Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Escape to New York

We haven't been to New York City in over ten years.  How did we let that happen?!  Knowing we had a long weekend coming up and a 4 year old obsessed with trains, Brent came up with a great idea.

So we picked up Joseph a little early from preschool last Thursday and took the Metro down to Union Station where we boarded the Amtrak train for a 3 hour ride to The Big Apple.

Joseph spent almost the whole 1st hour like this:

And when he bored of that, he watched some movies.  Thomas the Tank Engine movies.  More trains, of course!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Around Town

We're exploring a "New" city with Joe Joe this weekend, but last weekend we got to spend a little time seeing some sights around our own city.  

It was such gorgeous weather that we thought it might be fun to try ice skating on the rink in the sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Art.  No dice!  He was happy to laugh when the other kids went tumbling down but was adamantly against giving it a go himself.  Bummer, since I really wanted to skate!  I haven't been for decades.

Instead we walked around the gardens and looked at the sculptures themselves.

Love the above tree - made entirely of metal!  Then we walked over to the nearby Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden for even more sculpture......

....and then the Air and Space Museum for a brief run through of some rockets and other aircraft.  (Though obviously more convenient, this place pales in comparison to the Udvar Hazy outpost.)

We rounded out the afternoon with a ride on the carousel in front of the Smithsonian castle.  Ice skating aside, it was a fun family afternoon in our wonderful city!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Rainbow Connection

At some point I convinced myself it would be a good idea to try to teach 17 preschoolers how to use a sewing machine.  

(dramatic pause)

Joseph's wonderful teachers have always encouraged parents to come for some "family share" time, where someone talks to the kids about a career, culture, holiday, or just reads a few good books.  Last year I taught the kids about being a doctor, so this time around I thought I would share something more personal with them that I love - quilting.  I had so much "scrap" fabric lying around that I was wondering how to get rid of, and I also realized that if we could pull this off we'd have a unique item to donate to the school's annual auction next month.  

I got my inspiration from the thing I see every single time I walk into that classroom: 

 ........a bunch of little girls sitting around coloring rainbows.  With no particular plan of action I started cutting out small strips of fabric that I figured would be easy enough for them to sew into rows with straight lines.

I took a few minutes to talk to the kids about sewing and showed some examples of quilts before revealing the design I finally came up with.

If you enlarge the photo above you might get a better sense of the plan.  I was lucky that the strips I cut would work perfectly in this pattern I had bookmarked ages ago called "Sugar Pop & Change."

The kids were all ridiculously interested and eager to try!  Everyone wanted to be 1st but they were all patient working in pairs over the course of about an hour.  They got to pick their favorite color, arrange the pieces however they wanted, line up the edges, and put the pedal to the medal to make the machine go (while I tried to keep my fingers from getting punctured with a sharp needle).  Each of them got to sew together one row of 8 pieces that would be incorporated into the quilt top.

While we sewed we talked about colors, shapes, patterns, matching.....all kinds of fun stuff while Miss Kasia took pictures for me.  And in the process I got to know each of Joseph's friends a little bit better.

The other kids would do some free play when it wasn't their turn.  Here's what I see Joseph and the boys doing every time I show up in the classroom - face down on the floor playing cars, trains, trucks and dinosaurs.

Here's a good one just to wrap it up.  Even "tough guys" sew.  Andrew couldn't have worn a better shirt that day!

Of course even Joseph got a turn too.  His favorite color is blue, and he did a great job!  Not that I'm biased.

And we're well on our way to having a baby quilt or wall hanging to auction off next month, all with the Leopards' class help!

Monday, February 20, 2012

King Cake

We're always excited when carnival season rolls around!  We're on an every-other-year schedule for attending Mardi Gras festivities with the family in Louisiana, so this year we had to celebrate in our own way in DC.  The house got decorated with beads and doubloons and New Orleans music has dominated the airwaves.  "Mardi Gras Mambo" has become JT's new favorite song - he's playing it over and over in an attempt to earn all the words.  And he can dance!

It wouldn't be Mardi Gras without a traditional King Cake.  Thank you, Fed Ex Saturday Delivery!  Although you cost more than the contents of the box, it is well worth the price.  We'd never ordered from Gambino's before and were surprised that the cake came undecorated, but it was a welcome opportunity to get Joseph involved in another Mardi Gras tradition.

As you can see on the label above, 1 plastic doll is included along with icing, colored sugars, and an instruction sheet (not that we needed it).

The cake honors the three kings or wise men that came bearing gifts for baby Jesus, who is represented by the doll, which is baked inside the cake.  Tradition goes that the person getting the doll in their slice of cake has host the next King Cake party.  The colors on the cake represent justice (purple), faith (green) and power (gold).

In unpacking our bags of "throws" from last year's parades we found this hat.  Joseph took a liking to. it and it seemed to suit the occasion perfectly.

 On to cake decorating!  I squeezed out the icing, he spread it out evenly.  And ate some.

 I tried to show him how to sprinkle on the sugar, he dumped it in huge piles.

I know which piece he wanted!  Not realizing the doll really was baked into the cake (some bakeries don't do it due to choking hazards) we gave Joseph a doll we saved from another year to put on the cake.  Yeah, baby Jesus was swimming in sugar.

Is this the face of a mad hatter or just a plain old sugar rush?

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday!  Hope all y'all have a happy Mardi Gras!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pop Star

Cake pops are "IT" and it looks like they're here to stay!  I feel like I've done them to death by now, but everybody still loves them and more people than I can count made them for a Valentine's day treat  this year (with varying degrees of success).  Last weekend Joseph got to hang with his bestie Jack while Missy got a private tutorial in the art of making the cake pop from me.  She brought along a prebaked red velvet cake and I walked her through the rest.  It very much reminded me of our mantra back in medical residency:  "see one, do one, teach one."  The directions, you ask?

Crumble the cake to smithereens in a large bowl.

Mix in about 1 cup of frosting (in this case cream cheese) and stir it up until it's completely combined and is the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Scoop into balls with a small ice cream scooper.

Roll them into neat little balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Red velvet cake does wonders to your hands.
Put them in the freezer for at least 1/2 hour.

Ready, set, dip!
Work with just a few at a time so they don't warm up.
Insert a lollipop stick into the cake ball.  Fully coat with melted chocolate, tap off the excess, and sprinkle with something fun and festive.

Make sure to wear some serious bling during this process.

Insert the pops into a styrofoam block to completely set.

Make sure to bring a dutiful husband to take pictures for you to upload to Facebook and an adorable child to be the official taste tester.

Package them up in cellophane treat bags and tie them up with pretty ribbon.

Deliver to your friends who will now think you are a domestic goddess!
Missy surely is - she's a quick study and a pleasure to work with.  She did almost the entire project by herself with just a few pointers and trade secrets from me along the way.  Secrets, by the way, she will take to her grave if she ever wants help from me again. ;)