Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Language

Mietta, at two, would have close to a thousand words in her vocabulary and speaks in sentences with correct pronouns, sentence structure and tense. Having big brothers, and wanting her say, certainly has contributed here. Not being parents that want to *push* their children to lofty parental expectations, I was intrigued after hearing of one such parent's two-year-old that knew her alphabet. I tested Mietta on her alphabet on her bedroom wall. "This is an M, Mietta. Mmmmm for Mmmietta". Mietta responds "M" "What letter is this Mietta?", "S", I was impressed. "This one?" "T", I thought perhaps I should mix it up a bit. "This one?", "A. K. D. X. Z...." I was quite astounded that Mietta knows almost the entire alphabet! She had some trouble with 'W' - naming it 'U'. I must try her on an alphabet that differs from the one in her bedroom - to see if it is not purely memory she is relying upon.

I am constantly amazed by what our children know. There is a tendency to believe that if we haven't told them, then they wont know. Nic is fascinated by words and often asks us the meaning of a word. He then tries to work it into a sentence. He asked Paul what 'addicted' meant and after an explanation was able to use it in "So Mummy is addicted to coffee.... and Luc is addicted to pens!" (for Luc's love of drawing). He asked me what 'pathetic' meant the other day. I tried to explain how it meant a kind of 'sad'. He responded with "I want to make Mietta pathetic" I then had to explain how it was a 'different' type of sad... and, really, he needn't aim to make his sister sad. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Little Miss (now) Two

We were lucky enough to have Paul's parents visiting when Mietta turned two. We had plans for a birthday party, but tight visiting schedules meant this was more of an impromptu party, at home, with little time to prepare. I was able to make Mietta's requests "s'ghetti and meatballs' and a large) 'Mr Happy cupcake'. Paul made her favorite 'wockamole'.
How fast Mietta has reached the milestone of two! Our little girl is a bright little button and her language has just exploded. She appears to be permanently cheerful with a very happy and agreeable disposition. People are quite surprised when she has a meltdown: she can be fierce and has the loudest voice of any of our kids. Lukily she can be easily distracted from tantrums. Mietta is a bit of a conundrum: she adores playing with cars and trucks, zooming rockets through the sky, kicking a soccer ball and walking around on her knees saying "I am a wobot, I am a wobot" in her best monotone robot voice. Despite her penchant for 'boy' toys, Mietta loves to dress up and must wear a 'pwity jacket', hat, shoes and bracelet with every outfit (even with pajamas after she wakes in the morning or after her bath and before bed). Sometimes she even includes a handbag / purse.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tri-ing very hard!

I did my very first Triathlon! Given my recent health kick, I nonchalantly mentioned I would do a triathlon... with no particular one in mind... just one day. I received message from my gym that there was to be a women's only triathlon in Richmond in a couple of weeks. Being assured that it was a really fun race, I started to give it some consideration. I checked the website and there were some 50 places left. I checked it a little later, and there were fewer places. As I procrastinated, the cap of 550 places was being reached. I spoke to Paul about it. He assured me that I didn't have to do the race if I signed up for it... but if I didn't sign up, then I couldn't do the race. With 10 places left, I succumbed... then felt very nervous giving myself only a couple of weeks to prepare.
The Pink Power Triathlon was a sprint: 400m swim, 11 mile bike, 5km run. When I told people I was doing the race, they all noted how 'easy' it would be for such short distances. Paul has competed in a number of Olympic distance triathlons and I have several friends in Brisbane who are super-competitive and have Ironman races in their sights. I, however, have never been the sporty type and have been quite happy to be the spectator of the crazy pursuits of others. These distances seemed a little long to me!
Damage done, I had to prepare.
Very slow transitions, a botched swim - where I thought I was going to have to be dragged from the water, and a morbid fear of crashing my bike, falling off or being hit by a car were overcome by a faster-than-expected run time. I had a blast and finally understood that post-race-euphoria. I now have a 'time' that should be easy to beat with a bit more training and experience. I am now really keen to get the kids involved. Paul and I think Nic will be a natural once he loses his fear of the water!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mr Men & Little Misses

As I child, I loved pulling Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men books from the shelves in our school library. With the simple, bold and colorful drawings, quirky-natured characters and a subtle humor, they really struck a chord with me. One of the best features were the growing collection of Mr Men on the back cover - and the resultant desire to consume each and every one. Paul has similar childhood experiences.

Apparently, Roger Hargreaves invented his first Mr Men, Mr Tickle, in response to his son's innocent question "What does a tickle look like?" Mr Men was later made into an animated television series narrated by Arthur Lowe (from Dad's Army fame). Very subtle, and very English, the series was very faithful to the books. We have taken great pleasure in reading the Mr Men series to our children - and have even picked up some Mr Men paraphernalia along the way.
Not so well known in the States, we were really excited to discover a Mr Men Show on the Cartoon Network. Paul and I were horrified however, to see what had happened to our childhood heroes: misshapen Mr Men (since when was Mr Strong a triangle?), altered names (Mr Fussy becomes Mr Persnickety), ridiculous accents, and totally fabricated Mr Men. So untrue to the original. What an abomination!

Paul found the original Mr Men and Little Miss television series on DVD and had it sent over from the UK. The kids love it. Each episode is around 7 minutes long - so it maintains their interest. The slower pace means it is a brilliant means of quieting the crazy behavior close to dinner time. The boys have developed sneaky ways of avoiding Mietta's request to watch Mr Bump again, and again, and again...

One day during the summer vacation, a request was made to hold a 'Mr Men' party. I satisfied the desire with a batch of Mr Men cupcakes. I followed this recipe for chocolate cupcakes. I had to substitute plain yoghurt for the sour cream as I didn't have any sour cream. The resultant cakes were super-moist, but didn't have the 'domed' top of a usual cupcake. This was OK though, as it make icing easy!

The kids had to be selective with the characters as I was only going to mix limited colors of icing! The chosen cupcakes were Mr Tickle (sans arms) and Mr Bump - with Mr Happy created from the left-over frosting. Mr Tickle could have arms made from jelly snakes perhaps? We all agreed that it would be fun to make a Mr Messy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Let me pull a rabbit out of this hat!

We promised Luc a birthday party when his grandparents arrived. The poor boy's birthday coincided with SO much snow, that we didn't get around to organising anything in February. Running out of time, before Mum and Dad left, we had a very small and intimate party with good friends and family. I was about to make Luc's 'magic' cake with a wand and stars (as requested). As Luc was walking out the door, I told him I would make the base of his cake a carrot cake. His face fell and he looked SO disappointed, saying he would actually, prefer a lemon cake. A moment of panic. A change of plans. Perhaps, If I made a lemon sponge cake, I could make a rabbit popping out?!? I quickly whipped up some sponge cakes (actually a whole lot easier than a carrot cake). I figured I could make the hat taller if I layered the sponge layers with fresh strawberries and cream. I set to working out how to make a rabbit. I threaded some tiny marshmallows onto wooden skewers. These ended up looking way too long for ears. I wished I had a foam ball to make the rabbits head - thinking I could frost this. Instead, a brainwave: blow-out the eggs we had left over from easter decorating- these were after all, a very bright white, and would match the color of the marshmallows. Trial and error led me to covering the eggshells with halved marshmallows stuck on with an icing sugar 'glue'. The first ear attempts became arms and I made less lengthy versions for ears. I added a face using glacé cherries, raisins and silver cachous. Luc came home and was super happy with what I had achieved. He told me he wanted the hat iced in black frosting with the top (bottom) of the hat to have a purple band.

Paul and I went out to dinner and a large part of our evening was spent discussing how we would ice the cake. I thought black icing or frosting would be a little off-putting due to the color to icing ratio: a bit overwhelming for a simple sponge. Paul suggested that we convince Luc to go for a 'brown' cake - therefore enabling us to use chocolate. We both knew he would be willing. On the way home from dinner, we ended up in the baking aisle of the supermarket, reviewing our options. We thought chocolate drops / morsels glued on with cream, grated chocolate, ready-made chocolate frosting, chocolate cream... We read the ingredients on the ready-made frosting packets, and immediately put these back: artificial everything, trans fats - We couldn't possibly feed this to our guests!

The morning of the party, I had a brain wave: use a chocolate 'collar' around the cake. I had done this before and it is relatively simple with dramatic results. I measured the height and circumference of the cake, cut a strip of baking paper just a little larger, painted this with melted chocolate drops and then wrapped this around the cake, chilling it to harden. Once firm enough, the baking paper is carefully peeled away. I cut a ring from cardboard, wrapped this in glad wrap and then painted this too with chocolate, affixing it to the top of the cake with more melted chocolate. Having melted far too much chocolate, I dipped some strawberries - these later became decoration.

We served a very simple and easily prepared lunch using lots of fresh 'summer' foods: fresh berries, homemade lemonade, steamed asparagus, baby spinach salad, baked baby red potatoes, hard-boiled farm-fresh free-range eggs (including some lovely 'green' eggs), rotisserie chicken... all followed by the 'magic hat' birthday cake.
The kids had a post-cake crash and spent some time watching the cartoon version of the Wizard of Oz.

Luc concluded the party with his very own magic show. He really 'wowed' his audience and showed a new-found professionalism: resisting the temptation to reveal his tricks or perform them twice, and limiting his magic tricks to his four or five best.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Our first visitors


What a tumultuous few weeks we have had! It began with my parents arriving in early April, friends Pete and Ry visiting a week later, Paul having several 'procedures' and then being told that his research position is no longer being funded (i.e. he would be losing his job!). We also threw in some sight-seeing and a belated sixth birthday party for Luc.

My parents were our first visitors after around 7 months being in our new abode. In Chicago we had visitors after our first month! We now have a spare bed in a dedicated guest bedroom (well, my office too... hence the lack of blogging over the last month). Hopefully we will have some more visitors in the future. We have to. Our garden is SO beautiful and relaxing. People have to visit before we may have to leave it! Hopefully my sister and her family's move to Santa Barbara will encourage more family visits.

Thank goodness Mum and Dad were here to keep things running while we were going out of our heads with worry... actually, we still are, but a little less so as some options are beginning to present themselves. We welcomed the opportunity for the kids to become more connected to their grandparents, and visa versa. We are missing the company, the baby-sitting on request, miraculous dishwasher stacking/unstacking and the magic laundry. Mietta is really missing her cups of tea on demand: lovingly and efficiently being provided by her doting Pa-pa.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring onesies



Seems to be the season for some new little ones to arrive. Here are some recent onesies I made for a wonderful repeat client in Chicago (Thank you Eve!), my new nephew and my first 'local' onesie for an early arrival.

I am really liking the look of the soft grays for a newborn. I might look into a few more generic items using this color scheme. It seemed appropriate to photograph these items amongst the lovely new spring growth in our garden.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Egg Hunt - Garden style



We had our first easter Egg hunt in a garden today. Our garden! This was such a fun thing to do with the kids. We all had a great time and were very grateful to Easter Bunny for indulging us.

We are beginning to appreciate how beautiful Spring can be with daffodils popping up everywhere, copious blossom trees, birds galore and a lovely verdant green. We never experienced anything like this at our home in sub-tropical Brisbane!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Battle of the Bulge(y) Mummy Tummy

Ahhh! It is such an eye-opener when one sees an unflattering photo of oneself. This photo was taken while we were on summer vacation last year. Yes, I was still breast-feeding Mietta. No, she wasn't yet one year old. Yes, this was my third pregnancy - and yes, it had been a little more difficult with an appendectomy at six months. Yes, I'm a little older now. Yes, we had a particularly indoor winter season... BUT, the shock of seeing this photo, and the realization that my 'mummy tummy' only got worse once we started living a rural existence - made me finally take some notice. Many years of living inner-city where I was able to walk to work or walk to the supermarket, or even walk to friend's places or kid's school, had a tendency to keep me in shape without trying or even noticing. Our current residence, has meant we now rely on driving far more and we do far less spontaneous exercise.

NO MORE! I am currently on a bit of a health kick. No drastic changes - just eating a little less and exercising a little more. My plan is to say goodbye to the bulge by Summer. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life is better with Lemonade

What a lovely way to welcome the official start of spring: some lovely spring weather. The boys found enough enthusiasm to suggest holding a lemonade stand. I think they may have set their expectations a little high after their experiences of well-patronized lemonade stands in Chicago - a rural Virginia setting is a little less 'fast-paced'. I wasn't about to argue with them - and so helped the boys to mix up a batch of homemade lemonade.

The boys sat for some time and were lucky to score several customers walking, driving past and a neighbor across the road who was curious enough to check out the offerings. Thirty to forty minutes of waiting, sampling, serving, waiting, sampling, waiting, sampling, waiting, serving, waiting... was enough to tax the attention spans of a six and four year old and they finally gave up. I applauded their efforts.

I heard this recipe for lemonade on the radio about a million years ago. It is so simple (in metric) as it uses the same amounts for each major ingredient. The recipe can easily be increased / decreased depending upon amount of ingredients on hand or the amount required. Any type or mixture of citrus can be used (lemon, lime, orange, kumquat, clementine, blood orange...) dependent upon personal taste.

HOMEMADE LEMONADE

Ingredients:
500 g white sugar
500 ml water
500 ml fresh lemon juice
peeled rind of squeezed lemons (using potato peeler and with no white pith)

Filtered, sparkling or soda water

Ice cubes
Slices of lemon
sprigs of mint

Method:
Place sugar, water and citrus rind in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once sugar has dissolved, take saucepan off heat and allow to cool. Once cool, remove rind and stir in the fresh lemon juice*. This mixture makes a concentrate to be diluted with water.

Pour some concentrate over ice and add filtered, sparkling or soda water to taste. Garnish with slices of lemon and some sprigs of mint. Try 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water to start with and adjust to taste.

*When I used to have access to my mother's lemon and lime trees, we made the lemonade with fresh fruit. In the absence of this, use bottled juice.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Blueberry Bran Muffins


As an attempt to sneak some fiber into the kids, I set about making a 'treat' or a healthy-type 'cake' for the kids.

I loved grabbing a Banana Berry Bran muffin from Muffin Break in Australia for a convenient breakfast on my way from the gym to work... and wanted to create something similar.

I uncovered a much-referred-to muffin recipe book "Muffin Magic" by Diana Linfoot. I adapted one of her recipes into my own version below:


BLUEBERRY BRAN MUFFINS

Ingredients:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup Golden Syrup
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup fat free yoghurt
1 cup wheat bran
½ cup plain flour
½ cup wholewheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 cup blueberries

Method:
Preheat oven to 150℃ (300℉). Grease muffin pan or line with paper liners.
Melt together the butter and golden syrup. Beat in the eggs, milk and yoghurt.
Combine the dry ingredients (bran, flours, baking powder and baking soda) and fold into wet butter mix.
Gently fold in blueberries, taking care not to squash them.
Place mixture in muffin pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (or until skewer inserted in middle of muffin comes out clean).

Note:
The original recipe is for 10 muffins - I stretch this to make 12 'smaller' muffins.
Use the golden syrup made from sugar cane (available in Australia and the UK - and at specialty stores and international aisles of supermarkets in the US). Do not use the horrible corn version.
The original recipe calls for a further 1/4 cup sugar - although I don't think this is needed when the recipe uses sweet blueberries. Add sugar if berries are omitted or a sweeter muffin is desired. If using, add extra sugar to egg and milk mixture.

The following nutritional information is applicable to this recipe - using 2% milk and imperial cup measurements without the additional sugar. Nutrition Facts thanks to Livestrong.com


Although much smaller in size, it would appear that this version is significantly lighter in calories than the Muffin Break version!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Making a start!



OK.... so the comments and hints re: blog entries (or lack thereof), are starting to make me feel somewhat guilty. Several notable occasions have been and gone with nary a word from me: Thanksgiving, Paul's (husband) birthday, Christmas, New Year, Luc's birthday (now Master Six), fourth anniversary of being in the USA ...

Truly, I blame the snow, snow, snow and more snow that has fallen during this extreme season we seem to be in the midst of. The 'snow days' causing schools to be closed have been copious. The days of being 'housebound' have been many. The lines at the supermarket prior to a snow 'event' have been interminable. The hours required to shovel snow have been numerous. The number of calories burned shoveling snow have been momentous. The resultant tiredness and aches have been significant. The desire to feast on hearty dinners has been uncontrollable. The need to imbibe hot chocolate spiced with cognac while one has one's feet elevated and eyes closed has been overwhelming. Therefore, not a lot of time, nor energy, to blog.

I started my first blog (gearon.org) just over four years ago as a record of our move from Brisbane to Chicago. (Some - still undetermined - glitch has made this impossible to view for the moment). I started this rum sum mum blog in August of last year as a record of our move from Chicago to rural Virginia. My intention was to keep it regularly updated... Obviously this wasn't one of my new-year's-resolutions of 2010! *SIGH*

Oh well... here I put finger pad to keyboard as a start. Perhaps now I will be able to fall asleep a little easier rather than composing intended blog entries in my head at night...