we talk about them being triangles. Then she placed the pepperonis, circles, on the triangles and she counted them out. 3 pepperonis for each. Then the string cheese cut in half, and you would roll them up. Lydia did all of it. She is a great roller  too!
Then, we made Buffalo Chicken and Bleu Cheese bites. These were so easy! I had pita chips which we placed on the cookie sheet. Lydia counted them and lined them up. Then I tossed some shredded chicken in buffalo and placed them on each chip. Lydia then topped them with bleu cheese crumbles and onions. Each one got 2 of each. She was very meticulous. This one I think did a lot for her small motor skills for sure.
Last item on the menu for the night was guacamole. I cut the avocado in half, scooped out the insides into a bowl and gave Lydia the masher. She mashed. I added in the Rick Bayless green chile guacamole mix that Eliot and I are in love with and then Lydia mixed it all up.
At the end I warmed up some marinara to dip the pepperoni and cheese rolls in and I dipped the guacamole with Special K crackers because I was attempting to lower calories. The serving size with these crackers is 24 of them. The best bite was definitely the Buffalo Chicken Bleu Cheese on little pita crackers. I think I will make those for our pre-trick or treating block party for sure.

The best part was having Lydia help. She had a ball, she learned things and was a really good cook. There were no major messes. She was very focused and excited to help make dinner. She did a great job. Though it is worth noting that she didn't eat any of things we made because she is super picky but one step at time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Once Upon a Time Shower

One of my best friends in the world is pregnant with her second little one. I got the privilege of throwing her a little sprinkle shower and I had a ball doing it. Her mom had suggested a children's book theme which was perfect! My husband and I are naturally book junkies and we give everyone children's books for almost every holiday. Plus we got boxes of books passed down to the girls from various members of our family, so we had a ton of supplies.
First objective was to create a menu. I tried to pick items that I knew that the mama was really enjoying throughout her pregnancy. The number one item was chicken salad, but  also shared some pasta salad, cheese and crackers, fruit, meatballs, goldfish and cupcakes. Then I sat down in front of the bookcases in the girls rooms and pulled out the best book associated with the food. Some of these were just lucky finds, others I got a little help from the internet.

We had a few activities which involved children's book themes too. One of my all time favorite children's books is The Giving Tree. I have read this countless times at camp to campers. This was perfect for the party. I painted canvas blue and then painted a tree trunk. I cut out leaves from various colored green scrapbook paper and asked the party goers to leave little comments on the leaves for the baby. The instructions that I read suggested using double-sided tape after placing the leaves on the tree I have learned that the tape isn't strong enough and that Elmer's glue is a better choice. It turned out really lovely.

For other activities I also printed out a children's book quiz  with the answers from here and the winners got prizes. We wrote silly sayings on diapers to amuse the parents as they change those stinkers too. Simple.
Around the house I decorated with books. I printed out The Keep Calm sign below from Google images (and I felt pretty hip about) and I printed out covers of Golden Book series and created a book banner. I simply whole punched two wholes on each page and strung a ribbon through them. That I hung across our sliding glass doors. I placed books around the house in tables and even in the bathroom. 
 
I set up a couple of tables. We know that they are having a baby boy so I added those touches here and there with the blue table cloths and the baby boy picks on the cupcakes. Each table had a center piece that included a book and stuffed animal that is associated with the character of the book. We were also going to decorate book plates for the baby books that each person was asked to bring in lue of a card. The invite had ABC's on it which was perfectly fitting for the theme.



 

For the party gift I had two. I made bookmarks with a little baby boy charm and a sticker on the back that said Once A Upon Time Baby Shower with the date and name. And I made these little baggies of gummy worms which was a great suggestion from the grandma to be. I had these avery circle labels and I made them online through their program. It is super easy to use and it was easy to place on clear baggies with gummies.
Overall it was a great shower and it was super fun to put together. It was a fun and easy theme for me to run with. My one girlfriend made a bookshelf diaper cake which was adorable. Books are such a big part of our life with our girls. We read to them everyday multiple times a day and pretty much Vivian has a book in her hand most of the day. It was so fun to use this theme and the very best part is that in a couple of months we will have a new little baby boy hanging out.