Thursday, October 30, 2008

Best Muffins Ever

I got this recipe from my neighbor...and then of course, being the creative (aka unable to follow directions) cook that I am, I changed a bunch of stuff. I think these are SO yummy. Especially spread with a little cream cheese for breakfast.

I tried to jam in as many healthy things as possible. Various flours that supposedly have different nutritional components, oats for soluble fiber, flax seeds for extra good fats, pumpkin with anti-oxidants...maybe some raisins would make a good addition...

Tater thought they were good. Sprout was frightened that they contained "spice" but did nibble one and declare it OK.

Kids like measuring and dumping. Tater is an excellent sous chef (although I supposed that implies I am a chef, which would be ever so misleading).

I ate almost the whole batch myself the last time. I just made more...and I am scared.

Best Ever Pumpkin Muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine these dry ingredients:
2 cups flour (I used 1/4 cup each of Spelt, Barley, Brown Rice, and White Whole Wheat)
1 cup oats (Quaker, in the tub)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp Ground Flax Seeds (no one will ever know)
2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
6 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (I know that sounds crazy...but trust me)
1 tsp salt

In a separate bowl combine these wet ingredients:
2 cups canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin)
2/3 cup applesauce
2 eggs

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until blended.

Spoon into muffin pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. If you do mini-muffins, I warn will not be able to stop eating them.

Bake for 20-25 minutes - probably check around 15 if you do the minis.

Try not to eat them all at once.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Germs are no fun at all...

Go check out this fun site: Say Boo to Flu.

I didn't really realize (I mean, I sort of realized, but probably stashed it in some hidden corner of my mind) that the flu can actually be deadly!

So...go get a flu shot. I just got mine yesterday and the kids had theirs a few weeks ago, and check out the fun activities on their website.

Cinnamon Magic looks entertaining and quick...and I am all over Bug Cakes (although I would totally make them with a mix and pre-prepared frosting...anything that involves a double-boiler is WAY beyond my skills!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nod to Tradition

Tater felt that he needed the regular carved pumpkin.

But liked the idea of cable ties for hair.

So. Voila!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pimp my Pumpkin?

How fun is this?
I am so proud of this idea.

I was not looking forward to carving pumpkins with the kids. The oogy slimy scraping. The sharp knives accompanied with incessant whining that they NEED to try to do it themselves.

So I got this idea to put stuff ON the pumpkin. Like hardware!

I went to Lowe's and wandered around looking for things (cheap things...each under a dollar) that could be face parts. I came home with a collection of little plastic pipe pieces and bolts and washers and laid them out before my children.

Sprout was on board. She picked out pieces. She helped poke holes in the pumpkin with a nail and a hammer (probably why she was on board...the girl LOVES tools). She approved my idea of wrapping stiff wire around the pieces and then poking the wire ends into the pumpkin to secure them. She jabbed the cable ties into his "head".

Tater is rejecting this break from tradition and insists that we have to make his pumpkin into a REAL Jack-o-Lantern. Darn.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rainy Saturday

We have just been hanging around today. The kids did some painting on some "treasure boxes" we had left over from this summers project-a-thon.

We went to Halloween parties last night.

Tater and I went to the Halloween Ball at his school. This was essentially a whole bunch of K-2 kids in costumes running around in the semi-darkness while the Macarena played...BUT Tater won the costume contest with his dead-on resemblance to a young and very cute Harry Potter. $20 Gift Card for Target...I am trying hard not to steal it!

Sprout and Daddy went to a Halloween party hosted by her orthodontist. The lavishness of this affair leads me to believe that I am overypaying for her treatment... But she had lots of fun, so I guess it is worth it.

We are getting ready to go to the movies. It is windy, rainy, cold. Nothing fun can happen outside. So we are going to see High School Musical 3. This is despite (or, I guess, in addition to) the fact that we are taking a bunch of Sprout's friends to see the same movie NEXT Saturday for her 9th birthday party..

Maybe I will branch out into movie reviews here!

Hope you are having fun with whatever your Saturday offers!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Try and try again...

Despite strong evidence to the contrary (submitted here), my little Tater continues to believe that I can create amazing cakes.

And despite the fact that I completely don't give a hoot about sports, we are currently putting together our Phillies party.

Twisty Cheese Curls, pizza and cake. Just what every kid needs!

Tater drew the stars and the black circle...I did the "Go Phillies". Sprout wanted to lick the icing spreader, but was shut down. Poor Sprout.

The balloons are blown up...streamers are being hung. T-shirts are on (although we will be putting jammies under the t-shirts before game time.)

I think there may be some hats secreted away somewhere.

Go Phillies! (says Tater and Sprout and their Daddy)...

Monday, October 20, 2008

And the winner is...

Here's our logo...what do you think??

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Down Time

This weekend, especially today, was filled with a glorious overabundance of nothingness.

Yesterday, Tater had a party at 1:15 and we just barely got out of our pajamas in time to get there. Sprout and I had lunch and did some shopping while he was at the party. Both kids procured yo-yos for themselves and have been yo-yo-ing ever since...

Last night Sprout had a party, so Tater and I had dinner with friends.

Today we started watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at 10AM and were still in pajamas at 12:45 for lunch...the kids never left the house...yo-yo-ing...TV watching...rotting brains oozing everywhere...but it was REALLY nice to have no agenda. Just a lot of recharging.

Not fun exactly, but good anyway...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting better...

The chipmunks are improving.

I am significantly less frightened of them than before.

Not sure about the sneaky one behind the dot of the "i". He still seems like he's up to no good. What's he doing back there??

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More fun with catalogs

I have to give my mom credit for this one.

She gives the kids clothing catalogs and lets them cut out clothes. Then she gives them photos of family members and they cut out the heads.

Then they pick out clothes for the family members and glue the heads on. Like a paper-doll/collage combination.

Then they draw in the details.

The kids love this. They came home from a recent visit with a whole slew of them...including this lovely rendition of the pink tights...and my tiny tiny head.

Very entertaining!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Easiest Collage Ever

I am not sure this qualifies as a craft idea - more of a craft cheat.

One of Tater's homework assignments for the month was to make a Fall Collage.

Unfortunately, we couldn't find any magazines with fall pictures in them. But we did find a catalog that was chock full of Halloween-like decor (ours was the Lakeside Collection but I would think that Lillian Vernon, Gooseberry Patch, Terry's Village would all have a similar spread this time of year).

We went through and took out anything Halloween or fall-ish. You could also go onto the websites from these companies and print pictures from their on-line catalogs.

A little cut and paste, and voila - collage. All from one "magazine". It turned out pretty cute.

And collages are always a big hit because kids LOVE cutting things out of magazines. I think there is something about the usually-forbidden destruction of reading material that gives them a little thrill.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Do I want Sandy?

Sandy - your free personal email assistant
I am trying out this website: I Want Sandy, a virtual personal assistant who will send text and Twitters and things to remind you of what you need to do.

I am intrigued. I asked her to remind me to send Tater's library books to school on Wednesday. And that I am supposed to give blood tomorrow at 1. She will apparently text me and keep me on track. This might be just the dynamic solution to getting my life in order!

I wonder if she will fetch my coffee...virtual coffee?

Friday, October 10, 2008


Once upon a time, when I was a newly minted working girl, my friend and I were somehow placed in charge of planning parties for our work group. Remember when people used to have parties at work?

Anyway, we were working in downtown Wilmington, and the Halloween party was approaching. So, we did what any reasonable people would do when faced with the need for pumpkins and Halloween cheer - we drove to Media, PA and went to
Linvilla Orchards! Pumpkinland!

I grew up just around the corner from there...and it was THE place to get pumpkins. At least in my mind.

And I wasn't the most committed corporate drone...

Anyway...flash forward more years than I'd like to admit (um...20??? Ouch). The kids had the day off from school, and Esther and I were looking for a place to take the whole crowd of them for some fall fun. we went to Linvilla Orchards!

It is still a somewhat unreasonable drive from where we live, although meeting for brunch at the
Happy Days Finer Diner in Frazier broke up the trip. After we fueled up on Mickey Mouse pancakes, off we went.

Despite the Yom Kippur holiday, there were many bus loads of children at Linvilla. It is a mecca for fall class trips to pick apples and go on hayrides (neither of which we participated in, but both of which are available.)

First we went and visited the animals. There is a wide assortment of beleaguered looking chickens that can be fed, a new duck pond, a couple of horses, some pigs, goats, ostriches, sheep and a few deer. The kids love to visit the animals. Usually my kids go with their Nana and she has a big bag of bread to share with the animals...this time we had a handful of dried corn from the vending machine. Bread is better.

Next stop was the train ride. $3 per person to go "around 3 times", which the driver said was "about 9 minutes". Apparently she is a bit of an over-estimator. We thought that "around" was through the fields or something...but the train went around in a big circle...and probably took under 5 minutes. But the kids enjoyed it very much, so that was good.

We passed on the playground this time. They do have a really nice one with lots of interesting things to climb on, but we had other things to see, so we moved on.

Our next stop was the Apple Flinger...I don't actually remember what they were calling it - but we got 20 apples for $5 and the kids flung them down a hill with huge slingshots. They liked that a LOT.

Tater hit one of the targets in the field and was somewhat disappointed that there wasn't a prize, but he got over it quickly!

The big event was the hay-bale maze. Esther and I decided to sit it out and sent the four kids into the maze, with strict instructions not to skewer one another with the flags they were holding (so they wouldn't get lost since they are all shorter than a bale of hay). We watched the 4 flags go back and forth for a while...and then there they all came...back out of the entrance. We turned them back around and sent them back in...back and forth for a while...back out the entrance. Back in they went for a third try...and finally Esther decided she would go in the exit and figure out how to coach them out. And then SHE got stuck in there...

Eventually she got them all to climb over one of the walls ( aren't supposed to do that...) and everyone made their triumphant way to the exit!

Finally we were ready to go into PUMPKINLAND!! The kids were so excited to pick out their pumpkins! I usually make them wait until closer to my guys were terribly excited that they were getting to SHOP for pumpkins!

After carefully investigating nearly EVERY pumpkin in the place (and trying hard to convince me that we really needed a 100 pound pumpkin "for Daddy!") they finally picked the winners. Tater's is round-ish, Sprout's is tall-ish. They each also picked a Jack-be-little and we got a few little decorations as well.

THEN (long day) we went into the shop to look for some Cider Donuts (for Daddy!) And a big bushel of apples to make a pie!
And, since it was an insanely hot day, lots of water!

After all that, we pushed our shopping cart full of about 60 pounds of pumpkins and apples and donuts, up the unpaved hill (ouch) to the car.

Obviously, given my propensity to drive long distances to visit, I recommend checking out Linvilla Orchards. It has become significantly more commercialized since I was a kid (lo those many years ago) so all of the additional activities cost something. Even the playground charges $1 per person (which I personally find offensive). But there is lots to do, the kids love it, and it just feels like a fun, wholesome sort of place to be.

And they make REALLY good donuts!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This is funny. Kids will be very amused. Mine are!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hey Tooth Fairy...I think you forgot something...

When my beautiful little Sprout was 5 and lost her first tooth, the Tooth Fairy brought her a very cute angel/fairy necklace to commemorate this big event. Special occasion, special gift.

Yesterday my darling little Tater lost his first tooth. Special occasion!! The Tooth Fairy, however, was, I think, a little stumped about what the male equivalent of an angel/fairy necklace was, and settled on an extra $1.

So this morning, eyes shining, Tater pulled his little Tooth Fairy bag out from under his pillow. He carefully read the note from the Fairy...he asked me to hold the little bundle of money, because "I think there is something special in there!" (Uh oh...)

He carefully unfolded the find 4 quarters inside. And he looked at me, all big brown eyes and disappointment, and said, "That was nice...but Mommy, why didn't she bring me something special?"


Can the Fairy revisit? Can she say "Sorry, I forgot to bring you this special thing"?? And what would that special thing be??? For a boy...a cute and sweet boy...raised in a house where we try not to draw a lot of lines between what girls do and what boys do...although I think angel/fairy jewelry of any kind pretty much falls on the girl side of any scale you draw...

I think the Fairy is still working on it...sweating it a bit, I think...Perhaps she will find something special for the second tooth...

UPDATE: Interestingly, the Tooth Fairy apparently left a airplane watch inside Tater's pillow case. We didn't find it until last night (two days later). I wonder how long it was in there...hmmm... :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Zoo

Yesterday, while our friends from Florida were in town, we went to the Philadelphia Zoo for the day. We met other friends there, so we had a group of 5 grown-ups and 6 kids. The kids (an almost 9 year-old, 2 six-year olds, and 3 three-year olds) had a good time, as would be expected.

I mean, the Philadelphia Zoo. Fun. Not a lot to add to that.

The only drama was that I, mean and terrible mother that I am, denied my children the joy of having their faces painted. And while you may gasp in horror at how very, very deprived my children are, let me clarify.

1) $6 PER CHILD...seriously.

2) Face painting, in my personal experience has a life-span of approximately 10 minutes, before either:

a) It starts to itch...and the child wants it removed.
b) The child decides to hug someone (usually someone wearing something
white and
dry-clean-only), leaving half of their face on the huggee.
c) The child begins to cry (either because of the itchy face, or for some
unrelated reason) and
the paint begins to run.
d) The child eats or drinks something and rubs the lower half of the paint
off and ingests it.

So, no face-painting. And that's final. And if you say the words "face painting" to me one more time, we are going to the car.

I don't know what else to say about the zoo. The elephants are back (for those who don't know, they took the elephants somewhere to rebuild their habitat). The habitat looks exactly like it did before, as far as I can tell. But wow - elephants are BIG.

Giant river otters are very fun to watch. So are polar bears - if they will get in the water. We watched the polar bear think about going in the water for about 10 minutes...he kept inching toward the edge...but no, nothing. The polar bear psych-out.

Monkeys are cute. Even gorillas look cuddly, until you remember that they would utterly shred you if you got anywhere near them.

Bears - ditto.

Hmmm...I have nothing witty to add here.
Giraffes, tall. Zebras, stripy. Turtles, slow. Snakes, gross. Lizards, gross.

Anyway - if you are around Philadelphia, willing to deal with traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway (and no, don't fool yourself that it is better on a Sunday afternoon, it's not), and haven't already been to the zoo a kajillion times. You should go. Kids love it.

If you don't want to deal with the traffic, and can live without the elephants, try the Elmwood Park Zoo.

I mean, who doesn't like a zoo?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ahoy there, Real Pirates!

We visited the Real Pirate exhibit today at The Franklin (Institute...I know they changed the name, but I can't just say "The Franklin" - the Franklin what??)

I find the pirate thing to be sort of entertaining. The eye patch, the flag, the parrot, the funny way of talking. However, the reality of the situation is that pirates were hard-core criminals. "Plundering the booty" sounds silly, but honestly, they were killing a bunch of people for the booty, which isn't so fun.

The display is centered around the story of Captain Sam Bellamy, who left New England to find a way to convince his girlfriend's Dad that he wasn't a penniless, deadbeat sailor. He decided that the best way to do this was the hijack 50 ships and steal all of their valuables. Quite the role model.

The ship that he used was called the Whydah (Wih-dah) and was a slave ship until he and his "mateys" took it over. So the first few exhibits have a lot of information about slavery, including manacles and a branding iron that was used on the slaves. All very interesting and compelling to a grown-up, but somewhat difficult to explain to a 6-year-old (or a almost 9-year-old, really). This is surely information that they should understand, the horrors of slavery, the progress that has been made - but I wasn't quite prepared to have that conversation today.

The coolest thing was the BIG OLD trunk of pirate treasure. Many many coins. There was a table with little holes in it, where you could touch some of the coins - although I don't think it was all that satisfying...just poking the coins through a little hole...not as fun as it could be.

The second coolest thing was the bell from the ship in a water tank that is backlit...very dramatic.

The third coolest thing was more water tanks with pieces of ship wreckage in them - although it was very hard to tell what you were looking at.

We passed on the audio tour, which was actually free for kids under 11, which might have helped fill in the blanks. But there was sufficient signage to figure out what was what for the most part.

The sort of horrifying, and yet sort of cool things were:

1) The leg bone and shoe of a 9-year-old pirate who went down with the ship (because, yuck, but a kid pirate, kind of cool).

2) The "gibbet" - a cage in which the townspeople would display the dead body of a tarred, feathered, and hung pirate's dead body to discourage others from entering the pirating profession. This was another one of those conversations I wasn't ready for - "What does it mean, hung?"

The exhibits weren't as interactive as I generally expect at The Franklin (Institute). There was a knot-tying station, and a place where the kids could raise a pirate flag. Besides that, there weren't a lot of "doing" things for the kids. The opening film was well done, the displays were set up nicely, but I think the kids expected to be able to get more involved in things.

However, this, along with my lack of preparation for serious conversations doesn't negate the overall coolness and interestingness (is that a word?) of the exhibit. The kids said that they thought it was great. And I guess that is what matters most!

The gift shop was less painful than most. Both kids settled right away on a replica of a pirate coin and a small bag of polished rocks. In and out in under 10 minutes. Whew.

So, if you like pirates, and are ready for a heavy dose of reality about them, you would enjoy this exhibit. It is at The Franklin (Institute) until early November. Check into getting tickets ahead of time, makes it all a lot easier!

Your admission to the Real Pirates also includes a full admission ticket to The Franklin (Institute). We also visited the Sports Challenge, which the kids really like, especially doing a simulated wheelchair race. We made a quick stop to look at the big pendulum. The kids wanted to tour the huge heart, but we didn't have time. Traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway ate into our visiting plan for extra travel time!

Have fun!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The Halloween decorations are coming out.

My neighbor (Hi, Deb!) put up a bunch of ghost-y things today. Soon there will be Halloween lights up, skeletons sticking out of the gardens, and pumpkins on every doorstep. Other people do the full sheafs (sheaves?) of wheat, scarecrows, witches crashing into trees thing. One neighbor does a full-on haunted house in his garage. We haven't been brave enough to go in (there is smoke coming off of his lawn on Halloween and my kids refuse to even walk directly past the house, much less enter the attraction).

Here is my question. When did this all start?

When did Halloween become a decorating holiday to rival Christmas? When I was a kid (back in the day...) we carved pumpkins and called it a day. I don't even know that there were other options available. Perhaps that spider-web stuff that you can stretch across the bushes...but that was it.

About 8 years ago, I put pumpkin lights up around my front door and I felt like quite the overachiever. Now I am completely dusted...often forgetting to even carve the pumpkins (I don't like to do it too soon since they get all mushy and gross, and then I forget completely).

I am torn between my competitive side, my "good-excuse-to-put-cute-stuff-up" side, and my "but-it's-only-Halloween" a holding pattern...paralyzed...

I am guessing the decorating urge will win out, especially once the kids realize we are under-adorned. I give it a week.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Tomorrow is picture day at school. The big day when we try to spiff the kids up and hope they are in a good mood so that we get pictures worthy of display for the year.

I am not a big fan of the current system where you have to commit to the pictures you are going to purchase before they are even taken. If they are awful, I don't think I need the full package. I don't actually need the full package regardless of how stunning the pictures are. What I am going to do with 18 (!) 1 X 2 inch pictures of each child? Make stamps?

Poor Sprout had her palate expander installed today. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this piece of orthodontia (like myself until a few months ago), this is a contraption that is bolted to the roof of her mouth that will s...t...r...e...t...c...h her upper jaw over the next month so that all of her teeth eventually fit in her newly expanded mouth.

Apparently 3 weeks from now she is likely to have an enormous gap between her front teeth.

So I am glad the pictures are pre-expansion.

However, there is a bit of a drooling/slurping situation going on. Apparently it is difficult to swallow quietly and/or neatly with a metal device strapped into your face. So I am hoping she is able to smile normally and not slobbering all over herself in the picture.

Tater, on the other hand, has a lovely smile. However, he tends to look entirely freaked out in portraits. I don't know if he is scared of the photographers, or if he is concentrating so hard on smiling that he freezes up.

He also opted out of a pre-picture haircut. Which, in my opinion, was a questionable decision. But he said that if we just use "his spray" and he doesn't mess with it, he should be OK.

Don't even get me started on wardrobe decisions. I am hoping they are out of it in the morning when I thrust outfits at them, and that they don't question what they are given to wear. Sprout has been begging to wear the vest that Tater wore for his dance recital 2 years ago (gold brocade) to school. Tomorrow just might be the day that she decides it is finally show time...

I am on the edge of my seat to see how this all turns out.