Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Books We Are Loving

I have recently been making an attempt to read to the kids more. If I am really being honest, I am making an attempt to limit the amount of television we watch (myself included), and filling in some of the unplugged time with extra books.

Here are two that the boys can’t get enough of, and something I just read. I have linked each title to Amazon if you want to check them out.

Inside Your Outside: All About the Human Body by Tish Rabe

This book is super fun. It is written in rhyming verses and the illustrations are Seuss style. It is loaded with great information on how your body works in a very kid friendly way. The boys especially enjoy the pages about “waste”. They are boys, after all.

When it warms up this summer I am going to have the kids lie down on butcher paper and trace their outline. Then we will make some body parts from construction paper and paint the bodies. I am not sure of the specifics yet. Anyways, this is a must have for four year olds.

Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

Yes, the same Josie Bissett from Melrose Place. I remember watching 90210 followed by Melrose after sorority meetings in the chapter room on Monday nights. Everyone was so bummed when we had to vote at meetings and missed the beginning of our shows. Life as a sorority girl was so difficult before TiVo.

Anyways, this is a super cute book. Franklin got it for his birthday from my crazy friend Audrey. It comes with these little monster gloves for tickling your listener as you read the story. Franklin likes to be the monster. This one also rhymes and the illustrations are bright and cheerful. The kids are always cracking up when we get to the end and Vincent has learned to cover the part of his body that will be tickled next.

Both these books are great for Coco, who is into identifying parts of her body...and pulling up her shirt. We are working on that.

This photo is from December 2008. They are so little!

Finally, if you are looking for a book to read before bed at night check out The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran. Never in a million years would I have picked this book up on my own. It was a book club selection by my friend Flossie who always chooses the best books. I am totally disappointed that I missed the meeting and discussion for this selection because I would have loved to hear others thoughts on the story.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I will only tell you that this is a work of historical fiction that is set in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, and has well-established characters. It involves sea travel, kidnapping, and bigamy. Can you think of anything more intriguing? Maybe an ice cream sundae and bottle of Pinot, but you can have those while you read.

What are some of the favorites around your house?


Friday, March 25, 2011

Brownie Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Because it is so dreary and rainy out, and in an attempt to make foods with only the highest nutritional value, I decided to make these Brownie Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies this morning.

I am going to a Girl’s Night In tonight. I am attending as a guest and have never met the hostess, whom I am assured is “my people”.

Just in case, out of an abundance of caution, I have wrapped up some cookies for her.

I am not above buying new friends with baked goods.

Happy Friday everyone!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Recent Breakup

I am addicted to coffee. I think this is a healthy addiction, and I am sure the family would agree because I am at my best when fully caffeinated.

As a consumer of fine coffee (and lattes, and mochas) Starbucks became my best friend. During law school, instead of going to the library, I went to Starbucks. I could blame this on NaKesha, but I am equally responsible for our choice of study spots. We would mix it up occasionally- by going to The Coffee Bean- but it felt dirty, like we were cheating.

Starbucks saw me through the many early mornings that followed Franklin’s sleepless nights, Vincent’s kidney surgery and first day of preschool, the bar exam.

But as any coffee junkie will tell you, the dependence on caffeine can be very expensive. You know you have an issue when half your debit card purchases are made at Starbucks. In an attempt to stop the insanity, I decided to breakup with Starbucks in the New Year. It was hard. My Starbucks Honorary Gold Card was miserable. I mourned the loss of my grande, no-foam, vanilla latte with one Splenda.

Three months later, I am pleased to say that I have kicked my daily Starbucks habit. I’m not going to lie, it is still difficult, but I now limit my visits to once every other week. No one has been maimed, injured or locked out on the street during the change.

For the love of my husband and children, I have not abandoned my coffee habit. Mr. Coffee makes me a pot every morning (and sometimes afternoon). I drink my breakfast out of a Starbucks mug- it’s comforting and familiar.

A couple weeks ago in need of a mocha fix I came up with this Mock Mocha recipe. It is easy, and I had all the ingredients in the fridge, because all responsible mothers have whipped cream and chocolate sundae syrup in their fridge, right?

Mock Mocha

10 oz (give or take) hot brewed coffee

half and half (to taste)

2-3 TBS Smucker’s Sundae Syrup

whipped cream

1 Splenda (optional)

Make your coffee the way you normally would- for me this is hot coffee, one Splenda and half and half until it bounces. If you don’t know what it means when coffee bounces, you probably don’t rely on coffee enough to “need” this recipe, but continue reading anyways.

Once your typical cup is ready, stir in about 3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup. I like Smucker’s because it is not too sweet and it is fat free...but mostly because it is not too sweet. Stir well and top with whipped cream. Use the stuff from the can- don’t get pretentious and make it from scratch, you know you want the canned stuff. Enjoy without guilt or apology!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ready for Spring!

The first few days of spring have brought rain and a cold wind to Southern California. Normally I wouldn’t mind this as I am not a hot weather person, but the kids have been bugging me to work in the garden.

Since we couldn’t go outside to work in the yard, we started some seeds in the house. The boys got fun little pots with seeds for strawberries, basil, parsley and peppers from their Godparents.

We also started some beans, romaine lettuce, watermelons, heirloom and cherry tomatoes and more spinach. The spinach and sugar snaps we planted a few weeks back are doing really well, especially considering how cold it has been the last few weeks.

I plan on picking up a small mint plant this weekend, if weather permits. I like the fresh mint in my juleps and mojitos... I mean, I like the mint in my iced tea.

Franklin help pour the water over the starter soil pellets, but his interest faded fast. Vincent likes to see the process through to the very end.

Coco watched and waited...for a snack.

We need to plant the bed in the front yard too. We ripped out the bushes that were there last spring because they attracted bees, and have yet to decide what we should plant.

I am torn between some climbers or flowering bushes.

The roses are thriving and the boys love to announce each bushes progress by counting the buds. I also would like some window planter boxes.

What is going into your garden this spring?


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day Snakes

We made chain snakes today for St. Patty’s Day. I was going to explain the significance of the snake as it related to the day when Vincent told me that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland by banging his drum.

I’m glad we are getting our money's worth from his school, and even happier that he both remembered what he learned and shared it with Franklin.

This was super easy for the boys to do themselves, involved few supplies, and next to zero prep work. I cut the paper before the activity because I didn’t want then to be burned out before the fun part started. They worked independently, and even shared a glue stick without quarreling. I had a few blissful minutes to drink my coffee while I watched.

I was letting the boys pick out buttons for the eyes when Franklin declared his snake’s name was, “Mommy”. I had intended on scary fangs and a tongue, but the mommy in our house frolics in the grass all day, eats only organic vegetables and never hisses. Fangs would have been totally inappropriate. Instead they have a smile...like a mommy.

Sweet Coco doesn’t get featured on Mom's for Xanax when we are doing crafts, so here she is- ball in one hand, baby bottle in the other. She is very well rounded.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

St Patrick's Day Lunch and Shamrock Art

If I allowed it, the kids would live on fruit and yogurt.

In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I made a rainbow colored, deconstructed fruit salad of strawberries, oranges, pineapple, and blueberries, vanilla yogurt (with a little help from green food coloring) and shamrock shaped PB&Js.

I don’t know if it is the muffin tin meal or the picks they get to eat with, but I could probably serve them anything from a muffin tin and they would devour it.

Our after lunch activity was making heart clovers and shamrocks. The boys choose some paper from my scrapbook supplies and we traced heart cookie cutter- 3 for shamrocks and 4 for clover. They then cut out the shapes.

Franklin cut out one by himself and I did the rest.

I love the look of concentration on Vincent’s face.

Then they glued the hearts on their construction paper to make the appropriate shape.

Vinny decided to make another one for Patrick’s office...on pink paper. LOVE it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Prayer for Kids

Lent starts today, Ash Wednesday.

I have been trying to think of a way the kids can do something for Lent, but it is difficult for three and four year old to grasp “giving up” something without a concrete reason. It is difficult to give up something even with a reason!

I saw this idea on Catholic Mom and thought I could modify it to fit the boys.

First, we talked about nice things we could do for each other during Lent. We came up with being kind, patient, and helpful as well as following directions the first time asked. We wrote a little prayer to say every morning at breakfast .

Each behavior has a corresponding jellybean color.

Vincent also suggested we only have dessert if it is a special occasion. I smiled at him over my triple chip St Patrick’s Day cookie, and added it to the list.

I printed both the list and the prayer up on a card, added some scrapbook paper and embellies, and attached it to the jellybean jar.

When mommy or daddy (or each other) notices one of the behaviors the child gets a jellybean in their personal jar.

The catch is, the jellybeans earned cannot be eaten until Easter Sunday. I hope this teaches both almsgiving and sacrifice.

We will see in 40 days.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

A Crafty Soiree

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mardi Gras Muffin Tin Lunch

We had a Mardi Gras themed Muffin Tin lunch today in anticipation of Fat Tuesday tomorrow. All three Mardi Gras colors were represented- purple grapes, green cucumbers and Tzatziki dip, yellow cheese cubes and crackers, and dessert- purple and green Skittles.

A Mardi Gras celebration would not be complete without beads and masks.

I know I am subjecting Vinny to public ridicule, allowing him to wear his Niners sweatshirt in public after the season they had. Good thing he is shielded by the spider.

Being the frugal and prudent mother I pride myself to be, I ensured nothing went to waste after lunch...by eating the rest of the Skittles myself.

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Linked up to Muffin Tin Mom.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mardi Gras King Cake

As we get close to Fat Tuesday and the beginning of Lent I really wanted to make a King Cake. I thought, in addition to it being totally delish, it would be a good conversation starter with the kids, especially Vincent.

The only catch is, I have a healthy fear of yeast. My yeast phobia has prevented me from making a lot of things that I enjoy, including cinnamon rolls and pizza dough. I don’t know why, but the whole process intimidates me. Let’s face it, I have issues with doing things less than perfectly. I am working on this.

So, Patrick went to the garage and pulled out the old, barely-ever-used, bread machine (which has not seen the inside of this kitchen since we moved in over 5 years ago) and we went to work.

Vincent, my loyal and competent assistant, did the measuring and mess making. We made the dough in the bread machine and did the rest by hand. It was a good lesson in patience as the dough takes some time to knead and rise before the baking, and more importantly, the frosting, can be done.

Vincent got a kick out of baking the baby Jesus into the cake, and we had a nice conversation about the significance of the colored sprinkles- purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

Of course, there were beaters to be conquered.

And I conquered my fear of yeast...at least for today. I found a spot in the kitchen for the machine, and we all enjoyed a late afternoon snack of King Cake.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Simon Says and Dr. Seuss

Yesterday afternoon Vincent asked if we could play "Simon Says". I have been trying to teach them how for about a year and I usually reserve it for times when they need a distraction before getting into trouble...waiting in lines, waiting while their sister's diaper is changed, waiting for a meal to be prepared, waiting just about anywhere.

I have been unsuccessful in teaching them how to play correctly, but they are always attentive and quiet for those few minutes.

Obliging V's request and anticipating that I would have to teach them how to play anew, I first refilled my coffee cup.

Simon Says, "put your hands on your heads."

Yes, it is 3:30 and V is still in his P-jams. Don't judge. I'm just keeping it real.

Simon says, "shake your booty."

Maybe I should have wiped the chocolate cookie remnants off Frankie before we started. Oh well.

Simon says, "put your hands on your shoulders."

Put your hands on your head.

I love that Franklin is looking out of the corner of his eye to see if Vincent is doing it too.
At this point, V explained to Franklin how to play Simon Says. I was FLOORED! He gets it!!!

Simon says, "cover your eyes."

Simon says, "stick out your tongue."

Hey, hasn't anyone told you it is rude to stick your tongue out at your mother?

We also colored pictures of our favorite Dr. Seuss characters in honor of his birthday. V choose the guy from Hop on Pop.

Frank choose the Grinch. No shock there.

We are still working on Coco NOT eating the crayons.

Wordless Wednesday- Week 5

Franklin has lined up some of his Lego animals on the mantel. It has been almost two weeks. He won't let me put them away. Maybe today.