December 31, 2011

Our Year in Pictures: Part I

It's been an amazing year and definitely unlike any other. We started it out with a tiny baby and a massive snow storm and are ending it with a sweet and opinionated little boy and not a flake of snow. It's been a year filled with early mornings, sleepless arguments, delirious giggles, general confusion, and emerging confidence that maybe we don't know what we're doing but we can't be the only ones.

I want to post pictures from the whole year and I think it just might take me another whole year to do this project. I wish I knew more about blogging or web design so I could make it look the way I want to. After attempting to load a million individual images I decided to lay them out in a few mosaics and to do it in a couple posts. I hope it's big enough to see!

Early Winter 2011: snow, snow, trying to get out of the house, snow, visiting Granny, learning to laugh, cuddles, snow...

Late Winter and Early Spring 2011: getting out and exploring more, learning to sit, first ocean, jumper, snow-melt, marathon, starting the garden...

Spring  2011: hiking and loving to be outside, our garden, Granny's garden, eating real food, enjoying the swings...

More to come!

December 29, 2011

White New Year

home again home again!

Howdy! We're freshly back from our first leg of holiday traveling and can I just say... it is divine to be home!! There were mostly highs (with the occasion low) to our trip but nothing beats sleeping in your own bed and NOT in the same room with a restless baby. Little Smith slept from 6:30 last night until 7:15 this morning so I think he was craving some time at home too. Sadly his best bud "the cat" is still at Granny's until next week. He's been looking all over for her which is funny/ sweet/ a little sad.

Now we're trying to make New Year's plans. I love NYE as it's always low key and a welcome break from holiday schlepping. This year most of our friends are away and we don't want to pay for a baby-sitter (actually Little Smith hasn't had a baby-sitter yet so I don't think New Year's is the time to test it!) so we're thinking take-out and soy egg-nog cocktails- yay :)

So I know some who are enjoying this warm winter will disagree but the one thing missing from the festivities is the snoooow.

all bundled up with no snow to roll in

We love snow in this house. I am a snowboarder and Big Smith is the world's most enthusiastic skier and it's kind of been a bummer that we don't have a flake in sight. We were hoping to have our first day on the mountain at Granny's since she's right by a small ski area but half the trails were bald and it didn't seem worth the expense. Last year we were buried in white stuff but we'd just had a baby so we only went a handful of times- although we did start when LS was just 7 weeks old and traded off sitting with him in a sling in the lodge. He was so tiny and cute and all we could talk about was how awesome it would be when he could finally play in the snow... So here's hoping that it comes early in 2012 and he can learn to love it as much as we do. If nothing else a love of the snow is great for irritating co-workers who have daily complaints about New England weather!

ready... set... snow

I'm looking forward to getting back to posting. I have lots on my mind.

December 22, 2011

On the Flip Side

So the car is loaded but we're spending one last night at home before making the holiday rounds. We just got too overwhelmed trying to get everything done today so we figured we'd have one lazy night in front of the TV instead of stressing.

My mom lives in a time warp without any Internet (or even cell phone for that matter) so I think my posts will be sparse for this week but I'm really enjoying this and I'm definitely gonna keep it up.

Peace, Love, Joy, and a Bright and Happy Holiday!!

December 20, 2011

Apple Butter

I have a huge extended family and we're all very close. Sometimes that makes for extra challenges at the holidays trying to scrape together gifts for everyone. We've done the whole secret Santa bit but it never really works for us. There are too many gift lovers in the group who break the rules. There have been years where I boycotted altogether but usually I try to make little things; knitted hats, framed pictures, cookies and sweets, and jars of preserves top the list. This year I'm doing ketchup for the men and apple butter for the ladies.

I've experimented with apple butter a bunch but have always found it too sweet for my tastes. The batches will vary a lot depending on the type of apples you use (how watery or sweet). I used Empire this time because they're local and I got them for a steal! My recipe is very simple and adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving but has far less sugar. Since sugar does act as a preservative I add a splash of lemon to each jar to prevent spoiling. This is my first year with this recipe though so I can't guarantee it!

I started canning about six years ago and I'm still learning. The biggest mistake that I see people make is to think they can by-pass the whole hot water bath and just let the jars seal with the heat of the filling. I've received so many gorgeous gifts of pickles and sauces that were spoiled when I opened them- always a bummer.
Makes about 9 half pints:
  • 4 pounds apples or 2 qts applesauce
  • 2 c water 
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • lemon juice

  • boiling-water canner pot
  • jar lifter tongs (these really help you not get burned)
For sealing the jars: get your giant pot of water aka boiling-water canner on to boil. Make sure you fill it with enough water to easily cover the top of your jars once they are submerged. Wash all of your jars and two-piece lids in the dishwater or under super hot water. Put a splash of lemon juice in each jar to help prevent spoiling.
For the apple butter: Peel the apples and slice them into large chunks, removing the cores. Put the apples in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the apples are soft and fall apart when poked with a fork.

Puree the apples in a food mill (you could also use a food processor) and return to the pot. Add the spices and sugar and simmer until it's a thick consistency and doesn't slide off the spoon easily (Ball calls this until it "rounds up on a spoon" but that's a bit confusing to me). Ladle the hot mixture into the jars leaving 1/4" of head space to prevent spoiling.

Wipe the edges of the jars clean to allow a tight seal. I'm always sloppy filling the jars so this is a must for me. Place the two piece lids on the jars and tighten each of them. Lower them into the water bath and leave boiling covered on for ten minutes. Be ready with some place to set those hot jars when the time is up!

Remove the jars with the tongs and leave undisturbed for a few hours. You'll hear the lids popping as they seal... I love that sound.

Once these beauties have cooled you can either sit back and feel proud of yourself or go the extra mile and give them a little dressing up to make a very sweet gift. Sometimes I just go with twine and a tag but for this batch I decided to use fabric and yarn. I used a bowl to trace and cut out fabric circles and tied each of them with some yarn left over from a recent project.

I love 'em and hopefully so will everyone who's about to get one as a gift! And just because it's hard to go a whole post without a picture of Little Smith, here he is chewing on some toast with apple butter... yum, yum.

BTW the fabric is "little apples" by Aneela Hoey for Moda. I've still got so much to do before we leave for my mom's tomorrow but at least I can look at these cute little jars and smile!

Home For Our Holiday

This past Sunday we celebrated Christmas in our little household. Early yes, but since for better or for worse we'll be traveling around the entire Northeast for the next week plus... we wanted to enjoy a lazy morning with just the three of us (plus kitty) under our very own tree.

We got the tree on Saturday. I had hoped we'd be able to select it as a family but Little Smith was sleeping in the car so instead I ran out and made the selection in the freezing cold and then Big Smith loaded it onto our car. We set it up at night once the kid was already asleep and arranged our presents under the tree so that when he woke up there would be a full Christmas transformation. He was pretty stunned by the tree and the lights!

We decided to keep it simple with the gifts this year since it all can be pretty overwhelming. We had picked up the wood "rocking moose" on our recent trip(s) to Ikea. It's actually really well made and I'm a big moose fan so it seemed perfect.

We got a few new books from his favorite author... yes he already knows what he likes!

The biggest hit was totally free, we've been saving all of our cardboard tubes from paper towels and tin-foil and we bundled them up and put them in a box. LS was obsessed!

His last gift was a box full of balls... some of them were ones he already had but we thought the more the merrier and he didn't know the difference!

It was really a wonderful and relaxing morning. Of course there were mini dramas (LS sliding off the side of the new rocking moose onto his head and the lively discussion between Big Smith and I that followed) but over-all it was happily uneventful. I wish there was a little more opportunity for these laid-back holiday events.

But now it's on to prepping for all of our travels and trying to assemble gifts (20 in my family alone) as well as food for the kid and figure out a few decent outfits for myself. I'm tired just thinking about it but we're lucky to be loved by so many and we actually did get a bit of exciting news yesterday from my cousin/ best friend who is 21 weeks pregnant... she's having a girl! Little Smith promises to let her in on all of his adventures even though she'll be a she and I'm looking forward to seeing the bump in person. Hopefully I will get out a few more posts before we leave including one on apple butter since I finally made a not-too-sweet version!

December 17, 2011

DIY: Scater Book Cubby

I'm always looking for little projects to make my space more fun and personal on a very tight budget. I'd describe my style as bold, eclectic, and silly (even before the kid). I definitely get some sideways looks at some of these efforts but I love mixing it up and giving my place an individual stamp. 

This DIY solved two problems we were up against in Little Smith's itty bitty I used to be a closet  cozy nursery. I needed a place to put a glass of water or a pacifier when I was nursing him and we also needed a spot for his growing collection of books. Big Smith is into skateboarding (at least he was before work and life took up so much time) and we have a bunch of old damaged boards that were begging to be repurposed.

I had the idea for a fun rolling book cubby that utilized skateboard wheels. Any crate would work but I used a wood crate that's typically for storing records from an unpainted furniture shop.

Since our skateboard had seen many miles the wheels needed a good scrubbing to erase years of dirt and grime.

I painted the wood cube with a few coats of white paint to match LS's nursery. Next I marked the mounting location for the wheels and drilled four holes. I countersunk the screws (just drilling a larger opening in the top so the head of each screw was flush with the bottom of the cubby and wouldn't snag books) and attached the wheels and trucks the same way they had been mounted on the skateboard.

This is a cheap way to make a playful book cubby... and it doubles as a push-cart...

... what more could you ask for? LS loves it and it fits perfectly in his small space. There's also something really sweet about the fact that those wheels carried Big Smith so many places in his single and our early dating days and now they have found a new life with our baby just as we have.

It's the perfect scale for Little Smith to select his own books and a happy addition to his colorful little home...

... plus it means he rocks 'cause he's a skater dude!

December 16, 2011

All Ears

Today was a long and exhausting one that started with Little Smith's one year doctor's visit. The good news is that my concerns about him being on the small side and having no teeth were calmed, the bad news is that he still has an ear infection and apparently a pretty bad one. I felt like such a bad mommy that I had no clue that he was sick- he truly seemed happy and fine to me. The only clue was a bruise on his ear. You can see it in this picture... that dark spot. We suspect it's from him tugging it but I never actually saw him touch his ear so who knows.

So now we're on even more bad-ass antibiotics and trying to finally kick this ear infection out of our lives for good. LS screamed his head off with the shots but was pretty much fine after a snooze and we did make an appearance at the Big Smith's office party but we were all a bit cranky, tired, and hungry.

Hopefully we can get a good night's sleep 'cause tomorrow it's all about a big green Christmas tree! Since we have four families to visit (and I will spare y'all my thoughts on that) we are actually celebrating here this Sunday... so tree goes up tomorrow and when LS wakes up Sunday morning he'll have an Ikea rocking moose to great him :-)

December 14, 2011

Babes in Woods

Little Smith checking out a boulder on our hike

Things have been super busy lately with all the holiday planning and making. We still don't have our tree up and I'm in the midst of knitting hats and baking cookies and canning jellies and sauces... we'll see how much I actually pull off. With all of this busy-ness I still want to make sure to remember to actually enjoy time as a little family. One thing that Big Smith and I (and believe me I am loving that when I get to abbreviating Big Smith it's going to come out BS... hee hee) agree on is that we love to be outdoors. Camping, gardening, hiking... yes, yes, and more yes! We really try to get Little Smith out and about as much as we can in hopes that when he gets older just maybe he'll want to join us in our adventures.

Last month we hiked a trail that is right behind my mom's house. I've walked it a million times but I couldn't remember exactly how to cut across from the house to the main path with all of the overgrowth so my mom aka Granny was kind enough to blaze the trail...

... then she bailed and let us tackle the steep stuff on our own. This was also LS's first big trip in the back carrier- he acted like an old pro.

 view from the top back towards Granny's house

On the way back down LS got a little fussy. He always sleeps heading down from a hike and he just couldn't get comfortable in the back-pack. Finally he just slumped forward and passed out. It seemed to work for him even though my neck hurt just looking at it.

We finished things off with a yummy lunch. Bread baked down the street, goat cheese from the next town over, and the last of the tomatoes that had ripened off the vine on the window sill.

It was a perfect day (and also BS's birthday). As we're racing around trying to get everything accomplished this holiday season, I hope we can make time for more days like this filled with fresh air and simple pleasures.

December 12, 2011

Toys and Peas

We've got lots of toys.

I'm actually one of those mom's who tries limit the quantity and type of toys that we bring into the house (without being too much of an unrealistic crazy OCD person). When we go over to friends' houses I'm amazed that they have waaay more toys than we could even fit in our cozy place. Despite my best efforts it feels like everywhere I look is filling up with toys and none of them have a home.

I've kind of made peace with the big ones. Right now we have three large toys; a piano, a walking cart, and a bouncy horse... oh and that jumper-saucer thing in the kitchen too!

But all the little blocks and balls and trucks also need to live in our dining room/ play space.

I've been obsessing over getting some kind of storage cubbies and after high hopes of finding a great vintage piece we finally broke down and went to Ikea. So much for my pledge for no more particle board. We spent the entire day there including a late lunch in the food court...

...where there were surprisingly few decent looking vegetarian options. Luckily we'd packed some sandwiches. After all of this we ended up not getting anything. Nothing. We just couldn't make up our minds. But since patience is not a virtue of mine, I decided that I would go back the next day and get the typical "Expedit" shelving unit. An hour and a half of extra fuel and a strained back and bruised shin later and I had brought home my prize!

The white is more of an off-white (which is why we hesitated in the first place) and it does make me nuts but I'll get I'll get over it. I still want to find a way to personalize it so it's less generic Ikea looking- right now I'm thinking spray paint and stencils! I'll get some better photos once I'm happier with it.

P.S. After a slow start I'm trying to get better about posting. As I wrote this one however I had some peas steaming and forgot about them. Not only did they turn gray but the liquid in the bottom became this black bubbly caramel type deal. I've never had that happen before! I also burned the rubber mat in my sink when I rushed the pot over to rinse it out. I need some work on my skills as a multi-tasker.

December 6, 2011

Try and Try Again

We've been having this crazy warm kick-off to winter here in New England so yesterday I was lucky enough to meet up with two "mommy-friends", grab some lunch and enjoy an afternoon with the kiddos in the park. I feel really lucky to have met a couple of ladies who I actually would enjoy hanging out with even if we didn't have babies toddlers the same age. I didn't have that many friends locally before Little Smith was born so now that I'm not working it feels more important than ever to find time to meet up and have some form of adult conversation now and again..

Today the topic of that conversation was all about the second baby. I guess it has crossed my mind (if by crossed my mind you mean I've sat around obsessing over good sibling names, daydreamed of having a girl, and even found myself test driving a double BOB stroller at REI over the week-end... not that I'm actually saying that out loud to anyone!) but most of the other mothers of one year olds that I know are already much further ahead in their planning and are actively trying or getting close. While the idea of it is great and having been an only child I really do want LS to have a sibling and not be that far apart in age... there is just no way I could have another baby anytime soon. I'm so tired that I can't imagine being pregnant and doing everything else. I'm still breast feeding so I don't feel like my body is really even my own yet and I also feel like I'm finally back to pre-baby shape and I imagine that's even harder the second time around. Big Smith also works such long hours that we barely have enough time to catch up and make another baby let alone care for one!

But I am envious when I hear about other people being pregnant. There's a huge part of me that wants this now even though it's totally unrealistic and wouldn't be the right thing for more reasons than I've even listed. What is this crazy impulse to have another baby when my first isn't even toddling yet and why does it seem to hit so many of us? Would I be feeling this way if I'd had a girl first? I think I would. I guess for now I'll just keep collecting baby names and cross my fingers that some day I'll find a use for them... even if it is for the family dog.