Thursday, January 28, 2010

Little Stars

Our little stars wanted to put on a performance tonight. It was so sweet to come back and watch these videos. I hope you enjoy them too.

Petra (26 months) absolutely astounds us everyday with everything she does. By the time I sit down to write about one thing, something else amazing and wonderful has happened. I feel like I couldn't possibly keep anyone up with everything. This morning she came down stairs and declared: "I want juice. (pause) I do not want milk." While we are still working on the pleasantness of her "requests," I was shocked that she so clearly put two sentences together.

Jasper is also surprising us in ways. He is still 15 months old - and he moves like an older child. He can walk on a balance beam now, he can climb up and down ladders ... and he can walk down the steps by himself! Are you kidding me? What 15 month old toddler can walk down steps? He can also crawl into his chair/booster seat and turn around and sit down by himself. If you want to see how this stacks up to what is developmentally appropriate - check this site - its what a child at 2 should be doing.

So, I thought it was time we try to capture a few things on video. Here are our little stars.

And Thomas made butter!

We were out of butter. Thomas' suggestion - I'll make some. As much as I try to make things from scratch - I never think about making butter.

Tonight he made a special treat - honey/cinnamon butter - it is mouthwatering. I found myself wanting to eat it by the spoonful...I had to restrain myself. Petra also had the same desire. She screamed when we wouldn't give her more.

I honestly sometimes think making butter may be his first real hobby. This isn't the first time he has made it - and its so good every time he does.

I baked bread!

I've been trying to rid our house of the following harmful foods:

1) white flour
2) white sugar
3) high fructose corn syrup
4) hydrogenated oil

And its not an easy job. One of the hardest things to find at the store is quality bread. So, I checked out the bread at the local co-op, and honestly I still wasn't sure what was in the bread. There were so many ingredients that I didn't recognize, that I was unsure about, and it was $5 a loaf.

So I decided there was no getting around it. It was time to make bread. And it turned out great. My family ate the first loaf in just 3 days ... the good news is I made 4 loaves at once.

The recipe I made was from a blog online called Passionate Homemaking. The lady who writes this blog had complete directions - including how to soak your grains in Kefir overnight for added benefit. Which I did. The recipe is here. The only thing I did different is that I did not use any white flour - only wheat flour - so ours is a lot heavier and denser than the bread you see in her picture. And I also added flax seed and sesame seeds.

So instead of buying bread at the co-op, I bought bulk organic wheat flour, wheat gluten, and honey. It is good, basic wheat bread. The children, especially Jasper, love it. And in total it cost me about $6 to make these 4 loaves.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tot School

I feel like my life is made up of small changes. Maybe everyone's is the same way. But I think it is more. I think Thomas and I are are slowing changing some everyday more than the average family ... it will be interesting to see where God takes us.

And the first month of a new year has been no exception.

You may have noticed a small addition to this blog in the last 2 weeks. There is a new logo on the side with an elephant ...

One of my goals for the next year is to have focused learning "school" time for the children. After running across the website - Tot School - I'm a huge fan and I'm incorporating much of that style of teaching children into our daily lives. Tot School is largely about teaching children through play and fun activities. But what is great about this website is that is has a ton of ideas, resources, and links to help you plan out weeks of learning for your child.

I'm also going to pull some from another website - ABC Jesus Love Me - a more defined curriculum that has weekly lesson plans online for free.

In had some pretty reasonable goals set out for Petra. I largely wanted to focus on letter recognition, sound recognition, and number skills. And I've already failed in the sense that I set my expectations for her way too low. I was gradually working on letter sounds with her - just a few letters a week was the plan. However, with the help of Leap Frog's Letter Factory video, and about 8 times sitting in front of it to watch it, she knows every letter sound .... nearly. She was confused about the letter U - but I think I may have been able to teach her this one also. So here she is at 26 months and knows every letter sound...

But not every letter. When I ask her to tell me the name of a letter - she either doesn't know, she knows and tells, or she makes the sound.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Asthma as an Adult?

The new year came … and brought me a cough, rough lungs, and a tight chest. Two days ago, my cough turned into longer coughing fits (or episodes) which were difficult to stop and had me gasping for breath.

And a mild headache came and lasted two days. At this point, I pretty much decided it was time to see the doctor. Did I mention I am tired also. (but no other problems)

The diagnosis this morning was: temporary asthma. Which is exactly what I starting to think it might be … but goodness who gets asthma for the first time at 33 years old?

I was told there was no reason to believe I would have asthma the rest of my life and this may go away for good … or it might be triggered by something … or well, the bottom line is there is no knowing what the future brings.

So, for the time being I have 2 inhalers and was told to call back if I don’t feel 75% better in two weeks time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

One of my priorities this year (and really over the last few months) has been to stay on top of meals for my family. This means not only providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone. But also providing nutritious meals with a variety of foods; providing lunches for us to take to work so we aren’t buying food out, and also managing our household food budget. (Some of my other goals are to get rid of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, white sugar and white flour, and have myself follow a more gluten-free diet).This list has me spinning – so I just keep reminding myself “baby steps.”

This means every morning I have to get up early to: prepare breakfast and lunch, and start on that day’s dinner if needed before I head off to work. Or at least that is the goal. And some days, like today, it doesn’t all get done. It takes a substantial amount of time and I hope to become more efficient at it in the future.

But I’ve been running out of ideas for meals, lunches, etc. So, this week I took out a cookbook by Jacques Pepin. At one point last year, Thomas brought me some of his recipes and said he would be willing to try anything he makes. Stunned, I scanned through the recipes --- onions, mushrooms, eggplant were all common and these are foods he prefers not to eat. Of course, I relished the idea of eating more of these foods that I like and never use anymore. So, I looked closer at them, but really didn’t do too much with them. We made a recipe here or there.
Until this week. I took down from our shelf a book we picked up by him at the used bookstore and LOVE it. Thomas has managed to stock our kitchen with about 5 cookbooks by Pepin and honestly I haven’t gotten around to reading them all. So, I was surprised to find one this week titled The Short-Cut Cook: Make Simple Meals with Surprisingly Little Effort. Everything is simple, easy, quick, and made with things on hand. Almost every page has a recipe I would love to try. And many of these recipes I already had ingredients for.

Yesterday, I dove in full force. I made sure I had the key herbs he uses in stock – swinging by the organic co-op and picking up bulk herbs which are so much less expensive than buying a bottle at the grocery store. And also picking up the 1 ingredient I seemed to need for each of the recipes I wanted to tackle over the next week.

And as a side note, I also picked up an 8lb ham, 4lbs ground beef, 6.5 lbs of ribeyes, 5.5 lbs pork loin chops, and 10 lbs of sausage for just $61. I was very happy to find meat on sale yesterday (not at our organic co-op). In case you are curious, that is just $1.79 per pound on average.

I made a few of the recipes earlier this week. But to my surprise, I made 4 recipes from the book in the last day or so. And it was not difficult because everything is really so simple, and the prep time for many of the recipes is minor. So over about a 25 hour period I made: Ham and Bean Soup, Banana Bread, a Blueberry Tart, and an Egg and Cheese Soufflé.

I absolutely loved the soup – I used left over kidney beans I had cooked a few days ago, with a small chunk of ham I just purchased and loved the overall flavor. Plus, I got to try a new hand blender that I got for Christmas – it was so smooth and mashed the beans up more quickly than imagined possible. And cleaned up fast. The soup was a breeze – I spent maybe 5 minutes or less on prep time, 10 minutes cooking it – and it was done. Easy enough for any rushed dinner after a day of work! Which is what I need.

I would also like to note here the soup was not that appealing in looks – nothing like mashed kidney beans to peak your interest. And the children were very wary about trying it. We snuck a bite to Jasper and that was all he needed to eat his small bowl. And at the end of the meal I bribed Petra into tasting it by letting her sit in my lap (a small price to pay)–she loved it and ate about 2.5 small bowlfuls.

Another great addition to this week was the chicken stock I made on Sunday and have had at my disposal all week. This has made a huge difference in all the flavor of our food, plus we had a meal from the chicken…it takes such a little amount of time and money and the benefit has been so great that I hope to make it every week just for this purpose.

So really, I guess I want to say just how happy I was with all the recipes this week and how exciting it is to have a cookbook with such great and easy recipes. I’m not the only one excited. Thomas helped fill up some of our spice jars this morning and was also pronouncing his excitement over the new flavors.

We love good food, but seriously who doesn’t?

(You can find Jacques Pepin recipes and videos online here)

Monday, January 4, 2010

More Photos from Christmas

We are very thankful to be home after a 3 week trip to NC. However, coming back home also meant going back to work. It was hard today to leave the children and head back to the office.

So tonight I am reminiscing with a few more photos from our Christmas break.

We rigged up a homemade sled (made from a box) and I pulled Petra around on it for some sledding fun. Also, notice the plastic bags around their feet! Ha! I did not go prepared for snow. And Thomas made snow cream for us all to enjoy. It has been probably 20 years since I last had snow cream.

We spent time with our family.

and Petra tried to take a photo of Aunt Lynn - but had the camera turned backwards. ooops!

And we even got a few moments to spend with close friends.