August 24, 2023

Motor Cars, Handle Bars, Bicycles for Two

Now that our first born son has literally outgrown the Skuut bike (I highly recommend balance bikes), he's moved onto a traditional bike with pedals and training wheels.
As with many new experiences, Soren was quite tentative on his new bike, but still determined to make it go.  Especially under the watchful eyes and hands of dad and mom.
He has a healthy fear of the street, cars, hills, corners, curbs, bumps and garbage cans in the alley, as well as a heavy hand on the brake, which can be frustrating when escorting him around the block, but also puts me at ease about any nonsense going on.
So it takes us about 20 minutes to make it around the block, but that's ok.  Little steps, er, little pedals, little man.
PS. Do you know the song that the title references? It's one of my favorites from The Beatles, called "Junk".

August 22, 2023

Peach Blueberry Breakfast Bars

Summer is deliciously overwhelming with its fresh fruits and veggies, and though we mostly just nosh them raw or very simply cooked, sometimes I want to highlight their flavors in a special dish.
I've been making these Breakfast Bars for years, and just changing up the fruit.  I made a cherry version here and have also used frozen berries in wintertime.  While I don't make these frequently (can you say copious amounts of butter and sugar?), they are a great treat to enjoy and to share with friends and neighbors.

PEACH BLUEBERRY BREAKFAST BARS  (adapted from Farmgirl Fare's recipe)
Bottom Crust
2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 Tbsp (1 stick + 2 Tbsp) butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Middle layer
2 cups fresh or canned peaches, peeled (if fresh) chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Top Layer
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and get out a 9" x 13" pan. In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add the melted butter and vanilla and mix until combined.

Press this mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan with your fingers. Because it's so buttery, it should be able to be pushed around easily.

Prepare the middle, fruit layer. Toss the peaches and blueberries with the 3 tbsp of flour and sugar.  I even use the same bowl as the bottom crust to save on doing dishes.  Then spread this mixture over the bottom crust.
On to the next layer (and use that bowl again!).  For the crumb topping, mix the remaining dry ingredients (flour/brown sugar) together in a bowl and add the cold butter, cut into small pieces.  With a pastry blender, fork, or even your fingers until you get pea-sized crumbs.  Sprinkle over the fruit.
Pop it in the oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn it down to 350 and bake another 25 minutes (or more) until the top is nicely browned.
It will be bubbling hot when it comes out, and if you can resist cutting yourself a piece, please do. It's much better when cooled (even chilled in the fridge) because it becomes easier to cut into bars.  But to each her own.
These are so delicious for breakfast (duh) with coffee or just for anytime you want to indulge in some non-health food.

August 19, 2023

Mess Fest at The Franklin Institute

Yesterday Soren and I headed to Philadelphia to participate in Mess Fest at the Franklin Institute (last day is today!), and though we stayed surprisingly clean, there were plenty of opportunities to earn a change of clothes.
Above you see the staff creating the enormous "bubble monster" explosion using liquid nitrogen and liquid soap.  Fun stuff!

Soren had fun experimenting with bubbles too, in the make-and-take section of the event.
and creating a "bubble snake", a line of tiny connecting bubbles from a straw
His favorite part was watching his bottle rocket (an alka seltzer tablet activated with water in a closed film canister).
But he might also say that his other favorite part was when they dropped the birthday cake on that guy from 42 feet above (or should I say Sir Isaac Newton dropped it?)
They also dropped, slime, jello and a watermelon (not on that poor chap's head, though).

We had a wonderful time exploring science at the Franklin Institute during Mess Fest.
If you're in the Philly area today, head on out to the Parkway and have some sloppy fun!
Disclosure: I received complementary admission to the Franklin Institute.

August 16, 2023

Day Careless

I made a mistake.  Three weeks ago, out desperation, I enrolled Soren in daycare at his preschool for 2 days a week, 9am-2pm.  Or "day camp" as I like to put it to make myself feel better about the situation.

Soren hates it.  He whines and sobs every morning, even on some of the days when he's not going.  He misses mommy. There's a kid with an ugly face who throws balls at him.  He doesn't want to take a nap.  He hates going to the pool and having to stay in the baby pool (the main selling point for me was an opportunity to go to the pool every day, since it's impossible for me to take both boys alone).  The reasons go on and on.

While there's nothing wrong with daycare for working parents, it's been extremely difficult to enjoy this time with just one kiddo, partly out of guilt sending him some place that he so detests.  I stay at home with the kids; that's my job.  I feel "wrong" shipping one of them (albeit the more difficult one) off just so I can have a little peace and quiet and get a few chores done without having a little nose literally in my ass.

This summer has not been a splash for us, but more of just keeping our heads above water.  We've been stuck in another behavioral rut with our 4 year old.  He's been obstinate and aggressive for both Chris' and my attention, and with a spirited child like S, our playing and doting and going places with him is never enough.  I feel so bad for him, that for some reason he's hurting, while at the same time I get angry when he deliberately pushes my buttons.  I have a feeling we're going to have a lifelong push and pull, he and I.

The situation will soon rectify itself when daycare ends for him next week (probably as soon as he's finally comfortable there), and then we're on to the preschool routine again.  While it hasn't been easy, I'm hope that somewhere in this mess we've all learned something, whether it's navigating the "kid with the ugly face" or living with the torment of sending your child off to do something he hates. 

August 15, 2023

Easy DIY Applique Shirts at The Chirping Moms

I love the look of handmade kids' clothes, but frankly, my time is just too stretched to make comfy pants and other stuff for my boys.  I'd love to make some more printed t-shirts for the boys eventually, like the ones for Soren's birthday party.
My friend Julie over at The Chirping Moms has a great tutorial for a DIY applique t-shirt for a boy, and she was sweet enough to send one that she made for Soren.
As you might know from his birthday party, he's fond of robots, so Julie definitely picked out an appropriate fabric for his t-shirt.   The applique is a tie, which is pretty cool and sophisticated, for a t-shirt.
The Chirping Moms are even giving away an applique shirt on their blog for one lucky boy or girl, along with sharing the tutorial.   Head on over to enter.  Good luck!

August 14, 2023

Blueberry Cupcakes for the Mister

It's Chris' birthday today, and how do you express your admiration, gratitude and love for someone you've been with for nearly 20 years?  Food!

After a lunch of Harirra (Moroccan bean soup), homemade bread and a haiku about our boys, Chris enjoyed a few blueberry cupcakes on his special day.
I found the recipe in the August issue of Martha Stewart Living, and despite not usually liking Martha's cupcakes (I find the use of butter makes them too dense and dry), these were really good.  I modified it a little using lower fat options when possible.

These cupcakes are like a cross between a muffin and a cupcake--a cup-kin, we've decided to call them.  The sour cream makes them moist while the butter and cinnamon sugar topping gives the tops a nice crunch beneath the icing.

BLUEBERRY CUPCAKES (via Martha Stewart Living)
makes 18-20 cupcakes
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 2/3 cups cake flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups blueberries
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz light cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup blueberry jam, strained
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line the cups of a standard muffin tin with papers.  Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and set aside.

In another bowl, beat together the sugar and butter with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl.  Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour. Fold in blueberries.
Divide batter among baking cups.  I found that unlike the original, which called for 12 cupcakes, I was able to make 20 since I didn't fill them more than 2/3 full.

Mix the topping together, and sprinkle on each cake, pressing to adhere to batter.  Bake until golden, 20-21 minutes and until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with crumbs attached.  Cool completely on a wire rack.
Icing: Beat together butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and gradually beat in vanilla and confectioners' sugar. Raise speed to medium-high, and beat 1 minute. Spoon jam on top of icing, and without stirring, spoon icing into a disposable pastry bag (I just mixed it all together).

Snip off a 3/4-inch opening in tip, and pipe swirled mounds of icing on top of each cupcake. Although best if eaten immediately, cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 6 hours and brought to room temperature 45 minutes before serving.
Happy birthday to my darling husband!  Your daily dose of patience, honesty (even when it's hard to hear), love and letting me sleep in each morning is noted and appreciated.  We love you!

August 13, 2023

Unplugged, Partially Recharged

It's been like a blog power outage around here the past week+.  I was at the BlogHer conference, then Chris ripped apart our kitchen sink and cabinets in anticipation of the appliances that will be arriving as part of the Maytag Dependable Kitchen Moms campaign,
and then we headed to Bethany Beach for our usual summer getaway.
Hence I haven't had much time for writing, though my camera certainly filled in the gaps.  I sometimes forget how much I love photography, or more accurately, I forget to make time for it.  And forget to have my camera on hand during ordinary moments.
This week we return back to the routine, which is always a hard adjustment.  As the old adage goes, I need a vacation from vacation.  It was nice being mostly unplugged the last week or so, but now I'm overwhelmed with emails, posts that are due, and general household and childcare responsibilities again.

However it was great to recharge a little and step away from the house, and to reconnect with Chris especially, since most of his weekdays are spent at work.

How are you recharging this summer?  Or savoring the last weeks of it?

August 2, 2023

You Say Potato, We Say #Fail

Oh, we tried.  But our potato experiment of 2012 ended not with fluffy, mashed spuds, but in a pile of potato-less mashed dirt.
As I dramatically deleted this bookmark--the impetus of it all (take THAT delete key!)-- Chris was sadly pulling apart the remnants of our potato bin.
It was a failed experiment.  Maybe we have crappy soil, a poorly-lit yard, or it was too dry early on this summer, then too wet.  Whatever the cause, this is what we'll be snacking on today, the fruit of 9 potato plants.  Or probably more accurately, slightly larger versions of our starter potatoes.
Chris calls the one below the "fetus of a potato."
We noticed the leaves turning brown about a month ago, then not growing much.
While we're not brown thumbs, we certainly aren't gardening experts, despite the proliferation of our tomatoes and basil.
Live and learn, and then make potato canapes.  We might just have enough!

August 1, 2023

Simple Paper Owl Craft

Each summer, I teach a few workshops at our local library that correspond to their summer theme.   I love having a chance to reconnect with the local kids and get to stretch my dormant art teacher skills again.

This year the theme was night life and dreams, so for the project this time we created some simple paper owls.
I've seen these a-plenty online, mostly as a recycling project for toilet paper tubes. (Inner Child Fun has an easy tutorial), but rather than try to collect dozens of used paper tubes, I created them from paper.  They held up surprisingly well and were easy to customize without having to paint or cover up the entire body.
And all you need are a few supplies that you probably already have on hand.

Construction paper or card stock| Scissors | Glue Stick | Pencil | Feathers (optional) | White glue  
STEP ONE  Choose the paper you'd like to use, then roll it into a tube starting at one of the shorter ends.
Secure the paper into a cylinder shape by running a line of glue stick across one end and sealing the paper closed.
Take one end of the cylinder and fold down two sides into the center to make the owl's "tufts".
It helps to crease along the curved fold to secure the shape.
Cut out circles from colored paper for the eyes (or use googly eyes) as well as a triangle beak, and glue on to the owl's face.
For the wings, I had the children trace their hands, cut them out and glue them onto the sides.
I had them make a little fold near the wrist so that the hands would stick out off of the sides of the owl when they were glued on.
Add any other accoutrements, like feathers (either real or cut from paper) or even a pattern drawn or painted on the body.
I love my four-year old's colorful version, with its tail and tuft feathers.
Have a "hoot" making these! (sorry, couldn't resist).
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