Happy 4th Birthday to Our Darling Daughter, Ellie!

Today, Ellie turned four!  This morning she told me, “Mama, I can’t pick up Mark today, even though I’m four!” Clearly she didn’t grow new muscles overnight but she has grown an immense amount in the past year.

Here’s the proof!

010 (800x533)at her 3rd birthday party, early October 2013

079 (533x800)racing duckies with Grandpa, late October 2013

138 (533x800)showing off her fashion sense, November 2013

077 (800x533)Ready to nap with Puffin and Baby Jesus Puffin (not kidding), December 2013

044 (800x532)Eating pepperoni pizza (her favorite food) at Mark’s first birthday party, January 2014

009 (800x533)very proud of the snowman she built with Yiayia, February 2014

006 (800x533) (3)with Bear as her Baby finally got some hair, March 2014

EllieDress (533x800)during the family picture photo shoot, April 2014

002 (800x533)“A purse makes a cute hat, Mama!”, May 2014

023 (800x533)on the train at the zoo, June 2014 (while her brother clutches me in terror)

007 (800x533)wearing doll clothes knitted by Yiayia and doll booties sewn by her great grandmother (my father’s mother), July 2014

001 (800x534)intently absorbed in an art project, her favorite thing to do, August 2014

009 (800x532)drawing with sidewalk chalk, September 2014

Look at that grown-up girl with the long hair!  We love you, Ellie!  You delight us every day with your zest for life and your love for your family.  We can’t wait to see what the next year brings for you!

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One More Time and Then No More (after 1,459 days)

Ellie turns four on Monday. Early in the summer, we started talked to Ellie about weaning and she declared to us that when she was four, she wasn’t going to have nursing anymore.  Frankly, I’ve been ready for her to be weaned for close to a year.  Clearly, however, she wasn’t and it was just easier to keep on nursing (that whole inertia thing) rather than try to figure out the right words to say to help her be OK with weaning any earlier.

This week, we’ve been talking every day about how her birthday is coming up and that means no more nursing.  For the past year, she’s only nursed once a day, at bedtime, and only for about five minutes.  Clearly, that’s not much nursing but it has been important to her and a clear way of marking bedtime.  She has decided that she wants lots of cuddling at bedtime instead of nursing and that she wants to cuddle “usually with Baba and sometimes with Mama.”  So that’s the plan – lots of cuddling to meet the love and comfort needs that nursing used to fill.

I can’t say that I’m all that sad about Ellie weaning.  (See my “ready for a year” comment above.)  However, it is hard for me to imagine being with my precious daughter without her needing to nurse.  She was a voracious nurser from the very beginning despite our struggles and continued to nurse really enthusiastically up until I started to cut her back when she was close to three.  When my milk came in after Mark was born, she would be so excited to nurse, she would lie on her bed at bedtime, kick her legs up and down and shout, “NURSE! NURSE! NURSE!”  She had nursed dry (i.e. gotten no milk) for so many months while I was pregnant with Mark that I think she had forgotten that milk was part of nursing!

Tonight she told me that she liked “warm milk” (i.e. Mama’s milk) better than “cold milk” (i.e. cow’s milk).  I’m sure she’s going to miss nursing too but it’s been fun to see her giggling with glee at being so grown up and OLD (because four is SO OLD) that she doesn’t need nursing.

She’s my big grown up girl who loves to nurse and will love to cuddle and who is turning into a teenage. Yesterday, she told me, “You are totally wrong and I am totally right!!!!!” For the record, I was right and she was wrong.

024 (800x533)She really loves chocolate ice cream! :)

And so, we have one more time of nursing together and then, oddly, I’ll only be nursing one baby (who really isn’t a baby anymore himself) and I’ll have a grown-up girl who amazes me every day with the questions she asks and the things that she knows and the vast emotions that stream out of her.  And we won’t have nursing to help with calming those emotions at night before bed and so we’ll have to learn, together, how to process them in other ways.  And I’ll always be grateful for my girl who gave me the gift of four years of “milk and love flowing from me to her.”

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Ellie Learns How to Use a Knife

A couple months ago, I realized that I was letting Ellie get behind on her knife-using education (i.e we hadn’t started yet).  So we began with chopping rhubarb for rhubarb crisp bars.  She is now IN LOVE with using a knife and doesn’t let me get away with chopping vegetables for dinner without her.

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We’ve discovered that using a serrated steak knife works best for her.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and rhubarb are all good candidates for almost-four-year-olds to cut.  I usually prepare the sticks (of cucumber or zucchini for example) and them let her chop them into pieces.

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She’s pretty picky about the way she likes things too.  The other day, I left the seeds on the cucumbers because they were small pickling cucumbers (with very small seeds).  I came back a few minutes later to find Ellie painstakingly slicing off every seed.  “We don’t eat the seeds, Mama!”

003 (800x533)zucchini, as chopped by Ellie

For Ellie, using a real knife to cut real food for our real meals is a way for her to feel useful and needed in our family.  It’s also a pretty great way to feel powerful and in control, something that’s usually in short supply when you’re young.  For me, Ellie’s knife adventures are good “letting go” practice.  I have to give up my perfectionist tendencies towards perfectly uniform vegetable pieces.  I also have to practice trusting her, in this case that she’s not going to slice off her fingers.  I figure it’s good practice for all the things that we are eventually going to have to let her do (like drive a car, gasp, faint, fall over.) As a bonus, I don’t have to all the dinner prep by myself anymore! (Plus she’s busy so she’s not pestering her brother while I’m trying to make dinner.)

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If This Isn’t the Craziest Way to Take a Nap…

…I don’t know what is!

002 (800x534)This is not the only time I’ve caught him sleeping this way! :)

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The Bossy Edition: Peel Your Eggplant! Make This Salad! Cook These Recipes!

In an effort to keep this blog from being dominated by cooking, this is a three-part post, full of bossiness.  If you follow all of my instructions, your life will be transformed.  Seriously, it will be.

1. Peel your eggplant!

I heard this instruction on Food and Wine (a local radio cooking show).  To be honest, that show is so often pretentious and ridiculous, I almost wrote it off.  As in, the chef said (in a of course everyone knows this voice), “Oh of course, never put eggplant skin in ratatouille.”  But then, a few weeks ago, I made ratatouille and decided, why not try it? So I used a vegetable peeler to take off the skin before chopping up the eggplant (super easy) and it was the best ratatouille. I’d ever made.  Then last week, I made this super delicious barley salad with roasted eggplant.  Again, I peeled the eggplant before chopping and the roasted eggplant was so amazingly delicious, I had to stop myself from eating all of it before dinner.

As it turns out, it’s not that I don’t like eggplant.  It’s that I don’t like eggplant skin.  That’s why I love melitzanosalata so much.  Repeat after me: I promise to always peel my eggplant before cooking it.

2. Make this salad before watermelons go out of season!

Laura’s Watermelon Salad
(modeled after an amazingly delicious one eaten at Blue Hill Tavern several years ago)

008 (800x533)This is fancy schmancy – usually we just put it all in a bowl and chow down!

Cubed watermelon
crumbled goat cheese
thinly sliced red onion
caramelized walnuts (I sprinkle mine with salt while stirring – I have to make twice as many as we need so that there’s enough left for dinner.) :)

Arrange on a plate or in individual bowls and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Make sure you have all parts in each bite.  Wish that watermelons are in season year-round.  Dream of next summer’s watermelon.

(I use a method similar to this one to caramelize my walnuts except that I don’t bother with er – just sugar, walnuts, and salt.)

3. Cook these recipes! Here’s a bit of a roundup of recipes we’ve been enjoyed over the past few weeks (in case you need an idea for what to cook for dinner tonight).  (Clearly, I like Smitten Kitchen.)

Sweets:

  • Brownies (I made some with dark chocolate cocoa powder last weekend -YUM.)
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars (leave out the strawberries, double the rhubarb, increase the sugar a smidge and you have an amazing rhubarb bar.)

Go forth and consume delicious food, NOW! :)

 

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Classics Club, Book #8: Middlemarch (from August 2014)

This is my eighth post for The Classics Club (just a couple weeks late).  I’ll be reading one classic book a month for the next 4-5 years.  Track what I’m reading for the Classics Club here.  I’ll try not to include too many spoilers in my review but I may need to discuss some in order to fully review the book. I’ll warn you if I’m going to mention one.  

Middlemarch by George Eliot

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  • Year Published: 1874
  • Reread? Or new to me?:  New to me
  • Number of Pages: 838
  • Date Finished: 8/23/14
  • Number of Days it took me to read it: I read 100 pages in the first two weeks of August but we were also on vacation so I just didn’t do much reading.  Then between 8/16 and 8/23, I read the rest of it.  So I’m going to say that it took me 11 days to read it (counting the first two weeks as three days.)
  • Page/Day ratio:  76:1
  • Will I reread this?:  Probably not, just because it was so long and so many parts of it dragged on and on for me.

Review: 

I have to admit, I almost gave up on this one.  I was bored, B-O-R-E-D, for almost the first 200 pages, which is an entire book by most people’s standards.  I didn’t understand much of the politics being discussed, the characters were less than intriguing. I could tell the planned marriage was an awful idea, and I really didn’t seem much point in continuing on.  Enter, “I told the world I was going to read this book so I’d better finish it.”  I also was averaging about 30 pages a day, which meant that it was going to take me close to a month to finish the book, which is an eternity for me.  So I buckled down, read for hours on end, ignored Nik for a few evenings, got no sewing done, and finished it in a week.  In short, this was the first book in a long time that I actually had to work at to finish.

Thankfully, the book shifted for me around the time that Lydgate and the other main characters entered the picture.  After that, the rich texture of the book began to become apparent to me and I found myself invested in Dorothea’s [perhaps unfounded but] incredibly faithful devotion to her husband, Lydgate’s ill-fated desire to reform his profession, Rosamund’s awful treatment of her own husband, and more.

I did my best to read every word of this book but still found my eyes glazing over when it came to the discussions of mid-19th-century politics and religion.  I think I would have really enjoyed taking a college class devoted only to this book as it’s incredibly rich with social commentary.  I’m sure that even a semester wouldn’t be enough to learn all there is to learn from delving deep into this book.  As it was, most of that flew right by me as I read just for the plot itself.

In the end, I’m really glad to have read this book.  I probably won’t ever read it again because it’s SO long.  However, I do wish I had been reading my own copy because I did come upon several passages, particularly related to marriage and faithfulness, that I would have underlined and come back to had I been able to.  (And yes, I know I should have been marking them with paper but I never had any handy.)  So perhaps, someday, I’ll pick it up again, skip to the middle and take it on again.

How about you? Have a favorite Middlemarch character? Studied it in college?  Read it many times?  Even liked the first section?

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Would you like to join me in reading Austen’s Northanger Abbey in September?  (Actually, I already finished it but probably won’t be posting my review for awhile.  So you still have time to read it before I review it!)

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Couldn’t resist two more shots with Mark featured a little more prominently (even if you can’t see the book title)!

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A bit of an Ellie and Mark Fix

A boy with his bunny and an obsession with looking outside on the off chance he might see trucks or buses or any other thing that goes:

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Mark proudly inspecting the fruits of our garden from last week:

005 (800x533)Cuddle love!009 (800x533)Mark’s first taste, and Ellie’s second, of fast food because, well, Nik was off having fun at the US Open and I had been cutting up corn and tomatoes all day and the house was a mess and Yiayia thought it would be fun, and why not, right?  Loosen up the rules just a tad every two years or so? :)

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Ellie’s trip to the “candy store”

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I especially love that she didn’t even know enough about candy to be able to call it anything other than “paintbrush candy” and “pencil candy”.  Just goes to show that I’ve done a passable job of suppressing my desire to eat a Snickers bar every time we go to the grocery store! :) (And sorry about Mark’s shrieking.  He’s definitely starting to assert himself if he doesn’t get what he wants!)

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