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kid stuff

Clearly, I didn’t have enough to do. You know, Thanksgiving, Christmas, new job, two babies, etc etc.

But I needed to get a christmas card out this year. My mother has been on me to do it. “You have babies now, Jocelyn. It is time.” And every time I’ve opened a card and seen lovely pictures of my friends’ offspring I’ve felt the familiar weight of obligation tugging at my sleeve. (just a slight weight, or I would have gotten around to this years ago).

So I rolled up those guilty sleeves and got down to business. We were home at my folks’ house for Thanksgiving so at least I had a small respite from the restraints of naptime only crafting.

I dragged us all down to Joann’s to see what there was to see. I thought Caroline would get a kick out of all the fabric and buttons and sundry, and she did. I bought yards and yards and yards of tulle and a little bit of elastic. I was sold on the idea of the no sew tutu’s I’d seen popping up all over the kids boards on Pinterest. The concept was simple. Baby + tutu + beach = dreamy.

Lots of cutting ensued. Six inch strips out of twenty yards of tulle, to be exact. Not sure how many strips that is because math isn’t my inclination, but in any event, it involved a lot of cutting.

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It only took three hours to make a tutu for both Caroline and Gabrielle.  Phew.  They were poofy and pretty and I just had to try one on and give it a twirl it was so pretty.

With the first phase complete, I needed to get us all down to the beach.  I met with some resistance on this angle.  Some people were deep in their cups and didn’t want to move the party.  Others disagreed with my idea for a christmas card, saying, “they” wished that we could just do a normal card. Still others fretted over the idea of taking the babies’ clothes off at the beach for the picture, insisting that I should put turtle necks on them and long johns, and that 66 degrees was simply too cold for naked baby photo shoots.  (can you guess which players had which concerns??)   I scoffed and ignored everyone, having just completed three hours of manual labor in furtherance of my beatific christmas card vision.  Truly, I felt as though my hands were guided by some force.  Perhaps it was the prosecco, or perhaps it was the clarity of my idea.  We shall never know.

We finally got everyone down to the beach.  Caroline was on the same page of the same book with me.  She was in full princess, ‘look at me’ glory.  My mother was a wonderful help–getting the children to look at me, arranging their tutus as necessary, and moving the onlookers to ensure minimal shadow interference.   I left C’s leggings on to assuage my mother.

The light was long and perfect.  I took about 600 pictures.  I got some perfect shots by sheer happenstance.  We had so much fun.  Even my father and my husband got into the spirit of things eventually, suggesting shots and angles, and feeling proud about the project as onlookers gaped on.  Gummy (great uncle Mike) was off flying a kite (the kite was the carrot that got everyone down to the beach), so he was having fun too.

sea foam baby project collage

Gigi got fretful halfway through, so I nursed her and she fell asleep. Even that worked out for us. (No babies were harmed in the filming of this scene)

Gigi in a half shell

c and g aphrodite

I made the cards on Tinyprints.  I found a lovely pale blue Tory Burch card.  I think the whole thing worked out quite well.  I didn’t order enough cards as it turns out, but I know now for next year.

I come from a family of alpha cooks.  You know the ones.  If you are in the kitchen with an alpha cook, chances are, on a good day you are relegated to sous chef-ing, or on a bad day, you are banished to the sitting area with a drink in hand  (or vice versa, depending on your mood or inclination).  It makes for a hectic active kitchen when everyone is an alpha.

I digress purely for added texture.

This morning we all put our little alpha hands together to make apple streudel.  A lovely Thanksgiving tradition.  Caroline is a little alpha in the making.

The recipe is good ‘ole Betty Crocker.  With a few tweaks.

Apple Streudel

We used packaged filo dough instead of making our own (much easier). We added craisins and we plumped the raisins and craisins with rum over night. (I was plumping as well).  And we used more butter than the recipe called for.  Because you can never have too much butter, right?  Nota bene – by “we” I mean my amazing mother and father.  I was taking pictures and drinking champagne.  And eating the sugary apples. And ‘helpfully’ backseat cooking at times, as is my wont.

Now we’re rollin’

Beautiful, and oh-so easy when you use packaged filo dough and have an army of alphas in your kitchen. And an apple peeler/corer from Williams and Sonoma.  And a few bottles of champagne.

Delicious! I snuck a taste of a streudel that “accidentally” came apart when we took it off of the baking sheet.

I thought I’d share some of the fun (educational) things my girls do during the week. I’d also like to highlight that raising kids in Center City Philly is very cool, enriching, and exciting. And otherwise, I thought I’d sneak in … part deux in the mulitipart series–Why Having an Au Pair is Awesome.

I schedule one activity for each day of the week–except Friday which is a free day to go to the zoo or the library or to a play date, or whatever. It adds a little structure to the day beyond naptime, and it gets the girls out and about on the town. When I was home on maternity leave with Caroline, I realized that it was all too easy to just schlep the baby along with me on every errand under the sun instead of focusing on play time with the baby. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly benefits to taking your children with you everywhere. But I needed to build in a ‘stop and smell the roses’ part of the day. There is only so much shopping that one baby will benefit from.

My friend and neighbor told me about a music class called Enchanted Music Together. It was the first class Caroline and I tried. And we loved it! Music Together is a class for babies and young children that is designed to nurture the musical growth of your child. It is a “thoroughly researched program” that encourages active participation of both parent/caregiver and child in a playful atmosphere. The songs are super catchy but not too ‘kiddy’–they have a folksy singer-songwriter feel, as well as some international flavor. We pop a cd in the car for kiddo claming effect anytime we have to drive anywhere. And I guarantee that if you try it, you will be singing along too. And maybe singing it out loud at your desk at work . . .

Music Together

(Photo courtesy of Music Together)

When I went back to work at the firm and Jaqueline (our first au pair from Brasil) came to look after Caroline, I decided to keep up with the music classes.

And then some. I added a few more classes–which I heard about through word of mouth from other moms and caregivers.

For example, the Children’s Boutique on Walnut Street has a Storytime class and Ms. Lori’s Music Monkey Jungle. Both of these classes are stimulating and fun (although I think storytime may be on a hiatus) and the kids get little snacks at the end. Which, if it were me, would definitely be one of the highlights of the class. Ms. Lori also has a cd that is fun to have at home and in the car.

The girls also go to swimming lessons at the Christian Street Y. And they do tumbling classes at The Philly Kids Gym. Sometimes the girls go to storytime at the Library and othertimes they go to storytime at Barnes and Noble. There are so many things to do, and only so many days of the week.

Jessica (our current au pair from Brasil) (the reason for Brasil in our next installment) gets a little structure, and maybe some breathing time (when I have both girls by myself I am certainly relieved excited when it is time to go to class) and the girls get to learn in a fun social atmosphere that isn’t too structured.

And a funny unintended side effect of the girls about town–is that more people know my kids than know me. I can’t walk through Rittenhouse Square without some mom saying hello to Caroline. Which I get a kick out of. My little socialites.

Here is little Caroline and her bestie hanging out in the Square. (so I might mention that Jessica is best friends with Kerly, an au pair from Venezeuala–and Kerly minds two little girls roughly Caroline’s age. Voila, Caroline has two best friends)

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The first in perhaps a muilti part series about why it is great having an au pair. Seriously, people–if you have an extra room in your house, this is the best child care option available–aside from maybe doing it yourself–which is a whole ‘nother subject. I’ll convince with anecdotal evidence.

My friend Robin told me about an awesome food truck that visits Love Park on Thursdays. Delicias, you have opened up my eyes to a whole new world of taste sensation. Delicias specializes in Venezuelan food, most poignantly, arepas–which are hand pounded corn tortillas–filled with goodness, like plantains, avocado, chorizo, etc.  I digress.

I had to share the goodness. Plus I wanted to see the girls. So I texted Jessica, our Brazilian au pair, and had her meet me in Love Park for lunch. It was so sweet on so many levels.

Here is a picture to get your juices flowing:

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The truck and menu. (Love Park is right outside my office, so a quick and easy lunch for me)

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And here are my two lovelies in the middle of the day.  They are very serious about their food, just like their mama.

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It made my day, that’s for sure.

It was so hard to settle on a costume idea for the girls. Last week I finally just had to pick one and run with it, or we’d end up missing Halloween. So Monday night a week ago (the week before the Frankenstorm) I made a frantic Michaels run. I think I bought all the white and yellow feathers they had to offer–and lots of glue. This was not me at my most frugal–I was more concerned with not buying enough supplies and having to make the trek back to Michaels to reload. I ended up spending way more than I would have if I had simply purchsed the girl’s costumes. But frugality (is that a word or did I make it up?) isn’t or wasn’t really the point. (Clearly there were other forces at work here)

Then I had to design and construct said costumes. Thus began a long week of sleepless nights. I worked on the costumes each night until 1:00 am. Since I am training for a marathon I had to get up early in the mornings to run. And of course, Gigi is teething and has a stuffily nose–so she was up every other hour or so. There are only so many hours in the night.

I was planning to give a little tutorial–and some parts of the costumes might be easy to replicate–but I am thinking that perhaps people might not be super inclined to spend hours and hours glueing feathers. I did take some pictures along to way to illustrate the tutorial–so I’ll give them to you anyway. What I should have done (add it to the list…) is write at each stage of costume implementation. But I just didn’t have it in me.

Here was my inspiration:

Anyway, here is the chicken head in progress.  I started with a ball cap and sewed on strips of white felt.  I also attached a comb made from red felt.

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Then I began glueing on feathers.  Lots and lots of feathers.

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I love seeing pictures that bloggers post of their materials.  People do such a nice job arranging the shot and making it beautiful.  I had no time or inclination for this kind of thing, however.  My workstation was kind of a disaster area.  (Notice the corkscrew on the table….how did that get there?)20121101-101419.jpg

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The pictures above and below illustrate how I made the body of the costume.  I used the same technique I used for the pumpkin from last year.  Kind of like a pillow case dress, I sewed elastic in the top and in the bottom, then attached it to a t-shirt.

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Then I added more feathers.  I glued on each feather in the front.  Eventually I wised up and glued on a few feather boas in the back instead of individual feathers.  It created a nice feathery poofy effect.  I felt like I was getting ready for Carnaval, gente!

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For Gigi’s costume I also used a white felt pillow case type arrangement.  I then glued some yellow fetahers around the top and around the leg holes. 

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I sewed a little square cap with some elastic around the edges for the top of the eggshell, replete wit the requisite yellow feathers.   I also made a yellow felt cape (glued feathers, feathers etc) for Gigi’s chickie wings.  I dyed two pair of tights orange. (I didn’t know this about myself, but I love dying things)  Gigi got yellw rubber gloves for chickie feet. Gigi’s costume actually came together fairly easily and quickly.    

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Here is C Money, ready to get there.  I love the windblown look.

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Here is my little chicken at the parade.

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Chickie Gigi, stealing the show:

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Looking at the river with Papa.

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My brood.  =)  (Gigi ended up eating a lot of the feathers because they were in her face–so perhaps not the best execution on this aspect)

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Yes, we won “best costume” at the Schuykill River Park parade for the second year in a row – but who is counting other than me? But was it all worth it?

Caroline and Gigi (like their mama) LOVED the attention ( I lost count of how many people asked to take our picture).  Caroline had fun flapping her arms and ‘bokking.’  Gigi loved playing with the feathers and saying hello to everyone.  That alone makes it worth it to me.  (I also loved the trail of feathers we left wherever we went. I felt it added a certain drama.)

And we got to wear the costumes again yesterday for Halloween. (again continually snapped by the paparazzi, I might add–if I find some pics of the gang, I will upload)

I learned some valuable lessons for next year (like don’t wait until a few days before Halloween to start the costumes and avoid feathers at all costs) and hopefully now that everything is in writing–I won’t forget the lessons and make the same mistakes next year.

I had so much fun making Caroline’s halloween costume last year.  My lil pumpkin.  It didn’t hurt that we won an award for cutest baby costume in the Schuylkill River Trail halloween parade.

(This was a very simple design–I dyed everything orange, then sewed what was essentially a simple bag with elastic at each end onto a t shirt, then stuffed it with newspaper.  The stripey arm bands are from BabyLegs)

And now this year I am under pressure to whip up not one but two super cute cozzies.  (and by “under pressure” I mean I am a little competitive)

Here are some ideas I’m kicking around.  I’d better make up my mind soon, though, because the clock is ticking.  I really like the idea of putting the girls into a large poofy fruit or vegetable-type costume like this strawberry.  Mine wouldn’t be nearly as tidy, but it looks doable. The only problem is that I went with a vegetable (tuber?) last year, so maybe this is too similar.  Oh, and I think I would do the same costume for both girls.

I also think Gigi would make an adorable gnome.

Here is a good picture showing the details of this gnomeo version.  Definitely a silly idea for both girls.

And then, there is always the chicken costume.  I’m kind of like Gonzo in my special affinity for all things chickeny.  There are a number of variations of this theme, but here is the basic gist:

I’ve seen this one with yellow rubber gloves on the feet that are pretty hilarious.  And I love the potential for the accompanying Gigi number: hatchling baby chick.

Me and Josh could be farmers as shown in this example above. Maybe redneck it out a little bit for fun.  I think I have some great blonde wigs that could add just that je ne sais quoi.

And then (dun dun dunnnnn) there is the scary baby zombie/alien option busting out of mom’s t shirt.  This one makes me chuckle.  You could really run with this idea.  It might scare Caroline, though.

Does Lady Gaga have a drummer?  If so, I found a cool drum set how-to for a wheel chair that would also work for the stroller.  I’m sure Gigi would love the drum sticks.  This link has a great tutorial. Caroline could so work the Lady Gaga angle.

The other option with this idea is to go with the Muppet theme and make Gigi “Animal.”  Caroline could be Miss Piggy maybe?

-VS-

So hard to choose!

Its the age old Friday night predicament . . . (well actually, it is a somewhat new predicament for me–the age old predicament was “which bar do we go to first,” which somehow, always had a right answer. . . ) what can I cook that is fast and friday-night-fun?

I have, I submit, at least one superb solution for you to keep in your back pocket or your bag of tricks, or wherever it is you may want to keep it:  the easy-peasy, do-it-yourself, family fun, homemade (well, mostly) pizza pie.  And no, its not DiGiorno.

The main ingredient, my friends, is pizza dough from your favorite pizza shop.  Most places will sell their dough–and it is much cheaper than buying the actual pizza.  I get mine from Lazaro’s (hello, best pizza in Philly) for three dollars per dough ball.

The rest is simple.  Oh, and it would be helpful to have some form of tomato sauce or whole tomatoes for the red part of the pizza and some cheese to go on top.  I usually have both on hand, so this meal doesn’t take much planning aforethought.

Preheat your oven at around 450 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, great–put it in before you heat up the oven.  If not, then use a pizza pan.  If you are using a pizza pan, you can eliminate the pizza stone step described below.

Throw some flour down on your counter and rub in on your rolling pin. Plop your nice round dough ball on the floured counter and roll it out. (At some point in the process I like to let it hang from and stretch itself out–I feel like it keeps the dough from getting too boing-y)  Caroline loved this part.

Then place your lovely round dough onto a pizza board (just a pice of plywood I sanded down) dusted with some cornmeal so that you can transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone in the oven. (If you are working with a pizza pan, just transfer to the pizza pan)  Make sure to transfer the dough to the dusted board (or pizza pan) before you put any toppings on–otherwise things will get messy.

Next the tomato sauce.  I like to start with tomato paste and then top with sliced tomatoes or tomato sauce.  Spread it on with a spoon.  Not too much sauce, now–you don’t want a goopy pizza.

Add the cheese.  Again, you don’t want to add too much cheese, or your pizza will be sloppy.

Toppings!!!  Fresh basil is always nice–and anything else you can think of or happen to have on hand works perfectly.

Transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone in the oven.  This takes a little finesse –gently slide or wiggle the pizza onto the pizza stone, being careful not to fling toppings around–they will burn and cause your pizza to stick to the stone.  The cornmeal is key here because it keeps the pizza from sticking to the board.  I didn’t get a picture of this part because I didn’t have enough hands.

Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until crust is golden brown and crispy.  Transfer the pizza back onto the board.  If you were careful with your toppings it should slide right back off the stone.

Now that’s good pizza.  And it only took about 20 minutes start to finish, even with helpers.