Thursday, February 27, 2014

No treats for a month or Tamsin puts herself through various hoops on a whim.


Do you ever feel like you probably need to do something specifically because it sounds like it would be such a hard thing to do? Well, that is exactly how I came to the decision that March is going to be a month of no cookies, chocolate, candy, brownies, ice cream, cake, pastries or a multitude of other tasty morsels to which I regularly fall victim. The jury is temporarily out on the issue of jam, but I have already decided that I will eat syrup on my pancakes, should I make those in the coming month.

I could say a lot (I can always say a lot!) about the whys and wherefores of this particular little project, but I will spare the both of us by summarizing it all like so:

  • I've been thinking a lot about healthier habits lately, and how to form some both for myself and as a family. 
  • In a particularly navel-gazey moment, I had the epiphany that I spend very little time exercising any sort of self-control and generally do (or don't do) whatever I like whenever the mood strikes me. I'm not really all that comfortable with that. 
  • We generally nosh upon something delicious every night after the kids are in bed, and it doesn't take that much brilliance to determine that it might not be that great of an idea in the long run. 
Anyway, combine those three ingredients and mix them all up and you will get this genius little scheme of mine in which I lay off the good stuff from March 1st through March 31st. Why March? Well, mostly because it doesn't contain any family birthdays or holidays like Valentine's Day or Easter. There is also the small benefit that this at least partially coincides with lent, so I can feel solidarity from my Catholic and Protestant peeps. If that is you and you are giving something up for lent, will you pretty please let me know? 

To keep myself accountable, I will report back on how I'm doing at the beginning of each week, and can already tell you that my first post will be filled with lamentations about the month of March having the audacity to begin on a weekend. The nerve! 

Image borrowed from, a blog I will spend much of the coming month drooling over as I wait for the day when I can actually make that cake. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Superhero birthday party!

The day after Espen's third birthday Cars party, he placed a request for a superhero party for his next birthday. "Sure", I thought, knowing full well that would change about 50 times in typical three year-old style before his next birthday. Well, it seems Espen really wanted a superhero party, because he didn't waver on his decision even once. And so that is what he got:

I always like to start with the invitation to set the tone for the party. Plus, once they're sent there's no turning back! This time I bullied gently persuaded Nick into using a few of his talents to put together this invitation. For the photo, we had Espen (and Woofy!) lie down on a blue sheet in his superhero costume and strike his best flying pose. Then Nick did a little photo editing magic (look at Woofy's legs!) while I made outlandish requests, and after a lot of giggling at the sight of our little superhero flying through the air, we were done!

The birthday boy awaits his guests.

I always feel like every party needs a statement piece. Something that tells your guests that "this is a party". Something that shows them that you have put some thought and effort into their enjoyment, and that they will remember after they leave. This time I decided to make "the big thing" a photo booth/backdrop in the form of a cityscape for the little caped crusaders to pose in front of. The whole thing is made of butcher paper and construction paper, and cost less than $3 to put together. Luckily I tend to like the charmingly homemade esthetic! The most time consuming part by far was cutting out and gluing on all those little windows, otherwise you could easily put it all together in less than an hour.  We put it in the sitting room right inside the front door, so it was the first things the guests saw when they arrived, and it really set the scene for the party!

We snapped shots of the more willing posers as they arrived and suited up. 
 This was also where we kitted the guests out with superhero capes and masks. Interestingly, the girls were all about donning superhero garb, while most of the little boys were really hesitant about it. I didn't see that coming at all! Espen, however, who is after all an actual superhero was happy to party with the ladies. Smart boy!

Busting some super heroic moves.

Uncle Cody wanted in on the action too. 

Group shot! Preschoolers are wiggly. So very wiggly.

Espen has requested that we hang it in the playroom, so it will be going in there as soon as I've figured out a better way to hang it than blue painter's tape.

You've got to have balloons!
Once everyone was here and those who wanted to were in costume, we headed into the living room to open some birthday presents.

Always a popular activity!
And then it was time for some treats!

S'mores cupcakes!
Where party food for small children is concerned, I have learned to keep it simple. They're small eaters at the best of times, and are usually too wired at a birthday party to really be very interested in food. So rather than be left with a mountain of leftovers, we made mini cupcakes and popcorn, served with juice boxes. I was going to make cute little cupcake toppers, but ran out of time. But guess what, nobody cared one bit. 

Espen and a little buddy eat up.
Gwen (seen here chatting on her baby monitor phone and casually snacking on some popcorn) enjoyed being one of the gang along with the big kids. 
 Because Espen is more interested in the idea of superheroes than in any actual superhero character, I tried hard to avoid any DC or Marvel characters. Not that they aren't awesome, but I just feel like he's still a little too young to be into the Avengers and whatnot, y'know? But when we were at the party store Espen fell pretty hard for this Spiderman balloon drop, and seeing as it wasn't too Spiderman encrusted and I was kind of in need of another activity, I ponied up the $6 and got it. The kids loved it and played with the balloons for quite a long time, so it was worth it, I think, even if you wouldn't find it lovingly handcrafted on Pinterest.

I assure you I am shouting festively
After some cavorting with balloons in the living room, Espen invited his friends outside to crack open the piñata. In my opinion, piñatas are overpriced before you even start filling them up with candy, and fairly wasteful when you consider than you just throw them away minutes later. But they are also lots of fun and make a good group activity. And birthdays are only once a year, so we got one. And they loved it!


Note: A small ragtag band of three and four year-olds are not going to break up a piñata by themselves, so keep a dad or an aunt with a powerful swing on hand to bust that sucker open, then stand back and watch the kids fall on the candy like vultures on a water buffalo. And remember to provide bags with names on to keep everyone's loot safe. You could make these cute and themey, or you could write their on ziploc baggies with a sharpie because you misplaced your cute little paper bags. You do what works for you, my friend.

Such a classy arrangement!
Some super villains were spotted at this point, so we armed our heroes with cans of silly string and pointed them in the direction on the baddies.

They rose to the occasion.

Uncle Cody and aunt Becky face off. 
And then we reached the point where the kids could no longer ignore the giant playset in our yard, and we sort of blinked at the sun and let it sink in that it was a gorgeous day outside, so we went off script and played in the yard until it was time to head inside before the moms and dads came to pick up their pint-sized vigilantes.

 And that was that! It was definitely a lot more low-key and less labor intensive than some of our previous birthday parties, as I am learning to simplify and go with the flow a little more, but it was in no way less fun for the kids. All they really need is a few cues to set the scene, and off they go! Something I hope I'll remember for parties to come.

Ask for a crazy picture...

Shopping and resources

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16

My sweet little Espen is four years old today. 

Growing up right before my eyes. I love you, Sweetness!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Won't you be my Valentine?

Image borrowed here. Because that is cute!

One of the things I love about the month of December is that getting the mail is almost always fun because there is usually a Christmas card tucked in amongst the credit card offers and general junk mail. And I miss that little token that shows that someone was thinking of me enough to when January (and the rest of the year!) rolls around. In fact, I was so delighted to get a baby announcement in the mail from a sweet friend last week that it got me thinking: would you maybe enjoy a little something in your mailbox too? 

Next week is Valentine's Day, the lovey dovey-iest day of them all. What better day than that for me to show a little love and appreciation for you lovely people whom I adore for giving me your time and attention whenever I post whatever I post on this blog. So I can I send you a valentine?

If you would like one, please leave me a comment on this post (or on Facebook, if you prefer) and I will get in touch with you for your address. It doesn't matter if we know each other in person or not, if you think you might enjoy a lovey little note from yours truly, then I would love to send you one.

The only restriction I'm placing on this is that if you live outside the US, you need to let me know no later than Friday night (Feb. 7) my time for it to have a hope of getting to you by Valentine's Day itself. If you're in the US, leave me a comment by Tuesday (Feb 11) night.

Don't be shy!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Reporting back from French week.

Monday morning, and French Week is officially at an end! Let me tell you a little bit about it:

A phone pic of our tasty, tasty omelette. 
After reading Julia Child's book about learning all about French cooking, I was feeling pretty excited about French food, and getting all immersive. But, of course, French week happened during a normal week of work and school and appointments and meetings, so there wasn't really time for me to put myself through a crash course of la cuisine Française. I was also tempted to buy Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but knew it my heart of hearts that I wasn't going to be busting out a Creme Bavaroise (whatever that is!) on a Tuesday night. So instead, I relied on a few simple faves from my repertoire that also happen to be French in origin. We had:

  • Petits pains au chocolat. So tasty and so reminiscent of the ones we had in France a few years ago that my only regret is making then when we had friends over. I only had three, and could easily (easily!) have eaten twice that. Possibly three times. They are tasty. You should make them. 
  • Omelette fromage, jambon et tomate. A cheese, ham and tomato omelette served with a green salad and a baguette on the side. Quick, easy and very tasty. The only "un-French" thing I did was not flip the omelette. I always destroy them when I do, so instead I just cook the omelette for longer over a low heat and they turn out great. 
  • And for the grand finale to French Week, I made quiche with broccoli, ham and tomatoes for dinner last night. Again served with a salad and a baguette. Cinnamon rolls for dessert this time, so not quite so French!
What little French food I've had so far in my life, I've really enjoyed. So I would like to learn and explore a little more. I feel like I might have a cassoulet or a bouillabaisse in me yet! So maybe I'll be mastering the art of French cooking yet! 

I didn't do so great here. I finished My Life in France right at the beginning of the week, and didn't end up finding anything else French to read for the rest of the week. I had thought about buckling down with my dictionary and one of the three books I have in French, but they were in a box in the basement and it was hard and I was lazy and my French is verrrrry rusty and blah. I had thought about being way awesome (actually, way nerdy) and reading Proust, but that would require a trip to the library and yadayadayada, same result as reading a book in French. And the only book by a French author I have around the house that I haven't read, is Les Misérables, which I wasn't about to undertake lightly. So that was all a bit lame. 

We kept running out of time for movies during the week, and didn't really have access to any French TV shows, so only watched one actually French movie, as well as one movie set in France. The French movie was Haute Cuisine, based on the true story of a French chef who is appointed as the private cook for the president of France. It was really interesting, and worth watching for the food alone, but there's not a lot of action, my friends. I'd only recommend it to those of you who are OK with a film that's all about the characters, rather than big events.

The other movie was Two For the Road, an Audrey Hepburn film with Albert Finney, about a married couple re-traveling the road they first met on. You learn about both journeys at the same time, as well as the journey they have taken as a couple in the years between. It was a good combination of really sweet and kind of heartbreaking. 

And that was French week! I enjoyed doing a weekly project again, but definitely found that I'm a little bit out of practice! I'll just have to do some more, don't you think?