Saturday, August 31, 2013

An Ambitious Morning

For some odd reason, I woke up this morning with a lot of energy. I was also starving. On the weekends, I usually make enough breakfast foods to last at least a week. Today I made oatmeal, whole-wheat banana pancakes, all the parts for egg sandwiches, and frozen pineapple/blueberry smoothies. I somehow managed to finish all of this cooking during the time it took Nick and Henry to watch Back to the Future. They ate some of my creations for breakfast and some for lunch!

I'm rather surprised at how much I was able to get accomplished during just one '80s movie.

First, I started with eggs. Thanks to Pinterest, I learned how to make a dozen eggs in my silicone muffin pan.

I simply put the whole tray into the oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 min. 

I added sliced tomatoes and fresh basil (which I had from my garden), and orange sweet pepper pieces, as well as a little pepper. I grew teeny tiny cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes this year. Both are yummy, but so very small.

This is what they looked like after they were baked. I leave them in a tupperware in the fridge for up to a week. They've never lasted that long.  We always eat them.  :)

I also made bacon in the oven at the same time. The key is to line the pan with parchment paper (preferably the kind with tinfoil on the back. The bacon goes in a 375 degree oven for 15+ minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon.

After I took these last strips off of the pan, I just wadded up the parchment paper and threw it away. Simple.

I store the bacon in a plastic bag between layers of paper towels. It keeps pretty well. I add the bacon and egg, plus some cheese, to a toasted English muffin. This is the result.

While the eggs and bacon were cooking, I whipped up some banana pancakes. I combined three or four different recipes (this one was my favorite) and came up with something I really like. Here's the recipe:

Whole-Wheat Banana Pancakes

Measure into a large bowl and stir together:
-1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup of all purpose flour
-2 T of ground flaxseed
-2 t of baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
-1/2 t salt

Make a hole in the center of the mixture and add:
-2 T honey
-2 large eggs, lightly beaten
-1 3/4 cup buttermilk (I added 2 T of lemon juice to the measuring cup, then filled it up to the 1 3/4 mark with 1% milk)
-2 T unsalted butter, melted

Mix it together until it's just barely combined. Then add 2 mashed ripe bananas, the riper the better.

This is what the batter looked like at the end. It's a little darker than traditional pancake batter, and you can see the flaxseed flecks. If you're not adding chocolate chips, I'd recommend adding 1 t of cinnamon to the recipe so that it masks the little flaxseed flecks. Cinnamon is also just delicious.

I melted a little butter onto my preheated skillet, then poured about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. I pressed chocolate chips into some of them, but I used a knife to push the chocolate chips down into the batter. Otherwise they stay on the outside and melt!

The boys kept trying to steal the pancakes from the counter while they were cooling. They were definitely a hit. Just because I'm a little nuts, I decided to make a pot of oatmeal while I was cooking the pancakes. I use my biggest soup pot and heat about 5 cups of milk , with just a dash of salt. When the milk is hot but not yet boiling, I add about 2 cups of oatmeal and turn the heat down to low. There's normally a 2:1 liquid/oatmeal ratio, but cooking with milk seems to soak up more liquid, so I add more. I also added 3 T of ground flaxseed, 3T of honey, and 1 T of cinnamon.

This is what it looks like when you first add the oatmeal.

After the oatmeal has simmered for about a half hour, this is what it looks like. It is the yummiest oatmeal I've ever tasted. I can't even stand oatmeal made with water anymore.

I pack it in these individual containers and heat it up as I leave for work. 30 seconds in the microwave and it's ready to eat.

Oh, so you thought I was done? Nope. I also made smoothies, mostly because I had some fruit that I had to use up before it went bad. I have a Ninja blender, and I added frozen pineapple, frozen blueberries, two scoops of protein powder, two containers of Chobani pineapple yogurt, and I poured in some milk as well.

I gave each boy one small smoothie and put the rest in the freezer. If I take them out the night before and set them in the fridge, they're about the right texture by morning. Nick and Henry give these smoothies two straws up!

By the time naptime rolled around, I was ready for a nap myself. However, this mess in the kitchen beckoned. . .

Great ambitions can create a great mess!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Haircuts and Corn and Insane Climbing Skills

I'm not very good about remembering to take the boys for haircuts. Scratch that. I'm not very good about remembering haircuts, period. I believe my haircut and highlights are left over from April, if I'm not mistaken. However, I can get away with that. My boys need haircuts far more often than every few months. I clearly let it get too long.

We went to Boozle Bs again, which pretty much made their day. We liked it last time, so I made sure to take them again. Henry was thrilled with the Lightning McQueen car, but Nick preferred the purple jeep. Or perhaps he just didn't want to be like his brother, who went first. Nick's hair was especially shaggy.

Here are the after shots. This is Henry's typical face.

I think he looks like one of the bad boys from the 1980s films. 

Nick was quite thrilled with his faux hawk. I didn't even have to bribe him to smile.

I had promised the kids that if they were "good" during the haircutting expedition, I would take them to a brand new park. We often travel around, looking for new parks. Sometimes I get lost, but more often we find parks with neat features. This one had lots to climb, and Henry took advantage. He climbed far higher than Nick would.

Henry did keep climbing, but I don't have a picture because I went to stand underneath him at that point. He loves to climb and doesn't have much fear, though he is usually pretty careful. Nick, on the other hand, interjected himself into a group of 2nd or 3rd graders. He just kept asking, "Can I play with you?" until they capitulated. By the end, he had all five of them playing tag his way. The boys got hungry after about an hour, and the older guys showed Nick how to pick corn from the cornfield and eat it raw.

I didn't even know you could eat corn raw. Nick is already learning naughty things from the bigger boys. I'm very surprised that they let him play with them for so long.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This Poor Second Child. . .

Henry turned two in June. Not only did we forget to take him in to the doctor, after I did take him in, I neglected to write a blog post about it. Such is the fate of the "forgotten" second child.

Henry doesn't appreciate being forgotten. 

With Nick, I waited for the doctor's okay to switch him off of whole milk. With Henry, we just did it. Then, he had his 24 month visit at 26 1/2 months. Interesting, because he weighs 26 pounds.

Henry hangs in around the 30th percentile for everything, and he eats like a hog, so we have no worries. The doctor did inquire about his early intervention services for the developmental delays, but he seemed to think we were being pretty proactive about it. Henry also showed off his great direction-following skills by showing the doctor all his body parts.

He is most proud of his tummy. Henry does have a pretty awesome tummy, though his feet are monstrous. I cannot believe how fast he is growing! I just bought shoes for him in a size 8 1/2. That is the size Nick wore in January of this year! My boy has some huge feet.He had to get a shot but only cried for about three seconds. It was a pitiful cry, but over quickly.

Henry wouldn't leave without saying goodbye to the fishies. The fish tank at this doctor's office is very popular with my children. Henry must've said "fishie!" about fifty times.

I have to admit, they are some pretty cool fish. Anyway, Henry isn't due for another well visit until next June, when he'll turn three.  Sniff Sniff. He's growing up so fast.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sometimes new appliances cause more problems than they solve,. . .

. . . not that I'm complaining about our new fridge and dishwasher. The appliances themselves are wonderful. We picked them out at Lowe's because we really, really needed them.

Do you see the expressions on everyone's faces? Believe me, we wouldn't brave Lowe's on a Saturday with both of our children unless we were desperate.

Our old dishwasher was missing three wheels and didn't actually wash dishes. Instead, it kind of sprayed water around haphazardly and melted anything plastic. Our fridge was very small and some of the plastic shelves on the door had completely ripped off. It also didn't have an ice maker, which is ridiculous for someone who drinks as much ice water and iced tea as I do.

Thus the trip seeking appliances. We spent most of the time taking turns dealing with the fights Nick and Henry had over who got to sit on the side of the cart with the steering wheel. Oh, and Henry shrieked if we didn't stay in almost constant motion, which is very hard in those gigantic carts, which maneuver horribly and turn on a hula-hoop. (I was trying to think of the opposite of turning on a dime. That was the best I could come up with. . . )

Does this look like fun? Nope. 

We picked out a nice, much larger side-by-side fridge with a water and ice dispenser in the door. Nothing fancy, but for us, it is definitely a step up. It's a good six inches taller, is much deeper, and has shelves that completely come out for when your two-year-old spills grape juice down the side, for example.

Henry wanted a cookie. They were cooling off, so he had to wait. 

There is only one small problem with our new refrigerator. Do you see the water/ice dispenser in the door? Notice how it is placed low enough for our Henry to reach. That, of course, is the problem. On any given day, Henry walks over to the kitchen, finds a cup of some sort, pours himself some water, and then plays with it. He either pours the water from one cup into another, or outright pours water onto something. Like our couch, for example. Or into a drawer.

I don't have too much to say about our new dishwasher, seeing as my husband does practically all of the dishes. However, the wonderful thing is that it actually washes dishes. Henry, by the way, isn't crying about the dishwasher. He's crying because he wanted a second banana and I wouldn't give it to him. Henry is also always a little ticked off because we keep the garbage can, the cat food, and the cat water on the counter top so he doesn't dump them.

Oh, so the problem with the dishwasher? Unlike our old-fashioned one with the arm-type lock, this one doesn't lock. It has a "lock" function that prevents kids from turning it on. But the door itself doesn't actually lock. So, once Henry figures out how to pull open the door, we're in trouble.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Joliet Kidzfest 2013

During my never ending quest for cheap ways to entertain my kids this summer, I located the Joliet Kidzfest, held by Lewis University in downtown Joliet. It was a gorgeous day, and the event wasn't too crowded, even though it was on a Saturday. The boys got to pose with these guys.

Yes, the mascot on the left is J.L. Bird. Named, I believe after the famous prison in Joliet.

Nick thought they were pretty cool, especially the jailbird, but Henry looked serious. Henry often looks serious. I wonder if he will become an accountant or something, because he always has a look on his face as if he is contemplating tax forms in his head. Or maybe he's nervous because Spikes (the other mascot for the Joliet Slammers) is supposedly a former prison guard.

Nick was ecstatic about getting to see the garbage truck. He was absolutely delighted when the gruff but friendly garbage man let him sit in the truck.

Henry wanted a turn, too, but he didn't smile. Instead, he maintained his super-serious Henry look. Perhaps he is worried about the amount of garbage these trucks take away. Or perhaps he just doesn't like to smile for pictures.

The library and park district people had tables where the kids could make crafts. The boys made bags and personalized visors. Also, they actually let my children design ladybugs with permanent markers! Brave, brave ladies.

Henry took his decorating very seriously. 

The forest preserve was out showing kids how to cast a fishing line. Henry still didn't smile, but he loved the fishing pole. I could tell because as soon as we tried to get the fishing pole out of his hand, a major temper tantrum ensued.

Fishing was intriguing to Nick as well, but he decided the poles were much cooler when used as pretend light sabers. That's when we decided they were done with the fishing poles.

We visited the fountain next. It is a really pretty fountain, with an area below where you can dip your feet in the water.

Nick started flirting with a little girl he met there. He didn't want to leave the fountain.

Check out their body language. Totally flirting. I thought it was kind of cute.

I practically had to drag Nick away from the fountain, and I dragged him into a candy store, where I said he could pick a lollipop. This is what he picked. What the heck do you even do with a lollipop that big? Nick just licked it for a little while, then asked me to hold it. I still have the darned thing, wrapped in plastic wrap.

Henry has a sucker, too, in his right hand. Still not smiling. 

Perhaps Henry was jealous of Nick's giganto-sucker. He ate his whole sucker, but still didn't smile. Do you know what finally made Henry smile? The bunny rabbit at the little petting zoo area.

Henry had this huge grin as he squeezed that poor bunny.

That mark on Henry's forehead? Permanent marker from making ladybugs. Yup. 

I felt sorry for the poor bunny. Henry held on to him for dear life. We grabbed the bunny back quickly enough, and Henry was back to his serious self.

Nick wanted to stand on this police scooter thingie. I didn't even know what to tell him it was called, but Nick made vrooming noises. Henry didn't care too much. He was still screaming about us taking away the rabbit.

Our final activity at the fest was to have the boys pose in the Lewis University airplane.

Downtown Joliet is really quite pretty. Greg and I are never sure where we live, really. Our address says Plainfield, but we're in Kendall County. Our kids go to Plainfield schools, but our public works and garbage is all Joliet. We use the Joliet Library system, and mapquest insists we live in Joliet. So, we're kind of Joliet residents. Kind of. Anyway, I thought this building was beautiful.

Nick would only pose for this picture if I loaned him my sunglasses. 

We had lunch at the Old Fashioned Pancake House in Joliet before heading out, and the food was very yummy. Click here for my Yelp Review of the place. Henry ate plenty, but didn't crack a smile once during his meal.

I was tickling him right before taking this picture, but still no smile. 

I think I just need to get used to Henry's serious nature. I know he had a great day, even if he wasn't grinning from ear to ear.