Saturday, November 1, 2014

SCENES FROM A HALLOWEEN

 
 
Halloween has seemed like a month long event around here. This week especially was Halloween overload. Our week was full of Halloween-y things: two parties, spirit week at school, a "Fall Festival", and the big show of trick or treating. Our week was full of sugar and costumes. Our week also had dogs in costumes and pumpkins : 
 

Vampire cookies for Cub Scouts.


Costume no.1
 

 
Bugs in his hair for crazy hair day.
 
 
Reading to the dogs that visit at the library story time, in costume no. 2.
 
 
 Pumpkin craving with Daddy.
 


A Wild Kratt with Bat Power, Tinkerbell (costume no.3), and Rosie the Rivter.


 
Let the Sugar Rush Weekend begin!
 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

HALLOWEEN FOR EVERYONE

 
Last weekend, the kids and I flew home for a wedding. While I was there, I got to see all my girlfriends and their children.
My best friend's daughter, a beautiful, smart, vibrant five year old, cuddled up to me and with sparkling eyes said, "Auntie Michelle, I'm going to be Elsa for Halloween! I love my costume!"
The excitement of the holiday bounced off of her. She rejoined the other kids and they talked about their costumes and trick or treating.
Later in the weekend, when Halloween came up again among the adults, my best friend, the little girl's mother, sighed and said firmly, "I hate Halloween. It is the worst."
This is not because she is a stick in the mud. She doesn't hate fun, or costumes, or children. But her beautiful, smart, vibrant, five year old has a peanut allergy. And that makes Halloween with all of it's "fun" size Reese's peanut butter cups, peanut M&M's , and Snickers* stressful and, frankly, scary for their family.
 
Let me be clear: my children have absolutely no food allergies. I can honestly say that I thought very little about allergies before we found about my friend's daughter. Of course I had heard of them. You can't pick up a parenting magazine without it being mentioned. But I didn't think much of it. I probably at some point, in our life of not worrying about food labels and epi-pens, even might have had a passing thought that all this allergy talk was overdone. I certainly had sympathy for families with these issues, but it just wasn't part of everyday thinking.
But then, when my friend's daughter was diagnosed with her peanut allergy, I woke up. We'd go out to dinner or pick up snacks for a playdate, and I suddenly, sharply was aware of how hard it is for allergy families. It's not an inconvenience; it's, and I don't in any way mean to be dramatic, a massive health issue. Food allergies are hard, endless work for the people and families dealing with them.
 
In our non-allergy family, we have established a few rules that we hope help others who do have eating limitations due to allergies:
1. ALWAYS ask if someone is allergic to anything before offering any snacks or sharing food. Double check with their parents too.
2. If someone you know has food allergies, be kind. Put away all foods that they can't have in the cupboard and don't bring them out or ask to bring them out when they are visiting.
3. If we are taking treats to school, make sure to find out if there are any allergies in your class. Bring a treat that EVERYONE can share.
 
 
And since I see this as an argument all the time in articles about allergies, let me say, because we have always followed these rules since my son started school, my kids have never once felt "deprived" or "that things aren't fair" or that their "right" to eat peanuts/gluten/egg whites** has been taken away from them. They just feel they are being courteous to their friends and helping others stay safe.
 
This Halloween, we are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. We'll have candy to pass out, but in a separate bowl, we will have non-food treats for kids as well. We'll hang the pdf printout of a teal pumpkin (you can find it here) on our door too, so families can know they can ask for treats without feeling like the biggest drag on the planet.
I'm encouraging everyone to participate in this. Read this article and pick up some non-food treats. Let's make Halloween fun and safe for everyone.
 
Some fun ideas!
 
 
*Top three choices of Halloween candy last year. Do they not poll allergy families??
 
**In four years of being in a classroom structure, we have seen kids with these allergies in school with Dylan. Look around. I would bet that someone you know is working through these issues everyday. Be kind, be courteous and teach your children the same. And if an allergy parent is not kind or courteous back to you (another argument seen frequently on articles about allergies)? That is also a life lesson. Not everyone is pleasant, allergies or not. Don't allow a few people to speak for everyone with food allergies in their family. Another thing to pass onto your kids. :)
 
 
 

Friday, October 10, 2014

LITTLE VIGNETTES: Command Center

 
Our new house is set up completely differently from our old one, so arranging our things to best suit us was a challenge. We're in a place now that feels functional, comfortable, and stylish. I'll be showing you little peeks of little spaces here, and they all be filed under "little vignettes"!
 
 

Our staircase comes out into a hallway; one way goes to the front door, the other to the main living space. There is an odd corner in this hall, and that's where I've set up our "command center." 


The biggest piece is the kids chore chart. On a large, framed cork board, each kid has a list of chores they have to do and check off daily. We don't pay the kids for these chores; they have to do these things because they live here. It's basic things like making beds, dishes in the sink, clothes in the hamper. While they don't get paid for doing them, they do earn their media tickets for week days by getting everything done. No chores, no media.
We also have a "work for hire" section to the chore board. This is where they can earn money. There are four chores each week and each one is worth $2. The money goes up Friday and they have the opportunity to earn it at their pace. But, if chores aren't done and I have to do them, the money becomes mine. This idea was a Pinterest inspiration, of course.
 

Above that is this neat clip board (it was a gift, but I think it's from World Market). I keep school paper, activity papers, and A+ spelling tests up here.
 

I love this huge white board calendar. The spaces are big enough for our schedule, there is space for notes, and it's magnetic.
 

 
And finally, our family rules are posted and the utmost important clock to tell us we are running late, again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

THE BASICS: HOMEMADE BROWN SUGAR

 
Sometimes, in the kitchen, magic happens. You mix two ingredients and BOOM. You've made something you never thought was possible to make on your own. It's science, it's magic, it's both.
 
That's how I felt when I found the recipe for brown sugar in the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I figured that brown sugar was a process that was only going to happen at the sugar factory. In fact, it is a simple process of mixing two sugar products-white, granulated sugar and molasses-into one another. 
 
 

 
One cup of sugar to one tablespoon of molasses.
 
 
We mix.
 
 
Soft, sticky, sweet brown sugar. Making cookies better, I promise.
 
I've stopped buying brown sugar at the store. I keep a bottle of unsulfured molasses in the house and just make up a cup or two at a time and store it in an airtight container in the cupboard. One bottle of molasses makes a ton of brown sugar. It tastes better and saves money. Win/win.
 
 

Homemade Brown Sugar

 
Mix 1 cup of granulated cane sugar with 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses with a fork. As the sugar and molasses combine, it will appear clumpy and sticky. Keep going! Don't give up! Continue stirring until sugar is light brown in color and fluffy. For dark brown sugar, add another tablespoon of molasses.
 
Enjoy!



Thursday, September 4, 2014

FRONT PORCH CHALKBOARD


In our new neighborhood, fixing up your front porch is a big deal. Kids play outside together a lot in our neighborhood and parents sit out front and talk. It has an old fashioned, small town feel. We wanted our porch to be useful, comfortable, and pretty. We when we first arrived, there were no flowers out front, so while we waited a week for our furniture to arrive, we planted some shrubs and flowers, and the kids each chose a bird feeder as well. We already had the flag, the metal chicken (silent auction win!), and the vintage Coca-Cola chairs and table. It was all looking pretty nice but basic, so I decided to put out a welcome chalkboard sign.
 

The chalk board used to be inside our old house, but I couldn't find the right spot for it in our new place. But it looks super cute on the porch. I like the idea of changing it throughout the season. Just the right little extra for front porch sittin'.
 

Also, this cuteness helps.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SCENES FROM A CROSS COUNTRY ROAD TRIP

 
 
The Sierras.
 
 
Nevada Sky.
 
 
 The Great Salt Lake.
 
 
Sven the Reinder in Utah.
 
 
Dinosaur Land.
 

Dinosaur National Park//Future Scientist
 
 
Wyoming.
 
 
 Hello, Mr. Presidents.
 
 
 
Over 100 miles of advertising for Wall Drug deserved a shop.
 
 
Hotel life is cartoons with breakfast.
 
 
 Alpacas in Iowa.
 
 
There were lots of French fries on this trip.
 
 
Home stretch.
 
Arrival!
 
Details of places we saw and things we did to come!

Monday, July 14, 2014

PEACHY KEEN SMOOTHIES

 
 
This past weekend, Ava and I headed to Farmer's Market to pick up some fruit. There is a severe drought going on in Northern California and it's hit small farmer's hard. The stands were few and far between as farms try to beat the heat/lack of water. But the peach seller we always buy from was there, handing out free samples and selling glorious yellow and white peaches. I bought 2 1/2 pounds of them. And then I got home and remembered we are moving-very, very soon-and I need to use up our food, not buy more and waste it. So this morning I whipped up a big batch of smoothies with those delicious peaches. These smoothies are both dairy free and vegan and the perfect, EASY breakfast on a hot July morning.
 

Peachy Keen Smoothies

makes 2 large servings
 
2 large peaches, pitted and sliced
1 banana (fresh or frozen), sliced
1 cup of orange juice
1 cup of water
3-5 ice cubes.
 
Add all ingredients together in a blender. Blend and serve. Enjoy!