Sunday, February 24, 2013

{the simple things} new playground

We live in the middle of a new development, and just as our part of it got finished last year, the next part started. Sigh. More excavators, dump trucks, cranes and the like. A little boy's heaven, you'd think. Unless your little boys have been used to that for a good four years now. A dump truck? Yawn. Look, there's a new crane! Oh what else is new....

Anyway. The good news is that the city finally finished the new playground that is right between our part of the development and the new one. The process started last summer, and the fun part was that all the kids and parents who live here got invited to a planning meeting to make a wish list of things they'd like for the playground. 

The not so fun part was the wet summer and the fact that building the playground took much, much longer than anticipated. It got finished just before Christmas, but the sand didn't get in until this year. So now it's all done! And it's great. Last Sunday we got a little bit of sunshine (while I'm typing it's snowing outside. Again. Sigh.), so we got some much needed fresh air.

The slide seems to be everyone's favorite. We've been to the playground a few times since it opened, but last week was little brother's first time of going down the slide all by himself. Before that he's stand at the top, holding up traffic and wait for big brother or friends to go down with him. Now he does it all by himself.

I love the details. Such as the swinging bench.

Oh and yes, that is a mouse sitting on a box of explosives. Go figure...

But the best part? The playground is so close that I can literally see the kid from my back deck - or open the upstairs window and tell them dinner is ready. Not that I can let the little one out there all by himself yet, but I'm sure that time will come sooner than I'd like to think.

How about you? What are your favorite playgrounds and do you ever let your kids there unattended?

Sharing with Rebecca's simple things sunday today. 

Happy Sunday,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

{the simple things} Rock Star Cats

It was Karneval over here this week, so the boys had to dress up for preschool and school. For some reason, cat costumes have been very popular at this house. Wonder where that comes from... Although we did lions last year and magicians for Halloween the past two years, cats remain the absolute favorite costume of all time.

Except that big brother is six years old now, and in school. Somehow I could not bring myself to buy him the same cat costume just a size bigger. A six-year-old dressing up as cat? Hmmm....

Instead, we took a cue from their all-time favorite music, the Mukketier-Bande (if you follow the link, click on the green arrow to listen to some samples).

You see, their all-time favorite song is about a rock-star cat named Atze, complete with leather jacket and electric guitar. And I just couldn't resist that one. So I got two used leather jackets from eBay for very little money, plus inflatable guitars. Then I made some cat ears using fleece we had left over from other projects, and bought cat tails since the week got so busy that I didn't have time to make them. We also printed a picture of Atze on simple white tees so that the boys could wear them under their jacket and show them to those who might not know who Atze the cat is (blasphemy!).

Thus we had two rock star cats for this year's carnival parties. And I can just see a rock star party in our future...

Happy Sunday,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Homemade Orange Chile Pepper

The brother's daddy and uncle both had their birthdays last month, so we needed to stock up on gifts. It needed to be homemade (by the boys, of course), use mostly things we had around and be fairly quick to make, since the weeks before the birthdays were insane work wise. Tall order?


Both daddy and his brother love to grill, so we made Orange Chile Pepper for meat hot off the grill. I had some oranges left over, so I used a vegetable peeler to get the skin off and a knife to scrape the remaining white pith off the back. Then I finely minced the peel and left it on a plate on the counter for a day or two. Voila, dried orange peel!

Then big brother and I took a trip to Ikea one Saturday afternoon and (among a select few other items, naturally) bought two of their spice mills.

While daddy was at going for a run, the boys took to their project. We got our dried orange peel, some coarse sea salt, black pepper and whole dried red chiles.

We started with some salt, then added the orange peel. We didn't really use a recipe, the boys and I pretty much eyeballed it.

 Add some black peppercorns and then some hot chiles.

Screwing the top back on the mills, giving it a few shakes and adding a tag - done!

Actually, that was too easy. Even for us. Luckily we had picked up some simple gray oven mitts at Ikea. We grabbed some fabric pens we had, and the boys drew a design, each one on one side of the mitt, so both mitts have big and little brother's artwork on them. It's a cat standing at a grill, btw.What, your cats don't usually grill your dinner? Ha.

Of course we also had to come up with the matching card. A quick Pinterest search later, we made these BBQ cards where you can actually open the top of the grill. That's fish on the grill. Guess the cat went to get himself another beer then...

So, now I have some time before I need to come up with a father's day craft...

What kid-made gifts have you done recently?


Monday, February 11, 2013

Yum. A.k.a. hot chocolate on a stick

I was actually going to post these for Christmas. Because we did them for Christmas, to make up for the lack of cookies this year and give to neighbors and friends instead.

Oh well.

I think they're pretty perfect for Valentine's Day, too. Or basically any day you could use some hot chocolate. Which, with current temperatures is every day, if you ask me.

I used the recipe from giver's log, which you can find right here. There's also a helpful review at TheKitchn.

I think I made about six batches in total, and after a while found that it worked best if I doubled the recipe. We also added some spice to the chocolate. As for what kind of chocolate, well, I mixed what I had on hand, nothing with less than 70% of cocoa though. For a mold, I used those tiny flowery mini muffin tins I've had for ages and never seem to be able to find the right muffin recipe for. They were perfect and after popping the whole tray in the fridge for it to set, they came out easily. The silicone molds were even easier, but mine are quite big which makes for a very chocolatey cup later...

For the Christmas batch I ended up printing those lovely tags from A Pair of Pears to go with them. They were perfect and added just the right touch. Of course I did not manage to get a photo of them. Sigh.

I think they look pretty just wrapped individually and tied with some ribbon, too. Or you could write a message on the stick, tape a little flag to it...

As for the hot chocolate, well, we made extensive quality assurance tests, let me tell you. The brother's verdict: pretty good. In fact, good enough to have everyday. Morning, afternoon and at night, please. If you ask little brother, he'll also tell you that you absolutely must make some freshly whipped cream to go with it. And while you're at it, some sprinkles don't hurt, either.

Red heart sprinkles, maybe?

Happy Valentine's Day,

{the simple things} Paperwhites. Cause I really can't see that snow anymore.

What a winter. Rainy and warm before Christmas, and as soon as the new year is there it starts snowing. And snowing. Then it thaws again. And, next thing you know, it snows again.

Can you tell I am a little tired of it? I don't even feel like going out and taking pictures of it. I just want no more snow this winter. I am tired of driving through it to work, tired of being cold and tired of having to dress the boys in countless layers before going out to the brand-new playground right behind our house (more on that some other day, as apparently I was also too cold to take decent photos of it).

Last month I did Apartment Therapy's January Cure, and one of my favorite parts of this and any AT Cure is always the fresh flowers task. Every week, you go out and buy some fresh flowers for your home. I should really keep this up, because even if I didn't deep clean every last kitchen cabinet (I did clean out the worst offenders though), this really brightens up my home and makes me smile.

The simple things, right?

So, here's to a pot of paperwhites, bought sometime in January and now brightening snowy February days on my kitchen windowsill.

You see that green no-idea-what-it-is-called plant behind the flowers? That's actually a leftover from the same Cure assignment over a year ago.

We also have the house filled with lovely potted blue muscari that were part of decorations for a party. So there you go, Winter, even if you insist on dumping even more snow outside, in here it's Spring!