Friday, September 30, 2011

Just Life

Lauren at school 
Riding Bikes

Baby (monkey) wearing

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Butler County Farm Tour

Today was Farm Tour Day for us. Last year, not so hot...remember
This year, I'm happy to say that we had no injuries and just one minor pee-pee accident. 
And a lot of fun.

Digging for Potatoes 
Checking out farm equipment...
(look how cute my husband is!)
Enjoying the Mums at the Nursery
Take 2. Couldn't pick which one I like best.
Having Pedal-tractor pulls.

If you have never been on one of the county farm tours in Pennsylvania...I strongly suggest you try it out next year. It's a great way to get out and enjoy the community, to find out about and support our local farmers, and to teach your children where their food comes from. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

  • This morning I was really annoyed to open the garage door and find our outside garbage can was turned on its side and all the garbage was strewn about the driveway. Dang stinkin' critters! As I was cleaning up the mess, in the rain, I lost my grocery list. Awesome. 
  • Picking up Ian from preschool on Fridays is also annoying. We have a kid-pick-up-caravan that is great when people actually follow the rules. (I don't do the caravan on Mondays or Wednesdays since I'm also picking up Aaron.) The preschool asks that each parent line up, in their cars, around the circle in front of the school. The teachers bring the kids to the cars. You put your kid in his seat and wait for the cars in front of you to move along so you can drive out. Then, the next 5 or so cars can pull up and do the same thing. That way no cars are passing other cars in the circle while little kids are moving about. It also goes really quickly when people actually do what they're supposed to. It almost never works. I kid you not. There is always a parent or two who just don't understand it (or, don't care to play by the rules). I saw them all at orientation when they told us how pick-up works, yet they park... seven cars back from the circle...get out, go up to the sidewalk, stand there chatting with someone, etc. All the while the rest of the parents/cars are waiting... It's SO annoying. Did I already say that?
  • Roger wants me to make this: I plan on granting that request either tonight or tomorrow morning. Pumpkin might be the best thing about Autumn. 
  • Speaking of Autumn, who ordered this crappy weather? It's been so rainy here the last few weeks. I can deal with the cooler temperatures, in fact I might even say I kinda like 65 instead of 90, but no sun? I really miss the sun already. Ian's baseball game on Monday night was played in the pouring down rain. There was no lightning so they played. On Tuesday, the game was cancelled because of field conditions. I sincerely doubt they'll play tomorrow. Hopefully the sun comes out and it dries up for Monday's game. 
  • Lauren is the proud owner of another tooth. This time it's on the bottom, to the right of her first bottom teeth. She's also walking all over the place. She now prefers walking to crawling and will stand back up to continue on her way instead of crawling after she falls down. 
  • We played with friends yesterday. They have five kittens. Aaron was loving it. He sees Ian act scared and thinks he needs to be too, but when he was on his own, he was petting, kissing, talking, etc. with those kitties. So cute. He also enjoys meeting all the doggies that come to Ian's baseball games. 
  • We have a "chip" (as in, poker chip) earning system at our house right now. It's been going about a month and it is working. Ian and Aaron do "things that make mommy and daddy happy" and are sometimes rewarded with a chip. They keep their chips in mason jars on the window sill. They can spend their chips on things like: a pretzel or swedish fish from the snack bar at baseball, a trip to the playground, miniature golf with daddy (a daddy date!), a toy from the toy store, etc. It's exactly what we needed to encourage better behavior. A couple of notes about it: we never take chips away for bad behavior. Once you've earned a chip, it's yours. We don't reward all good acts with chips. The chips come randomly so that the kiddos choose to do more good things and be more helpful. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chili Tortilla Clams

This is a silly recipe! It's not even a recipe as much as just an idea... an idea straight from the mind of our four year old. The other night we had chili for dinner and I served it with Tostitos Scoops chips. Ian decided he liked to eat his as little pies/clams. He would spoon some chili into the scoop, top it with cheddar cheese, and put another scoop chip on top.

"Mom! This looks like a clam!" he said as he raised and lowered the top chip like a clam shell.

Then I thought that you could make an easy appetizer or fun kids dinner idea by putting chili in the scoop chips, topping with cheese and baking them, then topping with sour cream. (I'm certain someone has already thought of this idea...I'm not that original.) You can top it with another chip to make a clam, or leave it as a pie.

So next time you are thinking about having chili for dinner or you need to take an appetizer somewhere... try it out!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Zoo: Polar Bears Swimming!

It's a rare and special treat to actually get to see the polar bears swimming at the Pittsburgh zoo. We have been fortunate enough to see it twice, since the exhibit opened a few years ago. (Ha!)

Here's what one of the bears was doing on Sunday during the Elephant's Birthday Party!

Ok, this is not of the Polar Bears, but I thought it was cute anyway!
*notice the matching shirts!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Four is the new Two?

Terrible Twos.

Everyone has heard about the terrible twos. What exactly is so terrible? I'm not sure... My children (so far) haven't seemed to hit the terrible twos until they turn three... the new attitude, the ability to communicate, the ability to say no to mama. It's no fun.

Here's the thing, though. Four has so far, been much worse than three ever tried to be.

We are having major issues with our four year old. He's grumpy, stubborn, having toilet issues... unwilling to pick up toys, getting into things he shouldn't be, and refusing to sleep despite being very tired.

<<<insert break>>>

I started typing this post this morning before school. All hell was breaking loose. I was starting to lose my mind. It was one of those mornings, you know, when you just want people to put on their clothes and shoes and finish their breakfast so you can get out the door without losing your voice. But instead of doing what you want them to do, they just smash crackers into the carpet, scream no at you, and refuse to do anything productive.

After school, Ian wanted to go back to his classroom because he lost one of his cars and he wanted to see if it was there. I had a chance to talk to his teachers, who reported he's doing fabulous in school. No stubbornness, no yelling, no grumpy. They were so surprised when I told them how he's been acting at home.

Super. Our son is Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

Are all four-year-olds like that? I seem to get an impression that a lot of them are, but not many parents are willing to dis their kids in front of other parents. I'd like to know, though, because the way Ian has been acting the last few days, I'm starting to wonder if there's something more than "being four" going on with him.

Anyway, the tables have been turned and he's been quite a delight this afternoon. He even settled in on the couch for a nap. (He hasn't taken one for several weeks.)

So what in the world? Again, with the game of Clue...

Learning to walk means:

Getting way more adventurous.

And following big brothers' lead!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baseball Games

Ian's playing baseball in the fall league right now. He seems to really love it. We've been spending our evenings at the ball fields! And they've been beautiful nights so far.

Lauren's new hat

playing pitcher 

What Lauren does during the games

What Aaron does during the games

Ergo Carrier, Not Just For Babies

Sometimes 36 pound four and a half year olds want to hitch a ride too...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Canning Tomatoes

My mom has canned tomatoes for ages. Long before I was ever a twinkle in her eye, I'm sure. Every fall for as long as I can remember, my mom has "done tomatoes" in glass jars. Of course, my parents grew their own tomatoes in their abundant garden. In the event that the crop wasn't good, they always procured tomatoes so my mom could preserve them.

Emily, Todd, and I on the front porch with one day's
worth of picked tomatoes. All to be canned by my mom!
I need a big steel pot like that.

Confession:  I have never liked those canned tomatoes. 

It's not because they didn't tasted good, because everyone else loves them. I just don't like the seeds and "chunks" of home-canned tomatoes when dumped right into spaghetti sauce or chili. I'm not a tomato chunk lady. I used the tomatoes when I make sauce and chili for Roger and the kids, but I always keep a little not-chunky sauce on the side for myself. 

I've been wanting to try preserving tomatoes myself, but only if I could do actual tomato sauce instead of whole tomatoes. With an extra gentle push from my friend Jojo... I decided to try it.

This is a good read for first-timers like me.
I will say though, that I did have some basic knowledge
having been around a tomato-preserver my whole life.
We drove down to Triple B Farms to buy our tomatoes. I bought a whole bushel. My dad convinced me it was worth it because there's a late blight setting in on Western PA's tomato crop and I "should just get the whole bushel."  We also bought apples and corn. They kids got to feed the goats and play on the playground. We came home, I started the process and it took a very long time.

Another confession:  I didn't like canning tomatoes. 

Ok, to be fair, I wasn't canning tomato quarters like my mom does. I was canning tomato sauce, which requires a bunch of extra steps like stewing the tomatoes then running them through the food mill (crank, crank, crank) then cooking the juice down until it is thick enough to be called sauce. (But not so long that it no longer has any vitamins left in it!) It was quite the process. 

Add three kids ages 4.5 and under to the mix, one of whom is an extremely needy one year old, and it's a serious headache. 

I just kept plugging along, though, and with the encouragement of my friends and my parents, I finished my whole bushel of tomatoes. I ended up with 15, perfectly sealed pint jars of homemade tomato sauce. 

I'm proud! I did it! I don't know if I'll do it again, but I did it! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homemade Noodles

I would have taken a picture for you...of our chicken noodle soup...but it was entirely consumed. Nothing left over. Apparently it was a huge hit tonight!

Here's the recipe for homemade noodles for soups:
Source: The Miller Family Cookbook

1 Egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. Milk
1/2 tsp. Salt
flour (about 1 cup)

Mix egg, milk, and salt. Add enough flour to make stiff dough. Roll out very thin on floured surface. Roll up as a jelly roll. Let rest 20 minutes. Unroll. Cut into desired lengths. Spread out and dry for 2 hours. Store in covered container until needed. To cook: boil 8-10 minutes, uncovered.

*notes from me, after making this the first time*

-These noodles are so simple. I absolutely believe that anyone can do it.
-I used my stand mixer with the beater attachment and it took less than 1 minute to come to a stiff dough.
-liberally flour your rolling surface.
-I rolled mine to about 1/8 inch thick. I cut them into 1.5-2 inch long, 1/2 inch wide pieces. When they cooked up, they were the perfect "home" noodle size and thickness!
-They were absolutely delicious in chicken noodle, but I'd love to make roast beef w/ gravy and serve over these noodles.
-This recipe only makes a "one pot" amount of noodles, but you can absolutely double, triple, whatever and freeze the unused noodles. I have eaten my sister's homemade noodles, frozen for me, more than a year later and they were still delicious.

First Day of Preschool 2011!

getting out of the car
refusing to indulge mommy with smiles today
This is what I got when I said,
"Please stand tall and look at mommy!"

Here's last year's picture!

Lauren is Walking

Both of her brothers started walking on their first birthdays. But Lauren's different in almost every way and decided to wait an extra 6 weeks to take off on foot.

Lauren started walking this past Friday, September 2nd, 2011.

She still crawls quite a bit, but each day the walking increases!

We've had a BUSY week full of milestones!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rainy Day Dinner: Italian Beef Soup and Homemade Bread

I use Burghilicious' rendition for sandwich bread, since we are out:

And I really thought I posted the recipe for Italian Beef Soup already, but I guess I haven't?

It's a SV Original so there are no exact measurements.

Italian Beef Soup
Beef cut into bite-size cubes. (today I used a couple of single round steaks I found in the freezer.)
Olive Oil
1 15oz Can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
Italian Seasoning
Garlic Powder
A couple potatoes cut into bite-size pieces (I use about 1 potato per adult eating soup, usually 3 potatoes for our family)
steel cut oats or Kashi 7-grain pilaf (2-3 Tbsp)
macaroni (of whatever shape you want!)
mozzarella or parmesan cheese (or both)

Heat a soup pot with a little olive oil in the bottom. Brown beef, add water until covering the beef. (At this point you can add more water if you want to make a LOT of soup! I usually put water about 1/2 way up in my 4.5qt dutch oven)  Add tomato sauce & paste, spices, potatoes, & grain. Cook on low stirring occasionally for a minimum of 30 minutes. (you can cook this all day. The longer it cooks the better it tastes, but it is still really good cooked quickly. You may need to add more water occasionally if you cook it a long time.) Add pasta about 10 minutes before serving so it can cook to al-dente.

Serve with crusty bread and topped with cheese.

We went to Magic Mountain Fun Center

in Columbus, OH over the weekend.

Today the conversation goes like this:

Aaron: "Mom, I don't want to go to Magneto Mountain ever again."
Me: "You mean Magic Mountain. Why not?"
Aaron" "Magneto Mountain!"
Ian: "Maggot Mountain."
Aaron: "Magneto."
Ian: "Magnet Mountain?"
Me: "MAGIC Mountain."
Aaron: "Magneto Mountain! Never Again!"

Ohhh boy.

Aaron's Decision about Using the Potty

Of course, right after Huggies comes out with the slide on diaper, Aaron suddenly wants to use the potty.

It's something I've never experienced first-hand before. I've heard of kids who just decide to use the potty and that's it, but I've never actually seen it.

Two Fridays ago, Aaron decided he was going to wear underpants. Rarely one to discourage the use of the potty, I went with it. I was pretty sure it was just a passing fancy.

But he's been wearing underpants and using the potty ever since. Including this past weekend while we were away from home.

He's amazing.

He is 6 weeks shy of three years old and I'm very impressed. Let's hope it sticks!