Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Resolution

At the end of last year, one of my friends commented that she had only two family pictures from the whole year. It dawned on me that we were in the same boat. My grandmother had asked me for a picture of our family of three. It had taken me two months to just cave and take a picture (and another two months to actually print it-- ah, the digital age.

So one of my resolutions this year is to take a monthly family picture. Here's our first attempt:

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

January Thaw

As you may know, weather in Buffalo has been a little atypical of late. We had a green Christmas and now a weird warmish January peppered with lightish snow that melts pretty rapidly. I've always liked the January Thaw that we always get around this time of year but this year all of January has been a thaw. At this moment I seem two possibilities for our near future: 1) Hello, mega lake effect snow blizzard or 2) Hello, Al Gore's next slideshow presentation!

Either way, I decided to have a little fun and throw a little January Thaw dinner party. So I had my mom and aunt over for a dinner with a nice melty theme.
Maddie and I made snowflakes to drip from the ceiling. (Don't worry I help the scissors. She just stuck every other snowflake on her play kitchen.) We also made pipecleaner snowflake napkin rings.

On the menu:

And of course, for dessert I tried out these melting snowman cookies that I found on Pinterest.

And this was also a little Pinterest discovery... and a science project that Maddie and I made in the "Super Fab Lab." I had meant these little snowflakes to be our napkin rings, but I forgot to do them with Maddie on Saturday and they take about 12 hours to do. You can find the directions at the link above, but you basically make pipecleaner snowflakes and crystalize them in Borax and water. Super easy, but only for the patient.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sleep in Our House

When I first met Rob, he was a champion sleeper. He could sleep anywhere, anytime. He would go to sleep at 10 and sleep past noon any day of the week. And then he would take a good three hour nap later that day.

Then we had Maddie and she was a champion not-sleeper. Seriously ever since God created insomniacs he's been practicing to get it right for Maddie. She started out pretty good for a newborn, sleeping four hours at a time. But by three months, she had settled into the night terrors, and she's never really shaken them. She regularly wakes up in a panic and terrified. I constantly wonder why she didn't get his ability to sleep.

In recent months, she's gotten much better. She has a few bad nights here and there. However in the month or so, she's gotten a little more casual about trying to get herself back to sleep when she wakes up. So we're working on that.

I'm starting with this:

A quick little calendar I drew out to help Maddie see her own progress. Every day that she sleeps well (that can include going to bed nice and easy, sleeping all night or at least going back to bed easily after she wakes at night), she gets to put a sticker on the calendar. When she gets five stickers in one week, she gets to go to the store and buy stickers. We just got a super big reward for last week because she did so well. She got a sticker book (seriously, I may love this stuff as much as she does).

You'll also note on the calendar that we were counting down to the day Maddie got her big girl bed. Next month, we start counting down to something else. Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthy Lunch Salad

I'm kind of known in my office for having really unusual, healthy lunches. I've always been really picky about lunches but one thing I love is a whole grain salad. I try to do really simple things that don't take a lot of prep work and that can last most of the week, so that I am only making lunch once.

This salad is super simple to make and gets great reviews amongst my co-workers:

Quinoa Grape Salad

This is just red quinoa, a bunch of grapes, crumbled feta cheese and walnuts, tossed with a bit of lemon juice. A note about quinoa -- quinoa is awesome though I know it can be a bit intimidating to newbies. The secret is that you have to salt the water as you boil it. This salad I made with a package of red quinoa that my local grocery, Wegmans, sells. I doubt that most places have this, but regular quinoa works the exact same. I cook it according to the package and after it's cooked, toss in a bit of lemon juice. Then I let it cook to room temperature and add in the feta, grapes and walnuts. Second secret, I use Emerald Dry Roast Walnuts which are coated in some sort of liquid crack. They're seriously awesome.

The one package of red quinoa makes enough for about three to four lunches for me. Super easy and super delicious. Enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2012


As always, this winter I have a little bit of wanderlust. The other day, my husband and I were discussing how our future vacations may be a little dicey. He's recently figured out that bright sun is his migraine trigger and I am a beach person. This apparently was news to him, probably because we've never been to a beach together.

I've always secretly fantasized about going to exotic locales, mostly archaeological but just never had a chance. I've been very lucky to be able to travel, but just not to these places. Here's my list:

Tahiti or Fiji: if I'm going to go and sit on an airplane for a while, I need to spend double that time in a bungalow over the water.

Manchu Pichu: one of my friends is going there on her honeymoon this year and listening to her training schedule is a bit daunting. I'm feeling my timeline running shorter on this one!

Tikal, Copan, Palenque, or pretty much any Middle American site: I have always been fascinated by stories of expedition crews trekking through the jungle and "oops, there's a temple!" My plan is to close my eyes and pretend for one minute...

Ankgor Wat: I hear it's swarming with tourists, but I have a fascination with this site in Cambodia. For some reason, I really want to do yoga here-- I always have.

Egypt: this is a must-see for someone who grew up watching Ten Commandments. My ideal would be a trip with my best friend who shared my love of Egypt to the point of taking a hellish Egyptology class on college (and studied with me by watching the Mummy).

China: there's a part of me that very much wants to travel the Silk Road and see the cave paintings of the Han dynasty.

Chitchen Itza: Nearby Acapulco wouldn't be so bad either, but I really want to see those stepped pyramids.

Part of the reason I don't go to these places is that I spend equal time daydreaming about places I've already been to. I would love for my next vacation to be Hawaii or Greece. I'm also getting a hankering to try Switzerland or England. Sadly, I think we're going to none of these places anytime soon, but there's always time to dream.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Big Kid!

Guess who's in a big kid bed now!

Um... and she's a lot happier about it than she looks in this picture. Silly Mommy didn't have her camera on her moments before when Maddie was laying on her stomach reading a book just like a big kid. This was the reaction she gave me when I asked her to do it again for the camera.

I've been talking this up to Maddie for a while and she sat and watched me take apart her crib to make this toddler bed. She was so excited she jumped on her new bed for quite a while. But at bedtime I could tell she was a little anxious. It reminded me of oh so many nights when I was a kid and a teen and I went to bed after just having moved around my room. I remember feeling anxious about the new layout or just slightly ill at ease. I have a feeling that Maddie is like me and may not be so good with change.

And it also reminded me that since I moved to this apart almost 3 years ago, I have never once moved around my furniture. I grew up in a house where we always moved furniture. And by we, I mean my Mom (a.k.a. the Mad Mover). Mom shifted around the furniture in every room at least once a year, I swear. I always loved to rearrange my room.

Somehow I just don't do that anymore. Somehow I get a set idea of where furniture should go when I move into a place and I never really try a new layout. My bedroom is looking a little shabby -- maybe I should give it a go!

Back to the subject at hand... Maddie's big kid bed is just one of several "big kid milestones" that we're facing over the next few months. Keep your fingers crossed for me and here's hoping my new year's resolution doesn't go out like the wind.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Off to Market

As I mentioned here, this Christmas Maddie got some food to play with -- but that was just part of the bigger picture. Here's what she really got for Christmas:

A Farmer's Market Stand.

Again, I was inspired by more expensive toys. This farmer's market is available at Amazon:

I did also dream a little bit about this:

But hello, we live in an apartment. And we're not rich (or German to read the instructions on how to do this.)

Luckily things sort of came together for us. I was at Michael's and found these vegetable crates on clearance for $7 (score!) and I have an awesome brother who does wood working. So I sent him this picture and he built me a far superior scale which Maddie now uses to weigh her stickers (another gift from Santa). She does love the whole stand area and plays over there all the time. But I have a feeling it will develop even more. Those milk bottles may be the next future craft... we shall see.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Healthy Craft

Ok, here's the big reveal of the felt craft that captured all my attention throughout the holiday season. Back in the spring when I was buying Maddie a play kitchen for her birthday, I knew I wanted to give her some food to play with. I had this in mind actually, something which I had seen long ago:
(which can be purchased on Amazon.)

But then I started thinking, I could probably make fruits and veggies on my own. I was just to the point of figuring out how to make a fabric sphere when I saw a pin on pinterest to buy patterns for felt food of all different kings at umecrafts.

Once I visited umecrafts I got a little impulsive. There was a nice little sale going on and I ended up buying four different sets of patterns. Hence my HUGE pile of felt that I showed you in my previous post.

Throughout November and Decemeber, I set my little crafty fingers to work and made tons of food for Maddie and my niece's Christmas gifts. Here are some pictures of most of them...

Veggies including eggplant, summer squash, broccoli (it's small so you might not see it in the basket!), artichokes and cabbage.

Fruits including watermelon, oranges, tomatoes, banana, apple, and grapefruit. In the background is a grocery bag I made for Maddie from an old coffee sack.

A Barista set which I made as a joint gift for Maddie and her dad, who is a barista. The set includes a brownie and ice cream, hot cocoa, coffee, latte, cheesecake and lemon meringue pie (in the takeout container). Also not pictured is a cappuccino, mocha and tea.

Pizza set with deep-dish and thin crust pizzas and toppings including pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and tomatoes (hmmm, which are mysteriously missing... perhaps I need to clean!) This also includes a pizza server and cutter.

Also as a tribute to Maddie's daddy, I personalized this by making a pizza box with a special "Pizza Girl" logo since her dad used to work at "Pizza Man" in Covington, Louisiana.

I may have gotten a little obsessed and truthfully I'm still going long after Christmas. Once I got into the habit, it seemed easy to come up with a few more items on my own. I'm started deviating from the pattern and turned squash into eggplant (easy!) and blew up my orange pattern to make the grapefruit. Then I played with the apple pattern and made the tomato. I also played around a bit to make the fruit segments to stick together. The apple pattern called for the core to be made in velcro, but nothing else seemed likely to bond. I played a little bit with craft magnets stuffed inside the orange pieces but it really didn't work. You can see I added snaps to the tomato to make it bond. The grapefruit was easy --I just added velcro to the pith section. I may soon have another post with some new patterns that I'm working on. But I do highly recommend umecrafts. These patterns are super easy to follow and really got me into a great new craft.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Butterflies... the Real Thing

I've blogged about the Butterfly Conservatory before, but here is the Christmas version!

This time we were lucky to have some special guests: my niece, Annie, her parents and her brother (none of whom are pictured here, Annie kind of stole the show.)

Annie and her grandma look around for butterflies.

Maddie found something interesting with her binoculars.

There was a whole lot more running around this time. Annie gave a squeal when she saw her first butterfly and that led to a whole lot of squealing and running away from anything that moved.

Try though they might, neither of the girls were used as landing sites. But we sure had an awesome time.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Magic Butterflies

When I took Chemistry as a junior in high school, I had an awful teacher who basically treated us like kindergarteners. This is the one thing I learned in Chemistry - magic butterflies. (I still remember Mr. Herman placing the emphasis on the magic part, hence I to this day have absolutely no idea why this was a chemistry lab.)

I decided to try this idea out with Maddie and my niece, Annie, as we're taking them to the Butterfly Conservatory this week.This is absolutely perfect for two-year-olds and they really loved doing it. As an added treat, they're both marker crazy right now and got markers for Christmas. Score.

Here's what you do: Take a conical coffee filter and cut along the two folds on the side. Open the filter, and you should have a perfect butterfly shape.

Let the kids draw all over the filters with washable markers. They can color as much or as little as they would like.

(My niece discovered a new species of butterfly -- the H fly.)

Once they've had enough with coloring, it's time for the magic to begin.

Dip the edges of the butterfly into a bowl of water, and all the colors will run together and spread throughout the coffee filter. (Maddie is paying close attention to this step with the binoculars we made). Because these little ones don't have too much of an attention span, I ended up dipping pretty much the whole filter in the water, but older kids might like to see the water actual spread into the filter (I think this is the chemistry part that we missed courtesy of Mr. Hogwarts School of Magic).

We added little pipecleaner antenae to our butterflies and my sister-in-law and I decided that the paper towels we set them on were just as pretty! Here's Maddie's butterfly:


This year I made 12 resolutions (because it's 2012, get it?) I'm a big fan of resolutions and I think the real key is to pick things that have been weighing heavily on your mind already. My resolutions are never things that are ritualistic but more characteristic. For example, this year I'm going to work on patience... Because I'm going to need it.

I never really good identify if I was an overly patient person or not, but with a two-year-old, I'm realizing that I'm not. So I'm working on being slow to anger, being calm and forgetting that feeling of rush, and most importantly, no snap decisions on discipline. I'm totally Phil and Claire Dunphy and Set a limit without realizing that of course I'm going to have to enforce it. (Anybody see the Modern Family where they took away Christmas?)

Anyway... Back to topic. While I'm not sharing all of my resolutions here (uh, you'd be bored, really) I am going to share one that will appear on this blog.
For lack of a better way to say this, my resolution is to do more educational activities for Maddie.

That involves two things:

I'm planning to create a monthly activity for Maddie that will help us get through the winter, but hopefully will continue on throughout the year. Each month I'll be crafting a larger-scale toy that Maddie can play with that will help with the long days indoors. Of course, I'll post pictures and details here so stay tuned.

And I just totally forgot the second thing. No joke. We're off to a good start here. Ok... to be continued...

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Dad

Twenty-five years ago, my father passed away. He was a wonderful man who influenced my life in countless ways - and that seems like such an understatement. But there really aren't a whole lot of words to say how much he meant.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Gift of Time

For the past couple of years, Rob and I have tried to give each other at least one gift that is more meaning than money. Though we still give each other gifts, it's something a little more personal and well, meaningful. Last year, we gave each other 20 coupons that ranged from little chores around the house to special "get-out-of-jail-free" cards. This year, I saw this idea and was inspired -- until I started trying to put together ideas and babysitters, and then I though, eh -- next year.

Originally posted at FindJoyInTheJourney.

But I did take a hint from this idea and came up with a different possibility. Rob and I are giving each other a calendar with 1 sticker each per month. That sticker is for our own personal day off.

Since Rob usually works 6 days a week and Maddie requires some attention here and there, one of my big complaints since becoming a mom is the lack of a day off. Rob of course takes that one day a week as an excuse to crash and is always hesitant to do anything that day as it's his day off.

To combat the problem, Rob and I are making a list of three things that constitute a day off. Mine are: 1 hour home by myself, a nap, and being able to cook or grocery shop alone. Each month, I'm going to put my day off sticker on one day, when Rob is off too and he has to give me my three day-off requirements, and vice versa obviously. We'll try to work in a few date nights too;)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hello 2012

I know that New Year's Eve was two nights ago, but to me tonight feels more like the end of the old year and the start of something new. On the eve of going back to work after a long vacation, I find myself making lots of resolutions and invisioning a whole new start. It seems the time to evaluate, so here goes. On this the last day of the old I find:

  • There's finally snow on the ground (please let this be a sign of lots of snow days but not a late spring!)
  • My house is an absolute catastophe. And I've tried cleaning just about every day.
  • I have absolutely nothing to wear tomorrow.
  • There are precisely two Christmas cookies left and I consider it my duty to eat them tonight before the resolutions kick in.
  • All the work I said I would do over my vacation has not been miraculously done by elvesas I originally thought it would be. (That may have been a bit naive.)
  • I just discovered that my Christmas shopping is not done.

When I told Maddie I was going back to work tomorrow, she said, "Yea!" I'm trying not to be insulted (she followed that by "Grandma's House!" which hey, I'd be excited about too.)Well, tomorrow is a new day. So I guess there's nothing like a fresh start with no mistakes.