Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Traditions

In addition to our delicious food, we were very busy this weekend with our new McPherson traditions. Some are new this year, and others are from last year.

We had a "T is for Turkey" tot school theme this week, complete with dressing up like a pilgrim. There were some conflicting ideas on how pilgrims dressed, so we incorporated all of them by using the buckle style hat, shawl, bright clothes, and a skirt. I'm assuming they dressed a little warmer. We then did a short rendition of the "first" thanksgiving day in an adorable skit.

 Sora played a lot this weekend! We watch a toddler 1-3 days a week and they are FINALLY getting along well and are friends. He loves to play ball, so Sora plays with him (mostly by throwing it over his head). They also got the privilege of playing with a big tub of dried oatmeal a few times this week which they both loved.
 A new tradition this year was to open presents from my parents. My mom bought us some wintery stuff and it will be nice to have it a month early. Plus, Sora gets enough from her other generous grandparents at Christmas, so this way we'll have "new" toys longer.
 She loves reading and I love Llama Llama books, so this was a perfect gift (notice the book behind her that we just read).
 Sora also got a dollhouse. This is more of a toy for me, I'm sure, but hopefully it will keep her entertained as she gets more and more imaginative. Here she is "cleaning" the treadmill. The house and accessories were great, but it came with an obsessive amount of workout stuff and very strange looking dolls.
 This is my favorite room in our house, so I'm trying to get Sora to love her own craft room (complete with ironing board, iron, clothes washer and sewing machine) as much as I love my craft room.
 The dollhouse comes apart to create any combination. It is currently set up as two dollhouses (one for the Sora doll and one for the Grandma doll).

Another part of our traditions (this one is from last year so it's officially a tradition now) is our Thanksgiving walk. This year, it was really warm out (in the low 50s), so no snow or winter coats!

 Even though it's been an unseasonably warm week, there is still a layer of ice on the pond already. Sora was exploring how thick it is.
 One of Sora's favorite buildings at camp is the nature center because she loves playing on the chalkboard. She is currently obsessed with letters and likes to try to make her own. It's fun to see her little brain work. She has just started remembering similarities. For example, when we wrote Daddy and Mommy on the chalkboard per her request, she realized that daddy and Sora both have A's and mommy and Sora both have O's.
 Although there wasn't any snow, there was plenty of puddles for puddle jumping!

And a very strange sight that we saw:
Look very closely. What is strange about the picture?

(hint: if you look closely, you can see 4 half-dead fish. We saw over 30 poor fish flopping around. We tried to save the first four, but then saw all the rest and realized it must be a part of the life cycle here at camp.)

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we are all patiently waiting for snow so that we can enjoy snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding! And we need the snow to sled the Christmas tree to our house, so hopefully it comes by then!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

BBQ Turkey, Yes please

As most of you know by now my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the food and the time with family as well as the football. It is a great day. I usually plan my Thanksgiving meal many weeks ahead of time. This year was no different. My theme this year was to do classic flavors with new techniques I had not tried before. 

The first recipe I decided on was sweet potato ravioli made from scratch with our old school pasta machine. It is a fair amount of work to get the dough worked right but man it is good and fun. The fresh pasta cooks in like 1 minute and is really tasty.

I finished them off with a garlic cream sauce and they came out pretty awesome. Sora freaking loved them. Here she is with a crazy ravioli face.

Next I decided on taking on the challenge of cooking a turkey on the BBQ. Now I will say I went back and forth on this one. Finally I decided to go for it. I brined the turkey for 16 hours to ensure juiciness. Then I put on my secret turkey rub. Then between the skin and the breast meat I put in a layer of caramelized onions and a layer of thick cut double smoked bacon. Then I put a rough chopped onion and fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary inside the cavity. The herbs and onions inside really release a ton of flavor.

Here is the turkey just as it was set on the grill. The foil wings are to keep the wings from burning. I took them off about half way through. I also rubbed olive oil all over the skin to ensure an amazing crispiness.
A drip pan under the bird helped keep the air moist and the BBQ clean. I finished off the meal with a rye bread and rice sausage stuffing, a sweet potato cornmeal and herb "spoon bread" (kind of like a really creamy corn bread - pretty awesome), and green beans that I wrapped in bundles of five or six beans with some caramelized onions. I wrapped the bundles with a pancetta and baked them. Overall it was a hit. The best flavored turkey I have ever done and another great turkey day. I love this holiday.

Maleah was in charge of dessert. She burnt it, of course, but parts of it were delicious. Because it was burnt there were no pictures, but it was based on this recipe for cranberry custard with meringue and a gingerbread crust.  Yum!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday Parade - Take Two

Yesterday we went to our second holiday parade of the year. Since this one was in Green Bay, it was a "real" parade that lasted over an hour. Luckily it was relatively warm and Sora loved it. 
 Her favorite part, of course was the candy. She also had extra fun since we sat with Kyle's boss and her three kids.
 After the parade we went swimming at the Downtown Y.
We went to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. It was very crowded but Sora loved playing on the mall play area. We were trying to stick around for an evening holiday event at Lambeau field. Around 4, while Sora and I were in the Hobby Lobby, she mentioned that her tummy hurt. She ended up throwing up all over the store and then 8 more times on the very very long drive home. Luckily, we had 3 blankets and 2 towels, but it wasn't quite enough to clean up all the puke that we had to deal with. She's doing much better today and is back to her crazy self.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eat Your (Italian) Heart Out

So I had big plans for a Thanksgiving dinner with the traditional flavors but a super unique take on them. One of the big ideas I had was doing my own sweet potato ravioli. This I learned would require the purchase of a pasta machine. It came in the mail today. So of course I practiced right away. 

It took some serious figuring out. At one point I was about to throw it against the wall. But happiness prevailed when I got it working.

Making the dough is a ton of work but it is interesting and fun. I made the bulk of the dough into some ravioli.

Along with the pasta machine I got a press that forms the ravioli. That part was super simple. Sora loved pulling the pasta apart to get to the awesome filling.

With the last bit of pasta we decided to make some actual noodles that we could hang up to dry.
Come on, you have to admit that is pretty cool. The pasta for the ravioli was perfect and cooks in like 1 minute. Super delicious.

Oh by the way I got my wisdom teeth ripped out today and it was not as bad as I thought. A little advil and beer and I am all good.

Oh, and also by the way, we are having some technical difficulties with our camera. This will mean a new camera soon, but in the meantime, please overlook the terrible quality of photos that our iPod Touch takes. It's the best we've got.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Festive Friday

 Sora and I had a free Friday, since the baby we usually spend Fridays with was sick. We took full advantage by going to story time at the library. The fabulously talented children's librarian there, in addition to reading a mean story, planning great projects, and playing the guitar and singing with the kids, is also a balloon animal master. Here is Sora enjoying a snack at the coffee shop afterwards with her bunny and horse.

 One thing we don't mention often is that Sora is becoming very very timid. She's exuberant and outgoing when she feels very comfortable, but it takes a long time for her to feel comfortable with people. She won't talk to anyone she doesn't really really like. Including the librarian (although another librarian she sees more regularly makes the cut). This often makes me the middle man. Sora will answer questions from others if I ask them, and will talk to me, but not to them. Later, she will tell me that she didn't talk to so and so. The balloon animals came from that type of interaction. The librarian set out the balloons, I asked Sora what color she wanted, she gave it to me, I gave it to the librarian and so on. I'm sure she'll grow out of this stage, but it's kind of funny to see such different sides of her so often.

Friday evening, we headed over to spend the night with Kyle's boss in his town about an hour from our place. There was a very short parade that Sora really liked, and we hung out at the bar while Sora drank hot cocoa and stayed warm.
 Today, we went back downtown for some light shopping, a great breakfast, and a walk to the lighthouse (in reverse order). Here Sora is trying to talk me into buying fabric for her instead of her cousin.
 Sora and her trusty doll, Casey.

We were going to take a ride on this carriage, but it was too crowded and we didn't want to wait.
 Santa was also strolling the streets, after his arrival at the parade the day before. Sora totally gets the Santa concept and remembers him. She remembers that Santa came to our house last year but that she didn't talk to him (probably from our recounting of the story). Again, I was the middle man in this candy exchange. Sora has decided that she doesn't want to talk to Santa this year and doesn't want to see him again until Christmas. While I'm sure that won't be possible, I have assured her that it's totally fine not to talk to Santa this year and that he knows what she wants without her talking to him (which according to her right now is a pulling toy).

While it seems crazy to me to go to a Christmas parade on Nov. 11, it was nice enough weather and we really enjoyed our walk this morning, which probably won't happen in December as winter is quickly taking over here in Wisconsin.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

First Snow

It's that time of year already! Last year, it didn't snow until the day after Thanksgiving, but it was thick and dry. It snowed all day yesterday and only accumulated less than an inch. It was wet enough for snowballs, but of course I was way too cold to make a snowman after we were done with our walk.

In other news, Sora has gained a new level of skills and personality over the past few weeks, which is both good and bad. For example, she told me last night "I'm crying because dad is mean" after Kyle put  her in bed for the 14th time (my fault for allowing a nap from 4-6). Today, she is dancing up a storm to the Laurie Berkner Band with a slightly different dance for each song. Today, she also rolled little play dough balls successfully for the first time. Fun times!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's That Time Again: Shutterfly Ad

Now that it's November, it's time to start thinking about Christmas cards!

Shutterfly stocked most of our Christmas cards and many of our gifts last year. We ended up getting a great deal on cards and made some super cute time line style cards which were perfect for our big year of change! We also got some desk calendars and even a few mugs for presents.

I'm really liking the 5x5 square cards this year. Too many to chose from! I really like these styles...

This year they have some great flat 5x7 cards that you can put photos on the front and back... I think that might be a winner for me!

I'm hoping this year they choose me to receive some of their cards for free for blogging about them, so that all of our biggest fans can continue getting great cards!

Adventures in Lower Michigan

 Sora had an amazing rebound from croup and was well enough to travel across the lake with Maleah to visit with her cousins, aunt, uncle and Grandma and Papa D this weekend.

We drove three hours to Milwaukee to catch the Lake Express ferry. It moved very quickly across the lake, but it still took 2.5 hours to get from Milwaukee to Muskegan.

 Sora entertained herself pretty well with her games and videos on the iPod.
 She also took a nap - she still had a touch of illness this weekend and was pretty tired.
 We had a lot of fun running all over Holland with my parents and Kylie, Sora's oldest cousin. On Saturday, the girls all dressed up for Halloween after Kamryn's first birthday party.
 Instead of trick or treating (which was after we left in Holland and while we were gone in Wisconsin), we went to a nature preserve which was having a Halloween event. It was perfect for Sora since she didn't understand the concept of not eating every single piece of candy as soon as she got it. After the first mega meltdown, I realized it wasn't worth it and let her eat a portion of every candy (which was only about 5 tootsie rolls total).
 On Sunday, Sora and Kylie bounced their hearts out at the bounce planet. After their hour was up, they were both super hot and sweaty.
 Grandma D even joined in on the fun.
 We didn't carve any pumpkins since the girls are all too young, but it's a good thing. When we went to the grocery store on Sunday there was pretty slim pickings.
 The ferry we were scheduled to take back to Milwaukee was canceled due to high waves on the lake. Since it was the last ferry of the year, we ended up taking the train on Monday from Holland to Milwaukee. It was actually really pleasant!
 Sora decided every time the train whistled that she should stand on her head. She was in this position a lot of the trip.
 The "layover" in Chicago went very quickly. Sora was engrossed in her Jamba Juice and we got to see the Great Hall before getting on our next train.
The trip was short, but sweet. Just the right amount of time for a 2 and 4 year old to spent together while remaining mostly happy!