Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tea and Homework

Now that she is in first grade, Nora has homework every night. Her teacher sends home a worksheet four nights a week, she reads for (a minimum of) ten minutes each day, and practices her spelling words and her Dolch words. Phew!

We have found that a nice cup of tea makes homework go more smoothly.

Oh, for the days when color crayons were acceptable on homework!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dana Working Out

Ever wonder how Dana keeps her girlish figure? Mystery solved!

A couple weeks ago, Dana put on her bikini (inside out, of course), put in an exercise DVD and got to work. She managed to follow along for about ten minutes before she started dancing and doing her own thing. It was all pretty humorous and very sweet.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes, Another Hat

It's safe to say I have been a little hat crazy lately. I have knit at least eight hats this winter, with yarn for two more at home. The joys of knitting a hat are so many! I have tried new techniques, like lace, on something small and manageable. And hats knit up so quickly, so it is pretty close to instant gratification. And most hats (at least, the ones I've been making) use a single skein of yarn, so I can try fancier yarns without going broke. Plus, in this frozen tundra I live in, my family and friends are always happy for a stylish new toque. After all, we require hats 13 months out of the year.

My aunt emailed me right before Christmas and said that her and my mom's cousin was diagnosed with colon cancer and is going through chemotherapy. She knows I have made some chemo caps, so she asked if I might make one for him. And so I did. I used my favorite yarn of late: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. I may have mentioned this yarn before as I have used it for several projects. It is as soft as a cloud and completely itch free, though it is 55% merino wool. I didn't have enough of any one color in my stash, and I have trouble finding this yarn locally, so I thought it was a great opportunity to work with stripes. Not that stripes are new to me, but I have been trying new techniques with striping.

I mailed this soft, stretchy hat off today. I hope it makes this time a little more bearable for him. I am so glad my aunt asked me to knit this!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Inauguration Hat

I have spent a lot of time knitting things for people. And every time I pick up the needles, the girls ask what I am knitting and who it is for. And they inevitable ask why I am not knitting something for them. Ah, the guilt! Since I have knit not one but two hats for Dana this winter, it was Nora's turn.

I showed her some patterns on Ravelry, and she chose this one, titled "Lace-Edged Women's Hat." Next, we looked through yarn colors. Nora was adamant that she wanted a blue hat. I, being ever cautious, showed her many options in pink and purple. She reminded me again and again that she wanted blue and finally settled on this color, called Ballad Blue. It isn't that I love pink and purple ( I am so very tired of these colors). It's just that they have been Nora's favorite colors forever, and I want to make sure she loves the hat and wants to wear it.

I had some, um, problems making this hat. I won't bore you with the details. I will just tell you that I learned two frustrating lessons: 1) ALWAYS DO A GAUGE SWATCH, and 2) When knitting a delicate lace pattern, make sure you are wide awake and not distracted by a lovely 3 year-old who desperately wants to grab your needles while you are counting stitches. I ripped this hat out five times. It got old much sooner than that.

I finally successfully cast on last night. I focused hard on the lace pattern, actually saying the name of each stitch out loud as I worked: "Knit one, yarn over, slip one, knit two together, pass, yarn over, knit two." It took a while as I was very deliberate with my work, for good reason. And this morning, while I watched the inauguration, I knit the rest of the hat, meaning MOST of the hat. So I have coined it the Inauguration Hat. I know that I will always remember this as the hat I knit while I watched the festivities. Plus it's blue. And when Nora got home from school, she tried it on and thought it was beautiful. And not itchy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Play Dough

It has been cold here. When I woke up on Tuesday, it was -27. Wednesday was a bit warmer, but Thursday and Friday? Ridiculous. It was so cold that they canceled school pretty much everywhere in the whole state. With the windchill, it was anywhere from -25 to -50. I just read that it is supposed to be a balmy 19 above tomorrow! Hurray! But how do I entertain two girls with cabin fever two days in a row? I make fresh play dough, that's how.

My mom teaches preschool. She searched for the perfect recipe for years, and finally found this one. It is a keeper for sure. While it only lasts five to ten days with 17 kids using it for thirty hours each week, it lasts for months at home with two kids. Yes, months.

Here are the assembled ingredients. For the most part, these are things I always have on hand. I have to buy Kool-Aid when I see that our play dough is starting to get gross, but I always have the other stuff in the cupboards.

Inese's* Play Dough

4 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup salt
1/2 Tablespoon Granulated Alum (in the spice aisle)
5 Tablespoons vegetable oil (or 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon)
1 packet of Kool-Aid
3 cups boiling water

Mix the flour, salt and alum in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the oil.

Mix the boiling water and the Kool-Aid in a small bowl or large measuring cup. Add to flour mix. Stir until it is pretty much mixed. Dump it all onto the counter or table and knead it until it is completely mixed.

OR do what I do, if you can. It is a lot easier and saves your hands from getting burned and dyed weird Kool-Aid colors.

Mix the Kool-Aid and boiling water (this is for even color distribution. If you add them separately, it is really hard to get the color even). Put the rest of the ingredients into the large bowl of your stand mixer. Pour the boiling hot Kool-Aid on top. Mix on the lowest speed using the dough hook. When it is pretty well mixed, dump it onto the counter or table and knead until soft and thoroughly mixed. Test the temperature, and when it has cooled to a safe temp, let your kids have at it. It is fun to play with warm, fresh play dough when it is wicked cold outside. Just make sure to store it tightly covered, away from air, when they are done. It will stay soft and wonderful for months.

*My mom did not actually invent this recipe, but we do not know where she found it, so I am calling it Inese's recipe. Also, Inese rhymes with Venus. She was born in a displaced persons camp in Kiel, Germany, where my grandparents fled from their native Riga, Latvia. I don't know whether Inese was a popular name in Latvia.

This is Nora with the entire batch. It makes a lot-enough to fill my 2.3 quart Rubbermade container.

I like play dough time because the girls actually cooperate with it. They use it to build things together, and then they play "guys" with it. They use squeaky voices and fantastic story lines and are the best of friends. Pretty fun to watch, and so much better than the arguing from this morning.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Crafty Magnets

So like I mentioned in my previous post, the girls had an overnight with Grandma and Grandpa. And like I mentioned in my previous post, I used some of that time to get some stuff done that is easier when I am only supervising myself. I admit that not all of it was "work." Like these magnets I made.

I bought all of the supplies a week ago and have been waiting for an opportunity to try them. I plan to include the girls next time, but I wanted to practice by myself first, and I wanted to make sure the adhesive I bought didn't emit noxious odors or melt the skin right off of my fingers. I am happy to report that it all was safe and easy. And fun! And not my idea. I found the idea here. And I bought my supplies at Michael's, and everything was right where Not Martha said it would be.

I went with the 3/4" size, purchasing 3/4" round magnets, flat glass marbles, and a 3/4" circle paper punch. Not Martha actually traced and cut out her circles, but I am lazy. And I don't have that kind of time. And I am not that good at cutting. Plus when I make them again with my girls, they will be able to punch out their own little circles, which will be more fun for them. And I had a 40% off coupon and some Christmas gift money burning a hole in my imagination.

I originally planned to punch holes out of pretty scrapbooking paper, but it seemed that all of the patterns I had in my stash were big. And my 3/4" size constraint wasn't going to do it. So I decided to use catalogs. I grabbed Hanna Andersson, Pottery Barn, The Company Store and Land of Nod and went to work punching out pretty fabrics and such. And I think they came out rather well. They are strong but not frighteningly so, and they are cute. And much nicer than the advertising and alphabet magnets that held photos and artwork on my fridge yesterday. Too bad the flash made the patterns so hard to see. I never did claim to be a good photographer though.

The Hat and the Legwarmies and the Shed

Remember a week or two ago, when I was complaining that I was trying to use up yarn by making a hat for Dana to match her legwarmies, and I ran out? Well, I decided to just buy more yarn. I know that rather defeated the purpose of using up yarn, but in the end, the matchiness won me over. The thing is, Dana will be four in March. Soon, she is not going to let me have anything to do with her wardrobe choices. I mean, just look at Nora: when she is putzing in the morning, refusing to get ready for school, I threaten to select an outfit for her and, before I can get the entire sentence out of my mouth, she is at her dresser with jeans in one hand, digging through her shirt drawer. Because God forbid I should have any involvement with her outfit! Plus, I really like the yarn. I am not going to be disappointed to have more of it laying around. It is lovely to knit with, and it is so soft! And the colors are actually very nice, for purple and pink.

See? Don't they look pretty cute together?

So that was all good and lovely. I finished it on Tuesday night. We got up Wednesday morning and I showed it to Dana, who pointed to her forehead and said, "It makes my heads itch." Heads? And so, after ECFE, we went to the fabric store, where she selected a beautiful flannel print to line it with. The girls went to visit Grandma and Grandpa Saturday afternoon and did not come home until Sunday evening, so I took the opportunity to find an online tutorial on how to line a knit hat. And it came out OK.

Dana tried it on when she got home and it still fits-phew! I was worried it wouldn't, despite the care I took in measuring and all. And when I asked her if it is itchy, she said, "Not anymore!" and pranced off wearing it. Success!

On a totally unrelated note, we have had a ridiculous amount of snow here over the past couple of weeks. Kevin has had to blow out the driveway like five times. And you know where the snow ended up? That's right-in front of the shed. And you know what is stored in the shed? The box that holds our 7-foot tall artificial Christmas tree, of course! When I finally realized the situation last week, I figured it was my own fault for telling Kevin that this is the first year I don't feel like the tree is in the way, and I was not in any rush to take it down. Until I figured out that I COULDN'T take it down, that is. See, I tried to shovel through the snow but it was packed so hard and was so crusty that I actually broke the shovel. So I was trying to psych myself up for a Valentine's Day tree, followed by an Easter tree. Dana and I actually looked at Valentine's Day garland and such but I wasn't ready to totally admit defeat yet. And good thing! Because Kevin went out and shoveled around the door without breaking anything. And then he went out again and actually got the door open and lugged the box in. Yay Kevin! So our tree is down and Christmas is officially over in our house. And I am happy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lemons, Lemons Everywhere

Dana and I spent the whole entire day in the kitchen. We did not intend for this to happen-but one thing led to another.

We began the day planning to make Lemon Drop Cookies. I found the recipe through a blog I read and have been planning to make them for close to a week. So today we finally had the time and energy.

To give the cookies an intense lemon flavor, you take the zest of three lemons and pulse it in the food processor with three cups of sugar. Doesn't this look pretty? We thought so. And ooh did it smell good!

Dana was in charge of the food processing. Well, the pulsing anyway. I wasn't about to let a 3 year-old loose with my Cuisinart for countless reasons. This is what the sugar looked like after pulsing it a few times. It was fragrant, a beautiful pale yellow flecked with bright yellow zest, and sort of soft.

So you use most of this sugar to make the dough, but you save some to roll the dough in before baking it. Dana was in charge of coating the dough balls in lemon sugar. But you know what? She loves lemons. I mean, she loves them. She ate two lemon slices when we were done. I swear. So she could not possibly be expected to keep her lemony, sugary fingers out of her mouth. In fact, she helped herself to a spoonful when my back was turned. I normally would be freaked out by this, but the sugar looked and smelled so heavenly that I totally understood where she was coming from.

The sugar sort of clumped on the cookies, but I think this is because the preschooler was in charge of them. She did a bit of squeezing, which made the sugar stick extra special thick in spots. Which is just fine by me. These cookies are phenomenal: super lemony, yet still soft and chewy. I do not care for crunchy cookies.

So that was all a lot of fun, but now I had three zestless lemons, and since my New Year's resolution is to use stuff up, I was not about to toss them. So we made lemonade. I actually got an entire cup of juice out of these three lemons!

To make the lemonade, I made a simple syrup by mixing one cup of water with one cup of sugar. I brought it to a boil and immediately removed it from the heat. It cooled while I pressed the juice out of the lemons. Once cool, I mixed it with the lemon juice and added enough cold water to fill my 2 liter pitcher.

Delicious AND refreshing! That flower has had a long day of being photographed. It came off of a flowering maple that I got for free the year I was pregnant with Nora. My mom, sister and I have an annual tradition of going to greenhouses on Mother's Day, and the Petunia Patch was giving away flowering maples to all mothers that year. Sweet memories.

So you would think that was enough, but the cookie recipe calls for three egg yolks. And I couldn't possibly toss the whites! So I saved them and made my most favorite bread recipe: Garlic French from this cookbook. It calls for two stiffly beaten egg whites. And I was OK with throwing out one egg white. Because I spent enough time in the kitchen for one day, and I hadn't even made dinner yet. I ended up making "Stone Soup," which is basically chicken noodle soup without the chicken. Served with the garlic french, it was mighty tasty on a cold, -5 degree night. I mean, what else can you serve when it is that cold? Other than ice cold lemonade, of course...

I hope that you make the cookies. They are really lovely. But maybe you don't need to go as nuts as I did. It is 6:15 and I am ready for bed. Wait though-wouldn't that fresh lemonade mix well with some of my leftover vodka from the vanilla making yesterday? Hmmmm......maybe after the kids go to sleep.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


My mom and dad got back from "their" island late Sunday night. Kevin picked them up from the airport at 11:30pm. They were gone for two weeks, over Christmas, so as soon as Nora got off the bus on Monday, we trekked next door to visit them, see their pictures, and hear about things on Huahine. I know right now you are scratching your heads and saying, "Who-a-what?" Huahine is a tiny island near Tahiti. It has a population around 500. They go there every year and plan to spend winters there when they retire in the next couple of years.

So after a bit of hugging and welcoming back, the kids, of course, asked for their present. Nothing like being straight to the point about things. There was no beating around the bush, no idle chat: they knew Grandma and Grandpa would never come home empty handed and they are fascinated by this island, so they HAD to see what it was this year.

So Grandpa says, "Grandma isn't home yet and I don't know where she put them. But I can tell you this: We bought them from our friend Stumpy. You know why they call him 'Stumpy?' Because his arm is just a stump. You know why his arm is a stump? Because a shark tore it off of him!" Those of you who know my dad know he is quite the story teller. And I have to say-I am really not sure if this story is true or not. I mean, it is totally plausible that a guy who lives on an island near Tahiti got into a little mix-up with a shark. But since Don is such a story teller, I just don't know. I mean, this is the guy who convinced all of the grandkids that there are crocodiles living in his basement, and an even fiercer, more illusive beast called a pocodile, too.

Anyhow, Grandma got home shortly thereafter and, after hugging her, the girls asked her where the presents were hidden. So she got them out and-this is so cool-they are shark tooth necklaces! Fierce! And what is so crazy about shark teeth is that they are serrated. Like a mouthful of knives. And I am honestly a little bit worried one of them will slice her finger on the serrated tooth. But that would make for a cool story I guess.

Here is Nora modeling her necklace. She wore it to school on Tuesday and showed it off to her friends.

So what did my parents bring for me? Well, they brought me 5.6 ounces of vanilla beans. That works out to 36 of the world's most amazing vanilla beans. And-this is so cool-they even showed us photos of the vanilla bean plantation/farm/whatever it is called where these beans came from! Too bad I don't have a copy that I can post here, because it is pretty neat.

So I went online and found a most wonderful website telling me how exactly to turn these things into vanilla extract. And you know what? It is pretty simple. It is basically beans in vodka for six months. So after ECFE this morning, Dana and I swung by the liquor store to get vodka. For the quantity of beans, I needed 1400 milliliters of vodka, so I picked out two 1-liter bottles of decent vodka and brought them up to the register. Dana has never been to the liquor store before and I felt a little weird about it, but I didn't want the beans to get stale and I needed to get the vodka, so I just went with it. Except that as soon as I opened my wallet and took out my check card, I realized I did not have my license. See, we went bowling on Friday night and they held my license while we bowled, I guess because I looked like the type of girl who would bowl and dash. And I forgot to get it back. So he ran my check card through and THEN asked for my ID, which I had to tell him I did not have. Which was incredibly humiliating. I mean, I bring my 3-year old into the liquor store to buy two liters of vodka and then I look like I am underage. He actually said, "I am sure you are 21 but I need to see your ID." And I was like, "I am 31, not 21." I totally get it. I am really glad he did card me. However, it was not my best moment. The crowning glory was when he bagged the vodka and set it aside so I could come back for it after I retrieved my ID. Um, no thanks. Instead, we went to the bowling alley, got the ID and then went to a different liquor store where they didn't think I was a hardcore alcoholic aged 20 or younger with an almost-4 year-old.

Look at all of those lovely vanilla beans! It took me over an hour to slice each pod open, scrape out the "caviar", chop up the pods, stuff everything into the vodka bottles and shake like crazy. And my hands will smell like a little bit of heaven for days. I am supposed to shake the bottles daily for the next two weeks, and then a couple times a week for the next 6 months. I can hardly wait to try it! The vanilla beans smell nothing like the ones from the grocery store. They are incredibly fragrant and sweet. And they were so soft and kind of oily.

Here's what it looked like after I shook it. I am told that within three days, it will LOOK like vanilla. Nora asked to smell it and it just smells like vodka. She was not impressed. "Just wait!" I told her.

So those of you who are mathematical may have noticed that I needed 1400mL of vodka and I bought 2L, which is 2000mL. I had to remove 300mL of vodka from each bottle, both to have the correct amount of alcohol and to make room for the caviar and pods and the water they will produce as they flavor the vodka. What to do with so much vodka? For starters, I made pasta with vodka sauce for dinner. This is one of our favorite meals but it is very fattening so I don't make it often. All of the alcohol cooks off, leaving a spicy, delicious sauce. The kids eat noodles with canned diced tomatoes while we eat this sauce. They LOVE noodles with canned diced tomatoes, lovely girls that they are.

And with that, here is the recipe:

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream, your choice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the red pepper, vodka and tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the half and half and cook five more minutes. Add parmesan and stir well. Serve over noodles. Quick, easy and delicious! But like I said, spicy.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Years Resolution Gone Awry

Allow me to gripe about my New Years resolution for a moment.

I have a really bad habit of using almost all of something and then moving on to the shiny, new replacement while the last bit of the first something sits taking up space in my much too small house. For example, I have three different kinds of shampoo in the bathroom right now. They are all close to gone. Rather than buying new shampoo, I need to use the last of all of those bottles. Got it? Already this week I have used the last of three bottles of dishwasher detergent and three boxes of cereal. I am giddy about the storage I have regained! Just think of the possibilities!

So yesterday I saw the remains of the yarn I used to make Dana's legwarmers. Just sitting there, taking up space in my overflowing yarn basket. So I thought it was time to use up the leftovers on a matching hat. Cute, functional and again with the regaining of space. Except you know what? It wasn't enough yarn to make a whole hat. Nope.

Nora thinks the hat looks fantastic with the needles poking out. She thinks I should let Dana wear it as is. Um, no. Sorry.

So this is how much yarn I have left. I have to knit the stitches on one more needle with the rose yarn, which I am out of. And there is not enough of the periwinkle to finish more than one or two rounds. I have eight rounds left. I am stuck. I am paralyzed with indecision!

I feel I have three options here:

1) Tear it all out.
2) Find something in my yarn basket to finish it with.
3) Buy more yarn in these same colors and finish it .

Option 2 makes the most sense, except that this hat is supposed to match the legwarmers, so adding a third color will mess that up. Plus I know that the only color I have in this weight is black, and black seems like the wrong color to add to this hat.

Anyone want to share an idea or an opinion? I do really like this yarn and would not be opposed to making something else with it. So buying more is kind of OK with me. Except that it defeats the whole purpose of using stuff up that I already have. Darn that resolution!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wild Rice Burgers and Fries

There is a restaurant in town called Fitger's Brewhouse that makes the most fantastic wild rice burgers. Now that we have kids, we don't get there as often because we like to linger there rather than mowing through our meal as fast as possible before the kids lose interest and begin behaving like imps. And so I invented my own version of the wild rice burger because it is so tasty and popular with the folks in my family and we all eat better in the comfort of our own home, where nobody is judging our table manners.

Rhinosaur River Wild Rice Burgers

1/2 cup wild rice, uncooked
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup plus extra of fine bread crumbs, seasoned or unseasoned, your choice
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the wild rice according to the directions on the package. Cool to room temp, or, if you are in a pinch, rinse in cold water. I know that washes away some of the vitamins and stuff, but trust me-if you are in a hurry, it is better to wash away some vitamins than to have wild rice and scrambled egg burgers.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cheese. Mix well. Add rice and mix again. Slowly add the bread crumbs and mix, adding more if needed, until the "dough" sticks together and is not too wet. If your mix is too dry, add another egg and more bread crumbs, too, if needed. I generally use about 3/4 cup of crumbs, but it depends on how big your egg is and how wet the rice is. And maybe how humid the air is. Who the heck knows?

On a cutting board or other flat surface, form the rice dough into four patties. I cook them on a pancake griddle at 300 degrees, six minutes on each side, or until done. After the 12 minutes are up, I throw a slice of cheese on each and continue to cook until the cheese is melty and delicious. If I am with it enough, I will grill the buns as well, as that adds something extra tasty to the mix. Add fixings to your liking.

Dana likes to top her wild rice burgers with stray cheddar bunnies. SHE thinks this looks mouth watering, as you can see.

Nora tops hers with ketchup and home fries. That recipe is pretty basic, but here it is anyway. I made these up, too, but really-you probably made this same recipe up yourself.

Oven Fries

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with non-stick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to your liking
2 cloves of garlic, pressed

Slice about 6 potatoes however you like them: fingers, rounds, whatever. Toss them with the seasoned olive oil. Dump it onto the baking sheet and arrange into a single layer. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Check on them at that point. You can stir them up and let them brown to your liking. I usually do about 28 minutes or so, but since everyone's oven is different, I suggest checking on them at 20 minutes, just to be safe.

I want to point out that most nights, I serve healthy appetizers while I cook dinner. We frequently have veggies with or without dip, fruit, etc. Tonight I cut up a fresh pineapple and we ate the entire thing while I cooked. So while there may not be produce on the plates, rest assured that there WAS produce in our bellies.

I have been tweaking the burger recipe for several years and I am not certain I have found the perfect balance yet. So if you tweak it and want to share your changes with me, I would be most appreciative.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Rockin' Platter

So I was upstairs supervising Dana in the tub this morning, when Nora ran up to tell me someone was at the door. Turns out it was the mailman. He had brought up the mail and a box addressed to me! Yay!

The box was from my Aunt Sol. I initially thought it was a book but as I unwrapped it and felt how light it was, I became puzzled. And then I unwrapped it and my face was made out of sunshine. I swear it was. Because Aunt Sol read here on my little blog that I only have that one platter and it is pink and shaped like a heart, so she thought I should have another one. And my Aunt Sol-she always knows exactly what to get for people. She always has. More on the platter in a second.

I had been meaning to bake some cookies, so the girls climbed onto the counter and mixed them up so I could pose some fresh cookies on the platter. That is how much I love it. Really.

Here is a closeup of the platter. And the cookies. The cookies are nothing special-just Toll House chocolate chunk. I mean, they are tasty, but they are nothing new or creative or anything. But the platter-it is so cool. It is made out of recycled plastic! Like 100% repurposed plastic. The little flecks/specks are other plastic items. It is so fantastic! I am in love with my new platter. And the company name is Zak!, which is funny because my nephew is Zak. Same spelling and everything. And he is the bestest, so of course something this cool would share a name with him.

I mentioned previously that Jessica was in town on a visit. When I went to say good bye yesterday, she handed me this bag of coffee beans. See, last time I was in New Hampshire visiting her, I bought Kevin a bag of local coffee. And when we got back to Jessica's house, we accidentally opened it and brewed up a pot. And she is so nice that she brought me a new, unopened bag to enjoy. Which I will, with my fresh cookies on my fantastic platter. And the mug? It is my favorite. It actually belongs to Kevin, but since I bought it for him I can claim it if I want to. He has had it for about twelve years. The cool thing about it is that when you put something hot into it, the Star Trek guys transport away and become invisible, only to reappear when your drink has cooled. This photo makes me smile because it makes me think of three of my favorite people. And now I am off to brew my own pot of New Hampshire coffee and eat some cookies before I round up the girls to go bowling with Auntie Liz and her niece, Taylor. Happy treating everyone!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Shoe Store

So here I am, busy roasting tomatoes, garlic and onions to make some tasty sauce for noodles tonight, and I go into the living room to see what all the noise is, and I find the girls setting up a shoe store! They used to play a different version of this game, but it has been over a year and this is an improved version orchestrated by the more mature mind of a six year-old.

I love the shelf they made using upturned chairs. Pretty crafty, ladies!

It wasn't long before they realized that they need to branch out to include accessories as well. Here, Nora is busy relocating the shoe department to the floor while Dana stocks hats and scarves on the shelves. Here's to being trapped inside in the cold, with nothing to do but make up games.

New Year's Eve!

We stayed in this year for New Year's Eve, which I guess we usually do anyway. This year, Sam and Liz (my brother and sister in law) had their niece, so we invited them all over, along with Keenan, to watch movies, eat junk food and play board games. We never did make it to the board games...

Around 10:00, Dana said, "I'm tired. Let's go lay in your bed." And so we did. She fell asleep right away. Around 11:00, Kevin took this picture of the big kids snuggling. Don't you love the multi-use capabilities of the bean bag chairs? Awesome!

This was around 11:30pm. Keenan and Diogi, my brother's pit bull, were asleep less than five minutes after this was taken. Nora and I have the same opinion about dogs: we like them from a distance. We do not like dog smell or dog spit. Obviously Keenan and Taylor do not share this sentiment. Then again, I have been known to get a bit cuddly with Diogi. He is a particularly sweet dog and he is hard to resist.

The Acker motto for the new year? Everything will be fine in 2009. *

*This motto is not official and has not been sanctioned by all members of the household. That being said, we are ALL confident that this will be a kickin' year.


Our good friend Jessica came "home" for a week with her daughter, Sophie. They came over to play on their first free morning, and we somehow ended up with an impromptu morning party.

The story goes like this: My mom has been best friends with Kathy since junior high. My dad has been best friends with Dan since elementary school. Kathy and Dan married and had Jessica and Charity. My parents married and had me, Alyx and Sam. We all lived in the same duplex when we were really little, so we grew up pretty close. Clearly. We are all still good friends, though Jessica lives on the east coast now.

A couple of summers ago, Jess and Sophie came to visit, and we took some really cute photos of Nora, Dana, Sophie and Ayla, our friend Tara's little girl, on the stairs at Kathy's house. As everyone was getting ready to leave the other morning, the girls were sitting on the stairs and we all had the same thought: An updated stairway photo! Unfortunately, Alyx and Keenan had already left.

So on the top step we have Nora and Ayla. Below them, Dana and Sophie. Charity's daughter, Josie, is on the bottom step.

Another attempt. I actually took about ten pictures and not one came out with everyone looking happily at the camera. But you know what? It isn't easy to coordinate five little girls, particularly when the word of choice during the photo session was "poop!"

A couple of days later, our friend Jodi had a gingerbread man decorating party. The kids took a snack break on her couch and were kind enough to sort of pose for this photo. From left, Ayla, Dana, Sophie, Josie, Miles (Jodi's son) and Nora.

Jess and Sophie left today, which is pretty sad since Dana has decided Sophie is her best friend. She cried when they hugged good bye this morning. They were born nine days apart and are both obsessed with Scooby Doo, so they hit it off pretty well.