Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last Night's Fun

As soon as James woke up from his nap yesterday, I got the kids dressed to go to the school's Fall Festival.  It was probably because it was right after nap that made James a little grumpy and decide at the last minute that he didn't want to dress as Mario after all but Superman.  Whatever.  He also cried and said he didn't want to wear his cape, but I insisted.  Princess Merida, on the other hand, didn't mind striking a pose before we left.

I was able to cheer James up by talking to him about Link and Princess Zelda.  I don't even know anything about these characters, but at the mention of their names he cheered up quite a bit.  He was then willing to show me how he could fly.

Both kids had a really fun time playing games, and Ella's old classmates were all excited to see her.  




They also really enjoyed the animals.  James could have chased the rabbit around his cage all night, and Ella had her second pony ride.
 



 They don't get much prettier than my girl. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fall Festival Tonight

Sometimes you have to go through a little bit of this...

...when all you really wanted was this:

You gotta sob before you can soar.


Bring it on, Fall.


Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

I made some melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies on Sunday, and I wanted to share the recipe I used because it took me a while to find a good roll-out sugar cookie recipe.  Two Christmases in a row I got really excited about making and decorating Christmas cookies with Ella, followed a recipe for sugar cookies from the back of the bag of sugar, I think, and had epic fails both times.  I was disappointed in not making the memory with Ella and not understanding what went wrong.  I didn't know roll-out cookie dough was different than just dropping the cookies on the sheet.

Looking back, I think, Why didn't you search the internet for a recipe? or Why didn't you buy some dough for rolling out at the store?  I think I may have tried the store thing once, and it didn't work for me either...I'm a slow-learner.  

One success I did have was with a packaged mix that told you what different ingredients you needed to add to be able to roll out the dough, but if you're looking for all from scratch...here you go!

This dough was soft and looked and felt like Pla-Doh, especially after I added the food coloring.  Oh, and where did I get this fine recipe?  It was on the back of the package of fall cookie cutters I purchased.  Thank you, Wilton.  They were deee-licious.

P.S.  Don't even think about substituting the butter for margarine.  I am learning that there is absolutely nothing like unsalted butter for baking.   

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday's Memories: The Lake District

We drove across part of Yorkshire heading toward the Lake District where we wanted to stop at Beatrix Potter's home.  Have you ever seen the movie, Miss Potter?  It is very good, and I highly recommend it.  

 Of course we had to stop on the way to snap a couple of pictures, especially when we caught a glimpse of our first lake.  I loved watching the landscape change as we drove through the country.
 
We arrived at an old farmhouse about 30 minutes before opening time and decided to take a walk while we waited.  The light was so beautiful as the sun moved in and out behind clouds, and a light rain fell periodically.

The farmhouse was to the right, behind the hedge, and the building ahead was a barn where these guys were hanging out.
 

They look like they're lined up for inspection, don't they?  My husband walked up and called out to the sheep, causing them to move as one through the barn to the other side of the pen.  He got such a kick out of their group response that he did it again on purpose, sending them scurrying.  I think this is what they call group mentality.
 

I can't draw, but living with this view might even turn me into an author/illustrator.  I think KJ would stand a better chance at that profession, though.  Here's the back cover of his first book.
  
I'm so glad we decided to walk down the lane.  I climbed up on a stile and got pictures of the grazing sheep, and we caught a glimpse of one of the famous lakes.  It was really beautiful.



I really liked the above sheep picture.  She had such a dramatic backdrop.

We walked back to the farmhouse, and as I looked around, noticed that there was no mention of Beatrix Potter anywhere.  It turned out that KJ got a little confused about the name of Miss Potter's house, but we had already waited to tour this one, soo...we stayed.  It was a beautiful, very old place, and we were rewarded to learn that Miss Potter had been a frequent visitor.  She was friends with the single lady who lived here with her father, who had developed quite a penchant for wood carving.  They had a copy of some scathing remarks made by Miss Potter of how this man had carved every available spot in the house.  And if you look closely, you can see that he had.





There were a lot of interesting features about the house.  The cradle had a little door underneath to put hot bricks to keep the baby warm.  On the second floor the staircase continued to wind up toward the ceiling, stopping out of sight because it led to nowhere.  It was just made to give the appearance of there being another floor and the house being larger than it really was.  It wasn't the house we were looking for, but without stopping there, I wouldn't have seen this view.
 
The panorama was from our earlier stop on the road.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Public Service Announcement

If you have babies right now, you probably feel frazzled and wish you could get your life together a little better.  

Yesterday I had this really productive, organized day, where I felt good, too, (something that doesn't happen regularly) and I was thinking that part of the difference in my life is that my children are growing older, and everyday life is easier.  

I just spent some time wading through old blog posts to find a link to one I remembered writing about James, and when Ella was 3 and James was a baby, every single blog post sounded like I was on the verge of a small breakdown.  Every single one.  My favorite one I ran across was one in which Ella got her panties a little wet, and I went to get her clean ones for bed, and SHE DIDN'T HAVE ANY.  And my 3-year-old perfectionist had to go to bed without wearing panties, because apparently I was behind on the laundry.

This story comes at the end of a week where I've taken the Fly Lady's advice to heart about a "load of laundry a day keeps the CHAOS away."  And KJ came home from work and was changing clothes this week, and said, "Wow!  I've never seen the laundry basket empty!"  This is a win for me because he NOTICED.  Plus, my ironing basket was empty, too.  

So at the end of a week where I got my act together in one little area, it was good to look back and remember when my daughter had no clean underclothes, and I just wanted to say to everyone with children 3 and under, IT REALLY, ABSOLUTELY, GETS EASIER, and it's not you; it's the age of your kids.  Enjoy the fun parts of little Littles.  You won't always feel frazzled. 

P.S.  Every time I write a post about how good everything seems, tragedy seems to strike.  I'll probably pay in a lot sibling squabbles or #2 on the floor today for writing this, but so it is.  

A Note to Self

About 5 minutes after putting James to bed last night he started cryingHe did this the night before, too, saying that he wanted Daddy to put him to bed, and I think he just decided he'd try it again.  KJ walked back to his room, but came back quickly as I was the one in demand tonight.  

James is such a sweet boy, I really didn't mind.  He was waiting for me in the rocking chair.  Every night since he was 11 months old he's had the same bedtime routine.  We put him up with his head on our shoulder, rock and sing a song, then lay him down in his bed.  This routine continued on without variation for about 18 months, but a while back he changed it up a bit.  He started lying across the recliner/rocker, and I would stand above him and rock the chair, singing Jesus Loves Me.  

When we converted his crib to a toddler bed this past summer, he also wanted to climb in bed by himself and not be placed there, and the routine changed a little bit again for a time where he would sit up straight and tall in the chair by himself, rocking, while I stood a couple of feet away singing.  My little boy was growing.  Oh, but wait!  There was one more change.  He started requesting the "Winnie the Pooh song" instead of his traditional Jesus Loves Me.  Every night I'd sing, "Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood where Christopher Robin plays...".  

Several weeks ago, I just needed to cuddle him for a minute, so I told him I was going to hold him that night.  He climbed up in the familiar position, the position he was in when I wrote THIS post so long ago.  His feet dangle off the front of the chair now, but it feels much the same.  I think James enjoyed the familiar, too, because we're back to me holding him at bedtime every night.  I sing a few bars of Winnie the Pooh, then put him down on the floor, and he climbs in bed.

Last night I found him waiting for me in the rocking chair.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

There was a lot of mumbling, because I don't think there was anything really and truly wrong, but then I heard, "Bed again," which really just meant, "I want you to put me to bed again."  I started rocking, and he said, "Rock!"I am rocking."  "Sing!"

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood where Christopher Robin plays, you'll find the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher's childhood days...    

As I rocked and sang, I found myself wanting to remember that I always rocked James in the upright position, while Ella was swayed while in the cradle position.  She never really liked rocking.  And now this is much more writing than I originally intended, but when you wake up at 5:50 a.m. on a Saturday, what else can you do?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday's Flashback: On the Road in Yorkshire

The county of Yorkshire was probably the first county in England I ever learned of.  Way back in 1990 my grandmother gave me a beautiful copy of The Secret Garden.  There I became familiar with the Yorkshire moors and speaking in "broad Yorkshire."  And then, of course, the fateful day I picked up a copy of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small at a discount bookstore in the Mall St. Matthews in Louisville while waiting on KJ to get off work at Chick-Fil-A.  Oh, the days when my husband came home smelling like chicken and fries, and we got discounts on said chicken and fries, and we only had one car...good days.

But back to those Yorkshire books...I recognized Yorkshire-speak in the pages of James Herriot, and his stories are the best.  You should read them!  He's the best story-teller.

After our stop at Peveril Castle we drove on to a hotel in Yorkshire where we planned to stay a couple of nights and make it our starting point for a few ventures.  When we pulled up that night and KJ went inside to check us in, we were happy for this familiar sight.

Now, I'm sure I've eaten at McDonalds as much as the average American, but I've never been particularly attached.  These days I've been forced to find things I like to eat there that are reasonably healthy, as my husband adores it, and my kids are happy eating there, too.  KJ's appreciation stems from all the time he's spent overseas, and I can understand why he'd be glad to see the golden arches after eating dog in China.  (Oh, yes, he did.)  We were happy to walk across the car park to a familiar place, though it was the first time we'd been served at McDonalds by a girl of Asian descent, speaking with a Yorkshire dialect.  

The next morning we drove across Yorkshire toward the Lake District, and our drive was beautiful.  I'll leave you with an excerpt from All Creatures Great and Small if you care for that sort of thing and introduce you to one of James Herriot's most famous patients, a Pekingese named Tricki Woo.

Mrs. Pumphrey was an elderly widow.  Her late husband, a beer baron whose breweries and pubs were scattered widely over the broad bosom of Yorkshire, had left her a vast fortune and a beautiful house on the outskirts of Darrowby.  Here she lived with a large staff of servants, a gardener, a chauffeur and Tricki Woo...the apple of his mistress' eye...

A maid answered my ring, beaming on me as an honoured guest and led me to the room, crammed with expensive furniture and littered with glossy magazines and the latest novels.  Mrs. Pumphrey, in the high-backed chair by the fire, put down her book with a cry of delight.  "Tricki!  Tricki!  Here is your Uncle Herriot."  I had been made an uncle very early and, sensing the advantages of the relationship, had made no objection.

Tricki, as always, bounded from his cushion, leaped on to the back of a sofa and put his paws on my shoulders.  He then licked my face throughly before retiring, exhausted.  He was soon exhausted because he was given roughly twice the amount of food needed for a dog of his size.  And it was the wrong kind of food.

"Oh, Mr. Herriot," Mrs. Pumphrey said, looking at her pet anxiously.  "I'm so glad you've come.  Tricki has gone flop-bott again."

This ailment, not to be found in any textbook, was her way of describing the symptoms of Tricki's impacted anal glands.  When the glands filled up, he showed discomfort by sitting down suddenly in mid walk and his mistress would rush to the phone in great agitation.

"Mr. Herriot!  Please come, he's going flop-bott again!"  

I hoisted the little dog on to a table and, by pressure on the anus with a pad of cotton wool, I evacuated the glands.

It baffled me that the Peke was always so pleased to see me.  Any dog who could still like a man who grabbed him and squeezed his bottom hard every time they met had to have an incredibly forgiving nature...

The squeezing over, I lifted my patient from the table, noticing the increased weight, the padding of extra flesh over the ribs.  "You know, Mrs. Pumphrey, you're overfeeding him again.  Didn't I tell you to cut out all those pieces of cake and give him more protein?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Herriot," Mrs. Pumphrey wailed.  "But what can I do?  He's so tired of chicken."     

Mrs. Pumphrey was likeable, gave widely to charities and would help anybody in trouble.  She was intelligent and amusing and had a lot of waffling charm; but most people have a blind spot and hers was Tricki Woo.  The tales she told about her darling ranged far into the realms of fantasy and I waited eagerly for the next instalment...

"But I'm so disappointed about the new summerhouse--you know I got it specially for Tricki so we could sit out together on warm afternoons.  It's such a nice little rustic shelter, but he's taken a passionate dislike to it.  Simply loathes it--absolutely refuses to go inside.  You should see the dreadful expression on his face when he looks at it.  And do you know what he called it yesterday?  Oh, I hardly dare tell you."

She looked around the room before leaning over and whispering:  "He called it 'the bloody hut'!"...

Driving home, I mused on the many advantages of being Tricki's uncle.  When he went to the seaside he sent me boxes of oak-smoked kippers; and when the tomatoes ripened in his greenhouse, he sent a pound or two every week.  Tins of tobacco arrived regularly, sometimes with a photograph carrying a loving inscription...

Hitherto, I had merely rang up and thanked Mrs. Pumphrey for the gifts, and she had been rather cool, pointing out that it was Tricki who had sent the things and he was the one who should be thanked...I set myself to compose a letter to Tricki...I thanked my doggy nephew for his Christmas gifts and for all his generosity in the past.  I expressed my sincere hopes that the festive fare had not upset his delicate digestion and suggested that if he did experience any discomfort he should have recourse to the black powder his uncle always prescribed. 

A vague feeling of professional shame was easily swamped by floating visions of kippers, tomatoes and hampers.  I addressed the envelope to Master Tricki Pumphrey...

On my next visit, Mrs. Pumphrey drew me to one side, "Mr. Herriot," she whispered, "Tricki adored your charming letter and he will keep it always, but he was very put out about one thing---you addressed it to Master Tricki and he does insist upon Mister.  He was dreadfully affronted at first, quite beside himself, but when he saw it was from you he soon recovered his good temper.  I can't think why he should have these little prejudices.  Perhaps it is because he is an only dog--I do think an only dog develops more prejudices than one from a large family."




Quirky people, beautiful scenery, and there are groups of people attempting to plant churches throughout Yorkshire now, to saturate the villages with the gospel.  I told KJ I'd go with him. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sunflare anyone?

Late Tuesday afternoon the kids and I had to run out to return books to the library, and we stopped to take a walk.  We took a break in a very sunny spot as you can see.  Despite the rainbow of flare, I really loved James' expression in this picture.  He's kind of a really sweet boy. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ella had another journal assignment for school today.  Here's the result of her morning's efforts.

Ella's Blog Post

Lately...

...this boy asks me who the "bad guys" are that just ran by us on the walking trail, is scared of said bad guys, and obsessed with Mario and Luigi.  Only, he's going to be Mario, and you're going to be Luigi.  He carries the Super Mario Brothers game case around with him like a favored stuffed animal.  Oh, boy.

...this girl has been making 100s on her timed tests, and being awesome at Math.  This obviously comes from her Daddy, because subtraction timed tests were my nemesis. She's just been doing addition so far, but she still amazes me.  She dances about, and acts so grown-up.  She's also pretty good at faces.