Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Year in Books: 2015 Edition

I wrote in September about how joining my street's new book club had gotten me back into the habit of reading. I'm happy to report that's still the case. I'm not at my pre-kid level of eight books per month, but I will have finished seven books this month. I'm pretty proud of that.

I knew I wouldn't be able to read 96 books this year like I used to, but this fall I did give myself a more attainable goal -- 34 books since I turned 34 years old over the summer. I have just one book to go, and it's a short one by one of my favorite authors that I'm looking forward to reading. I know I'm going to meet my goal.

This is a big deal for me. I didn't realize how much I missed reading until I largely let go of the habit and then returned to it. It's easy to turn on the TV at night after a long day with the kids -- and don't get me wrong, I still do that. I just try to stick a half hour of reading in there first.

Here are a few of my favorites from the year, in the order in which I read them:
  • "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. Had to reread the classic before our Atticus was born!
  • "Here" by Richard McGuire. Largely a graphic novel, with very little text.
  • "Do No Harm" by Henry Marsh. A non-fiction account of the day-to-day realities of being a surgeon, with lots of anecdotes.
  • "Some Luck" by Jane Smiley. The first in a trilogy. I loved them all, but start at the beginning. Each chapter covers one year in the life of a single extended family. After the last chapter of the last book, a full century has gone by. Read this so I have someone to talk about it with!
  • "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. This book has gotten a lot of press for good reason. Short, but it really has made me reevaluate why I keep what I do.
  • "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. A blind French girl and a young Nazi cross paths in France during World War II. 
Happy reading in 2016!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Photo Friday: Merry Christmas from My Family to Yours

Thanks to my talented sister-in-law for taking these family photos in October! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Family of Four Christmas

Christmastime is always exciting for me. Of course there are the presents, but I look forward much more to spending time with extended family ... and stuffing myself silly with cookies.

While our Christmas routine won't much change this year, I think the holiday will be even more fun than usual. One kid will be celebrating his first Christmas, while the other will be celebrating it for the first time with at least some inkling about what the holiday really means.

At almost 9 months old, Atticus would be happy unwrapping an empty box. And the get-togethers and new faces may very well be overwhelming. But I'll remember the significance of the day for him.

Thanks to my sister-in-law for the photo!

Edith just turned 3 and kind of understands that Christmas is the day that Jesus was born. And she definitely understands the concept of opening presents!

For this one, too!

And so the season has been a tad bit more magical than it has been for many years. I look forward to many more.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Making a Rainbow Birthday Cake

Paul has frequently said that his favorite flavor is artificial. I'm never quite sure if he's joking, but for his birthday I wasn't taking any chances.

Last weekend I made him a rainbow cake. 

It wasn't difficult, but it was very, very time consuming. Two hours is too long to spend on a cake.

It did look impressive though. And I'm not saying I wouldn't make it again - just not for a long time.

The gist --

Make the cake batter (I found a one-bowl from-scratch recipe, but I believe two boxes of cake mix will do) and split it into six bowls. Color each bowl of batter red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

Bake each color separately in a 9-inch pan. Then let the pans cool to the touch and carefully put the layer on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. Layer the colors with frosting in between, and then frost the tops and side. Voila. 

My first two layers broke apart, probably because I didn't butter and flour the pan enough, or I tried to lift it from the pan when it was still too warm. But the mistake wasn't at all noticeable in the final product. Here's the recipe I used., although Paul requested cinnamon frosting rather than cream cheese.

The frosting was the only thing Paul knew of the dessert before I cut into it. Luckily it was as delicious as it was surprising, and oh, so artificial.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Photo Friday: Recycling Is So Much Fun

We recently spent the better part of a day with a friend and her two kids at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Dayton's answer to COSI. Edith spent a good two hours of that time putting pictures of recyclables into this recycling truck and then pushing a button to make all of the recyclables come out of the back of the truck. TWO HOURS.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Picture with Santa

Image courtesy of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

It was our third annual trip to visit Santa at the Ohio Statehouse, and for the first time we have a success story.

Even if the kids weren't smiling, they weren't crying. That's success as far as I'm concerned.

I was in such a hurry to take my photos that I forgot to focus on the kids' faces, so they are a tad bit blurry. Happily, the official photographer standing next to me got some good ones, although the best of the bunch features a blurry Mrs. Claus hand. But the photos are free, so I'm not complaining!

Photo by me. Notice the pink shoes --
I realized at the last minute that her fancy black ones didn't fit!

Photo by me.

Edith seemed neither scared nor happy, just interested. Atticus, of course, had no idea what was going on. I'll take it.

Image courtesy of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

Image courtesy of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Columbus's Audubon Center

View from the Audubon Center

The kids were up a bit earlier than normal on one recent Thursday morning, so I made a decision. We would finally visit the Audubon Center downtown, near German Village.

On Thursdays the center has a children's story time, so that would be the perfect morning to check out what it had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised.

The story time itself was fine, but the surroundings were amazing. A few kids gathered around the woman reading the stories in the center's library, a room with three walls made of windows, overlooking bird feeders, the nearby park and the downtown skyline. Also in the center: a small children's play area, with costumes, a climbing structure, puppets and more.

It was a cold, windy day, so we almost went straight home. But we finally decided to brave the elements and walk over a curving path over a pond to the park. There were a couple of playgrounds, but two things make the park stand apart -- a large climbing structure and a water tower with a viewing area partway up. We tested nothing (saved that for a sunny day!), instead abandoning the largely deserted park for our car.

I've known about the Audubon Center for quite some time, and now I'm disappointed that I've only recently visited. Now I'll have to wait until the weather turns next year to truly take advantage of the park.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Day at the Columbus Zoo

Neither Edith nor Atticus had ever been to a zoo, and I couldn't remember the last time I had visited. So when Paul had a Monday off at the beginning of the month, we headed to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

My idea of a good time doesn't involve being surrounded by animals. Nevertheless, I did want to see the newish Africa area of the zoo -- particularly the giraffes. I got my wish but didn't realized until we got there how close I was to being disappointed. The exhibit was to already have been closed, but the weather was so warm that day (about 70 degrees) that the giraffes were out.

We saw lions and tigers and bears as well as monkeys, fish and rhinos. The kangaroo exhibit was locked, but we did see penguins, flamingos and animals that I'd never even heard of.

Of course, toddler Edith often seemed more excited by the playground and statues to climb on, but it was a fun, exciting day. After about five hours of exploring, she was practically asleep before we left the parking lot that afternoon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday, Edith!

Sept. 12, 2015

They say the days go by slowly, but the years go by fast. Never have three years passed by any quicker than the last three with Edith. Her third birthday is already this Saturday.

How much has changed since 2012! The little baby of yesterday is now running and jumping and easy to make laugh. She's singing songs and playing games. She's not only talking, but conversing.

Numbers, letters, colors, shapes -- those are all old hat. Now she wants to know how words are spelled and demands books by name. Her favorite question: "What's that?" No longer content with a toy or two, she wants to create. Blocks, watercolors and Play-Doh are popular with her right now.

She's a wonderful big sister and watches out for her little brother (even if it's just to keep him away from her toys!). She'll ride in the stroller reluctantly, much preferring to give up her seat to Atticus so that she can walk. And she's anxious to get out the door if we're going to the library, playground, store or grocer.

With these new preferences, skills and vocabulary come new challenges. This girl has a mind of her own. But even on the most frustrating of days, I wouldn't change her for the world.

Oct. 17, 2015 - First time at the movies (Inside Out)

Nov. 2, 2015 - Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

Friday, November 13, 2015

Photo Friday: NYC's Silver Towers Playground

Even I want to go down this slide! Located on West 42nd Street, near the Hudson River.

Edith, Sept. 28, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A City Island Wedding

The wedding of two good friends in New York is what prompted our trip there during the last week of September. It also was the perfect excuse to visit a part of the city that I'd never before seen: City Island.

City Island is a part of the Bronx a good hour from where we lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. While you can see the Manhattan skyline in the distance, the vibe is about as far from Times Square as you can get. It feels much more like a New England fishing village. In fact, it's known for its seafood.

The ceremony was held at the City Island Yacht Club, on a pier overlooking sailboats and the sunset. It was a beautiful setting for two wonderful people and a lovely way to see a corner of New York that I otherwise probably never would have.


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