Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Different Washington

Recently, two of my good friends from Indiana decided we should meet half way between our houses for a short girls weekend.  It was a great idea, as we all needed a bit of a break from our respective situations.  We kind of randomly picked Washington, PA just south of Pittsburgh, as our location.  We didn’t know a lot about the area, but we asked the concierge at the hotel for some suggestions, and just went from there.  A couple of our good finds included:

Juniper Grill:  The first night, we enjoyed drinks and food at this local favorite.  It was a packed house, and the food was just delicious.  Very nice for a dinner out.

The Upper Crust:  For a lunch option, this was a good little place for wood fired brick oven pizza. 

Rachel Rose's Boutique & Coffee Shop:  We actually got to The Upper Crust too early for their noon opening, but a cook noticed us and suggested we go down to the coffee shop at the end of the street.  Apparently, several of the shops on this street have the same owner and were all very good for what we were looking for.  We grabbed some filled-to-order cannoli, hot drinks (I got a vanilla milk steamer which I loved!), and other goodies.  They also sell local hand-made goods there, so I picked up a pretty little necklace as well.

Artemis Botanicals:  I’m not normally too into bath stuff, but I love peppermint scents so the sign advertising these drew us in.  Located amongst several other unique shops, this one had some beautiful, scented soaps and bath items that were too good to pass up.  I especially liked their hand-blown glass soap holders that matched the colors of the soap.  The owner says she hand selects the colors of glass based on what soaps she plans to make.

I would recommend any of these places if you ever find yourself in Washington, PA.

Thanksgiving Memories 2013

This year we got to host some of our relatives for the first time.  My grandparents and sister decided to make the trek out here since we decided to hold off on going to Indiana for Thanksgiving (I'm trying  to save up some trips for all the babies being born there next year).   It was so awesome to have them here, and Theo enjoyed greeting and entertaining the guests, building elaborate railways with his great grandpa, and chatting everyone up.  Eli (who is recovering well from his procedure) warmed up to the guests and loved all the extra snuggles. 

We enjoyed appetizers of my father's famous ham and cream cheese roll-ups, a new favorite of baked brie, deviled eggs (also known as Rotten Eggs by Theo who got up early to help me make these, and ate half of them) and a veggie platter with my grandma K's must-have-veggie-dip. 

Brian, as always, prepared the turkey and gravy.  He also helped me make these cute little pinterest guys, who Theo was sure to instruct everyone not to eat since they are made of wood.

For the main course, we had turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, grandma's green beans with sausage, stuffing, cranberry relish, Asian salad, and rolls. 

Eli's First Thanksgiving Meal!
 Of course my boys enjoyed their pies; pumpkin and apple.  And we had some cherry cobbler as well.

And at the end of the night, when Theo pulled the larger piece of the wish bone, his wish was for everyone to give him a kiss.  The perfect ending to a sweet holiday.

This was Theo's first Thanksgiving where he really understood the concept of being thankful.  He learned all about the history of the holiday and learned songs at pre-school, and made plenty of decorations at school and Sunday School.  His list of things to be thankful for this year has included:  Church, School, His teachers, His friends, Dada, Mama, and Eli, and a curvy train track.

I myself am very thankful for my two sweet as sugar boys, my one supportive husband, and all three floors of this house that has given us room to stretch our wings.  I'm thankful for all four tires on our golden car, and extremely thankful for my friends and my family, (especially for Aunt Nae Nae's patience in reading almost every Thanksgiving book we had to Theo in one sitting). 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Elijah's Reading List: Our Favorite Board Books for Babies

I love a good board book.  One that lives up to being chewed, drooled on, and pulled almost apart.  After checking all the different book baskets in our house, looking through those in the car, and digging our favorite ones out of the diaper-bag, I have compiled a list of our favorite board books that we've read with Eli during his first year.  He is now at that stage where he can turn all the pages in the book, and is beginning to sit longer and listen to complete books now.  He mostly hears us read to his big brother, but when it is just him he often gets to hear one of these stories.

I Love You Through and Through, by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak.  This is a good one for teaching the body parts.  I know that we were "late" teaching these to Theo according to our old pediatrician.  She really made us feel like we messed up big because he didn't know his parts at whatever age that was, so I'm making sure we don't mess up on that again.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See; The Very Busy Spider; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle.  I was so surprised when we were at a school a few months ago, and my husband didn't recognize the work on the wall as being Eric Carle's.  He has such a distinctive style, that I thought pretty much everyone knew about him.  But for those like my hubby, he is definitely one of the best things to happen to early literature since Dr. Seuss.  I love his books.  These are my favorite versions of these classics.  The Brown Bear book is a slide and find, which keeps Eli interested in each new page because he gets to slide over a square and uncover the next animal.  The Busy Spider has a nice touch aspect to it as the spider web is raised on each page.  And this cloth edition of the Hungry Caterpillar is not the full book, but a beautiful touch and feel modification that is best for the youngest bookworms.

Dr. Seuss's ABC:  An Amazing Alphabet Book, by Dr. Seuss.  So I'm actually not a huge fan of Dr. Seuss.  I like to buy those on CD actually, so they can be enjoyed by the kids but I don't have to read them.  But this one has always been my favorite to perform (I say perform because you really can't just read a Seuss book).

I Like Bugs, by Lorena Siminovitch.  This is a beautiful book that was just gifted to Eli from a great aunt recently.  It is very pretty, works on counting and the bugs are raised off the page so they are interesting to touch as well.

Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle.  So I actually meant to grab the sequel to this one, "Little Blue Truck Leads the Way" but accidentally used the original.  They are both great, but the second one just has this great cadence to the lines that makes it especially fun to read.  It is long enough to have all the elements of a story (building action, climax, resolution) but not too long that I lose Eli's attention.  I don't think I will ever tire of this book.

Next in the photo is Oh My, Oh My, Dinosaurs, by Sandra Boynton.  You can't actually see this one because Eli would just not sit still without holding one.  This author has several great books for babies, but I especially like this one since it identifies opposites.  It's one that Theo can pretty much read to his little brother all on his own.

Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell is pretty much a classic that was new to me a few years ago.  Eli is now at the age where he can lift all the little flaps to see what animals were sent from the zoo.  Any time he has something to interact with there is that much more of a chance he will stay interested until the end of the book.

That's Not My Plane, by Fiona Watt.  We picked up this one at one of the Smithsonians recently (with our discount from being zoo members).  It's fun because it talks about all the parts of a plane (I really need to learn these so Theo stops correcting me) and has touch features as well.

Where is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz. This is my favorite lift-the-flap type book.  The flaps are designed well so little baby fingers can actually use them.

Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden.  The feature I like with this one is the opening in the cover that changes the images throughout the book.  I also love that this one rhymes.

Quiet Loud, by Leslie Patricelli.  A popular book about things that are quiet, and things that are loud.  Theo likes to help with this one, as we get to whisper some pages and yell on others.

Simon Says, Roar Like a Lion, illustrated by Sarah Vince.  Like most babies, Eli has always been pretty interested in mirrors, so he really seems to like this one.  He hasn't really started to say any animals sounds yet, other than "Hisssssss like a cat."  He's good at that one (because our cat is so unfriendly toward him). 

In My Tree, by Sara Gillingham.  Like "Peek-a-Who", this book has a cut out that the other pages are based around, but in this case it is a finger puppet.  The book kind of disturbs Theo since there is no big brother in the family, but Eli loves the puppet.

Mirror Me! by Baby Einstein:  "Like Roar Like a Lion", this one is great because of the interactive mirror.  There have been many times we find Eli literally with his nose in this book, as he'll hold the mirror right up to his eyes and mouth.

Open the Barn Door illustrated by Christpher Santoro:  This one is great because it is so small, it can easily be slipped into a purse.  Combining farm animals sounds, and lift the flaps, it is always sure to please in a pinch when baby needs some distraction.

Octopus Opposites, by Stella Blackstone.  This one is interesting to me, because it combines animal identification, rhymes and opposites (three popular themes in board books) in a novel way.  Most of the animals in the store are not your typically included ones.  It's fun to get to say pack-pony and kookaburras, rather than just more cows and pigs.

I'm sure there are other great ones out there, but these have been our favorites through both boys we've had.  Mostly favorites because they'll catch the boys' interest, and entertain us as well.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thanksgiving Button-Turkey (Busy Bag)

I saw some of these button turkeys recently, and realized I had to make one for Thanksgiving.  Theodore is really at the age now where he is understanding seasons and holidays, and gets very excited by the changes in decor he sees with these, so I knew he'd love having his own little turkey.  And, he needs desperately to get better at all aspects of dressing himself, so practicing buttons in a fun way sounded perfect.

I couldn't really find any patterns or tutorials for this that were quite my style, so I went ahead and just free-handed the whole project, making my own changes as I went.  And I decided I would try and write up some directions for others to use.

Materials and Tools

Felt:  4 or more colors for feathers, plus two browns for turkey body, red for the wattle, yellow for the beak
Buttons:  4 or more colors to match feathers
embroidery thread and needle, thread
sewing machine, button hole foot
seam ripper, scissors, glue

1.  Cut out feathers, turkey body, turkey head, beak, and wattle.  Here's a screen shot of my template, but feel free to contact me for the PDF file.

2.  Next I went ahead and put the button holes in all the feathers.  I haven't done a button hole in probably over ten years, so it took me some time re-learning how to do this on my machine (even had to break out the manual).  Once I figured it out, it became very easy to repeat.  You can search for how to sew a button hole, but basically you set your dial to 0.5, and then use the 1, 2/4, 3, 2/4 stitches on your second dial.  The machine does all the work.  I learned to make sure to keep the needle up whenever I turned the dial to the next stitch.  I then opened them up using a seam ripper.
I did not even remember what this foot was for.

3.  Next, I hand sewed on all the buttons using embroidery thread.  I'd love to learn how to do this on the machine sometime.

4.  Finally, I stitched on the turkey head, beak, and wattle.  I glued the eyes on.  I then hand stitched the turkey body closed, stuffing it before the last few stitches.

As soon as I stuffed it, Theo became excited for his "turkey pillow" that Elmo and Elizabeth now get to sleep with.  He is getting really good at buttoning all the feathers on.

I thought it turned out pretty well.  But apparently, I should have added wings.  Because Theodore has been brought practically to tears by the idea that a turkey is a bird.  He is convinced they don't have wings.... and don't get him started on penguins.  He thinks they are fish...