19 December 2014

A Christmas Carriage Ride

Our first successful day trip as a family of four was a last minute dash to Williamsburg for a Christmas carriage ride. We had a completely unsuccessful visit here last summer that was so depressing I never found the humor to blog about it. This day was the opposite! Last time we quickly realized it would be difficult to cover much ground with a very pregnant lady and a tired tot. So we learned from past mistakes and booked a carriage ride as soon as we arrived.
Not only was Isaac totally delighted by the horses and getting to climb around inside a carriage---we also got to see the whole place, including lots of colonial Christmas boughs and wreaths.
Look, I downloaded a photo collage app! 
"Going on a carriage ride will allow us to see the entire place finally without wearing out the kids," I reasoned.
"Sure, whatever," Chris agreed. After our last trip I swore I'd never go back, so Chris was willing to agree to pretty much anything. Colonial Williamsburg is his kind of day trip.
"Even if all we do is the carriage ride and eat lunch, I'd consider that a success. Bonus if we get to the Governor's Palace."
Greenery! 
IT WAS A SUCCESS. We rode in the carriage. We admired Christmas greenery. We completed the 25 minute Governor's Palace tour. Isaac and I raced through the palace gardens. Eloise did not soil her clothing. We had lunch at some tavern where we ate last time. I enjoyed a "Dear Old Mum" beer. We shared a cheese plate. Isaac gobbled up his Thomas Jefferson Mac n' Cheese. We made it back to the car without incident. It was awesome.
People in period costumes freak me out. 
We had read online that A Christmas Carol was being performed in the streets daily, but we couldn't find anyone who had heard of that. Also, we realized we were more or less expecting to be walking into Dickens' London. In retrospect, it's obvious that Colonial Williamsburg did not mirror the Muppet Christmas Carol set.
Ok, MOSTLY successful. 
We previously bought $60 annual passes. It turns out this is absolutely not worth it for things you can do with a toddler. Shake down of price-per-tour is currently in Williamsburg's favor, since Isaac got us booted out of a tour in August. But we did get 25% off our carriage ride for having annual passes, so instead of $20 each, it was $15. Isaac does not require a pass for tours, but did need a carriage ticket. Overall, this visit was successful enough that we will probably go again!

13 December 2014

Christma$ Cookie$ of $ucce$$


I am awesome at making Christmas cookies. And by awesome, I mean I had 10/100 points for skill, 20/100 points for patience with my tot, 5/100 points for motivation, BUT 100/100 points for follow through!! 

And you know what Woody Allen says: success is 90% showing up. So the cookies were a big $uce$$. 
Friday we had a really rough day. I spent over THREE HOURS at the clinic with BOTH kids. What started as a well-baby appointment ended up with everyone getting stuck with needles an hour after we usually have lunch thanks to an extended wait at immunizations. During that three hours, Eloise pooped through four or five layers of clothes (including her entire emergency clothes stash), and Isaac broke part of a sink pipe (disobeying) while Eloise pooped all over the clinic bathroom. Add to that Isaac barfing Thursday and having to miss preschool, and we all needed a pick-me-up. I wanted to get my little guy a treat as sort of a weekend reset button. I presented him with a candy apple covered in sprinkles which he could eat after dinner of his favorite food: tortellini! But dinnertime was a mess---flailing, crying, flinging food, disobeying. He got sent to bed without finishing his food, much less getting his candy apple. 

So it was with no little trepidation we attempted decorating Christmas cookies Saturday night. Isaac loves helping me bake. I don't love baking, but now I like it because Isaac makes it fun. Thursday we made dough, sampled it, corrected the recipe (more sugar! More vanilla! More milk!) sampled some more, got it perfect and tossed it in the fridge to chill. 
This is why I'm not on Pinterest all the time: ain't nobody got nothing on these cookies! Obviously! Now, is that a star or a gingerbread man? Trick question! It's DELICIOUS is what that is. 
I frequently feel like any effort to do something fun, to engage with Isaac --- beyond just keeping my head above water with a newborn and a tot --- inexplicably results in tantrums, poor behavior and frustration. There was a little frustration the 200th time Chris and Isaac elbowed each other out of the way for tastes like cookie dough vultures while we were cutting out the dough. But the fact that everyone did not have tantrums and, instead, actually had fun decorating/eating cookies makes it that much more $ucce$$ful. Little victories. 
Christma$ Cookie$ of $ucce$$

2 sticks of butter, softened
1.5 cups sugar 
1 egg 
3 cups flour 
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1-4 tablespoons milk 

Cream butter and sugar (give tot a taste), add egg and vanilla (taste). Stir in dry ingredients (taste). Add milk as needed for nice consistency (taste taste taste, lick bowl). Stash in fridge two days, or until tantrums subside. Return to dough and discover husband has conducted further taste tests. Spread a handful of powdered sugar or flour on a flat surface, pound out dough, let tot cut out cookies, and give millions of samples to hovering cookie dough vultures. Bake the nine remaining cookies at 350 for 8-15 minutes (depending on dough thickness), or until golden on top and starting to brown around the edges. Let cool while tantrums over not wanting to eat dinner subside. Decorate with loads of frosting! 

Fro$ting 

2 oz butter 
2 oz cream cheese 
Some vanilla extract 
A cup of powdered sugar 

Mix until smooth 

May your tots be merry and bright and may all your cookies turn out right! 

04 December 2014

How to Salvage that Shrunken Sweater


We do it all the time: shrink sweaters. Expensive sweaters. Adored sweaters. You'd think we'd have figured it out by now. We'll do a good job laying flat to dry for years, then one accidental pop into the dryer and boom---awkward crop top. 

I bought Chris a cashmere sweater for our second married Christmas. I think he wore it once before it miniaturized. Sigh. I looooooooove cashmere and couldn't throw it out. 

FINALLY the 80s came back in style, and with it, the popularization of modern activewear. I am so all over this trend. My sis and I took the kids to a park and everyone there was wearing yoga pants, aviators and boots, toting kids and strollers. Wow, I am so among my demographic right now, I thought, tossing my aviators into the stroller and looking down at my outfit. 

Since we're all dressed identically, you must also have a slew of shrunken sweaters under the bed, right? So here's what I did. 

I have this Japanese crop top that came with a dress. I wear it all the time over strappy tanks that are good for nursing but too low on their own. I NEEDED A WINTER VERSION! 

I set the crop top I like on top of the Shrunken Sweater #1 and outlined it in sharpie. Ditto on the back: hemline and neckline. Then I cut the beautifully soft cashmere with a pair of tiny kid scissors I keep in the bathroom for cutting loose threads, clothing tags, and my bangs. The fabric cut like felt. It was awesome. 

It hangs a little too loose in the back, and at some point I may safety pin/button/slice-and-tie the edges of the ribcage for a closer fit, but for now it's the perfect fuzzy topper. Easy access for nursing, and with the unfinished edges and lack of tags, it looks very Journal Standard. Do we have that store around here? 80s workout chic! 
Take THAT, 21-yr-old nurse at the hospital who asked I ever had to wear scrubs! 

"Nah, I stay home with my son and baby," I told her one day after having that baby. 
"Oh. I bet you rock the pajamas all day," she said. 
"..... I get dressed every day," I said. 

WORKOUT CHIC STILL COUNTS! After all, the New York Times declared activewear the new streetwear. 
Eloise approved! 

30 November 2014

Glamour Around the Corner


February is miserable because it's been cold forever and won't warm up anytime soon. A couple good nights had me thinking we were in baby spring, but several crappy nights in a row reminded me it may actually be baby February still. Being a mom can be soooooo unglamorous.

Good news! My buddy Rebekah told me about a new gallery her friend Anne was opening. Did we want to come? OF COURSE! 

We walked from our house to 44th Street off Colley. No one gave us the stink eye for bringing kids. The pieces on display are beautiful. The deck overlooks the river. Anne was a joy to chat with. 
Look at us! We are out in the wide world on a Saturday evening being chic at an art gallery opening, enjoying and appreciating the art! We especially liked Anne's pieces and a sea urchin painting.
The Corner Gallery on 44th---we recommend it!
Appreciating art. Such sophistication. 

29 November 2014

But the Fire is so Delightful


Chris started calling the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving "Thanksg-evening." This is the night where the important prep work is done, and "the World Turned Upside Down" album is played. I make awesome cranberry sauce anyway, but this year's experimentation resulted in my best cranberry sauce yet: Brandy Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce! 
Chris and I brined the turkey with dried herbs brought from our FL garden. He carried on the tradition of the Manly Art of Pie Making and produced his best pumpkin pies EVER. 
When we were little, the kids made the stuffing. We toasted endless amounts of bread and cut it into pieces. My dad recently laughed about how the best way to occupy the kids while the parents did real prep was to give us a bunch of dull knives and let us loose on that task. And here I thought we were doing meaningful work! 

Isaac is still a bit young for anything involving the toaster unsupervised, so I had a brilliant idea: marshmallows! I asked him to please build a tower out of toothpicks and big and little marshmallows. This was a big hit. Too big of a hit, actually. Chris and I joined him in marshmallow building, which evolved into a blind taste test (Campfire marshmallows are unanimously better than Jiff or Jet or whatever) and further progressed into roasting marshmallows over the fire. By the time we got around to the traditional prep work, Isaac was stuffed full of marshmallows and we were out of toothpicks. Ha ha. Guess who ate no dinner that night? We'll try that after dinner next year I guess. 
Eloise and I were there, too. Baby selfie! 
Mari's Brandy Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce 

1 package cranberries
1 cup sugar 
2/3 cup brandy
1 cup apple cider 

Bring the apple cider, Brandy and sugar to a boil. Add rinsed cranberries, reserving 3 berries. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the berries have mostly popped. Use a wooden spoon to flatten and burst any remaining berries for good consistency. Cool, pour into a dish, cover and refrigerate. I am making this for Christmas for sure. With those three berries you reserved at the beginning, stir up a: 

Brandy Apple Cider
Pour a shot if brandy into a small glass of cider. Garnish with frozen cranberries. Yum! 
Friday morning we had Chris' delicious pie for breakfast of course. Then we took down all the fall decorations and hustled them up to the attic. Next stop? A tree lot! 
Eloise cries all the time. ALL THE TIME. For this outing, however, she enjoyed being zipped into my puffer vest. It was really really cold. Lots of elderly ladies smiled at us. We got a huge tree. Chris tied it to the top of the car. So far, so good. 
"THE TREE IS FALLING DOWN! IT IS FALL OFF THE CAR! DON'T GO FAST! THE TREE IS FALL OFF THE CAR!" 
"Isaac, buddy! It's ok! Dad has tied lots of trees to the car. It's ok!" 
"IS NOT OK! THE TREE IS FALLING DOWN!" 
"What's the worst that could happen? It falls off the car. Then we'll stop and tie it back on. It's ok." 
"NOOOOOOO! IS FALLING DOWN!" 
Almost home, we turned left and the tree shifted to the right a little. Isaac could see it out his right side window. DISASTER. Absolute panic. The only thing that mollified him was for us to open the sunroof and hold it with our hands. And turn the dome light on to help the tree stay on. Unfortunately we forgot to turn off said dome light and it killed my car battery yesterday right around the time our tree tipped over, but whatever. One disaster at a time. 
"Who says I cry all the time? Maybe I just want one of those brandy apple ciders! Look how cute I am." 
"Oh no! The tree fall down! Look, Mommy, I deeeecorate." 

27 November 2014

Don't Fall!


Despite our admonitions, the leaves all fell. This was Monday, a block from (and five minutes after) the spot where Isaac baptized himself in the river. When we walked under this tree tonight on our after-dinner stroll, the cold, rainy weather had left its mark. The branches are nearly bare. 
Clearly, I'm trying to complete all my fall posts before Christmas season starts tomorrow. Nothing like a looming deadline to feel motivated. Deadlines and a little more sleep, anyway---Eloise is almost eight weeks old and thankfully sleeps MUCH better than Isaac did. Which brings us to Thanksgiving. I am thankful that neither Eloise nor Isaac was sick today, and that they're both over the colds and fevers they've had recently. I'm thankful that we are not moving, like when Isaac was this old. I'm thankful we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving this year, a decision we had to make with our heads, not our hearts. I'm thankful Chris isn't at sea right this moment, even if he does have watch this weekend. I'm thankful we finally had a move where we didn't go into debt afterwards. I'm so thankful for my family---my mom, dad, Hannah, and her kiddos coming to help us in our times of need when Eloise was born. For Chris of course. For the amazing friends we have here. For our sweet son and our new bundle of snuggles. 
As per tradition we went around the table and said something we're thankful for. Isaac must've done this in preschool because he answered immediately, "my friends!" 

Isaac is also thankful for Eloise. "I kiss her?" he asks a million times a day before giving her a big smooch. "I hold her? Please, hold baby Eloise?" He's also developed a keen interest in the Eloise series, as if he needs any more ideas for mischievousness....
My favorite thing about our house is all the windows. Each room (not the bathrooms I guess) has windows on multiples walls. Huge, mature trees overhang the house and wave around the eaves, so right now almost every room boasts a view of cascading yellow and rusty-colored leaves. They're showering down on all sides. It's absolutely lovely. Shadowy outlines of leaves move across the floor in the kitchen throughout the day. Our living room and Eloise's room look onto our neighbors' scarlet Japanese maple. Isaac's room gets the full benefit of the front oak tree. I love hearing the wind soughing through the branches and seeing the leaves shimmer down, but I don't want want them all to be gone! Ah, the beauty of mortality. "Everything's more beautiful because we're doomed." Ha. I just quoted the movie Troy. 
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving! Another fall sadly over, but another Christmas just beginning! 

Tortoise and the Hare


Eloise flouts the rules from a young age
"You know what I want to do?"
"What?"
"I want to touch one of the tortoises. I'm totally going to do it before we move."
"Don't do it when I'm around."

So I did. And I didn't.

Have I mentioned we LOVE the Virginia Zoo?!
Eloise's third ride on the zoo train. 
The elephants were getting a bawth. Hilarious. 

Cutie Pie

On this day of thankfulness, family and pie, we are so thankful for this little cutie pie! She really is just the cutest.

I was surprised when we found out Eloise is a girl. I don't know why. "What am I going to do with a girl?" I wondered. Um, I'll tell you what this girl and I will do: mix patterns. Her onesie has little gold hearts. Her leggings have hearts in the same shade of rose as her hat. And in her little knit dress---Adorable!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Good choice of outfit, Mom!
Bellyful of milk and I like it!
Do they look alike?! We are so thankful for our treasures! 

Soaked


We had a bad day Monday. Among other tiny disasters, a lady in a huge SUV nearly ran over Isaac, Eloise and me on the sidewalk near the post office. Thanks for nothing! When we got back to our neighborhood Isaac ran to the grassy riverbank. Whew, no threat of cars there. He found a stick behind a bush, leaned down to smack the water and.... 

"I all soaked!" he climbed out of the water. "My running shoes, my hands, my pants, my shirt, my diaper! It's all wet!" 

Eloise had a fever of 102, Chris had watch, we were up all night...of course Isaac would fall in the river. At least it wasn't freezing cold. 

Yes, Deer


I HATE LOSING THINGS. I HATE IT. Like when we lost Jesus from our Little People Nativity set two years ago---drives me nuts!! I have a couple things that I haven't been able to find since we moved, or maybe shortly before. One was particularly bothering me this month.

Chris bought Isaac this tiny deer scene carved out of Nara deer antler. He got it for a four-week-old Isaac on our (insane) trip to Kyoto and Nara two weeks before we left Japan. We did that trip exactly three years ago, and Eloise is the same age Isaac was then, of course, and I had a spot on the mantle that would've been perfect for it with the fall decor. We got the ink block print in Kyoto of a temple we visited that same trip.

I'd found the box it came in---neatly labeled but empty---shortly after we moved in. Where was it?! It's so tiny and light that it could easily have been thrown away in packing materials.

God loves lost things. Lost causes, lost people. I love the parables about the woman and the lost coin, the shepherd and the lost sheep, the father waiting for his lost prodigal son. God tells us all through the Bible that when everyone else has lost hope, he hasn't! I think of that whenever I find something I've been looking for. It feels like a special blessing from God. He knew where it was all along!

Eloise and I were up in the middle of the night (surprise) and I was thinking about the deer for some reason, probably because she looks SO much like Isaac at the same age. That afternoon, I went to get a fall tea bowl out of the tea cabinet, which I've searched multiple times trying to find the dang deer. I saw the box for the Miyajima torii gate. Could it be in there? I'd had them out together last fall, but then moved the deer into a snowy Christmas scene when I packed up the torii gate. Or maybe not, because THERE IT WAS, stuffed in the neatly labeled torii gate box! OH YEAH!!

Even when our house has been a comedy of errors and a complete mess, even when I was feeling lost and alone in sleep deprivation and so so so many poopy diapers and general filth, God is a God of order among chaos, light in the dark, hope in misery!

Fall at First Landing State Park


Hannah loaded up the tots for church. Eloise and I stayed home. They all climbed into her rented minivan, drove a few blocks, squeezed into a parallel parking space. Unloaded all three kiddos, crossed the street.

"Oh, are we going to this church today?" Isaac asked.
Hannah stopped mid-step. "This isn't your church?"
"Nooooooo."
"....oh. Ok, everyone back in the car."

Stuffed them in the car, buckled everyone up again, five-point-turned out of the space, continued a mile down the road. Unloaded three squirmers all over again.

"Everything's a hassle," Hannah deadpanned when they got home. "But 45 minutes where no one was climbing on me? It was worth it."

I don't know why that story makes me giggle so much. We later changed the words of "Everything is Awesome!" to "Everything's a Hassle!"
Leaves were in peak color for their visit, so that was a nice foil for the hassles. Walks to the park, strolls to the river to throw rocks---finally, I turned a corner and felt able to do these things! Progress!
We spent one gorgeous, sunny morning at First Landing State Park, where Europeans...you know...first landed...in this area. A park ranger gave us the perfect half-mile walk over boardwalks and under Spanish moss-draped colorful trees. Toddler heaven! Then we had lunch at the playground.

Thanks for coming to help, Hannie! I don't know what we would've done without you!!
We didn't see any turtles. 
But we saw LOTS of delight and joy!
First Landing State Park---we recommend it!