Friday, December 20, 2013

Holidaze: Our Un-Holiday, Holiday Cookies

A few weeks ago, we went to an awesome chalk mural gathering at Art Yards down by Yards Park. As part of the event, nearby Buzz Bakery set up a cookie decorating station. And we had a blast smearing brightly-colored frosting and sugar on a variety of holiday sugar cookies. We made a whole bunch and really, really wanted to bring some to our teachers. But we don't celebrate Christmas at school and we also have lots of friends who celebrate holidays other than Christmas, so mom promised that we could make a new batch that would be just as tasty, just as brightly colored and holiday neutral.

Once mom was involved, you knew chocolate was going to be as well. Mom found a yummy chocolate cookie shape recipe and we cooked them up on a Sunday afternoon. We had a playdate planned with a friend on Monday and we were excited to decorate those sweet little chocolate woodland animals. Mom made a Target run while we were at school to get the colored sugar and spent a boat load of money on miscellaneous things, but when she got home, she realized she forgot the very thing she went for in the first place. She was in no mood for a second Target run that day, so she turned to the place that offers a solution for everything -- Pinterest -- and found a promising recipe for sparkly colored sugar (it doesn't turn out quite as glittery as Pinterest promises, but whatever does).

We had a blast getting sugared up on our playdate and made enough neon-colored un-holiday, holiday cookies to share with friends and family. I think we've started a new family tradition.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Miscellaneous Madness: A Day in the Life (December 2013)

Mom totally forgot about this month's 12 in 12 and hadn't charged up the real camera, so we're back with iPhone pics for December. Our month has already been jampacked with holidayness and we've been swinging back and forth between anticipatory good behavior and almost constant picking at each other. It's driving everyone a bit mad. Cam's got her morning shoe tantrum in check -- by wearing one pair and bringing at least one (and sometimes two) options in her back pack to school, which she changes throughout the day. Her footwear antics are outdone only by her constant overall outfit changes throughout the day, including at least two costume changes and a few pajama ones as well. She continues to be chatty, including with her toys and food.

Kane loves school and he's been working hard at letters and numbers and tolerates working on both as long as he gets ample time listening to the big chapter books he favors (we are LONG overdue on our book reviews). Knights are still in top circulation, but he's been spending a lot of time reading science books and conducting experiments lately. And he's added architecture to his ever-growing list of interests. He also loves everything about the holidays -- especially getting to see so much of our family. And we are both are on a BIG daddy kick, which has been hard for everyone since he's been traveling a lot.

In any event, that's what we've been up to. We thought an update beyond the 12 in 12 pictures was in order, seeing as mom is still otherwise occupied. We sure she'll get it all together sometime. Until then, check out what we did on December 12 and then hop on over to No Monsters in My Bed and Where the Watermelons Grow to see what's been keeping our friends busy this month.

7.45 am -- Cam is going on minute 36 at the breakfast table and is talking to her strawberries, which she named "He-man and She-ra." She still spends most of her meal time chit chatting instead of eating and then inevitably asks for a snack about 18 minutes after a meal is done. Mom was trying to bribe her with chocolate cheerios -- she was not swayed.

8.30 am - on the way to school. Mom told us it was cold outside and to make sure and wear a hat. That's what Cam picked.

11.00 am -- it's the start of spring race training season, which means that mom has to add on a run to one of her trainer sessions. She's generally exhausted at the end of those, and already hates the treadmill, so she tries to get the run over as fast as she can. Today was so-so.

12.10 am -- Whole Foods run. Mom wants homemade pasta, but stays strong. The lovely sushi peeps make her some custom rice-free handrolls. It does the trick.

1.00 pm -- mom swings by the toy store to pick up stocking stuffers. she was psyched to find a sticker book that offered career options for women besides princesses, but that still includes that as one of them.

2.30 pm -- it's a cold day, but we needed a little outdoor time after school. the zoo is always good for that and we stop on the way home for a little run through the farm and then some indoor amazonia. Cam particularly loved seeing the salamander -- she has a little stuffed one that was mom's growing up and she sleeps with it every night.

5.45 pm -- mom makes one of our favorite dinners -- citrus chicken -- and she keeps the green stuff off ours, which is always a dealbreaker.

6.50 pm -- Kane calls mom in to show her something he drew for her on the shower door. who knew he could draw hearts? mom's melts.

7.00 pm -- Cam has discovered that her bathtub is actually a whirlpool and it's a full on spa in there every night.

8.15 pm -- Kane dug out this gem someone gave mom when she was pregnant with Kane and insists mom reads it for book time. a cryptic and all-too-long discussion about the meaning of "parody," "balance of powers," and the difference between a "declaration of war" and a "congressional authorization for the use of force" ensues.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Grub It Up: Real Snow Maple Snow Cones

I wish we could say that we've been off solving some big world problem, but we've really just been letting our busy lives get the best of us. So we were all (mom perhaps slightly less so than the two of us) really excited to get the last two days off of school to hang out in our jams and piddle about the house -- playing, crafting, and eating. This afternoon snack was supposed to be maple snow taffy, but it just didn't turn out like that. It likely had something to do with our lack of a candy thermometer and our general "wing it" attitude towards most things. But it was so delish -- it tasted just like caramel -- we didn't complain.

Real Snow Maple Snow Cones
(slightly adapted from maple snow taffy)

- small bowl full of fresh snow
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup salted butter

- In a medium-sized pot, over medium heat, heat the syrup and butter together. Time it for about 5 minutes after it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes -- test it on a bit of snow, you don't want it to melt the snow instantly.
- Pour the mixture by the spoonful over a bowl full of clean snow, mix gently.
- Eat.

(note the carefully applied purple eyeshadow on Cam -- mom let her wear her new "makeup" since we were going to be inside all day for a snow day. Cam takes the raccoon application approach.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Miscellaneous Madness: Q&A A Day for Kids (November 2013)

Last month, mom shared with you her favorite 5 Q&A's from our new daily journal. We've all been incredibly busy and while we don't always do one question every day, we do make sure that we do all the questions. And we've continued to keep mom laughing almost every day (although sometimes she says if she doesn't laugh ....). So here's her top five from this month.

October 23
Q: What would you like to get rid of or throw away?
Cameron: when I broke my toy, it was pretty old + we threw it away. and when I was a baby in your tummy, you used to rock me + rock me and then you threw away blood.
Kane: you (mom). I didn't mean you (mom), I meant you (Cam). Cam: well, I'm pretty heavy.

November 04
Q: Which character would you be in a movie or on TV?
Cameron: movie -- a princess!
Kane: a knight. that was easy to pick -- my favorite thing. or a king. or a dragon. or a zombie. or a vampire. or a warlock. or a monster.

November 07
Q: How do you pass the time on long car rides?
Kane: I ask my mommy to give me things -- like open my window.
Cameron: clapping. drinking. yogurting. picking apples and leaves. picking owls is my favorite.

November 16 
Q: The two things I'm most afraid of are ____ and ____.
Kane: darkness and nothing else but darkness.
Cameron: darkness and "a tuco" -- it's darkness, I said it in Spanish.

November 19 
Q: What advice would you give to a younger brother or sister?
Kane: well, I have a younger sister, so I'd say that's a "5," not a "6." and you tooted, so say "excuse me." 
Cameron: Thanksgiving things, like Hanukkah, like Christmas. Kane: if you wan't to learn about Thanksgiving, (smacking his chest) straight from me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Miscellaneous Madness: A Day in the Life (November 2013)

This month's day in the life was jam packed. A lot of errands, a lot of driving, a lot of on-the-go-dining. Mom has learned how to fit all the things she needs to do in between carting us everywhere we need to go and we are learning the rewards of good behavior and hard work -- at school and at home. Well, Cam is still working on it. We've learned/re-learned that 3 1/2 years old is a hard age and Cam is in the midst right now. Even Kane has had to ask her to "stop throwing tantrums about your shoes." He's matured a lot this year and has become a big help at home (and we hear at school, too) -- we're not going to say mom is bribing us, but we're not going to say she's not.

Don't forget to hop on over to No Monsters in My Bed and Where the Watermelons Grow to see what those kiddos have been up to this fall!

5.30 am -- Wednesdays are long(ish) morning run days for mom and an ongoing exercise for her to see how fast she can leave the house without waking us up. strategic lighting is involved.

6.25 am -- apparently Kane woke up not too long after mom left because he was in her bed with a flashlight when she got back. daddy was psyched.

7.45 a.m -- daddy attempts to handle Cam's sock and shoe tantrum this morning. believe it or not, her room did not look like that when she woke up, but her process this morning involved throwing almost all of her shoes out of her closet, blankets off her bed, and strewing around some dress up clothes for good measure.

9.25 am -- mom's mobile office this morning. she sat and worked while Kane attended a playdate at a potential school for next fall. by the looks of things, I'd say you should keep your eyes peeled for a Paleo mocktail on A Feteful Life this week.

10.00 am -- mom had to pick up a few things at PaperSource for the Land of Nod holiday trunk show AFL is co-hosting with No Monsters in My Bed this week. mom can never resist visiting the glitter paper. btw, shooting the 12 in 12 with a real camera as opposed to an iPhone was illuminating for mom -- people get very nervous when you start taking pictures. she'd never been asked if she "needed any help" with so much frequency and intensity.

11.15 am -- having picked Kane up from his playdate and depositing him back at school, mom stopped by Hawthorne Homemade to pick up lunch for in-car dining. if you have to eat while driving, at least it's organic. mom was hungry from her run that morning and had a Green Goddess Smoothie and a turkey, cheddar, guac wrap in a swiss chard leaf. yum.

12 pm -- a quick dash out to IKEA turned into a serious shopping trip for mom. it had been a while since her last trip and IKEA has an awesome mod vibe right now.

1.15 pm -- mom hit up the book section at Barston's Child's Play for Hanukkah presents. They have the most knowledgeable book staff. Really. Kane's still into Lemony Snicket and Cam wants to know how and why everything technically complicated works (and she has no tolerance for BS explanations -- she's basically like a teenager right now).

2.15 pm -- one of Cam's classmates gave her an almost-new pair of Tory Burch Reva flats. mom was overjoyed and thought it might help solve her shoe debacle. haha. cam was pissed that she didn't get to pick out her own new pair of shoes. grrrrrr.... (she has worn them every day since).

3 pm -- mom's second toy store stop of the day, Kane picked out his reward for good behavior at home (we're talking cleaning room, making bed, getting himself dressed, brushing his own teeth, coat on, back pack on, getting out the door in the morning without whining reward). so hard to pick out just one thing -- he went with an American Indian playmobil set given the proximity to Thanksgiving.

4.15 pm -- as part of her seemingly new persona, Cam now naps in the afternoon. but only as long as she naps on the couch in the midst of whatever everyone else is doing.

5.00 -- Kane spotted this gorgeous sunset off our roofdeck.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Artworks: Abstract Thanksgiving Decor

I'm not sure if it's because of the number of birthdays we've been celebrating, the frequency of holidays this time of year, or because mom's been busy working on decor projects for A Feteful Life, but we've been ALL OVER mom to let us make holiday decorations. We are almost worse than the commercial stores -- we can hardly wait until one birthday/holiday is over until we move on to the next.

It had been a while since we used our BioColors, so mom thought we could make some holiday stenciled banner pieces with them. It didn't work out so well. So we threw the formal ideas out the window and decided to make some abstract art by printmaking on the table (i.e., we paint the table, make a design, then press a piece of paper to it to pick up the print). We love the tree right outside our front window, which is bursting in fall foliage and so we decided to use similar colors (red, orange and gold, mostly) and made print after print onto thin rice paper. Mom then cut the rice paper into small strips and sewed them on a long strand of metallic Baker's Twine (from the Target $1 bin!) by hand. They look awesome! Mom it planning to make some more and hang a whole slew of them up for Thanksgiving. Sometimes it's the unplanned and random projects that work out the best!  

p.s. after letting her new DSLR sit in her closet since the beginning of June because she couldn't find enough time to teach herself how to use it before actually needing to use it, mom decided to just go with the flow and start. so forgive the quality of the pics around these parts as she learns on the job.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Grub It Up: Paleo BBQ Chicken Pizza

Mom sat down to write this post with her menu from last week and was immediately stumped. She couldn't remember making any of the things on the list. In fact, all she could remember was making various forms of brinner and eating out twice. And that would be because she only made one actual planned meal. It was a busy week (mom was working hard with her friend Suzanne to get their new blog project -- A Feteful Life -- up and running) and, well, we basically ate breakfast every night. Feeling bad, mom realized she had time to get one more dinner in last night and, thank goodness, because this paleo BBQ chicken pizza was AWESOME.

Well, to be honest, we were bigger fans of the toppings than the paleo "crust," ("can I have some more of that super yummy chicken, mommy?") but mom said it did the trick for her and she was happy she decided to get it together and make an actual dinner for dinner. So, no weeklong menu for his post. But, a decent substitute for pizza.

Paleo BBQ Chicken Pizza 

Crust Ingredients
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp horseradish
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)
- 3/4 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1 tsp raw honey (or granulated stevia)
- salt and pepper to taste

Crust Directions
- Preheat oven to 410 F. Line a pizza pan with baking paper and place it in the oven to warm up. I forgot to line it with paper and the crust burned a bit, so this step is probably worth it.

- Chop the cauliflower into small florets and blend in a food processor on high in small batches until the cauliflower resembles rice-like particles.

- Remove the cauliflower crumbs from the food processor and place in a small microwave-safe bowl. Place a damp piece of paper towel on top of the mixture and microwave for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes and then squeeze out the excess moisture using a paper towel.

- In a medium-sized bowl, add the cauliflower, mustard, horseradish, eggs, chia seeds, parsley, honey/stevia, almond meal, coconut flour and seasoning and mix to combine. You may need to add more or less almond meal/coconut flour to the mixture to achieve a wet dough-like mixture.

- Once you have a dough-like consistency, remove the hot pan from the oven and place the dough on the prepared pan, spreading it with your fingers until it covers the base of the pizza pan evenly. Put the pan in the oven and bake it for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

- Remove the cooked dough from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before topping with desired ingredients.

BBQ Chicken Topping Ingredients
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 10 oz tomato sauce 
- 3 tbsp raw honey
- 1/4 red onion, sliced 
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 1/4 tsp dry Italian seasoning
- handful of kale
- 3 oz goat cheese

BBQ Chicken Topping Directions
- Mix 5 oz tomato sauce with raw honey in medium mixing bowl. Slice chicken breasts into 1/4" thick pieces and add to tomato-honey mixture. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes.

- Meanwhile, heat coconut oil over medium heat in a large sauce pan. Add chicken mixture and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, until cooked through and beginning to brown. Add sliced red onion and cook for 1 minute further and then remove from heat. 

- Mix remaining 5 oz tomato sauce with chopped garlic and dry Italian seasoning. Spread with pastry brush over cooked crust. Top with chicken and onion mixture, kale and goat cheese. 

- Place pizza back in oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 - 10 minutes. EAT.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Go Shorty, It's Your Birthday: Sir Kane's Knights & Dragons 5th Birthday Party

Sir Kane in his original "House of Green" birthday shirt

It's been almost a month since I had my knights & dragons 5th birthday party and I have been after mom just as much as you have to get this post up already! And here it is at last -- huzzah! I have been seriously into knights, dragons, and most everything medieval for a while now. So it was not at all difficult for me to pick a party theme. But I made one thing very clear: I wanted a legit knights party. No cutesy business. No problem, mom said. And then proceeded to turn our house into a knight's castle complete with swooping dragons and a draped ceiling worthy of a nobleman such as myself.

Before I get into the details, though, I want to make sure you know that the posting tardiness is not due for lack of effort on mom's part. It's not that mom has been sitting feet up with a bottle of wine for a month (although, after that party, who could blame her?). Mommy and a good friend have been hard at work on a "new business," as I like to call it. They've put their creative minds together and are launching a new blog today -- A Feteful Life -- a DIY lifestyle + party blog where they're sharing their love of celebrating the everyday with party ideas, yummy things to eat, DIY projects to create, things they love and free printables. I've personally seen some of the content they've got lined up and you're going to want to check it out.

And don't worry, we'll still have our "online magazine." But it will probably continue to be a little light on the posting around here for a while. Mom's got us hard at work, too.

Now, back to the important stuff. Without further adieu, I present ... Sir Kane's Knights & Dragons 5th Birthday Party!!!

Mom kept her promise to me and designed a non-cutesy invitation sporting vintage graphics of knights with a dragon wrap. Green was the predominant color (surprise), with touches of yellow and royal purple. She managed to work in a few bold, modern prints in grey and white to keep everyone (her) happy, too. The envelopes were addressed via a jousting knight and sealed on the back with real silver wax and a custom made "G" seal stamp that matched the invitation (from HappyJewelry's Etsy shop).

We loved how they came out and mom's got a printable version of the invite for sale in her Etsy shop.

As usual, we were SUPER excited to help with the decorations. Mom designed a House of Green family crest and printed out a bunch for us to paint. We hung one on the door with a "Goodmorrow" banner mom designed to welcome our guests. On our front door, mom hung a medieval stone arch and stairway flanked by two torches. Welcome to the House of Green, ladies and gents.

It was a stormy day out and, even on a good day, the lighting in our house is akin to that of a medieval castle. So, mom had a hard time getting good photos of the decorations inside. The main wall, however, was covered to look like stone. Mom made a giant Happy Birthday Sir Kane banner, which was held up by two knights in shining armor. A few green fans popped the color up a bit and there were 6-foot long dragons swooping around from the ceiling, too. 

You'd think after Cami's birthday party streamer debacle, she would've given up on the tissue paper route.  But she chose to use streamers to drape the entire ceiling as a knight's banquet hall might be for a celebration. It took a while, but no where near the ruffled streamer time warp and, she thinks, was well worth it for the impact. It was actually pretty awesome and stayed up there for a while. 

I originally requested a menu similar to what you might find at a Renaissance Faire, including turkey legs and mead. But we ended up with Whole Foods catering kebabs (sort of like a turkey leg, right? at least it was on a jousting stick, I decided), veggies, a hummus platter, and crostini. Mom made rainbow fruit skewers (again, with the lances) and my request of squeezey yogurts made the cut. Man, I love yogurt. 

The Jolly Dragon Tavern was well stocked, as you'd expect. Beer and wine for the adults. Sparkling apple juice (or "knight's wine" as I requested), milk, juice and sparkling water for whoever wanted it. Mom made purple and green Huzzah! flags to top gray and white striped paper straws, which sat waiting in silver cups. 

Mom put together a dragon treats table full of everything dragons like to eat -- gold rocks, crystals, and gummy fish. We helped set the scene by drawing a castle on our chalkboard wall (a graffitied wall, as it ended up). And mommy's friend Ms. Liz DELIVERED AGAIN on a seriously awesome and authentic knight's castle cake that tasted unreal. She even honored my request to make it chocolate and vanilla and you know I was chowing those rice krispies treat towers for days after the party. Mom topped it with a mini Huzzah bunting and the purple fondant flag Liz made waved high. 

When we weren't cramming sugar in our mouths, we were getting tatted up. Cami and I helped mom make "Knight Ink," a legit tattoo parlor (we painted the backdrop) offering ink of both the knight and more ladylike varieties. This was a HUGE hit and almost every kid left with their arms full of tattoos. We tried to make it easy by posting examples of all the tattoos and putting a spray bottle full of water and a roll of paper towels handy for application. One of my friend's older sisters also pitched in to help ink everyone, which was super nice! 

In addition to the tattoos, we had dragon scratch art available for kids who were looking for a slightly quieter activity. It's sometimes hard to gauge whether these little art/craft projects will draw any interest and after spending a lot of time putting together the seahorse craft for Cami's party, which was mildly successful, mom was looking for something more low key. And the scratch art (from Oriental Trading Co.) did the trick. They were almost all done by the end of the party. You just never know.

We kept it pretty simple for the goody bag, too. I have a toy bucket FULL of knight "guys" and dragons and will spend hour upon hour playing with them in an endless set of scenarios. Mom finds them all over the house -- tucked under couch cushion "mountains," hiding in my shower under wash clothes, and occasionally attempting to drive the car. And I knew right away that I wanted to give some "guys" and a dragon to each friend coming to my party. Mom ordered them in bulk and I got to sort all of them into "arrangements" of two knights and one dragon for each friend -- a job I took quite seriously. While I did that, mom ironed on a House of Green crest saying "thanks" to small cotton muslin bags. In went the figurines and then out on display with a set of my most fabulous armor.

It really turned out to be my favorite birthday party yet. I'm finally at the age where I was really, really excited to have my friends over and not worried about trying to hoard my toys away from them (well, for the most part). A few simple activities for the kids worked well and the adults still got to spend plenty of time at the Jolly Dragon Tavern. Thanks so much to all my family and friends who traveled, helped with all the set-up (and clean up!), and kept the party going at the House of Green!!!