Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Daddy Adventure Day - Olbrich Botanic Gardens

It's supposed to be 81 here again today, but then the weather will start cooling off and returning to normal.  So, we took advantage of the unseasonably warm day to go to the Botanic Gardens.  In most years, I'm sure the Botanic Gardens would be completely barren on March 21st, but this year was beautiful!

First we took a walk inside the Conservatory, where the girls were interested in the yellow canaries, the huge orange koi, and the waterfalls.  Ben and I looked at some orchids and some carnivorous plants.  Amelia thought it was weird that a pitcher plant eats flies.

Then we went to the Spring Garden show.  As we walked towards the exhibit room, Megan kept saying "choo choo" because she must have remembered that it's the same place we saw the train exhibit before Christmas.  I think she was disappointed that we didn't get to see trains again today.  We got a flower chart with photos so that we could identify the spring flowers.  Amelia found pansies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, white hydrangeas, snap dragons, lobelia and azaleas.

It's so hard to have to sit here surrounded by beautiful flowers!

Next we took a walk outside, where we saw lots of squill, some daffodils, and magnolias.  The magnolias looked similar to when we saw them last year on Mother's Day.

And of course we had to go over to the Thai garden, so we could see the elephants, the dragon, and the lions.

While I want to title this one "Ride 'Em, Cowgirl!" what Megan really is doing is showing us what the elephant says (Uurrhhh, while raising her arm (trunk) in the air).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Megan will never be a model, either...

I liked the photo Jen posted on Facebook of Chase, saying that he would never be a model if that's the best "smile" face he could give.

I thought the same thing of Megan when I told her to smile last week and got this photo:

Normally, I don't say "Smile!" or "Say Cheese!" because it results in these ridiculous faces, but I thought it would be funny to capture this silly face for posterity.  And it's getting harder to get naturally smiling photos of my kids because inevitably they want to play with the camera when they see it.  I don't know how professional photographers do it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Learning New Skills

Amelia loves to ride Jorja's old scooter.  She keeps one foot on the ground to push herself, so she doesn't go very fast yet (thank goodness), but she has figured out to balance.

On a side note, I think this is my favorite outfit that she has ever put together.  In her mind, the shirt has pink in it, so it clearly matches the pink jumper.  And the shirt also has purple in it, so you have to wear the purple tights with it.  Love, love, love her mind!

Megan loves to ride Amelia's tricycle.  She tries to pedal when I am pushing her, but her feet still slip off the pedals.  She prefers to push herself along with her feet, although she often runs off the sidewalk into the grass and gets stuck.

On a side note, I love this outfit on Megan!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Amelia's Homework

At preschool on Tuesday, Mrs. Becker assigned homework - go outside and run around like a crazy chipmunk.

Gotta love preschool homework.

Anyway, the whole car ride home, Amelia talked about how the very first thing we had to do when we got home was go outside and run around like crazy chipmunks.  So we did.  Since you might not be familiar with crazy chipmunk behavior, I figured I ought to provide you with a photo documentary.

Crazy chipmunks like to run exuberantly.

Crazy chipmunks like to jump and twirl.

Crazy chipmunks like to balance on rocks and act like chickens.

Crazy chipmunks like to climb birdfeeders.

Crazy chipmunks like to make silly chipmunk faces.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Daddy Adventure Day - Henry Vilas Zoo (again)

It's a beautiful day here in Madison!  We knew we had to spend our Daddy Adventure morning doing something outside, so we gave Amelia her choice.  Last night, she'd decided that we were going to go to the race car park, but this morning, she told Ben that we were going to go back to the zoo.  It was a perfect day for the zoo, although it was pretty crowded.

Amelia says her favorite animals were the prairie dogs again.  We got to hear the prairie dogs chatter this time.

But I think she really liked the porcupine.  As we were looking at the porcupine, Amelia informed us that the porcupine's quills are actually made of hair (a fact that she learned from her My Big Backyard magazine from Grace).  She also told us that a porcupine is a mammal.

Megan was very excited to see the monkeys again, but unfortunately, we didn't get to see them very well.  Most of them were not in their cages today. 

Ben said his favorite part of our zoo trip was watching Megan climb up the rope ladder at the playground.  She's a great little climber!  Amelia wouldn't attempt this, even though I know she could do it, too.

 But when asked what his favorite animal at the zoo was today, Ben said the giant tortoise.  He and Megan are looking at the tortoise in this photo:

The tortoises were outside today, and we were surprise to see the male tortoise slowly walk over to the other side of the exhibit.  "Wow," we thought, "isn't it unusual to see a tortoise walking around?  Aren't we lucky?"  And then we figured out what the tortoise was walking towards: the female tortoise.  Amelia asked why the big tortoise was climbing on top of the smaller tortoise.  We explained to Amelia that the two tortoises were wrestling.  Interestingly, the male tortoise made several very loud grunting noises.  I have never heard a tortoise make any kind of noise before, and if asked, I would have guessed that tortoises didn't make any noise at all.  Well, now you know, they do. 

I think my favorite animal today was the red panda, which we learned is most closely related to raccoons, weasels and skunks.  It is only distantly related to the giant panda.  There, you learned something today!  Amelia thought it looked like a cat.

We also enjoyed looking at the camel, who was resting:

the ostrich, who was trying to bite through the chain link fence:

and the flamingos:

Of course, the girls also liked "being" animals:

Friday, March 9, 2012

23 Questions about Daddy

1. What makes Daddy happy? 
Amelia: Hugs.
Me: What else makes Daddy happy?
Amelia: Kisses.
Me: How about something else that makes Daddy happy?
Amelia:  Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.

2. What makes Daddy sad? 
Amelia: No kisses.

3. How does Daddy make you laugh?
Amelia: tickle, tickle, tickle

4. How old is Daddy? 
Amelia: 29

5. How tall is Daddy?  
Amelia: like as tall as the laundry room ceiling

6. What does Daddy do when you're not around? 
Amelia: Daddy does the laundry.
Me: ha ha ha

7. What is Daddy really good at? 
Amelia: holding me

8. What is Daddy not really good at? 
Amelia: I don't know.  I can't think of anything.

9. What is Daddy's favorite food? 
Amelia: Pizza.

10. What do you and Daddy do together?  
Amelia: Play play play play play!

11:  How are you and Daddy the same?  
Amelia: well, our skin looks the same.

12. How are you and Daddy different? 
Amelia:  We wear different clothes every day. I have a pair of pants that are rainbow striped.  Daddy's pants are plain.
Me: Can you think of something else that's different about you and Daddy?
Amelia: Our shirts are different!

13. What is Daddy's name?  
Amelia:  Daddy.  Ben.
Me: Do you like the name Ben?
Amelia.  No.  I like Daddy better.

14. How do you know Daddy loves you? 
Amelia: Because he gives me lots of hugs and kisses.

15. Where is Daddy's favorite place to go? 
Amelia: Culver's and Old McDonald's.

16. What is Daddy's favorite color?  
Amelia:  I don't know.  Money money money.  I think his favorite color is gray.

17. What does Daddy do at work?
Amelia:  He works.  He sits at his desk and eats lunch.  He looks at his computer.
Me:  What does Daddy wear to work?
Amelia:  Clothes!  Long sleeved clothes and long pants.  He wears a coat.  And underwear!  Can you ask me what else Daddy wears to work?
Me: What else does Daddy wear to work?
Amelia:  Sock!  Ha ha ha!

18. If Daddy were in a movie that you liked, who would he be?
Amelia: Lightning McQueen!

19.  What does Daddy like most about Mommy?
Amelia:  I don't know.  But do you know what I like best about Daddy?  I get to take money from his pants when they get washed. 

20. Do you want to be just like Daddy when you're 29 years old?
Amelia: No.
Me:  Why not?
Amelia: Because I'm a girl!

21.  What present should we give Daddy for his birthday?
Amelia:  Maybe an animal.
Me:  What kind of animal?
Amelia:  What animal does Daddy like?  Bears?  Cats?  Dogs?  Prairie dogs?  or Giraffes? 
Me:  Of all those animals, what do you think Daddy likes best?
Amelia:  A pup.  NO!  A bird!  Could we get him a bird for his birthday?  Daddy really likes birds.  Let's get a red bird.  I think Daddy's very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very favorite color is red.  We should look for a red bird.

22.  What is Daddy made of?
Amelia:  Bones.  Person bones.  Food.  The inside of a person's bones is white.  We saw that at the zoo.

23. Who is Daddy's best friend?
Amelia: Amelia.
Me: Who is Amelia's best friend?
Amelia: Megga-mooga

Amelia: I'm getting a little sleepy.  (and off she goes to her room to rest)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

16 Questions about Mommy

Okay, this was really funny!  It took Amelia a while to warm up to answering questions; at first, all she said was "I don't know" and I thought she was unfortunately taking after Ben in that regard.

1. What makes Mommy happy? 
Amelia: Hugs

2. What makes Mommy sad? 
Amelia: No hugs

3. How does Mommy make you laugh?
Amelia: playing Jingle Bells on her phone

4. How old is Mommy? 
Amelia: 31  (I'll take it!)

5. How tall is Mommy?  
Amelia: almost like *this* tall (standing on the ottoman on her tiptoes reaching her hands up high and pointing to the ceiling)

6. What does Mommy do when you're not around? 
Amelia: stay home and sit on the couch and play with her computer

7. What is Mommy really good at? 
Amelia: exercising
Me:  ha ha ha

8. What is Mommy not really good at? 
Amelia: lifting me up

9. What is Mommy's favorite food? 
Amelia: macaroni & cheese
Me: Really?  Why do you say that?
Amelia:  Because it's your favorite dinner food. 
Me: Have we ever eaten macaroni & cheese? 
Amelia: Yes, at the winter carnival 
Me (thinking):  Ah ha, Noodles & Company pesto pasta.  Yes, I do like that.

10. What do you and Mommy do together?  
Amelia: make art projects.  One time we made a snack by ourselves.

11:  How are you and Mommy the same?  
Amelia:  muh.  we're not.  we have the same letter in our names (M and M)

12. How are you and Mommy different? 

Amelia:  Because we don't have all the same letters in both of our names.  and because we wear different clothes, because our clothes have different things on them.  My clothes have monkeys and hearts.  Mommy's clothes are almost just all plain.

13. What is Mommy's name?  
Amelia: Mommy

14. How do you know Mommy loves you? 
Amelia: because of all the hugs

15. Where is Mommy's favorite place to go? 
Amelia: Potbelly, where there's all kinds of sandwiches
Me (thinking):  Really?  I think the last time I took Amelia there was almost a year ago.
16. What is Mommy's favorite color?  
Amelia: blue

We got this far, and then Amelia said she was done answering questions.  I'll post more tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daddy Adventure Day - Henry Vilas Zoo

The weather today is unseasonably warm for March, with a high of 63F.  After a long winter inside, we had to take advantage of the warm weather to get outside and do something fun before the cold weather comes back tomorrow.  So Ben and I decided to take the girls to the zoo.

I was talking to Uncle David on the phone this morning while getting Megan dressed, and I said "Today we are going to the Z-O-O" and Amelia immediately said "We're going to the zoo!  Z-O-O spells zoo!"  I guess maybe I'll have to start spelling things in Spanish around here...

We had a fantastic time at the zoo today!  We got there just before 10, and while the thermometer said it was 50 degrees, it was really windy and we had to keep our winter coats on.  But when we left the zoo around noon, the weather had warmed up enough that we could take our coats off.  Yay!

As we were driving to the zoo, I asked Amelia what animal she wanted to see the most, and she said the prairie dogs.  Only two prairie dogs were outside today, but they put on quite a show, popping out of their holes and kissing each other.

Ben & Megan's favorite animal to watch today was the polar bear, who was pacing his exhibit and even swimming.  Normally when we go to the zoo, the polar bear is sleeping in his den, so we were all excited to see him active.  We even got to see him shaking himself off!  Here's Megan waving hello to the polar bear:

Megan also really liked seeing the animals in the reptile house.  A lot of the tanks are close to the ground, so she could stand on the ground herself and watch the turtles swimming.  Plus there were little stools to climb on to see the smaller reptiles and insects.  Megan particularly liked the Madagascar hissing cockroaches.  Yuck!

My favorite animals were the penguins.  Again, the penguins are normally very boring at our zoo, standing around in a little huddle and not doing anything.  Today we got to see them swimming, waddling, and splashing.  We watched the penguins for a long time!

We had good views of the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!):

And of course the animal cutouts are always popular!

Megan learned to say "zoo" today, and she told us that she wanted to see the lions (raahhrrr), the monkeys (ooo, oooo, ooooo while tilting her head from side to side) and the penguins (lahlahlahl which means waddle).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Green and White Pesto Orzo Salad

Last week I made a taco salad as our salad of the week.  I love taco salad!  And I was even able to find an avocado on sale (for $1, not much of a sale, but better than normal) so it was super tasty.  This week I decided to try a completely different salad.  I'd seen a broccoli pesto orzo salad on pinterest, but I knew I'd need to change it up so that Ben would consider it appropriate dinner food (and I had no desire to make my own pesto out of broccoli, although the idea sounded intriguing).  So, I created my own salad.

Both of us liked this salad, and found it to be very filling..  Amelia ate everything but the asparagus, which at least she tried.  Megan ate a little bit of orzo and then fussed because it stuck to her fingers.  I decided that I was fed up with her being such a picky eater recently, so I gave her the same plate of food again for dinner the next morning, and the next lunch, and the next snack time, and the next dinner.  And she finally ate the rest of the orzo, the broccoli and the chicken for the dinner after I sprinkled it with a little parmesan cheese (taking a lesson from Grandma Jane.)  She must have been a hungry girl after not eating all day, so after she ate all that, she also had a huge bunch of cherry tomatoes, a piece of bread, a serving of both raspberries and blueberries, and a package of Teddy Grahams.   I don't know that I'll try that again, because it was a long and frustrating day with unrelenting screaming at the dinner table.  As Amelia said "When Megan screams like that, it makes me want to cry."  I agree.

Pesto Orzo Salad with Broccoli and Asparagus
(serves 4)


most of a bag of baby spinach and spring greens, chopped
one bunch of asparagus
one large head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup dried orzo (whole wheat preferably)
3 sticks of string cheese, cut into rounds (reduced fat preferably)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced. (good use for leftover rotisserie chicken or turkey!)
1/4 cup pine nuts
pesto sauce

Cook the orzo: Add orzo to a pot of boiling water.  Cook for 5 minutes for al dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

Cook the asparagus: Snap ends off asparagus stalks.  Add asparagus to boiling water.  Cook for about 4 minutes, or until still slightly crunch.  Rinse under cold water.  Cut into bite sized pieces.

Cook the broccoli:  Add broccoli florets to boiling water.  Cook for 1 minute, until broccoli has softened, but is still slightly crunchy.

Mix all ingredients together.  Serve.

I did not mix the pesto with the salad before serving because I wasn't sure how the leftovers would be.  Instead, I added about 1 tbsp of pesto to my salad serving, and stirred it up.  I also added some grape tomatoes to my salad when I ate the leftovers, and that was a delicious addition.  Except then I would have to call it a green, white and red salad.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Megan's newest word is "Pah". Can you guess what it means?

That's right, it means potty!  Megan loves to sit on the potty, but mostly she loves to pull the toilet paper out and throw it in the toilet.  Thankfully she can't rip it herself, so we haven't ended up with a clogged up toilet yet.  If I ask Amelia if she needs to go potty, Megan will look up attentively, open her eyes wide, say "PAH!", pull on her pants, and go charging for the bathroom.  Sometimes she even adds in "PAH!  Poop!" but that doesn't seem to mean that she needs to go poop.

(She doesn't actually go on the potty, and I have no intention of potty training her this early, but I figure it's a good sign that she likes to sit on the potty, right?  And it's great that she knows what a potty is for, too.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tilapia in the Crockpot

I have decided that we need to eat more fish and salad, so I'm trying to cook one new fish dish and create one new salad recipe each week.  I've found a lot of inspiration on pinterest.  But we'll see how long this lasts.

My newest discovery is that you can cook tilapia in the crockpot, and it's really good!  Who would have thought?  I have done it twice now, and both time were successful.  I got the idea from A Year of Slow Cooking,  Here's how you do it:

Lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil.  Place three frozen tilapia fillets (from Costco) centered on the aluminum foil.  Cover with your choice of topping.  Wrap the ends of the foil together to make a packet.  Put the packet in the bottom of the crockpot.  Turn the crockpot on high for two hours.  Done!  That's it!  I can make up the packets during snack time, and they're done perfectly at dinner time with absolutely no other work needed!  Oh, and cooking tilapia like this does NOT make your house smell like fish.

Last week, I covered the tilapia with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of honey, and about half a can of mandarin oranges (drained).  Ben and I agreed that was delicious, and we will definitely make it again.  Amelia even ate it, and said that it tasted like chicken.  I would venture to say even Jane might like this fish!

This week, I covered the tilapia with a little bit of pesto.  It was good, but some of the delicious pesto flavor got lost in the cooking (maybe because the oil separated out a bit?).

How do you take a good picture of fish with a green sauce in the night-time in the middle of winter?  I have no idea.  Sorry.