Saturday, October 23, 2010

Someone just turned 7!

People always say that their children are growing up so fast, where does the time go, I can't believe how grown up they are, blah, blah, blah. Give me a break.

But, my children are growing up so fast. Where did the time go? I can't believe how grown up they are.

Especially this one.

She chose a rainbow theme this year. I'm not sure when we instituted the theme idea, but now no birthday goes without a theme. They've even selected one for my next (36th) birthday: gardens. I like it.

The idea of rainbows was so sweet so cheery, so beautifully scientific (think: Roy G. Biv). But then I started frosting. First, I was dirtying way too many bowls.

Then, the red stripe made every last cupcake look so forlorn.

And the big cake was just depressing.

I couldn't help but sing "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I ..." It's a good thing there are 6 other stripes to redeem the effect.

The party was a big hit. 1 birthday girl + 1 sister + Pin the Red on the Rainbow + Twister + Hey, check out this cool prism + everybody paint mini pumpkins with glitter + pasta and pesto + cupcakes = 1 colorful party. And no one wanted to cry.

Makeovers are not just for the ladies: His/Her Before/After

Someone in our house is sporting a new look these days. Actually, two someones.

And I'm not talking about the dog whose adventures in a nearby vacant lot resulted in hundreds of burrs. We needed professional help that day.

The Music Man said "goodbye" to 50 pounds in 4 months and is quite proud of himself.

Check him out before, in June 2010.

And here he is after, today Oct 2010.

As our kids say, "He's not so puffy anymore."

Fifty pounds is about the size of our 7 yr-old. Just imagine having to carry her around for most of your life, then not having to carry her around any more.

We're all a lot happier about it.

This happened to coincide with my month-long build up of "I've got to do something about all this hair!" Turns out they have professionals to help with that too.

I went to our local hip hair place Thomas Blondie and was serviced by Mr. Dwight Thomas himself. I was slightly nervous because he considers himself a hair artist. Because I prefer art to be on my walls or in my oven, I told him to go easy on me. I pointed sheepishly at one of those examples in a hair magazine and Dwight went right to work.

Here I am before, looking too much like Kate on Lost, when she's stranded on an island, without access to conditioner.

And here I am after.

I think I lost about 50 pounds of hair. And we're all a lot happier about it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Remembering summer: soft pretzels

Every once in a while I have to remind myself and all those around me that, although my calendar is bulging and my odometer is spinning, I am a stay-at-home parent who values staying at home. Some of our best times as a family are our free mornings. Those days when we paint, dress up, dance, bake, build, paste at will. I've learned to look forward to them and cherish them.

During the summer, when school was not cramping our playtime, those days were easier to come by. And for me, nothing says "Free Morning" better than making our own soft pretzels. This super-simple recipe is from the magazine Highlights High 5.

On this August occasion, we invited our charming 4 -yr-old neighbors.

First you gather up all the ingredients.

Next, mix a package of yeast (or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast) and a tablespoon of sugar into 3/4 cup warm milk. Let it stand until it's foamy (10 minutes or so). If you are lucky, the kids will do something quiet while they wait.

Then mix the yeast mixture with 2 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl.

Knead until smooth.

Then, split the dough so everyone has some. Shape away! Most of these girls opted for their initials.

One overachiever spelled her whole name.

Place shapes on a cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle your choice of salt, garlic powder, herbs, or cinnamon sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Somehow I always forget to get pictures of the finished pretzels. Maybe that's because the warm, herby aroma, combined with the olive oil that we bring out for dipping, completely captures my attention. And who can think about photography when they are busy ingesting the proof of our lovely, free morning?!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Look What's Growing in my Grandma's Basement

My grandma's basement is:
1) a treasure house of books, dolls, fabric, metal toys, paintings.
2) storing a ping-pong table on top of a pool table.
3) a study in psychology.
4) a visual representation of 7 people's hobbies.
5) messy beyond belief.
6) referenced as a way to measure one's own messiness, as in "my closet is almost as messy as Grandma's basement, but not quite."

Now that my grandmother is living in a nursing home, my mother and her sister have undertaken the monumental task of sorting through this basement. It's a process.

A few months ago, my mom dropped off a gigantic bag of fabric from my grandma's basement. Here are some of the sweet swatches I found.

Despite the charm of the fabric, I was not inspired to make anything special. That is, not until I was invited to this grandmother's 90th birthday celebration in Traverse City this past weekend.

I also happened upon this book:

And I had to get myself to the sewing machine. And fast.

I decided to make a fast, mini, memory quilt on a pillowcase.

After the first step, I had a beautiful winter tree.

And after the thing was finished, the tree was old-fashioned and timeless, similar to the creativity that I believe my grandmother passed to me.

The birthday weekend was colorful and beachy.

The party was a beautiful tribute to my grandmother, Ruth Schiller Fabis, her life, and her artwork.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'Tis the season: Applesauce

Recently we made a trip to our favorite orchard and came home with this bag of beauty.

But within hours after bringing them home, we pulled out our favorite Apple Torture Device

and started making applesauce.

It's painfully easy.

First wash the apples.

Then shove them on the machine and have a child do the cranking.

Pull off the apple spiral and discard the core and skin for composting later.

Chop the spiral into quarters.

When your apples are all sliced, toss into a pot with a bit of water.

Simmer till tender, then mash with some dashes of cinnamon. Serve warm or cold.

I'm still not sure which is my favorite: the joy of the orchard,

or the aroma of the apples simmering on my stove.

The Final Harvest

Last week I went out in the garden to put it to bed. I had in mind: pulling the last of the gourd vines, composting spent tomato plants, taking stock of the work to be done next spring, saying "Goodnight" to the garden.

I was totally shocked, yet again, at what I found hidden under dying plants.

That's right. Sixteen peppers. Sixteen.

I think some stuffed peppers are in order.