Family


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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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Not gonna lie, of all the pies I make, apple pies are by far the the most time consuming with all the peeling, coring, chopping and mixing, it probably takes twice as long as a berry pie (even with a peeling machine, which I can’t recommend enough!). But all that work? So worth it!

My baking assistant certainly though the ribbons of peel were fun,and the cinnamon and sugar-covered apple-slices were A-OK by her. And truthfully, after eight years of annual apple pie-making, I’ve got my process down. And so we’ve already eaten one pie, and have the second in the freezer for later this winter.

Want a video of me walking through the pie-making process? Check! Or the recipe? Check!

Book Illustration:  Time for A Hug by Phillis Gershator, Mim Green, with Illustrations by David Walker, a new favorite in our house.

Interested in Children’s books? Me too! As the daughter of a former elementary-school librarian, who currently reads at least 5 new picture books a week (thanks local library!), I’ve started compiling a list our our household favorites with detailed reviews over on my Pinterest Page.

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In my book, a girl’s first baseball game is a big deal. Going to a SeaDogs games was another of those moments I dreamed about sharing with LMC as soon as I knew she was coming. Even so, it caught me a bit by surprise that I got a little teary-eyed when we walked out of the concourse into the sun-lit fields of Hadlock Stadium.

Any attempts to actually watch the game are mostly moot at this point, and if you asked LMC what her favorite part of the experience was, and she could speak in sentences, I’m pretty sure she’d say the french fries. But it’s harder to find something more summery and American and wonderful than a minor league ballpark on a July day, particularly when your team is up by four runs.

The only thing that could perhaps be more perfectly summery is a field of sun-ripe strawberries. I’ve already noted LMC’s love of berries here before, but it’s something else to be in a whole field of them. We made it to the last picking day of the summer at Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth, and while the berries on the ground were no longer numerous, they were still delicious, and fortunately the farm stand was still well stocked, since the berries we picked seemed to mysteriously disappear…

Ready for a Stroll

Sand Cherry in Bloom

Creeping Phlox

Ready for a Stroll

Birch and Bleeding Heart

Tulips

Tulips

Steinbeck

Bleeding Heart

Violets

Having grown up in California, and gone to college in the Oregon, I have a slew of friends who still reside in those more temperate climes. So while we still had snow on the ground, my Facebook feed was filled with West Coast photos of freshly bloomed daffodils. Now, June is in sight, the snow is but a memory and the daffodils have come and gone, but it feels as if Spring has just arrived in Maine. Suddenly the grass is green, the trees have leaves, and everything is in bloom.

In my own little garden, the sand cherry is in bloom, the violets are out, the bleeding heart has grown to massive proportions and the tulips are starting to fade.  My perennial bed, now in its third year,  is starting to fill in and I may have to start doing some dividing come fall.

Now that the weather is nicer, LMC and I have started taking a little stroll together before I head to work in the mornings, giving me a chance to scope out the neighbors yards for ideas. The phlox that’s everywhere? Totally want some of my own. That perennial bed around that birch tree? Divine!

When we first moved into our little house, I  started my flower beds with no real plan or knowledge. I got the gift of some plants from friend’s gardens, picked up a few of my own and started digging out red brick mulch, tearing out layers of landscape fabric, and plopping plants down and crossing my fingers. Three years later, between some experience and episodes of This Old House, I’m starting to learn more about this gardening thing. Or at least paying more attention. I know enough to know that moving plants is pretty easy, dark mulch makes everything look better and if something doesn’t work out you can always plant something new in its place.

It’s good to be out in the garden again.

Wee!

On the Slide

Saying hello to the goats

On the run

Mini Donkey

Who knew mulch was so fun?

Checking out the Chicks

Sheep noms

Pat the Goat

Got any nibbles?

Ice Cream!

For my second Mother’s Day we celebrated with a delicious homemade brunch (french toast! strawberries! bacon! mimosas!) and followed it up with a late morning trip to the The Barnyard at Smiling Hill Farm and an afternoon of sewing for me while LMC napped.

We knew the Barnyard was going to be a hit as soon as she squealed with delight at the first animal she saw (a ferret). Little Miss is very much into animals these days – she knows dogs say woof woof and lions roar and snakes sssssssssss and she wanted to touch everything in sight. Of course the mulch was equally as interesting as all the furry creatures. Everything is new and interesting and it’s such a joy to see LMC discover.

And she’s moving and grooving now too, walking everywhere, and she’s thankfully decided all of a sudden to accept shoes like it’s no big deal, as if she wasn’t turning into jelly legs and a pile of tears a few weeks ago. How quickly things change.

Of course, now that spring has finally arrived in Maine it means I’m working on perfecting my stealth sunscreen applying skills and that more accessories are required for my little red-headed girl. Which means time for another Peakaboo Bonnet. This one featured some solid yellow Kona Cotton and a Lisette ice cream print trimmed with pink piping, all from JoAnn’s. I imagine it’ll be showing up in photos from now through September. But is there ever really enough of babies in bonnets? In my book, never. And I’ve got enough left over fabric to make a matching dress, just as soon as I finish a little sewing project for me!

Little Miss Cleaver and Miss Maggie Rabbit
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Miss Maggie Rabbit
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When the day starts so early, it’s hard to get non-blurry photos of an increasingly active (and expressive!) little one. She’s just on the cusp of toddler-hood these days – walking more than she crawls and understanding things and almost almost talking. But Easter started around 5:30 AM with opening the basket/bucket and a low-key egg hunt with 6 or so eggs placed in highly visible places filled with cereal puffs.

Having put my clothing-making energies into her birthday dress not that long ago, I turned my maker skills to toys this go around. The rabbit is Alicia Paulson’s Miss Maggie Rabbit kit, which was a joy to put together. I misplaced the yarn that came with the kit, so I made the capelet out of some Berroco Vintage DK I had left over from earlier projects. I also dyed a pair of playsilks with Kool-Aid (Mixed Berry blue and 2 packs of Lemon-Lime green), which was quick and fun. Of course, I got totally upstaged by her Memere who showed up with a tricycle! Not that her feet touch the pedals yet, but I imagine they will before too long.

Little Miss Cleaver has become obsessed with belly buttons of late, whether it’s spotting mine and poking and laughing or displaying her own upon request. Onesies are definitely out. So obviously she had to check her new bunny for a belly button.

After some unwelcome snow on Tuesday, the weather seems to be settling into spring. My daffodils are blooming, with tulips coming not too far behind. It means we can go to the park, try out slides for the first time and play in the yard. Now if only we could convince LMC to wear shoes. Right now it’s like putting booties on a dog, with much awkwardness and whining.

We’ve already had one happy afternoon with a batch of neighbor kids in the driveway. We’ve got sidewalk chalk and digging tools at the ready.  I’m hoping to get together with our neighbor in the next few weeks to have a raised bed building day. It’s been so long since I’ve had a veggie garden  and I want to get out there and grow some things!

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Little Miss Cleaver turned one this weekend, and it’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. The days can be long (3:30 wake up calls, anyone?) but the weeks and months, and now year (!), just speed by.  It seems not so long ago she was just this tiny squishy thing and now she’s walking and babling, and has opinions and is just a tiny little person.

To celebrate her first birthday we made a weekend of it. First on Friday, Mr. Cleaver and LMC met me at work and we went out to lunch at the Olive Cafe, picked out some birthday presents at the local toy store, and LMC tasted her first ice cream – Gelato Fiasco of course!

For her actual birthday on Saturday we kept it fairly low key. She wore a new mom-made birthday dress. There was breakfast and cards. Then we went to LMC’s very first swim class, the first half of which involved a wet baby clinging to me like a barnacle, until we got to the picking up and splashing into the pool part and especially the singing part. During the singing she clapped her little hands with joy and looked at me as if to say, you didn’t tell me there’d be singing mom, I’d have been more open to this whole thing if I knew there would be singing! The swim class totally wiped her out and resulted in a nearly two-hour mom lap nap.

In the afternoon Memere joined us for a few balloons, a few presents, and a cake. In honor of her birth on Maine Maple weekend, I made a applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting. I modified the original recipe to use 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, less sugar in the cake, and no nuts/raisins. I’d probably cut back on the whole wheat flour next time, as it got a bit dense. I also added a bit of water to the frosting to get it to a spreadable consistency, but it was otherwise delicious.  The frosting tasted almost exaclt like maple sugar candy. The cake decorations I made myself out of some scrapbook paper. The birthday crown was a free pattern on Ravelry that took about an hour to make.

Later in the day our neighbors, who watch LMC two days a week and are like second family to her came over for a while.  Then we ate some pizza, gave LMC a bath, and everyone went to bed about a half an hour early and slept in late.

Today was Maine Maple Sunday itself, and we made our usual jaunt up to Sebago for a pancake breakfast and sugar shack visit. All in all it was a sweet time with a sweet little girl and a very good first birthday/first year of parenting celebration.

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