Archive for September, 2012

Ethan and Sean love baking day. I usually give them a bowl of flour and some spoons to play with beside me on the counter. They inevitably gather some cars and drive them through the flour and Ethan likes to pretend it’s snow ūüôā

After our very successful experience with the sensory box with rice last month I decided to use the box again. Only this time, in honor of our first baking day of Autumn, we used flour. (I poured the rice and little toys into a storage container so that we can easily reuse it when we want.)

This time I added some of my plastic measuring cups and spoons, ones I didn’t need for the recipes I was making ūüôā

I had been gathering a little collection of scoops from things like detergent and large bags of baking soda.¬† I have also been hanging onto some empty play-doh containers in various sizes and some little plastic applesauce cups thinking I would find a use for them sometime (’cause containers are the kind of thing I “hoard” :)). I popped those into the container too. The boys loved using them.

Just like with the sensory box with rice Ethan ran off to get his little Lightning McQueen and Mater to play with in the “snow”. He had a lot of fun pretending that Lightning McQueen was stuck and Mater had to pull him free (Mater is a tow truck and McQueen a racecar).

Again I placed tha blanket under the container. This was the real test of the box. My original idea was that this would be an indoor activity for a rainy day, but our initial test drive using the rice was on a sunny day on our balcony. Well, inevitably some flour did get on the blanket, but when we were all done I was able to pour most of it back in the container. Then I shook the blanket out on the back deck and clean up was done.

The boys¬†were occupied for about an hour while I baked. I am loving this sensory box as much as the boys. Though obviously for different reasons ūüėČ

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For the longest while I’ve wanted to create a sensory box for Ethan and Sean to enjoy at home. I was anticipating it as a fun activity for rainy days. I finally made one last month. ¬†It wasn’t a rainy day but I needed to occupy the boys for a while and as I had been slowly gathering the materials to put it¬†together I was able to get it up and¬†running in no time. I¬†was delighted that I had finally put one of my good ideas into action.

I poured some rice from a 25 pound bag of cheap calrose rice into a shallow, medium sized tub (with a lid for easy storage afterwards). Under the container I lay a large blanket to make it easier to pour any spillage back into the container when we were all done.

I then added various little toys that could be hidden amongst the grains of rice. I chose dinosaurs, frogs and some other animals and figures the boys enjoy.

The¬†stacking cups that have been a huge favorite since Ashley was a baby were then added. Ethan also ran to the playroom and retrieved some vehicles to add to the rice. In case you didn’t know, all play can be enhanced with the addition of a few vehicles!

I could tell it was a success because after a little while Ashley was drawn to the box and joined Ethan and Sean. Shortly after that…

…all four children where absorbed in play. Anything that can happily engross four children with an age range of 2 to 10 years is definitely a keeper.

A final shot of Sean lovingly guiding Ashley’s hand as they played together. He held onto her in this way for a little while and she seemed very pleased to let him ūüôā

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I am currently creating a cookbook containing all our family’s favorite breakfasts and baked goods. My goal is to give a copy of the book to each of my children when they eventually leave home and move out into the world. There is nothing like favorite childhood food to comfort you as an adult. As I create a new entry for this cookbook I will post the recipe here to share with you all. I hope you will enjoy it too ūüôā

(FYI, I create the pages using my digital scrapbooking software StoryBook Creator 4 by Creative Memories.)


This is one of my all time favorite recipes. Our entire family loves it and smear it with butter and enjoy it with cups of tea. It freezes really well.

Previous Recipe Pages:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Irish Apple Cake

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It finally rained here in Seattle! It happened on Sunday night. We haven’t had rain for 48 days. Temperatures have been lower since Sunday, though they are forecast to go back up to the 70’s today and for the next 10 days. I took advantage of the cooler weather to indulge in some baking. Although I have baked a batch¬†or two of cookies over the summer I have really missed regular baking. At the end of the school year I baked some¬†cookies and bread that I froze for summer use. I will try to do much more of this next spring. It makes it much easier to enjoy milk and cookies in the afternoon when I don’t have to melt in the kitchen to make it happen ūüôā

Over the summer I have¬†missed the taste of my Irish Brown Bread, Honey Whole Wheat Bread and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. So that’s what I made. The girls were particularly thrilled with the Honey Whole Wheat Bread. They adore it. It is very satisfying to make something that is enjoyed so much by all.

Interestingly, each of the recipes was a little off for reasons I could not figure out, unless it was somehow just me out of practice. Of course, no one really noticed except me ūüôā When the season turns fully I’ll have a lot more opportunity to practice and get my baking groove back.

Much as I would love the temperatures to stay in the 60’s and a¬†little more rainfall, I am trying hard to embrace the end of the summer and start of Autumn. I am resisting my usual urge to skip right over Autumn and mentally shift into my beloved Winter mode. So far, it’s working. The lovely sunny afternoons hanging out at the playground after school are very pleasant with all four of the children. The girls are enjoying down time with friends and the boys are loving the freedom of playing on the playground with all the big kids.

Sean and Ethan enjoying a quiet early morning play on the playground after school started yesterday. They had a chance to play there a second time in the afternoon when school ended. The playground was much busier and it was a different kind of fun for them with the big kids around.

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Each week I share my weekly menu plan with you as I find menu planning and using my menu board very helpful to me and the rest of the family during the week. Having a plan, even if it changes over the course of the week, helps keep late afternoon chaos low, maintains a well-fed crew and keeps food bills and food waste low.

I find that if I write the list of dinners for the week on the menu board I can glance at it quickly during the day and remember what I need to do for dinner prep. James and the girls like to look at the board to get a feel for what to expect for the week ahead (both to anticipate and steel themselves depending on whether the meal is a favorite or not!)

Note: Meals are subject to change at the chef’s discretion or whim.

We are heading into our first full week of school. I’m still not used to the strange quiet in the house. Not that our house is usually noisy but even when the girls are just hanging out in the kitchen, reading quietly on the sofa, the house has a different feel about it. And a different sound. The sound of their presence.

Having the weekend with the kids was welcome and with James away biking in Oregon there was certainly a lot of togetherness ūüôā Our summer menu plan was very successful. It was a huge time and energy saver. I have really enjoyed being able to focus on my family and not have to think too much about preparing meals.¬† I am now transitioning menus. I have¬†been working on our Autumn/Winter menu and almost have a final draft, which I’ll post about next week. For now here is our menu plan for the coming week. A taste of Autumn at Bistro Pinguino.

Crispy Halibut, Boiled Jacket Potatoes, Carrots & Corn

Dublin Stew, Irish Brown Bread

Chicken Pesto Farfalle, Avocado, Garlic Bread

Prawn Rogan Josh, Rice, Green beans

Simple Quiche and Bacon & Mushroom Quiche, Avocado & Orange Salad, Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Chicken Pad Thai, Rice Noodles & Asian Veggies

Gammon Steaks, Rice, Baby Peas & Brussel Sprouts

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Thanks to Joe over at Simply Being Mum I was inspired to focus on reading this summer for myself. I created some bucket lists for the family for the summer and facilitated their summer reading by attending the library every Wednesday for story time and book borrowing. We enjoyed visits to the book shop, I read to the boys endlessly and even read one book out loud to the girls (these days they are more interested in reading their own books in the evening than having James or I read to them). Reading Joe’s summer schedule post at the start of the summer gave me the push I needed to make time for my reading too. It worked!


Francesca’s Kitchen

Villa Mirabella

I discovered a new author, Peter Pezzelli, whose books I am enjoying. I like Francesca’s Kitchen the best of the two and both were light feel good summer reads.


A Year in Provence

On Rue Tatin

When summer rolls around I find myself wanting to read travel biographies. This summer I decided to reread two of my favorites, both set in France. One related to Normandy where I lived one summer as a teenager, the other was set in Provence an area I’ve longed to visit.


Full House

Star Sullivan

Last month, while researching whether there were any new books out from some of my favorite authors I spotted that Maeve Binchy wrote two novellas that I hadn’t read. So I ordered them, thrilled that there was still some of her work to enjoy. Tragically, I learned of her death just before my newly ordered books arrived from Europe. I read them feeling sad that one of my favorite authors and fellow country woman was no longer in the world. A new novel will be published post-humously in October and then there will be no more. The sad passing of a lovely lady with a wonderful talent. What I loved the most about her books were her characters. She had an amazing ability to create people who stay with me long after I finish¬†one of her¬†books. They seem like real people, resembling people¬†I knew, or could expect to bump into, in Ireland.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I never read this series and have wanted to read it aloud to my children. I had an opportunity in August to read this out loud as the girls while they were helping my friend Laura by punching out some appliques that will be used for her Glittersweet bags. Even Ethan at 3 years old¬†really enjoyed the book and would ask me afterwards to read to him from “the wardrobe book”. Very sweet.

Simplicity Parenting

I reread this excellent parenting book this summer. I’d first encountered it at the start of the year. It continues to inspire the efforts I have been making to ensure that our family life is as simple as we can make it, without lots of stuff or activities complicating our home life and lots of down time to enjoy together.

I am now contemplating what I might read for the rest of the year. I’m particularly looking forward to getting back to the Martin Beck series that I started reading earlier this year. I stopped because they weren;t the kind of books I felt like reading over the summer. I have some books on the go at the moment and a nice pile of unreads to choose from. Oh, the excitement of it all. I’m consistently reading again!

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At the start of the week, with only two days to go before returning to school, our family hit two stores in order to get all the girls’ school supplies. Actually the entire six of us went to one store and then James took the girls to the next one to polish of the supply list while I took the boys home for their naps. I managed a two hour nap too. Delicious!

When I woke up the girls had returned and their new supplies were gathered on the kitchen table. The thrill! The excitement! The newness!

They particularly love their sparkly new pencil cases: purple for Ashley, blue for Caitlin.

In the quiet of the late afternoon I found myself smiling for them, remembering how much I enjoyed gathering together my school supplies when I was a kid. My uncle Jimmy worked in office supplies and he would visit us shortly before school started with most of our school supplies. I would spend the last few days of the summer vacation itching to write and write and write on those blank pages of my copybooks.

In all the excitement of the return to school we also feel a little sad that the summer vacation has ended. Despite my up and down summer I have loved having all the kids home, with no school schedule to follow and lots of down time for us to enjoy small pleasures.

My surprising thought as I looked at the girls’ supplies, and fondly remembered my uncle Jimmy and his school supplies drop off, was that I wish I homeschooled.

No, I haven’t lost my mind ūüôā I know homeschooling would be a lot of work, but the number of hours it would take to complete the course work is a lot less than the number of hours they spend at school and we could control our own schedule.

More control over our daily schedule and more time with all the kids. That’s a very appealing thought right now. I’m going to miss my girls now that school is back!

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