Friday, February 28, 2014

Father-Daughter Dance

Tonight Troy took Evelyn and Julia to the Girl Scouts Father-Daughter dance.  I know all three of them were really looking forward to the evening - and they had a blast.  Yummy food, lots of music and dancing (with a bubble machine!), make-up and hair styling.....and.....
 .....a photo booth!  The last one is my favorite.  So glad everyone enjoyed the dance - and they are all looking forward to next year's dance.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Backyard Critter Update

It's been about a month since I've written about the critters we've seen in our backyard, so here's an update:

At the beginning of February, there wasn't much snow on the ground, and the temperatures were fairly mild (for winter).  This encouraged a couple of muskrats to come above the ice along the banks of our creek.  Muskrats don't hibernate, but when it's really cold and snowy, they stay in their muddy lodges under the ice.  We were all trying to guess where this muskrat found something green to eat - must have been from the muskrat food storage lodge.

We have been pleasantly surprised with a group of five bluebirds for the past couple of weeks.  They usually show up twice a day, once in the mid-afternoon and again in the late-afternoon.  The bluebirds take turns eating suet; they perch on the other feeders while waiting.  In the picture below, it's easy to tell which one is the male and which one is the female.

Julia's favorite bird (right now) is the Carolina wren.  She thinks their song sounds like her name, so she thinks they are singing specifically to her.  I took the picture below during one of our 6-inch snows; it looks like the wren is wondering if it will ever stop snowing.....

After a fresh powdery snow, this grey squirrel had to root around for bird feeder leftovers.  The girls loved how, after digging and digging, it was covered with snow.

 We haven't gotten many goldfinches on our nyjer feeder this winter, so we were surprised to see two males on the feeder about a week ago.  Female goldfinches look the same all year - a drab brown with the tiniest hint of yellow.  But the males completely change color.  We could tell the two birds in the picture below were males because their wings are a definitive black (in females, the wings aren't as striking).

A very shy woodpecker is the Northern Flicker.  If it senses any kind of human motion (even from inside the house), it takes off.  The only time I can take a picture of a Flicker is when I am already sitting at the window, camera in hand, and it lands in the yard or on a feeder.  Since I had the opportunity to do so, I took several pictures of this Flicker on the suet feeder, zooming in and out with the lens.  I loved how a bluebird flew into the picture in this one!

And finally, today I got this picture of a red squirrel.  This little guy is nothing like the fox squirrels in Nebraska - he's about half the size and extremely aggressive.  While watching this particular red squirrel, he chased off several ground-feeding birds.  If any gray squirrels had been around, we know he would have gone after them, too!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Evelyn's Band Concert

Evelyn had her Beginner Band Concert at school this evening.  It is truly amazing how far she has come since she started playing the clarinet in September.
 She was chosen to be in a small clarinet ensemble during part of the concert.  Only half the clarinet students were chosen to be in the ensemble, so we are very proud of Evelyn for being one of the selected!
 Evelyn said she was nervous before and during the concert.  But it was an amazing concert - Julia was completely blown away - and afterwards Evelyn admitted that she did a fabulous job.  Her next concert will be in April, with the Honors Band.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Evelyn, Julia and Rosie have fallen into some unique routines lately . . .

You can almost set a clock by Rosie's lunch-time looney-time.  We usually eat lunch around 12:30, which is when Rosie gets a case of the crazies.  She runs around the house like a nut, with this wild look in her eyes.  Sometimes we'll turn on her "Cat's Meow" toy to help her get some energy out.  Other times she bats a ball around the house.  Or she'll just run around like a whackadoodle.

Before dinner, Evelyn and Julia can commonly be found in the red chair, with one of them reading picture books to the other.  Usually Evelyn reads to Julia, but if the time is right, Julia will read one of her beginner books aloud to Evelyn.  It's so sweet to see the girls have some down-time together.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Day at the Mall

When I take the girls to the mall, there are two stores that are must-stops:  the Lego store and the American Girl store.  Julia had a gift card (leftover from Christmas) that she was holding onto until we went to the mall.  She was able to get the Lego bakery set with her gift card, and Evelyn used some of her allowance money to fill a cup with loose Lego pieces (she has plans to design and build her own house).
Next stop - the American Girl store.  Evelyn also had some leftover Christmas money, which she added to her sizable allowance to pick up a few things for her Kit doll.  Even though Julia was technically out of money, I let her choose a small item for her dolls - she wanted a pair of glasses for her Emily doll.

After we had shopped our little hearts out, it was time to eat.  I had made 4:30 reservations for us girls to have afternoon tea at the American Girl store.  That's the latest time for afternoon tea, and since it was so late in the day, I called it an early supper for us.
The afternoon tea is, in my opinion, the best deal going when it comes to eating at the American Girl store.  For $12 a person you get a decent variety of finger foods and small desserts, a drink and an activity or small craft to take home.
Today we also got an added bonus - the napkin rings were actually pony tail holders for us to take home.  (You can see them on the table in the picture below.)  Again, another wonderfully fun day at one of the girls' favorite stores!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Boston Day

The girls don't have school this week because it's Massachusetts-mandated February break.  Since today's weather was the best (which translates to sunny and not too terribly cold), we made it our Boston day.  We started the day at the Norfolk train station.  Riding the train for 40 minutes - instead of fighting traffic for who knows how long - is a breeze.
Our first stop was Troy's work.  The girls had 51 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to distribute to Troy's coworkers, and then we headed down to the cafeteria for lunch.
 After hanging out with Troy, we took the green line to the Public Garden and walked around.  It was easy to see why the duck boats weren't running today - the pond is completely frozen over!
 We found the Make Way for Ducklings sculptures, and the girls were able to play on them for about ten minutes.  There aren't many people in the park on a chilly weekday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Two Feet in Two Weeks

Yesterday it snowed.  Again.
 Evelyn and I ventured out while it was snowing just to measure how much we got.  The novelty of scooping snow has worn off for both of us, so we saved the shoveling for Troy after he got home from work.
This afternoon, the girls went out to play in nearly two feet of snow (in a span of two weeks).  They tried building snow critters, but they only got as far as a snow dog.  The snow was too icy to pack.
 Then they turned their attention to the monster pile of snow at the end of the cul de sac, courtesy of the city plows.
 They brought shovels to the creek-side (not street-side) of the snow pile and dug out a little fort.  They look as snug as a bug in there.
Both the girls' fort and the pile of snow are quite impressive.  I think the snow is piled about six feet high here, which lends itself to creative fun.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How to Curl Stubbornly-Straight Hair

Julia has the most stubborn straight hair.  When curled with a curling iron, it will be straight within about 30 minutes.  She loves having (temporary) curly hair, but clearly a curling iron isn't the answer.

Well, I tried a new technique last week.  After her hair was about half-dry following an evening shower, I pinned it up into four buns.  I had hoped this would serve two purposes - give Julia tighter curls and be somewhat comfortable for her to sleep on.
 Guess what?  Success!  Julia was able to sleep with the buns in her hair, and she had full, bouncy curls this morning.  But wait - it gets even better.  Since I pinned up her hair while it was damp, the curls stayed for days, not minutes.  Both Julia and I are so happy that we finally figured out how to curl her just takes a little planning.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Four More Inches of Snow

Guess what?  We got another four inches of snow yesterday!  It was nice and powdery, which was perfect for sledding.....
 .....and making snow angels.
 However, with some mild drifting in the backyard, we have some pretty deep snow now.  It's so deep, Julia has a tough time walking around.
 And when Evelyn falls down, the poor girl can hardly stand up!  The girls hoped they would get a lot of snow here in Massachusetts, and they have definitely gotten their wish.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snowy Hike

Julia and I went to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary this morning, hoping to participate in the kid's nature program.  When we got there, we were told it had been cancelled.  So, on to Plan B - we checked out a borrow bag and went for a hike instead.
 Julia led the way along the trail, stopping now and then to mark birds and plants off of her checklist.  We were surprised that the only birds we saw were a chickadee and a red-tailed hawk.  I guess crunching through the snow scared off all the other birds.
 Even though it was a chilly morning, Julia and I had a great time hiking through the woods!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

The girls had a busy Valentine's Day, as Fridays tend to be.  Julia had her soccer clinic at 4:00.  Everyone got a heart sticker a the end of class - so sweet!
 After a quick bite to eat, Evelyn went to her 5:45 gymnastics class.  I nicknamed today a heart-healthy holiday since we celebrated the day with fun physical activities.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Another Snow Day

Six inches of heavy, wet snow was predicted today, and schools were closed.  It was a blessing in disguise, though, because the girls still needed to write Valentines for their classes.

 Evelyn has a new job when it snows - scooping the sidewalk and front steps.  As you can see in the picture below, she does good work!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Author Evelyn

For the past several weeks, Evelyn has been writing a story for a magazine contest.  The rules for the contest are - a story that takes place in the fall, less than 1,500 words and it needs to be original (and written by the child who submits it).  Evelyn decided to write about the time she fell into the creek behind our house, on a lovely September day.  With her rough draft done, she has moved onto proofreading and editing.  Next up is typing the story, followed by a few more rounds of editing.  She is right on track to have her final draft in the mail by Saturday (the postmark due date).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Evelyn's Texas Treat

One of the treats I brought back from Texas for my Dallas girl was this box of Texas-shaped crackers.  She can't wait to show these snacks off at school this week!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Best Ice Cream in Texas

One look at the pictures below, and it's easy to see who I think serves the best ice cream in Texas (or Austin, at least).  Kat and Ross treated me to a small dish of sweet cream topped with peanut butter cups in Austin proper.....
 .....and my supper this evening was a cookie monster shake in the Austin airport.  Crazy delicious!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Peacock Park

The weather in Austin was absolutely beautiful today - sunny and in the 60's.  Kat and I spent the morning at Mayfield Park, which is also known as Peacock Park.  Before tracking down peacocks (which weren't as abundant today as they usually are, according to Kat), I snapped some pictures of early-blooming flowers.
 Snapdragons and daffodils in February?  Man, I miss Texas.
 There are a couple of trails that meander through a wooded area and criss-cross a creek.  We hiked along one of these trails and came across the most interesting tree.  With a bit of help from Kat (and after one failed attempt), I made it up into the tree.
 After our trail adventure, we searched for peacocks.  We saw about seven or eight, mostly up in the trees.  I liked how I could see the tail feathers on this guy.