Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy halloween!

We've been prancing around dressed like dinosaurs every day now for several days, but I can finally say: Happy Halloween! More details about the costumes later, but for now I'm off to get ready for our Let's Pretend Parade. I think everyone deserves a few extra pieces of candy today, don't you?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

From the Mouth of Babes

I'm out on a walk with Lily and Hugo. He's on my back, she's holding my hand, stopping along the way to notice little things here and there. The day is absolutely breathtaking, and it's one of those moments that I'm filled with indescribable gratitude.

"Lily," I say. "What would I do without you?" And I mean it: this little girl who has such a spunky, joyful spirit, who literally gathers the family together (as in, walking around the house, taking each person by the hand, and bringing them to a central location).

She thinks. She furrows her brow. She puckers her lips (those of you who know Lily know what I'm talking about). And she gives her very best answer. "Clean up?"

(and note that the above tidy row of shoes was not me cleaning up, but rather Zosia, who is now deputy of the shoes by the door)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Yarn Along: Halloween Edition

I wish I could say I was knitting up a storm or deep into some wonderful work of literature, but around here I've been doing little things here and there: a little Halloween sewing (almost done!), a little Martha Stewart Living reading. And the in-betweens have been filled with so much wonderful time playing outside, chatting with Ben, and even a little tidying up!

Oh, but I couldn't resist this little tutorial for a spiderweb frame (it's made out of yarn, does that count as knitting? I hope so). I actually just did the project in the last half hour while Lily was curiously looking on.

And here are some of our favorite seasonal reads, largely found through this wonderful list. Christopher's Harvest Time is definitely the favorite: and I have had to stretch my read aloud abilities through making up lots of little songs to accompany the songs in the book. Do you guys do that, too?

Linking up with the yarn along today!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Baby Boom, Bundt Cake, and Big Bear Hat

We are in the middle of a veritable baby boom in our neighborhood. Every six months or so, all the ladies of the neighborhood gather together to shower an expectant mother and new baby, which I think you'll agree is the best type of get together.
I believe in the last two years something like fifteen babies have been born in a one block radius. Of course we're thrilled, because that means a wonderful community of children for our own kiddos to grow up in. And all those cute little babies!

Ben took the wee ones out on an errand while I made a present and a bundt cake for our little shower. I was so pleased with the result. One brown sugar bundt cake to go with some pumpkin ice cream I had made the day before. One cute bear hat from the Oliver + S Little Things to Sew, in wool felt and a plaid I decided was colorful enough to be truly gender neutral (for our neighbors who don't know the gender of their baby). I was quite pleased, that is, until the kiddos got home.

Do you see who's wearing the hat? Yes, Lily. After I tried it on Hugo and realized that I made my hat entirely too big for a newborn. Oh well. Babies do grow, right? (note: I'm sure the pattern in the book is just right... it was my mistake in trying to size down from the 4t size I had already traced onto parchment paper).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Travel Book and a Pencil Roll

Last Friday night before our beach trip, I had a brief moment of panic. I usually run by a store and pick up lots of those dollar items for a cartrip. A yo-yo, a new pen, a pack of cards, a box of goldfish. And then I will hand them out bit by bit to keep the kids happy and entertained throughout a road trip. Well, it was almost bedtime on Friday, we were leaving first thing in the morning, and I had nothing. Or so I thought.

Did you know you can make your own little notebook by sewing some paper together? Simple take about a dozen pieces of paper and one slightly more sturdy piece of paper: I used the thick piece of cardstock that came with this paper, or you could use cardstock, or probably even thin cardboard. If you want to get fancy, you can print some coloring pages like these, simply by adjusting your printer settings to printing two pages to one sheet.

Now crease all of your paper down the middle (this will be your sewing guide). Sew along the crease. For those, like me, who had never sewn paper, this seems like it wouldn't work, but it truly does. Just go for it. Then bend quite firmly along the crease, and you're done!

If you want, you can then draw some simple figures (Lily requested each member of the family. Can you guess who this is?) for the kiddos to color in. Or, you could bring some stickers along and use it as a sticker book. Because everything in this house needs to be differentiated, I put an initial on each book to make ownership clear.

Next up, the pencil roll. Simply take two pieces of felt (I used green I had on hand from our halloween costumes).
Take two pieces, one slightly taller than the other, sew around the edges, and then sew a little pocket for several colored pencils (or crayons, or markers) just by sewing a line along the two pieces of felt. Use the size of the pencil as a guide. Sew two strips of felt (or two pieces of ribbon) onto one side, and you're done. You've seen these, right?

Just roll up the pencils (I sharpened old colored pencils that were lying around the house, and the new delivery system made the girls think they were brand new), tie it with the two strings, and you have a perfect travel pack! These are brilliant, because otherwise (at least in our house), the pencils get lost or end up all over the car.

It felt a bit silly to be doing a craft project right before a big trip, but it worked! For our 3 and a half hour drive, we had two girls happily coloring in the backseat. Even Ben was won over by the end of the drive, and I was quite thrilled to be able to use up things that were already around the house.

What are your go-to activities for road trips? Any good games out there?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Farm Trip

It wouldn't be fall without a trip to the farm, and today we were especially lucky, because it was Zosia's first preschool fieldtrip, and not to just any farm, but to a very special farm right up the way from our house.

This little farm lives right smack in the middle of suburban developments and has done so for 45 years: I remember stopping at it for fresh tomatoes as a girl, and I feel very optimistic about it still being an adorable little farm just right where it is when Zosia's children are in preschool.

How do they do it? Here we are in an area of the country that is known for its outrageously expensive land, and there they are, year after year with their cute little farm stand filled with produce that they grow right here in Fairfax County. They have really managed to develop their truly tiny farm into a sustainable staple of this area. I'm sure there are still countless challenges for a small farm (the orchard behind this farm closed a few years back because it was just too expensive to stay afloat), but what an inspiration to see a group of people face them with such hard work and innovation.

They have developed a CSA program, started the first cohousing development of the area, and they are regulars at area farmers markets. This year our own appreciation for this farm has grown even more as our sweet friend Michelle has been bringing us weekly bags of overflow produce from her CSA.

Here this little farm is able to sustain its CSA members with such bounty that there are piles of food left for the taking (and what isn't taken is donated to area food banks). And we have been enjoying everything from mint to eggplants to greens whose names I can't even pronounce.

I beamed with pride when Zosia was the only kid in her class who knew what a greenhouse was, or boasted of composting with worms at home. I know there's no such thing as "Farm Class" at school, but isn't some knowledge of where our food comes from worthy of our children's time and attention?

Today I am filled with thanks that such a place exists and that we live in a time where our society has really started to value the gift of a local farm. And now I just need to figure out how to cook bok choy. Any suggestions?

Monday, October 17, 2011

We're Back from the Beach!

Don't you think it's just food for the soul to see the ocean once a year? I think I am hooked on fall at the beach: it's mild, peaceful, and such a lovely way to spend a few days. We definitely did this vacation right: we went somewhere not far from home, invited three grandparent figures (my parents and aunt: I think a 5 to 3 adult to child ratio is just about right), and planned something simple (camping is a great adventure, but if you're going for rest, a simple beach condo is the way to go). It was absolutely perfect! The girls adored the sand, we all got some wonderful rest, and Ben and I even got to go on some dates. Success all around.

Highlights included finding a baby horseshoe crab shell (not pictured), a real live baby crab (above), and flying a kite oh so high. Do you see our little tent? We brought it with hopes of providing a sleepy nook for the little ones, but a gust of wind swept it away and it was packed it up after just half a day. Even so, I just love that tent next to those big buildings. And there's my mom with the girls, and the beloved Basia with Hugo. I wish I had more pictures with my Dad: he must have been off for one of his exercise walks.

I'm off to finish lots of sandy laundry and try to organize my mind back to real life, but I just wanted to pop by here to say hi and share a bit of our adventures!

Has anyone else been to the beach lately?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Storytime Warm Chocoalte

My favorite new tradition involves three things I love: chocolate, reading, and my two little girls. In the afternoon, right after the littlest one goes down for a nap and right before the older two take a "quiet time" (which is rarely truly quiet, but that's a totally different story), we sit down for a reading time.

Simply us three ladies, a favorite book and three cups. Our current selection is Little House in the Big Woods although occasionally Lily insists upon choosing another book, in this case Rikki Tikki Tembo, a favorite.

And each girl gets just enough hot chocolate, which seems to go down quite quickly. I actually just make it warm chocolate for this reason.

Storytime Warm Chocolate
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 teaspoons sugar
a pinch of salt

In a saucepan place sugar, cocoa, pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of milk. Stir over medium heat just until the mixture is smooth and incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and stir until the mixture is warm to the touch. Divide evenly among three cups, choose a favorite book, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Stops on the Way

Just the daily walk in these parts. You simply must stop at the little gnome with his tree door. Have mushrooms been growing like crazy where you are, too? The girls are allowed to stop and pick some dried flowers on the way (I rescued this family's run away dog once, so I'm sure they won't mind). "What's that little girl wearing?" you might ask. "Is it a ski mask? A bike helmet? Mittens?" Yes. I simply have no explanation. And Zosia would like you to know that she can hang like a sloth. Not a bat, but a sloth, because sloths hang with both their hands and their feet. And there's me and Hugo, the sling team chilling out on the bed when we get home.

I adore our little neck of the woods, and there's few things to get a morning going like a nice little walk around the neighborhood. What are your favorite stops on the way?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yarn Along: October 12

My knitting is off my needles and on the two little ones I intended it for! Woo hoo! They are quite happy (and silly) as you can plainly see. And I have been reading some amazing books: At Home, which I was so excited about that I actually preordered in paper back, but was then promptly comandeered by another adult in the household who will remain nameless (who is just the best, and so gets away with such things). I have been lucky enough to have a few pages read aloud to me, and we will then embark on the dance that is two people reading the same book at the same time. Does this work?

And then in the conflict resolution category of things, I have been reading Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, which has been a very helpful way of resetting and recommitting to gentle parenting (why is it that we need so many reminders to do something so simple?).

And then I am lucky enough to have a loaned copy of Playful Learning (thanks, Michelle!), which is just amazingly beautiful and interesting. I actually had to put it down for a day because I was just too excited to read it properly the first time around.

Looking forward to seeing what everyone is up to in the Yarn Along!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Button Tins

One absolute delight of the past month has been the time I have with Lily on the mornings that Zosia is at preschool. It is so fun to do things that she loves at her pace with no one but cute little Lily. I will admit, the first few weeks of our new routine, I went a little Lily crazy and did things that she loves at the cost of oh, housekeeping, cooking, that sort of thing.

I think we've found a new equilibrium. We do a few special one-on-one projects or trips and then I also set her up with some fun activities she can do by herself while I run around the house keeping things going, or while I nurse Hugo. Above: an old favorite, a bowl of buttons and a muffin tin.

It never ceases to amaze me how entertaining this activity is. There's sorting, piling, mixing, and I even noticed Lily actually talking to her buttons. Each one has its own personality, I guess. Ah, the joy of simple things.