How to Peel Potatoes Easily

I first saw this trick used on Russet Potatoes, but I am happy to report it works wonderfully on Red Potatoes as well!  We were making lefse for Christmas, and we recently learned that potato peels jam our ricer, so we decided to peel the potatoes.  This was actually the first time we've bothered to peel potatoes for our lefse.  

Here's the trick:  
  • Before cooking, cut the potatoes in half.  Or, if you don't want them halved, score around the middle of the potato.
  • Boil or steam the potatoes like normal.
  • As soon as the potatoes are done cooking, put them in a big bowl of ice water.  After a minute or two, just twist the peels off.  They will slide off easily!  It took less than ten minutes to peel ten pounds of potatoes.  You will feel like a magician!  Well, I did. 
We ended up taking all the peels, mixing them with the cream for the lefse, pureeing them in a food processor, and adding the peels back to the lefse dough.  It just seemed wrong to throw away such good peels! 

Love, Love, Love Christmas!

Here is the scene that greeted the kids Christmas morning.  Kaia was so surprised that she stopped in her tracks, on the stairs, and stared.  The look on her face was so beyond priceless--next year I'll make it a point to get downstairs in front of her so I can get some more pictures.
Jon's mom and brother have been with us for Christmastime.  For Christmas Eve we had a Swedish Meatballs and Lefse Dinner and read the Christmas story from the Bible.  We did presents on Christmas Day.  Kaia wanted to play with each gift she opened, so presents took about four hours.  There were little intermissions for breakfast and Harry's morning nap. 
 Harry was really good at tearing paper off the presents and putting it in his mouth.  Kaia was a great present opener, present passer-outer, and cheerleader for her brother!  After she unwrapped her skateboard she used it as a car to deliver gifts to everyone!  We had a lot of fun unwrapping, playing, and spending the morning together.

Kaia spent a lot of time with this train track...both she and Harry love it!  Lest any of you get worried, she also has a new doll which she has affectionately named Baby Sparkle.  Christmas with a 3-year old and Christmas with a 2-year old were such wildly different games it's hard to even begin to share how very exciting this year was.  Having kids is such a treat at Christmastime.  I really loved watching Kaia pick out and make presents for everyone and then get to open all hers.  I practically had butterflies in my tummy when I saw Kaia get so very excited for Harry to open his presents.  She was really thrilled to deliver a stocking to everyone and watch each person open their own stocking (I was also entertained to watch her discover that Santa had delivered very similar goodies to everyone!).   I'm definitely not putting up pictures of all the presents...mostly because it's late...but I will do another short post with Santa pictures.  I hope you all had great Christmases!

7 Months


I have lots to say about Christmas, but I will do it in another post.  Tonight I am celebrating Harry!  He turned seven months old on Christmas.  Here is a month by month snapshot:

Newborn

1 Month

2 Months

3 Months


4 Months

5 Months
6 Months (Thanksgiving!)


7 Months (Christmas!)
 Some of Harry's Skills:

* "Pulls up" -- did this for the first time 1 1/2 weeks ago
* Stands and attempts to walk with help
* Loves turning lights off
* Excellent at playing "Peek-a-boo"
* "Talks" all the time...he is very expressive 
* LOVES to go outside
* LOVES to play with his big sister
* Jumps...often!
* Spits with amazing skill
* Growls regularly...I call him my Little Tiger
* He is very good at rolling from back to stomach to back and can go almost anywhere he wants by rolling.  It's very fun to watch him move around.
* He is just starting to "cruise" -- hold onto things and try to walk.
* He gives the most amazing hugs...I just love it when he wraps his arms around my neck and squeezes.  He also gives sweet kisses.

 He is such a happy boy.  Sometimes he gets so excited he just can't help laughing and jumping.  He is very patient about waiting for his turn for attention and seems to understand when it is someone else's turn.  His smile just radiates sunshine and his laugh draws people to him.  I feel so lucky to have him in our family.

Cute Little Crochet Bell (with pattern!)

Looking for a little crochet bell pattern?  I made these little bells for a couple present toppers.  They could also be used as tree ornaments or other little decorations.  They are tiny--about 1 1/2 inches tall--but very fun!  They also work up pretty quickly.  Kaia was watching and said, "Mommy!  They look like little bells!"  Actually, I had so much fun designing them that I think I will start designing more...I had some ideas for bigger ones too!  We'll see when I have time for that!

For anyone interested, here is my little crocheted bell pattern.  I'd love to know if you like it or use it for anything!

Cute Little Crocheted Bell Pattern


Use white crochet thread and a size 3 crochet hook (or a different size as necessary to achieve desired gauge.

All *ch 3* at start of rows count as a dc.

  1. leave a 4-inch string to tie bells together. ch 3, slip stitch together to form ring.
  2. ch 3, 11 dc in ring, slip stitch to top of ch 3.  [12 stitches]
  3. ch 3, *2 dc in next dc, 1 dc in next dc* around. Slip stitch to top of ch 3.  [19 stitches]
  4. ch 5, *skip 2 stitches, dc in next dc, ch 2* around.  Slip stitch to 3rd ch in ch 5.  [7 ch-2 spaces]
  5. repeat row 4.
  6. repeat row 4.
  7. ch 1, *3 sc in ch-2 space, 1 sc in next dc* around.  Slip stitch to ch-1.
  8. *1 sc in next sc, ch 1, (1 dc, ch 2, 1 dc) in next sc, ch 1, sc in next sc, slip stitch in next sc* around.  7 scallops.  Finish off.
  9. Stiffen bell by dipping in (1/4 c. Elmers glue mixed well with 1/4 c. water).  Blot excess liquid dry with a towel or a paper towel.  Arrange bell to the shape you want it to take when it dries.  Let bell dry. 
  10. Use 4-inch string to thread a ringer on the bell, then pull the string up through top of bell.  You can tie it to another bell or attach ringers, and ribbons or flowers.

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy the lights and feel the magic.
May peace and laughter fill your homes as you enjoy the season.

Splatter Paint Kids Craft

These fun, easy, and wonderfully messy splatter paintings could make great Christmas Card Covers or just be a new way to spend the morning.  In Houston, we had temperatures close to 80 degrees today and yesterday, but even if it is cold you might be able to find some leaves!
 
We put leaves on a paper and sprayed paint on them by flicking the end of a paintbrush toward the paper.
 

 The kids enjoyed flipping the paintbrushes with their fingers, though you could also use a little stick.
 After we finished I thought it would have looked so cute on the cover of a Christmas card!  Maybe next year!

My Favorite Nativity Exhibit/Christmas Music Festival

Imagine a cultural hall well-decorated with fragrant trees, live poinsettias, and hundreds of nativities.  Live Christmas music is presented hourly by local orchestras, school groups, and individual musicians.  Nativities are diverse: some appeal to adults, others to children, and many come from countries around the world.  In the adjoining chapel, a five-minute video portrays the first Christmas.  In a nearby classroom, nativities that might have a particular appeal to children are displayed.  In another classroom, a "dress up" room lets children and families wear nativity costumes and pose for a picture.  This Nativity Exhibit/Christmas Music Festival has become our church's annual gift to our community. 
Kaia dressed up like an angel in the photo room.
 Our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has congregations throughout the world.  This is the 13th year that our stake (made up of six local congregations) has prepared this exhibit for our community.  We love it!  I was lucky enough this year to be able to help prepare and participate in the organization of this amazing event.  Literally hundreds of people donate thousands of hours to help make this happen.  The nativities, poinsettias, and costumes are all donated for the 4-day event.  The whole point is to prepare a Nativity Exhibit and Christmas Music Festival where visitors can feel the Spirit and remember the true meaning of Christmas.  I love it because it helps set the tone for the whole Christmas season.  I find myself thinking about it often--not just while it was up (during the first weekend of the month).
 This is the first year that Kaia has really understood how Christmas celebrates Jesus' birthday.  She was so excited to dress like an angel and "sing and tell everyone that Jesus is born!"
 I know it is easy to get excited about presents...especially when you have kids.  Kaia is SO MUCH FUN to shop for!  But, this Nativity Exhibit made me think, "Yes--this is the whole point of Christmas.  This baby is the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the one who has made salvation possible.  I so want my kids to feel the love their Savior has for them.  I want them to grow  up and know Him.  I want them to be motivated by His example."
 
 It is so natural for kids to be Christ-like, but it seems so easy to forget as we age.   I think that's one of the reasons we celebrate Christmas--to help us remember. 
I still believe Christmas is magical.  Sure, part of that is the presents and Santa.  A bigger part of that, I think, is that in celebrating Jesus' birthday we are inviting His spirit into our lives.  And nothing feels more magical than that.

 
I love this time of year!

A Real Winter Wonderland...in Houston!

 I saw this home last week and decided we had to come back with the kids!  Two trains that ran through a snow-covered front yard, little villages, dancers, carousels,  and much more created a truly magical scene.  Both Kaia and Harry were entranced.  They would have been happy just looking, but the magic was better than that!
A child-size Thomas the Train treated youngsters to their own, personal ride!  How cool!  Kaia was delighted!  They passed out candy and even had stuffed animals for parents of babies--they were raising awareness of the dangers of leaving babies in cars by themselves!  The truly amazing thing about this is that it wasn't some organization or fundraiser.  It was just one family's way of sharing the Christmas spirit with their community. 
We will definitely be visiting them again next year (though Kaia will have passed the 35 pound limit on the train by then!).  I thought it was so kind of them to open their home and lives up to everyone in the neighborhood--and everyone who happened to hear about their awesome yard.  What places do you like to visit at Christmastime?  Do you have any that  you see every year?  We like to go to our church's Nativity Exhibit, but I'll post about that on another day.  I think this home might be a new yearly visit too!

Make Preschool Workbooks Last Forever

Sometimes I get an idea that I think is so great that all moms will want to use it.  This is one of those ideas.  Of course, it's probably also one that many other moms have had...I was just really happy about how it worked out for me!

It started when I came across a hidden pictures "coloring" book that had pictures of the hidden pictures.  Kaia loves finding things in pictures...and everywhere else.  A favorite car game lately is "I Spy!"  I bought the activity book.  It had a page for each letter of the alphabet (for example, a page where all the hidden pictures started with an "L") and then about 20 other themed hidden pictures.  I wanted it to last for more than one marker-through.  Plus, I watch other kiddos and thought that they might like the hidden pictures too.  I wanted more than one person to be able to work on it at a time.  To bring immortality to my activity book, I tore all the pages out and put them in sheet protectors.  The pages were perforated...that helped!  The sheet protectors went in a binder, and I let the kiddos use dry erase markers on them.  Dry-erase markers wipe off of sheet protectors.  (I learned this as a teacher...I always kept my roll inside a sheet protector.) 

So, they may not actually last FOREVER, but I will get a lot more use out of them.  The kids love using "special" markers.  I love watching.  It's perfect.

May Need Screening...Read With Care!

A strange smell wafted across the room toward me.  A funny, sweet smell--like the kind you would expect from a bag filled with rotting fruit and cream.  My baby looked up from his toys and reached for me.  He seemed to say, "Uh, Mom, I need some help here."  Could he have possibly done it again?  Sure enough, streams of bright orange poop poured from his diaper up his back and down his pants. 

This cute little 6-1/2-month old baby has sampled sweet potatoes, applesauce, carrots, and oatmeal.  His favorite dinner is about 2 ounces of carrots mixed with oatmeal.  The day after he first had it, his bowels seemed on pause.  The next day, he pooped up a fountain.  Since then, every evening that he has had carrots and oatmeal has been followed by an afternoon with The Amazing Pooping Machine. 

I thought his system would adjust, but now I think that I should just put him in a size 6 diaper every day around 11:00 am!

Is it wrong to blog about poop?  It's certainly been an adventure lately!

"Gingerbread Houses" for Kids

What do little kids really want out of their Gingerbread experience?  Really.  My 3-year old wanted to decorate a house.  She wanted it colorful and fancy, and she wanted to do it herself.  She also wanted a pond.
 
She really didn't care that we used graham crackers, that her roof wasn't pointed, and that most of her decorations were whole-grain fishies and extra-fiber fruit loops (perhaps because this was her first Gingerbread House?).
 She did a fabulous job...all by herself!  If she wants to do something on her own, I try to encourage it.  I think it's empowering.
 Mmmmm...fruit loops and frosting!
 She's an artist...and she knows it!

Center of Gravity Tricks

Yesterday, Jon invited me to come to Webelos and help with the Scientist Pin.  I used to teach science and was pretty excited.  I might make another post or two about this little event!  Anyways, one of the topics we covered was center of gravity and balancing.  I needed a lot of props, so Kaia and I spent a lot of time during the day talking about balancing.  You should see some of the things she was able to balance during the day!  These are the activities we used at Webelos:

THINGS YOU CANNOT DO (without cheating, of course!):

1.  Stand against a wall so that both your heals are touching the wall.  Place something on the ground about 1 1/2 feet in front of you.  We used candy.  Try to pick it up without bending your knees, moving your heals, or tipping over.  It's impossible.

2.  Stand against a wall, sideways, so that your right cheek and right side of your right foot are touching the wall.  Try to lift up your other foot.  Impossible again.

THINGS YOU CAN DO:

1.  Use 2-6 inches of twine to tie a wooden ruler and a hammer together.  The mass and shape of your ruler and hammer will determine where to tie them--experiment with this!  You can see where my hammer needed to be tied.  It landed on the ruler at about the 3 inch mark and then could be balanced by one finger (or Kaia's fist...or a table top) at 1 1/2 inches.  

2.  Stand eggs on their end.  It wasn't even a solstice!  (haha)  Normally, the yolk is in the middle of the egg and balancing it on an end is very tricky.  But, if you shake it well the yolk settles lower and balancing is not too hard.

 3.  Balance a can on its side.  To make this work, empty the can and refill it about 1/3 of the way full with water.  To balance, make sure both the little ridges on the bottom of the can are touching the table.  Hold the can still long enough to make sure the water is still.  Voila!  Very easy!

Spanish Phrases

Sometimes it seems like I say the same things two million times a day.  For example, "Put the blocks in the bag," or "Put the blocks in the bucket."  I figured, if I say that two million times a day I'm saying it 60 million times a month and 720 million times a year!  What a waste of time!

My solution was to use it to teach the kiddos a few Spanish phrases.  Kaia already likes Spanish because Dora and Diego are so cool.  A little more Spanish can only be good!  Plus, it's good practice for me.

So, these are the phrases I'm starting with:

  • Pon (Pongan) los bloques en la bolsa.     (Put the blocks in the bag.)
  • Pon (Pongan) los bloques en el cubo.     (Put the blocks in the bucket.)
  • Pon (Pongan) los bloques suaves en el cajón.     (Put the soft blocks in the drawer.)
  • Pon (Pongan) la pelota en el cubo.     (Put the ball in the bucket.)
  • Recoge (Recojan) una pelota. Ponlo (Ponganlo) en el cubo.     (Pick up a ball.  Put it in the bucket.)

Obviously, the sentences can be mixed up and rearranged.  I put "Pon (Pongan)" to show how the sentence changes if I am talking to one child (Pon) or two or more children (Pongan).

This has been a lot of fun--for me and the kids!  A little while ago Kaia said to Jon, "Daddy!  Do you know how to say 'bucket' in Spanish?"  And she told him right!  Of course, Jon already knew but I still enjoyed listening to her tell him!  And I feel like I am using our "clean-up" time so much better!

It Makes My Heart Wiggle


We set up a Nativity Scene after Thanksgiving and I told Kaia the Christmas story, moving the Nativity pieces around to "act" out the story.  Kaia loved it!  She has asked me to tell it to her several times each day since then.  Recently, after I finished telling her the story she said, "I love that story!"

I asked her, "Do you know why you love it?"

She answered, "It makes my heart wiggle!" as she bounced (literally!) around the room!  She was so full of the spirit she just couldn't hold still!  You could almost see it shooting out from her as she flew around the room!

I love Christmas time!

Kudos to Houston

Dear City of Houston,

Yay for you!  Congratulations on such a responsible decision!

During the last four years we have watched (and smelled!) as the hill-sized land fill near the Angel Park literally grew before our eyes.  We have wondered why a city the size of Houston didn't have a city-wide recycling program.  Surely, it could save the city money!

When we moved into our home we drove two miles to our nearest school to recycle our moving boxes.

Three weeks ago when you sent us a letter announcing the Automated Recycling Program I was thrilled!  My neighborhood would get to participate in curb-side recycling!  I could hardly believe it.  Yesterday, when our 96-gallon recycle bin was delivered, I began to believe it.

I have already put in the bin cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, a milk jug, a broken bowl, and a sour cream bucket.  Even my 3-year old is excited to recycle and make new buckets, bowls, and books.  You have made it easier to teach my kids about being responsible citizens and smart stewards of the Earth.

Today, Houston, I am proud of you!

Pictures Worth 1,000 Words

In addition to a great holiday, Thanksgiving 2010 was Harry's 6-month birthday.  To celebrate, we offered him sweet potatoes.  Mmmmm!  His first taste of...well, anything besides milk.  I just love the shocked and confused look babies have when they taste something new!


The day after Thanksgiving he was happily feeding himself.  The sweet potatoes were home-made.  Since then, he's tried applesauce and carrots...the carrots were store-bought.  Whenever I buy baby food I worry a little about preservatives, pesticides, and price (3 Evil P's!), but sometimes I just don't have the time to make it myself.  Maybe I should take a hint from the babies--they don't worry!  Harry has just been thrilled to join us at dinnertime.  He's been eye-ing our food for a long time!

Oh no, She Had Scissors!

Kaia has a pair of scissors and a cutting station that she can use whenever she feels like it.  Recently, I came into her cutting space and found this on the floor.  "Kaia," I asked, "What did you cut?"  Remember this girl is three-and-a-half years old.  I knew I had not given her any black yarn.  She didn't answer right away, so I asked again, "What did you cut?"
 
"Mommy," she said, "I was being the cow's helper."  
"You cut the cow?"  
"Yes, it's tail needed cutting."

 She also managed to cut the tag off.  Tags really offend her.  Why the tag was still on it, eleven months after Christmas, I'm not sure.  It's not on anymore.  
I suppose I should be happy that she still has all her hair!
It looks like she'll be right on track when she reaches kindergarten age.  Kindergartners are expected to know how to cut when the year begins.  Fun things my toddlers/preschoolers love to cut include:
  • yarn
  • catalogs/ads from the mail
  • coloring books
  • play-doe
  • cereal boxes
  • cardboard
  • paper -- white, colored, computer, construction -- any kind will do!
They've asked about hair.  I've told them, "No!"