June 26, 2012

Oh the Mess!

Have you ever spent the morning blow-drying your windows, coffee table, and walls? 

I have.

....okay, so it wasn't the entire morning, but I did spend a good 30 minutes undoing what it took my kids a mere 30 seconds to do. As I poured myself my second cup of coffee for the morning, my children were wreaking havoc on our living room windows, coffee table, entertainment unit, and my beautifully bright yellow walls. Their weapon of choice--Crayola Crayons. 

There are no pictures of this incident in this post, because I was not amused, so I didn't take any. The first thing I did after my discovery was commence a frantic roundup of all the loose crayons around the house. They were all thrown into a ziplock bag and hurled onto the top shelf of the closet where probably only Matt will be able to reach them. I think I'd have to classify this mess as the largest they've accomplished to date (although I fully expect to have to deal with bigger, more damaging messes in the future....the near future). Use your imagination though, and picture scribbles of purple, red, and green all over nearly everything but paper and the couch. They got the couch in deep blue crayon yesterday and that left me frantically searching Google for ways to get crayon out of a microfiber sofa. My final solution was rubbing alcohol, and I won't say that it worked like a charm, because it required a lot of spraying and scrubbing, but there is no longer bright blue crayon immediately visible on the couch.

So what does my hair dryer have to do with this? I had read somewhere, in some parenting blog online or a parent-section article of some online news outlet that if you heat up the crayon wax (as long as its on a hard surface) with a blow-dryer, it will just wipe off. I wasn't anxious to try out this fantastic-sounding solution to a well-known pitfall of toddlers with access to crayons, but after utilizing the technique, I think that it's definitely the easiest and most effective method of crayon-removal that I've tried. I used this method on the walls, table, and entertainment unit, and was thankful that a simple spray of windex was able to take care of the scribbles on the windows. 

I had originally started the process using a paper towel that I had dampened with water, but I had to switch to a damp washcloth as the heat from the dryer dried out the towel to the point where wiping up the wax was really only smearing it around. After I made the switch, though, the concept worked wonderfully. For my friends who read this blog and have kids close in age to mine or who have kids coming up on this stage, remember this--you'll be glad you did!

Of course I know that kids make messes. There was the famous baking soda disaster a couple of months ago, not to mention countless chocolate milk and juice spills, water being splashed (or poured) out of the bathtub, and even several poop incidents. Then there are the piles of toys that need to be picked up several times each day, the pages in books that have to be taped back together, the pre-baby-proofed-garbage can that was apparently a screaming temptation to these kiddos, and don't even get me started on what the back seat of my car looks like when the car seats get taken out.

Even with this knowledge, I have to acknowledge that I am a textbook Type-A personality, and once again have to mention my CDO, and I'll be the first to admit that I hate all things sticky, gritty, or just plain messy. There's the sandbox at the park, where some genius decided to stick a water table, the beach with the endless sunscreen applications and the inevitable pound of sand that is brought home in the car stuck to everybody's everywhere, the New England summer humidity, and the occasional leaky diaper (that one still puzzles me--pretty sure I'm a professional diaper-er at this point!). It all rocks those CDO tendencies and gives me anxiety and higher blood pressure.

But then there's those chubby cheeks that ball up when my little girls smile because they're so proud they used the crayons by themselves. And there's those chubby fingers wrapped around that evil stick of wax. And there's those chubby toes that carry those sweet little girls off running while they giggle their heads off trying not to let the "mommy-monster" catch them. 

I guess as long as I get the chubby cuteness along with the overwhelming mess of life, I'll relent my grudge against the crayons (although I'm serious about Matt being the only one who will be able to reach the bag where it landed), keep giving my girls their chocolate milk, keep encouraging fun bath-time splashes, and I'll continue to make sure we have lots of trips to the park where they can run around and burn off that mischievous energy that can so easily translate into the neighbors watching the crazy blow-dryer lady going at the walls again (*eye roll*).

Gotta love those kiddos.

June 11, 2012

Homemade Pizza

Matt has been asking me for a while now to make homemade pizza. Whenever this request has come up I usually throw it into the "I don't bake" category of my refusals, but when I found a recipe this weekend on allrecipes.com for a no-rise-necessary pizza dough, I finally gave in a decided I could handle the feat. 

The recipe still calls for dry-active yeast (which honestly freaks me out a little bit, but not quite to the extent that the bag of turkey giblets shoved inside the dead bird does) so I'm not really sure how the whole thing is pulled off, except that it turned out just fine for me after some minor adjustments to the whole process. The recipe I found calls for vegetable oil and I used EVOO instead, which I think gives it a better flavor. I made two pizza's this weekend, and the first time I added the yeast with the dry ingredients then added the water and oil afterwards, and the second time I dissolved the yeast per the package instructions in a sugar-water solution (Mom, stop with the chemistry going through your brain right now) and I think I liked the dough better after doing it this way, but Matt said he couldn't tell the difference.The recipe also said to bake the pizza at 375 for 25 minutes, but I've added a whole 10 extra minute (maybe even 12) to give the crust sufficient time to bake all the way down to the middle. There's nothing I hate quite like doughy-pizza crust. Blech!

The first night that I made the pizza we did basic pepperoni. I didn't do anything fancy like make my own pizza sauce. It came from a jar labeled "pizza sauce" that I bought at the store, and I didn't even grate my own mozzarella cheese. I think next round I'll go with the block of mozzarella and do the shredding myself just to save a buck or two but going with the pre-shredded package worked out great for my first attempt. This was the pizza that didn't quite bake long enough for my taste--we let it go only for the 25 minutes recommended in the recipe. We all ate it for dinner and it tasted great. The girls loved it and had the leftovers for dinner the next night too.

The second night that I made pizza, Matt suggested doing a chicken alfredo pizza, and I obliged as this might be my most favorite type of pizza there is. It turned out fantastic, and so I've decided to post the recipe here. I've had a few people ask for it since I posted my photo on Facebook last night, so to those of you who were interested, here it is!

*Side note, I fully plan on exploring more in the kitchen and whipping up some truly awesome pizza's (bbq chicken soon to come!) but I may never make a Hawaiian. I agree with a statement that Sean made once when he said, "Fruit does not belong on pizza! There is no place for fruit on pizza!" 

Pizza Dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour (bread flour or whole wheat may be substituted)
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 packet dry-active yeast
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup warm water 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine and mix dry ingredients together in mixing bowl. Add oil and water. Mix until a sticky dough is formed. Spread on lightly greased pizza pan or stone.

Top as desired. 
I used:
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces, poached in water. 
2 cups fresh spinach, boiled along with the chicken. I added the spinach to the chicken while it was about half-way done as the spinach doesn't need to be in the boiling water as long as the chicken.
1/2 jar Bertolli's alfredo sauce, although I do have a great recipe for homemade alfredo sauce that I'll have to share sometime. Use whatever your favorite sauce is--if you're good enough to pull off imitations, try a google search for Olive Garden's alfredo sauce and see how that works out! I'll bet it's amazing with this pizza
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Black pepper

I spread the dough out on the pizza pan first (with a layer of olive oil underneath to prevent sticking) and then spread the sauce on top, I started by using the entire jar of alfredo sauce but realized that it was going to be waaaaay too much. I scooped half the jar back in and was very pleased with the end result. I mixed the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses together and sprinkled 3/4 the mixture onto the dough. After the spinach and chicken had been drained, I separated them and spooned a couple tablespoons of sauce onto the chicken and mixed that in with some black pepper. I spooned the chicken onto the pizza, making sure to spread it around evenly. I used a fork to scoop the cooked spinach onto the pizza and made sure that was spread around evenly as well. I topped that with the remaining cheese and sprinkled some more black pepper on the entire thing. 

Bake at 375 for 35-38 minutes, or until the center of the pizza dough is thoroughly cooked.

If anyone tries this out, let me know how it goes! Same if you changed anything in the recipe, I'm definitely open to improvements, suggestions. 

One thing I do have to say about this dough is that it's not the greatest pizza crust I've ever had in my life, but for someone who hates baking and kneading and measuring and dealing with flour in general, it worked out really well. I plan to throw some herbs into the mix at some point, maybe even some cheese to be mixed in as well. I think there's a lot of potential for some really creative, flavorful crusts, so we'll see what I can come up with!


Crane Beach

Yesterday Matt and I took the girls out to Crane Beach in Ipswich. Matt had been to this beach once before with his sister and her family and had been looking forward to making the trip with me and the girls. This beach is about a 45 minute drive from where we live. There's a hefty admission fee-$25 per vehicle for people who are not members of the Trustees of Reservations. Unfortunately, that's exactly the category we fall into. They do offer memberships and members have the option to purchase a beach parking sticker for an additional fee putting an annual pass to this beach right around $150. 

When we first moved to the area, we bought an annual pass to the Museum of Science at the premium level in order to benefit from the 2-hours of free parking that comes with it. We're definitely considering buying the annual pass for Crane as well, although we're not sold yet. Matt pointed out that we'd probably only want to go to the beach between the months of May-October (that's a stretch--it's probably more realistically like June-September). Still, if we went to the beach 6 times throughout those summer months, the pass would pay for itself in parking savings. 

There are more pro's on our list than con's for sure: this beach has a well-kept bathhouse (one for men, one for women, obviously) vending machines and a snack-shack that provide cold beverages and lunch for your day out, picnic tables under shade, a very-present lifeguard staff and my favorite feature, sand that passes as acceptable to someone who was raised on Pacific-coast beaches. I was told by a co-worker of Matt's this past weekend that they actually bulldoze rocks away from the beach in order to keep the sand more fine and less rocky than the beaches that are typical of the metro Boston area (hence the expensive admission charge!). 

We haven't checked out any of the other beaches that have come recommended to us yet, so maybe we'll do that before we commit to a year at Crane. We'll have to get to it soon though, beach season is upon us!

So while the adults figure out the logistics of where to "play", the girls were busy actually playing. They had a great time at the beach and this was their first experience at a beach where they were old enough to enjoy their surroundings. 

These girls are all about scooping! They spent hours just shoveling sand into and out of their buckets.

I have a love/hate relationship with Target. I don't like their return policies and I think that their staff is incompetent, in a nutshell. However, I love their products. They have great clothes for kids, great prices on makeup (my favorite brand of mascara sells for about $2 less at Target than at Walmart--what's with that?), plus they have that $1 section in the front of their stores, which is where I found these awesome buckets with shovels included (you might remember me mentioning this section in a previous post where I talk about their lovely Easter hats we found for them)! They are definite must-have's for our beach outings. I also found the girls' swimming suits there. I loved these ones not only because they have polka-dots (I have developed a love of polka-dots over the last several years) but because they are ONE piece. I'm not against people wearing bikini's, and I have owned and worn many a bikini myself, but I do not find bikini's appropriate for my 1 year old children. Alright---the one-piece thing and they have tutu's on them as well! We love tutu's!

While Sophie was taking in the view, I snapped this shot of her piggy--this is the first time I've done braids in her hair, and they turned out so adorable! The moist sea-air and the spray-on sunscreen sort of destroyed the look in the end, but they were adorable while they lasted, and I'll definitely be doing them again!

The girls alternated between the sun and the shade. We bought a beach umbrella at Costco, which we instantly decided was a wise investment!

Sophie wasn't as openly thrilled about the beach as Olivia was, but every once in a while she'd crack a smile. I love it when she smiles :)

Daddy's girl!

They haven't figure out how to pack the sand down into the bucket and use the shape of the bucket to make sand castles yet. We're relying on their cousin Linus to show them how it's done on the next trip to the beach!

While Matt was great about staying in the shade and applying lots of sunscreen, I ended up with a sunburn on my shoulders and legs. It's not too bad, and I've got the aloe vera goin' on, so in a few more days I should be back to normal!

When people ask me how I like it here, I usually tell them that it's different, but in a good way. I grew up with the mountains, and now I live on the coast. It's a fair trade, if I do say so myself. 

June 7, 2012

Photos, Anyone?

My goodness it feels like it has been a while since I've posted pictures of the girls! 

But don't you worry your little heads, now--I may not have been posting them, but I've definitely been taking them. It's habit, you see...

I haven't pulled the photos off my phone (or my Nikon) in a while and so I finally did tonight and there are SO many that I want to share! I feel very blessed to have access to such affordable technology that allows me to document pretty much every single move my children make. My parents took lots of photos of us growing up, but I think the amount of photos I took of the girls in their first 6 months of life exceeds the amount of photos I have of my entire childhood.....maybe.

So enjoy this post-it's a simple one with not much thought, but lots and lots of memories! And please, forgive me if I post photos here that I have already added to previous posts...the sheer number of pictures to keep track of is monumental!

Here's a video that I did with Olivia for Matt the last time he was on a business trip:

This one is when we first moved here and it was still winter. The girls were obsessed with looking out the windows and I love how sweet Sophie was at this stage. She's still sweet but she definitely has some feisty to her now!

This is what Sophie does whenever I ask her, "Sophie, are you so cute?"

I love Olivia's voice! I love her jabbers, but I can't wait until she starts talking. I have a feeling she's going to say some silly things!

This will be one that the girls watch when they're older and they'll laugh at the dynamic that existed between them at this age, and how it probably won't have changed all that much since.

I want to note that I am wearing this tan and while stripped shirt in a LOT of these photos...apparently I only show up in pictures on days that I'm wearing that shirt. Sorry. I promise I do change my clothes.

 These girls and their love of swings...

Particularly Olivia.

This is a different day (than the photos above in which I am also wearing this shirt...) at the Boston Common. 

I love it when A) I can get these two to sit still for half a second and B) when I can get them to sit still next to each other for half a second!

 She has a very serious face most of the time (she gets that from her mommy) but when she smiles its like an explosion of joy all over her face, and it melts me every time!

This is a photo from back in March when my family was in town visiting of me and my sister Emily smooching on those chubby cheeks! It was taken at the Boston Science Museum.

This was also taken at the science museum...they have a Models exhibit and Olivia loves to stand on the chairs and play with the magnetized board that allows you to stick colored metal chains all over it. Loves loves loves!

Also at the science museum...

I love the weekends when Matt gets to sleep in with all of us. He usually gets the girls out of bed when they wake up and brings them in and they tackle & tickle mommy! I think this was the one time in history that I was up before all of them and so I got to photograph Olivia in the morning next to her daddy.

Again with that explosion! I hear her laugh echoing every time I see this picture. 

My little readers. They babble back and forth like they're reading stories to each other. I love how they grab a handful of books from their bookcase, plop down on the floor, and just dig in!

Sophie is the daddy's girl out of the two--Olivia usually kicks it with mommy, but I find it so sweet and endearing when Olivia will seek Matt out for cuddles. This moment happened at a playground in Arlington one afternoon.

 As my dad would say, "you've got your momma's cheeks---and I'm gonna kiss 'em!"

Oh, I love these crusty looks of hers!

My girls are so great at sharing their snack with mommy!

Hee hee...

Since I posted about Kathy's chewy gingerbread cookie recipe, I've made them several more times. The girls love to stand in front of the oven and watch them bake almost as much as they like to scarf them down when they come out! 

I love my little leaner! She leans on everything! I find it highly amusing.

Sophie is slowly starting to figure out how to break into various areas of my phone. The camera is probably the easiest thing for her now, and every now and then I'll find pictures like these that let me in on what they've been up to!

I  love how she sits at the front of these bucket swings! Olivia sits toward the back, but Sophie always finds her way up to the front, no matter how smashed she seems to get!

 More joy...

I could live each day without food, water or air if only I could have cuddles like these to replace them!

This one isn't a cuddle...it's one of Olivia's leans that happens to be against my face!

We gave her a piece of chocolate and caught her running around the living room with her face like this! We looked for signs of chocolate all over the couch, rug, TV, etc...but didn't find anything until the next day when I went to open the blinds! Good thing chocolate is easy to clean! Those poor windows...

Sophie re-discoered her toy bins inside her closet and is now tall enough to pull them off their shelves, turn them upside down and climb right inside them! It's super cute...until I have to pick up the giant mess she's made in her closet!

This one cracks me up! She loves wearing the hat and the sunglasses. I'll admit the tutu took some convincing but she endured it long enough for me to snap this!

And we're at that stage...

My wonderful husband makes amazing homemade brownies! I consistently remind him that I hate baking when he asks for sweets (who knew he'd have such a sweet tooth!) so he found a recipe online, dug everything out of the cabinet and the result was absolutely delicious! The batch didn't even last through the next morning!

It was hot here, and we were tired, and Matt snapped this one on his iPhone of all of us laying together on the couch just taking a break. Again, in our household, this is a rarity. 

These were at our favorite park in Somerville where they have this sort of trough set-up. There's a wheel at the top where if you crank it, it pumps some water out. There were some older kids playing with the water that day and Sophie discovered some of the run off. She was so thrilled!

Oh...and did I mention this set-up is right in the middle of the sand pit? Wonderful. 

 I can measure how much the girls are growing by what they are able to get into. Sophie is now tall enough to open her top dresser drawer and pull things out. A few nights ago she pulled out these hats that their Aunt Stephanie got for them a while ago and they had a blast throwing them on and pulling them off their heads!

 This child loves daddy's iPad! This is just one of about 100 photos I have of her playing with this thing!

That's chocolate milk in there....

"Hands off my milk!"

These girls get so happy in the afternoon when its snack time! They rarely get something as awesome as popcorn, but I hadn't been to the grocery store in a few weeks and it was the last bag that I had, so I figured I'd give them a treat to go with their chocolate milk!

They love popcorn!

I think she thinks the couch wanted some too--and this is why I insisted on them drinking their chocolate milk in the kitchen!

Sophie has been on this kick lately about taking off her pants (thankfully this only happens at home and not in public!) Olivia's pants aren't quite as loose on her as Sophie's are but when she saw her sissy strip down, she made sure to let me know that she wanted her pants to be gone too!

Olivia was reading a Curious George book that we have and was jabbering on as she flipped through the pages. Every once in a while she'd stop jabbering, point to pictures of George and make this face:

I nanny for a little girl two days per week and she sleeps in this pack n' play in my bedroom. The girls are fascinated with it and have recently started asking to be put inside of it! They run around inside of it, banging into each other, laughing their little heads off. Who can say no to that?

Speaking of Sophie taking off her pants...
Here's the initial drop:

Followed by some steps with her pants around her ankles. 

She's finally pulled them off, and wants me to hold them for her. Of course.

Now she wants her pants back!

She knows to sit down to try to put them back on...

She finds the top where her leg is supposed to go...

And shoves her leg inside!

I'm not sure if she realized that they were on backwards or if she decided that she in fact, did not want to be wearing pants, so off they came again.

And then she went about her business, sans pants.

Crazy kiddo--running around the house in her diaper...at least it's not the neighborhood!

And today, I took the girls to the grocery store and this cart was available! They had an absolute blast flying around the store in this little car! They beeped on the horns as people passed, Sophie stuck her head out the window and said, "hi" to strangers when we were stopped in aisles, and they even turned the wheels like they were steering while we walked through the store. This was a fun trip to the store...which almost never happens. And yes, I always take them when I go.

This is Paulo. He's Olivia's penguin pillow pet. She loves to snuggle with him!

This kiddo makes some seriously funny faces. She goes from this: 

To this:

This is Geoffrey, Sophie's giraffe pillow pet. When she wants him, she runs around shouting, "Geoffreeeeeeey!"

I wonder how old they'll be before they stop sucking their fingers. I'm not worried about it now, but I was a lot older than I'll admit when I stopped sucking my thumb! Time will tell I suppose!

Here's Sophie sitting on Geoffrey. She thought it was simply hilarious to do so.

And a kiss for Paulo for good measure!