Tuesday, November 29, 2011

advent calendars

These are a few ornaments from my great aunt's handmade Advent calendar.  A few years ago, I tried to make my family a copy of it.  I promptly stopped after making the tree and three ornaments.  They were lacking in every way.  So I  will proudly display Aunt Joan's version until one of my brothers tries to steal it in the night.  

So I am going to use two Advent calendars this year.  Is that a bit overkill?  If I'm asking the answer is probably yes.  I literally threw this calendar together.  It consists of the felt tree I made a few years ago when I could not live up to Aunt Joan's craftiness and felted circles with a paper circle listing a fun craft or activity for the day.  Done and done.

Here is our list:
1.  Make salt dough ornaments
2.  Decorate ornaments
3.  Pick out and decorate Christmas tree
4.  Open an early present!  (Shh - it's a wooden heirloom creche that I the girls can set up/play with)
5.  Make coffee filter snowflakes
6.  Make a jingle bell sleigh (box + Christmas ribbon with jingle bells hot glued to it = lots of fun)
7.  Make snowflake designs with q-tips
8.  Make Christmas trees from styrofoam cones, felt circles, and pins
9.  Bake sugar cookies
10.  Go to Phipps and dance with the fairies (Pittsburgh Ballet comes to Phipps, dresses up like Sugar Plum Fairies and teaches a dance/movement class)
11.  Bake gingerbread men
12.  Make a wrapping paper station - load up art room with tape, old wrapping paper, and bows so Abby can wrap up toys for pretend play
13.  Make gingerbread baby houses
14.  Make peppermint playdough with red and white glitter
15.  Create a winter sensory bin - pine cones, nuts, coffee beans
16.  Decorate a contact paper Christmas Tree
17.  Make easy gingerbread houses
18.  Sew mittens from felted sweaters
19.  Play The Mitten Game
20.  Paint winter scenes using q-tips
21.  Sew Christmas bags - instead of wrapping presents with paper
22.  Create tissue paper stars with contact paper
23.  Drive around to see the Christmas lights
24.  Make cinnamon rolls
25.  Merry Christmas!

One day I will put numbers on the front of the ornaments, but this works for now.

Eek - I am so excited for December 1st! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

this moment

joining amanda in - 
{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

pounding pumpkins

Here is a great way to get one last activity out of your pumpkins before they bite the dust.  You will need:  pumpkins, golf tees, and a hammer.  

 Pounding pumpkins was always one of my favorite activities in my classroom.  The children loved it too.

Abby tried it, but was not a fan.  

She did like pounding the golf tees into the pumpkin pie play dough.  Tomorrow we will try pushing my sewing pins into the pumpkin.  Abby has an obsession with my pins so I think that will go over a little bit better.

I could see this along with the pumpkin pie play dough being a hit at the kid's table after Thanksgiving dinner.  Let me know if you give it a try.

Monday, November 21, 2011

phipps farmers market for children

Although I love city living, I sometimes feel like I am on concrete overload.  To combat the feelings of needing an ocean or a field we pack up and take a short drive to Phipps Conservatory.  Yes, I am obsessed with this place.  I feel like I write about it a lot.  Like here and here.  

But seriously.  Phipps has outdone itself.  The Farmers Market is beautiful play space for children in a beautiful setting that helps me breath when I start to feel a little claustrophobic.  

The space is very well thought out, equipped with a number of shopping carts (two different sizes - one perfect for new walkers and one for the *big* kids) labeled fruit and vegetable stations, a butcher shop, a bakery, and two check out stations.  The boxes are labeled with words and pictures to make clean up into a fun sorting game.  

Menus for different dinners.  Some children need a task when it comes to pretend play.  It does not always come naturally - sometimes it needs to be modeled.  This menu is a simple way to give a child a visual prompt in what to do during play.  Love it.  

Did I mention that one of my favorite play experiences as a child involved a pretend play grocery store at a children's museum in South Darthmouth, MA that has since closed.  I can still remember filling up baskets with corn, pizza, and apples with my little brother.  We used to have a ball.  Maybe that is one reason why I am a little partial to this space?

A scale that works.

Cash register for checking out.  They even have these items affixed to the child size tables.

And although I did not condone this behavior, it was mighty cute.  

Well done, Phipps.  We are very happy members.

Friday, November 18, 2011

this moment

joining amanda in - 
{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

pumpkin pie play dough

Here is the hands down best recipe for play dough:
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 TBS cream of tartar
  • 2 TBS pumpkin pie spice 
  • food coloring (I used the orange gel food coloring, but liquid works just fine)

Mix the wet ingredients with the food coloring over a low heat.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

Remove the warm dough and knead until the play dough is smooth in consistency.

We decided to make pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pies.  I gathered some pyrex spice dishes, plastic knives, pumpkin cookie cutters, and child size rolling pins.

It seriously smells delicious.

Eleanor on the scene.

I want some.  Now.

Any guesses on what she does next?  You bet.  She eats it.  Should that be reason to say she should not be allowed to join our fun?  Nope.  That's what little ones do.  They explore with their mouths.  Eating this play dough would not hurt her.  It tastes really salty though, even with the pumpkin pie spice.  (Ask me how I know?)  So I went with the tasting for a bit and then showed her some different things to do with the play dough other than eat it.  She still tasted it throughout our play time, but she also pounded with roller, batted at it with a knife, broke it into a million pieces, and then filled up our dishes and dumped.  The breaking and dumping kept her attention for nearly fifteen minutes.  Really important work for a toddler.

A little pumpkin patch made by Abby.

And a pumpkin pie for Daddy.  It's his favorite.

So if you have a kid table at Thanksgiving dinner, wouldn't this be kind of fun to play with while the turkey is digesting and prior to letting them destroy the play room?  Let the babies try it too.  

the birthday girl

last weekend we celebrated this little lady turning one.  

photos above courtesy of the godmama, rachel stadelmeier.

birthday morning:

i know it's out of focus and the horrendous tv is in the background, but can you feel the love?

big sister needing a turn as well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

eleanor's birth story.

After my big day out to three grocery stores, cooking for an army but really just to feed our family of soon to be four, and a late night run to a baby superstore, I woke up tired and feeling very slow.  And feeling all done being pregnant.  But it was a still a week before my due date and things in our life are rarely early... we are ten minutes late kind of people.

I went to see the fairy godmothers as we refer to them around our house.  Without going into too much detail, the midwife said I could probably have the baby today but maybe tomorrow.  Okay.  I should probably go pack a bag or something I remember mumbling dumbly.

Instead of packing a bag, I went to my mom's and took a nap.  Gram played with Abby and I think I slept a bit.  After my nap, I felt tired but okay so I decided to take Abby back to our house and so I could hurry up and wait.  On my way home, I started to have contractions but didn't want to admit it.

Abs and I played a bit.  I wandered aimlessly upstairs and down.  My bag still wasn't packed and I really needed to finish knitting a hat for Eleanor.  Obviously, I am completely rational.  Hence quadrupling recipes.  Clean sheets needed to be put on the bed.  I knew what needed to be done, but I couldn't do a thing.

And then contractions started to come steadily.  Slowly and not too strong.  Just enough to be annoying.

Our kitchen was freshly renovated and finished the week before.  Someone came to complete a few little things.  I joked with him that if I had to go get the ladder in the basement I would have the baby that night.  I didn't tell him I was having contractions.  I hadn't even told Josh yet.  So once he left, I called Josh to tell him it was probably time to come home.  It was around 4 p.m.

Josh took his sweeeet time getting home.  I probably should have been a little bit more direct, but I didn't know how fast things were going to go.  I called the midwives to check in.  I called my parents and they came to play with Abby.  At 5 p.m. I went up stairs to try to finish knitting my hat, make my bed, and pack my bag.  Yes, in that order.  I halfheartedly packed a bag with a sweet little outfit, some newborn diapers, a hat, and some random odds and ends for me.  The bed didn't get made by me nor did the hat get finished.

Nearing 6 p.m. Josh came home and had some dinner.  I was doing the strong contraction thing upstairs.  It may appear that I am painting Josh in a bad light, but I might be like a cat when it comes to labor - I would rather go off in a dark corner and do it by myself.

At 6:30 p.m. I knew it is time to go to birthing center so we go.  I kiss my little girl goodbye and tell her we will see her soon.  The car ride is as close to hell as I want to ever get.  Nuff said about that.

I literally bolted as fast a woman in transition can bolt to the jacuzzi tub.  I quietly hung out there trying to let go of controlling the pain and go with it.  But truthfully, I was scared and tired and I kept saying, "I just don't want to do this anymore."

Our midwife gave me some options and I choose the one that could bring Eleanor here faster: break my water.  Josh asked if I want some music.  It was still in the car.  Do not leave me was all I could think.  I'm not sure if I responded verbally.  He stayed with me.  My water was broken.  I had an urge to push that could have moved a mountain and Eleanor was out of me and in my arms.  Just like that.  So quickly.  So quietly.  Just like the night.  It was around 8 p.m.

At 9 p.m. even though it was late, our parents came with our little night owl so she could meet her baby sister.  The first thing she said as she held her sister was, "Oh Mommy, can we take her home with us?"  I think we can arrange that, my dear.

A very happy birthday to my dear little Eleanor.