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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TodaysMama Giveaway Entry!

Well. As I'm not doing a very good job of keeping my blog updated, the least I can do is use it to participate in a giveaway contest!

Mama’s Holiday Wish List Meme
TodaysMama and Provo Craft are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What 5 items are on your holiday wish list this year? Nikon D90, Serger, chunky gold bracelet, smiles on my kids’ faces, ability to chest (hula) hoop.
2. What is your favorite handmade gift you have received? Sculpted hair sticks from my husband.
3. What handmade gift have you always wanted to tackle? A cathedral window quilt.
4. What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child? A silver necklace from my dad.
5. What items are on your kid’s wish list this year? Electric guitar, Mousetrap game, Easy Bake oven.
6. What is your favorite holiday food? Egg nog!!!
7. What will you be hand-crafting for the holidays? Fingerless gloves, paper gift boxes.
8. What is your favorite holiday movie? I don’t have one!
9. Favorite holiday song? “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt.
10. Favorite holiday pastime? Planning and preparing gifts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What goes around, comes around

My husband and his younger brother, circa 1977



My oldest son and his younger brother, Halloween 2009

This Halloween was mildly nostalgic for Husband as memories of his youth wove in and out of current activities. One of his most memorable Halloween costumes was the jawa ensemble his mother made in 1977. This year, he wanted to recreate that memory for our boys.

Everything except our oldest's head piece was home made. Using battery operated Christmas lights, we were able to duplicate the mask for our Youngest. (By the way, jawa eyes are yellow, not red...the store bought version is a factory error!) I'm quite pleased with the way everything turned out, given that the costume was rather a last minute effort.!

We generally spend Halloween at home, but this year we went to the family cabin in Black Mountain, North Carolina. It was a lovely time and one I hope to repeat again next year. I was mildly concerned because I couldn't find any advance information about trick-or-treating events in the area. Fortunately, we learned about the unofficial treak-or-treating that happens in a neighborhood bordering downtown Black Mountain. As far as I can tell, information about this local gathering is spread through word-of-mouth only. I am grateful that we got some advice from year-round residents and were able to join in the festivities.

***The following is posted in case someone else does a web search for information on Halloween activities in Black Mountain, NC (and stumbles upon this post).***

Looking back to Saturday, though, I shudder at our parental lack of just-in-case planning. The Church Street neighborhood that borders downtown Black Mountain was a fine place to trick-or-treat but, my goodness, they don't have an abundance of street lights! This became highly apparent as darkness settled in. This darkness was further intensified by both the crowds of people, the drizzling rain and the relatively narrow streets. It would have been so easy to lose track of our kids. As it was, this thought didn't occur to me until my husband, my youngest and I lost the larger group. That's when everything hit me and THEN I worried about my oldest who was with the larger group. I was SO relieved we relocated everyone and I saw that Oldest was safe and sound.

Using this as a lesson, I've already begun safety plans for next year. In 2010, we will:
  • Carry a lantern
  • Arm each child with our cell phone number
  • Have a plan should one of us become separated, and
  • Bring a cell phone!!!
I canNOT believe that not a single one of us thought to bring a phone. We were all so focussed on getting dressed up and out the door that what-if's didn't occur to us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Best pumpkin cake ever


Really. It turns out the secret to extra-moist cake is vegetable oil!?

My recipe is based on this one. Despite having lots of oil and sugar it is AMAZING. So far my adjustments to the ingredients have not disrupted the integrity of its flavor or moistness. Once I've got the recipe down, I'll try making cupcakes with it. I can't imagine the format would make a difference to the final output, but better safe than sorry.

I first concentrated on replacing the white flour with as much wheat flour as possible. (I've got it to 1 cup white flour and 1 cup wheat flour.) Next was to reduce the sugar...so far I've brought it down from 2 cups to 1 1/4 cup. Of course, the sugar reduction was negated by the 3/4 cup of chocolate chips I added, but it's still better than the chocolate plus the original amount of sugar.

Right?

I tried reducing the oil and adding applesauce. I found that the interior moistness remained, but it gave the exterior a slight crunchiness that I didn't like. I'd rather just keep all the oil and not eat the cake like it's a main dish.

Just in case the link becomes unavailable, here's my modified version of the recipe:

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin
4 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 12x18 inch pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine sugar and oil. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared 12x18 inch pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Cousin sleepover

    Two of our nephews spent last Friday night with us. I didn't have anything crafty planned or a specific outing...just pizza and a movie and then bedtime. It was the first time we've had them over---which as they're 6 and 9 years old seems rather shameful. But times change...we used to see them a LOT more than we do now so sleepovers were never a thought. I'm actively working on changing that, though. The 9 year old and Oldest are so sweet together that it warms the cockles of my heart watching their interchanges. The 6 year old is two years older than Youngest so they don't have that much in common, but as a group they get along very well.

    As supported by this, unstaged, picture.




    My oldest nephew is playing his DSi while the others watch. (Hmmm. Have we come full circle in terms of electronic screens? Small to extra-large back to small...)

    I absolutely love having relatives over and making memories with them. We'll be seeing them again tomorrow as we head over to Marietta Square for its 33rd annual Harvest Square Arts and Crafts Festival. There'll be arts and crafts (duh), scarecrow contest entries, a kids' costume contest, a pet costume contest. We're not prepared to participate in the kids' costume contest, but this family will be represented next year. Husband is an EXCELLENT costume-maker!.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Welcome to my gym



    Since becoming an over-scheduled parent, I've attempted several times to incorporate exercise into my daily life. Each plan and good intention was invariably thwarted in some way. One July I started swimming in the early morning only to later discover that the pool would be closed during the entire month of August. I started hiking at a local state park only to learn a few days later that someone was attacking females there. I started walking in my neighborhood only to develop severe lower back pain due to my swayback (such an old-fashioned word!). I truly have multiple examples of how each of my plans was foiled.

    So here's my newest creative approach to getting exercise...my office building's stairwell. It is a really great workout and fits so well into my schedule. In about 5 minutes I can climb 17 flights of stairs, get my heart rate up, tone my muscles and then get back to work. Perfect. (Knock on wood.)

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Budding artist

    Here's a drawing that my four year old did last week.



    It's of him at the park. On the right, he drew a kid on a slide. He told his dad that it was the same kid and the reason he drew more than one is because he wanted to show the motion of the boy going down the slide.

    His dad, a graphic designer and illustrator, can barely contain his pride. Mom, of course, is very proud as well.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Makin' whoopee

    I can only imagine how many returns I would get on a Google search of the term "making whoopee." In my case, I didn't actually make any whoopee...pie, that is. Although it is most definitely on my list of to-do's; I even  have a recipe lined up to try. But last Sunday was not the day for that attempt. Instead, we enjoyed the pre-made version from Trader Joes.


    The pies were my family's weekly extra-special treat. I recently realized that the boys were getting used to dessert after dinner. The habit just kind of snuck up on us. Granted, they generally got fruit juice-based popsicles, but it still isn't a good habit to have. So we rather abruptly discontinued their daily after-dinner-sweet-treat routine but appeased them with the offer of something extra-special on Sundays. It's a lovely compromise because now I can make a weekly treat without feeling bad about adding to their sugar intake. Once a week is okay with me! (Daily, not so much.) And, suprisingly, they're actually quite content to wait until Sunday.

    After a day filled with activities (church, pet adoption visit, grocery store, picnic, park) we returned home and just lounged. Well. The kids did. When I  strolled into our backyard this is what I saw.


    Two pairs of feet in our new hammock.

    Oldest Son was playing his DS while Youngest Son looked on. They have their moments, but in general they play together so well. Their personalities complement each other. Amazing. They are ever so lucky.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    A 500 year flood

    I'd prefer to keep sadness out of this blog, but I really want to record this recent local catastrophe. It seems like it's the least that I can do. I feel that if I don't mention it, it's as if I'm pretending it didn't really happen...



    Photos: www.11alive.com

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey, "The flooding around Atlanta this week is one for the record books. The rivers and streams had magnitudes so great that the odds of it happening were less than 0.2 percent in any given year. In other words, there was less than a 1 in 500 chance that parts of Cobb and Douglas counties were going to be hit with such an event."

    The "1 in 500 chance," translated in terms of years means that a flood of that extreme would likely occur once every 500 years. One expert, taking into consideration the level of flooding that occurred at Clarkdale Elementary, stated that he thought it was an event even more rare than once every 500 years.

    In my world, this was a local event and yet I still can't believe it happened.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Unexpected lesson

    If you accidentally brush your teeth with Desitin, you must wipe it out. Rinsing will not remove it.

    This is what my visiting mother-in-law learned last weekend. When she told me what happened, I about collapsed with laughter, there is something just insanely hilarious about it. Three days later I can still feel the mirth bubbling up each time I remember the incident.

    (Image from Desitin.com.)

    For those of you not familiar with baby products, Desitin is a diaper rash prevention cream. When applied, it creates a barrier between baby's tush and any moisture which might "suddenly" appear in baby's diaper. The cream is basically waterproof. Hence the part about "Rinsing will not remove it."

    Cracks me up!

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    How cute is this?

    (Updated for 2015!)

    My oldest would be so sad if we had one and he couldn't fit in it.

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Blindly driving through the night

    I'm having vision issues. Easily rectified, I assume, but that in combination with wonky headlights does not make for relaxed non-daylight-driving.

    As I headed into the office in the wee hours of the morning, I caught sight of two branches JUST in time to swerve and avoid them. That's when I realized that I tend to "blindly drive through the night assuming that the paved roads ahead will be clear of debris."

    But don't we all do that?

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Doodles by a 16 year old


    Okay. So I'm a little late. (I'm SO nowhere near 16 years old!) And maybe they're more like something a 13 year old might doodle...

    For the past year or so I've been admiring various simple illustrations of girls. I've purchased a few original works from Etsy artists that I admire (like TheBlackApple, MarmeeCraft, and CraftyFolk), but I also want to create one myself. The problem is that I canNOT draw. So I'm practicing. I mean. "Simple" is my criteria. Eventually, and with some practice, I should be able to create "simple." Yes?

    p.s. The girl on the far right is inspired by a sketch drawn by the talented owner of  http://aprintaday.blogspot.com/. I'd link to the original image, but I couldn't find it.

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    To my friend Claudia

    When I think back to my college days with you, an image of me half-doubled over with laughter as we cross Landis Green always comes to mind. (I distinctly remember talking about "my roommate" with someone and that person responding, "You mean that girl you're always laughing with?")

    Thank you for being my friend. I'm an oddball in a such a non-traditional-oddball-kind-of-way that even oddballs think I'm odd. It takes a very special (and rare) type of person to be comfortable with me. I am grateful to have met you.

    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    Working mom guilt

    Well, not really. What I experience on a daily basis is a longing to be with my kids. I don't feel guilty about being at work because I understand that it's what I have to do. Now, if I wanted to be at the office, and chose to do so rather than staying home...then I would feel guilty. So, instead, I'm just a little bit heartsick everyday.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Last night's smile

    Cool evening. Boys are sleeping with their windows open. I think how lovely it must be to hear the fountain tinkling away outside.

    Suddenly Oldest Son says, "Omigosh, that fountain is making me have to go pee!"

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Well, now...

    ...thank goodness for that last entry! I had already forgotten that my youngest learned to fingersnap this summer. And NOW we know why I take so many photographs of family events. If I don't I'm not likely to remember what I did. (My poor husband has asked me if he's wasting his life with me...because my memory is so bad!)

    Mimi Kirchner, a doll artist is holding a pin cushion giveaway with the main requirement being that entrants embed her video. Here goes. Let's see if this works!



    I do like her work. And can completely relate to her overwhelming need to make things.

    Saturday, August 1, 2009

    Dollywood and fingersnapping

    Why is it easier for me to record thoughts here than on paper? One would think I could more quickly find the time to pull out a pen and paper...

    Last week (July 19 - 24) we took an official family vacation and went to Pigeon Forge, TN and Black Mountain, NC. Originally, I was just organizing a hotel sleepover for Mason's birthday present (as he requested). Then plans grew from there. It turned out to be an absolutely wonderful experience---lunch in Murphy (NC), Fontana Dam, Cades Cove, Inn at Christmas Place, Dollywood (and the Kratt brothers!), Biltmore and property, Black Mountain.

    And with so many hours on the road, Youngest Son practiced and practiced...until he learned how to snap his fingers. He was very, very, very proud of his accomplishment that week!

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009

    Baby arms

    Our youngest is sleeping in baby arms position. Does anyone else know what that means or is it just me? He's four years old now and I cherish any remaining signs of the baby he once was.