Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cinnamon Play Dough

Ever since I saw this post on It's Always Something, I've had the intention to shamelessly copy Niki's play dough approach in every way.  :) I bought a set of cookie cutters similar to hers, divided the set into themed bunches just as she did, and that's where my emulation ended until today.  Mike has been out of town, and as I pondered how to add some extra fun into my time going solo with my kids, the idea came back to me.

The thing is, I could totally picture a little McCormick jar of cream of tartar in my cupboard, but it just didn't exist.  I don't even recall why I would have had it, but for some reason I believed I did.  Enter Google and the fact that this probably happens to a lot of people, and I was able to salvage my spontaneous endeavor with this recipe from Natural Parenting Tips.  Yup, sure, I was just trying to be more natural and aviod the aluminum in cream of tartar, mmm-hmm.

Aside from being a little sticky (I even added extra flour having read reader comments) and smelling a bit like a salad (had to go with the white vinegar alternative since I also had no lemon juice), the recipe worked out.  I was able to whip up a batch within the timeframe of an episode of Curious George.

Like Niki advised, I added some food coloring during the cooking process rather than after the dough cooled to prevent staining hands.  Along with going with cream of tartar next time, I'll also add more food coloring, especially when aiming for orange. It came out an odd fleshy color (notice Michael's toe comment in the video below). 

I stirred in some fall spices at the end as well.  With that vinegar, however, I don't think any amount of nutmeg and cinnamon could ever totally do the trick!

But the kids didn't seem to mind. 

Cinnamon Play Dough from Shared and Doubled on Vimeo.

I should add that Michael quizzing me on the cookie cutter shapes is a common exchange around here.  He and Sophie tend to take on this teacher/parent persona on occasion, and I love it!  :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Shelves and Accordion Picture Display


I came down with a cold over the weekend, taught without a voice on Monday, and planned to do the same on Tuesday.  After a drama-free bedtime (that's happened the last three nights!), both stuffy-nosed kids woke up unhappy in the middle of the night and joined Mike and me in bed.  
Thanks to toddler feet in my ribs, hands flung unconsiously in my face, occasional shouts of "Tee-ko!" (Sophie pleading for arm tickles), and my own coughing and congestion, I did not get the rest my body desperately needed on Monday night.  I knew a sick day was really in order, but sometimes the work of preparing for a sub and dealing the all that piles up while you're out is a big deterrent.
I had an epiphany in the shower the next morning: If I whip up some sub plans and send the kids to the child care center, I could cover the big B.
At the end of the summer I got the itch to gather up some fall decorations and crafts, including supplies to spell out "Boo" on our living room shelves. That big B had been sitting on our basement craft table for over a month as I considered my options. Ultimately I covered it in dark brown burlap ribbon.  That's what I did while watching the Obamas on The View on Tuesday.  With the exception of the round mirror that I picked up for $5 long ago at a thrift store, all the supplies for the "Boo" came from Hobby Lobby.

The grapevine pumpkins are from JoAnn Etc, and I embellished them with regular burlap ribbon and a couple of flowers that have been sneaking into my home decor since my wedding shower (they were part of some gift wrapping).  I tied some of that burlap ribbon in a knot around an old vace and am using that as a candle holder.

I picked up several 1/2 bushel baskets at Hobby Lobby as well, thinking I would fill them with apples or something and line them up on my kitchen table, but I'm enjoying them tipped over with pinecones spilling out on the living room shelves.
My favorite part of the arrangement is the accordion photo display I made out of our Ikea coasters.  I wanted a way to decorate with pictures from the kids' first two Halloweens that could be made with materials around the house.  I followed most of the steps in this tutorial from The How-To Gal with the addition of scrapbook paper backing the photos and...electrical tape holding the whole thing together instead of actual hinges. 

Spending my sick day being creative and crafty and completely on my own was just what I needed. I'm still coughing a bit and don't sound like myself, but in other ways I do feel revived.

Fall Party

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What up, gnomies?

Michael and Sophie's Halloween costumes came today, and I can contain my excitement no longer.  Garden gnomes, people.  Garden gnomes! 

I selfishly chose the kids' costumes without their input (these days are numbered), so I thought I should at least familiarize Sophie and Michael with the concept of gnomes if there is to be any hope of getting them happily into the outfits come Halloween.  They have seen Snow White, and they recognize Santa Claus, but even dwarves and elves are only on the fringes of their consciousness.  I showed them a clip of Gnomeo and Juliet on Youtube a week ago which they liked, but I think it was just the allure of the costumes' tall hats (they keep calling them moons), flower shaped pockets, and removable beard that won them over this afternoon. 

I didn't take any pictures of Michael and Sophie all gnomed up today, and probably won't for a few weeks yet, but picture this...

...with significantly more plaid and the cuteness cranked up to eleven. 
And on that note, I have to admit that watching my two buddies walking around in their pointy hats and pointy shoes I thought of Stonehenge.  A reenactment just might be in order.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Patience Stretching

Speaking of patience stretching, is this a long post or what?  Thanks for even reading this far!

About a month ago I shared our recent sleep struggles that I attributed to adjustments that came with summer life.  As I said then, we were hoping that our school year sleep routine would help resolve the issues, and in some ways I think it has.  However, we're still not back to the consistently glorious bedtimes of the past quite yet. Yes, yet. With Sophie gracefully climbing out of her crib a couple of times in the last couple of weeks and Michael making strong attempts, I'm probably foolishly optimistic, but I'm holding onto that "yet" for now.

We recently started trying a few tweaks to our bedtime routine that seem to be easing the protest. 
  • We turn on the white noise about an hour before bedtime instead of just as we put the kids in their cribs. We can all hear the sound coming from their room as we finish playing in the playroom and living room, signaling that bedtime is near.
  • We've been getting the kids into jammies about 30 minutes before bedtime, 15 minutes or so earlier than before.
  • We read several bedtime stories in that extra pajama time instead of just one.
Micheal and Sophie both seem more ready to lie down, even though we haven't changed bedtime itself.  But again, it's not great.

The other night, after Mike had put a docile Micheal into his crib and he rested there quietly, I finished rocking Sophie for a couple of minutes and went to put her down. Michael stood up and shouted, "My turn! Michael rock!" Now, this whole situation bugs the heck out of me. We were to a point for a good long while where we could put both kids in their cribs fully awake and they would calmly go to sleep on their own. The rocking, the protesting, the giving up and snuggling on the couch, all of this makes me search for when some enormous failure occured. I've pinpointed daylight savings last spring. Seriously, I think that's when it began! In a period of adjustment Michael started asking for milk from his crib, we gave it to him on the couch, the summer routine fueled the fire, and here we are.

As Michael yelled to be rocked, I thought of an article that I read in a parenting magazine a while back (can't remember which one and I no longer have it).  It was an idea for getting kids to sleep without crying it out and extending their patience in the process.  While I'm aware of the research on the damaging effects of extended periods of crying, I'm not one to wag my finger at letting babies cry on occasion.  In fact, after a phase of sickness and teething got baby Michael in the habit of midnight snuggles, I followed my gut and let him cry for a couple of nights.  It did the trick, and I'm not worried at all.  However, letting him cry has not helped our current struggles, and I'm not going to push it.  Because it was Dr. Harvey Karp (Mr. Happiest Baby on the Block) presenting this "patience stretching" method, I took note.  I mean, what would we have done without the five S's back in the days of newborn twins?  Gone completely insane, most likely.

With that article in mind I went Michael standing in his crib and turned on his seahorse for its warm light and comforting sounds.  I talked to him for a little bit in whispers so as not to disturb Sophie as she dozed.  I had him point out who and what was in his crib with him--monkey, seahorse, blanket, pillow, trying to help him feel less alone and unhappy in his crib.  He was clearly soothed by having a sort of visitor.

At this point I was also reminded of a time when Michael was an infant and it was approaching naptime.  He was crying, my mom was holding him, and she started making faces to get a smile.  At first I was anxious that he was going to get too stimulated to sleep, but he almost immediately relaxed toward dreamland.  I've kept that moment in mind for the last two years, remembering that getting a smile from Michael is possibly essential to getting him to sleep.

Following Dr. Karp's advice, I then told Michael that I had to go give Daddy a kiss and that I would be back in two minutes.  He said, "Ok, Mama" with a smile.  The article suggested going back in again and again but at longer and longer intervals out of the room until the kid can resist sleep no longer.

After a few minutes I went back in, but I brought a soft book and read it to Michael in a whisper.  I then asked him if he wanted to hold the book while I went to give Daddy a hug.  Again, Michael was in full agreement.  (If your mind is like my husband's, you might need me to express that this method does not include progressively affectionate experiences for "Daddy."  Dr. Karp's advice only involved kisses.)

Five minutes later I could hear Micheal quietly "reading" the first book aloud (a book version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"), and I went in one more time with another book. After five minutes alone with the second book, Michael was silent, and I knew he was out.  No rocking, no protests, no tears for the first time in a long time.

I did this again the next night, and it worked again.  The third night, however, I was coming down with a cold and got into a soothingly hot shower when I thought the coast was clear.  Mike was out picking up some carry-out (I know, we do that too often).  When I came out of the shower, I could hear Michael screaming from his crib and knew the method had been blown for the evening.  Out to the couch we went again.

That was last night.  We're trying this "patience stretching" thing again, but Sophie has gotten into the routine now.  She saw me give a book to Michael and wanted one, and on my first departure she pushed her window blinds up to reveal to both of them that at 7:15 in September, it's still daytime.  Now Michael is quietly moaning, not in his happy almost sleeping state.  Sophie is silent, probably dozing.  We'll see where this goes, and hopefully it's not the couch. 

UPDATE: It did go to the couch.  Mike and I took turns holding our boy for 15 minutes or so until he asked to go to bed.  Not a terrible routine, but it doesn't feel right.

Here's a question for any experienced mama reading this.  Do you think we should get the sleep protests under control before switching to toddler beds, or are we wasting effort since that's likely to throw us into a bedtime tailspin anyway?  Please share any advice below!

Maybe I should read Happiest Toddler on the Block?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Belle Isle Aquarium

We had a party to go to at around 3:00 on Saturday an hour away from home.  That timing meant naps in the car for Michael and Sophie, so Mike and I decided to stretch that ride out by showing the kids some fishies at the Belle Isle Aquarium in the morning and getting some lunch downtown.

We hadn't been to the aquarium before it closed seven years ago, but on our few visits to Belle Isle since, we've been very curious about this little piece of history.

The kids had their first celebrity sighting.  In one tank were two orange and white clown fish, so you know what that meant: "NEMO! NEMO'S DADDY!"  I was holding Sophie at that moment and was lunged forward as she grabbed Mike's shoulder to shove him out of the way for a closer look.
We spent a little while walking around the conservatory grounds.

Sophie got a lot of compliments on her dress at the aquarium (we stood in line for about 20 minutes) and later at the party.  You might recognize it from Thanksgiving 2011 and some of the kids' 18 month photos (which I never posted since I used them for Christmas cards and gifts).  The dress was perfect for yesterday's high of 72 degrees and a day of running around outside, so I'm happy it still fit.  I bought it with a matching tie for Michael on Esty last September, but it doesn't look like Two Sisters Originals are selling clothes right now.  If you hunt Etsy, I'm sure you can find similar sets if you're looking.

We've apparently been living under a rock because we heard nothing of Tour De troit until masses of bikes surrounded us on our way to lunch.  It took us a bit to weave our way to Slows, and Micheal dozed off on the way.  He was a bit of a cranky pants until he was full of chicken and corn bread. 
Milestone of the day:  Michael peed in his first public toilet at the restaurant!  Biggest giggle of the day: Drying hands under the crazy powerful dryer in that bathroom.  I couldn't hear Michael under the noise, but I could feel the giggles in his little belly as I held him up.  Of course, that made me giggle away as well. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

'Nana Toast

I'm hoping to make more of a habit out of this.  Over Labor Day weekend, the kids and I baked banana bread.  They stood on chairs, helped me sift flower, scooped and counted the dry ingredients one very inaccurate 1/4 cup at a time, and (as you can see above) helped me stir in the nuts.  Afterwards we played in the sandbox and pretended to sift flower, count scoops, stir our batter, and bake our bread under a lawn chair.  Lunch ended up being banana bread and berries that day because none of us could resist.  The bread was warm with a slightly crispy crust that inspired Michael to rename the treat "'nana toast."  We ate it for a couple of breakfasts and snacks over the next few days, and Michael and Sophie's faces lit up with pride when I reminded them that they made it!
This past Sunday, as the kids sat at the kitchen table eating their leftovers from lunch for dinner, I started making some loaded baked potato soup.  It wasn't long before they had abandoned their spinach ravioli to help me scoop baked potatoes from their peels.  Michael and Sophie counted each chop to the green onions, scooped more flour, and smiled gleefully each time I lifted them to see the concoction developing in the pot.  They had had this soup before, but I believe that having made it "themselves" inspired Sophie to request seconds and thirds at dinner the next night. 
While these weren't the healthiest dishes we could have made together, I'm hopeful that the more we cook and bake together, the better lifelong eating habits Michael and Sophie will have. 
There are more organic bananas over-ripening their hook in our kitchen right how (we just don't go through them like we used to).  I'm hoping the kids and I can carve out some time this weekend to work more baking magic!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our Reality Kitchen

Like the unofficial summer, our kitchen facelift project lasted roughly from Memorial Day until Labor Day this year.  Part of preparing for my dad's party last weekend included wrapping up this adventure.
If you would like some background on this project, you can find out more in previous posts.
The table was my grandparents' kitchen table for decades, and while the sentimentality and vintage look are ideal, our chairs don't fit beneath it.  On the sides pictured without chairs, the legs are too close together for our chairs to go between them, a bit of information we discovered after bringing it home from my parents' house and after Mike painted it. The table does have two leaves, but it opens in the other direction.  It will do for now, but I'll be keeping my eyes open for a larger pedestal table, an option I considered before settling on using this one anyway.


This is the clock from Home Goods that I mentioned before.  With the color of the wood, the black details, and the mid-century modern look complete with that typeface I adore, I don't regret the $40 splurge at all.

Mike darkened the cabinets with General Finishes Gel Stain in Java.  The change might not be an obvious one to some, but it's a very satisfying improvement to us.  I think it helps blend our black appliances in while the new cabinet and drawer pulls highight the stainless steel we do have.
Here are a couple of before photos for comparison's sake:

The window shade is a Target tablecloth I found on a clearance rack ($9) that I glued to a roller shade ($8) with spray adhesive.  I saw the idea on Pinterest but didn't really follow any instructions.  I just cut the cloth, sprayed it with 3M spray adhesive, and rolled it back up.  Maybe I should dig out that pin for more advice because it doesn't work great.  I think it might be too heavy for the cheapo roller as it needs to be taken down and manually rolled up sometimes.  Still, it serves its purpose.  It keeps the afternoon sun out of my eyes when cooking and adds some color.  I don't fuss with it much anyway.

You can see the cabinet color is still on the reddish side in the light.

In addition to tiling the floor, staining the cabinets, and painting the walls, Mike installed all new floor and crown molding.  The previous owners' work was not of the best quality, and it had been bugging Mike for years.
More floor details:

This kitchen isn't our dream kitchen, but for our reality kitchen, I think it's pretty darn nice.
 Now, what to do this fall....

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