Monday, October 31, 2011

Birthday weekend getaway

To celebrate my birthday-- and because we found a Groupon for a bed and breakfast there-- we took a quick trip to Saugatuck this weekend just for the fun of it. It's about a 2.5 hour-drive away and right on the coast of Lake Michigan.

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On Oval Beach

We didn't have a set itinerary and just wanted to relax and see something different, and it was different alright... Apart from gatecrashing the town's Halloween parade, the highlight of the trip was our little jaunt to Oval Beach. Consistently voted one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country, I hear it's a bustling beach in the summer. But being the end of October, it was pretty much empty save for us, a few hardcore joggers, and some other tourists who promptly bundled back into the car from the cold. This time of the year, it's probably not everyone's idea of a pretty beach, but Jude and I loved it. There's a sparse, stark beauty to it that reminded us a little of the Northern Californian coastline. Looking out across the expansive waters, it was actually hard to imagine that it's Lake Michigan before us and not an ocean.

And as for Sophie, she basically treated the beach as one giant sandbox that she didn't have to share with anyone. It didn't even matter to her that it was 38F (3C) with windshield- with a warm jacket and fleece hat, she was oblivious to the elements and more focused on the structural integrity (or lack thereof) of her sandcastle, of which she built several.

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What's a bit of cold?

She also had fun climbing up and down (and sometimes, through) the smaller sand dunes surrounding the beach.

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Sand dunes rock!

It was soft, fine sand and so we had no worries that Sophie would fall and hurt herself. Besides, honestly, it was so wonderful seeing her embrace the natural surroundings so fearlessly and gleefully that we didn't have the heart to stop her even after her nth climb. She probably carted half the beach in her shoes and backpack after we were done building more sandcastles, picking rocks, and chasing the waves but it was worth it seeing how happy that made her :)

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Favorite photo of Sophie from the trip

See rest of photos here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I know we're early, but...

I take my holiday cards very seriously. I used to make them by hand way back when chasing a two-year old was merely a speck in the horizon of my imagination. And there were no e-cards then and so sending and receiving Christmas cards in the mail was a huge part of the whole holiday ritual for me. These days, most people send e-cards or post on each other's Facebook walls when the holidays roll around, and I suppose that's the eco-friendly thing to do. And yet, mailing out paper cards is still something I hold on to doing. I don't handmake them anymore of course, but it matters a lot to me how the ones we send out look.

Before Sophie came along, I had (and still have) a soft spot for the letterpress holiday cards from Elum Designs (I love letterpress anything!). But since we had Sophie, we've turned to the photo holiday cards that are so popular with families here in the U.S. I guess they're a nice way of putting all your favorite pictures together and to send loved ones a holiday greeting while you're at it. There are tons of websites out there that do this, of course- Shutterfly, Snapfish, Tiny Prints (where we got Sophie's birthday invites last year), just to name a few. But this year, I discovered MyPublisher.

And what makes MyPublisher different than the bagillion other photo card sites?
- FREE shipping
- FREE envelope liners in a variety of colors and patterns
- FREE return address printing (which I love because this means I don't have to write our names and addresses over and freaking over again...)
- FREE deluxe envelopes
- FREE paper options — satin, matte or linen — and they’re all much thicker and luxe than most photo card sites. Some reviews have said they feel almost letterpress-esque (yay!)

Basically, it has better design options (colors, fonts, layouts) than any other site I’ve used. Here are some of my favorites:

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I love the clean lines and uncluttered format- nothing too bright and fussy, but still festive and fun. Best of all, I found a discount coupon on a mommy blog. If you're interested, use the code Babble30 to get 30% off your entire holiday card order. This discount is only valid until Nov 5 for the first 1,000 readers of the blog so I'm not sure how many discounts have been claimed by now. I know it's still a full 2 more months before Christmas, but guess who's already put in an order for her holiday cards? :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"May I have more chippy chip chips?"

Beautiful and delicious kale chips
My snack today

I'm not a natural vegetable lover- my family can attest to this. For the most part, I eat veggies because I know they're good for me, not because I love them. But today, for snack, I couldn't stop eating one of the sturdiest, heartiest, greenest, veggie-est of all vegetables-- kale-- not because I ought to, but because I actually liked it. A lot.

The reason? Kale chips.

Basically, you de-stem the kale, cut or tear it up, toss it with a bit of oil and bake till crisp. An amazing alchemy takes place in the oven where something densely leafy...

You start with this...

turns into something impossibly light, with a nice depth of flavor from the oil and salt. It was amazing...

and end up with this.

Of course, the greatest test was whether or not I could get Sophie on board. We actually don't have problems with Sophie eating her vegetables (except maybe raw salad, which I can't imagine any two-year old getting excited about anyway), it's just that she has her days (as with all things toddler). On some days, she'll happily eat her green beans and broccoli as they are on her plate; on others, the only way I can get any vegetable into her is if I hide butternut squash in pasta sauce or drown spinach in her favorite miso soup. So who knows how well she'll take to crunchy kale?

Does she love it?

Thankfully, well enough to ask for seconds, actually :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Child labour


How do you make your toddler earn her keep?

1) Tell her you have a very special project that you need her help to put together.

2) Omit the fact that it's assembling a shoe rack.

3) Try to sound super enthusiastic.

4) Clap loudly and praise effusively every time she does something right, even if it's just handing you a bolt. And especially if she manages to hold on to anything without flinging it across the room or putting it in her mouth.

5) Watch her beam with pride when she knows she's made a real contribution to a tangible, usable product.

Seriously though, it was amazing to watch Sophie and Jude put the shoe rack together. There was no complaint, no tantrum and she intently listened to every one of our instructions. It sounds silly but it was quite a special thing to see. And best of all, she was *really* a great help to Jude who managed to put the rack together in less than 20 minutes. We were so proud of her and I think she knows it. And now, every time we get ready to leave the house, she looks at our shoe rack and declares proudly, "I help Dada do that!" :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin patch kid

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I guess we could have just walked into the supermarket and bought a pumpkin for Halloween, but what would be the fun in that? No walking amidst pumpkins of Brobdingnagian proportions in the blustery autumn wind; no watching Sophie try to stay standing on said pumpkins and then laugh at herself for losing her balance; and no seeing her try to hug, push, shove, carry, hide behind, and climb over those crazy giant pumpkins.

Visiting the pumpkin farm was as much an experience for Sophie as it was for us. She got to go on a hayride round the farm which she really enjoyed while Jude and I marveled at how incredibly ginormous the pumpkins were. I mean, Sophie could barely see over the top of some of the really big ones! At what point of the evolutionary process was it advantageous for pumpkins to grow this big??? All the better to be harvested and carved? I don't think Sophie appreciated the sheer size of those things- right now, I have a feeling that as far as she's concerned, those pumpkins are how real pumpkins look and the "regular" ones at the store are probably miniature in her mind :)

Hugging the giant pumpkin
"I love you, pumpkin."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Random daycare daily report #18

Practising her "cheese!" for Picture Day at school today
Practising her "cheese!" for Picture Day today
Sophie sure was ready for Picture Day today. When I asked what we'll be doing, she said, "I say "cheese!"" And later, as we were waiting to have the pictures taken, Sophie turned to me and said, "Erin, we have to show our happy face!" Yes, we do Sophie!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ballerina explorer

Our ballerina explorer

Don't you have one of them in your house?

I hear they come in particularly handy when one finds a safari in the middle of a dance recital. Because you know, that happens all the time...

[The costume's from the Olivia Dream It Be It Role Play Set Jude found at Target in the clearance section. Dada score!]

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Random daily daycare report #17

Wearing Uncle Piao's new headphones
With Uncle Piao's headphones when the family visited over Christmas
Today, we put some new noise-reducing headphones in our classroom. Sophie LOVED them! She put on a pair and I said, "Sophie, can you hear me?" After that, every time she put them on, she would come running up to me saying, "Erin, can you hear me?" She looked like a little D.J. with them on! :)

Shamu love

Showing off her new tee
Showing off her new Ann Arbor whale tee

It started when we randomly showed Sophie a video of a killer whale show at SeaWorld. She was completely fascinated (even more so than usual) and wanted to see it over and over again. In passing, I told her that it was the Shamu show (even though the real Shamu died in 1970, SeaWorld retained its name for the show), and ever since then, she pretty much uses 'Shamu' and 'whale' interchangeably. When we were in the aquarium in Boston, all she wanted to see was a whale, but because the whale tours were closed because of Hurricane Irene, the closest thing we saw was a whale skeleton that hangs on the third floor. Still, that made her happy enough.

Since then, we've read books about whales, borrowed a BBC documentary about ocean life from the library and watched some of that with her (without any of the prey and predator bits), and as you can see from above, populated the house with all things whale (bath toys, stickers, books, t-shirts-- she now has TWO, a puzzle, and even a hair clip).

Sophie's favorite Shamu item is a whale bath toy that she carries around everywhere with her. Apart from being her bath companion, it is also often her picnic guest and food taster. Oh, and she talks to him all the time:

Please don't squirt me with your blowhole, Shamu. I getting wet!

Shamu, would you like some cow's milk? [gives him a toy milk carton] I cannot have cow's milk. You drink.

Shamu, are you a good helper? But you have no fingers!

I bring you to Gretchen's House, Shamu. Don't get lost!

[What she was saying as I took the photo above] Good morning, Dada! I wearing Shamu shirt. With blowhole!

Even her teachers at daycare know all about Sophie's Shamu love. According to them, they found out about her obsession last week when the kids were taking turns listening to one of those spiral conch shells. The teachers asked, "Can you hear the ocean? Can you hear the waves?" And when it came to Sophie's turn, apparently she said, "I hear Shamu! I hear Shamu!"

Thank god Sophie's-- ok, with some goading from me-- already decided what she's going to be for Halloween. I'm sure if it was completely up to her, I'd be figuring out some way of sewing a whale costume for a 2 year old...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Schmaltzy maltzy

Bye bye 12-18 month clothes
Bye bye 12-18 month clothes

This weekend, I cleared out Sophie's wardrobe for the season. I brought up her Fall sweaters and long-sleeve tees from the basement (when sales roll around, I buy things for her up to two sizes bigger and just keep them in the Too-Big-For-Now box) and sorted out what she's now wearing into piles. What you see in the picture is what was left after setting aside everything else that could possibly be re-worn, re-sold, or passed on to my sister as she expects her baby girl in a few weeks (!!). You can't really tell from the photo but these pieces have been lovingly and thoroughly worn through. They're all faded and/or stained but still I'm having a hard time discarding them. Call me schmaltzy and sentimental, but I actually viscerally reacted against the thought of putting away the dress she wore on her first birthday (which she has long outgrown but that I still put on her as a blouse). And I can't possibly throw away the pajamas she wore when she took her first steps, right? Right? Her first steps, people!

It's probably the time of the year (leaves falling, colors changing, etc.) or maybe an overall pensiveness as I approach (in mere weeks) my mid-thirties. Whatever it is, putting away her used clothes just reminds me that Sophie is really no longer a baby. And yet in so many ways, she is still our baby. This is the girl who, after I tuck into her crib, will sometimes-- with all the pluck she can muster-- say, "Mama, can you go outside? I sleep all by myself." But she is also the same girl who on other nights, will plaintively ask Jude, "Dada, can you stay in my room with me?"

I'm keeping the dress she wore at her first birthday. Maybe I'll make it a thing and keep every dress/outfit she wears at each birthday. It'll probably start getting a little creepy when she's ten (or maybe even earlier), but for now, let's just all agree that it's me being sentimental as opposed to borderline obsessive...

Sunday, October 02, 2011

What do you mean it's October 1 already?

Oh, did I mention it's also 47F (8C) outside?

What do you mean it's October 1 and 47F degrees outside?