Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NPR with Julia

After dropping off Evelyn at ballet on Wednesday evenings, I like to listen to NPR's "All Things Considered" on the drive home. It would be a quiet drive home, with Julia letting me listen to the broadcast. Until today.

Julia is paying attention to what she hears on the radio. The proof is in her interruptions. "Mommy! They said California!" "Mommy! They said Rachel!" "Mommy! They said bus!" "Mommy! They said president!" Mind you, she yells these comments, which makes is difficult to hear the story. Ah, well, I guess this is a good thing. I can start discussing current events with my two-year-old.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ice Cream Cake

This was the picture on Google's website this afternoon - how did they know today was my birthday?
I had hoped I would get an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, and Evelyn granted my wish!

Evelyn loves Dairy Queen ice cream, so you know she loved the cake.
Julia, on the other hand, thought we were looney-tunes when we told her the cake was ice cream. But once she had a couple of bites of the ice cream cake, she quit asking for normal cake.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Evelyn's Purple Fairy Costume - Part 1

I finished sewing the bodice for Evelyn's purple fairy costume about a week ago, and I finished sewing the skirt today. Even though the two parts aren't sewn together, yet, I managed to get them to stay on Evelyn long enough for a couple of pictures. Now I need to sew eight satin flower petals, which will go around the waist.
When choosing the fabric colors, I started with the (store-bought) wings and went from there. After last year's fiasco with Evelyn's crafty Glinda costume, I decided to buy the wings instead of make them. Evelyn wore her fairy wings for this shot -

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Whenever I get my hair cut, I have my stylist straighten it. Evelyn and Julia just love it when I have straight hair - like them! Hardly anyone recognizes me without my curly hair, and it's fun going incognito for two or three days.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Evelyn Starts Piano Lessons

I had three criteria that Evelyn needed to meet before I would start giving her piano lessons: knowing to read from left to right; being able to sit for a 30-minute lesson; and a desire to learn. For most of the summer, Evelyn had been asking me when she could start taking piano lessons. Her interest in playing the piano was the third - and final - criteria that signaled her readiness.

Even though Evelyn couldn't wait to get started, I needed to take care of a couple of things - tuning the piano and finding a curriculum. The piano was tuned earlier this week, so that was ready to go. A couple of weeks ago, I found a beginner's program that seemed like a good fit for Evelyn. "Music for Little Mozarts" will allow Evelyn to be a kid and have fun, while learning the basics of piano and music at the same time. There are two student books with activities for both the lesson and practice sessions, a teacher book with music that is used during the lesson, and the two stuffed animals that the whole curriculum is based on - Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse.

So today was the big day! I planned the lesson to go back and forth between sitting at the piano and moving around the living room, doing various musical activities that correlated with the lesson. Evelyn loved the lesson, and she became fast friends with Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse. The books are kid-friendly and upbeat, and hopefully Evelyn will continue to enjoy her beginner lessons (and practicing!).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cookie Mystery

I have a cookie press with several seasonal disks. Whenever a holiday or a new season rolls around, we like to share the shaped spritz cookies with teachers and neighbors. I use the cookie gun to press out all the cookies at once, before the dough consistency gets weird. I shoot out 60 cookies on my four cookie sheets. Our current oven is extra large, and I can fit two sheets, side by side, on one rack. So, I only need to bake two rounds of cookies.

With this week being the first week of Fall, Evelyn suggested making some orange leaf-shaped cookies. No problem. The recipe I use is tried-and-true, with awesome results every time . . . except this past Tuesday. The first round (two sheets) of cookies came out fine. The second round, however, were so burned that the smoke detector went off - with three minutes still left to bake! There was no way we could give those away.
Julia and I tried again this morning to bake orange leaf cookies. The picture below says it all - all four sheets of cookies came out golden and perfect. I don't know what went wrong a couple of days ago, but Evelyn will be happy to know we can give away cookies after all.

All in Favor

All those in favor of sleeping, raise your right hand . . .

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Short-Order Cook

This morning I was a short-order cook. We three girls all had something different for breakfast:

Valerie - English muffin and juice
Evelyn - fried egg, cinnamon/sugar toast and juice
Julia - banana muffin, strawberry yogurt and milk

Order's up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Julia's Art Class

Julia went to her first "Tiny Hands" class this morning. I don't mind doing arts and crafts, but I can't think of ideas on my own. So when I saw this six-week class offered through the county, which is held at the local community center, I jumped at the chance.

Today's theme was Fall, and Julia made three projects in 45 minutes. Here she is with her art from this morning - a table centerpiece, a wreath and a handprint tree.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day Out with Thomas - Strasburg

Evelyn has been to four "Day Out with Thomas" events in four different states - Texas, Nebraska, Maryland and now Pennsylvania. I had heard that the real Thomas was at Strasburg, and I was curious to find out what this meant.
For our 11:45 train ride, we chose an open-air coach towards the back. The coaches at Strasburg are absolutely gorgeous. You can tell a lot of work goes into keeping them maintained, inside and out.
The train ride through Amish country was beautiful, too. When we rounded a slight curve in the track, we could almost see Thomas at the front.
Julia and Evelyn were thoroughly entertained by the conductor. After seeing Evelyn's wooden train whistle, he showed the girls how he could use his hands to replicate the same sound. Try as they might, neither Julia nor Evelyn could make a train whistle sound with their hands.

The best part of "Day Out with Thomas" at Strasburg? This Thomas is a real working steam locomotive. The Thomas trains we have seen at previous venues were not actual steam engines. They were just for looks. It was pretty cool, seeing Thomas pulling eight coaches and a caboose. He made a trip every 30 minutes, so we had plenty of chances to see him in action. I wonder if, next year, we dare venture to another state to see Thomas. Or should we stick with the real thing at Strasburg?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Costume Time!

After several discussions about what Evelyn wanted to be for Halloween, and what she wanted Julia to be, she made a decision. Drum roll please . . . Evelyn and Julia will be fairies! Evelyn will be a purple fairy (of course), and Julia will be a blue fairy.

I'm using the same pattern for both costumes. Since the two costumes will use some of the same pattern pieces, I need to make Evelyn's costume first. Here's the material for Evelyn's costume - satin, sheer, crepe and tulle fabric.
Voila! All the pattern pieces are cut out! Now it's time to transform these puzzle pieces into a fairy dress.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

House #2

Our realtor (who is also a friend of mine) hosted an open house this afternoon, so I decided to check it out. This house was a huge improvement over the one I saw yesterday, but there were a couple of things that would keep us from seriously considering it. First and foremost, Evelyn wouldn't go to the same elementary school. It never hurts to keep your options open, but I really don't see us moving away from Evelyn's school. It is also missing the garage that is at the top of Troy's wish-list. Those two major reasons prevent this house from being a contender.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let the House Hunting Begin

Sometime in the next two or three years, Troy and I plan to buy a house. We've talked about purchasing a home ever since we moved here, almost three years ago. Now that we're closer to the actual time we will buy, we've started looking at what's available.

The number one thing on our wish-list is that Evelyn continues to attend her current elementary school, and a close second is the price. Those two items significantly narrow down the area of Germantown where we're looking. We aren't ready to buy anything right now, but knowing what's out there in different pockets of our preferred areas certainly helps.

Here is the house I looked at this morning. The outside looks great, right? I mean, how could you go wrong with living on half an acre in Germantown? Well, once I stepped inside, there was a lot wrong. The layout was really weird, and the updates throughout the house were ridiculously inconsistent. So now we know what a 2,000-square-foot house listed at $439,000 (but should really be sold for $400,000 or less) looks like, and we can go from there as we keep browsing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Sous Chef

Step aside, Evelyn, because there's a new sous chef in town. Whenever I start making something in the kitchen, Julia begs to have her stool put by the island so she can help me. It's quite an adjustment for me to go from a truly helpful Evelyn to an amateur two-year-old Julia. But everyone needs to start somewhere.

Julia is currently working on dumping ingredients into a mixing bowl, usually from a measuring cup or spoon. I've also let her start cracking eggs, but I cradle her hand the whole time. While making rhubarb cake this afternoon, she stirred the batter without spilling - a first for her. She rarely eats what she helps me make, but she really enjoys being a sous chef.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time Outs

How do we know our little Julia is growing up? She visits the naughty spot about once every two or three days. So far her offenses are silly ones like standing on the couch, drawing on her hands with marker or putting her feet on the table during meals. Julia lets out a fake cry for the entire two minutes she is in time out, which doesn't fool anyone. As of right now, Julia doesn't take her time outs seriously. It's like she is trying to see what the naughty spot is all about. One of these days, she will (hopefully) realize that it's better to be good - and stay away from time out - so she can do the things she enjoys.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Draws to a Close

As reluctant as I am to admit it, summer is coming to an end. With that comes the closing of the community pool. It is so convenient to have the pool within walking distance - a quick three blocks from our house - and we used the pool as our outdoor recreational activity of choice all summer long.
Today Julia preferred playing with her buckets and small animals. Here she is, giving them a bath.

Julia also ventured to the 5-foot area with Troy and "jumped" into the water a couple of times.
Evelyn didn't need as much help as her little sister, but she still relied on the security of Troy being in the deeper water with her.
One more shot of Troy in Evelyn in the pool today - the last day it was open. We had another great summer at the pool!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pajamas with a Side of Reading

Evelyn's reading really took off over the summer. She went from reading basic words and short sentences to reading entire picture books with little or no help. Julia loves the fact that Evelyn can read stories, and she commonly asks Evelyn to read a story to her. They make a perfect pair - Evelyn is the enthusiastic reader, and Julia is the eager audience.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hurricane Earl

What did I have in common with Hurricane Earl? All three beaches I visited this past year were affected by the hurricane.

Of the three beaches, St. John experienced the strongest winds and most rain, and there was some damage on the island. Duck, North Carolina - on the Outer Banks - had rain, as well as some pretty bad wind and high waves, but not much damage was done. Fenwick Island, Delaware merely had some rain bands and gale force winds as a result of the hurricane passing by. It's kind of wild to hear about a hurricane affecting areas that I recently visited.