Sunday, December 23, 2012

Back to Wisconsin

We got to go back to Wisconsin for Christmas!

The kids made a gingerbread house at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

They ate more than they actually put on the house though.  Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?!

Two days before we arrived, there was a blizzard.  The kids were so happy to see snow!  Uncle David took them sledding.

Miriam couldn't walk. :-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cardboard Boxes Are Fun!

We still had an empty box sitting around from moving.

It was turned into a rocket ship!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Making Cookies

I totally copped out on making Christmas cookies this year.  I picked up a lot of last minute Christmas commission knitting (EIGHT Christmas stockings!), and this was were all of my free time was going.  I decided that it was more important that my children got to make cookies of some type than it was that these cookies be made from scratch and look fancy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

And the stockings were hung...

Tomorrow St. Nicholas comes to our home.  The kids and I decorated the Christmas tree and hung our stockings in anticipations!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An American Classic

I love to bake and cook.  It just follows the same joy of having a finished item that I made with my own hands that I get with knitting.  The kids are old enough now that they're "helping," instead of just being in the way, so I get to spend more time in the kitchen.

I've often thought of making a cookbook for our family.  I have my favorite recipes in 15 different books or 20 different websites, and it would be really nice to have it all in one place.  Also, I dream of passing copies of the cookbook on to Benjamin and Miriam to use in their own kitchens some day.

Today, we made an apple pie.  Want to know the secret of a fantastic homemade apple pie?

It's all about keeping the kids from eating the apples.

The kids used a small cookie cutter to help cut out vents.  They're butterflies.

Isn't it gorgeous?!

(Recipe from my vintage 1973 Good Housekeeping Cookbook - It's the best edition, in my opinion!)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween at the Mall

Bloomington's mall hosts a Safe Trick or Treat sponsored by WTIU (the PBS station here) where children can go to the various stores and get candy, stickers, or other treats.  It's also just about the only place children around here can wear their costumes without coats and mittens!

Benjamin wanted to be a bat.  A black bat.  A blackest, blackest, black bat.  Since I was making his bat wings, I had tried to encourage him to choose a sparkly black fabric so that it would increase his visibility for Trick or Treating (our neighborhood does it at night), but he wasn't going to have it.  So I made a simple black cape out of fleece fabric so that I didn't have to worry about hemming and made it a little large so that it can be used in play for years to come.

Miriam wanted to be a whale, but I just couldn't wrap my head around how to create a whale costume! However, she's pretty easy to sway to an easier costume, as long as it involves a dress and glitter.  So, I put together this tutu for her.  She couldn't wait for me to finish it, so when I'm not so exhausted one night after bedtime, I'll add some more tulle strips to make it fuller.  The butterfly wings are from last year's Halloween when she was too little to walk our route and I put her in a back carry in our Boba 3G.  When I asked her what she was, she said, "I'm a butterfly! I'm a princess! I'm a Miriam!"

As I mentioned above, WTIU was a sponsor for the Safe Trick or Treating.  Super Why and Princess Pea were there!  Benjamin was so afraid of them that he disappeared behind my back, and if I hadn't felt the death grip of a 3 year old on my pants legs, I probably would have thought I lost him!  Miriam, however, was so excited to meet a princess!!

We had to tear her away.  You could tell Princess Pea was starting to get a little uncomfortable. ;-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

How Tall Are We?

I've always loved the idea of marking the height of our growing children on the walls in our home.  However, we move and expect to move a lot, and I don't think I could bear to leave the marks on the wall behind.

I saw a suggestion to use an old plank of wood to hang on the wall and mark heights onto that.  Then, when you leave that home, you can take the plank of wood with you.  I thought it was a beautiful idea!

However, I generally don't have old wood laying around, and I don't have a saw to easy cut through a tossed aside piece of wood.  So searching the internet, I found people who sold pre-marked wooden growth charts for, on average, $75...a bit above my available budget.

So yesterday, I took the bull by the horns, packed the kids in the van, and headed to Lowes.  They have pre-cut wood, you know.  And wood stain to make the wood look weathered and worn.  And hangers. I knew all this, but for some reason I thought it would be a lot more expensive than it was.  As it turned out, the wood, the stain, and the hangers, as well as vinyl numbers and a foam brush, cost less than $25.

This is a 1x6x6 pinewood board stained with one coat of Rustoleum's Provincial stain (don't skimp on the wood - this is a "hang in your house until you die" type of piece, beautiful wood matters).  I marked out the dashes with permanent marker for every inch, making the 6" and 12" marks longer.  I carefully cut out the black 2" vinyl numbers (they came on a white background) and stuck them on.  Then I hung the board 6" off the ground (the marks go from 6" to 6'6" - hoping Benjamin doesn't end up a giant!).

The children's heights are marked in colored permanent marker.  I can go back to their medical records and pull their heights to mark on the board.  And this board can go with us wherever we live!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Benjamin's new hat

Benjamin is such a gracious recipient of my knitting.  So when I finished Miriam's hat, and he asked me to knit one for him, I couldn't really say no.  The only problem was that I hadn't planned on making a new hat for him, so I wasn't very inspired with the patterns I was finding.

So I opened up my boxes of yarn for him to search through.  As long as it was blue, he was okay with the choices.  In fact, he did express this blue tweed yarn to be his favorite option, and it just happened to be a yarn that I made a hat out of 2 years ago.

Then I found 4 patterns for him to choose from, and he, of course, chose the exact hat I made from the same yarn.  Unfortunately, that hat is now too small for him, so I did need to reknit the hat.

I'm sure he doesn't remember that he had an identical hat, but I know he currently loves his new hat!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Time for new hats

Miriam's winter hat from last year met an unfortunate demise in an incident involving a hungry cat.  We don't talk about it much.

Her new hat had a rough start.  I first cast on with a green yarn, but then realized it would just make her look jaundiced, so I ripped it out.  I decided to use a natural colored yarn and figure out a color later, since I could also dye a natural yarn.  This yarn is a natural oatmeal color, and while knitting, I was really disappointed with it.

Until it was done!  Now I absolutely love it, and she does as well!

Unfortunately, it's now 80ºF outside, and no one really needs a hat just yet...

Monday, October 8, 2012

I guess they were hungry...

A little over a week ago, we discovered that Miriam is allergic to soy.  Soy tends to find it's way into every processed or pre-made food you can buy at the grocery store.  So, I make our own sandwich bread now.

I made this loaf before I went to bed last night and let it cool on the counter.  It was still there in the morning, and then I turned my back.

They couldn't keep their teeth off of it while I tried to scramble to put it away.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

She's TWO already!

Miriam turned two years old today!

We celebrated with some Pumpkin Spice cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting.  (Amazing, by the way!)

Miriam has an interesting way to eat cupcakes.

Look how much she's grown!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Smithsonian Free Museum Day

Every year, the Smithsonian Institute joins together with museums across the country to offer a free admission day the last Saturday in September.  This year, we went to the Rhythm! Museum in Indianapolis.  It's a hands-on percussion discovery center.  Really, what could possibly go awry with letting 2 preschoolers in a room full of drums?! :-)

They had a sound proofed room with a full drum set.  You could try out what it sounded like in various performance spaces from as small and dead as a practice room to as large and lively as a cathedral.

Miriam had more fun in the larger part of the museum that was filled with examples on the science of sound.

And before we left, Chris and the kids got to participate in an ethnic drum circle!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Miriam can be quite contrary

Chris and I often comment that our kids just think we're daft.  Miriam obviously thinks we have no idea what we're talking about when it comes to naming shapes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rough Few Weeks

It's been a rough few weeks here in Bloomington.  Chris is getting settled into school, and appears to be enjoying it.  I'm trying to put the house in order, but it's a difficult task with two little ones who undo everything you've just done.

Two weeks ago, that unpacking came to a screeching halt.  I found a spider, larger than any domestic spider I had ever come across, in the house, and sort of freaked out.  I won't hide it.  I'm more than a little afraid of spiders.  And bugs.  And, well, really anything that has more than 4 legs.  Even fruit flies.  So, yes, it's a little bit of an irrational fear.

Anyway, this "giant" spider ended up being fairly harmless.  Harmless as in it won't kill me or put anyone in the hospital (it was a Tan Jumping Spider).  But then, I remembered a spider I had seen a few days before.  I had a little bit of a panic attack when I saw that thing.  It had fangs!  And long legs.  And it was freaking ugly.  It went into the toy room, and I refused to go in there for 2 days.  Chris said I was just imagining things.  But, after this giant spider, we got an exterminator to come, and he found 5 brown recluse nests, 2 of which were inside the house.  So, my fear of spiders has only been increased!

We started making plans to come back to Wisconsin for a visit in order to avoid the spiders until the exterminator could spray.  It just so happened that last week was our nephew's 4th birthday party, so it worked out.  Except then I got sick.  I got so sick that I called my doctor back in Wisconsin (since the kids and I don't have health insurance in Indiana until October 1st), and she said to come back as soon as possible.  The date we were were planning to leave got pushed up, and we scurried to pack and get on the road.

A few days of testing showed that I wasn't dying, nor was I afflicted by anything that could cause my death (as was originally feared and had created the need for a speedy return to WI).  However, there are no exact answers to what is going on.  After the doctor made sure I was stabilized, she said I could return to Indiana under a "wait and see" approach.  When my prescription runs out, I should be normal.  If not, I'm to consider exploratory surgery.

And, to backtrack, the day we urgently left for Wisconsin, we found out that my grandfather had passed away in the night.  The funeral would be held while I waited for the doctor's test results, but Chris would have to return to Indiana both before the funeral and before the doctor got back to me.  My brother and his wife flew in from Hawaii and my cousin came from Georgia.  It was nice to have the whole family together again, even under such sad circumstances.

We're back in Indiana now.  The spiders have been gotten rid of.  A few more boxes are unpacked.  We're exhausted, but managing.  And today, I'm doing a little me-therapy and dyeing some yarn.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Indiana Impressions

I just found my keys. For the record, I've been in Indiana since Saturday the 11th, and since Sunday the 12th, I have not been able to find my keys. Under normal circumstances, this would be cause for concern, but I had a spare for my car already, and Karen got a copy of the house key, and I was completely dependent on the bus for transportation anyway.

Anyway, while moving my crusty old captain's chair in from the garage, I found a cat litter bucket of CD's (never mind), and there were my keys. It is Friday the 31st. I don't understand how they got there in the first place, but there you go. Most importantly, they are back where I won't lose them: On my desk with all the miscellany that gathers.

My general impressions of exam week and the first two weeks of school proper could fill a novella, and I tend to be much more wordy when I write as opposed to when I speak, so I'll give a brief rundown here: Exams themselves were about as awful as I imagined they would be. Exams? For an incoming doctoral student? Why, that's just silly, you might say. And I agree with you, but this isn't my game. IU sets the schedule, gives me the facilities, and takes my money, so they're running the show. There were five tests I took in two days: Aural Theory, Written Theory, Music History pre-1750, Music History post-1750, and Sight Singing.

Why 1750? Because that's when Bach died. He was important.  I learned that with my expensive music education.  You're welcome.

To my pleasant surprise, I passed everything except early music history, which, judging by the volume of my peers' wailing/teeth-gnashing, was the norm. I hear early-music majors don't even pass it. I scanned over the results sheets that were posted, and out of 100, the highest score was a mid-70. That guy/girl passed everything. I dislike him/her greatly.

On the plus side, I get another chance in January. If I fail that one, I need to take a review course to punish my ignorance bring me up to speed.

I have pictures and videos and such of the buildings, practice rooms, and my drool-inducing walk through campus every morning, but until I can extract them from my phone, I'll be sticking to words. Boring, I know. But there's a lot to tell.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mocha Cookie Crumble Frozen Coffee Shake

I'm not usually much for coffee.  I find it to be bitter.  I drown it away in milk and sugar and artificially flavored creamers, much to Chris's chagrin.  I much prefer my tea.  But, there are times when I need a quick caffeine fix and coffee does the best job.  I primarily choose cold coffees because they are less bitter, and often less coffee than milk is used.  Plenty of sugars are added, and voilá! A coffee drink that I'll consume.

Lately, my caffeine fix of choice was a seasonal drink from Starbucks® called the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino®.  But, when I went to a shop just 2 days ago, they told me it was gone!  Gone!  And they substituted it with some other Frappuccino® that was, unfortunately, a much more coffee flavored one.  And I was so disappointed.

There was a time in my life that I worked for a (smaller) national coffee shop chain and I spent a lot of time reformulating drinks from another (larger) national coffee shop chain.  That, and I'm a blessed (or cursed) supertaster, which allows me to be able to pick apart recipes and makes for a great college frat party trick, though I think I may have outgrown that usefulness.  But, lucky for you, I know how to make a copycat drink!

Mocha Cookie Crumble Frozen Coffee Shake

In a blender, combine:
 - a little over 1 cup of ice cubes
 - 1/2 cup milk
 - 1 TB heavy whipping cream
 - 2 ounces of espresso, or double strength coffee
 - 1/8 cup dark chocolate syrup
 - 1/8 cup vanilla coffee syrup
 - 3 tsp dark chocolate chips

Blend these together for 30-45 seconds, or until the ice is well-blended with no large chunks.  Pour it out into 2 glasses.  Top with a generous swirl of chocolate whipped cream and a few crushed Oreos®.

Now, some additional information:
This is, obviously, not the exact recipe to make a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino®.  As such, I have not used the name for my recipe.
Big chain coffee shops use xanthan gum to keep their blended drinks from separating.  I find a dash of heavy whipping cream will do the same thing, but it's an unnecessary ingredient if you don't mind a bit of frequent stirring.  You'll also have a slightly more viscous drink than with it.
I know that dark chocolate is all the rage, everywhere, but you know that supertaster thing?  Yeah, I don't like bitter foods, and dark chocolate is bitter.  I used milk chocolate in this and enjoyed it just fine.
Also, I didn't have any whipped cream in the house!

Monday, August 13, 2012

First Day of School!

First day of school!!  First day of school!!  First day of school!!

Chris being dropped off for his first day of school.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We made it!

Moving is always an ordeal.  Always.

Before packing, you look around and think, "I don't have that much stuff to pack.  It can wait."

During packing, you think, "Wow, glad I started now!  I have more stuff than I thought I did!"

Upon unloading the truck, you think, "Where the hell did all this crap come from!?"

I thought it would be easier to make the 6 hour drive with the kids during the night so they could sleep and I could drive straight through.  Even so, it wasn't a smooth drive, and it took us 10.5 hours to get to Bloomington.  I would not like to know how the trip would have went during daylight hours!!

Our new home! It's a side-by-side townhouse.

I took the toy room packed in the van so the kids could have their very own room ready while the rest of the move happened.

The train table all set up for proper chugging.
You don't even want to see the rest of the house right now.  When we're set up properly, I'll give you a tour!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A better introduction to Bloomington

Chris has been to Bloomington, Indiana, a total of three times now.  This was my second trip.  I wasn't very impressed with the city the first time I visited.  I had not veered much from the simple route to get from our hotel to the University.  That particular route takes you through a rather run-down neighborhood.  It wasn't unsafe (as tested by Chris when he walked back to the hotel, alone at 10 o'clock at night, with his trombone on his back), but the houses were unkept and yards were left wild.  This was back in March, and there just wasn't any green anywhere.  It just seemed so dead and sad.  I was not excited to make this move.

However, the time came for us to actually find a home.  We decided to make a long weekend trip so that we could view both privately owned homes for rent and large apartment complexes.  Because of the length of the trip, it made more financial sense to camp at the nearby Hoosier National Forest than to rent a hotel.  As it turned out, it wasn't the smartest physical choice in the 100+ degree heat and torrential downpours, but it left us enough room in our budget to indulge in air-conditioned activities and restaurant meals when it was too hot or wet to be at a campfire.

This time, Bloomington was just that, in bloom!  Trees were green, grass was brown (they've suffered from the same heat and drought we have in Wisconsin), and it was certainly summer.  We explored greater parts of the city in our efforts to find housing and on the recommendation of perfectly helpful strangers.

We visited Bloomingfoods Co-op (this is like Outpost Foods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), and ate our lunch in their courtyard.  We spied the Farmer's Market just down the block and found enough to entertain the kids on any other day (that wasn't 107ºF).

Visiting the Bloomington Farmer's Market
(click for larger image)
We spent a lot of spare time in our tent at the campsite because it rained! We've been waiting so long in Wisconsin to hear the thunder, but it came to us in Bloomington, exactly when we didn't want it!  The kids did well with it though.  They know how to entertain themselves anywhere we go.

Making the best of tent time!
(click for larger image)
When things finally cleared up, we got a little crazy with our campfood.  We hadn't been able to start a fire due to the extreme humidity and constant rain for 2 days, so we had unconventional meals, like macaroni and cheese for breakfast, with s'mores as appetizers!  The kids enjoyed making royal messes of themselves.  But, if you can't get messy while camping, where else are you supposed to do it?!  (In the "dirt makes me cuter" t-shirt day, Miriam sports a swollen eye because a bee stung her right on the eyelid!)

The Little Piggies!
(click for larger image)

We found a home, and, per our usual house-hunting style, it was the first home we looked at.  I'm pretty excited that it offers a yard, many younger children in the area, and very cool landlords.  Chris will have a bit of a longer trek to the University than with the other options, but I'm confident we can find a solution for him.  I can't wait to show you pictures after we've moved in and sorted ourselves out!