Photo Friday

Lemon pudding "painting." Also known ass: very messy and yummy snack time.

Lemon pudding “painting.” Also known ass: very messy and yummy snack time.

Collecting things.

Collecting things.

Getting into the Halloween spirit. Bath time with his jack-o-lantern bucket and zombie cup.

Getting into the Halloween spirit. Bath time with his jack-o-lantern bucket and zombie cup.

"I'm ready to go mom! Stop taking pictures!"

“I’m ready to go mom! Stop taking pictures!”

Sticking acorns through the fence. Much better than trying to eat them.

Sticking acorns through the fence. Much better than trying to eat them.

Leaves! :)

Leaves! 🙂

Yes, I put my baby inside a tree. He had fun playing with the dirt/sawdusty stuff inside.

Yes, I put my baby inside a tree. He had fun playing with the dirt/sawdusty stuff inside.

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Silly With Socks

Lewis loves feet. Since he was tiny he has been obsessed with feet, socks, shoes, etc. You might even say he has a foot fetish. He plays with everyone’s shoes and carries them around the house, opens his drawer to take out the socks, steals Daddy’s socks as he gets ready for work, opens my drawer to play with my socks, etc. One of the silliest and most fun things to do is to try to wear Mommy or Daddy’s shoes or socks. Giant socks on your hands? Fabulous.

"Hahaha! Look! There are socks on my hands!"

“Hahaha! Look! There are socks on my hands!”

"I'm looking at you through a chair with socks on my hands! This is so silly!"

“I’m looking at you through a chair with socks on my hands! This is so silly!”

"Yay! Socks! I can clap with them on my hands too!"

“Yay! Socks! I can clap with them on my hands too!”

"Hehehehe. Sock hands."

“Hehehehe. Sock hands.”

"Hmm playing with this toy is kind of different and tricky with these socks on my hands."

“Hmm playing with this toy is kind of different and tricky with these socks on my hands.”

I am seriously in love with this little man. I cannot get enough of his adorable faces and amazing silliness and sense of humor! ❤

Homemade Yogurt

Yesterday I made homemade yogurt for the first time, and it was surprisingly easy! I have heard of making yogurt at home before, but always assumed you needed special ingredients/equipment/etc. Nope! All you need is a pot (or crock pot), some yogurt, and some milk. A thermometer can also be useful but not completely necessary.

I was inspired to try yogurt making after reading a post about it on The Kitchn. They outline the stove top method, but after reading through the comments and seeing that some people use their crock pots I decided to try it that way. It seemed like it would be easier to be more hands-off with it and be able to have it just heating up on its own while I was busy with Lewis.

The recipe on the Kitchn includes instructions to heat it up to just under 200 degrees (I’ve seen other recipes saying go to 185), while the crock pot method just says heat on low 2 1/2 hours. I used a half gallon of Horizon organic whole milk, which happened to be on sale when I went to the store. I heated on low two and a half hours, itching to take a peak at it but opening the crock pot makes it lose heat so I made myself wait. Once the time was reached I checked the temp and it was only up to 140. I switched it up to high and I think ended up heating it another hour and a half before it reached 185.

At that point I turned it off and just left it sitting covered to slowly cool down to 115 while I was busy with Lewis. After about an hour I cracked the lid open slightly so it could cool the rest of the way a bit faster. It took about 2 -2 1/2 hours total to cool. I then scooped some out, whisked in my half cup of yogurt (Greek Gods plain yogurt – one of my favorites) and poured it back in. I wrapped the whole thing up in a towel and that was that.

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The yogurt incubating.

You are supposed to try to keep it around 110 degrees for at least 4-6 hours, but can go up to overnight. Mine sat for about 5 hours. I checked the temp when I unwrapped it and it was already a little under 100, so if I want to incubate longer I will need to insulate it more. Some people suggest putting it inside the oven or the microwave, or I could just wrap another layer of towel over it.

I was happy to see it looking thick and yogurty when I opened up the crock pot! I was a little bit worried it wouldn’t thicken up. Some info that I read mentioned that people have trouble using “ultra-pasteurized” milk, which mine was. Thankfully it seems to have worked just fine!

I had a small taste when I opened it last night, then put it in the fridge to chill and thicken up a bit more. This morning I enjoyed a nice bowl of fresh homemade yogurt for breakfast!

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I ate it plain because I wanted to really taste the character of the yogurt. It tastes very fresh and yummy with a little bit of tangy-ness. It is quite soft and runny compared to store bought. Apparently the longer you keep it warm the more it will thicken but it will also get more tangy. You can also thicken it by straining it through a cheese cloth or coffee filter. I plan on straining some to make a thicker yogurt for Lewis because he makes less of a mess with the greek-style yogurts, but for myself eating it and for smoothies and such this is perfect.

I also plan on trying it with yummy toppings suck as honey, fresh fruit, chia seeds, granola, ginger spread, etc. etc.

This is really good and I am looking forward to making it again! Next time will be even easier since I now know to heat it on high and have an idea of approximately how long that will take, and also know that I need to wrap it up a bit more. I am also curious to try different brands of milk to see how that affects the flavor. The other cool thing is that next time I can just save half a cup from this batch and use that as a starter – no need to buy more store bought yogurt to get it going!

I also used some of this in a smoothie today for Lewis, which he guzzled down. I don’t use a recipe for my smoothies, just throw together whatever I have on hand and mix it up with the immersion blender (which Lewis loves watching.) Today’s smoothie included: Homemade yogurt, papaya, grapes, a handful of oats, a sprinkle of chia seeds, and a handful of mustard greens! Mustard greens can be a bit spicy, but I didn’t put in enough for that to come through in the taste. I could mostly taste the papaya and a hint of the oats in this one. Lewis must have liked it since he drank even more than he usually does, and he loves smoothies!

Random Tidbits

Well, I seem to be slacking in my blog-writing recently. Finding some time to write can be hard because often it is a choice between blogging, washing dishes, getting lunch ready, doing some art, etc. Sleeping-baby time is precious and I always like to feel as though I’m using my time wisely (whether that means putting my feet up or getting down and scrubbing the floor depends on the day.) Anyway, since I haven’t updated in a bit I figured I would just blabber on at random about whatever comes to mind.

Exploring a squash from our CSA box.

Exploring a squash from our CSA box.

We have been having beautiful fall weather, still pretty warm during the day. Unfortunately some rainy/gloomy weather decided to hit us over the weekend. (Of course it had to be the weekend.) We had planned on apple picking again Saturday but it started to sprinkle just as we were getting into the car. We decided to risk it anyway and started driving towards the orchard, only to have it rain more. We detoured to the smaller orchard instead to check out the gift shop because they usually have a certain hot sauce that Chris loves and we hadn’t gone there in a while. There was no hot sauce for him but we had a fun time anyway. Lewis LOVED the pumpkins outside and ran around trying to pick them all up. We bought him a gourd and a tiny pumpkin to take home. He also had fun looking at the animals and exploring a little mini hay maze. Unfortunately we didn’t think to bring the camera with us.

I’m continuing to slowly chip away at the kitchen-cleaning. Some days all I can seem to get done is to wash a sink full of dishes, but I did finish organizing our food, sorting the gadgets and tools, scrubbed around/behind the sink, and cleaned the stove top. It is now on my to-do list to clean the drip pans under the burners more often. Eww! (Or perhaps we should just learn not to spill things while cooking.)

These things are shiny and hard to photograph. This is part way through scrubbing - I couldn't bear to show the true "before" photos.

These things are shiny and hard to photograph. This is part way through scrubbing – I couldn’t bear to show the true “before” photos. (And for some reason the photo turned itself on its side…)

My next big tasks in the kitchen are to clean the oven (eek) and clean all the appliances on the counter tops as well as under/behind everything. That one is fairly straightforward, but it takes actually catching up with the dishes first so that I have space to work. Unfortunately Chris is super busy with work this week so has less time/energy to help out with the dishes and such. It will get done eventually though and I will continue tackling it bit by bit.

Yesterday was gorgeous weather and Lewis and I had a lot of fun playing in the leaves. I kicked some into a pile and he enjoyed walking through them, sitting in them, kicking them, and picking them up to toss in the air. I didn’t bring the camera along but we will probably go play with the leaves again today so perhaps I will have some leaf photos to include in the Photo Friday post this week.

Lewis and I continue to go for walks almost every day with the stroller. The mornings have been quite chilly so we either have been going a bit later in the morning or waiting to go later in the day. I don’t really like that we are just going at random times though, so I need to just pick a time for this and make it a routine part of our day again. We usually walk about 30 minutes but when I went in for my physical the dr. recommended I exercise a bit more, and said if walking is my exercise it would be better to go for an hour. Today we walked for 45 minutes and Lewis seemed fine with it so perhaps I will start stretching out the length of our walks a bit. I’m always hesitant to confine him in the stroller too long because I worry he will get bored or uncomfortable, but I think that is just in my imagination.

Napping with his Champy monster.

Napping with his Champy monster.

Lewis’ sleep seems to be improving recently, although I am mentally prepared for it to just be a fluke and for it to get worse again at any time. His “normal” is to wake three times in the night and sleep 2-4 hours between each waking. Sometimes we have a night or few nights in a row where he wakes more than this or sleeps shorter times in between. However, in the past week he has had three nights where he slept for 6 straight hours and last night he only woke 2 times instead of the usual 3+, so I am feeling a bit hopeful that maybe he is finally growing out of waking quite so much. I guess only time will tell and I know his sleep patterns seem to constantly be changing anyway. He is still doing great with naps, which is wonderful for giving me time during the day to do a few things.

Photo Friday

"I'm going to blow my nose with this tissue."

“I’m going to blow my nose with this tissue.”

We had so much fun outside, playing peekaboo under/through/over this bench.

We had so much fun outside, playing peekaboo under/through/over this bench.

He loves dandelions, both yellow and fluffy. He can't blow the seeds off yet so he wiped them all over his shirt instead.

He loves dandelions, both yellow and fluffy. He can’t blow the seeds off yet so he wiped them all over his shirt instead.

Noticed his closed sensory box by the table and took advantage of the opportunity to reach all the treasures that are normally too high for him.

Noticed his closed sensory box by the table and took advantage of the opportunity to reach all the treasures that are normally too high for him.

More peekaboo. Peeking under and around furniture is one of his favorite games.

More peekaboo. Peeking under and around furniture is one of his favorite games.

Striped pajamas. <3

Striped pajamas. ❤

Mr. Strong Man, carrying around Mommy's 4 lb weights. These have been removed from his area of access, due to concerns that he might drop one on his toe.

Mr. Strong Man, carrying around Mommy’s 4 lb weights. These have been removed from his area of access, due to concerns that he might drop one on his toe.

He goes into super-silly mode every evening after dinner, ready for intense play time with Mommy and Daddy, running around, chasing, tickling, etc. He also loves my aprons.

He goes into super-silly mode every evening after dinner, ready for intense play time with Mommy and Daddy, running around, chasing, tickling, etc. He also loves my aprons.

The Kitchn Cure

One of the blogs I read on a semi-regular basis is The Kitchn, and offshoot of the Apartment Therapy blog. This week they started a kitchen-cleaning challenge, called The Kitchn Cure. It’s a ten-day long challenge with a couple “break days” (or catch-up days) built in. Each day they post a new assignment for your kitchen and if you sign up they will also send you an email reminder. I have been meaning to deep-clean our kitchen for a long time now and never seem to find the time/energy for it, so I figured this was the perfect time to do it with a little hand holding and a community of other kitchen-cleaners to share complaints with.

They are promoting it asking people to post photos and stories on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc., labeling with hashtags and all that, but I decided it would just be easier for me to post some of my progress and before/after photos here. I guess I’m not as big on the social media as some people. Also don’t have an awesome phone with fancy camera to easily and instantly post photos.

The assignment for day one (monday) was to clean the refrigerator. Sort all the food, throw out expired condiments, wash all the surfaces, etc. This came on both a good and bad day for me. Since we do our shopping Sunday, Mondays the fridge is quite full of all the food for the week. This means there was a lot to work around but also that the fridge was looking especially disastrous and in need of some thorough organizing.

Before

Before

I found 6 or 7 condiment bottles to get rid of and some bags of wilted old herbs from our CSA box, but for the most part we don’t leave things like leftovers in the fridge to get moldy or anything. We are pretty good about eating up what we have or tossing things we aren’t going to use. The fridge was still pretty crowded after my cleaning, but at least it was clean and more organized.

After

After

They estimate 1-2 hours of cleaning for each day’s assignment, but even an hour is a stretch for me some days. I didn’t get to the freezer or the drawers of the fridge on Monday because Lewis woke up from his nap.

Tuesday’s assignment was cleaning the “pantry” (oh how I wish I had a pantry,) but I didn’t get even a start on it since I have other things to do also like relax with a cup of coffee, write in this blog, keep up with the laundry, and wash dishes.

Yesterday was also a wash since we discovered water coming up between the floor boards and maintenance was here for a while, eventually figuring out it was a leaking pipe behind the wall to the under-sink cabinet. They fixed that this morning and today I was able to get back into the cleaning a bit. I finished the last parts of the fridge/freezer, sorted my baking supplies and spice cabinet. I may have got more done if it weren’t for discovering spilled food coloring in the spice cabinet and spending a while scrubbing at it. (There are still stains.) I eliminated a few jars of clumpy/unused/expired seasonings and several bags of very old baking supplies.

Even though I am not keeping up with the day-by-day challenge, I plan on continuing to follow the steps of it and do as much as I can each day.

Tomorrow I get to sort our one food storage cabinet and wipe down the shelves, and then perhaps get started on cleaning the appliances and un-cluttering the gadgets and tools!

My task for tomorrow.

My task for tomorrow.

How’s your kitchen looking?

Impromptu Sensory Play

Some of the best opportunities for play – and for life in general! – come from just flowing with the moment and seeing where it takes you. The best-laid plans can fall to pieces, while the most wonderful activities can come from the spur of the moment.

This is especially true with a toddler. You may plan out a wonderful play experience for them, only to have your plans interrupted by a longer-than-usual nap, an extra messy lunch, or even just the fact that they are totally engrossed playing with that pot they stole from the kitchen, and you don’t want to interrupt their focus and enjoyment. And by just following the lead of what is going on in the environment and in your child’s interests you will find great opportunities, such as the kitchen pot that keeps them busy for hours putting the lid on and off, banging with a wooden spoon, etc.

Several days ago Lewis and I collected beautiful maple leaves outside, planning to play with them in his sensory bin. Even though I know he will love exploring the crunchy colorful leaves we haven’t gotten around to this activity yet. The weather this week has been wonderful, so we have been spending as much time as possible outside, and the time that we are inside he generally seems quite content to follow his own interests and immerse himself in his toys and books.

However, last night circumstances led us to a different sensory play activity instead.

IMG_0360We made pizza dough in the bread machine but unfortunately when it finished and I opened it to take it out I found a sticky mess of goo, clearly needing more flour and kneading. Bread machines can be rather finicky, depending on the current temperature, humidity, etc.

IMG_0365Lewis is always quite curious when I am cooking, so I often pick him up to show him what it is I am doing on that mysterious counter top way above his head. However, since my hands were going to be messy with flour and bread dough that wasn’t really an option this time. Instead I decided to put him up in his high-chair where he could watch me. At first I was just going to give him a measuring cup to hold and play with, but then I realized he might like to explore the soft powdery flour.

His first reaction was to stick his hand in it and wipe it on the side of his face, and then he got down to business of wiping it all around the tray, dragging the measuring cup through it, etc. He also took a lot more tastes than I expected. Personally I don’t find raw flour very appealing, but I guess it was an interesting new taste to him.

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Obviously I should have put a bib or something on him, especially considering that I myself was wearing an apron, but the thought didn’t occur to me until it was already too late. Clean up wasn’t that bad anyway since the flour could just be brushed off of his skin and the tray, and changing clothes is easy enough. He had a lot of fun and kept busy for a good 20 minutes (and probably could have played longer but we needed to clean up to start getting other parts of dinner ready.) This is another activity that we will definitely re-visit in the future. Maybe next time I want to work on some baking project when he’s not napping.