Friday, October 28, 2011

Mad Dash

This poodle is the opposite of a mad dash. He's more like a slow do nothing.
Unrelated: this is usually the view I wake up to in the morning when Brad is out of town.

Phew, what a week getting ready to leave for London. I am beat. We had apartment drama at the beginning of the week, thinking the place we'd planned on staying was no longer available. But that got worked out and now we have a lovely apartment just a block away from our very good friends and former neighbors. It is going to be so much fun being close to them while we are visiting.

But I didn't get to enjoy that relief for too long before there was all this panic over Charlie's passport. We are using one of those expediting services so I wouldn't have to take Charlie up to DC. What should have been a very simple process was made a lot more complicated by none of our area post offices wanting to take 5 minutes to process the application.

They all operate by appointment, but had none available until after our departure date. Not to mention that most postal workers I spoke to were just rude and unhelpful. I kind of hate the USPS. Anyways,  I was beginning to lose hope as I called office after office, but FINALLY found one that could fit us in and it wasn't too bad of a drive to get there. I was so relieved to get that package shipped off at FedEx.

We used to process his passport and they've been really great. Charlie's passport was issued today and it's been FedExed to us. We'll have it first thing Monday morning. If you ever need something like that, I'd recommend them. There are so many of those types of services, it's hard to know who is actually reliable and who is going to scam you.

I spent today running around getting errands done while the babysitter stayed with Charlie. I had my check up at the dermatologist and thankfully only had to get one mole removed - on my arm. I'll have biopsy results on that next week but she wasn't too concerned. It sure does hurt, though. The rest of the errands were insignificant - Target, hair cut, etc. It was sleeting on the way home. I'm so relieve we aren't getting snow here. I'm just not mentally prepared for that!

And now.... Charlie has a horrible cough. Our babysitter said it sounded like an adult's cough to her. And as I sit here listening to him coughing in his crib, I have to agree. I tried to give him some Benadryl and he spit most of it up. He's very anti-medicine lately and cries if he has to take it. Anyone know of any good tricks for that? I have the humidifier cranked up and we're doing breathing treatments. I have to get him feeling better before we leave on Tuesday.

I'm starting to get REALLY nervous about the flights. I'm so excited to go, but that excitement is really pushed back in my mind until I get through these flights with Charlie. Brad upgraded us to business class and the seats lay almost flat so I hope Charlie will sleep some. Even if I was doing this trip alone it would be exhausting. That's probably the scariest part to me. How can I handle it with him, too? AGGGHH

When I was a kid and we took long trips, my mom would wrap up little gifts for us to open each hour. It made the time pass because we had the anticipation of a present, unwrapping it and playing with it, all to kill time. I am doing the same thing with Charlie and really, truly hope I found some things that will keep him busy. I also ordered some new DVDs for the portable player because he is all about Super Why these days. I will optimistically pack a book and hope he is occupied enough to get a little reading done!

Packing is the other thing I need to do - it is going to be ugly. I've never been good at minimizing what I pack. Well, I was pretty good when we went to Italy, but I spent most of the trip wishing I'd packed other things. We're going to be in the same outfits a lot. I'm also taking Brad some more casual clothes so he can stop wearing the same 2 outfits each weekend! I had to get Charlie some new stuff, mostly pants - he is still getting taller and all his pants are too short! I still need to find him some mittens. Where do I go for that?

Well he is coughing almost constantly now. I think I better get him up for another breathing treatment. Poor little guy. We are supposed to go to Charlottesville in the morning to see my sister in law, so I hope he is up to it. It's also supposed to snow tonight in Charlottesville! Crazy. I guess we'll see. I hope we can go.

Happy Halloween Weekend everyone!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Apple Recipes

I did it - I finished off all the apples we brought home from Carter Mountain Orchard! Granted, I did push some of them off on my MIL Sue, but I cooked a majority of them! I thought I'd share the recipes in case you find yourself in possession of an obscene number of apples.

In a first for me, I made a homemade pie crust for apple pie. Actually I've made 3. They aren't much to look at, but they taste good. The dough is so soft by the time I'm sealing up the pie that my edges are kind of messy. Or rustic, if you will.

I followed this pie tutorial that the Pioneer Woman posted on her site. I have no idea where to locate leaf lard, so my crusts were all butter.

While the pies turned out great, the recipe doesn't quite work for me - it always takes me at least twice as much water as she specifies - but it sure does taste good. Now that I've learned this parchment paper technique to rolling out dough, I may try another recipe and see if it works better. Overall, though, two thumbs up. Apple Pie. YUM.

I also made some mini apple crisps in ramekins, which are nice for single serving desserts. I follow the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for Apple Crisp but just bake them in the ramekins instead of an oval baking dish.

I actually keep a batch of the crumble topping in a zip lock bag in the freezer all the time and pull it out to make crumbles with frozen berries, apples, pears/cranberries, you name it. Very quick. My favorite is probably blackberries and frozen berries work just as well.

I personally think you can cut the amount of butter in half in this recipe and it still tastes incredible. She tends to overdo it sometimes with the butter.

I made homemade applesauce for the first time and I don't think I'll ever be able to eat jarred applesauce again. It was incredibly good. I like a chunky applesauce so just took my stick blender and pulsed it a bit after the apples cooked down and cooled until it was a nice chunky consistency.

I followed this recipe, but all applesauce recipes seem similar, so you can't really go wrong. I used 4 different types of apples in there, because that's what I had and it gave it a nice flavor. I prefer brown sugar to white and LOTS of cinnamon. Charlie ate a ton of the first batch, but has since gotten sick of it, so this second batch is all mine. :)

In truly sinful cooking news, my neighbor that I went to Carter Mountain with (Hi Ria!) has a deep fryer that we've managed to get in some trouble with.  She pinned a Paula Deen recipe for fried apple pies that uses canned biscuit dough and has a basic fried apple filling and we went for it. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and OH. MY. GOSH. Sheer bliss. If you missed the state fair and want to be bad, this is the way to do it.

Incidentally, we also tried another Pinterest deep fryer/biscuit dough recipe this morning - donuts! Also blissful. The marriage between boiling oil and canned biscuits is a fruitful one. If you decide to make them, you can ignore the part of the recipe that instructs to dip the donuts in melted margarine (ugh) before the cinnamon sugar. The sugar sticks just fine without it.

I think that's about all I cooked - or assisted with. I did make some fried apples using a simple recipe of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to cook down the apples. I put them on top of oatmeal. Kind of a naughty + nice breakfast. Delicious when it's cold out!

It's been fun cooking so many things, but I am really starting to get sick of apples. Glad we are going to be doing a lot of walking in London. I need it after all this food!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yo Gabba Gabba

A few days ago I found some $15 tickets to Yo Gabba Gabba Live on Travelzoo and decided to spring for them. I knew the show was coming to Richmond, but I wasn't sure if Charlie would like it or even sit through the entire thing, so full price tickets seemed like a gamble. I'm glad I went for it because he LOVED it!

We went to the 2pm show today and sat on the balcony. The show wasn't anywhere near sold out - hence the $15 ticket offer - so we were even able to move down from our nosebleed seats to the front of the balcony. Apart from one mom who liked to stand up and dance, there was nothing blocking our view.

It was a loud, high energy show and the performers encouraged the kids (and apparently that one mom in front of us) to stand up and dance. Charlie had a big smile on his face for a lot of the show and did quite a bit of dancing in front of his seat! The rest of the time he sat mesmerized. Or maybe just tired - the show was during his nap time. 

Biz Markie actually made an appearance at the show, which was a nice surprise. That was probably my favorite part. He did his Beat of the Day, of course, but also brought some kids on stage to help and do their version of the Beat. Then he mixed some tunes and everyone danced. It was great. 

After the show I offered to get Charlie a t-shirt, which he got excited about. He immediately picked a blue shirt with Muno on it and wanted to carry it back to the car himself. When we got close to the car, he asked if he could put it on. So we put it on him and he wore it home, passed out cold in his car seat. Tonight when it was time to change into jammies, he didn't want to take it off, so he's now sleeping in his Muno shirt.

Overall it was a great experience and I'd take him again in a heartbeat. He's really missing his daddy right now and it was nice to do something special for him. 

Even though he pointed out all the characters, did the dances and knew the songs, he didn't want to watch the show when we got home. He's really stuck on Super Why right now. When does their tour come to town???

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

London Update

I just wrote most of a blog entry only for Blogger to lose it and have no recollection what I was talking about. Ugh. Good thing I can't sleep, might was well type it out again! 

I am not sleeping because I am sooooo excited about going to London! Things are finally starting to move along and I think we should be there 2 weeks from today! Or... tomorrow I guess. In my mind, I just completely gloss over that whole 11-hours-flying-time-with-a-two-year-old thing. We just magically arrive with no jet lag and it's fabulous!

We have found a wonderful house sitter to look after our house and puppies and are close to booking the corporate apartment and our plane tickets. I'll post more on our apartment and location after it's finalized. All that will be left is getting Charlie's passport. That part makes me very nervous. It is, after all, our federal government. Who knows what might/can/will go wrong. 

I'm trying not to think about how if I'd just applied for an expedited passport for Charlie right after Brad left, we'd be close to getting it at this point. I thought for sure we'd be in London by now. Everything takes so much longer than anticipated. 

We probably could go a bit earlier, but we decided to wait and let Charlie enjoy his Halloween here before we go. He has a preschool party that day and we have a neighborhood party to go to the Saturday night before. And trick or treating in our neighborhood is a big deal - lots of people out and about and tables set up for block parties. 

Charlie is actually excited about Halloween this year, loves trying on his costume and can't wait to trick or treat. I'm sad Brad has to miss it. But we just decided we will have to make up for it once we get over there and the trip is really going to be a neat experience for our family. In other words, worth the sacrifice in the long run. 

So until we go, I'm keeping Charlie (and myself) very busy. He is well past the point of recognizing, with his age-limited concept of time, that Daddy should have been home by now.  He's still the same happy kid, but I know he misses his daddy and he brings him up pretty frequently. He likes putting on Brad's shoes and sitting in his car. He talks about going to find fire trucks and go carts (like on our beach trip) with Daddy. It's going to be so neat to see their reunion. 

Well, got to get up in a few to get Charlie to preschool and myself to Starbucks, Target and yoga class. I'm going to try and NOT think about London so I can sleep! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Picking Apples

Can you tell we're trying to keep busy with Brad gone? We're very lucky to have good friends who invite us along on their adventures. We had a really fun day this past weekend driving to Charlottesville and picking some apples!

Charlottesville is about an hours drive West of here and it's a really beautiful drive. The leaves are starting to change colors and it gets very hilly the further West you go. Go a little further and you'll hit the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Carter Mountain Orchard is at the top of a mountain and has incredible views. It was a beautiful fall day.

We got there right as it opened, hoping to miss some of the crowds. Which we did, somewhat. By the time we left, there were long lines to park and get up the mountain. It was hard waking up early, but totally worth it!

They grow many different kinds of apples there and also lots of grapes for some of the area winemakers. Virginia wines are finally getting better. When we first moved to DC in 2004 they were pretty bad. Compare to what you can get at a wine store, they are probably overpriced, quality wise. But hey, I like supporting the locals. 

You can taste wine at the vineyard, which the adults in our group took turns doing. A flight of 6 wines for $2 before lunch time - not a bad deal! The wines they sell there are from a vineyard called Prince Michel. No, I am not kidding. I bought two bottles. The labels alone will be a nice conversation piece. 

The main speciality of visiting Carter Mountain, though, is the DONUTS! Cider donuts, dusted in powdered sugar. Within 10 minutes of parking we were digging in. Well, everyone but Charlie. He won't eat much these days, but that's for another post. He did have an apple caramel cookie later and seemed to enjoy that. It was a life changing donut for me - they were that good. 

We used one of the orchard's wagons for pulling around toddlers and apples, but it was pretty unwieldy and hard to get up and down the hills. In hindsight, I wish I'd brought our red flyer. Here are the kids having some donuts and cider. 

And the boys enjoying their ride...


We hit three different areas to get some different types of apples. After Charlie figured out what we were doing, he was a machine! An apple picking machine. He would go deep into the branches to find just the apple he wanted to pick. 

Of course, Charlie didn't necessarily grasp the concept of putting the apples in a bag and several ended up on the ground. However, it was hard to tell which apple was the one he dropped since the ground was covered with apples that had fallen off the trees on their own! There was so much fruit growing on each tree - it was amazing to see. 

The apples are safe to eat right off the tree, which several of us did. They were absolutely delicious. A little warm from the sun and perfectly ripe. 

Thanks to my apple-pickin' son, I have got AT LEAST 20 pounds of apples in my kitchen right now. Mostly Fuji and Granny Smith, but also some Braeburn and Winesap. 

The orchard has the ever-popular Pink Lady apples too, but they aren't quite ready yet. Those trees were roped off with signs that said No Picking!! As crazy-crowded as the orchard was this past weekend, after those pink lady apples are ready, it will be crazy insane. Maybe we can go on a weekday and pick some. A good excuse to have lunch with Charlie's Aunt Clare, who attends the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. :)

Anyways, will do another post with the apple recipes I've been making that have actually turned out well. Something tells me we are going to be sick of apples by the time we bake/eat/give away all of them.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

State of the Spooners

Time for an update in my favorite format - bullets!

  • Brad found out last week that he's going to be in London for 3 months. We knew that was possible, but wow. I've been spending most of my free time making arrangements so we can go over and join him. Looking for a house sitter to watch the house and dogs, expediting a passport for Charlie, figuring out flights and finding a corporate apartment. Pardon me, a FLAT. It's all taking longer then I would care for it to.
  • Despite the stress of making it happen, we are really looking forward to all being together over there and getting to check out London for such a long period of time. Our former neighbors/good friends have been living there for a year and a half, so we are going to get to spend time with them, meet all their nice friends and have the advantage of advice from people very familiar with London. They're also going to be in town for Thanksgiving, so we get to see how ex-pats celebrate!
  • It sounds like Brad is finally getting his bearings after almost 2 weeks there. It was all such a whirlwind when he left - finding out Monday he was leaving Tuesday for who knows how long. But he's getting to know the team and even found some fellow Razorback fans last weekend to watch the game with. What are the chances? 
  • Right now we're planning to be back in town in time to celebrate Christmas in Richmond - probably our last. Sniff. I love decorating this house for Christmas so I am going nuts this year. Charlie and I will probably get home a couple of weeks before Brad, who will come home right before the holiday. I know he'll be heartbroken to miss me on a home decor streak.
  • Until we get the details figured out, Charlie and I are just trying to keep busy and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. I don't think at this age Charlie is too aware of time, but he definitely knows Daddy should have been home by now. Sometimes, he is rather put out with Brad for being gone. I can't wait to see their reunion. 
  • Tomorrow we're going with a bunch of friends to Carter Mountain to pick apples. I've never been, so I think it will be fun. The orchard is in Charlottesville. I've already pinned a ton of apple recipes on Pinterest. There will also be apple cider donuts involved. YUM.
  • Charlie absolutely loves preschool. He has his little friend Grayson there and they are both very talkative and talk about each other. It sounds like they've been having a blast playing together in the sand box and with all the trucks. 
  • Separation anxiety is a thing of the past - Charlie doesn't bat an eye when I drop him off. He's also quit crying when babysitters arrive. Especially his favorite sitter, who is back for her sophomore year at University of Richmond. He's affectionately given her the same nickname as my sister - Mimi. 
  • I no longer think Charlie thinks the babysitter is the real Mimi - I think it is merely a term of endearment. Like how he named his little stuffed deer Odie after my mom's dog. And he calls his lovie Bobo, after our dog. He definitely knows when it's the real Mimi - he has a more excited reaction to her. 
  • I wish I could post about all the awesome books I've been reading, but they are sitting on my nightstand getting dusty. All thanks to Pinterest. I mean, somebody please stop me, as I can not stop myself. I have been cooking a lot of recipes and doing some of the crafts and decor things I've found on the site - all to varying levels of success. But still. Pick up a book Kara. Lay down the iPad.
  • My mother in law Hope (Charlie's Gram) sent him a very cute cup and plate set that he started using yesterday. The cup is a child's cup, kind of like a coffee cup, and Charlie thinks he is hot stuff when I let him drink out of it. No sippy cup for this big kid, thank you very much. He tells me he's drinking his coffee and yuuuummmmmy. I'm hoping I can catch him doing it when we call her to thank her - she would get a big kick out of that! 
  • I've started going to yoga to get back in shape after my back pain and I am loving it. I'm surprised, I've tried it many different times before and it didn't take. It feels great and I'm really coming out of all this back pain, which is amazing. I was pretty much out for the count for 9 months. I'm also adding in more core work, which I need desperately. 
  • I can still hear Charlie talking in his crib an hour and a half after I put him down. I think he is trying his best to be tired and grouchy for apple picking tomorrow. At this rate, I will be asleep before he is. It's my punishment for keeping him up too late last night grilling out with friends across the street. 
On that note I'm going to sign off. REALLY hoping A&M can hold on to this lead over Tech. Every time I check the score I feel nervous. It's not on TV here - but Iowa St./Baylor is. I mean, really?

Ok, night night everyone! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Picking

Sunday we went with some of our neighbors out to Ashland Berry Farm to pick pumpkins. Like literally pick them. From a vine. Before we went, I thought picking pumpkins meant, like, pick them UP. And pay for them. 

To defend my ignorance: before we had Charlie, we didn't really think about going somewhere cute for the experience of picking pumpkins. We were more focused on what Halloween party we would be staying out at all night. Or what kind of wine to drink while passing out candy. The past two years we've avoided the crowds because Charlie was so young. This was the year! And Brad is of course in London. Boo.

So I took Charlie and we had so much fun! It was chilly and rainy and wet, but we were with fun people and had a great time. There were also donuts - homemade, warm donuts. They were life changing. 

Charlie was very excited when we got there, but there was too much to check out to stop for any happy dance. He loved this fountain, which was scenically placed by the wall-o-portapotties. He actually tried to walk over the flowers and get IN the fountain. 

He also loved all the tiny decorative pumpkins they had near the entrance and carried the little white one around all day. This is Charlie with his good friend Owen who lives across the street. They are two peas in a pod these days.

We had to wait a while in line in the rain for the hayride, but did I mention the donuts? Charlie loved the hayride and smiled the whole time. There was even a little dachshund riding with us. The hayride consists of two trailers full of hay hitched up to a tractor. And tractors, you might remember from Touch a Truck, are EXCITING. This one even got stuck in the mud. 

When we got out to the field Charlie had a great time picking out pumpkins for me to get for him and then wanting nothing to do with them. I hear there are pumpkin shortages around the U.S., but not in Virginia! I could have brought a dozen home, there were so many beautiful ones. Unfortunately, I only have so many hands and no Bradford to help. I got 4 home and that was with Owen's dad's help! Charlie just continued to clutch his little white pumpkin.

On the way back we got to ride in the hay with a great dane! After the excitement from that wore off, Charlie laid down on me and closed his eyes. He was getting worn out and hungry. It was sweet. Of course, 5 minutes later he wanted to jump off the back of the tractor and told me to let go of him. Kid has no fear. He was extremely irritated with me for saying no.

He seemed to perk up when we got back from the field, though, and rode around with his friends on a pumpkin  cart. Owen has a fairly new baby sister and is having some sibling rivalry. I love that he's pouting in this picture - I just picture him telling Charlie, no matter what you do, DO NOT get a little sister!!

It warmed up a tad and we sat outside and had a hot dog. A bee came by and I was swatting it and telling it to go away, which Charlie thought was hilarious. He started imitating me and laughing his little head off. He laughed so hard he got the hiccups! So now both my husband AND my son like to make fun of me. Great.

So we had a great time but were missing Brad quite a bit. We called him on the way home and told him all about it.

Brad asked on the call if I told Charlie that Arkansas won their football game on Saturday. I told him NO, I told him A&M lost. What does he take me for??? I'm only a Razorback fan when they aren't playing the Aggies. Also: what is going on with the team at half time that they can't seem to play the second half???

ANYWAYS. It was an action-packed, fun weekend and oh my gosh, what are we going to do this coming weekend? Brad still won't be back, but that's for another post.

Well I must run and find spots around the house for all the tiny white pumpkins we ended up buying!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Touch a Truck

The Junior League of Richmond puts on a really neat event each fall called Touch a Truck. There are fire trucks, diggers, tractors, bulldozers, helicopters ....... and a bunch of other equipment I couldn't name if I tried.

Brad and I had been looking forward to taking Charlie for several weeks since Charlie is obsessed with big trucks. One of the first things I said when I found out Brad had to leave for London was that he was going to miss Touch a Truck! But we took lots of pictures and I did my best to stand in for Daddy. We were missing him a lot, though, and judging from the texts he was sending me, he was missing us too. 

We met up with my friend Karen and her two boys. The temperatures dropped 20 degrees overnight, so it was cool and crisp - perfect fall weather. We had so much fun checking everything out and Charlie and Ben could have stayed all day I think. When we first got there, Charlie was so excited, he started doing this little happy dance. 

 Not sure where he got that from, but it was pretty funny! And neat to see him so excited.

The highlight of the day was the helicopter. Well, at first there were two, but one had to leave. We got to watch it take off. The other one we were able to get inside and check out. Charlie didn't want to get out and when he finally had to, he burst into tears. His love for helicopters is serious. Ben very sweetly told Charlie it was ok and don't cry.

There were also booths with games and activities and dogs to adopt and such. After we checked all of that out, Karen and I were hungry and getting a bit worn out. The only thing missing from the event was food. Well, and Starbucks, which I think should be at all child-focused events for the parents. There were a few places to get ice cream or bbq, but nothing really sounded appealing. So we packed it in and headed to Chick fil A. Charlie didn't want to leave and kept telling me to walk the other way. 

On our way to the car we ran into Charlie's friend from when he was in daycare, Freddie. Freddie has a new little brother and we haven't seem him in a while. In fact, I don't think he and Charlie recognized each other! Kind of sad. Reminded me that I need to take Charlie by his old school to say hi to the teachers.

After Chick fil A, it was time for a nap. Charlie took a whopping 4 hour nap! I fell asleep for a while too. Tomorrow we are going to pick pumpkins, so it's another big day!