Monday, March 29, 2010

Today Noah turns three years old. He has been looking forward to this for a few months now, and has been jubilantly telling random strangers all over town that he is going to have a Thomas cake for his birthday.

We celebrated his birthday last night at home with just our family and one of Emma's friends, whom Noah adores and wanted to invite. I made him this cake, which I thought ended up being pretty darn cute. When I was making it, I discovered I was one egg short so - after a quick search online - I threw in a banana to make up for the missing egg. After her first bite, Emma's friend exclaimed, "This cake tastes like banana bread!" We all agreed it was a very banana-y chocolate cake, but luckily bananas and chocolate go well together so it was still delicious.Noah was so excited about the reveal of his long-awaited Thomas cake that he apparently couldn't stand the suspense while Steve was carrying it over to the table.When he uncovered his eyes, he clasped his hands together in joyful anticipation. I just love this look on his face!He didn't even wait for us to finish singing before he leaned forward and blew out his candles. And really, considering how excited he was, I'm surprised he waited as long as he did.The only unfortunate part about the evening was that afterward I realized that I forgot to get out his birthday crown. It's okay though, because I think he was happy enough to wear his new Royals hat.Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A few weeks ago I read this post about homemade taffy. I thought it looked fun and messy and since I love taffy and my kids love making messes, I thought we'd give it a try.
The kids were excited and really into the prep work. They argued over who was going to smear the butter into the pan, and they both really really wanted to stand by the stove and watch the taffy mixture cook. Unfortunately, it took so long to cook that by the time it was done, Noah had pretty much lost interest. He and Emma started to pull it, which I thought he would like, but I barely had time to snap one picture before he ran off.
Emma worked with it awhile longer, but in the end it was good old mommy who did most of the taffy pulling. It started getting pretty stuff, so it was hard work after awhile! I decided it was finished when I started to feel like my arms were going to fall off.I stretched it into thin strips and then cut the strips into bite-size pieces, which Emma then rolled up in waxed paper. During this time Allie was clinging to my legs, crying about something or other. I couldn't stretch the taffy while holding her, so I sat down with her on my lap and helped Emma wrap the pieces that were already cut.Maybe three or four minutes later, I went to grab the huge glob of taffy that was still left and discovered that it had turned into a rock-hard glob of taffy. Stretching or pulling it in any way was impossible. We had to throw all of this out, so if you ever try this yourself, don't take a break - even a really short one - in the middle of cutting the taffy!I think they ended up being pretty delicious, although they remind me more of Now and Laters than of real taffy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Last week was spring break and it ended up being a pretty great week. That is mostly due to my brother and sister-in-law selling their house the previous weekend. They, along with my parents, came to Kansas City on Monday and we all went with them to look at some houses and make a final decision on which one they wanted. They made an offer and reached a deal the next day, so now they will officially be living here, less than ten minutes away from us! Hurray! They will even be going to our church and when they have kids, their kids will go to the same school as ours. I am so unbelievably happy about this!

The good news didn't stop there, though. My dad had to go back home Tuesday morning, but my mom stayed with us until Wednesday evening and I LOVE it when my mom is here. So, all that greatness coupled with the lovely weather we had Thursday and Friday added up to a pretty fantastic week. The upcoming week should be good too because I'm going to ignore the eight inches of snow we got yesterday and think only about the warm temperatures that are predicted.

A couple other random things...I crocheted this shamrock garland and I think it's so cute. Since I liked the Valentine's Day one and this one so much, I'm going to scour the internet and try to find a pattern for one for every holiday.
And here is Noah, sporting the ensemble he currently wears whenever we leave the house. He says he is a cowboy, but why he thinks cowboys look anything even remotely like this, I have no idea.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Last week the Pioneer Woman posted a Sundried Tomato Risotto recipe, and in the post she also linked to her Roasted Red Pepper Risotto recipe. Yum. I love risotto, but I had never tried either of those varieties so I put them on my list of things I want to make very, very soon. Since I was planning to make them both, I decided to perform a little experiment.

Although risotto recipes generally call for Arborio rice, I heard once (before I ever made risotto) that you can use barley and it will get just as creamy and delicious as the Arborio. Assuming Barley was healthier, I've just always used that, with great results. This time I decided to get some Arborio rice and use it for one of the recipes so I could compare it with the barley.I made the sundried tomato one first, using the Arborio rice, and it was fabulous. Super delicious. My previous favorite risotto was Ina's Butternut Squash Risotto, but I'm pretty sure this was even better than that. I don't necessarily think the deliciousness was from the rice as much as it was just a really good recipe, although I guess I won't know that for sure until I try it with the barley.The next day I made the red pepper version and I used the barley. It was creamy and perfect, at least until the very end. Pioneer Woman says to add five ounces of goat cheese and a half teaspoon of turmeric (for color) to the risotto once it has finished cooking. I think five ounces was way too much because it completely overpowered the other flavors. I like goat cheese a lot, but "goat cheese risotto" might be overdoing it a bit. Also, the turmeric added a Kraft macaroni and cheese-esque neon color to the risotto that I found unappealing. The kids really liked this, but I wasn't a huge fan. Again though, I think that had more to do with the recipe than with the barley.
Since these results are somewhat inconclusive, I compared the labels of both products to make my final analysis. The barley had, among other things, almost half the calories, five times the fiber, and three times the iron of the Arborio. The only thing the rice had on the barley was protein, with five grams to barley's three. If you also take into account the fact that the rice costs about five times more than the barley, I think that barley is the clear winner in this experiment. Congratulations, barley!And while we're on the topic of Pioneer Woman, I thought I'd share these Coffee Toffee Bars I made last week. They were good and I plan on making them again, but will sub vanilla for the almond extract and sprinkle some Heath crumbles on top. Mmmm, I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Sunday we wanted to make the most of the nice weather so we packed up the kids and their bikes and set out in search of some trails. Steve and I have high hopes that we will all be able to go on bike rides together at some point, but so far our plans aren't really working out.

I can't remember if I blogged about this before, but last year Steve and I got new bikes, along with a trailer for him to pull Emma and Noah and this awesome bike seat for me to carry Allie. It was all great and we can still do that this year, but Allie isn't going to fit in that seat forever, and at this point none of our kids are even remotely close to being able to go on an actual bike ride. "Actual" meaning a bike ride where one travels at a pace faster than a slug.
Emma got her bike two years ago and is still really timid on it. Like she'll consider pushing the pedals, but when she actually starts to move, she freaks and slams on the brakes. You can imagine this does not lead to speedy bike riding.
We got Noah a little bike last year, thinking he would love it, but he was too scared to ever ride it. We were sure this year he would hop right on and pedal away, but no. We had to beg and cajole him to just get on it in the first place, and in the end he spent most of the time chasing after poor Allie and trying to steal her bike.
Allie didn't sit on her bike, but stood up and ran with it clumsily banging around beneath her. At least she was less fearful than the other two - once she got going, she wasn't stopping for anything. I spent a good portion of the excursion yelling for her to come back, but I guess she was too invigorated by the wind in her hair to pay any attention to such things.Of course, a the best part of any bike ride is when Steve hops on Noah's bike. And, even though he looks hilarious as he peddles around on that tiny bike, he still leaves the children in the dust.

Monday, March 08, 2010

I finished a quilt! Yay! I'm not exactly sure when I started this one, but I'm pretty sure it was over a year ago. It's called a ragged squares quilt, and Crazy Mom Quilts posted a tutorial for it awhile ago. Every bit of the fabric I used on the quilt top came from my wonderful - and sadly, rarely used - fabric stash.Sewing the top for this quilt was easy and fun, but the quilting of it was not. It took me forever and was very tedious. I had to quilt three squares in each block, and for every single square I had to rotate the entire quilt. That means I had to shove the whole bulk of the quilt through the middle of the sewing machine 154 times. All that fabric stuffing got very tedious very quickly, which was the main reason that this quilt took me so long.The backing of this quilt is my favorite part. A long time ago I bought some sheets at Target that were pretty ugly, but were on clearance for dirt cheap. I only ever put them on the bed when all our other sheets were in the wash. It so happens that those sheets were on the bed the day Noah was born. Even though I still thought they were ugly, after that I started using them more because they were a happy reminder of his birth. The elastic eventually wore out on the fitted sheet, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them so they just sat there. I was trying to figure out what backing to use for this quilt and I remembered those sheets, taking up space in the closet. Perfect. They're an exact match for the front of the quilt. Even more importantly, I love that the back of this quilt is made up of those cheap, ugly sheets onto which my sweet baby boy was born.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Don't be fooled. This little girl may look sweet and angelic, and she usually is, but she has recently developed a fiery temper. Emma and Noah never did the whole temper tantrum thing very much, but Allie - wow. There are a few things that can really set her off these days. For example, she hates getting in her carseat. When I'm trying to buckle her in there, she arches her back and screams and kicks. It's a little ridiculous because I have to push my head against her torso to get her body to bend so I can buckle her. Once the buckles are closed, she's over it and completely fine.Her biggest issue is wearing clothes. She fights and screams and struggles and basically completely flips out whenever I attempt to put a diaper or clothes on her. She's been running around naked a lot, but I can't leave the house with a naked baby so we have to endure the struggle of trying to get her dressed at least once a day.

On the flip side, sometimes she'll decide she wants to wear a whole bunch of clothes at once. She'll bring me random articles of clothing she finds and insist I put them on. I am happy to do it because it's certainly better than the alternative - even if it means going to the library with my little girl wearing Thomas underwear on the outside of Thomas pajama pants.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

When I woke up on Saturday, I got out of bed and came down the hall to find this scene: the people (and dog) that I love most enjoying a sweet moment together and - for once - letting me sleep in a little bit. It was a good start to the day.

Monday, March 01, 2010

One of the things we gave Emma for her birthday was a beeswax candle rolling kit. I like burning candles and she likes to make things so I thought it was an ideal present. We got the kit out over the weekend and I am so pleased with it! She worked diligently for over an hour and ended up with nine lovely candles.
I think generally candles are expensive for the amount of hours they burn, but this seemed to me like a great deal. I wasn't sure how good the quality of the candles would be, but they burn really slowly. We've been enjoying burning the ones she made so far, and there is still enough beeswax left for at least nine more!In an amusing but completely unrelated side story, on Friday afternoon I was looking through the papers Emma brought home from school. When her class is writing words that they don't know how to spell, Emma's teacher encourages them to sound it out and guess on the spelling. I love Emma's spelling of "nails" so much that I hung this one on the fridge so that I can look at it and smile all day long.