...on her blog! So cute!
...on her blog! So cute!
Every year my family gets together for the annual pumpkin carving contest. My mom makes chili and my sisters, brother-in-laws, niece and nephews carve up some pumpkins. It's a super fun family tradition for grown ups and kids.
This year's winner was Maddie's pumpkin!! Not bad, considering this is only her second year carving and this year she did all the designing and carving on her own.
Last week we took a road trip down to Hilton Head Island for what is becoming an annual getaway. Nothing fancy, just beach walks, swimming, hanging out and relaxing. The weather was beautiful this year -- although I'm told it was even hotter back here at home.
That's okay -- there aren't oceans in Joliet. We discovered that the sunset beach walks were our favorites. As the tide went out we discovered all kinds of thing. Including a little crab that made the most incredible pattern in the sand.
Mud is 18, so I expect health problems. She is on prescription food and medicine for a thyroid condition, but she's been healthier and happier the last couple of years, since going on the meds, than she had been in probably a decade.
Despite that, every yearly check-up is cause for alarm. Last year I was scared to take her in, but this year I was pretty confident that things were going well. Then the doctor told me that she had a tumor -- a somewhat large one -- in her belly. Since Mud is 18 and is showing no symptoms (although she lost 1 lb in the past year), the doctor recommended just leaving things be. We have no idea how long she has left, but every day for the past couple of years has seemed like an extra day with her to me. I just hope there are many good days left for her and that she feels happy and comfortable through them all.
Mud has been with me longer than my daughter and husband. When we do have to say goodbye to her, it's going to be terrible. She was with me through some lonely, difficult years in my 20's and she is a wonderful companion.
I'm taking some time to get ahead of the game. Heck, I even bought Maddie's Halloween costume already! I'm also trying to take some time to do activities that I enjoy, but have neglected becasue of the summer heat. I actually worked on my log cabin quilt yesterday and I'm hoping to pick up the knitting needles this evening.
Ah autumn, how I love you!
I thought Friday was going to be a total loss. I was coming off a week of flu-like ick and I was pretty wiped out, but Maddie loves going to the garage sales, so we went. After only a couple of hours, I had found pretty much nothing and was ready to head home. On one of the last stops I found the pretty Town & Country Pyrex Casserole with lid. Love it! The mug is FireKing -- an Esso promo Tiger mug.
Over the weekend we didn't do a whole lot of anything as Pete came home after work with a nasty cold. Jurrasic Park was on TV Friday night and Maddie hadn't seen it, so we watched that. Then we rented Star Wars -- the original 1977 film -- since Maddie had never seen it either. There was also a brief trip to the library and a short trip to the park on Sunday...
More vintage finds over at Thrift Share Monday!
Maddie is attending her last day of camp right now and after 8 weeks, she says that she is ready for it to be over. She made new friends and got used to being away from me (although most days she would come home and say that she missed me). She dealt with her first bully -- not fun at all, but I think she handled it well. She played a lot of dodgeball, went swimming, performed for an audience, and got her first tan. (Before her celiac disease diagnosis last fall, she could never go in the sun without breaking out in a terrible rash.)
As for me? I picked berries twice, made jam and worked on a new quilt. I also started taking walks by myself in the mornings -- until the crazy heat wave hit, that is. I worked and did what I usually do for the most part.
I'm ready for her to be home with me again. After the first week, I was able to sleep a bit better, but I never really got used to having her gone all day. I am a worrier, and I worried a lot.
Now it's time to think about school. I'm giving her a week off after camp ends, but then we are getting back into the thick of it -- this year there will be calculus and perhaps a new language as she finishes up her third year of Spanish. We are also planning some field trips -- the first being the Museum of Science and Industry at the end of August.
I'm glad that Maddie tried camp this summer -- it was good for both of us -- but I'm equally glad that she'll be back with me again next week.
Since Maddie was very small, we would give her an envelope when she lost a tooth and let her write a message to the Tooth Fairy on it and place the tooth inside. When she was young she had questions and requests for the TF (please write me back!), but now that she is older and in the know, things are a bit different...
In case you can't read it easily, it says:
Fairly large tooth. Mild roots. Unbrushed (lingering morning breath). Poor child was sick when she yanked it. Very painful. $3.01
Yes, she sent us a bill for the tooth. Although I have to say that I found her message so hilarious that I pad the fee for the comedic value alone.
I have no idea.
We have always done school year round in our home -- which leaves us flexibility throughout the year for vacations and random days off. Plus, you don't spend the first month of each school year relearning what you've forgotten over the summer.
So, I've never really had this much time to myself -- especially since I used to work before I had Maddie.
Yesterday was day one, and I have to admit that I didn't do much. It was ridiculously hot here (as it is today), so I ran some errands and stopped at the library. Exciting, don't you think?
Maddie is home sick today with a fever, sore throat and congestion, so today won't be very exciting either, but hopefully in a day or two Maddie will be back at camp and I'll have new projects to share.
Sure, it's just day camp, but this is so weird for me as a homeschooling mom. I'm used to being with her literally 24/7, and an 8 week day camp is a big deal for us.
I'll miss our daily school sessions -- especially the part where she reads to me. (Maybe I can convince her to keep that up in the evenings.) But I'm happy that she will have a chance to socialize with kids in her age group. All the other camps she has gone to have lasted only a week or two, which isn't quite enough time to really connect.
As for me? I'll be left with lots of free time that I am not used to having. I think a big project or two are in my future. This camp thing should be good for both of us, but I'm still going to miss having her around during the day these next 2 months.
When writing the title for today's post, I actually looked up the correct spelling of Mother's Day. I thought for sure that it should be Mothers' Day, but apparently the creator of the holiday -- Anna Jarvis -- wanted the spelling to be singular possessive as she meant for each family to honor their own mothers, rather than the mothers of the world. (BTW, everything I've read points to the fact that she was distraught over the commercialization of the holiday.)
My weekend included flowers, donuts*, Catan and other good things, but most of all time with my daughter -- who turned me into the crazy mother that I am. (Best time was probably pulling weeds with her in the garden -- no kidding!)
* If you want to know more about the homemade gluten free donuts -- I have a posting up at Going Gluten-Free.
How can it be that my baby is 10? Seriously. The last decade has positively flown by. This past year she took up the guitar, started gymnastics and began collecting vintage video games. We have moved onto high scool level subjects (algebra, gemoetry and chemistry) in school, and she has started reading more grown up books. (We recently finished reading The Hobbit in school and have moved on to Ender's Game). This year she was also diagnosed with Celiac Disease, had to undergo medical tests (which is no fun for any kid), and has started a new gluten-free diet.
For the most part it has been a wonderful year and I hope the next year is just as full of fun, new things (although no more new medical things, please) and lots of happiness. I love you, kid!
The last few weeks have been stressful, as Maddie was ordered to have some tests after her annual physical. This lead to a Celiac Disease diagnosis, a trip to see a specialist (a pediatric gastroenterologist) and a switch to a gluten-free diet.
Let me just say that you do not realize how prevalent gluten is in the American diet. Nearly all processed foods have some form of it, and even a little bit can trigger the autoimmune response. This will definitely be a learning experience for us. We are quickly finding alternatives for things like cereal and pasta, and fortunately, we don't eat a huge amount of processed foods. So the switch is going pretty smoothly.
Since I am a baker, and like to make most of our desserts from scratch, this will be a real change for me. I mean, how do you bake without wheat flour? I'm thinking about starting a gluten-free blog where I can talk more about our experiences and test out some recipes -- maybe review some gluten-free cookbooks and products.
If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, I would love to hear from you!
We went to the beach this past week. It was a lazy vacation, where the biggest events were walks on the beach, eating lots of fresh seafood and some swimming.
Thrifting was pretty much limited to a local estate sale this past weekend. First of all it rained and was quite windy, which really cut down on the number of garage sales in the area. And secondly, we had to visit the hospital, as Maddie needed some tests. (We'll get the results this week hopefully. Fingers crossed.)
I did find a big bag full of old valentines. The newer ones are actually dated on the back -- 1952 & 1953 -- but the older ones are unmarked. I'm thinking they are from the 40's, but may date back to the 30's too. I have so many, that I'm sure some will end up in the etsy shop when I find time to get it set up.
I also found a Glasbake Lipton soup mug (which I haven't yet cleaned or photographed), and I'm really sorry they didn't have the whole set, since it seems that a complete set of 6 mugs can go for over $100! Will have to add these to my treasure hunting list.
Luckily our local fireworks display was saved this year -- I think some cities around us lost theirs judging by the long line of cars trying to get on the highway after the show. And while they were threatened by rain, the showers rolled through in the early evening and there was not much more than a few sprinkles around showtime.
While we were rather tired and cranky from the heat and activities of the previous day, the fireworks really perked us up!
We had absolutely beautiful weather -- cool enough in the morning and evening that you weren't miserably hot walking around the parks, but hot enough in the afternoons to enjoy a dip in the pool. We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and I would definitely recommend it.
IllumiNations -- fireworks display over the water at Epcot -- A perfect night where everyone was content and happy. Night included a margarita in Mexico, Fish & Chips in England and a funnel cake in the USA. Maddie enjoyed a pretzel from Germany and a cool light up wand/sword thing.
Kilamanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom -- loved this one so much, we went back 2 days later and did it again. Fun close-up look at the animals. We also enjoyed the walking paths, especially the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
And I have to mention the Flower and Garden Festival -- gorgeous displays all around Epcot. Topiaries of lots of characters, but also a butterfly garden other garden displays.
We walked *many* miles each day and we are all thoroughly exhausted today. I think I need a vacation to recover from this vacation!
...attending Easter egg hunts.
... playing video games -- namely Pokemon HeartGold as my daughter is a Pokemon fanatic -- seriously. Name a Pokemon and she know all its stats. Plus lots of Wii Fit Plus since our vacation is coming up and I want to be able to eat any goodies I desire without any guilt.
... learning more Python -- most fun I've had with a programming language in ages. May make a little GUI knitting counter for fun.
... battling pain. I had a few good weeks and thought maybe I was miraculously cured -- HA! Advil and the heating pad are once again my friends.
... drinking coffee -- hot one day and iced the next, because our weather is crazy here. 40's today = hot coffee.
The past week has been very stressful (family issues I shall not discuss here, but rest assured, things do seem to be improving -- or my attitude toward them perhaps.) So all I really wanted to do this weekend was hang out with Pete and Maddie, go out to dinner at our favorite restaurant and rent Star Trek. I didn't hold out much hope for that last bit since I knew it just came out on DVD and would most likely be all rented out at the video store, but it was my lucky night! Pete fell asleep (probably thanks to the calming effects of the La Mex Margarita that he had with dinner :) but Maddie and I had a great time watching the movie together. Even if you aren't a Trekkie, it's difficult not to like this move. It was very well cast and super exciting. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Here's hoping this is a better week!
How on earth did that happen? It seems like yesterday she was a baby, and now she's so grown up. Crazy.
This year she is very into the Ugly Doll thing -- here she is hugging Plunko. I have to admit, that they are adorable and I am helpless around them. As a result, she also has Ox, Turny Burny and a little Babo's Bird. Resistance is futile.
The books are a lot of fun too.
No work for Pete this week, so were are doing a little at home vacation. Yesterday it was up to Andersonville (in Chicago) to enjoy some Swedish pancakes at Svea (so good and super cheap!) and to pick up some Swedish carbs at the Swedish Bakery. Then we drove down to the old neighborhood (Lincoln Park) for a bit of shopping and checking on our former homes (one floor in our old greystone is for sale!) A nice day was had by all.
This past weekend we took a little trip up to the Chicago Botanic Garden so we could check out the Bonsai Show. Maddie has a bonsai book (which Pete and I purchased years ago at the Bonsai Show at the CBG) and has been interested in getting a bonsai of her own. If you have any interest in bonsai, I have to recommend this yearly event which includes an exhibition of many bonsai created by both amateurs and professionals as well as a nice selection of vendors -- some quite helpful.
There is so much to see at the Chicago Botanic Garden in addition to the show. The variety of gardens, all within walking distance of each other, are quite amazing. There is a rose garden, fruit and vegetable gardens, water & waterfall gardens, a Japanese garden (actually a couple of islands) and so much more.
If you live in the Chicago area and haven't been to the Chicago Botanic Garden before, I highly recommend it. Check out their website before you go because they have lots of great events all season long.
Yesterday was the 10th Annual Tim Klotz Memorial Golf Outing. Tim was my dad and he passed away while running on a beach 10 years ago -- at the age of 49. It was quite sudden as he had been healthy and athletic all his life. It was devastating for my mom, three sisters and I, as well as all of his friends and family.
And we could have chosen to become victims, feel sorry for ourselves, or simply tried to move on, but my mom isn't that type of person. And my dad had a lot of friends.
As my dad was an avid golfer -- often skipping work to play a round -- it was only fitting that everyone get together for a day of golf. Well, it has turned into much more than golf. Each year we raise quite a bit of money for local charities. In fact, we've raised well over $100,000 in the past 9 years. And yesterday was a good day. Despite the recession, despite the fact that my dad was in the mortgage industry, as were many of his friends, they all came together to support the foundation in his name and once again, we will be able to present much needed money to local charities who help mostly women and children -- many victims of abuse and assault -- and to fund mentoring programs in our local community.
It's a lot of work, and quite emotional, but it is rewarding and I'm glad that I have this kind of family and these kinds of friends in my life.
Here is a photo of Maddie a few weeks ago -- looking quite grown up with her purse and breakfast. Today I sent her off (without taking a photo) to summer camp.
I'm a homeschooling mom, and we have school year round at our house, which means I spend many hours with Maddie each day. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of times she's been apart from me for more than a few hours. So summer camp is a big deal here.
While this is only a day camp -- running from 9am to 3pm each day this week -- it is the first time that she will be in this type of setting, spending an entire day away from me with strangers. In fact, we had to go out and purchase a lunch box for this occasion -- which practically made her giddy. And yesterday we went to the grocery so she could pick out some lunch things. (Often she eats leftovers, yogurt fruits and veggies at home, so this was kind of a big deal to her.)
She was a little nervous and quite excited for camp -- in truth, I think I was more nervous than her. I'm sure she'll do fine though and was already talking about how she planned on making friends as we were walking up to the drop off site.
Now what will I do with myself all week?
The above photos of the peony and blueberries were taken by Maddie in the garden. Photography is one of her current interests.
As Maddie turned 4, 5 and 6, I started to introduce crafts to her. While I saw a spark of interest now and again, nothing really seemed to stick. At 7 I took a step back and waited. Now she's 8 and suddenly she's turned crafty!! First there was the potholder business ( which is still going strong! She's sold 4 potholders through etsy and now she's making some for Grandma.) and this past week she started sewing. Be still my heart.
We stopped by the local fabric shop -- Robert's Sewing Center -- after a failed trip to an estate sale that was a total dud. We were looking at all the pre-cut Moda packs and she fell in love with the Fresh Picked fabric pack and I told her she could get it and try sewing on the machine. She was nervous at first, but soon she was off and running! She's sewed 3 strips of her 6 strip quilt already and has plans to make a pillow after finishing her quilt. I'm so proud of her!
Maddie had her first (and second) latte this week. This might seem a strange rite of passage, but in our coffee obsessed family it was bound to happen sooner rather than later. (I'll have to talk about the level of coffee obsession in this household at some point.)
She's been growing up so quickly lately. A couple weeks ago she got her first handbag and now she doesn't leave the house without it. And in school we are about to start 6th grade coursework -- 6th grade! I can hardly take it. The girl is 8 going on 18 and it's making me a bit proud and a bit melancholy all at the same time.
What is it about the post holiday winter season. I mean, the beginning of winter, though cold, snowy and sometimes grey, starts off with a bang with the holidays and all the associated merriment. Then somewhere around the second week of January it usually hits me -- while the holidays are over, the winter is most certainly not. Indoor activities are needed to pass the time and luckily Maddie usually gets a few as gifts. This year she received some real winners...
Pictureka Is a picture finding game recommended for kids 6 and up. There are 9 square, 2 sided cards with all kinds of wacky pictures all over them and you need to find either a specific object or a certain number of objects depending on the card you get. We've already played it quite a few times and it's great for the adults as well as my 8 year old.
SORRY! Sliders is better than I expected. I'm an old school kind of girl, so I thought this would be a newfangled game with the Sorry name slapped on. And while it is quite a bit different from the original, it's still fun. You get a scoring card and scoring tokens as well as sliding tokens which have a ball bearing in the bottom. A track for each player (up to 4) attaches to a central game board. There are 2 different 2 sided cards for the center board and we determined that the green one is definitely best and results in the longest game. There is both skill and strategy involved but while the game is recommended for kids aged 10 and up, my 8 year old had no problem playing it. I will say that it was more fun with 3 players than 2 as there are more tokens in play and more chances of knocking your opponents into the "Sorry" spaces.
LOOT by Gamewright, who also makes Wig Out! and Scrambled States, is a wonderful pirate themed card game that is a twist on the classic card game war. Once again, this is recommended for ages 10 and up, but my daughter didn't have any trouble playing it and was quite good at it. I think they make that recommendation because there is some addition involved -- but nothing too advanced.
Rush Hour is a one player game, but you can make it into a group activity by passing it around as we have done. In fact, every day in school Maddie and I do a card. But first let me explain... This is a variation on the classic slide puzzle where you set up pieces on a board according to diagrams on cards and then you shift the pieces around until your piece (your car, in this case) can get free of the board. It's recommended for ages 8 and up and that seems about right to me. In fact, don't be surprised if your child is better at it than you! The game is very compact -- the deck of cards stores in a drawer in the base and the base and pieces all are stored in a drawstring bag. And if you find yourself wanting more, there are add-on packs to keep you going.
So, what games does your family play on these grey, cold days? We're always looking for new ones to try, so let me know!
Here is the original recipe in my mom's hand. I photo copied a bunch of recipes from her cookbook a while back and I like seeing them in her handwriting so much, that I never copied them onto new recipe cards. I have made some changes, but the basics remain the same. Here is my version:
Makes 1 9" X 13" pan or about 60 pieces.
3 c. Sugar
3/4 c. Butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2/3 c. Evaporated Milk (Not sweetened condensed!)
1 12 oz. bag of good quality bittersweet chocolate chips
1 Jar Marshmallow Fluff (The kind in the glass jar, not plastic tub) approx. 2 c.
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 c. nuts of your choice -- optional
Combine sugar, butter and evaporated milk in a saucepan -- mixture will expand as it boils, so make sure the pan is large enough). Bring to a rolling boil on med high heat and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, vanilla extract and nuts (if using).
Use a hand held beater to thoroughly mix ingredients -- make sure to scrape down sides and stir bottom corners of the pan several times.
Pour into parchment lined 9" X 13" pan. Leave on the counter to cool for about 1 hour then refrigerate an additional 1-2 hours before cutting.
Lift fudge and parchment out of pan and using a long knife (I use a big bread knife), cut into individual pieces. Store in layers separated by wax paper or parchment in a tin in the fridge.
A good time was had by all (all being Maddie & I) at the annual Black Sheep Bags Holiday Party. Let me explain.
Each year Pete's company has a Christmas party -- when he worked at the company prior to his current one, they were extravagant, wild, free for alls (including exotic dancers for the men & women!) Spouses were never invited. It was a time for the employees to kick back and blow off steam or something. Don't get the wrong impression -- Pete is in finance, this was a commercial real estate company -- the owner was just a bit, um, interesting (maybe you've heard of him -- he is the current owner of the Chicago Trib and the Cubs too). Now Pete works at a straight laced bank and the parties are calmer, but spouses still aren't invited. So Maddie and I have our own party at home.
There was cookie making and decorating, and we watched Rudolph on TV while eating appetizers:
Yes, those are fish sticks -- Maddie insisted we have appetizers since it was a party -- and a fine dinner of mac & cheese from the box (a special treat for Maddie, not me) followed by card games -- Scrambled States 2 & good old fashioned Uno. (Those would be great stocking stuffers -- and I have to mention Wig Out! too which is a super fun card game!)
We ended the night by laying in bed reading, waiting for Pete to get home. It's a fun little tradition that I hope to continue for years to come.
Here is a photo of "The Klotz Shack" as the sign says. My mom has a little place out on the river and we celebrated the 4th out there. It was really perfect weather -- sunny and warm but not too hot.
Here are the boats -- my mom's pontoon is all decorated for the boat parade. And of course you have to play bean bags (aka corn hole -- well, it's not called corn hole in our part of the country, but I know that's what some people call it.)
I completely forgot to bring my camera on the boat at night when we went to the fireworks. It's pretty amazing -- several houses along the river put on *huge* firework displays -- like city size. Everyone drives their boats up the river for a good viewing spot and then you sit there with hundreds of other boats and watch the fireworks.
Today is for recovering -- all that sun and excitement is exhausting.
We're back from Hilton Head Island and pretty much exhausted. The weather was gorgeous and we spent most of our time swimming, walking on the beach, reading on the balcony, eating and drinking margaritas. We got lucky with the weather this year (last year we were there during a very early pre-hurricane storm) and the only rain fell at night.
This year we drove down to SC instead of flying for a couple of reasons -- first being cost. We just couldn't justify spending nearly half of the vacation funds on airfare. And secondly, it appears that it is better for the environment to drive (at least when you have 3 people in the car). To tell you the truth, I didn't mind the driving. We were able to drive through the mountains -- the Appalachian Mountain Range and specifically the Great Smoky Mountains -- which were beautiful. In addition, this gave us the opportunity to stay overnight, both on the way there and back, in Asheville, NC. It's a wonderful city filled with restaurants, coffee shops and artists nestled in a mountain valley. While we didn't have a lot of time to explore since it was basically a place for us to crash at night, we did get enough of a taste that we would like to go back there for a vacation in the future.
Knitting was accomplished -- somewhat -- and the stripy Noro Silk Garden scarf has grown a bit. I tend to get carsick though, so I tried to drive as much as possible and the rest of the time I had to look straight ahead to avoid queasiness. The one color of Noro kept splitting, so that slowed me down. I didn't even start the socks, but probably will now that I'm home -- I'm trying out the Opal since it's new to me -- perhaps later today since thunderstorms are in the forecast.
This past Sunday Pete, Maddie & I went to Pilcher Park for a nice little walk in the woods. I used to go for walks here as a little girl with my dad and sisters (and probably my mom too, but I think more often we went with my dad), so I enjoy going there now with my family. It's a really lovely piece of land situated along Hickory Creek and it includes plenty of hiking trails. We did the "Trail of Oaks" loop which took us through meadows, over creeks and through the forest. A nice easy hike to get us geared up for the Spring.
As a kid, I remember my dad dragging us girls down into these creeks to dam them up (yes, he was a trouble maker, but he was fun). There were these pretty blueish flowers in bloom all over the woods.
And here is a view down Hickory Creek -- what a nice way to spend the afternoon!
We love birds here at our house. Recently we upgraded from our sad, bent (due to the great tree falling of '04) pole system to two fancy new poles with two feeders on each. We now have one each of the following: peanut feeder, thistle feeder, no-mess seed feeder (this is the best seed ever -- you don't get weeds from it!), and a safflower feeder.
Why so many? Well, you get different birds with different seeds and perch types. Since Pete installed the new set up, we have been noticing a wide range of birds. Just today Maddie spotted a bird that we hadn't seen before -- the Red Breasted Nuthatch. We live in northern IL which is where they winter. They are pretty little birds with a bright orange-red belly and beautiful dove grey backs. Their heads are black and white with a striking black line running out from the eye.
When I'm in my kitchen, or up in my office, I love looking out at the birds. There is something very enjoyable and relaxing about it. And Maddie has great eyes -- she always spots the unique birds and brings them to my attention.
So what do you need to get started bird watching?
That's about all you need, but of course there are all kinds of fancy accessories associated with bird watching as with any other hobby.
I also found some good stuff on the web when I was writing this post today:
Have fun watching the birds in your backyard!
Need a great gift idea for a kid? Scribbles: A Really Giant Drawing and Coloring Book by Taro Gomi is a coloring book that really gets the creative juices flowing. Maddie already had Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book, which we bought her before we went on vacation last year, so I knew this was going to be a winner. We actually use Scribbles during school time. She picks out one set of pages and she works on the right hand side while I do the left. It's a great way to play creatively with your child/grandchild/niece/nephew.
Perhaps I should explain a bit more about what kind of coloring book this is. On many pages there is an incomplete picture (for instance, an empty vase on the pages I show above) and there is a suggestion of what to draw to complete it. Usually it's very open ended -- fill the vase, draw an outfit, what is on this hill, draw a super scary monster, or some such thing. Very fun for kids and adults! Maddie and I both highly recommend these books.
It's been a busy couple of weeks here -- always seems to get crazy in the second half of October since we have so much partying to do!
First Maddie turned 7! I really can't believe she's already 7 -- it seem like we just brought her home from the hospital yesterday sometimes. If I'm this emotional about her growing up now, I can't imagine what a wreck I'll be when she's 16 -- or when she goes off to college. Yikes!
We had a family party and the weather was *so* warm that we had a pinata outside. And this was one well constructed pinata -- I thought we would never get it open, but finally (with a little help from me) they did.
We extended the fun for a couple more days -- Pete took off the Monday before her birthday so he could spend more time with her and Tuesday was her actual birthday.
Here she is on her actual birthday -- sporting her new hairdo. I think the shorter hair suits her and I'm glad I cut it off -- although I was a bit nervous after I made the first cut. She has super thick hair and I wasn't sure I was up to the task, but it turned out pretty well. I think her next haircut will be done by a professional though.
And then this past weekend it was time for the annual pumpkin carving contest. Every year we meet at my mom's house, eat chili and carve pumpkins. It is so much fun! I tried to get a good photo with the pumpkins lit up, but this was the best I could do. Can you guess which pumpkin was mine?
I didn't take any individual pumpkin pictures, but here is a blown-up cropped image of mine:
I tied for second place with my sister Heidi -- whose pumpkin is on the far right. And my sister Amanda won -- hers is to the left of mine. Fun fun!
And the festivities haven't ended -- tomorrow night is Trick-or-treating with my family. We are so lucky to live so close to each other. We all meet at my mom's house and the cousins trick-or-treat together. Good times:
Happy Halloween to Everyone!
I've also been riding around Chicago in a limo with my family:
We have 3 brother-in-laws in the family and their birthdays are all around the same time of the year (Sept/Oct). We used to have individual get togethers for each one, but three years ago my mom suggested one fancy dinner instead of three pizza/bbq type things. It was so much fun that we've been doing it every year.
This year we took a limo so that everyone could enjoy a few beverages and we went up to Chicago to Keefer's. Very nice place!
I've also been cooking and baking quite a bit. Recently I made the Crumb Coffeecake from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. So good! And it makes 2 - 8" round cake pans, so I froze one for later.
THen today I pulled out Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible (not to be confused with Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible -- also and excellent book) and made Real Lemon Muffins with the bag of lemons I had in the fridge. I am completely powerless against lemons and when I see bags of them at Trader Joe's I often will throw them in my cart. I never know what to do with them, but since trying this recipe I will never have that problem again. Delicious and very lemony! I used the whole bag of lemons for this recipe and it only makes 8 muffins, so there you go.
Speaking of Beth Hensperger, I just love her cookbooks and have had great success making everything I've ever tried from them.
Another thing I've been trying to do on a regular basis is cook dinners from scratch. I love to cook and bake and got away from this habit when Maddie was little and work was eating up all my free time, but as I step back from work a bit and Maddie becomes independent I find I have more time. So, I've been trying to cook things fresh, organic and whole.
I actually find that I'm loving Everyday Food. From the current issue I've tried 3 recipes and all were a success! (Well, Maddie wasn't a fan of the mushroom risotto, but it was delicious and turned out just great.) The whole family loved the Chicken Parmesan recipe and it was so easy since nothing needed to be fried. Of course, it always takes me longer to make the meal then they say it will, but I plan ahead for that :) (The third recipe I tried was the carmel corn -- very good, but I will make more caramel stuff next time I make it.)
So, I have been doing something besides playing Zelda -- really I have. In fact, I have some book reviews to post very soon!
Here's a photo of the little guy that I made the quilt for. He arried Sunday morning bright and early (well, if you call 7:18AM early like I do!) So I'm an aunt once again! When I asked Maddie what she thought of her new cousin after we went to visit him, she said he was cute -- yes he is!
Today was Maddie's first trip to the salon and my first trip in over a year. Just look at the state that our hair was in. . .
Okay, it's difficult to take a good photo of yourself in the mirror, but my hair really does look that bad -- it just grew out like a weed and I did nothing to stop it! Shame on me. And we've been trying to grow out Maddie's bangs. . .
and the back has just been growing too. . .
I don't have a good after picture of Maddie's haircut from the front, but look at here's the back:
It looks very stylish! And mine is *so* much better. A mirror photo really doesn't do it justice. . .
So now I have a stylist that I like and I'm not afraid to go get my hair cut! Yeah! (About 3 years ago I had a very bad haircut that turned me off from going to salons. I actually broke a sweat when I called to make the appointments for Maddie & I. Whew.)
Maddie turned 6 yesterday -- I can hardly believe it. I feel like I'll be sending her off to college before I know it! The preparations for her party and a slew of other errands that had to get done kept me *very* busy all last week. (New cell phones, a visit to my stockbroker -- thank goodness she's my mom!, finally to DSW to get a pair of shoes, off to the bank & grocery -- you get the idea.)
The party was a casual affair -- as I get older, I realize that: a) I am *not* Martha Stewart. b) My family and I have more fun when we have casual get togethers. c) Even a simple get together leaves me exhausted and costs a good chunk of change!
So, we had chips and dip and a Sponge Bob cake that I did not make myself. And we ordered carry out. My Mom even brought crafts! And almost eveyone did them -- photographic proof:
That's my Mom, Maddie and her cousin Landon -- Maddie and Landon are only 6 months apart and they play together so well! Both are only children (and while Heidi plans to have more kids one day, I don't) so it's really nice to have them be so close.
And these are two of my sisters -- Heidi and Amanda and Amanda's husband, Kevin -- yes, he's crafting too! We like him -- he married my sister and now he's gone and knocked her up! My other sister and brother-in-law weren't crafting, but they were busy running around after a little one who just started walking recently, so they were quite busy in our non-baby proofed house!
Maddie was very gracious and exclaimed in delight over each gift -- is it the age? She was very sweet! And one gift she especially loved was her very own American Girl doll. Oh my -- she is growing up too quickly, I tell you! (These dolls are pretty incredible -- I almost want one for myself. Sometimes I'm so glad that I have a little girly-girl!)
Yesterday was her actual birthday and Pete took the day off from work so that we could do something fun. Maddie choose the DuPage Children's Museum. We had actually never been there and I don't know why -- it's not very far and it was so much fun! If you live in the Chicago area, it's really worth the trip. (They even had a "wood-shop" area for older kids.)
They had some really incredible "light" exhibits as well as building, water, air, math and other things. Really quite fun.
Whew. So that's where I've been. I'm working on a new knitting pattern for the next issue of Yarn Forward and having a terrible time -- I've ripped it out 5 times, but I think I have a new plan. (I also have an article in the current issue!) And other than that, I've just been trying to find a few minutes to breathe. Things should settle down after next weekend -- which is going to be insane once again. I'm just dreaming of November -- November, November, November. . . .
Pete turns 41 today! Why don't you stop on by PeteLit and wish him a Happy Birthday?
(Okay, here's the story on the photo. Maddie loves to play games and Pete, being the great Daddy that he is, lets her choose her favorites. For a while all she wanted to play was Pretty Pretty Princess. As you can see, he won!)
I recorded episode two yesterday afternoon and I've been working on editing it and adding some music samples in little bits of free time today. I'm going to let Pete take a listen to make sure I didn't miss anything and then I'll put it out there. I also tried to make the Stitch-Cast site a little prettier this week.
Today was a big day for Maddie. The annual Easter Egg Hunt!
Every year they have a nice egg hunt in my Mom's neighborhood for the kids and grandkids. All very friendly and fair. It was a little chilly, but bright and sunny!
We also went out to the "country" to see my Mom's new cottage on the river and visited an old farm town. Look at these cool Lustron fronted shops:
So that was our day. Hopefully the second episode of Stitch-Cast will be up tomorrow!
As most of you in the Chicago area know, Marshall Field's was bought by a big department store conglomerate and they are soon changing the name to Macy's. This doesn't sit well with all the Chicagoans that I've talked to about it. Despite this, we made our annual trek into Chicago to go eat in the Walnut Room at Field's by the big tree. This year it was done all in silver and blue and the ornaments were from Swarovski. It was gorgeous!
And the trip wouldn't be complete without a visit to Santa! Here is Maddie proudly displaying her "I Saw Santa" pin.
It was a lovely day (despite the migraine I had) and the lines weren't unbearable. And now I have a stack of Frango boxes downstairs calling my name -- yum!
I stayed up late and read the first 4 chapters of Wendy Knits . I'm really enjoying it! I'll give a full review as soon as I finish!
. I'm really enjoying it! I'll give a full review as soon as I finish!
And tomorrow. . . coffee filter snowflakes!
Here's my holiday table. I took a picture going the other direction where you could see both trees lit up, but I'm afraid that the "candlelight" setting on my camera requires a *very* steady hand -- something I didn't have after 2 cups of glogg (more on glogg later. . .)
And here's our smorgasbord (did I spell that right, Pete?) Swedish Christmas is heavy on the meat and starch. From top to bottom we have: traditional rice pudding with lingon berries, jello salad, Swedish meatballs, potato sausage, ham, scalloped potatoes, limpa (Swedish rye) and cardamom tea rolls.
Before dinner there were lots of snacks including Bond-Ost (a caraway seeded cheese) served with knacke bread (hardtack -- like rye krisp kind of). Oh -- and Sil (pickled herring). And of course there was glogg! Glogg is a mulled red wine that you drink warm and it is so good!
The next morning we had cardamom braid and coffee cake from the Swedish Bakery -- yum!
It was lovely to have Pete's mom here for a few days and Pete was wonderful (& so was Maddie). I will leave it at that, other than to say that I will not be having Swedish Christmas here next year. I'm glad that I did it for Pete's mom's sake though. Maybe her daughters will step up next year.
Swedish food resources: