Friday, October 28, 2011

Individual Apple Pies

Our friend was coming over, and we needed a snack to serve -- fast!

Since we're such good apple choppers (as you know), we pulled out our choppers and went to work.

We filled up some ramekins (heaping) with very small apple chunks, dropped a (very) little bit of butter into each one, and sprinkled a little cinnamon, sugar, and flour onto each.  We gave each a little mix and topped with pie crust.  (We love Trader Joe's crust.) 

We sprinkled them with sugar and popped them into the oven (baking temperature on package instructions).  We baked them for 15 minutes and then covered with foil for the last 5 minutes, to make sure the apples were soft and the crusts weren't too brown.

This was an experiment -- would they work?

They did!  (I think you really can't mess these up.)

Thanks for being our brave tester, Allison!
We liked them so much, we made them again for dessert that night.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Making Applesauce - The Unnecessary but Fun Tutorial

Step 1: Find yourself a good partner.
He or she must:
Have an interest in hard work

Be good at tossing food

Be comfortable with the tools (this tool is a must in our kitchen)

Love his or her work

And, not mind sampling the ingredients often, for quality assurance, of course.  Note the full cheeks in every single picture.  We take this one very seriously.

Step 2: Peel, core & chop seven apples
(See above.)

Step 3: Add 1 cup of water to apples in a large pot.

Step 4: Cook.
Bring the water to a boil.  Turn down & simmer for about 35 minutes total.  Stir from time to time.
After approximately the first 25 minutes, you will see them start to fall apart into applesauce.
By 35 minutes, the water is usually gone & there are still a lot of chunks --  my kitchen crew isn't into the uniformity of chunk size.  Easy enough to fix.  Turn off the sauce & finish it up with the masher.  We like ours lumpy.  And warm!

(These times are approximations.)

Step 5: Add 1 tsp cinnamon.
(You can even, say, take a bath, get dressed in your watermelon shirt -- whatever, while you're waiting for this step.)

Step 6: Stir.  And pick up another partner.

So, if there's a prize for making something so easy look harder by using a lot of pictures, I guess it'll go to me.  But, sometimes they just take themselves, ya know?!  It's really so easy, Linus practically did it on his own. (As shown above -- I guess the pictures were good for something, after all!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Paper Toys

Hmmmm.  What is this Mysterious Box?  Where did this come from? 
What is inside??

It looks like a ...skeleton?

How do these fit together?

Now that we've got it, let's cut some rubber bands for joints.

And tape the joints between the bones.

Ah yes.  Our creation is now ready...


You can make one, too - by checking out The Toy Maker.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monterey Bay Aquarium

So, I wrote that I've never really been a "horse girl,"
but I think I might just be a "seahorse girl."

I watched this TEENY, TINY seahorse
(less than an inch!) grab a speck of food while
holding on to the seagrass with her tail, see
another tiny speck of food float by, follow it with
her head, release her tail, float exactly next to the
floating speck, curl her tail around another blade,
watch the speck and then slowly lunge out...
and get it.

The Leafy Sea Dragon
Wow again, right?

The Dot/Striped variety - yes, WOW


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Halloween Cuties

The great thing about a holiday is that it inspires us to be spontaneous & silly!

After all, it's such a small window where you can draw jack-o-lantern faces on your tiny clementines at breakfast while truly appreciating the spoooookiness of listening to Geronimo Stilton: Cat and Mouse in a Haunted House.

Linus told me to draw a "furious" jack-o-lantern,
which really sounds very cute & not-at-all furious -- furry-us : )

Set the Halloween mood with these books:
The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes
Magic Tree House: Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve by Mary Pope Osborne
The Boxcar Children Halloween Special by Gertrude Chandler Warner
A to Z Mysteries: Sleepy Hollow Sleepover by Ron Roy
Nate the Great and the Halloween Hunt by Marjorie Weinmen Sharmat
Cam Jansen and the Mystery at the Haunted House by David Adler

Or these picture books:
Room On a Broom by Julia Donaldson
The Little Old Woman Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
Pumpkin Heads by Wendell Minor
Five Little Pumpkins by Harper Growing Tree

Friday, October 14, 2011


"But one thing you must always remember.  We have never been poor.  We have always been very, very rich.  And do you know why?  Because we have always had each other."  -Papa, More All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Sela and Linus love to tell jokes.  And I love to hear them tell jokes.  It's the perfect arrangement.  Sela told these in the car today.

What did the mama ghost say to the little ghost before they drove off?
"Fasten your sheet belt."

What kind of monster can dance the best?
The Boogie Man

Why do spiders make such great baseball players?
Because they catch so many flies

Why didn't the skeleton dance at the party?
Because he had no body to dance with

What does a mummy mom say to her naughty mummy child?
"Go to your tomb!"

What do witches wear to bed?

What kind of fruit does a ghost love?
Boo berries

What did King Tut say when he was scared?
"I want my mummy!"

Why is it so easy to fool vampires?
Because they're suckers

Why don't skeletons go to scary movies?
They don't have the guts

From American Girl magazine, October 2006

Monday, October 10, 2011

Setting the Mood

We made Spooooooky Eyes votives a few years ago.  Since
ours are already made, I thought I'd try an "almost-tutorial."

Cut (left) or tear (right) rectangles from black paper.
Punch two "eyes" in each.

Using Mod Podge and a large paintbrush, stick all of your
rectangles onto your votive. 
Be careful not to cover the punched holes while overlapping the pieces. 
(We put an extra coat of Mod Podge on top, too.)
Allow to dry.
Use a Sharpie to dot a pupil in each eye.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Good Fall Cleaning

I'm more of a fall cleaner than a spring cleaner.  It seems to me that if we're about to hunker down together in the house for a couple months, we should probably make sure we can be comfortable.  These seasons are just brimming with opportunities for coziness.  But can I really relax into it and seize the cozy while looking at all this mess?  (That's rhetorical.)

Truly, I don't mind cleaning.  I used to actually enjoy it.  I'm neat, I like organizing, I like a challenge, I'm persistent and creative.  I think these are all traits that lend themselves to cleaning!  But I have two little ones now.  I'd rather be doing something with them.  And, let's face it, it's somewhat less satisfying to clean a room, move on, and have it look like a tornado hit by the time you come back in.

But -- it needed to be done.

Some unexpected highlights:

finding candlesticks at the back of the freezer that I put there to de-wax so long ago I didn't remember -- beautiful (expensive) wedding gifts and other sweet votives perfect for this time of year;

finally getting motivated to frame and hang the cross-stitch I made for Linus (which I actually started in college and then found while I was pregnant -- how's that for fate?);

hearing the games Sela & Linus came up with on their own and listening to how they played out;

cleaning the pantry and dumping dated spices and molasses and enjoying the surprise of the scents -- a happy preview of fall & winter baking;

being occassionally moved to tears as I cleaned to music (who would've guessed I'm a cry-er, huh?);

coming to terms with the (now) glaring fact that although Linus is 2 years old, there are no pictures of him up yet (next order of business for sure!!);

finding sweet handprints we made together at the Clayground & hanging them on the wall where we can enjoy them every day (instead of the back of the closet where I found them forgotten);

really getting to see and appreciate the richness of our lives in all the little details, like in the pillows Sela made in Art Scouts the last two summers -- by clearing away the clutter I can really see "her" in her colors and designs;

remembering the meditative experience of thoughtfully caring for our home, as an extension of the loved ones who live in it; 

slowing down and being present in each task -- wiping dust away from lamps given to me by a dear friend when she moved (far) away, and from picture frames bought on a business trip at a job that was a leap of faith (the job didn't work out, but the friends I made there I'll keep for a lifetime);

noticing the faces in our framed photos -- like the expression on Sela's face at a Capay Valley farm on the Annual Mother's Day Garden Tour, where she and J would prepare beautiful lunches with all my favorites;

and remembering how the small act of having fresh flowers in the house is so good for the soul.

Also: discovering I have a "mending pile" on my sewing table -- who knew?!

People say, "They're just things." And therefore, they can't be important.  They're right, they are just things and not people.  But all these "things" are lovely reminders of important people and times in my life.  I don't mind having to clean them all up from time to time, if it means I can savor those moments as I go along.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Make a T-shirt Bag in 10 Minutes

I'd get more use out of this T if it were a bag -- goodness knows I haul around a lot of stuff.

Cut off the sleeves just inside the seams.
Cut off the collar.

Turn the shirt inside out and sew the bottom edge closed.

Turn it right-side out.
That's it!

Every time I make one I have to stop myself from raiding everyone's drawers and using up all their T-shirts for bags.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A New Cocohut

A while back, while cleaning out the crabitat and sterilizing everything, I accidentally scorched Rap & Maryann's cocohut in the microwave.  I felt terrible.  I loved the way they both squeezed in there.  Rap's shell didn't even fit through the opening.  It was truly genius the way he got in and out.  And sometimes, Maryann slept inside and he slept just outside the opening with one of his claws reached out touching hers.  It was their home.

I loved their cocohut, too.  One of my very first experiences with them was to walk into the kitchen and see Maryann just standing on top of the cocohut.  It cracked me up every time.  Always made me think of walking into a dining room to find a dog standing casually on the dining room table.  Is that weird?  Oh, and sometimes I would see Maryann perched on top and Rap gripping the side of the hut, at a slant, with his claw touching hers.  Just hanging out like this.

Anyway, we went right out the next day and bought a new one.  Linus gave it to the cashier to ring up and proudly carried it to the car.  I lovingly put it in the crabitat with some encouraging words and an apology.  Nothing.  Okay -- it takes time to get used to a new one.  I waited.  And waited.

I tried to coax them in by putting their food right at the entrance, as if to say, "See?  It's nice inside."  Nothing.

I turned it on its' side so that it could be explored.  Nothing.  I felt so badly.  They have their flowerpot to sleep in, and, of course, they burrow.  But still.

Okay, I can take a hint.  I finally let it go.

More weeks went by, then, I walked into the kitchen and saw this:

I'm so happy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Summer Reading

Seems like just yesterday that it was summer, and I was reading in the car while Linus caught a few z's and Sela cooled off in the pool at swim practice.  Oh, yes -- it was last week!  And now it's raining!

This book was my favorite read of the summer.

We ended up with two copies of it.  I would say that neither Sela nor I are "horse girls," but, I wanted her to have some Marguerite Henry's on the shelf -- maybe she'd like them.  There could be something there for her.  For a dollar at the library book sale, it was worth it.  Twice, apparently.  When I came across the first copy, with a modern-looking picture, I didn't think anything of it.  Sela asked if I had read it.  I said I hadn't.  But, when I came across this copy I knew that I had read it as a girl.  Did I like it?  I don't remember.  Which is surprising for me.  And surprising I had read it at all -- it wasn't really my style.  Looking at the cover, I do remember being fascinated by that star on her forehead.

I recently decided that I would read what was always within arm's reach (Sela's books) and not lament about adding the extra chores of deciding on adult books and making my way to the non-children's section of the library -- I'm really happy with this choice.  This summer I've read about the Romanovs, Elvis Presley, Cleopatra, the Gold Rush and Sacramento history, Mary Queen of Scots, Australian explorers -- just to name a few.  It's perfect for the time-being.

And did I say "arm's reach"?  They're much closer than this -- I pick up and put away books constantly at our house.  Which really is fine.  I get tired of putting other things away over and and over again, but I feel grateful that I can't walk through a room of our house without finding several books deposited wherever someone stopped to read.  I was putting Sea Star back on the shelf, and I noticed that this cover still captivates me -- so I tossed it in my bag and took it along on our day's outings.  I'm so glad I did.

It wasn't until the last bit of the book that I really remembered reading it.  And that I did really like it.  And I knew the horse aspect hadn't been the hook.  What I loved this time is what I loved last time.  I know it.  I probably didn't really know it then -- but I'm still the same person all these years later.  Funny how we can look back and glimpse into parts of ourselves that have always been there - no matter how small or how big we are, whether we were aware of them or not.

What a great little summer journey I had with this book.  Such pleasant little 30 minute breaks: Linus resting peacefully in the back seat, car door open, breeze blowing through, sun shining, sounds of parents and kids coming and going, splashing sounds from the pool.  So glad I picked it up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

This Boy

Driving on the freeway today --
Linus: "Mama!  I smell somefing Good."
Me: "Oh, you do?"
Linus: "Smells like a truck."