Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Adventures in Nature...

Warning: The following post contains graphic scenes of real nature. Prepare yourself.

Around this time last year Fiona found a tiny caterpillar and a big caterpilar which she adopted. You may remember this post. Well I guess this is the time of year that baby caterpillars are born because she found another one today and it was just as exciting...

Feeding it some grass...

While I was photographing Fiona's latest friend Adele crawled off into the playhouse. After a couple of minutes she started yelling at Brodie. She says " Bohdie NO" which is really cute but she sounded serious so I went over to see what was up. All I found was Brodie snuffling around a damp patch of yard so I figured he probably had eaten something gross and Adele had seen something... so I turned to her to tell her it was ok and spotted THIS in her hand.

Brace yourself.


Yep. That, my friends, is a severed bird head.

My initial reaction was "how do I get this out of her hand without touching it". Second was "can I wash her hands with bleach?" and third was "I seriously hope that didn't make it as far as her mouth". So if she comes down with some horrifying bird disease, you'll know why.

DISCLAIMER: If you arrived here because you googled "can I wash my kid's hands with bleach?" I'd like to go on the record and say - NO. DO NOT WASH YOUR KID'S HANDS WITH BLEACH. You should use soap and warm water and wash thoroughly. Bleach is never the solution.

Haha, solution. Liquids pun.

Later, after the drama had passed, we were heading out for a walk. I came out of the house to find Fiona distraught. She'd been jumping up and down and the caterpillar had jumped out of it's box (a little tupperware I thought might provide some protection from her toddler fingers) and she couldn't find it. She was incredibly upset because she "wanted it to be her friend".

Poor little bean. So all in all, not the best nature experience today.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Apples, Apples, Apples

Today we had a wonderful morning at Applewood Orchard with our friends. Fiona remembered going apple picking from last year and was super excited to pick apples again!

What's the best way to go apple picking? In a wagon, of course!

Apples were picked then there was some climbing on hay bales...
(All fun and games until you get spiky hay stuck in your tights!)

And some trying, and failing to get the girls to both look in my direction...

This group of inanimate objects was more cooperative.

After we got home it was time to figure out what to do with all of our delicious apples. My awesome, apple trip instigating friend Sang sent me this recipe which involved crescent rolls in a can, TWO STICKS of butter and a can of mountain dew (or MtnDew, as I guess they are calling it now) and it was so intriguing that I had to try it...

See, these are the real ingredients!

And I know you're thinking what I'm thinking... two of those ingredients are not really food based... but hey, you only prepare for your first coronary once...

So you are meant to use all those ingredients with only two apples, but I wanted to use more apples so I used seven (they were small) and stretched out the dough and wrapped 3 or 4 pieces up in each little dough triangle. Then came the stage when you're meant to melt two sticks of butter, mix it with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and drown the dough wrapped apples in that "sauce"but when it came down to it I just couldn't do it. I know, I'm ashamed. It just seemed excessive. So I melted one stick and added 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and poured that over the top. Then I used half of the can of MtnDew rather than the whole thing and poured it round the outside.

Here's the finished product...

I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and they were delicious. I'm sure the double fat double sugar double dew version would be a little better but these were really, really, really good.

Between us Ben and I managed to eat three... who wants to come over and help polish off the other 13?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day Camping!

What's "day camping"? I hear you ask... well, it's when you have friends who are brave enough for regular camping and you tag along for the day thus enjoying all the fun parts of camping and avoiding all the less fun parts like trying to get your kids to sleep in a tent and staying awake all night listening for bears and vampires.

We had a really wonderful day... here are some of the fun things we did!

Hammock!! Kids love hammocks. Here are some girls in a hammock. Aubrey (in the middle) is Fiona and Adele's friend and they always have a nice time together.

Camping Chair! Adele was a huge fan even after she fell out headfirst...

Hanging out and relaxing...

Boyd and Aubrey contemplating something important.

Adele and Ben

Playing soccer ball! This was mostly Fiona running around after the ball while the littler girls looked on but there was some sharing and passing involved.

Taking a walk to the waterfall...

Tanya and her little friends...

Tanya and Aubrey

Aubrey and Daddy


Tanya, Fiona, Ben, Jason and Aubrey climbed up the tower.

Aubrey walked up the whole way herself! Fiona congratulated her at the top...

(That's Gena in the red shirt, I am to the right holding Adele)

We headed back to camp to have some snacks and pitch Tanya's tent.

Everything is more fun when you're camping! Like making guacamole!

Jason made yummy fried green tomatoes!

Tanya made ratatouille which was delicious but I failed to take a picture of it.

And Gena made peach cobbler using a super magical recipe and cooked it in the hot fire coals.

We ate our dessert around the campfire...

And then it was time to go home. We put the girls in their pyjamas before we left and they both fell asleep on the way home and went straight to bed. The perfect end to a perfect day!! Thanks for a wonderful day you guys! We were so happy to day camp with you :-)

Edited to add: Some people were asking where we went... we were at Willow River State Park by Hudson in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Club and High Pressure Cheesecake

Tonight I hosted book club at my house. We read Room by Emma Donoghue. It was very good, you should read it!

Hosting book club is not all fun and games though, first you have to clean, and you also need to provide some delicious dessert. I spent some time cleaning today and as soon as Adele came in the door from daycare she undid all of the putting away I had just done... seriously, it probably took her less than 60 seconds to do this...

GAAAH. She wasn't the only one though, I left the bag full of kitchen trash outside the back door and then forgot I'd done that and accidentally let Brodie go out there unsupervised. Rookie mistake. When I let him back inside again there was disgusting trash from end to end of the yard and it took me significantly longer to clean it all up again than it would have to just take it all the way to the bin in the first place. Double GAAAH.

Ok, so cleaning was a struggle and that only leaves dessert. Ben doesn't like cheesecake and I love cheesecake with the passion of a thousand burning suns, so I thought I'd make cheesecake! Yum! I'd made it once before but when I looked at the recipe it asked for FIVE blocks of cream cheese and needed me to begin at least 24 hours ahead so I found a different recipe online.

From today's cheesecake making experience I hereby decree that the standards by which you judge the perfection of a cheesecake be amended.

Apparently a perfect cheesecake is totally smooth, and not browned, curdled or cracked. I disagree. Here's the new rating scale.

1. Cheesecake is not browned, curdled or cracked, is flat on top, crust comes evenly up the sides. You have obviously been spending too much time practicing making cheesecake. I bet you even cooked it in a water bath, you fancy pants. You clearly don't have little kids trying to pull your pants down as you stand by the stove. Your dog can't possibly have strewn trash all over the yard minutes before the cheesecake was due to come out of the oven. I bet your house is always clean and you take daily showers.

Your cheesecake is worth 0 points.

2. Your cheesecake is kind of brown on top and cracked because you googled "how to tell when cheesecake is done" after it was already past the point when you should have removed it from the oven. Your oven smells terrible and smokes like crazy when it gets hot now because it turns out your springform pan doesn't fit together quite right since your toddler used it for some kind of hoopla game and the batter dripped through onto the bottom of the oven. It still tastes good though and you can hide the cracks with a bunch of toppings. I achieved level 2 today, here's a picture.

Your cheesecake is worth 100 points.

3. Your cheesecake went horribly wrong and was totally inedible so you bought one from the store instead and picked up a bottle of wine while you were out anyway. You got home and realized that your shirt was on inside out and had someone else's snot on it. You don't even care any more.

Your cheesecake is worth 1000 points! You win. Lets get together and eat some. I'll bring wine too so we each have a bottle. Happy days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mighty Mississippi

My parents left this evening but before they did my Dad wanted to take a walk and visit the Mississippi. We drove over to the Ford Parkway bridge on the Minneapolis side and walked around and across it. I only had my phone with me but we had never been there and I saw some interesting things so today cell phone photos will have to do! At least I took the first few with the app that makes them look all "arty" ;-)

We walked across the bridge first... a half naked guy zoomed up into the picture, but that's ok!

It's interesting that you can cross a bridge in the car many, many times and never really appreciate how enormous it really is, and how much work must have gone in to constructing it. When you're underneath it, it's a very different perspective!

We watched the scum floating about in the river and Fiona chattered away about all kinds of things, then we walked a little further down to the lock and dam. Turns out you they have a whole big area that's open to visitors where you can watch the lock and dam working and it's really interesting.

There are two locks, and I think they have some kind of generator in the other part of the river.

The lock on the left was in operation, but not the one on the right.

Boats coming in, waiting...

Here you can see the difference in water levels (and a couple of leaks).

Fiona is getting to be old enough to start understanding and having an interest in things like this, and it was fun to explain to her how locks and dams work and watch her figuring it out. It was a great surprise activity and I bet we'll be back again soon to just walk around and watch the boats.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Renaissance Festival

My parents leave tomorrow so today was our last day to do some fun things before they go. My Dad loves Scotch Eggs (hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, breaded and deep fried) but apparently it's hard to find them in Scotland now, so it seemed like a good idea to go to the Renaissance Festival so he could have one. Our friends Tanya and "big"* Emily came along to join in the fun.

*Remember, big Emily is not really that big, Fiona just calls her that because she's an adult and therefore taller than little Emily, Fiona's cousin (who is also not all that little).

As soon as we got there Fiona spotted a dragon...

Coincidentally it was Scottish Day, so we saw some Highland Games. Unfortunately what would normally be a much more exciting spectator sport was made very family friendly with the addition of spandex shorts under the kilts so there was no bum flashing. Even without that the hammer throwing was a combination of impressive, and occasionally life threatening when one of the competitors accidentally launched it into the crowd...

Visiting the Renaissance Festival with little kids is a very different experience to visiting without... we didn't manage to watch any of the shows or attend the free wine or beer tastings but we did get to hang out with Fiona who we told beforehand about the prospect of face painting and animals to ride on, and after that she was very, very excited at the prospect of having her face painted and riding on an elephant and that became her list of goals for the trip. We strolled around a little and then inevitably arrived at the elephant spot.

She had such a nice time riding on the elephant... what next? Camels, of course! Oh, to be 3.

After all that fun we took a break in one of the few shady spots and ate some ice cream, then Fiona and Ben went off so Fiona could have her last special treat of the day and have her face painted. While they were doing that Emily, Adele and I checked out the other animals...

Adele really loves animals and found ducks, a Highland Cow, horses and ponies, and along the way I met a sweet talking pickle seller who was definitely my favorite part of the Fair. Yes, there are many pickle related jokes that could be made here, but I'm trying to control myself, it's a family blog after all...

There were lots of fun things to look at...

Fiona came back and was very pleased with her kitty face...

(There was a free wand making craft in the kids area so Fiona and Adele both made a wand too).

We met up with the rest of our party, and by then it was late in the afternoon and everyone was tired and hot so we headed out. It was a lot of fun and Dad even found a Scotch Egg to eat so everyone was happy :-)