Happy Thanksgiving Holiday

These are some of the soft trees I have been making. I used Christmas fabric for these sets and I am going to box them up tonight and mail them to my sister Emily and her fiance Harry. They are hosting Christmas this year and I can't imagine they have many holiday decorations yet, so this will add a little something to their home this season. Jeff loves them and I am going to keep sewing more of them so we can have some to enjoy too. I'm going to use some non-holiday fabric so we can keep some up until the spring comes, and maybe even beyond.

Emily is a very natural person with very simple taste, so these should be right up her alley.

Here is 'A', nursing her baby today.

Speaking of nursing, 'H' is just about ready to wean. She nurses before her nap and before bedtime now. I had gone back and forth on whether I should encourage her to wean or let her make the decision on her own. I decided to let her be the one to initiate weaning. It seemed to mesh better with our parenting philosophy that way. Jeff and I lean toward a wait-and-see approach to parenting, letting our girls decide when they are ready to try certain things. For instance, we let 'A' potty train when she was ready, the way she wanted to do it (I'll never forget when I started a sticker reward chart and she informed me that she didn't want to use a reward system and asked me to throw it away). She still isn't potty trained at night and we're going to let her decide when she wants to be. We don't even talk about it that much with her. It's the same with everything else. If they want to explore something, they let us know. If they don't, they don't have to.

So when it came to weaning 'H', I decided to let her make the decision on her own. I didn't know what I was in for, because when 'A' weaned, it was very sudden. I hadn't planned to wean her at a specific point, but when I got pregnant with 'H', I was very sick and when I nursed, it was much worse. I cut her off immediately and permanently. So this time around, I didn't have anything to compare it to.

Lately, 'H' will nurse for a split second and then ask to go in her crib for bed. It's nice that she's the one making the decision.

I had a very fulfilling weekend. I saw my friend Kristine, who is one of my best friends from my school years. I've been friends with her for 24 years and I've loved every year of it. Kristine is one of the most inspirational women in the whole world. She's a capricorn and she's as steady as a 100 year old tortoise. She has always seemed to know exactly what she wants in life, and she gets it through hard work, dedication, and a generous heart. Back when everyone was spending their weekends partying and enjoying lazy, selfish days, Kristine was volunteering as a big sister to two little girls who needed a positive adult role model. She is the most centered person I know and she is 100 percent dedicated to her family. Over the years I have looked to her for inspiration, and she's never failed to provide it. I think her core element is that she is so grateful for everything she has, and grateful for the opportunity to work for what she would like to have. She's been through a lot in her short life and she knows what it means to appreciate things. I love her and I am so lucky to have her in my life!

On Sunday I went to the Unitarian service and it was a very nice, community-based Thanksgiving service. I met a woman there who talked with me for a long time about what it means to be a Unitarian and how our beliefs affect our daily life and community relationships. We also spoke longingly about the Amherst-Northampton region, a place we both respect and hold dear. I really enjoy going to the services. The feeling of sitting in the same room with many other people who view spirituality and the world in the same way I do is wonderful.

The sermon was about eating locally. The minister said that sometimes local food doesn't have a smaller carbon footprint, but it's important to eat locally to nourish our spiritual selves, our community bonds, and our appreciation for all that nature brings throughout each season.

Have a wonderful and grateful Thanksgiving holiday!

Thank you, Julie

My neighbor, Julie, gave me some soup she made. It's all vegetables and it's delicious. It's also good for you - Julie is on Weight Watchers and she has lost 25 pounds. It seems like it took her just a week to lose it, but I guess it's been a few weeks. She looks phenomenal. Anyway, I prepared the soup for my lunch today and both 'H' and 'A' sat next to me and ate every other bite. They loved it! I've been working hard at coming up with different ways to prepare vegetables so that they will eat more of them, and the soup definitely helped.

'H' grew up overnight. She's becoming such a big kid. Jeff and I noticed a few days ago the she underwent a transformation overnight. It's so amazing and weird to watch that happen to a child.

I went to a meditation workshop tonight and it gave me a lot to think about. It was a Buddhist lesson and guided meditation. It was really nice.

snow flurries!

Look at this - snow flurries! Can you even believe it?

I'm trying to make both girls nap this afternoon. Today is my big cooking day. Tomorrow I have a MOMS Club new member tea at my home in the afternoon, so I'm preparing tomorrow's dinner today so that I can just focus on the tea tomorrow afternoon. And I'm preparing tonight's dinner today because I'll be at the gym this afternoon and won't have time to get home and cook it all in time. And I'm making some muffins for the tea. Whew! I suppose it would help if I were in the mood to cook today. At least the oven is warming up the house - I have the heat set at a chilly 62 degrees.

I'm still moving along with my soft tree project and I'll let you know how they come out!

I spent $96 at the grocery store yesterday. I'll probably have to go back for more fruit at the end of the week. This is what's for dinner this week:

Roasted butternut squash and shallot soup with basic beer bread and steamed broccoli

Roasted fall vegetables with olive tapanade and goat cheese in a whole wheat-cornmeal crust, served with salad

Pizza night: one with cheese and sauce for me and Jeff, and one with sauce and grilled zucchini for all of us

Orecchiette with red sauce and rice-lentil balls (vegan version of meatballs), served with salad and steamed broccoli

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are still question marks.

I think I am finally coming out of the DTs from caffeine withdrawl! My headache is gone, I'm not exhausted anymore, and I have energy again. Goodness, caffeinated coffee is a stronger drug than I realized.

Reason #63 why my sister Emily and I should not be in charge of planning family holiday functions:

She called today to talk about Christmas (she's hosting part of it).

Me: "Do you think we can make it vegan this year?"

Emily: "Sure. But do you think the others will mind?"

Me: "Of course not. What's not to like?"

Emily has been an on-again, off-again vegan. When she's off, that means she's eating cheese and eggs, but not animal meat. She's very health conscious and socially aware, and that is where her vegan/vegetarian viewpoint comes from. Funny, because when we were little, I didn't care for meat and she couldn't get enough of it.

Jeff and the girls are napping. It just started downpouring here and it's nice and still in our home at this moment.

I just found a local meditation group that I'm going to try out. It meets once a week in the evenings, and now that Jeff is back full-time, I will have the opportunity to go. Emily introduced me to meditation years ago. She was part of a meditation group on Cape Cod. They met regularly and then they all went to stay at an ashram in the northern part of India. Emily went twice for an extended stay.

I'm looking forward to carving out some meditation time.

Movie night tonight with the girls!

good manners today

This is where I took my kids today:

You can see that this house is inhabited by adults, and only adults. Children don't come here often...

...and this is what they did while they were there:

It's my neighbor's house. Blanca and Stanley just did a lot of work to their house because they are planning to sell it and move closer to their son and grandson in Arizona. She invited me over to see what they had done. So, the girls and I rushed home from 'A's gymnastics class and gathered up the cookie bar/bread thing I had made for Blanca (it's another made-up recipe, another "not bad tasting" snack that I made yesterday). We walked down the street and spent some time visiting. Blanca is the sweetest woman in the world, and I bet if I had a few more hours to kill, she would have kept me there talking all afternoon. They were really great with the girls and we had a good time.

On the way home we walked past this "bird house" mailbox, as 'A' called it. Pretty.

I learned a valuable bit of information today: I don't have to stay in the gymnastics room while 'A' has her class. That means I can drop 'H' off at the child care, drop 'A' off at class, and run upstairs to work out for a few minutes! I love it!

This is where I want to be right now - in my cozy, feathery, oh so comfy bed.

what a hoot!

The first time down the slide today caught Little L by surprise! Those slides are fast and the kids always land with a bounce.

'H' chose not to go down.

trying something new

I talked with my older sister Jennifer yesterday and as a result of our conversation, I tried something new today. Jennifer is a wonderful and very energetic person. In some ways, she is spontaneous and loosey-goosey, but in other ways, she is very structured and highly organized, in an almost rigid sort of way (yes, Jennifer, it's true). Jennifer has always organized her daughter's clothing into pre-defined outfits. At the beginning of every season, she picks out the outfits, hangs them on hangers, and when her daughter gets dressed, she just pulls out a hanger and the whole outfit is on there. The outfits never change. All season, the same shirt goes with the same pair of pants. I have spent some time in the past making fun of Jennifer for this rigid system. "What happens when you have a shirt that looks great with two different pairs of pants? Can't you mix and match?" "No!" "What happens when the pants get dirty in the middle of the day?" "She would have to change her entire outfit."

Fast forward to yesterday, and I finally decided to listen as she described her "system." And something about it made sense. It might be that Jennifer has a quality about her that makes me want to say, "me too! me too!" Heck, I do everything she tells me to, including marrying the man she picked out for me.

Today I pulled out all of 'A's clothes and matched and rematched until I came up with the perfect combination of outfits. How liberating it felt! Now I don't have to worry about digging for clothes that look good together, or negotiating with her after she has already dressed herself in an outfit that doesn't match. As Jennifer puts it, "Do you really want to end up with a whiny child who gets stressed out over what to wear as she gets older? There are so many other important things to stress about."

I have to wait until Jeff gets home and puts up a lower closet rod so I can hang everything on hangers. Until then, I put everything in big Ziploc bags. I love this system!

On a separate note, I have been sick for over a month now. I have a cold and it's traveled from my sinuses to my ears and now it's reaching my lungs. I've been laying low, just resting for a few weeks, napping when I can, but it just won't go away. On the bright side, all of my focus on myself, my health and my family has had some tangible benefit for me. My blood pressure has dropped significantly in the past 6 weeks. For most of my life, it hovered around 90/50. Two years ago, it went up to 120/80, which is normal for most people but high for me. It stayed up there until I made the few recent changes. Now it's back down to a normal level. I feel good. I can tell my heart feels good too.

BTW, regarding the squash cookie recipe below, Jennifer says that if I have to describe a cookie as, "not bad," it must be disgusting. They're not gross, but they definitely aren't the best in the world. They're not bad. They taste healthy.

I made another step forward today in the cooking department

I did a little cooking experiment today and it came out okay. I *still* have some of that leftover squash, so I decided to make a batch of squash cookies to bring to Fondue Night tonight. I used my vegan-ized chocolate chip cookie recipe and instead of using 1 cup of Smart Balance, I used 1/2 of it and 3/4 cup of squash puree. The cookies are not bad. They're a little moist, a little cakey, but they taste good and they are significantly better for your heart than regular chocolate chip cookies.

When I used to give out my recipe, I would tell people that I use the recipe that you find on the backs of all of the chocolate chip bags with just a few substitutions. Now my substitution list has grown so long that I think it's time for me to write down my recipe and stop substituting every other ingredient listed on the bag.

Heart Healthy, Butternut Squash Love Cookies

Cream together:
1/2 c. Smart Balance
Scant 3/4 c. sugar
Scant 3/4 c. brown sugar
(I use a little less than 3/4 c. of each sugar because the chips are sweet enough that it doesn't need that much sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 c. butternut squash or pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed and 6 tablespoons water (this equals 2 eggs)

Mix together in a separate bowl:
2 1/4 c. flour (I would try using whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour, it may stand up to the squash a little better)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1 teaspoon salt

Mix the flour mixture with the squash mixture.
Add 1/2 package chocolate chips and 1/2 package butterscotch chips (Price Chopper's chips are dairy-free and I'm told Walmart makes dairy-free chips as well)

Bake at 375 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet until they are light brown around the edges.

If you're interested in learning more about flaxseed, here's some neat info that I copied from Madhuram's Eggless Cooking site.

1. Just 2 tablespoons of flax seed meal delivers 4 grams of fiber, as much fiber as 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal! Studies prove that when this is added to the diet, harmful LDL cholesterol drops, while good HDL cholesterol stays put.

2. Flax seed contains high levels of lignans, a natural antioxidant, which can maintain breast and colon health by binding circulating estrogens that might promote unchecked cell growth. To get the lignans that are in just 2 tablespoons of flax seed meal, you’d need to eat about 30 cups of fresh broccoli.

3. Flax seed is a mega-source for the plant version of omega-3 called Alpha-Linolenic Acid. The oil in flaxseed is about 50% ALA. One serving (which is 2 tablespoons) contains 2400 milligrams of omega-3.

If you've ever wondered why my butterscotch-chocolate chip cookies are called Love Cookies, it's because they have a proven aphrodisiac effect on people when they eat them. I've documented it, it's true.

'A' played around with my camera today and snapped this photo of me.

Today is Veteran's Day. Years ago, when I lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, I worked for an organization called the Veteran's Education Project. Veterans would talk with school kids about the effect of violence on their lives and encourage them to manage their lives and relationships using peaceful strategies. That year, Saving Private Ryan had come out in the theaters and we showed it on the big screen at the community center in town on Veteran's Day. After the film, a panel of WWII veterans talked about how the violence they experienced during the war affected their lives. They then took questions from the audience and I will never forget when a woman stood up and started yelling at them for being a part of the violence and asking them how they could live with themselves. It was a sad moment for many of us in the room.

This Veteran's Day, I am thinking of those who have served our country and I am wishing that they all have the opportunity to talk to the community about the reality of violence and the reality of the work they do. They are underpaid and underappreciated and the expectations of who they are and what they do does not always match up with reality. Thank you, veterans, for your service.

playing at home

We played at home this morning with Jeff. He left this afternoon. Somehow, I'm swamped with work this afternoon, but I am taking a quick break to relax and look at the photos I took of 'H' playing.

Jeff and I enjoyed a New York State Cabernet Sauvignon on Saturday night. It paired well with his chili and rice dish.

Election day has come and gone...

I feel good today. My presidential campaign headache and physical stress is finally dissipating. This was a major election and I am very happy that Barack Obama is going to be our next president.

So, for the first time in, I would say, 25 years, I am actually thinking about Christmas well in advance. I'm excited for it more than usual this year. The girls are at a great age to start appreciating holidays. Usually I can take it or leave it, but this year I'm looking forward to the celebration and the build-up.

I am already working on some handmade gifts for the girls and tonight I am going to order personalized story books for them. My sisters and I had personalized books when we were little and we just loved them. My story was about a giraffe named Naillij who wanted to play on Baskerville Place (my street when we lived in Maryland). I still have the book. My hope is that my girls will love their stories as much as my sisters and I did.

Next up, I am very excited to start sewing a hearty set of these trees (above - click this link to see the blog that the photo belongs to) as an early Christmas present for a special couple we know. I am pretty sure they don't have many holiday decorations and I know they would love them. Shh! Don't tell, it's a surprise. I am going to make some for our home too.

Do you have leaves falling from the trees where you live too?

We're looking forward to going to the Unitarian service tomorrow morning and then working on yard clean-up tomorrow afternoon.

I recently signed the girls up for some music classes and I'm wondering if I'm overscheduling them. With both preschool and classes, they have activities on three (soon to be four) mornings each week and for an hour on three afternoons a week they go to the child care room at the gym while I work out. They have the other mornings and afternoons free.

Here's a mini-report on my grocery savings: I saved $30 with coupons today and spent $63 on groceries for the coming week. That includes toiletries and cleansers. Today Jeff made his legendary veggie chili. He uses dried beans and vegetables and it is simply delicious.

I wish you a very happy and peaceful weekend.

Last night I made a butternut squash and marshmallow dish for the kids and just before I used all the of the squash in that dish, I set some aside so we could make squash and chocolate chip muffins today. Yum!

I used a vegan recipe and I vegan-ed it out even more by using all whole wheat flour and wheat germ in addition to the flaxseed. I figure between all of those brown flaky ingredients, something has to be good for us, right? The girls love them and have been begging for more all day.

The corn doll watched me cook...

'A' just turned a corner and is approaching my favorite age. She's 3 and a half now. 4 is my favorite age. If I could only be with one age group for the rest of my life, I would pick 4 year olds. Their thought process is just amazing. They start to understand why and how things work. She's just about there and it's wonderful. I have been spending significantly more time playing with her lately and we're both really enjoying each other. Interestingly, at the same time, she's been testing the limits with her behavior. It's almost like she needs more of my involvement than ever now.

'H' got all dressed up in her princess skirt and necklace all by herself. What a big girl she is!

I want to sit down sometime and figure out how much grocery money I've saved these past two months. I've pretty much cut out meat, wine and now coffee, and I am sure I haven't been spending as much at the store. I cut out coffee because every time I would take a sip, my bladder would burn and I needed to run to the ladies room. Not much fun! I cut out wine because I was drinking it not for fun, but to unwind, and it left me feeling disconnected from my children and myself. I cut out meat because I am a natural vegetarian and I only eat meat because Jeff likes it. But in reality, he can be more of a vegetarian than I am, so we've been making the transition pretty easily. It's all good.

This photo is for you, Grandma Shelly. What do you think of her dress and super-cute tights?

We went to the Brookside Museum for a preschool field trip. It was our first trip there. Everything was a little over their heads in that big group. It's hard to understand the concept of "history" when you're 3 years old, and learning about it in a big rowdy group doesn't help. I try to talk about it when we're alone - now that Thanksgiving is rolling around, we talk about the Pilgrims (and the fact that she's related to one - William Bradford) and why we celebrate Thanksgiving. It's hard for her to understand it even when we speak one-on-one.

The museum had a craft for the children, and they all got to make their own Corn Doll. Way back when, back in 1824, little kids made their own dolls out of dried corn cobs. 'A' loves her doll and I may make a fabric skirt for it so that it will be a little more sturdy. I'm wondering when it will start to go moldy. Will it?

Here is a photo of 'H' with her special friend from 'A's class. 'P' adores 'H' and always drops everything as soon as she sees her, just so she can run over and give her a hug. It's really sweet. 'H' is quite popular in her sister's preschool class actually. She loves the teachers and they love her too. She is going to be more than ready to go to school when it's her turn!

the weekend

We had some Halloween fun this year! 'A' was a bunny and 'H' was a bee.

This is the display that Julie and Scott have up in front of their house. They always do a great job with the decorations and I love it when a holiday rolls around and they decorate. Scott made the ghost!

Here is 'H' being a Big Kid, carrying her treat bag and running after the other big kids. Her face shows pure joy...

Jeff is home. Today we went for a family walk at a local park and then spent some time hanging around the yard at home.

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!