Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holiday Cookies

Being of Norwegian descent on my father's side of the family, we indulge in platters of Christmas cookies during the holidays.  There are the Norwegian goodies -- sunkage, krumkage, etc. -- and then there are the fifteen or so other kinds that have been added to the mix.  In fact, our Christmas morning gift opening used to be interrupted halfway by a breakfast of cookies...until Meredith's husband joined the family and thought this was such an odd and unseemly tradition that we were shamed into adding real food to the breakfast, like an egg casserole and bread.  Bah humbug!

I used to enjoy bringing along a few kinds of cookies to the celebration, and would always make one or two old favorites and then try out new recipes.  Owen's arrival put a temporary hold on my holiday baking, however.  Until last January, he didn't sleep much, so I had no free evening hours to don my baking apparel.  This year, however, things were different!  Owen sleeps (knock on wood)!  So I tentatively stuck my toe back into the waters (perhaps not the right image to use while writing about baking), and made two new kinds of holiday cookies.

Martha's husband Gordy is a big fan of the chocolate and peanut butter flavor combination, as am I.  I wasn't really in the mood to make my usual peanut butter balls with chocolate hats, but was a bit worried I wouldn't be allowed into Gordy's house without a pb&c offering.  I thus ended up trying a recipe I saw on the Cup of Jo blog for peanut butter fudge with chocolate and sea salt.

Above is the fudge pre chocolate.  It turned out well, except there was one instruction that was unclear, where it said to bring to a boil for two minutes without stirring, and I wasn't sure if the two minutes included the bringing to a boil, or if the two minutes should have started once the boiling began.  But all was well after I used Sean's upper arm strength to do a lot of the stirring.  Then I added chocolate and sea salt and voila:

Delicious!  They were a hit at Martha's too.

The second recipe I tried was the winner of the Pillsbury baking contest this year, and I tried them because the recipe was so strange I was intrigued.  You cut a Pillsbury pie dough into tiny little squares and baked them for six minutes so that you had a cookie sheet of tiny crackers.  Then you added the "crackers" to melted white chocolate and peanut butter, and then also added cocktail peanuts (I added cocktail cashews) and toffee pieces, and then dropped rounded tablespoonfuls onto wax paper and let them solidify.  I don't have pictures, but they weren't a very photogenic cookie anyway.  I liked them. I'm not a big white chocolate fan, but it was a different taste all together, and a good variation to have on a cookie plate.  Huzzah!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pippa Middleton Pug

One of the highpoints of traveling to Massachusetts for Christmas this year was that we would get to see my sister's new 11-week old pug, Pippa Middleton.

Hello, Pippa!

Pippa Middleton is an absurdly small and absurdly cute little lady.  She's about the size of four sticks of butter, and is even currently a couple of pounds smaller than Posy!  As you can imagine, however, Pippa does not know -- or care -- that she is a pipsqueak.  She has a great personality and was completely unfazed that her new home and new family was overrun with ten additional people.

As puppies do, Pippa would go go go at full speed and then collapse into a heavy slumber.

She loved chasing her Uncle Sean around the kitchen island and attacking his feet.  And she loved sleeping on her Great Aunt Elsie:

Owen liked Pippa, although he quickly learned to avert his face when she came over to him.  Pippa is teething and those puppy teeth are needle-sharp!  Pippa would start tugging on Owen's trousers, and Owen, as he is wont to do, would start apologizing for the both of them:  "Sorry, Pippa!  Sorry, Owen!"

And then there was Dorothy!  Pippa thought she was great fun and did her best to try to engage Dorothy in some sort of playful activity, usually one that involved body slams or puppy teeth sunken into bulldogge hindquarters:

Dorothy was very good with Pippa on the whole.  Since she still has sore knees, we were trying to keep the playing to a minimum, or at least trying to manipulate it so that Pippa was the one who was moving around Dorothy, while Dorothy stayed relatively immobile.  Luckily, Pippa was happy to oblige:

And Dorothy was happy to teach Pippa some important things, such as how to chew on wrapping paper and discarded boxes:

And when things got too rowdy, Dorothy would remove herself to a bed, however small the beds in this household tended to be:

I am very glad to have a pug back in the family again!  And I look forward to the next time we meet Miss Middleton, when she will be perhaps bigger than a wind-up toy.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Massachusetts Christmas

We spent Christmas in Massachusetts this year at my sister, Martha's, house, and had a merry time.  I feel the need to state for the record that we had ZERO traffic on the way up on Tuesday and ZERO traffic on the way home on Saturday.  ZERO.  We didn't even have to slow down to get on the Mass Pike from 84, which is practically unheard of.  Owen was pretty good in the car, too -- not quite as phenomenal as he was driving down to North Carolina last year, but good on the whole.  He's not as excited by my car toys as he was when he was younger, so I'll have to keep looking for things to hold a 2 year-old's interest.  Apparently magnet boards and sticker books are not worth spending more than a collective minute on.

Here is Dorothy in the car riding shotgun next to her beloved pack leader:

And here is Owen in the car out of his carseat at a rest stop:

There was one incident at a rest stop on the way up, in which while I was in the restroom, Owen started calling out, "Help! Help! Help Owen!" causing a passerby to wonder if Owen was being abducted by Sean....

But we all enjoyed staying at Martha's very much, and Owen had a great time with his cousin Josie, especially, who at nine years old was very kind to Owen.  On the second day, he even took her hand and walked down the basement with her to play, giving me a cheerful, "Goodbye, Mommy!"

Owen loved playing with Josie's dollhouse, especially once he discovered it contained a tiny telephone:

Here is Owen with his Andersen cousins on Christmas Eve:

And here he is later on Christmas Eve enjoying his new toy sushi set from the Hunters:

And then in troll jammies opening a new book on Christmas day.  Thank you, Santa!:

And here he is eating strawberries for the first time (not because they haven't been offered to him.  They have.  But for some reason he decided to eat four big juicy berries while sitting on Martha's counter):

The trip was a success!

Owen's Christmas Decorations

December got very busy very quickly, as Decembers are wont to do, especially when Thanksgiving falls later than usual.  I learned that a 2 year-old is a very appreciative audience for Christmas decorations.  We decorated our downstairs in installments -- first the Scandinavian Christmas trolls on the mantel and the advent calendars, then the tree went up and the lights went on, then the ornaments, then the table and the odds and ends like sparkly garlands, and Rudolph stockings and whatnot.

Each time Owen would come down in the morning and see what had been added, he would proclaim, "Wow!" over and over.

Owen helping with the tree:

Here's the troll half of the mantel:

And here is the woodland critters half of the mantel, with cute birds from Target and a cranberry tree:

Here is Owen reading with full lips in front of the Christmas cat quilt from Aunt Elsie:

And here is the tree decorated and with lights on:

The biggest hit this year was the train we set up around the tree:

The first day we put it up, Owen sat for a good hour watching it go around and listening to the whistle and the bell and the all aboards.  The cats were very curious about the train, too.  Here is Plum being brave and giving it a sniff:

And in this picture you can see that Posy has come down from upstairs to check out the train, although she doesn't dare get too close to it.  That would be foolhardy, and she is not a foolhardy cat!

Owen was also good about following our no touching the train and tree rules.  I put most of the breakable ornaments towards the top of the tree, but it turns out I didn't really need to do that.  Good boy, Owen!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pancakes With Daddy

I’ve been thinking lately that it might be good to start doing some baking with Owen.  I’m always looking for more activities that we can do on the weekends, and even though he doesn’t really eat much, I figure he might be interested in helping stir, etc.  

Last weekend Sean was cooking pancakes for breakfast and we gave Owen the bowl and had him whisk.  He liked it!  In fact, we had trouble getting the bowl away from him.  Here he is with his fresh new haircut, helping Daddy with the pancakes:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Ant and the Grasshoppers

We had our first snowfall of the year the day before Thanksgiving, which we could enjoy since we weren’t traveling in it.  On Thanksgiving then, while Sean was slaving away in the kitchen making his glorious (truly! It was a masterpiece!) feast, Owen and I got bundled up:

Then we headed outside and made ourselves a miniature snowman.  Here he is when he was just the basics:

And then I went inside and stole a carrot from the chef to use as a nose.  So here he is with fancy nose yet still no arms:


The carrot nose was a big hit with Owen—he talked about that for a long time.  The stick arms were a big hit with Dorothy, and we had a hard time keeping her from stealing them and chewing them to bits.

And while Sean was cooking and Owen, Dorothy, and I were winter-wonderlanding, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum were upstairs thusly:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Snick! Snick!

Owen has needed a haircut for some time now, and I put off trimming it badly myself, since I really wanted a professional to do it.  The last cut Sean and I gave him in the summer was basically a choppy mess, and so we had let it grow until it reached even messier bowlcut proportions like this:

Monkish, no?  So I made an appointment at a nearby barber shop that had good yelp reviews regarding toddler haircuts, yet we set off with much trepidation, as we couldn’t imagine Owen suffering fools gladly while getting his hair fiddled with.  I tried to prep him by talking up the whole encounter and saying that a woman would cut his hair making “Snick! Snick!” noises around his head – and it got to the point where he’d happily join in with the snick snicks!

But I wouldn’t say the haircut went well.  They gave both me and Owen black capes and sat him on my lap facing me, and then the nice hairdresser cut his hair as fast as she could, Owen sobbing all the while and saying, “No thank you!”  She said he was better than some, in that he didn’t hit and kick, so there was that.  But he didn’t keep his head very still either.  We tried to distract him with Peppa Pig on the iPhone, and it later occurred to me that I should have used something sweet as a bribe.  At any rate, we left many sobs and a large tip later, with one handsome haircut!  Here is the result:

And now if you ask him about the haircut, he will rather indignantly say, “I told the lady no thank you!”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Posy's Pedicure

An obsessive cleaner, Posy enjoys any help with grooming I might want to give her…but that doesn’t mean she is going to help me help her, so to speak.  She loves a brushing, for example, but she likes to strut around with her tail held high while receiving the brushing, forcing me to chase after her as I brush.

She also doesn’t mind getting a “pedicure,” and will even purr during the procedure, but will still be at her squirmiest and will keep retracting her lethal talons.  So what we do now is poor Sean gets the unenviable job of holding her, while she tries her best to slice him, and while I try my best to at least get all of the talons clipped on one foot.  And then I tend to get all triumphant and rest on my laurels instead of attempting the rest of the feet shortly thereafter.

The other day, however, I realized Posy’s nails had gotten so long that she was making little clicking noises when she walked.  She already makes enough noises when she moves – from her tendency to narrate what she is doing, and her constant sneezing and snuffling and the forcing of air through microscopic nostrils – so the last thing she needed was more bells and whistles adding to her travels through the house.  Therefore, I asked Sean to hold her at his peril while I clipped some talons, and we did her whole front right foot, including the thumb!  And then the next day we did her two back feet!  So now we only have the front left to go, and then Posy is back to being a stealthy ninja, or at least as stealthy as a smushed-face cat can be.  Pretty Posy!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Owen These Days

Sean’s been working with Owen on his counting, and he no longer thinks ghee and pa are part of the numerical sequence.  But he will still tend to reach either five or ten when he counts, no matter how many objects are actually there.  He’s getting there though!  He will sometimes now open up his five fingers as he counts to five.  He’ll ask for a cookie, and when I say no, he’ll then ask for one two three four five cookies? – fanning out his fingers as he does so.  Um, no to that request too, Owen!

He’s a friendly little fellow.  He has always liked saying goodbye to people, especially when he wants them to leave, and when we took him to an emergency pediatrician a few Saturdays ago because he had an ear infection, he very happily said “Bye doc-tor!” several times as we were on our way out the door.  When he walks into his nursery school classroom, I’m told, he also will very happily proclaim, “Hello everybody!”  He’s our own little Norm.

Owen remains very polite, thanks to Susan’s teachings.  He only ever says “yes please” or “no, thank you”, and never will just say yes or no.  (In fact, when he was crying when the doctor listened to his chest with her stethoscope, he was crying, “No, thank you, doc-tor!” over and over.)  He is always saying “Sorry, Mommy!” or “Sorry, Daddy!” (although Sean pointed out that he doesn’t say his s’s yet, so says Horry instead).  And his latest thing is to say “Excuse me,” when he is walking through a store and comes across a person in his path.

We were at the library last weekend and when a girl around his age came up to him, Owen smiled and said, “Hello!”  The girl just stared at him.  So he tried again:  “Hello!” with a smile.  No answer.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mommy, it’s a kid!”  Such the only child, our Owen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I discovered this month that it is hard to find Thanksgiving decorations – the sort one can put on a mantel.  We had no luck in Target, and even no luck in Wegman’s which I thought for sure would have some standing pilgrim or cornucopia or turkey.  I finally found a nice mantel and table centerpiece turkey at Paper on Pine in Philadelphia.  Isn’t he handsome?:

We have been watching many British detective shows via Netflix.  We first saw “Happy Valley,” which was excellent, and then watched “The Fall,” which was also good, albeit a little too serial killer-y for my tastes.  And now we are watching “Broadchurch,” which is a bit of a mess, but has a great soundtrack.  As I find is often the case when I watch British shows, it takes me awhile to get to the point where I can understand the majority of what they are saying.  Often I am a few sentences behind.  (My boss said she watches these shows with the captions on and just reads what they are saying – which is a good idea except that I am usually knitting while watching and it is hard to knit and read captions at the same time.)  There was a very apropos cartoon in last week’s New  Yorker, that had a man and a woman watching TV, and one of them says, “At some point, there’s only so high you can raise the volume before you admit you’re never gonna understand what British detectives are saying.”  Hee hee.  Anyway, I recommend all of them, especially “Happy Valley” (and Sean likes them too, except that he thinks we should not have watched all three of them in a row, and wants to watch a non-British, non-detective show next.  Fair enough!)

I don’t know why this is, but I have never NOT lived next to people who hate – and needlessly cut down – trees.  Our neighbors on both sides of us when I was growing up chopped down multiple very old and beautiful and huge trees from their backyards, leaving their yards ugly and sunny and naked, and of course negatively affecting the shade of our yard as well.  We had a huge tulip tree in our front yard that the city cut down for some nefarious reason.  And last month, neighbors across the street from us cut down a grove of six trees right across from our house.  The trees were on this ugly little scrap of land, too narrow to do anything with, and the land under the trees was neglected and filled with branches and scraps of wood, etc.  The trees weren’t particularly pretty, and I don’t think they had ever been planted by someone with aesthetics in mind.  But still – it was a nice wee bit of forest, the trees were very tall and leafy, and owls would spend time in them during the summer.  

Apparently, the city asked our neighbor to trim the branches that were hanging over the road, and instead of doing so, he decided he would chop them all down.  Instead of hiring professionals to do this, he hired a Mutt & Jeff, who hacked at the (very, very tall) trees with a rusty basement saw over the course of four or so weeks, and caused us and the other surrounding neighbors much consternation as huge branches fell towards our cars and houses.  (They broke a telephone pole).  All this is to say that our little piece of wild across the street is now an ugly view of a fence, and filled with stumps (which they of course did not take out) and sawdust and branches.  Gone are the trees, gone our shade, gone the owls.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oh Don't You Dare, Cold #4

Although the baby gear market certainly seems glutted, from time to time we come across a gaping hole just waiting for an inventor and some capital.  For example, someone needs to invent: a night diaper that lets you know when your child has pooped in it, so that you don’t have to deal with a false alarm that transitions your child from drowsy to wide awake and the ensuing unpleasant consequences; a v-neck parka for toddlers that don’t have much of a neck and therefore no place for that extra few inches with snap and zippers that act as a built in scarf; and some fool-proof way to confirm that your child has an ear infection, as well as access to antibiotics during off hours.  I’m not asking for very much here, people!  Get busy.

We found ourselves in need of invention number three on Saturday, the majority of which Owen spent inconsolable and whining.  Now we aren’t strangers to the occasional grumpy weekend, so at first we were just oh here we go again about his mood.  But when he woke up from a nap and could not stop this strange shrieking, we realized something was indeed amiss and headed over to the pediatric emergency center.  It was confirmed that Nursery School Cold #3 had given Owen Ear Infection #2 in one of his ears.  Poor Owen whimpered and cuddled in the waiting room, cried “No, thank you, Doctor” while the doctor listened to his front and back with her stethoscope, and then much more happily said, “Bye bye, Doctor!  Have a good week!” on our way out the door.

We are learning the hard way how nasty ear infections are.  Owen basically could not stop crying in the late afternoon, despite his first dose of the pink meds, so we ended up putting him to bed very early at 6:15.  And he did actually sleep until 6:30 the next morning, except for when he woke up at 11 and said in a clear voice, “Oh! Where did Mommy and Daddy go?”  And then a few seconds later, “I wonder what Mommy and Daddy are doing.”  (Hoping against hope you’ll go back to sleep, my son!)

So that was our fun weekend!  Aren’t you envious!  Ear infections and sorrow and then lots and lots of the spring fever episode of Curious George (or as Owen calls it, the one where George RIDES UP IN A BLOON!)  


Friday, November 14, 2014


Since the weather has just gotten colder, we’ve been having a bit of a turf battle in our kitchen between us and some field mice who would like to become house mice for the winter.  This is not okay with us for multiple obvious reasons, so the battle has begun.  So far, we have caught one mouse in a humane trap, but either we didn’t release it far enough away from our house, or it was part of a couple, because we still have at least one mouse visiting our kitchen at night and ruining our ripening pears.

Now you are probably wondering, hey, what about your two cats?  Shouldn’t they be earning their keep by catching the mice?  Shouldn’t they, indeed.  It turns out that whereas Plum and Posy will interestedly sit in front of the hole by the side of the stove which the mice use to enter the kitchen, they will only do so until it is time for them to nap elsewhere.  And it is time for them to nap elsewhere most of the time.

I’m not being completely fair to Plum, who did start knocking all and sundry off the counter late one night in an effort to keep the mouse from reaching our bowl of pears.  And then he did alert Sean when the mouse had gone into the humane trap.  So he is trying, somewhat.  And also in Plum’s defense, we give him his meds at night, so it is hard for him to stay all vengeancy when the clomicalm is making him happy.  I’m not sure what Posy’s excuse is, except that while the mouse is out and about, Posy is usually upstairs with me, purring and giving me a nice cuddle.

Meanwhile, Owen has started calling both cats Posy (or “Popey”) and it bothers me more than it should.  I keep telling him, when he calls Plum Popey, that the big gray one is Plum!  Popey’s the little cream one who is always sneezing.  But so far to no avail.