Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crosby, Stills, and Nash

Under the open air at Humphrey's by the Bay, as a light mist fell upon us, we raised our voices to sing along with Crosby, Stills, and Nash to "Our House." Last night was amazing. It has been a long-time dream to see Crosby, Stills, and Nash perform live. They formed a significant portion of my life soundtrack in part of my early and mid-twenties. We were able to see Neil Young (one of my favorite singer/songwriters) a few years ago on his Greendale tour...

Anyway, hearing the three men harmonize in person was absolutely stunning. Even though I am a fan of Buffalo Springfield, The Hollies, and The Byrds (from which bands the three came together), something magical happens when their voices combine...

They played several of my favorites: Wooden Ships, Our House, Helplessly Hoping, Teach Your Children, Guinnevere, Just a Song Before I Go, Southern Cross, and many others. They also covered the Stones' Ruby Tuesday...and I am going to take my life in my hands and declare their version better than the Stones'. They also covered Dylan (though not one of the Byrd covers with which I am familiar), and as a big surprise to me, they covered a song by The Grateful Dead. I am not in the least a Dead fan, but for this one song, Crosby, Stills, and Nash made me a fan. They could harmonize just about any text, and I would love it.

We were most surprised at the number of Stills' Buffalo Springfield songs they covered, including For What It's Worth, which was totally moving.

Of course I was nursing a hope that they would do Woodstock, a Joni song from their Deja Vu album. I thought it would be fitting with the anniversary of Woodstock, but they didn't. Still, they did perform the title song to that album, and it was mesmerizing.

I LOVE CROSBY STILLS AND NASH! Sometimes I wish I could have grown up when all of the 60s and 70s folk and rock were being created for the first time, because I really feel like they are my songs even though I am of a different generation. What an inspiring musical time...

I am so lucky to have had such a perfect date with my husband and to have this memory forever with him.

In other news, we are all sick with a light cold in this house. Kate came down with the symptoms on Sunday afternoon...and it was a hop, skip, and a jump to all of us contracting the ailment. I knew I would probably get it, because of course I am going to wipe her nose and cuddle and kiss her even when she is sick. But it is no biggie...a little uncomfortable, but it'll pass. Katie had a fever on Sunday night in the middle of the night, but I could tell by feel that it was low grade. It's strange and part of the perfect order of things that a mother can know her baby's natural temperature so well and the behaviors so well that we can detect even the slightest changes. Kate was restless, though, and definitely warm...and so we were up for a little while. Mostly I was up, because I wanted to watch her until the fever broke and I rubbed her belly, back, and feet and tried to draw out the fever in a more natural way---any sort of medicine would be a definite last resort for us. Sure enough, her fever broke within an hour, and I ended up getting about four hours of sleep that night---not enough to bolster my immune system totally. Even so, this is a mild cold for me.

I started manifesting symptoms more definitely after Toastmaster's yesterday, although I could feel the thickness coming on even beforehand. I had set for myself the goal of trying another extemporaneous speech, however, and so I volunteered. The Table Topics Master was giving some easy topics yesterday, though, and mine subject was describing a time when I had to leave a job either voluntarily or involuntarily and what I learned from it. That was pretty straightfoward for me. I ended up winning the vote for best Table Topics Speaker, too, and I got a ribbon. I have now been voted Best Evaluator and Best Table Topics Speaker, and so now I am aiming for Best Speaker (for a formal prepared speech) at some point.

So yesterday was pretty eventful. There is too much going on this week to be sick. I am resting a little more today (I kept Katie home from her Toddler Time class on Monday), mainly because I don't want to go around infecting people. I wanted to maybe take Katie to the Peltzer Farm today, but I don't think I should be spreading this around. She seems better, but I still am probably contagious, even though I feel like I could have the energy.

Anyway, I hope everyone is able to stay well!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Katie and I had a beautiful day with Daddy at home! With the sound of college football in the background, we made banana cream pie together. Katie helped to make the pie crust, adding the salt and butter and some of the shortening. She is good at turning on the mixer to the right speed. We talked about the chemistry of pie dough and why it is important to keep the fats cold and the flour gently mixed and how these elements will react with a superhot oven to produce flakiness. She also helped use the rolling pin to roll out the dough. The kitchen is a perfect context for chemistry and math. She also helped make (and sample) the custard, and we whipped the cream together. She is such a perfect little helper, and I want the domestic arts to come naturally to her---which I think they will, if I make cooking and baking a constant part of her life.

We also brought out some white lights and strung them around the patio right off of the kitchen. They look absolutely autumnally magical right now, and best of all, we can see them from the cozy chair and from the kitchen. Katie helped hand me the hammer and nails and seemed intrigued by the process.

We enjoyed a long, cozy reading session on our couch together. We managed to fit in a trip to the store and also returned some books to the library. It has been a busy day!

This morning, before my two loves rose from bed, I read 140 more pages of my second real estate course...5 chapters worth. While Katie napped this afternoon, I took all 5 quizzes! It is getting a little easier now, of course, because I have learned so much vocabulary on which to hang any new concepts. So I am 1/3 of the way through my second course.

Other than that, not much else is new here. We are prepping the pull-apart brown sugar and butterscotch bread for brunch with Amanda's family tomorrow and I suppose I should wrap up this blog now and get my pajamas on.

Good night, all...and Happy Autumn!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pumpkin Days

This is my favorite time of year, and it is made a thousandfold more magical as I see Katie revel in all of the delights with me.

Our craft for today:

We folded several pieces of orange construction paper accordian-style and then added black and yellow construction paper for the face and brown and green shapes for the stem and leaves. Katie helped to glue the orange pieces together, and we made it together on the floor. It now hangs from a hook above the kitchen table. When I put it up, Katie waved at it and blew kisses. We put a face on both sides so that any way it turns, we will still see a face. It was a fairly easy craft, and we love making things together!

I also showed Katie how to cross-stitch a little today. I let her pull the needle through several times and helped guide her hand to put the needle in a square. She seemed to enjoy that...

Tonight we made mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey---Bill's favorite meal---to celebrate Friday and to celebrate the deepening autumn.

Life is good.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Library Story Time

Katie and I were able to share yet another beautiful day together. I am so thankful for time with my daughter---specifically, I am so thankful for a husband that supports our home financially so that I may have this time to raise our child and to try my best to support our home from the inside. There really is no reason I ever should have to complain---and mostly I don't---but every now and then I get caught up in feeling harried or impossibly pefectionistic. Mostly though, I am just so appreciative of being able to stay at home with Kate and to have these memories with her.

I really had no idea about the stay-at-home mom and child world that is apparently quite robust in Temecula and the surrounding area. There are so many activities for us to do if we want to: toddler class, library story time, music class, etc. Who knew? It has been a joy to discover this world with Katie.

Although we can't go every week (because sometimes Thursdays are our days to see family), Thursdays are marked for toddler storytime at the public library. We get to sing songs and recite rhymes and listen to a few books read aloud in a special children's reading room right off of the children's stacks. Katie is always so good. She listens to the instructions to stay seated, and she always does---even when other children aren't doing so. May she always do the right action, even in the face of peers doing otherwise! I always tell her over and over how well-behaved she is being. After story time, we read some more and poke around the stacks for other books to check out.

Here, Katie is ready for the day. We are heading the mailbox to mail her birthday invitations:

Katie has just petted Tuna Cat and is ready to leave for the library:

Katie decided to look at some Beatrix Potter books (currently a favorite---she especially loves The Tale of Peter Rabbit):

Today we read The Tale of Tom Kitten a couple of times:

After we returned home, we played chase around the house for awhile. She has actually been pretending to be Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid the past few days. She likes to act out the scene in which Prince Eric is on the beach after Ariel saves him. She calls it "Prince Eric napping" and she likes for me to check that she is breathing and to sing Ariel's song to her.
We also listened to music and did some cleaning of the downstairs.
Then we made two desserts for the Toastmaster's district Tall Tales competition (to be held tomorrow night). We made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and peanut butter shortbread and jelly bars. Both are Barefoot Contessa recipes, which are always tasty.

Other than that, it has been a slower day. We tried to play outside before supper, but it is still QUITE warm!
Until next time, peace to all!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Amie's Birthday!


Katie and I created a birthday with joy in our hearts this morning. We have been excited about Amie's birthday for days, and Katie helped to make a card last night. We practiced saying, "Happy Birthday, Amie!" and right before Amie left tonight, Katie ran up to her and said it very clearly. She is such a sweetheart... And then when we were reading and cuddling before bed, we read Where is Baby's Birthday Cake (a lift-the-flap book by Karen Katz), and Katie asked me to substitute the word "Amie" for the word "Baby." Katie is definitely understanding the idea of birthdays, and she is getting excited about hers. She talks about what color balloons she wants and party hats and told me she wants a yellow cake with chocolate frosting when I gave her some choices.

But back to Amie's birthday. ;-)

We had so much fun decorating and making the house feel autumnal and festive. (I decorate for autumn almost like I decorate for Christmas, although a bit scaled back). I love to change our home in magical ways---it fosters such good childhood memories, and each time of year becomes even more memorable and special. Katie loved opening the autumn decoration box with me today and she helped set things out. She chose where to put our mini-scarecrow, and you know what? She chose EXACTLY the spot I was thinking in my mind.

Our guests arrived around 2:00, and so we had the whole morning to prep and cook together. We made Amie's cake (our tradition is a recipe called "crazy cake"), and we prepped everything for cooking later. Katie is such a helper; she really is. We have cooked in the kitchen for so long together, and I believe cooking together will always be one of our sources of great bonding. While I finished up some pesto, Katie played and we watched Meet Me in St. Louis. Later, she started singing the famous Trolley Song. It was absolutely one of the coziest moments in together, hearing Katie sing, smelling all the fall cooking scents, feeling the magic of a festively festooned house. I will remember that moment forever.

Here was our menu:

* Maple and brown sugar roasted pork loin
*Sage and walnut pesto (for topping the pork)
* Cornbread (freshly made), apple, onion, bacon, and fennel stuffing
* Sweet potato gratin (I made this one up, and I thought it was tasty---I used gouda and fontina)
* Braised kale
*Crazy cake
*Sparkling apple cider

Now for some pictures:

In the morning, Katie helps to stir the dry cake ingredients together.

Katie uses the offset spatula to help frost the cake (we made a double batch of frosting for yummy fudgy thickness!!!)

My little autumn girl plays near the fire pit.

Katie looks a bit pensive here, but this is a good one of Amie.

Katie wore her frilly and fun brown twirly party skirt.

Happiness for grandmother and granddaughter in the afternoon light.

Sharing birthday love with Amie.

Saying hello to Tuna Cat. We love you, Tuna Cat.

Running through the green grass...

Our fall birthday table for Amie. I used an array of apples as the centerpiece: cheaper than mums and symbolic of September, they can be used in the next couple of weeks for an apple pie or some such deliciousness. I love the colors and the simplicity...

Katie helps me to carry the watering can to water our morning glories.

We water the last two morning glories... I love my little helper, such a good girl.

Singing to Amie.... Katie is ready to help blow out the candles, good practice for her birthday!

Amie makes a wish...

Generations on Amie's birthday...

David and Boppa...

David and Amie...

Amie hitches a ride home on the Harley.

My wild parents. Er, I mean, Amie and Boppa on the way home. ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cinderella Visits Our Home!

Since I am unabashedly obsessed with my child, what follows are essentially several pictures of the same event, but what magic!

One of Katie's current enthusiasms is Cinderella. Actually, she has been enjoying many of the Disney princesses and their stories. She especially delights in The Little Mermaid, Snow White, and Cinderella. We have a Snow White dress ready for Halloween, yet I wanted to surprise her with the dress from her present favorite...and so I laid out other clothes for her this morning and right as we were about to get dressed, I went to the closet and said, "Or, would you rather wear this?" and whisked it out. Her face lit up, and as soon as she had it on, she went to the mirror and just smiled and smiled. We have been imagining the story for several days: Katie has been running around the house pretending it is "midnight." I chase her and say, "Madam, come back, come back! The prince wants to marry you!" Sometimes I catch her and she wants to dance, so we turn on music and she calls me "the prince." When I ask her, "Will you marry me, Cinderella?" she gives me a big kiss on the lips. It is very cute! She has named her dog "Bruno" just like in the movie and she has been playing with her broom set very much the past couple of days. When she talks about the movie, she rightly reports that the ugly stepsisters have "bad attitudes" and she seems to be starting to understand the significance of the key and the cause and effect of the wicked stepmother locking Cinderella in her room when it is time to try on the glass slipper.

So anyway, I wanted to make her day magical... And sooo....

Cinderella plays with her magic pumpkin. Will it turn into a coach? One of the reasons I am connecting more with Cinderella right now is that, in addition to Katie loving her, I realize that the presence of the pumpkin in the garden means that the ball took place in October---Katie's birth month.

Katie plays with Bruno this morning.

Princess Cinderella walks toward the waterfall's bridge...

Wht a beautiful little princess...

Happy Cinderella, at rest after running away from the Royal Ball.

Cinderella loves to swing, too...

Cinderella...or Sleeping Beauty? ;-)

The costume is definitely a good one, very realistic looking in many ways. I added the black choker from something I had already, and Katie asked for the "headband" as we went into the bathroom to do her hair.

Something a little extraordinary for an ordinary day makes the whole day seem out-of-time and magical.
While Amie watched Katie, I took my online final test for my first real estate course. It was super-duper easy for the most part, but I am kicking myself for missing one. I hate missing. Bah.
Oh well, time to cheer up: college ball is on today!!! Go, Cardinal!!!!! I love the fall!!!!!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy September Week

We have had such a lovely week, and this weekend with Amie's birthday it will all keep getting better and better!

Yesterday we visited Nana for lunch and a swim and a small birthday celebration for my mom. We ate miniature cupcakes, talked about child rearing (I love talking with my mom, my aunt, and Nana because they have such good hearts about parenting and know that you have to observe just your own child and make decisions based on your own child, not what anyone else says---they help me keep it all in perspective and are calming influences), and, as you can see below, played with our Disney princess friends:

Aunt Debbie is now back from Thailand, and yesterday was the first time I have been able to see her and give her a hug. I missed her so much at our luncheons! I am so excited to see Jed, Fon, and Violet when they return!

Today we had a perfect autumn day. Bill stayed home from work, which was cozy to begin with. Then, before making breakfast, Katie and I prepared our slow-cooking pot roast for dinner. She put in all of the chopped onions and carrots, helped pour on the water, added the dried bay leaf, and unwrapped the beef bouillon cube. She is such a helper! I have had her in the kitchen with me from the start, and I would love nothing more than to give her the skill of cooking from an early age just as my mom gave to me. (Now if only I had my mom's ability to sew...)

After breakfast, we made some homemade oatmeal bread, and I taught Kate about yeast and rising. Making bread is so easy (well, not really, but once you know the chemistry behind it, it becomes easy)---I am not in the habit of doing it, but now that I get to be a homemaker, I really should start making it more often. Fresh bread is one of life's chief delights. The whole house smelled of autumn all day long, and I just pretended it was nice and grey outside. Oh how I long for some genuine autumn weather here... I just adore fall and have so many memories to create with Kate that if I wait any longer, September will be over! So, we will persist in being cozy despite the climate.

While our bread was rising, we went with Amie to Target and Baby Gap to bolster Kate's fall wardrobe. She went through a big growth spurt last week, resulting in the outgrowing of some key clothing. I am loving her fall clothes right now... I am very happy with how her wardrobe is turning out. I love to dress her and style her hair and do all the girly girl things with her!

Then we had a visit from my cousins Kd and Jocelyn. They were sweet to drive up to see us, knowing we couldn't make it down for the cousin party tonight. Jocelyn is heading off to college next week---I am so proud of her!!!---and this will be our last time to see her for awhile. I cannot wait to go visit her in Washington! We had an amazing visit, talking much about Grandpa Don and life in general. I love all of my cousins so much. I am really blessed that they came to see me and that Kate gets to know them. What is there in life without family?

Oh my goodness, I am so excited about Kate's second birthday party plans. I must get invitations out next week!

You know, there are definitely days when the relentlessness of household chores does get to me...but for the most part, especially when I keep it all in perspective, life is truly such fun... I guess that is why I identify with Snow White, "Whistle while you work/And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place/So hum a merry tune/It won't take long/When there's a song/To help us set the pace." I also constantly think about my Amish ancestors and the idea of being in tune with God when you are doing even the most mundane tasks simply by virtue of living in that moment and embracing the physical effort. To me this means that if you are really loving life and have your heart set on appreciating your existence, even a chore becomes a miraculous thing---for the fact that we have arms and legs and minds to perform it and for the fact that we are healthy and happy in that moment. I love being a homemaker; I even love that my job lasts 24 hours a day everyday. I do love moments to myself now and again, and I love being able to have time just with my husband (who works so very hard to provide all we need so that I can be home raising our baby in a traditional model), but I would never trade any of it for anything else.

Speaking of which, I better wrap this up... Katie and Daddy are having father-daughter time while I do my night routine, but I am feeling like I have been away from them too long. Everything in balance, as they say.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sunshine and sunflowers and such a happy morning! Katie and I have had a full morning so far...

Katie asked for bacon and eggs for breakfast, and she also had a little banana...

We said good morning to Tuna Cat, and gave him a little extra special bowl of milk in addition to his dry food.

Happy Katie at play in the morning light....

Petting Tuna Cat....

My little girl in profile....

Katie is Miss Busy when we're outside, especially...

Searching for Tuna Cat....

After playing here and have breakfast, we headed out to the library, one of our favorite places. We have a book about growing a sunflower that we love; we've had it about a week and a half. I decided to use the book as an inspiration for a project. After reading the book again and touching sunflower seeds, we made this:

Katie helped glue on all of the seeds, petals, stem, and leaves. She was very proud of it...

Right after we finished, she wanted to hang it up on the fridge immediately (where she knows her work goes).

Then she held up her library book to show it the sunflower we made....

It has been a lovely and productive day so far! Now for lunch and a reading session!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Daily Life as Autumn Begins

These are the days of autumn whispering in the morning and evening air as Katie and I water our plants and play in one of our many backyard forts. As we hide behind trees and shrubs, we draw in the dirt, sing songs, and talk about Katie's upcoming birthday party (next month). The scent of autumn has brought peacefulness to my heart and mind, as lately I have been feeling heavier with the perpetual questions of the true nature of man, good and evil, our life purpose, the nature of reality---you know, the typical lighthearted things I like to dwell on now and then.

Our autumn routine fulfills me, and I find this to be a time of my life for renewed creativity and inspiration. Katie and I have been crafting together (with another sunflower-themed lesson planned this week), and during moments when she is napping or playing with her daddy or wanting to play imaginatively on her own, I am finding the time to pick up cross-stitching again. I have been working on a sampler---actually, a custom pattern my mom drew and then made for her home long ago. When I am finished, we will both have one. Maybe one day I will pass it on to Kate. It is not overly complex, and so I have been making satisfactory progress.

Katie and I also made this wreath together the other day. She helped me place each flower/leaf and decided where the bird should go. She was really good about not touching the glue gun and loved exploring the textures. We adorned our front door with the wreath, as a welcome to the changing season.

One of our most unexpected and biggest sources of joy has been Tuna Cat. After confirming her orphan status with the neighbors, we decided to adopt her as our own. We picked out a bowl and decorated it for her (most of Katie's decorations are on the other side in the picture below). We do pamper Tuna Cat on occasion with nibbles and treats (like bowls of milk and pieces of deli meat) beyond the dry and wet food. She seems to wander still but mostly remains in our backyard. She loves to come over near us wherever we are playing, and today, she hopped into Katie's playstructure fort and then (on her own, mind you) went down the slide. We bought a little collar for Tuna Cat and are growing more and more attached to her each day. I worry about attaching Katie to a pet, because we all know what can happen to pets. But maybe that is part of what we have to learn in life... With great love can come great sense of loss, but still you must continue to love and give of yourself.

Breakfast with Tuna Cat....

We try to get up early enough for a walk before we eat a big breakfast (this works often since Kate, like I do, takes 1-2 hours to grow hungry in the morning). Lately, Kate has been snoozing a little bit later than normal. Here she is all cuddly in our bed after her early morning bottle.

At night, things sometimes get wild!

Katie loved little figures right now, especially her Wizard of Oz people, some of her animal figures, and her Disney princesses. Here, she is playing with "Toto."

She loves playing with her daddy while I do my nighttime routine.

We also love, love, love our Toddler Time class and look forward to it on Mondays. Every once in awhile, I take Katie out to Starbucks for breakfast, which she always finds exciting. We like to eat by the fountain and meet other children/people. It is special mommy-daughter time. Here she is before breakfast this morning.

Checking out her sandwich....

Yay, STARBUCKS! And the pumpkin spice lattes are back, too!

I have been trying off and on to get a good pic of Katie at her Toddler Time class, but the only time to really do this is during a transition moment---and those go quickly. Since I am playing with her and helping to teach her the rest of the time, it is difficult to take a break to get the camera. I'll have to keep trying. This is the best I could do today---and it, like the others, is blurry. We have just been asked to get our blankets ready and then to help with the pick up. You can see in this picture how free Katie usually feels in the class. It excites her, and I have seen her grow mentally from this experience. I love having the chance to experience a mommy-and-me type of class with her and to bond with her even more deeply through learning together.

So, our fall schedule is pretty full, and I wouldn't have it any other way! Monday, Tuesday, and soon Friday will all have standing commitments (Toddler Time, Toastmaster's, and Music-in-Me, respectively) by October. We try to go to the library a couple times a week. This week we are going on Wednesday because we're visiting Nana on Thursday (usually our calling day)...but on weeks we don't go out of town, the library has morning storytime on Thursdays. We went this past week, and it was a good experience. This week, Wednesday will be our mid-week library and crafting day.
I figure if I can do one solid learning-based craft a week, that will give Katie two planned and structured ("with a purpose") art opportunities each week (as we also do one in Toddler Time). Other days, we free color, or sometimes use our fingerpaints, and sometimes our paintbox. I try to incorporate at least two "recesses" (maybe three now that the weather is cooling) each day, and we try to do something musical daily as well. We shoot for at least two big reading sessions a day, and sometimes we fit in three (Bill will read with her while I am doing my nighttime routine or sometimes he will play with her dollhouse with her). We hope so much to give her the lifelong gift of a true love for learning.
One thing I am still checking into is how to give her systematic instruction in a second language, probably French. I have studied Spanish, French, and Latin and can speak a little of the first two and read some in the third. I try to use some French with her...but it is not enough. We will introduce Latin later (we want to do a more classical curriculum for our homeschool). Anyway, I need some ideas for building her a second language---her neurons are supple, and now is the time!
I do love the autumn...and all the cozy feelings that go with it! For me, learning and studying is supreme is tinkering with fall recipes in the kitchen. Katie has been asking for us to bake an apple pie (which she learned about in a book), and of course, she is enchanted with Snow White baking the gooseberry pie... I think it is still too summery to get full autumn enjoyment out of an apple pie, but I am sooooo tempted to bake one this week or next. The beautiful thing about autumn is how much it inspires!