Friday, February 27, 2009

Arkansas weather

Yesterday: 72 degrees! In February!
Tomorrow: 30 degrees and snow!

Go ahead...

make yourself comfortable
in the middle of the kitchen floor...
Hopkins is known for curling up and sprawling out in the strangest of places, usually somewhere involving heavy foot traffic.
No. I don't usually keep a blanket on the kitchen floor. The blanket was on the floor for Liam to have a warm place to play with some toys while I made dinnner (our tile is cold in the winter...). Hopkins stretched out while we were all sitting at the table.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stacking blocks

Liam loves stacking his blocks. He's very precise about it, and it makes him so very excited. And he gets upset when it doesn't work quite like he wanted. He seems a tad bit OCD sometimes. Hmmm...I see traces of myself here.

Samantha, how I've missed you...

Liam and I have both been sick with a nasty head cold the past few days. Taking care of a baby while you're sick is no fun. Taking care of a sick baby is terrible. The two combined is just awful.
At least Liam has been napping more and for longer periods of time, which gives me time to medicate myself with extra knitting.
A certain friend's baby is expected any day now, and I decided to try out a baby bootie pattern I've had my eye on. They didn't turn out quite as expected.
disclaimer: in the pattern photo the cuffs looked plush, cozy, and merely gathered, suitable for a boy or girl.
problem #1:
They are RUFFLED.
The gender is a surprise, but I suspect they're having a boy. Ruffles will not do.
problem #2:
They turned out teeny tiny despite being sized for 0-3 months. These booties are clearly not meant for tall-person genes.
So I decided that these booties will go on Etsy instead. Amy, don't worry I'll make more, and they will be different so the surprise isn't entirely spoiled.
And then I had a realization: they seem just the right size for my Samantha doll.
So I got her out of my closet smoothed her dress and hair, then slipped them on her feet.
I was right. They fit perfectly.

Isn't she stylish?

Encouraging blossoms

I've seen Martha Stewart and other crafty sources go on and on about the joys of forcing early blooms, but I never tried it. Maybe it was because I was afraid that my cuttings just wouldn't work, or perhaps it was the barbarity of the term: I didn't want to force my plants to do anything. Then I realized that was just plain silly. I wouldn't really be forcing my plants into anything they weren't ready to do; instead I'd be giving them the opportunity to get a head start on what they were planning to do anyhow. I'd be encouraging them in their springtime efforts.

So I did it. And the results are fantastic. An early peek at spring above my kitchen sink.

Here's how I did it:

Take clippings of any spring-blooming shrub or tree. I used forsythia.

Stick them in water in a sunny location. Change water periodically until blooms emerge.

That's it! And look how beautiful they are: So, for some early spring time blossoms, encourage some clippings on your window sill.

For more Thrifty Green Thursday ideas head on over to the Green Baby Guide.

First sprouts of spring

Last week, I planted a flat of seeds to get a head start on our spring planting. The broccoli wins the first-to-peek-through prize!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Favorite new foods

Grandma Hall will be happy to hear that Liam loves Grapefruit, and Grandpa Hall would surely get a kick out of how much Liam enjoys raw onion. He happily munches away on it!

Check out those teeth!

He's up to five now: 3 on top. 2 on bottom.

While holding Liam the other day, Micah remarked, "Wow, it's like I'm holding Gabe!"
I can definitely relate. The older Liam gets, the more he resembles his daddy.

The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm always looking for healthier cookie recipes, since I make some every week for Gabriel to take in his lunches. These definitely fit the bill. As an added bonus, they're vegan.

This scrumptious recipe is from The Vegetarian Times February 2009 issue.

2 cups walnuts

3 Tbsp canola oil

1 cup brown sugar (I use sucanat)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups oat flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I use Sunspire vegan choc. chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.

2. Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add canola oil, and blend 2 to 3 minutes more or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter, scraping down the sides of food processor occasionally. Transfer to bowl.

3. Whisk together brown sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Pour brown sugar mixture over ground walnut butter, add vanilla extract, and stir until no lumps remain.

4. Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.

5. Shape cookies into 2-inch balls, and place 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately 30 cookies.

Another weekend on the shed

Gabriel put in 2 full days of work, and he managed to sheath the entire shed on his own.

Liam gave him pointers from the ground.
Still to come:
Shingles - he still hasn't quite figured out the best way to do this on such a steep slope...
Corrugated metal sheets on the bottom half (salvaged from the old shed's roof)
Stain the exterior

And then we move to the inside.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

architectural details

Gabriel is doing a great job giving our shed those special details. He even added an extra ridge line to make the porch look appealing, complete with decorative carriage bolts at the base of the T. This framing is taking a bit longer, thanks to all of those fancy angles.
Not to worry, Gabriel works his circular saw through all of those tricky angles. He's a master.

A little time outdoors

is wonderful. Even on a nippy day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Remember when

it used to be green outside?

A new garden shed

Ever since we first bought our home 5 years ago, Gabriel has been wanting to rebuild our little garden shed. Yes, it was cute. But, it also leaked terribly, and even I had to duck to get through the doorway.

Thanks to Uncle Sam's refund and that nifty child tax credit, we finally have the funds to build Gabriel's dream shed. He has been working on plans for the past few months, and yesterday, we finally got to work on it.

The Grays came out to help, even though Micah had worked a 24-hour shift the day before. What an amazing friend!

Crystal and I hung out with the little ones inside and were so incredibly sad to miss out on all the hard work outside in the freezing cold.

Here is what the shed looked like last summer. Notice the window is boarded up, thanks to an accident during our home remodel 2 years ago.

Unfortunately, the camera missed the exciting roof-removal process. It seemed to be a highlight of the day.

The slab all cleaned off and ready .

The Element earned its keep.

Somehow, the roof is ending up a bit taller than we had anticipated. But we sure like the storage possibilities: bikes, ladders, etc...

tricky, tricky, tricky

By the end of the day, the roof was nearly framed, and the guys were a wee bit exhausted. Gabriel is out there today, finishing up with the framing.
More pictures to come...
You can see more about it on Crystal's blog.

Happy Valentine's Day

Yesterday, we were treated with the Gray's company all day long. The guys worked on a project outside (click here to see more about that...), and Liam and I hung out with Crystal and Simone. It was so great to be able to spend time together. It's funny how very far away Fayetteville seems sometimes.

Simone was super cute in her heart-print pants.

We kept telling her to give Liam a hug or a kiss and she'd bend down and have the mokey kiss him instead.

Sharing a whipped cream covered beater.

All pajama-ed up and ready for bed.
What a good day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Liam

No, it's not Liam's birthday quite yet (we still have a little over a month), but we bought his gift with our income tax return, and just couldn't wait to put it to good use.

We'd been admiring these European style high chairs for quite some time. Not only is there no plastic involved, but they also adjust in height and can support an adult's weight. So this won't have to be stored somewhere when he no longer needs a high chair. We ended up going with the Keekaroo brand. So far, we love it! Liam likes it, too.

So, Happy early Birthday, Liam.

Molly's demo video

If you've ever wondered what a circus star looks like, you should check out my sister's new demo video.
I'm so impressed! You will be, too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the mystery prize

The tickets I won from NPR came in the mail over the weekend. Gabriel and I will be going down to Fort Smith Friday evening to enjoy a trumpet and trombone jazz concert at the U of A.

It will definitely be something different. The Bouchers will watch Liam, and it's a date.

We're pretty excited.

kid swap

I won concert tickets from NPR (you can read about it here ), and since we need a babysitter for it, and the Bouchers needed a baby sitter too, we decided to swap some babysitting.

Last night, we had Caleb and Owen Boucher come and play for a while. They put Liam's train set from Ema and Cora to great use.
Gabriel got in on all the fun (he's blowing a train whistle...).
Liam was excited to share his toys with Owen.
It was a fun night for everyone, although we're glad we don't have three little boys of our own just yet.

from Mount Olympus

This is the best yogurt. Ever.
It's thick and creamy and oh-so-yummy. And pricey. But it's on sale this week at Ozark Natural Foods. Thank Heaven, or Mount Olympus.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I won again!

I must be in the middle of a winning streak here:

A few weeks ago I entered probably around 100 different giveaways during the bloggy giveaway carnival, and I just found out that I won one of them!!!

Here's what we're getting:

A Bumkins size medium "Chunky Monkey" diaper cover .

And a Bumkins "Chunky Monkey" waterproof Dirty Duds bag.

I was just thinking recently that Liam could really use another diaper cover...and he wears a size medium...

And I was also contemplating getting a new wet bag for the diaper bag.

And now I'm getting both. This is unbelievably exciting and a much needed pick-me-up.

Thank you, Delectible Mommies, for the awesome giveaway!

Friday, February 6, 2009

All Done

We have been working on teaching Liam some basic sign language. This is the only one he signs back so far (and he actually is saying it, too...although you may have to be his mother to translate):

Food Adventures

Liam loves to eat. It's probably his favorite activity.

Here are some recent favorites:

for breakfast

a banana and a slice of almond butter toast

any kind of muffin

pancakes or waffles

for lunch

grilled cheese sandwich



plain yogurt

for dinner

basically whatever we're eating

He recently has discovered the art of dipping, and he wants me to dip everything for him. Repeatedly. His favorite dips? almond or peanut butter, yogurt, ketchup, and surprisingly, my tomato vinaigrette.

Pesky Cat

At 5:30 this morning, I heard Liam talking and giggling. I instantly knew what was going on. Both of our cats have been climbing into his crib with him lately. Coleridge normally just curls up next to him, but Hopkins gets a bit more interactive.

After a few minutes, Liam's happy giggles turned into complaining cries and I headed downstairs to kick the cat out of his room.

When I got there, Hopkins was sitting on Liam's stomach and kneading his chest. Liam was trying to push him off. And, Liam had drool all over his forehead (yes, this cat drools).

I sure wish I had my camera at that moment, but who carries one around at 5 in the morning?

This reminder will have to do: Hopkins has always insisted on being really close with Liam.
8 weeks - seems so long ago now

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I won!!!

I listen to NPR all throughout the day, and there are a number of giveaways for answering trivia questions, being the 20th caller, etc... and, of course, I always call in.

Normally, I just get a busy tone, or get so close as to being the 19th caller; I figure that one of these times I'll get lucky.

Well, today's the day! I was the 20th caller. WooHoo!!! It's so exciting.

Now here is the funniest part:

I don't know what I won.

I was in the other room when she announced the prize, but I heard the part about being caller number 20, so I just called in. I couldn't bring myself to ask her, so what did I win?

I think it's tickets of some sort. Maybe to the Walton Arts Center, or to the Malco movie theater? Whatever it is, it's coming to my mailbox soon...

Green Clean Your Coffee Maker

The other day, I thought my coffee maker had brewed its last pot for good.

Instead of brewing the full 8 cups I normally make for me and Linda, it only dripped through 2 cups. If even that much. The rest went up in steam that collected on the underside of my upper kitchen cabinets. I brewed another pot. The same things happened.

I thought my free Gevalia coffee pot had finally gone up in smoke, or well, steam.

Then I thought I'd give it one last chance. I brewed a pot of white vinegar, to try and clean out whatever gunk could possibly be hidden from view. And it came out dark brown. Gross.

Then I rinsed it by brewing 4 pots of plain water.

And now it works good as new.

So, before you throw out a funky coffee maker, give vinegar a try. It probably would be a good idea to do this periodically, anyhow.

For more Thrifty Green Thursday ideas, head on over to the Green Baby Guide by clicking here.

Better than delivery. Better than Digiorno.

Friday is pizza night at our house, and nothing is better than homemade - although I must confess that we ate a number of Digiorno and Freschetta pizzas while I was pregnant...

But the kind we make now is way better. The secret: 5 minute artisan bread dough.

Here is how I make it:

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone on the middle shelf. I know that's really hot, but the pizzas turn out so much better crisp and caramelized but still light and fluffy, and they take only 10 minutes to bake!

2. Prepare your toppings:

some of our favorites
the classic
pizza sauce, mozzarella, sliced olives, and choppped onion
make it Greek
pizza sauce, mozzarella, feta cheese, chopped red onion, sliced olives, and sliced pepperoncinis
pesto perfected
prepared pesto, goat cheese sliced thinly, a sprinkle of olive oil, garlic, and roasted red bell peppers

3. Scoop out about 1 pound (about the size of a grapefruit) of the 5 minute artisan bread dough from the container. For a smaller pizza, scoop less. For a bigger pizza, scoop more.

4. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough. Brush all over with olive oil and sprinkle crust with garlic salt, italian seasoning, or kosher salt. Or just leave it plain. Scatter on the toppings.

5. Transfer pizza (still on the parchment) to the hot stone. I use a large cutting board to get it from the counter and then a quick slide into the oven.

6. Bake for 8 -10 minutes, or until crust is golden, cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, and toppings are beginning to caramelize.

7. Wait a few minutes before slicing, if you can.

That's it! Start to finish, it only takes 25 minutes. Now, that's fast food.
Gabriel and Liam can hardly wait to dig in.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

happy happy happy

Finally, his middle name isn't so ironic. He is now a very blythe baby (well, most of the time...)

5-minute artisan bread

I know that making homemade bread intimidates a lot of people: all of the kneading, various rising times, etc... It all gets a little overwhelming. The looming fear is that after investing all that time, the loaf just might not turn out.

This bread recipe is for you.

I found this recipe in a recent issue of Mother Earth News, which they reprinted from a book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking (Thomas Dunn Books, 2007).

The whole concept is to produce an artisan-style loaf of bread with a minimal amount of effort - only 5 minutes of hands-on time.

There is no kneading required. It only needs to rise 40 minutes before baking, and the recipe makes enough for 4 loaves, and the dough keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge!

It seems like a miracle.

So, here is what you need:

A large glass container to keep the dough in
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon salt
6 1/2 cups flour
(the recipe calls for all-purpose, but I succesfully use whole wheat instead, or you could use a combo of the two...whatever your preference)

That's it!
Here's what to do with it:
1. Combine all ingredients in the container, just until combined. I use a rubber spatula. The dough is really thick, but it only needs to be stirred until combined - around 30 seconds.

2. Cover loosely (I use a plastic tupperware lid), and allow it to sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until the dough rises and then sags at the top.

3. Put it in the refrigerator, still loosely covered. Technically, you could bake a loaf now, but it is a lot better if you wait until the next day.
4. Scoop out a 1 pound size portion (1/4 of the dough). Shape it into a round ball and place it on a piece of parchment paper (or a baking sheet). Allow it to rise at room temperature for 40 minutes (no need to cover the loaf).
While it is rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone on the middle rack (if you don't have a baking stone, it is okay to cook the bread without one.) Place a cast iron pan on the floor of the oven (or a metal baking sheet/pan).
5. Cut 3 slash marks in the top of the dough, about 1/2 inch deep. Dust the surface with flour.

6. Transfer the loaf (still on the parchment paper) to the hot baking stone. Put a 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the cast iron pan (to create steam, which helps keep the crust soft while the loaf expands). Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Resist the urge to cut into the hot bread if you can. It continues to bake as it cools.
8. Keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
And that's all there is to it!
Of course, it still can't compare with the bread that does require more time and effort, but it is still better than anything you could get at the grocery store.
I always have a container of it in my fridge for those lazy days when we're needing more bread, and because it makes the BEST pizza dough ever.
Check back tomorrow for that recipe...

Monday, February 2, 2009

He's growing

At his 9 month apointment, we also discovered that Liam has slipped from the 25th percentile weight slot down to below the 5th percentile. Combined with his over-the-75th percentile height, the doctor was a tad bit concerned.

So today we went in for his monthly immunization (we space them out to one a month) and a mandatory weight check. But have no fear, this boy is growing!

9 months
17 pounds, 6 ounces
10 months
18 pounds, 11 ounces
That is over a pound of weight gain, which is a new record for our skinny little guy! It must be all that almond butter toast he's been having every morning :-)
No worries here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Time is running out

We have a few more contenders for our photo of Liam to enter into Regis and Kelly's Beautiful Baby Contest.

Here are the favorites from the last batch.


Let us know what you think.