Music Man shoutout

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Madeline and I got a shoutout! In this essay about Hilton Village and all its charm, the author happens to mention our production of The Music Man at the local theatre. There’s even a photo of the cast, shown below — M is the youngest member. It’s been a great run and loads of fun. Last show is tonight!

Harold Hill meets the River Citiziens of Iowa

Harold Hill meets the River Citiziens of Iowa

Screenshot of the shoutout:

MM2016

See the full essay here:

It Takes a Community: Life in Hilton Village

Hilton Village 4th of July

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They told us kids AND dogs are in the parade.

Our old-school historic neighborhood proudly maintains many traditions, among them a 4th of July parade down Main Street. Wagons, bicycles, strollers, a historic fire truck, a modern fire truck, classic cars, and lots of happy faces were decked out in red, white and blue. A neighbor held a block party brunch where we decorated our vehicles the morning of the parade and then congregated after for some amazing potluck treats and good conversation. Both Madeline and Henry had a great time.

Getting ready:

And now, the parade (which started off with motorcycles before the grand marshal and reminded me of my time in the Disney Stars and Motorcars Parade):

The parade ends at the elementary school, where everyone in the parade gathers to watch the rest of it. Some of the vehicles are parked so that the kids can explore them. The neighborhood milkman also has a tent where you can sample the dairy’s products.

Then we headed back for brunch and a day of barbecues with the neighbors.

Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?!

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We’ve doped her with myriad cartoon shorts along with occasional full-length animated features for months now. She invites us to do the “Mee-key Gonald?” round and round the nursery (see video below). She’s got her princess dresses ready and has been asking to wear her Minnie polka dots to school. Minnie herself has been lovingly smeared with yogurt, milk, cookie crumbs, and various other toddler foods. Yep. At long last, we are going to meet the Mouse and the rest of the Gang.

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M gathered Mom and Dad in her room for a jam session to the Mickey Mouse Club March. She added in her favorite electronica beats.

Two years ago

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If I haven’t said it enough, Isabel March is awesome. I am picky. And let me tell you, it is truly amazing when you find someone who captures your aesthetic sensibilities. Which is why I am all the more tickled and honored that, when we visited her a few weeks ago, I found Madeline (in the belly) and I were still on her studio wall. Not only that, but we are still on her website’s maternity page, too.

Here’s Baby Madeline at 36 weeks. She didn’t stay in there much longer after this photo.

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We’re on the maternity page!

Happy Valentine’s Day

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taken by our awesome wedding/family photographer, Isabel March

Isabel March, our fabulous wedding photographer, held a Little Love Portraits event with complimentary(!) mini studio sessions in honor of Valentine’s Day. With our busy lives, it was a nice reminder to stop and capture the moment. Only a short time ago, our tiny 5-lb valentine came home and transformed our world. She’s now a sweet, endearing toddler who seems to have picked up her puppy’s habit of making friends wherever she goes. A singing, dancing, belly-laughing little girl with a big grin, tiny feet, and baby wisps still waiting for real hair to grow. Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy birthday, little Madeline. May this memory be one of many we will hold dear always.

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Mimi Moush valentines

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M_Valentine_2015Last Valentine’s Day, I had a shelf exam and Madeline had a GI virus. So, class valentines did not happen. Fortunately, being in a class of 1-year-olds means they didn’t really miss much.

This year might be Mommy’s last chance to make Madeline valentines for a while. Besides being super into Frozen (audio here and video here), Madeline loves “Mimi Moush,” whom she knows as her crib buddy. So Mimi Moush valentines we did.

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She’s come a long way from her tiny almost-9-week-old self.

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So, we ordered Minnie valentine cupcakes from my awesome friend Judy of The Good, Bad and Yummy, who also made Madeline’s birthday cake.

photo credit: www.thegoodbadyummy.com

photo credit: www.thegoodbadyummy.com

This morning, she was not feeling the Valentine dress, so we went with her “babybug” shirt instead.

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Babybug: “Cheese!”

The cupcakes were a big hit, as were the treats from her class party.

Madeline’s first visit to the Poconos

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What a visit to the Poconos! Although Madeline first became acquaintanced with snow in Philly, she was delighted to play in fresh, deep fluff for the very first time. She also, for the very first time, identified “Gama” and “Gampapa.” By the end of the weekend, she added to her vocabulary “Eemee” (Amy), “No-wah” (Laura), and “Mee-am” or “Ee-am” (Liam).

First came story time with Gama and Gampapa on the evening we arrived. M loves her board book collections, perfectly sized for her hands. She especially loves her Mother Goose rhymes, including “Dumpy Dumpy,” “Fuffin Man,” “Kinko Shar,” “Pah Cake,” and “Diddo Diddo.”

The next morning, we headed out for the grownups to ski while baby and puppy explored the snow:

Back home for lunch and a little playtime with Dad:

Heading out for the afternoon, we were much more about our wits and ready to play.

Fortuitously, we discovered a neighborhood friend!

Madeline found a little friend, about four years older, whom she calls “Bibbeh.” Bibbeh was wonderfully (and amazingly!) kind and patient with Madeline, repeatedly making snowballs for Madeline to smoosh. Madeline loved their new game of falling back in the snow, sitting up to dig, and repeating. Now and then Madeline would look up to peek if Bibbeh was still lying down.

Winding down after a full day. Let’s do some rock n reading.

Out to play the next morning. Say goodbye to the adults! We’ve got business with a toboggan.

Afternoon ski time. Go away Dad, I’ve got a toboggan to ride.

Finally, some scenic shots over the weekend:

Happy Birthday, Babies!

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The babies in our little circle of friends were all born around the same time, so rather than have a slew of birthday parties (and cakes…and goodie bags…and party commitments), a friend and I decided to do our kids’ two-year-old birthday celebration together. Happy birthday to R, M, and the rest of the gang.

R_and_M_2ndBirthday_004 Our amazing two-sided Elmo cake and cupcakes were made by my friend Judy of The Good, Bad and Yummy. Judy is a hilarious kind-hearted soul and directed me in my all-time favorite role, Sally in YAGMCB. Most. Fun. Ever. Nowadays she pours her creativity into her baking. She made the bottom tier of mint chocolate chip cake and the top of red velvet, and both were indeed yummy.

First, the kids went to play while things were getting settled.

Then, we started on the cake and munchies.

Next, we attempted a group photo. You can just imagine the storyline here. We had a near fall with a dad on hand to catch, someone who brilliantly conferred upon each toddler a balloon, a brief alignment of smiling babies, and rapid deterioration into chaos as their attention lapsed.

Finally, they went back to the playroom. M was a big fan of the cat (“Kitty! Kitty!”).

The kids had a few presents to open. M was excited for books, Minnie Mouse, and shoes.

Madeline’s first snow

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The first real snowfall of the season occurred a few days after New Year’s. Until then, Madeline had never truly experienced snow; she was only a bundled-up baby in a carrier the previous winter. I am thankful to be able to capture this moment in photo and film. Thank you, smartphone.

On the way to school, Madeline experienced snowfall for the first time (as a walking, talking person rather than a carry-dependent baby). She took it in slowly, shuffling through, surprised to find her tracks behind her, and occasionally dusting off the snow from her boots. We took a slow walk so she could play, and by the end she was all giggles, running through the snow.

Christmas 2014

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Christmas2014_132 2014 might well be our last year to sleep in on Christmas Day for quite a while. (Last year’s photos are here.) Madeline had been asking to open the gifts under the tree, but she doesn’t yet understand the concept of Christmas Day. This year’s holiday was all about introducing her to the tree, to decorating it with ornaments, to seeing the Nutcracker (a kids version put on by the Rock School), wrapping presents, and now opening them.

With a little help getting started, she’s gotten the hang of ripping off wrapping paper. First came a Hess truck with a space cruiser and a little baby scout ship. The space cruiser emits sound effects upon swerving or diving, making it a big hit with Daddy (and baby).

Next, we have a family of Calico Critters, the Woodbrook Beaver Family.

Then some snow mittens, a detour to the trash (“srash”), and Brio trains!

And in the biggest box was a Safari Express train set, a perfect finale to Madeline’s Christmas morning.

Madeline had a present for Daddy, but she was somewhat reluctant to give it.

What’s a holiday without coloring on your face?

Some shots with the afternoon sunlight.

Christmas dinner.

Some evening shots of the tree.

Madeline ended her Christmas day by laying her head in Mommy’s lap and falling asleep on the hard wood floor. Mommy was unable to move for the next half hour.

 

Brining the turkey

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Unorthodox use of medical tape # 152: decreasing the potential space of your turkey brining bag to increase the brine coverage of your turkey.

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a  binder clip

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a binder clip

As is most of my cooking, the brine was concocted with approximate guidelines and inspired by stuff available in the cupboard:

  • kosher salt, about 1 cup
  • honey, about 1 cup
  • sugar, about 1cup
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, crushed and minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • some bay leaves
  • varying quantities of clove, nutmeg, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme — I honestly don’t know if these come through with everything else going on
  • balsamic vinegar to taste

All of the above were dissolved in 3 qts boiling water and reduced to a simmer for about 10 minutes. I let the brine cool for about 20 minutes, then added about 2 qts warm water to help cool it down more. When mixture felt comfortably warm (not hot enough to cook the bird) we poured it over an 18+lb turkey in the brining bag. It’s now sitting in the fridge in its roasting pan, taped up as shown above.

We shall find on Thursday whether the brine was a good idea or not. Update: turkey was ah. may. zing. And the turkey stew we made from it was the best we’ve had.

Quiche Lorraine

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Another easy baby-approved meal. Bacon for the win. Quiches and pies are fall favorites around here. (Bacon fat + pie crust = maybe not the healthiest meal, but M needs some more baby fat rolls before I worry about that.)

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“Sheesche? Sheesche?” Madeline couldn’t wait long enough for me to snap a photo before demanding a piece to eat. Hence the missing wedge.

Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb bacon (lower sodium preferred for baby), cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 to 1/2 lb shredded gruyere cheese
  • 9-inch pie crust in a pie pan

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Over medium-low heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain off fat as needed, leaving 2-3 tablespoons in the pan. Remove bacon and place on paper towels to drain.
  3. Add onions to the fat in the pan and brown over medium-low heat, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pierce holes or slits (use a fork or knife) in the pie crust bottom. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes and remove from oven.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until blended.
  6. Layer ingredients in the pie shell as follows:
    1. At the bottom, place 3/4 of the cheese and spread evenly.
    2. Spread a layer of half the bacon, then half the onions, and repeat with the other half of bacon and onions.
    3. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
    4. Pour the egg mixture over all the ingredients to fill the pie pan enough to just cover the top layer of cheese. If needed, add another egg blended with 1/2 cup of milk.
  7. Bake quiche for 30 minutes or until center is set.

Swedish meatballs

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This recipe is my version of the meatball-egg noodle dish, adapted from recipes from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, The Dirty Dish Club and Food.com. After some initial skepticism, Madeline approved. This one might become a cold-weather staple.

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Swedish Meatballs (or, Meatballs with Egg Noodles in a Sour Cream Sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz wide egg noodles
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided into 1 tbsp each for the meatballs, sauce and noodles, plus more as needed for the sauce
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley, divided into 1 tsp for the meatballs and 1 tsp for the noodles, plus more for optional garnish
  • Meatballs:
    • about 1.25 lb ground beef, pork and veal (sold at our grocery store as “meatloaf mix”)
    • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup minced onion
    • 1/4 cup finely shredded carrot
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 cup flour for dredging
    • 2 tbsp olive oil for frying
  • Sauce:
    • 1/2 large onion, minced
    • 1/3 cup flour
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • 2.5-3 cups beef or vegetable broth
    • 1 cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Meatballs (start the mix several hours ahead or the day before): 
    1. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, carrot, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 tsp parsley. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
    2. Form 1-inch meatballs, dredge them in flour to coat all over, and set aside. I spray my hands with a bit of cooking spray to prevent them from getting too sticky.
    3. In a large pan, melt 1 tbsp butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Lightly brown the meatballs on all sides and remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. The meatballs do not need to be cooked through at this point. Unless your pan is very large, this step will probably require working in batches.
  2. Sauce:
    1. With the pan on medium-low heat, add the minced onion to the pan and caramelize the onions, about 20 minutes. You can start the noodles while you are waiting.
    2. Combine the flour, paprika, onion powder, sugar, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves in a small bowl and set aside.
    3. Add 1 tbsp butter to the pain and stir to melt.
    4. Add the flour mixture to the melted fat and onions and stir quickly to form a roux. If the fat seems too scant for the amount of dry ingredients, add more butter. Continue stirring the roux for 2 minutes.
    5. Add the broth, stir well, and bring to a bubble.
    6. Add the meatballs, cover the pan, and reduce the heat, allowing the meatballs to cook through.
    7. Once the meatballs are cooked, turn the heat very low so that the sauce is not bubbling. (High temperature might cause the sour cream to curdle.) Stir in the sour cream and turn off the heat. Continue stirring to mix well.
  3. Noodles: Prepare the egg noodles according to their directions. Drain most of the water and return the noodles to their pot. Toss with 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp parsley.
  4. Assembly: Place noodles on serving dish. Spoon sauce and meatballs over the noodles. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh parsley.

 

Iced pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

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Mama’s primary accomplishment on this cloudy drizzly day:

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These are for Madeline’s class party on Friday. Amazing things get done when mommy has the day off! Between the pumpkin puree and the reduced amount of sugar (compared to regular chocolate chip cookies), these treats qualify for nutritious snacks in my book.

The recipe is from Very Best Baking:

Iced Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • vanilla glaze:
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Grease baking sheets.
  2. COMBINE flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
  3. BAKE for 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. FOR VANILLA GLAZE: COMBINE powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well. Drizzle or spread glaze on cookies.