“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." - Rachel Carson

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Common Ground Fair

The Common Ground Fair is a right of passage into fall around here, and since we've had kids we like going mainly for the purpose of dressing our kids up in adorable garden-themed costumes and marching in the vegetable parade. Where else can you look at the people around you and see a full-grown woman unabashedly wearing a large beet helmet, a kid dressed up as a praying mantis, and someone else as "The Compost Heap." People shake homemade noise-makers and thrust signs into the air with catchy crunchy quotes such as, "Don't Panic! I'm Organic!" and "Give Peas a Chance." The parade overflows with cuteness, drummers, stilt-walkers, and it's own unique Common Ground flair. This year Rowan chose a pumpkin costume, and Retta was a very sleepy ladybug. Despite changeable weather, yummy food was consumed, sheep were patted, and large prize-winning gourds were observed- a good time was had by all.

Hiding under the table of corn

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Family Tradition: Pancake Wednesdays

Rowan proudly displaying her pancakes: a fairy, planets, a kangaroo with a unicorn horn, and Lowly Worm's apple car

As I sit down to write this morning and take a survey of my surroundings, I see that I am wearing a feather boa, Aaron has a Hello Kitty sticker on his chest, Retta has hit the keyboard 3 times now and deleted some fragment of this post, and in the background I overhear Aaron and Rowan saying, "Let's make a big fat sheep, a hungry wolf, a slide, a mermaid and an ostrich egg." It's another typical (and by typical I mean strangely trippy and chaotic but in a good way) Wednesday morning at our house. Somewhere along the line Aaron and Rowan started making pancakes together, and it became a special father-daughter thing they like to do. After a couple times of making regular round pancakes, they decided to get artful and expand their repertoire to the more abstract. Given their shared affinity for nature, most of our pancakes tend to fall into that shape genre (wood frogs, salamanders, mossy rocks, and wolves), but lately they've really been branching out and anything goes. Aaron works from home on Wednesdays, which have officially become Pancake Wednesdays in our house...a lovely mid-week tradition, where we find ourselves actually able to share a leisurely breakfast together before we all set upon our work for the day. Rowan looks forward to it all week, and never forgets what Wednesday means: PANCAKES!!! She usually runs into our bedroom on Wednesdays, jumps up and down next to Aaron's head, reminding him of this very fact, and it's urgency. This morning while cooking breakfast, she kept randomly yelling while pumping her fist in the air, "YAY! Pancake morning!! Thanks Daddy for letting it be pancake morning! Daddy, isn't this going to be a great day?! Inside on  a rainy morning but it's okay because we are listening to music and making pancakes!" It's the little things people. A lesson I'm sure we can all keep in mind.

Here is a recipe for a new twist on their original pancake recipe (from Betty Crocker's Cookbook) which we are loving at the moment...we've figured out how to sneak some quinoa into Rowan's diet. Plus if it's got quinoa, I think it means it's okay to eat more pancakes.

Blueberry Quinoa and Cornmeal Pancakes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 TBS granulated or packed brown sugar
  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup quinoa flakes
  • 2 TBS cornmeal
  • blueberries--as many as you'd like
Mix all ingredients together and cook them in a cast iron pan or griddle, greasing with butter or oil. Make any shapes you fancy, drizzle with maple syrup, agave, or honey and devour!  

Some more pancake art: I think we have a crab, a slug, Mickey Mouse, a salamander, a snake, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Enjoying pancakes out on the deck earlier this summer, Retta's first time watching us eat them

Rowan and the fairy pancake

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Note to Self: Remember This

Retta, 5 months

Molly Monarch

While out for a Sunday walk on a nearby hiking trail, we found ourselves in a field of milkweed. I remembered that I had wanted to find Rowan a monarch caterpillar this fall, with hopes of bringing it home and watching it form a chrysallis and emerge as a butterfly. This is pretty much the one thing I remember about first grade- watching monarchs hatch in our classroom and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. We were in luck- after turning over a few leaves, we spotted our new (but temporary) pet, who Rowan has decided to call "Molly Monarch." We carefully broke off the stem of Molly's milkweed plant and carried her back to the car while she continued munching away on leaves. We made a home for her in our vacant goldfish bowl, and we are now obsessively watching her every move, waiting with anticipation for her to climb to the top of the container, get into her "J" shape formation and make that amazing green and gold chrysallis. Updates to follow!

Speculation about what Molly will look like- Rowan painted a picture of what she thinks she'll look like as a butterfly

Oh, and here's a cool video Rowan and I watched to see what will likely happen to our caterpillar--this is an interesting video filmed at the Chicago Nature Musuem using microscopic cameras and time-lapse photography:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvest Time

This is the first year that Rowan has truly shown an interest in gardening, and this weekend she got to reap what she had sown? Hath soweth? Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, we planted some carrot seedlings and a late crop of lettuce and kale a few weeks after we came back from Hawaii, and she decided it was high time to see what those carrots had been up to under ground. She was so cute when she pulled them out of her little raised bed and saw they were ready to eat. We took them on our picnic lunch and she was very proud, sharing one with each of us and her grandparents. Don't ask me why this kid is wearing a hunting hat already- she has more outfit changes each day than most celebrities...apparently it's what to wear when you're harvesting things that are also orange.

After some time in the garden we headed to Chase's Daily for a morning coffee and some bakery treats, and I couldn't help but take some pictures of their gorgeous flower bouquets. Rowan liked them too, as you can see!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Our Anniversary: Lucky Seven

Happy Anniversary to us! SEVEN years ago today Aaron and I were married! Time flies when you are having fun. I just realized the other day that I have now been with Aaron for half of my life, because I started dating him in high school when I was 16, almost 17, and now I'm 32. Wow. I feel incredibly lucky to have shared so much life already with him. We have millions of happy memories and shared experiences, and today we couldn't help but marvel at the two beautiful children that have come out of this partnership as well. If one little thing had been different- if I hadn't joined our high school ski team and gotten a crush on him way back when, or if he hadn't agreed to go on our cheesy first date to see Star Wars, I might have a completely different life. I'm glad I picked this one.

To celebrate our anniversary, and to prove to ourselves that even though we are parents we are hip and can still do adventurous things, we left the girls with my parents (our first night away from Retta) and drove to Boston to see Florence + The Machine in concert Friday night. She is an amazing live performer- it was a fantastic show. So worth it. We then stayed in a random hotel off of 95 that just happened to be hosting the New England Jazz Banjo Festival, which I didn't even know was a genre of music. We heard banjo playing coming from every room as we walked the hallway to find ours, and enjoyed our first night of uninterrupted sleep in 5 months. In the morning, we promptly drove home as fast as we could because my parents were running out of milk. It was so good to get away- every time we actually schedule time to have some kind of a date, I am flooded with a feeling of relief that Aaron and I still actually have things to talk about and have a lot of fun together when we aren't continually distracted and in parent mode. Not to say we don't have fun on a daily basis as a family, but grown-up conversation and kid-less time is so different. It was great to get away with my wonderful husband, and great to get back and hug those little cuties that I'm oh-so-grateful for. Yay for anniversaries and honoring the big moments in life!

Here's Florence singing the last song of the night, "Dog Days are Over." Unfortunately it's just the end of the song with a long clapping interlude, but the last minute of the video is more exciting...we didn't have our video camera so I've had to choose from the few that have been put on youtube! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Apple Picking

This year we wasted no time in welcoming fall. Rowan would eat apples all day if she could, and since getting her to eat other fruits and veggies can be challenging, we like to support her apple habit. Saturday we took a beautiful drive over to our favorite apple orchard and picked for a bit. It's still early- they only had McIntosh apples ready, but we got a bunch and returned home up to our eyeballs in apples, ready to make applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, etc. Also, given that baby Retta is just about ready to start eating baby food I am planning on making lots of applesauce for her and freezing it in ice cube trays so I have baby-sized portions of applesauce at the ready. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the day:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thunder Cake!!

Ever since Rowan was about 1 year old she has been terribly afraid of thunderstorms, as in, heart racing like a hamster, clinging to you with every ounce of her being, pretty much totally incapacitated. We've tried all kinds of tactics to make storms a little more bearable, but nothing seems to work. This summer she was so worried about the chance of a thunderstorm each day that by August it became a question I felt like I was answering hourly. "Mommy. Is it going to be clear today?" "Mommy. What was that noise? Did you hear that?" So, when my aunt told me about a book called Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco, I checked it out of the library faster than a flash of lightning.

What a wonderful book indeed. It is the story of a girl who is afraid of thunderstorms, and her grandmother distracts her from the coming storm by having her collect ingredients around the farm to bake a "thunder cake." They proceed to bake the cake and enjoy the first bite just as the storm arrives over their house. She realizes that it took a lot of bravery to be outside collecting eggs and milk, etc. as the storm was drawing closer. At the end of the book is a recipe to make your own thunder cake, which we decided we must do the next time a storm came. Chocolate is usually pretty heavy bribery or at least a good distraction for Rowan, so I had high hopes that the idea of making our own thunder cake during a storm might be just the thing. Unfortunately we have not been home at the right time for a thunder cake, and today being a rainy day, I decided it was time to make it, even if we had no thunder. This cake is delicious and even has a secret ingredient: tomatoes!

Here's the recipe, I'd recommend it, as well as this book for anyone with a little one afraid of thunderstorms. The book didn't cure her fear, but it has definitely helped her think about thunderstorms in a more rational way. Baby steps...

Grandma's Thunder Cake

Cream together, one at a time:
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs, separated (blend yolks in, beat whites until stiff and then fold in)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup pureed tomatoes
Sift together:
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup dry cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture. Bake in two greased and floured 8 1/2-inch round pans at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Frost with chocolate buttercream frosting. Top with strawberries.

Here's Rowan, salivating and using all her willpower not to shove her fingers into the frosting as she waits for the okay to eat our thunder cake! We'll take any excuse to eat a cake, and a stormy day stuck inside seems as good as any!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to School Craft Project: Reuseable Snack Bags

With new-found time on my hands this afternoon while Rowan was at school and Retta was napping (I know, if I was a sane person I would also have been napping), I decided to dust off my sewing machine and make something. I had just bought this adorable matryoshka doll laminate fabric the other day, thinking it would be great to make some reuseable bags for our family. These are great because you can either wash them in the sink, or throw them in the washing machine, and the fabric I bought is phthalate-free and food safe.  The laminate fabric is slightly awkward to work with, but you don't need a special needle, just one that is old, dull, or that you don't mind getting dull because that's what the fabric will do to it. You can make these in any size dimensions you want- I made a bigger one that would fit a sandwich, and a smaller one for munchy-type snacks. I doubled over the fabric so the laminate side would be facing out on both the inside and outside of the bag, and I figured this would make it more sturdy. I basically just cut a big long rectangle, folded it in half, then folded that part of the way up, and then folded the top down to where I wanted the top fold/ velcro to be.

Then I set my machine to a wider zig zag stitch, and sewed around all four sides, making a pocket for snacks. Next I used velcro with an adhesive backing, and after cutting it to my desired size I placed it on the snack bag.

 Voila! Our snacks have never been so stylish! I was thinking these would be great for holding pacifiers too, or baby wipes...the possibilities are endless. I will be making and gifting more.

First Day of School!

  Today was Rowan's first day of preschool for the year, and she woke up brimming with excitement. I just can't help thinking what a difference from her first day last year, when there were loads of tears (both her and I). I'll take the smiles today! Aaron happened to have today off, so he got to help take her to school and when we picked her up we went out for cookies. She had a great day playing castle and kitchen with her friends, practicing writing her letter A, and napping. I wish I could go back to preschool. She also thanked us for not coming early and interrupting afternoon circle. So, our big three year-old seems to be well-adjusted for the moment, which is a huge, happy sigh of relief for us.

She was cold this morning so she thought she needed to wear a sweater and my scarf...jumping with excitement!

Quite pleased with her look..

Standing in front of the Rowan tree

What a happy child

Love, love, love