Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Earlier this week, Troy took the girls to Black Hill for a New Year's craft program. The girls made party hats and several noisemakers. Here are Evelyn and Troy, ready to party-hardy and ring in the new year!Happy New Year from the Lusters! (Doesn't Rosie looked thrilled?)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Still Recovering

Julia has really been hit hard with all sorts of sickies in the past week, and she is still recovering. Yesterday she woke up with pink eye, and today she had tummy problems. After taking an early bath this evening, Julia brought several bed-time items to our bed and promptly fell asleep. Hopefully all this rest will help her get well soon!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

When Evelyn and Julia came downstairs this morning, they each found a pile of presents that Santa had left for them. Since Julia was still under the weather, she slept in until about 8:30 am. Evelyn was so patient, waiting until Julia woke up to open presents with her sister.The girls just ripped into their gifts, scoping out each other's gifts.
Some of Julia's favorites were a mosaic craft and a new princess game for her LeapPad.
Evelyn was ecstatic that Julia gave her a kitty park. When she combined it with the dog park she got for Julia, the girls had quite an animal complex!
Something that Julia really wanted for Christmas, and the set that held her attention most of the day, was a cookie and cupcake set, complete with a stand mixer and oven mitt. She loved pretending to bake goodies and serve them on the pretty plate. So much make-believe fun this year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sick Little Julia

Tuesday evening at 6:15 Julia told me she was cold. The next thing I knew, she had covered herself up with the afghan and was fast asleep on the couch. She had been coughing all day, and a fever showed up in the evening.When she woke up Wednesday morning, she still had a fever with lots of coughing and congestion. I alternated between ibuprofen and Tylenol all day to keep the fever away. That also made Julia feel better, so she played normally for the most part. However, since she was still sick, once 6:00 rolled around, she literally crashed on the floor with her stuffed animals. It was another early bedtime for Julia last night.

This morning Julia still had a fever with her cough. We were all bummed about this because today was the day for her preschool winter program and party. Julia shed a few tears over the fact that she wouldn't be going to preschool this morning. But I kept her occupied with Candy Land, paper dolls and watching a bit of TV. Let's hope she shakes this thing soon - it's not like our Julia to be so unenergetic!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wacky Wednesday

This week is Spirit Week at Evelyn's school, with a dress-up theme every day:

Monday was dress up as a favorite book character. This was tough to do for two reasons: Evelyn had P.E. that day, so she didn't really want to wear a bonafide costume; and we don't have any book character costumes. Evelyn decided to be a fairy from one of her fairy chapter books, which was easy to do with her removable wings.

Yesterday was sports day. You know our artsy, musical Evelyn...she didn't have anything to wear to match that theme.

Today is Wacky Wednesday! She picked out stripes, tie-dye and polka dots for her clothes, mismatched socks (Julia reminded her time and again that her socks didn't match), and her hair was half French-braid, half pigtail. I thought she looked a little like something out of an 80's music video.
Tomorrow - Thursday - is pajama day. (I'm sure Julia will protest to Evelyn wearing PJ's to school.) And Friday is green-and-yellow day, which are the school colors.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cake Pops

Every December, Evelyn's school PTA sponsors a sweet-treat event for the teachers called "Crumb and Get It." They ask for about 100 volunteers to each make 2-3 dozen cookies or treats. This is the third year I have baked something, and I decided to get a little fancy this time around. I aimed to make 36 cake pops, and thankfully that is exactly how many good ones I got. The good news for our family is...we got to eat the "mess-ups." They might not have looked good, but they still tasted fine!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Visiting Santa at the Train Museum

We went to the B&O Train Museum in Baltimore today to see their holiday festival of trains displays and to visit with Santa. This is the third year we've gone to the museum for this event, and they had something new this year - giant nutcrackers. Look how small the girls are next to this one -As has become tradition for us, we went on the train ride with Santa. But a new tradition for Julia is actually getting close to Santa. She hopped right up to be in the picture with Evelyn.
We all enjoyed snacking on candy canes during the 2-mile (round-trip) train ride. The sweet treat made Julia especially giddy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Egg-Free Chocolate Cake

I volunteered to make an egg-free holiday treat for the teachers at Evelyn's school. Since I had already made egg-free cake pops for a kids' party (and they turned out great), that's what I plan to make for the teacher treat-fest this Friday.

I got the recipe for this chocolate cake from a friend whose daughter has an egg allergy. My friend says that egg-free cakes tend to dry quickly, but if you make cake balls or cake pops with them - where you mix lots of frosting with the baked cake - you won't run into that problem.

Egg-Free Chocolate Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9x13-inch pan.

Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water. Mix together until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes (do not overbake!) Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Card Helpers

No, my Christmas card helpers this afternoon were not Julia and Evelyn. However, I believe Julia had something to do with the five equine assistants that showed up on the desk . . .

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Flowers for the Ballerina

Evelyn danced in her fifth and final Nutcracker performance tonight. I saw three of her performances, and she did fabulous in all of them. Last night, the music teacher from Evelyn's school came to her performance, and tonight several of the teachers from the Little Gym were in the audience. The teachers brought flowers for the budding ballerina on both nights, and we put all of the carnations together to make a beautiful bouquet.Gorgeous flowers for our gorgeous dancer!

Sweet Treats for Breakfast

Julia and I ran out to Shoppers and Starbucks this morning to pick up breakfast. Add the girls' advent calendars (with little pieces of German chocolate behind each day's door) to hot chocolate and chocolate donuts, and they had a very sweet breakfast!And, if you have ever seen a "Collosal" donut from Shoppers, you understand why the girls only each got half a donut.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Evelyn and I baked sugar cookies yesterday. She rolled and cut the dough very well, only needing a little bit of help. The cookies need to be completely cooled before frosting them, so we waited a day before decorating them.When we got ready to decorate the cookies, Julia helped lay out the supplies. See that innocent smile on her face? Well . . .
. . . look closely at the containers in the picture below. You can tell Julia was there!
Julia tried her hand at adding sprinkles to cookies, and she dumped out WAY too much! But that was okay, we just put the extra sprinkles on three or four other cookies.
And here are our masterpieces - festive and delicious!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Julia's Lunch Preferences

Julia currently rotates through four lunch entrees:

* Grilled cheese sandwich
* Chicken nuggets
* Macaroni and cheese (only Kraft)
* Quesadilla

She also has a serving of fruit with her lunch - applesauce, apple slices or a banana. Finish it off with a glass of milk, and she's good to go for the afternoon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fantasy Fudge

Tonight's sous chef - Julia - helped make Fantasy Fudge. She loved being a big girl and helping with things like stirring the sugar/butter/evaporated milk mixture on the stove.And you know she didn't put all of the chocolate chips into the fudge...she had to snitch some!
Fantasy Fudge

3 cups sugar
5-ounce can evaporated milk
3/4 cup butter
7-ounce jar marshmallow creme (use Jet Puffed, not generic)
1 teaspoon vanilla
12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine sugar, butter and milk in saucepan; bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling five minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add marshmallow creme, nuts and vanilla; mix until well-blended. Pour into greased 13-inch x 9-inch pan. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares. Makes three pounds.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Russian Tea Cakes

I let Evelyn choose which holiday treat to make today, and she chose Russian Tea Cakes (also known as Snowball Cookies). Evelyn did a lot of the work this afternoon - she measured ingredients, used the hand mixer to blend the ingredients and rolled the baked cookies in powdered sugar. Want to know how to make 48 delicious cookies? Read on...Russian Tea Cakes

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until set but not brown.

Roll in powdered sugar while warm; cool. Roll in powdered sugar again.

3 Hours

I am always aware of how much physical activity and how much screen time the girls have each day. Today it felt like the girls were more active than usual, so I added it up. Julia and Evelyn each had about 180 minutes - 3 hours! - of physical activity today.

Walked Evelyn to school - 25 minutes
Little Gym class - 60 minutes
Played at Chick Fil-A's indoor jungle gym - 30 minutes
Walked to get Evelyn from school - 25 minutes
Played at the park - 60 minutes
Total - 200 minutes

Walked to school - 10 minutes
P.E. class - 50 minutes
Outdoor recess - 30 minutes
Walked home from school - 15 minutes
Played at the park - 60 minutes
Total - 165 minutes

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Evelyn's First Nutcracker Performance

Evelyn was in her first Nutcracker ballet this afternoon! All those Saturday rehearsals finally paid off, as she performed on the big stage at the Rockville campus of Montgomery County College.
Now, I need to explain something - Even we family members have to pay full-price for tickets to any and all performances we want to see. Since some of our friends are going to tomorrow's show, I did not see Evelyn this afternoon. But I heard - from another mom who did see today's performance - that the punchinellas did a great job! Here's Julia, greeting Evelyn at the stage door with a bouquet of flowers -
Our proud little ballerina. She said she wasn't nervous at all, and she wants to do it again. That's good because she has four more shows to do this season!

How to Prep a Punchinella

It takes about 30 minutes (at home) to get Evelyn ready for her role as a punchinella in the Nutcracker ballet. The easy part is putting on her tights and leotard. The next step takes awhile: making two high pigtails. I have to get the center part just right. Then I wet her hair and use gel to keep all the little flyaway hairs down.
Finally, I use a curling iron to give her wavy hair some guidance and body. And that's it for me - she doesn't put on make up until she gets to the theater. (You'll have to wait for pictures of Evelyn in full make up and costume until after the performances, when we will have a chance to view and buy professional photographs.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Park Play Time

Today was sunny and unusually warm - the high was 72 degrees - so we headed over to the "castle" park for some outdoor fun. Julia loved going down the tube slide all by herself, which made her hair all static-y.Evelyn perfected walking across the wiggling ladders. She has been trying to get up the nerve to do this for quite awhile, now, and she was really proud of herself once she finally did it.
One of the favorite "rides" in this park is the circle swing. Julia and Evelyn could have stayed on this swing forever, but all good things must come to an end. After spending nearly two hours at the park, it was time to head home.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Julia really surprised us this evening at supper time. I asked her which kind of casserole she wanted to have, and I listed the three choices (green bean, corn or sweet potato). She asked for corn casserole and ham. Did she just say she also wanted ham?! I put corn casserole and ham on her plate. She ate it all up in record time. We let Julia have a (well-earned) dinner roll, and then she asked for more ham. We couldn't believe it!

Then Julia surprised us one more time by asking for some pumpkin pie. I dished up a small sliver of pie with a dollop of Cool Whip. She gobbled it right down! Now, where was this little girl on Thanksgiving?

Maryland Science Center

What to do on a Saturday that Evelyn did not have Nutcracker rehearsal? Spend the day at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. Our train museum membership is reciprocal with the science museum this month. Since we had heard nothing but good things about the science museum, it only made sense to take advantage of the reciprocal offer.

We spent the first hour in the dinosaur area. There were several hands-on activities for the girls - They excavated dinosaur fossils, watched the monitor (a type of lizard) eat his lunch (a dead mouse...), and touched fossil replicas.
There was a model of a dinosaur that archaeologists believe lived in Maryland - the astrodon johnstoni. This herbivore was 50-60 feet long and 30 feet tall. They found fossilized teeth and footprints of this dinosaur in Maryland, which leads scientists to believe it also lived in Maryland during the Cretaceous time period (95-130 million years ago).
There were several coloring stations set up around the museum (not just in the dinosaur area), and Julia stopped at all of them.
The girls also had a chance to stand in and measure replicated dinosaur footprints. Well, Evelyn measured, and Julia led a discussion about anything and everything.
Right next to the dinosaur area was the earth science area. Evelyn loved the tornado machine. At first she was nervous about putting her hand in the mini-tornado. But after she had done it once, she kept breaking up the tornado over and over again.
After taking pictures and videos in the earth science area, my camera battery died. :( But we had fun discovering lots of other places in the museum - we had lunch in the cafeteria; we discovered all sorts of Newton's laws in a physical science area; we learned about our bodies, including how our five senses work (we girls each had a turn laying on a bed of nails!); we saw a Sesame Street-themed star show in the planetarium; we learned about space; and the girls explored the kids' area. After six hours at the museum, we were spent. I'm so glad we had a chance to go, and I'm sure we'll be back!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Trimming the Tree

The girls couldn't wait to put up the Christmas tree and decorations, so we got right on that this afternoon. Evelyn did a nice job this year of making sure ornaments were all over the tree, not just in one area.As is to be expected, Evelyn and I had to do a lot of re-do's with Julia's ornament placement. But Julia didn't seem to mind, as long as she could see where her ornaments were.
Here's the ornery little redhead, trying to take an ornament off of the tree...Once everything was up, the girls went under the tree to get a cat's-eye view. They love looking at the lights and decorations from the floor. I wonder how long they will keep up that tradition?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let's Eat!

With all the yummy food out of the oven, and the dinner rolls warmed up (that I baked a few weeks ago, and then kept fresh in the freezer), we were ready to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. I dished up a little bit of everything for Julia, except the raspberry/applesauce Jell-O. What did she eat? Her dinner roll. And she drank her milk. Then she was her obstinate little self and refused to touch anything else on her plate.Evelyn, on the other hand, tried everything on her plate. Her favorites this year were the ham, corn casserole and dinner roll. Oh, Evelyn also devoured her dessert - pumpkin pie.