Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Debrief

Okay, I have always had mixed feelings about Halloween. I am no good at pretending, and was chronically uncreative when it came to costumes as a child (except for that one superb year when Mom sewed beautiful costumes for my brother and me and we went as the Phantom of the Opera and Christine Daae). I'm not at all into the ghoulish, undead, or excessively creepy. I get annoyed when the neighbor's styrofoam gravestones (which have been in place since September) get blown into my yard. I get really annoyed when parents tote around their sub-one-year-old child (without older siblings) to collect candy.

However, I do have many fond memories of childhood Halloweens: the annual elementary school party - the games, the treats, the line for the haunted house that stretched all the way from the gym to the fifth grade classrooms. I remember the excitement of going trick-or-treating with my dad and brother and crunching through leaves in the front yard on the way home, cold and tired and ready for a warm bowl of chili. I love the celebration of autumn, and I love that it is one holiday that does not involve travel, gifts, deeper significance, or political correctness.

With that in mind, this year I was actually quite excited that Amy wanted to dress up. I gamely tried to honor her very specific request to become "A Beautiful Fox Named Maid Marian" - from Disney's Robin Hood of course, where Robin Hood and Maid Marian are both foxes. (Incidentally, I'm thrilled that my daughter's favorite "Disney Princess" is the furry, demure one with the long sleeves.)

So after a false start, and more than a few trips to the fabric store, and several hours (though not as many as I thought) of careful sewing I successfully crafted MM's dress, and in a frantic half-hour I cobbled together ears and a tail out of orange felt. As always, my favorite project is the one that is finished, but what made the completion of this one worthwhile was that Amy did indeed consent to wear the whole getup at the Station's Halloween Party. Her two previous Halloweens had seen hysterical fits when I tried to wrangle her into a costume for a photo op, so I had reason to fear costume rejection.

Poor girl did have to explain herself, as Robin Hood isn't exactly in the public knowledge these days. Someone guessed "Dinosaur Princess" and I almost got violent. The ears are a little crazy, but overall I think we got it about right, and most importantly, she was pleased as punch.

William very amiably wore his (purchased) dinosaur costume and looked cute as can be. I originally had big plans to dress him up as Robin Hood, but I correctly guessed that there wasn't going to be enough time to pull that off.

And I am so glad we had this party to go to on Friday because after talking about trick-or-treating all month, Amy decided that she did not want to go out tonight after all. A "who's on first" -style conversation earlier in the day revealed that her idea of trick-or-treating involved children coming to our door and giving her candy. Once I told her that she'd have to walk up to other people's doors she bowed out of the whole thing. Fine by me, as 6pm is the witching hour around here anyway and I really just wanted to get dinner eaten and everyone in bed on schedule.

So now the kids are fast asleep, the lights are out, and I have an enormous bowl of unclaimed candy to eat myself, I mean, um, send with Don to work. I think I can put this Halloween in the "win" column. Hope yours was fun, too!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rusty Shackles and Jack-O-Lanterns

... and everything in between. Here's a bit of a week-in-review from the Rudy household:

Last Sunday Don spent the ENTIRE day underneath the car, replacing the shackles that hold the Explorer's leaf springs in place. A brake line failure landed the car in the shop a few days prior, and of course they found all sorts of other rusty parts in dire need of repair. Over the last year or so Don has been willing to commit lots of time to doing car repairs himself, saving us thousands of dollars. I was quite happy to turn this project over to the pros, but once again Don was willing to take it on, rusty bolts and all. Here's a before:

That's the driver's side - note the crack just below the bolt. Yipes! Don replaced the shackles on both sides. This was what was left of them after removal:

And here's the driver's side again, with a nice shiny new one installed:

Fascinating, yes? Sure...

This week Amy had a small cold, and William was getting into an excellent napping groove, so we spent more than the usual amount of time at home, just playin'...

I caught Amy using the baby monitor like a phone, trying to talk to W as he woke up:

My five-month-old boy got his first taste of rice cereal. He kept making faces like "this was not exactly what I had in mind..." but seemed generally excited about the experience. I had been planning on waiting until he was a full six months to try solids, but since evidence of his allergy has been rapidly disappearing and he's been seeming just plain hungry, Don convinced me to give it a go. So far so good.

This weekend we did our pumpkin carving. We did not go pumpkin picking, like we did last year, but we still had lots of fun with these supermarket beauties. (I know suppose there should be four pumpkins, but those little pie pumpkins are awfully hard to carve, so I stopped with just one). Amy requested "round eyes, a square nose, and a smiley face"... and when I was done I laughed because I think it looks like William. Don did the happy one on the left, and I did the cat face on the right. Amy could not be convinced to touch the pumpkin guts, but she's been delighted with these guys since their completion.

Now I just need to finish her costume (ahh!) and we'll be all set for Halloween!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


After a brutally hot summer we are finally enjoying some comfortable temperatures for playing outside here in Maryland. Lately we've been going to at least one of the parks in our neighborhood every day. Last week Don and I took everyone for a walk in the late afternoon, only to be caught in an intense downpour. The rain stopped as soon as we turned around to head home, but a perfect rainbow made the sogginess worthwhile.

Today we went out after lunch - not our usual time slot but it proved to be the best weather of the day, and everyone had fun in the warm sunshine.

Amy has gained a lot of confidence on the playground. She is now an expert climber and hanger, and LOVES swinging. Still won't go down the slide though.

William has been getting in on the action recently, and he does quite well in the baby swing, with a blanket to keep him from flopping forward. He loves it! (That doesn't look like a happy face in the picture below, but trust me, it was.)

When he'd had enough of swinging it was back to the stroller to watch the wind rustle the leaves for a bit...

Then a nap snuck up on him, and I finally got a picture of the pinkie-sucking. This is the best, as far as I'm concerned. Amy never sucked her thumb or found a lovey or anything, so I'm delighting in W's self-soothing abilities. And he's just so stinkin' cute when he does it...

Incidentally, these are all cell-phone pictures. I do NOT have a fancy phone or fancy camera "apps," but the phone is always there and I'm just starting to remember that I can use it to capture some of these spontaneous, out-of-the-house moments that make up so much of our days. Expect more of this genre!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fun With Scissors

So, when it rains, it pours. I can dither around for weeks with nothing interesting to blog about, nothing accomplished in the day besides the ordinary, and generally not feeling terribly creative. Then something clicks and all of the sudden I find myself on a roll with loads of inspiration and lots to share. This has become one of those weeks.

In the last three days William seems to have realized how much better he feels if he takes longer naps. I've been telling him this for months but he's been a serial catnapper ever since he outgrew the drowsy newborn phase. I hate to even write about it for fear of jinxing the trend, but in general there has been much improvement. That, plus a couple of days without wheels and Amy and I found ourselves with lots of time to really have fun together on projects at home.

It all started when I was cutting out pattern pieces for her Halloween costume. I stepped out of the room for a moment and then heard "Mommy I'm snipping!"... uh oh! No harm done, but I remembered that I had some kiddie scissors tucked away for her and thought she might be ready to give them a try. We got out the construction paper and got to snipping... which evolved into me cutting out jack-o-lanterns and other "Halloween" shapes to decorate our front window. We had a blast working on this together! The usual suspects are all here.... cats, pumpkins, ghosts, leaves, a forest, full moon, bats...

... and of course what Halloween vignette is complete without a) a beaver or b) an octopus?

The next day, to continue the "snipping" theme, I gave Amy a spur-of-the-moment haircut. I had my own hair cut earlier in the week and asked Amy if she wanted to go to the salon soon too. No, no, no, said my girl, but she was quite happy to play beauty parlor in the comfort of her own room.

And I think she looks so cute and trendy and grown up now! Not bad for my first attempt, if I do say... though I did follow her around with scissors for the rest of the afternoon, tidying up some stray ends.

That, plus some better fitting clothes and shoes and she finally looks like the big girl that she is.

And lastly, the other big project of the week has been working on Amy's costume. I'm not telling what she is going to be, and it obviously involves a fancy purple dress, but I want to see it all come together and then share the whole thing at once. I will say that I'm proud of my girl for coming up with something other than just "a princess"... like EVERY other preschool girl out there.

Anyway, I've been working on this one in the evening when I can work "reasonably" undisturbed. Except for, ehem, the darn cats... I love my kitties, I really do, but the two of them could not be more of a pain when it comes to sewing. Holy cow. Ollie couldn't stop knocking off the pattern weights, and Juliett kept trying to get cozy on top of everything. I almost sent them to the garage... but they are pretty cute so they get a pass. For now.

And in closing, one more cutie...

... and with that, wishing you all a lovely fall weekend!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Daily Bread

Oh my! We've been back home for well over a week now and I have not written a word in this space. Busy busy with all the usual around here...

However I have been wanting to share my bread making/bread machine progress for quite some time, so here 'goes.

Several months ago I purchased this (for less than the current price) and have tried out a handful of recipes. My foray into bread making has been motivated by the current no-dairy no-soy situation, since almost all packaged bread has one or both of those ingredients. I decided to spring for a bread machine because, as I described here, making bread totally by hand is not really my favorite thing.

(photography note - hate the yellow cast the fluorescent light in the kitchen gives pictures... need to learn about white balance and other camera tricks)

Anyway, I have a HUGE book of bread-machine-specific recipes but have only tried a few since many call for butter and/or milk (or cheese! or chocolate!). For now my big mission has been to settle on a recipe for a basic whole wheat bread that would be suitable for everyday toast and sandwiches. I ended up combing two recipes from the instruction booklet to make this bread - it's not terribly exciting, but that's what I was looking for. It even passed the Amy test - she didn't comment on it. This recipe makes 2 pounds of dough, and right now I am happy with the results I get from simply using the dough cycle, then dividing the dough into two loaf pans, giving it one final (long) rise, and baking it in the regular oven. A bit more labor, but still heaps easier than going all of the way from scratch.

Basic Honey-Wheat Bread:

1 1/4c. water
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. bread flour
3 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

Add to the pan in your machine's recommended order (usually liquids first, yeast last). My machine's dough cycle lasts hour and a half, at which point I remove and divide the dough, shape it into two loaves and let it rise in two greased loaf pans for a full 90 minutes. The extra rise time really helps make it light. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Also, I have recently discovered what a difference vital wheat gluten makes - it makes homemade bread behave and do all the things bread is supposed to do. Who knew.

Now, under the category "Ways to Fall Off the Wagon":

Sugar cookies made my me and Amy this weekend. It is possible I've had one (or six)... However, William has seemed no worse for those transgressions - we might be starting to turn the corner. He's going on five months old now, and my girl will be three YEARS old in just a few weeks. Oh my, oh my...

Friday, October 1, 2010

this moment

Inspired by Soulemama, "A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor, and remember."

Have a lovely weekend!