Thursday, January 26, 2012


I have a drawer in my kitchen that contains lids for various plastic containers (many of which are no longer anywhere to be found), some swirly straws, and some popsicle molds.  This drawer is located right next to the girls' Learning Tower, and the other day they discovered it.  Since then it has provided endless entertainment both for them, and for me.  Oh how my girls crack me up.

Miss calls the things in this drawer the stuff for her party.  She alternates between having the items in the drawer be for a dance party and for a tea party. But it's always a party.

She turns some of the lids into pretend cakes and sings Happy Birthday to each member of the family in sequence.  She pretends to feed various items to Lass, who returns the favor happily.

Sometimes they just marvel at "Mama, everything's blue!" (or green, or purple, depending on the lid) and then they crack up.

I love the simplicity and innocence of what they find entertaining.  Hilarious even.  They feed off each other and it's so fun to watch.  You just can't beat these moments of motherhood.

Monday, January 23, 2012

All By Herself

Miss graduated to the next level of preschool gymnastics class.  She is now in the class where she goes in by herself, without me.  I was a little bit nervous how she would do with this, considering how hard it was for her to adjust to going to school by herself.  But she just waltzed right into the gym with her teacher like she owned the place.

She rocked it, and I was so proud.

She looks so big and grown up.  I just loved watching her do her thing.

And I must admit, I was quite relieved to not have to do the class with her anymore.  Running and jumping are not my favorite activities at this point, and I was getting pretty nervous I'd end up peeing my pants in one of her classes.

After her class she came out and was so excited.  She went on and on about how much fun she had.  She seemed pretty proud of herself too.  That was my favorite part.  Though watching her holding the beanbag on her head while she walked the beam was pretty fun too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Guess I'll Just Teach Myself

I have been wanting to take a photography class ever since I got my DSLR camera, about 2 years ago.  It's a wonderful camera, and my photos improved dramatically just by switching to it from my point and shoot.  But I have pretty much been using it on the Auto setting for two years.  I've learned a few tips here and there, and purchased some lens upgrades, but I really have wanted to take the next step to using the many settings my camera has to offer.

I grabbed a course book for the local community college a few weeks ago, determined to find a class to take before the baby arrives.  I found one that looked really interesting, but the meeting times weren't very good.  I found another with a doable meeting time, but it wasn't really what I was looking for.  So, I have decided to try harder to teach myself.  I have a camera manual, a good book my husband bought me for my birthday (almost two years ago), and lots of helpful online resources.  No excuse not to gain some new knowledge and skills.  

One thing I've been wanting to do is learn how to use the settings of the camera so I can get more light into my photos without using my pop-up flash, which I have tended to use a lot even though it gives a weird look to the photos.  Unfortunately, around here this time of year it isn't uncommon to have a serious lack of good natural light.  Luckily, this morning I did have lots of light to get some good photos of the girls without using the flash. 

But tonight I wanted to experiment a little bit in the relative dark of our family room.  The overhead lights were turned off, so the only light in the room came from one floor lamp next to my chair and the light from surrounding rooms.  My wonderful hubby was tolerant as I snapped his photo over and over.  I had read a tip that, to let more light into a photo, I should set the aperture to the lowest (or highest? biggest? smallest?  I don't get the lingo yet, but whatever) setting.  I put my camera on the aperture setting and turned it down (the number got smaller) and got this.

Then I went to the lowest number I could with the lens I was using (1.8) and got this.

I couldn't believe how bright the photos were!

Of course, to get this much light in the photos, the shutter speed was slowed down quite a bit.  To give a little bit of perspective, I then switched to the fully manual setting, kept the aperture on 1.8, and then sped the shutter speed way up.  I got this.

A little slower shutter speed and I got this.

A little slower.

Then I slowed it waaayy down, and couldn't get it in focus.  Just the slight shake of my hand while the shutter was open for so long made it blurry.

A little faster.


Isn't he handsome??

I think I'll do more practicing with the camera on the aperture mode.  I think this will be the easiest way to experiment and still get some good photos of my girls.  That's really why I take photos anyway.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Paleo Progress

We have been doing pretty well with our attempts to shift our eating habits to the Paleo diet.  Dinner has been easy.  We've eaten a Paleo friendly dinner every night for the past few weeks.  As I predicted, breakfast and lunch have been a bit more of a challenge.  In an attempt to get my girls to eat more Paleo friendly breakfasts and not spend a ton of time cooking in the mornings, I made these cheesy egg muffins using a recipe I found on a website my brother sent me.  Here's the link to the recipe.  

I actually messed up the recipe because I doubled it, but forgot to double the amounts of any of the ingredients other than the eggs.  Duh.  They were still pretty good, but a bit dry for my taste.  I also used the same recipe (again, doubling only the eggs) to make another dozen egg muffins, but this time I used blueberries (I smashed them up a little bit when stirring them in) instead of cheese.  I thought my girls would be more likely to enjoy these, and I was right.  They were pretty good, though again, a touch dry for me.  I think next time I'll skip the coconut flour, yogurt, and baking powder and make these more like mini frittata muffins, with just eggs, a little coconut milk, and whatever other ingredients I decide to add.

The girls did eat up the muffins, and they also enjoyed to smoothies I made to go with them.

My favorite smoothie recipe:

2 bananas
2 handfuls of blueberries
8-9 frozen peach slices
Approximately a cup of unsweetened coconut milk (I like So Delicious brand, it comes in a carton like milk, rather than in a can)
I half this recipe for a 3-year-old-sized smoothie.

So, we've had some success with breakfasts.  I also made these pancakes last weekend.  The girls loved them.  There were enough leftover for a quick breakfast on a school morning, but I think next time I'll at least double the recipe and then have some to refrigerate and freeze.

Unfortunately, though I had plans for sausage, hard-boiled eggs and fruit, and a few other good breakfasts, Miss has been asking every morning since the pancakes have been gone for oatmeal.  I guess I just have to let the oatmeal run out and then get back into the good stuff.

Lunch has been similar.  We've had good days (chicken and corn today, ham and fruit the other day, etc) and not so good (PB&J, mac and cheese for a play date).  Surprisingly, I have learned that Miss really likes to eat "sandwiches" wrapped in lettuce.

This from the girl who really won't eat a sandwich otherwise, unless the bread is stuck together by it's contents (PB&J, grilled cheese).  If it's not, she just takes it apart and eats each component separately, so we don't do ham or turkey sandwiches here.  Unless they are wrapped in lettuce now.  I guess her lack of interest in bread sandwiches has turned out to be a good thing, since I don't have to try to get her out of the habit of eating bread so much.

We've done well with snacks, mostly eating different types of fresh and dried fruit, and Miss has discovered a love for cashews.  We have only resorted to bunny crackers once or twice when at the store during snack time.

I even developed my own yummy recipe for Paleo friendly hash, which we had for dinner last night.

I had some huge daikon radishes that I thought would substitute nicely for the potatoes in a hash, so I chopped one of them up into pretty small cubes (about a quarter inch to half inch square), browned it up with some onion and combined it with some browned ground venison. 

And it worked!  The hash was very yummy.  My husband even said it reminded him of the yummy greasy corned beef hash breakfast he used to get at the hospital where he used to work and has craved since.  I'll take that as a compliment, since the result of my efforts was actually not greasy at all.

Here's the "recipe," though I'll warn you in advance it's not terribly precise with measurements.

Paleo Daikon Radish Hash
One huge daikon radish, chopped into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes (it probably ended up being about 3-4 cups once chopped, if you're using several smaller radishes. I included the photos above, so you could kind of see how much).
One pound ground venison or beef
One medium yellow onion, chopped
Low sodium chicken broth (about 1 cup)
2 Tbsp butter
S&P to taste

Brown your meat.  Remove it to a bowl but leave the fat behind.  The venison had very little fat, so if you are using beef you might need to drain some of this off.  I probably had about 2 Tbsp of fat left in the pan.  Add the radish and onion, along with about 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Stir to coat with fat, add the butter, then cover and let soften.  After a bit I thought it started to look a bit dry, so I added about 1/2 cup of low-sodium chicken broth.  When the veggies start to soften, take the cover off and stir frequently until they begin to brown (you should have the pan on medium high or hotter).  It took about 20-30 minutes for things to get softened up enough and begin to brown (this might go faster if the lid of your pan has a good seal to keep in the steam, mine doesn't).  Add the meat back into the pan along with another 1/2 cup or so of chicken broth.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the radish and onion are soft and nicely browned.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

It was a great warm comfort-food dinner on a super cold night.

And speaking of super cold, I have not really been all that interested in taking the girls out for the past few days because it has just been so cold here.  Today it snowed as well, so we had a stay-in-the-house-and-in-our-jammies day.  It was nice, though I did start to feel a little bit cooped up after two days of not going anywhere.  I felt the need to spice things up a bit, so I brought out the play-dough.

I'll be honest and just say that I really hate play-dough.  It's just messy and I find it annoying.  What can I say?  It's not the most frequent activity in our house.  Okay, it's a very, very infrequent activity in our house.  But, that makes my girls love it all the more!!

 This was her very special creation - A fish!  She said she made it for Grandma.

And I'll be honest, now that we have this little plastic picnic table that I can easily bring into the kitchen for them to play on, the play-dough really wasn't that bad.  In fact, I could see us doing it a bit more often.  Maybe.  The girls loved it, so that made it worth it.

The girls also got creative with their dry erase crayons.  These things are awesome, BTW.  A friend of mine found these for her kids and got some for us too when she learned of my lack of enthusiasm for dry erase markers with a 17-month-old.  These are so easy to wipe off most surfaces and they don't rub off nearly as easily as markers, so if you brush against the board you don't wind up with crayon all over yourself.  But, they do clean up relatively easily with a wet cloth.

Miss kept asking me what I wanted her to draw with her blue (her favorite color).

This is the look she gave me when I asked her to draw a square.  She said, "I already drawed a square Mama."
Well then.

It's supposed to warm up a bit this weekend so we'll be venturing out some.  Stay warm!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


$1 can buy some great stuff.  A friend of mine told me about these little drums that hang around kids' necks in the $1 section at Target.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love the $1 section at Target?  Well, I love it.  A lot.  Today I had to pick up a few things at this wonderful store, so I checked the $1 section for drums on strings.  My friend said her kids loved them.  Lo and behold.

These simple little drums led to hours of fun today.  They prompted a pre-nap jam session/dance party, where both of my girls played their drums, Miss sang (her version of the Snow White song, "I'm wishing, I'm wishing, today, today.") and we all danced.

I also bought $1 star-shaped tambourines and $1 maracas for each of the girls, but the drums were by far the favorite.

After dinner the girls showed off their drumming talents to their Daddy.  Miss in particular was really enjoying keeping the beat.  She got very excited that we could all play music together, and repeatedly asked, "Should we all play music together?"  Daddy played his guitar, I played a tambourine, Miss played her drum.  Lass lost interest in her drum after a little while and instead just danced along, wearing a tutu and sunglasses of course.  We played fast.  We played slow.  Miss practiced keeping the beat.  We sang.  We laughed.  These little $1 drums brought so much joy today.  And I'm not even talking about my girls' enjoyment of them, which was substantial (before bed Miss asked if she could play with her drum again when she wakes up). I'm talking about me.  I had so many moments of, "Wow, look at how awesome these girls are" and "I'm having such a blast" and "I will never forget this" as a result of buying these $1 drums.  Who knew?  Talk about a cure for cabin fever.  These $1 drums, and the fun they brought to our house today, are priceless.