Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Memories on Paper

My kids (age 3 and 2) are toilet papering the house whilst I write this post, so I'll get to the point (quickly).

During the holiday season when I was a little girl, my grandfather took me to see my first theater performance: Babes in Toyland. I'll always remember how special I felt to be all dressed up and fancy, going on a "date" with Granddad. The years following he took me to see The Christmas Carol; both were performed at the Horton Plaza theater (the Lyceum). These annual excursions with Granddad always included a trip to a bookstore (our favorite was Wahrenbrock's Book House, a 3-story used bookstore), and dinner downtown. (I have vague memories of eating turtle soup at the Grant Hotel, sharing roasted chestnuts with Granddad on a sidewalk, and entering the Panda Inn as if it were a 5-star restaurant.)

Nostalgic holiday memories aside, I'm currently reading this book to my children at bedtime:

Inside, there's an inscription from my Granddad:

"For Jennifer--When you were seven and we went to see 'the Christmas Carol;' Remember? Granddad...Dec 22, 1986"

My grandmother recently gave me some of Granddad's books (he passed away 6 years ago), and one of them was a copy of Dicken's The Christmas Carol.

It had been a gift from his grandchildren:
There's an inscription from my brother and my father, but to be honest, it was mine that made me smile: "Granddad, I remember when you took me to see 'A Christmas Carol' at Horton Plaza's theatre. It's a memory I'll always treasure come the holidays. It's one of the many reminders of wonderful things you have introduced me to and taught me to appreciate. Love, Jennifer...Christmas '97"

In Memory of:


(my Granddad)

P.S. That took the length of 2 1/2 rolls of toilet paper to write.

Paper Doll Nostalgia

Paper doll art by Mary Englebreit, published in the Home Companion Magazine
I love going to my grandmother's house for a lot of reasons, but one of them is pretty simple: her magazines. She always has the current issue of at least 7 or 8 home and garden magazines on her living room end tables, which is where I get my fix. One of my favorite magazines to flip through is The Home Companion, the source of the above paper doll inserts.
My grandmother saves each and every paper doll insert and sets it aside for when Izzy gets older (Izzy's my 2 year old daughter). Isn't that sweet?
The simple fun of paper dolls is enticing... definitely an activity I look forward to introducing to the kids (once they are dexterous enough to "cut along the dotted line," and can be trusted not to tear or eat the paper).

The above 6 dolls were drawn by Rae Owings, and were published February 1965 in Jack and Jill magazine (which I think is still in print today).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Butterflies for the Holidays

We brought our milkweed "habitat" inside during the rainstorm, and 4 butterflies emerged from their cocoons (chrysalis). Rather than set them loose out in the rain and cold, we kept them indoors while we decorated the Christmas tree. The next morning, Rigel, Izzy, and Maz let them go in our front yard. The excited squeals of delight erupting from the kids (as their fingers got tickled by the "scratchy butterfly legs") was the best part of this whole experience.


Below: Shanna, Ava, & Maz (lft to rt)

Below: Izzy, Maz, & Rigel (lft to rt)

The tides were low during mid-day hours for the first time in over 3 months, so we headed out to Point Loma with some friends. Lucky for us, Dan was able to join us as well. Armed with buckets, we happened upon sea anemones, hermit crabs, lots of different kinds of sea weed, sea snails, and clusters of goose-necked barnacles. Rigel declared it was time to go home on account of there not being any sea stars, but we stuck it out and picnic'ed on the rocks.
(For info on the tides, go to

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fairy Fun

Aren't these cute? Now, I'm not sure I would have played with them when I was a girl, but something tells me my daughter would love them. She's always carrying a doll around while talking in what Dan refers to as a "Minnie Mouse" voice. Plus, she and her brother just discovered the new Disney movie Tinkerbell. I'm not a big fan of kids and TV, but every now and then we allow a movie. Tinkerbell is very imaginative, and best of all, there are no villainous "bad guys." Just innocent fairies providing "nauture-ly" assistance... like painting the spots on ladybugs and pollinating flowers.
photos courtesy of

Great Job, Rookies!

Rigel's very first round of Tball lessons has recently come to an end. Overall, it was an entertaining experience--imagine trying to orgainize a Tball game for 3 was a wee-bit challenging at times. It didn't take much to stir up some enthusiastic parental support; wild cheering and applause could be heard when one of the kids even made it to the correct base, or hit the ball off the tee without trying to then chase down the ball. Still, it was a fun team and we all learned a lot.

Above photo taken by Tball Mom Kristen
(I had a difficult time downloading the rest of her pics, so I'll update this post with them soon.)

For more Tball pics: Click below (or cut and paste the link below into your browser) for more pictures (taken by Laura, another Tball Mom):

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Green Card" for the Holidays

Last year's Christmas cards are still sitting on a shelf in our bedroom (stamped, addressed, and unsealed)... one more task I never got around to completing. This year, I decided to take the easier, "greener" route by sending our holiday cards out via email (versus snail mail).

...Presenting our family's first Holiday email / video:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday Performance

Izzy is our little performer. To entertain herself, she sings and dances. Some of the songs she sings are familiar, and some are in her own language. The first time she was on stage was at the Del Mar Fair in June of this year, and she blew us away. I recently found a great video of that day from my grandmother's camera (the quality was much better than my original recording) and I played with it a little (see below).

This month is pretty crazy--her dance studio has all the students performing every weekend this month for the holidays! Today she danced her number ("Up on the Housetop") at a local retirement home. The parents were ushered to the back, so we really didn't get a good view of the kids and the audience's response. Nonetheless, it was a worthwhile experience.

Stay tuned for upcoming performances!


We set this plate of warm cookies down on the table at 8:29PM, and by 8:36PM last night the plate was empty. They were that good. (Thanks, Jill, for mentioning these on your blog. I'm glad we tried them). Here's the recipe:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to lightly greased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to brown. Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Thanksgiving with Grandparents

Grandma & Grandpa
(& Katie and Smokey)

All the siblings (almost) kids and spouses

Dan and the kids

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We had a great Thanksgiving up in Mariposa. We had lots of family in one place: all of the siblings (minus one, who is out-of-state) and their other halves (plus kids). I will post some more pictures soon. Meanwhile, check out the pictures from my sister Cortleigh's family blog.

On My Own Two Feet:

Now, I don't speak Math. Admittedly, I've never learned the basics of personal finance, and though I've made a few attempts at budgeting, I have yet to maintain a budget. This book is an easy, fast read, and it is so very informative. Though it is a woman's guide to personal finance, it can easily be applied to both genders. Basically, it teaches how to "save and invest wisely...and acheive financial security" (covering everything from college funds to retirement funds). I am definetly saving a copy of this book for my daughter (and maybe even one for my son).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Butterfly Window

We had 7 monarch cocoons (chrysalis) waiting for us when we got back from our Thanksgiving trip up north... there were still a couple "late bloomers" (see below) and a whole bunch more babies that had hatched.

This is one of the kids' windows, and has proven to be a perfect "butterfly raising" location. After a few mistakes, I've found the best way to raise your own monarchs is outside. Keeping the pots inside a larger storage bin corrals all the escapees (numerous caterpillars dropped off the milkweed until I figured this part out). Also, when placed right outside the window, it allows the kids to have some eye-level observation time without the hands-on worries (just close the window). It won't be long until we see some butterflies!

(Click here for more info on raising monarch caterpillars, and here for postings on Gulf Fritillary butterflies)

Holiday Bulbs

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Rigel and Izzy enjoy peering into this bulb jar, and teaching Daddy how "the green part will grow taller and taller, and then there will be flowers...the bobes need water and sunshine...there's their wrooots!" I love this jar--this will be the 3rd year it has been taken out of the garage for display. It has a raised plastic "frog" plate on the bottom, so the growth of a bulb can be observed from the roots to the tips of the flowers...I'm pretty sure these are still available at Costco (fully loaded with flowering blooms).
P.S. It's not too late to get around to planting all spring-flowering bulbs... and amaryllis bulbs can bloom for the holidays if they get in the ground today (or tomorrow or the next day).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Squeaky Green

(I may be the last mom to have discovered this kid's line from Method, yet I still felt it worthy of a blog posting.)

Until now, I've never really been satisfied with the wide assortment of bath and body products available for kids. Either there were too many chemicals (i.e., methyl / ethyl / propyl parabens, sodium laureth sulfates/-ites, etc.) or too many organic extracts (i.e., lavender or tea tree extract/oil which are up for debate as possible endocrine disruptors)... This 3-in-one body wash, shampoo & conditioner for kids is great--smells and feels soft. The best part: ... 99% natural ingredients and affordable...part of Method Baby & Kids Squeaky Green hair & body line. I've also been pleased with the baby lotion and the bubble bath...Now, why am I using my precious late-night down time to blog about this? Because as a mom, this is the kind of stuff that raises an eyebrow (or two).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Christmas on the brain...

...and we've yet to carve the turkey!
Subconsciously, I'm always looking for more excuses to buy toys for my kids, which is why I love Christmas. I sneak purchases year-long, telling the kids to ask Santa for that train or that dolly rather than giving it to them on the spot. I can't wait until Christmas day, when a lot of those toys we caught Rigel and Izzy drooling over in the store will at last be taken out of hiding and emerge from wrapping paper and ribbons into plain view. From where does this materialistic desire to spoil come? I catch myself rationalizing that maybe next year we'll throttle back on the gifts and focus on the intangible values of Christmas... but do I posses that degree of will power? Can we pull off a simple Christmas , in which each child receives only 4 gifts: "something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read," as Jill from (building) a little house by the big woods describes? It sounds like the perfect solution for an over-indulgent parent like me, but (yes, there's a "but") I am going to give us at least a year longer of sneaking purchases into the top shelves of our closets while we get used to the idea. Meanwhile, here are some items I have my eye on:
Izzy is always getting into my purse--I have to be sure to keep it out of her reach, or else I'll blink and she'll have lipstick everywhere but on her lips. She is fascinated with make-up, and is always studying me if I so much as put a moisturizer on my face. "Ont some, Mommy! Izzy, too!" I love watching how carefully she pretends to paint her lips...3 years old and she's already a pro. I never was too girly--didn't really even play with Barbie dolls, and didn't get a mani/pedicure until my early twenties... That's probably why I get a kick out of Izzy's "all girl" personality. This wood lipstick by Erzi would probably travel everywhere with Izzy. (It is available separately or included in a set of wood "beauty supply products.")
Erzi also carries an adorable shaving kit--Rigel worships his daddy, and I can just picture him standing so purposefully next to Dan as he participates in the morning shave routine.

The kids could have a lot of fun with this toaster from Plan Toys--it has a timer knob and a handle that pops out the play toast... a fun accessory for their pretend kitchen.

Kids love hide-outs, and this room tent from Haba looks fun. Both Izzy and Rigel's imaginations would be stimulated in this "green oasis." (And, perhaps our couch cushions would be spared from endless fort building attempts.)