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.

Casserole Chefs

It was all-hands-on-deck this evening when making the side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner. Evelyn made her corn casserole completely on her own this year. The only thing she needed help with was opening the cans of corn.When I told Evelyn that she would make her casserole all by herself, she balked at the idea. But once she got going, she realized that she really could do everything by herself...and she was SO proud of her delicious dish.
At the other end of the kitchen, Julia and I got to work on the sweet potato casserole. I set Julia loose with mashing the canned sweet potatoes, and she did really well.
Then we added all the ingredients that make this casserole un-healthy, like eggs, butter, milk and sugar. Oh, and let's not forget the topping - it's almost like a fruit crisp topping, it's so sweet.
Lastly, Troy was in his own corner of the kitchen, mixing up a green bean casserole. With all four of us working on different dishes, we assembled the three casseroles in about 20 minutes. With the ham out of the oven, resting, and the casseroles in the oven, it was almost time for Thanksgiving dinner!

Baked Ham

The Luster family unanimously voted to have ham for our Thanksgiving feast (instead of turkey). I have made the following ham recipe a couple of times for various holidays, and I figured it's about time I shared the recipe.

1 bone-in (uncooked) ham, 8-10 pounds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 cups apple cider
12 ounces light beer
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole cloves
Place ham bone-side-down in baking pan; sprinkle outside of ham with salt and pepper. Combine brown sugar and Dijon mustard; spread mixture over ham. Pour apple cider and beer into baking pan, drop cloves and bay leaves into liquid.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. (You might need to cover the top of the ham with foil to prevent burning). After baking time is complete, let ham rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

Voila! Our tender, delicious ham was all ready for Troy to carve for Thanksgiving dinner!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Preschool Thanksgiving Feast

Julia's preschool had their Thanksgiving feast this morning. The class made festive headbands before the feast, but Julia did NOT want to wear it. Somehow, her teacher talked Julia into wearing it on the walk from the classroom to the fellowship hall. And then I was able to convince Julia to keep it on for a picture. But once I took the picture, Julia promptly took off the headband.Last night, Julia and I baked mini corn muffins for the occasion, and other friends brought Jello, applesauce, orange slices, cheese and sugar cookies. The first thing Julia ate was cheese, quickly followed by the cookie. She also took a bite of one of her cornbread muffins.
The last thing she chowed down on was the applesauce. And that was it. The feast was very festive, and I think Julia also enjoyed having a reason to celebrate.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sleepy Cat

Apparently Evelyn's backpack makes for a cozy cat bed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pictures from the Park

Recently we've been taking advantage of the warm, dry afternoon weather to go play in the park. Today Uncle Matt joined Julia and Evelyn for some fun in the fall foliage.
Julia is always so proud of herself when she climbs to the top of the ladder.
And here's Evelyn, climbing to the top of the spider web. (Julia still needs a little more practice with this one.)
Here's the whole group at the end of a game of hide-and-seek.
Look at this sycamore leaf - it's as big Evelyn's head!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes & Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

For years I have been tweaking chocolate cake and frosting recipes, looking for the perfect cupcake combination. I stumbled across a chocolate buttercream frosting recipe the other day, and I decided to try it with my favorite chocolate cake recipe. The cupcakes turned out so well I had to share the recipes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 package devil's food chocolate cake mix
1 package (3.9 ounces) chocolate instant pudding mix
4 eggs
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat first six ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds; beat on medium speed for two minutes. Stir in chopped chocolate. Spoon into cupcake liners. Bake as directed on cake mix box (for 24 cupcakes).

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Whip butter on medium-high speed for five minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Finally...Another Lost Tooth!

Nine months ago - to the day - Evelyn lost a tooth. And since that day.....nothing. The rest of her teeth had been holding on tight. She had a wiggly tooth, but it just didn't want to come out.

Last night, while eating supper, Evelyn complained about her tooth bothering her. I knew it was only a matter of time before Evelyn would ask for it to be pulled.

This morning while brushing her teeth, Evelyn said she had had enough. She wanted me to pull it. Two tugs later, what was left of the tooth was out. Since the tooth was hollow, it was probably ready to come out for quite a while. Let's hope the tooth fairy can find her way to our new house tonight!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Neighborhood Critters

Yesterday morning, Evelyn spotted this red-tailed hawk in the forest across the street. We think it's the same one we commonly see in the leafless trees (and pictured on October 27th). You can tell that it was a chilly morning because the bird is all puffed out.And this morning, we spotted this squirrel on our back deck. It was about 34 degrees out, but the sun was shining. This little guy was in a sunny spot, using its tail as a blanket. Julia thought it was cute, while Rosie wanted it to move so she could stalk it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Evelyn's Beginning Ballet Class

This is Evelyn's third year taking ballet at Metropolitan Ballet and Theater, which puts her into the "Beginning" ballet class. During today's warm-up, the teacher asked the students to do various standing French. I couldn't believe the progress Evelyn has made so far this year! She has learned several new skills, and the class moves at a faster pace. Now I understand why the studio requires its dancers to be at least seven years old - they need to have all of the basics down-pat, which Evelyn clearly does.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Julia has seen the word, "boo," in several places lately. Two spots where she frequently sees the word are on the ghost hanging on our front door and at the end of her ghost counting book. I've been pointing out the word on the ghost and in the book to Julia, but I didn't realize it had sunk in until this morning.

We were reading a different Halloween book, one that she hadn't seen for a couple of weeks. At the end of the book, the boy said "Boo!" Since I had never pointed out "boo" to Julia in this book, I thought I would see if she could read it.

"What is that word?" I asked Julia.

She furrowed her brows, concentrating on the letters, and finally said, "Boo!" Julia read her first word!