We have been overrun with perfect autumn weather.  It’s probably due to global warming and I feel bad about loving it so much considering it could beause there’s a dire global environmental problem, but…well…the weather has been amazing.  We spent this weekend to be sure the girls were clear of the Hand, Foot and Mouth disease that we had dealt with over the last week.  It was a good thing to have to be at home.  We got to rest and relax.

And tie up some loose ends.

Of course, a lot of the fun supplemental Halloween activities took place last week when we were quarantined and I always feel bad when we miss out on that stuff because the kids love it so much.  I had these little boo bombs planned and knew that we had to give them a go to try and win back a little bit of our missed fun.

These little boo bombs are so easy to make and really inexpensive. We only needed to buy baby powder and made sure to save our eggs from breakfast a few mornings. The most difficult part of this task was cracking the eggs carefully to preserve the egg while making a big enough hole to let the egg out.

Growing a Jeweled Rose has a great tutorial, so I wont reinvent the wheel. The process is pretty easy; fill your empty egg shell with baby powder, blue some tissue paper over the top to seal the powder inside and then let the kids loose on the driveway.

The Princess threw them as hard a she could, Littlebit liked to run into her throw and Baby Bee went freestyle. The girls liked them so much they came in to make more bombs with the egg rejects.

You can also mix crushed chalk in with the baby powder to color your smoke and I think we’ll give that a try next summer.

Last month the call came down.  Honeycrisp apples were in at the orchard and I tossed Baby Bee into the car and we went as fast as we could go to make sure we got some.  Our local orchard sells out and I need to make sure we get our fill.  We’ve just finished our fourth half peck bag and have one more half peck to go*.  We’ve finally slowed down on eating them whole and raw with juice running down our chins and I decided it was time to make them into something.

Last year, I chopped up some and made crockpot applesauce and it was eaten so quickly that 1) I only got one dish of it and 2) I didn’t get to freeze any for later, which was my plan, but this year I knew I wanted to make a pie.

Honeycrisp apples, in my opinion, are the perfect apple.  They are sweet with a hint of tartness, crisp and never mealy and juicy but not TOO juicy to make them not good candidates for cooking.  I will pay stupid prices for honeycrisp apple at Trader Joe’s in the winter when our stores are gone.  They’re apple perfection.  And this pie?

Well, let’s just say more than one person in our family licked the plate clean.  It was that good.  This skillet pie is a little unique, because you start out the pie with a butter and brown sugar sauce on the bottom.

That’s probably why people were licking the plate. This skillet pie doesn’t turn out as a pretty as a regular apple pie, but if you have perfect crust anxiety, this is a good alternative.  Sure, it’s a little ugly, but I promise you no one will mind once they get the fork in their hands.  They might even lick the plate when they’re done.  Right, Big Daddy?

Skillet Apple Pie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 8 medium honey crisp apples
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • .5 c of white sugar
  • .5 c of butter
  • ⅔ c brown sugar
  • 1 package refrigerated pie crust
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Peel, core and slice apples. I used my apple slicer and then cut each slice into fourths.
  3. Mix apple slices with cinnamon and white sugar.
  4. Melt butter in the bottom of an 8″ oven proof skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the brown sugar. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat.
  5. Lay one crust into the bottom of the skillet and press carefully up the sides. The caramel sauce and pan WILL BE HOT, so press carefully.
  6. Dump apples into pan and top with the second crust. I crimped along the edge of the pan, trimming any extra.
  7. Bake around an hour. I began checking for doneness at 50 minutes and it took 65 total minutes to bake.

Sunday, Baby Bee complained of a “feber”.  I felt her head and while she felt a little warm, I didn’t think much of it.  She didn’t feel warm enough, even to my cold hands, for me to hunt down a thermometer.  She complained of some body aches, too, but Baby Bee is kind of whiney sometimes and I dismissed that too as she played and ate and carried on.

Monday morning, she got up and happily went off to school without too many cares.  She settled in on the couch when she got home and around 3 in the afternoon, her little voice chirped out that her throat hurt.  I had her open up and say “ahhhh” and the top back of her mouth was dotted with little red dots.

I googled.

Strep, I announced to Big Daddy who groaned and announced that his throat suddenly got sore.  I tucked Baby Bee into her shoes and coat and we went to Urgent Care.  I figured I’d get her on antibiotics ASAP and then she’d be right as rain for the Halloween festivities happening at the end of this week.

Baby Bee giggled as our doctor checked her ears and felt her glands.  She gagged over the strep swab, but when the doctor looked into her mouth she said, “Oh.  No, that’s not strep.”

“What is it?”

“Hand, foot and mouth,” she said and we kind of made a “oh crap” face at each other.  I asked a few questions about how likely it was to spread throughout the house and when Baby Bee could go back to school and then I brought her home where she played and jumped around like nothing was going on.

And then Tuesday rolled around and I wondered why I was keeping her home as she bounded off the furniture and played for hours and hours.

And then Wednesday rolled around and Baby Bee started to get spotty and the school nurse called home and told me that they had Littebit in the office with a 103 degree fever.

And as of writing this, the Princess has a fever and a sore throat and Big Daddy and I are getting a little nervous.  Hand, Foot and Mouth disease is making the rounds and a quick google will tell you that it’s been a problem in Missouri, Petoskey Michigan, Sandusky Ohio, my sister-in-laws daycare and our house.

Well, Google won’t tell you about the last two.

What is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

It’s the Coxsackievirus A16 virus, usually.  It’s a virus, so antibitoics won’t help you out and it’s extremely contagious. It usually affects children, but can occur in adults.

How Does it Spread?

Through infected secretions like sneeze spray, snot and poop.

What Are the Symptoms?

The disease usually onset with a fever, sore throat and general “I feel crappy” feelings. Blisters, which can cause a lot of discomfort, will appear in the mouth and may make children reluctant to eat or drink which is really the biggest danger of HFMD (Hand Foot and Mouth Disease). Children may dehydrate if they refuse liquids because it hurts to swallow. Sores usually are located in the back of the mouth, but they can spread throughout. After the mouth sores, sores/rash will develop on the hands and feet and may spread to the legs and arms. Some children may get the rash on their diaper area or torsos as well. The rash can be itchy. Not all people who are sick with HFMD will develop all the symptoms. Some may only get, well, some.

OMFG! Now What?
As always, pain and fever reducers can be given to reduce pain and fever, but be careful NOT to medicate a low to mid range fever too frequently. They’re actually useful. Our rule is anything north of 101 coupled with not feeling well. Chloraseptic and similar can be given to numb the mouth sores, but Littlebit thought it tasted pretty bad and thought she’d rather deal with mouth sore pain. My sister-in-law recommended calamine lotion for the itching and while other things may work, it seems to be soothing Baby Bee pretty well.

When can we go back in public without being “that” family?
The Internet is actually mixed on this. Some reputable sources say that as soon as the fever is gone that you/your child are no longer contagious. This was the advice my doctor gave me as well. Other reputable sources say once the mouth blisters are healed your child can return to school. My Mom friends say that the blisters should be “dry” before your child returns to activities or else, they’ll think you’re “that” mom. My good friend whose children are in daycare says her daycare allows the children to return after the fever is ended. We’re coming up on the weekend, so everyone will return to school on Monday after having two to three days out of school to allow the virus to clear up.

Some of you are cursing me.  I can feel it.  It’s a flawless October day.  The sun is shining and the temperature is perfect for mid-October.  Can’t I let Halloween have it’s due before I start yammering about Christmas and Christmas shopping?

Well, no.

This week, I settled in front of the PC with a cup of hot chocolate on a colder, grayer day and started my Christmas shopping.  Unless I find a great deal, Christmas pajamas and slippers are my first seasonal pucrhase every year.

Wait.

That’s not true.  Every year, as soon as the Christmas decorations hit Target I buy one new box of our Christmas lights.  They don’t sell replacement bulbs and I seriously do not know what I would do if we didn’t have these awesome lights on our tree.

But, after that I buy pajamas.

In 2003, Santa stopped by our house on Christmas Eve Eve and left a pair of pajamas in the Princess’s stocking for her to wear the next night.  I know that all of these Pinterest traditions can get tiring and expensive, but the Christmas pajama (and now Christmas slippers) is pretty easy and not too time consuming or expensive and the kids really look forward to it.

So, for the past 11 Christmases, Santa has made sure that a new, fun, comfy, Christmas or Winter themed pair of pajamas have made it into the stockings.  Some years, they were made by Mrs. Claus ;).  Some years two matched…

..some years three matched…

…and now we’re mostly back to just two matching because Santa’s elves don’t have a lot of luck finding pajamas that 1) mama will pay for and 2) the Princess will wear that will match the younger sisters.  That’s okay, because that allows me to make sure that everyone gets the kind of pajamas they like the most.

Why am I talking to you about Christmas pajamas in October?  Well, it’s pretty simple.  One year I had trouble finding matching pajamas because I waited to long and I had to go to Target and pray they had something that matched in the right sizes.  They did and I swore I wouldn’t do that again since matching pajamas were important to me.

Yes, I’m serious.

And, second, I like buying thing I was going to buy anyhow on sale and I’ve never NOT bought the girls Christmas pajamas on sale when I bought in late-October or early-November.  So there.

Here are some of my favorite pajamas in a wide range of sizes for this Holiday Season*

Merry and Bright Birdie Pajamas from the Gap

Current price on these lovelies are 29.95 in sizes from 4-14. For younger children, there is a coordinating set in size 6 months to 5 years

Actually, to be honest, if I’d have seen these before I made my purchase, these are the ones Santa would be bringing the little girls because I have a bird thing.

Classic Mickey Mouse Pajamas

If you’re like me and have bigger kids who are still game, this classic pair of pajamas in Christmas red will fit sizes starting at a child’s size 2 up to an adult size XXL. Children’s styles are 24.95 and adult styles are 34.95. The Disney Store will be running a friends and family sale at the beginning of November and you may be able to use the discount on your pajamas.

 

Carter’s Scottie Dog Fleece Jammies

These adroable pajamas come in sizes 12 months-children’s size 12, giving you a wide age range.  There’s also a one piece coordinating scottie dog one piece that looks masculine if you want to coordinate your little boys as well.  This item is only available in sizes 12 and 18 months.  The two piece fleece pajamas retail price starts at $24.00, but you can always get Carter’s items on sale.  For intance, right now the toddler size of the above is on sale for $14.40. The puppy one peice retails for $20 and is currently on sale for $12.

 

Snowy Nightie

This will be showing up in the girls stockings this year.  We’ve done red or some version of red for so many year that when a non-read, but still Christmas/wintery item showed up on the screen, I knew I had to buy it.  This nightgown is available in sizes from 2t- children’s size 12 and there is a one piece fleece sleeper that coordinates that starts at size 3 months.  Retail price on the nightie is $30, but like Carter’s, Osh Kosh nearly always runs sales and coupons.  Both nighties can be had, currently, for $13.

What about the Princess?  She read my blog.  She’ll have to wait until Christmas Eve morning.

*please note: these aren’t affiliate links.  Just plain old links to websites showing you Christmas pajamas that I like and you’ll see one of the above in my Christmas pictures this year.

 

Baby Bee chirps from the back seat as we drive, her little voice just a babble of sounds over the music.

“Mama!”, she calls out.
“What, baby?”, I ask catching her eye in the rearview mirror.
“I’m pawayin’!, she informs me, returning to whatever game involved someone named Mama. In the car, she takes off her shoes to involve in her game if a toy hasn’t been provided or isn’t in reach. They take fantastic trip over the window ledge and the seat back. She coos at them as if they were babies and then bark directions at them.

I am the mother of an imaginative child.

“It’s Pluto’s Birthday!”, she announces.

It’s always Pluto’s birthday! She cuts paper into tiny shapes that she wraps up into more paper and presents as gifts.

We spent nearly a full year being called by names other than our own and Baby Bee spent so much time and effort insisting she be referred to as Mickey Mouse that I started to worry about how that may be affecting her developmentally. She gave it up in the winter and I kind of miss her calling me “Deeesee” (Daisy).

Our house is a place of tableau. Nothing is exempt from being taken into Baby Bee’s fantastic world.

That is a tiny mouse in a tiny Croc hanging being suspended by Littlebit’s belt from the handle on the credenza.

All my children have imagined. I’ve played games with my voice Barbie squeaky high as Barbie drove off to the grocery store to buy bananas for her babies (any smaller toy would do regardless of brand or species). The Princess turned our bookcase into a dollhouse (she actually owned a dollhouse) but neither Littlebit or the Princess imagine like Baby Bee does. She stands alone there.

It’s hard to pull her out of her little world, sometimes. She’s so encased in her imagination that we have to, sometimes, literally carry her out of the house. I understand that. I like to be inside my own little world, too.

Being the mother of an imaginative child means playing “gotta say” for minutes upon minutes as she engages you in the exact game she wants you to play. It means that you must hold the wooden cookie in your hand and no one else may pretend to eat it. You are served pretend food on plastic plates before your eyes open all the way in the morning. You not only respond to your other name, but call your family members, house and car by their other name. You consider if your dog would actually come if you called for Pluto. You respond to anxious cries of “mama!” only to be shooed away because you interrupted a game you weren’t invited to.

Yes, that window is missing curtains.  Why?  She was using them and pulled the bracket out.  It’s on Big Daddy’s to-do list.

It can be frustrating being the mother of an imaginative child.  She uses the curtains to wrap up her toys, the commandeers the ottoman to build a tent and no one is allowed to touch it. She gets upset of her elaborate playscapes are moved or touched.   Goodness help you if you don’t react or respond during one of her elaborately scripted games.

But, being the mother of an imaginative child is usually full of enough sweet and funny moments that it more than makes up for being yelled at for consuming your pretend cookie too soon.


So, after I confessedreminded everyone, last week, that I’m a reader, I realized that I needed to do a better job of sharing my love of reading with others. Reading can be a very solitary activity and it is one of the things I love most about it. I love the time I spend just me and a book. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating for me. 30 minutes of reading can cut stress. It will enhance your vocabulary, increase your ability to concentrate and will help you ability to comprehend complex materials and ideas.

Maybe you’re a Reader too and you’re searching for your next favorite book or maybe you’re not a reader at all (either anymore or ever) and you want to get into (or back into) the saddle. I’ve added six books to my “read in 2014″ list this month and here are my favorites:

The Chaperone by Laura Moriatry. This book is loosely based around the life of Louise Brooks, a popular dancer and actress from the 1920’s. The book is really about the life of Louise’s chaperone, Cora Carlisle, a very proper woman from Louise’s hometown of Wichita, Kansas. Louise has been given a dance try out in New York City and Louise’s dysfunctional family determine that she’ll need a chaperone as she’s only 15. Cora has business in New York and agrees to accompany Louise.

The vast majority of the book deals with Cora’s summer in New York with Louise. It does follow Cora until her death, which I think was a mistake and the reason why I only gave it 4 stars. I think the ending drug out far longer than it needed to and a little more brevity would have made this a 5 star read.

 

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.  This book is a 2008 Newbery Honor Book, meaning it was chosen as one of the best books for younger readers that year.  I do read books for “kids” and “young adults”.  There’s no shame in my game.  A good book is a good book and it doesn’t matter how thick it is or for whom it’s written.

On Long Island in the 60’s, everyone in Holling Hoodhood’s seventh grade class leaves on Wednesday afternoon for religious education.  Everyone but Holling is either Jewish or Catholic, but Holling is Presbyterian and thus he’s left alone on Wednesday afternoons with his teacher Mrs. Baker.  At first, Holling is convinced that Mrs. Baker hates him and is trying to kill him or at least have him maimed for screwing up her Wednesday afternoons, but as the year progresses, Mrs. Baker turns into Holling’s biggest fan and supporter and he begins to understand her, too.

Holling is a great character and you really begin to see him grow from a boy convinced his teacher is out to kill him, to a young man who is sympathetic and supportive to others.  Written during the end of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, the undertones of war settle upon the book in a way that’s persistent, but not overwhelming.  This book would be a great option for more reluctant readers as it’s got some very good, relateable humor well interspersed with more serious themes.

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  This book is probably going to be my Book of the Year ™
I don’t even know where to begin to talk about the wonderfulness that is this book. It’s written so well in flashback and flashforward and it’s full of rushing urgency and beautiful stillness. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s the truth.

Marie-Laure goes blind when she is six. With the help of her father, who is a key maker in Paris at the National Museum of Natural History, Marie-Laure learns to navigate her neighborhood and her life. When she is 12, the Nazis storm Paris nad Marie-Laure and her father escape to a small town on the sea called Saint-Malo. There they live with her eccentric, but wonderful, Uncle and his fiesty housekeeper. It is in Saint-Malo that the life of Marie-Larue intersects with a German soldier named Werner. Werner is young. Too young, really, to be at war but his genius ability to use and fix radios has won him not only a trip to the front, but an elite education that has taken him out of an Orphanage in a mining town in Germany.

I want to tell you that this is a love story, because it is, but it’s more than that. It’s a slice of history. It’s a mystery and it’s just about the most beautifully, gently written book I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

This past week, at our house, it was all about the Crock-Pot. My trusty Crock-Pot was a gift from my parents for Christmas after I broke my first trusty Crock-Pot. We can go months without using it and then when I pull it out again it’s like I’ve discovered it new! How were we living without this marvelous invention?

Look, I know every single home and family blog that has ever blogged about cooking has probably blogged about their Crock-Pot and their favorite recipes. But, if you’re like me, your slow cooker gets tucked away some place and it’s just not working for your family like it could.

And by working, I mean slaving over the hot stove for you. That’s where I was last week. Chuck Roasts were on sale at the grocery store and I did a little more planning to include other slower cooker recipes on our menu plan.

Can we talk about how low stress dinner time was? Because, well, it was. Even though we had a few nights where we had to be someplace at 6 p.m., I still had dinner served and cleaned up before we had to leave. This is way different from other nights where we had semi-early obligations and it ended up with a hot out of the pan dinner being served 10 minutes before we walked out of the door.

Sound familiar?

It happened at our house. A lot. And I wanted to avoid that strife and air of bad feelings and hurry-it-up before we walked out of the house to do something that was supposed to be fun.

And, then came the Crock-Pot and I did manage to put together the kind of nights I wanted us to have; a home cooked deal, dishes in the dishwasher and happy faces before we walked out of the door. It was so easy! How is it that I don’t do this all the time?

Well, I don’t like a lot of Crock-Pot recipes. There, I said it. I feel like the variety and technique is lacking. Things get chewy or fall apart or just don’t turn out the way I’d like them. Oven baking browns and crisps things that a slow cooker never will, but with some experimentation, I’ve found some recipes that fit the bill and I hope you like them as much as we did.

  • Crock-Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs. Don’t make my mistake. Mix up your spaghetti sauce, water and spaghetti!
  • Three Envelope Pot Roast Sliders I think this is the Princess’s favorite home cooked meal. She was very enthusiastic of her praise of it when we had it last week, and she’s 14 so enthusiastic praise is tough to come by.
  • Crock Pot Potato Soup This purports to be a Weight Watchers recipe and I think it comes it at 4 points per serving (but don’t ask me how much a serving is. I don’t know). I use potatoes o’brien and the pepper and onions give it a little extra flavor. It heats up well from refrigerated.
  • Salsa Chicken serve over rice (instant or microwavable for a truly quick dinner) and control the heat with your favorite salsa.
  • Crock Pot Chicken and Gravy Comfort food to the max. Serve over mashed potatoes (if you have time, you can make your own, but refrigerated mashed potatoes available at the grocery are a tasty time saver).

I have read 46 books this year. I have a goal to read 100. I’m not setting the world on fire, in regards to reading books these days because I have other demands of my time. Often, when I talk about books people often say that they don’t know how I find the time to read or that they wish they could find the time to read.

For me, finding the time is easy because I am a reader.

Being a reader is the one description of myself that I have carried the longest. Who we are, to ourselves, changes a lot over the years. Of course, I’m still blonde (well, mostly. I’m the color that a true blonde’s hair turns as they get older so now I’m something like ash blonde with some roots) and I still have green eyes. I’m still short in stature and chubby in width. But, once you remove the physical descriptors (things that don’t change much) you usually don’t have a lot of the tags on you that you adopted when you were young.

But, I am still a reader.

I was a reader at six when I finally was able to read to myself instead of relying on others or making up my own story.

I was a reader at 8 when I read a book and then read it again and then read it again (and again and again. Oh, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 I knew you inside and out).

I was a reader at 9 when I got collections of books for Christmas and read them all before Boxing Day.

I was a reader at 10 when I tackled Gone with the Wind over summer vacation.

I was a reader at 12 when I would pedal the back roads to the little white library and check out a bag of books that I would read in a week and then return so I could check out more.

I’ve been a reader every single year I can remember and I find time to read books because, well, it’s who I am.

My tastes have changed over the years. I imagine I don’t like much of the same things I liked when I was six save books and cats. My reading tastes have changed, too. Little House on the Prairie and then Trixie Belden (but never Nancy Drew). Lurlene McDaniel’s romantic tragedies and V.C. Andrews. I’ve read Stephen King and John Saul and Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts. I’ve read Anna Quindlin and Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve read books from the best seller list, I’ve read smut (actually, I read a lot of smut from 16-18). I’ve read trash. I’ve read things that were so beautiful, I couldn’t help but cry.

I’ve read things so horrible, I couldn’t help but cry.

I’ve read things so frustrating that I’ve slammed the book shut and walked away.

I’ve had words collected into sentences and paragraphs that have touched me through every stage of my life. I’ve written those passages longhand and then typed them out and now highlight and press share. I’ve changed as a reader, but I’ve never stopped being one.

How do I find the time? How do I not? As runners run and writers write and people who are movie people find time to watch their movies and indulge their passion, I read. I can’t not. It’s simply who I am. It is the one thing I didn’t throw over when I became a new mother and it’s the one thing that depression and anxiety haven’t taken from me; the joy of sinking into a book. It is one of my most simple and abundant joys. I hope it always is.

I am a reader.

Hey, so remember this little project?

Well, I have.  I’ve been working on a few parts of my Forty before 40 project since I posted about it April.  I’ve made progress on a few things (like, being able to sleep with the TV off!) and am in the planning stages of some others.  But, one thing we were able to do this summer was to visit my sister in New Jersey, thereby crossing one state off my six states to visit task.

My sister has lived in New Jersey for the last year and a half, but this was our first good opportunity to visit.  Sadly, my brother-in-law wasn’t home so we missed out on visiting him.  He arrived home the day we left.  We’re hoping that they are able to make it into town this fall.

But, we were lucky enough to get some good beach time…

…including an incredible dolphin siting that I wasn’t able to get pictures of, but was so super cool.  We were lucky enough to be able to use the Coast Guard beach which was not crowded and was super clean.  There weren’t a lot of shells, but you can’t win them all. Also, people in New Jersey take off their shoes before they go on the beach? This was new to us.

We also got to visit the boardwalk in Wildwood which was…well..it was a boardwalk.  It was okay.  The lines were long and the girls ended up disappointed because the rides didn’t pan out.  It was crazy busy (a Saturday night), but we had a good seafood dinner and it was fun to show the girls something they hadn’t seen before. And, probably won’t see again because it was totally NOT Big Daddy’s thing and I got him there with the “we have to do it once!” line.

The little girls also ate hibachi for the first time and it was the biggest hit ever. I didn’t think Baby Bee would eat a thing (she’s sooo picky), but she wanted to eat everything they served her off the grill. We do have hibachi in Ohio, we just haven’t been, but it’s on our list now, for sure!