Chicks

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Still waiting on the baby, so here are some more chick photos! Rita wound up hatching two chicks — she started with eight eggs, and one broke early on, so really only seven. The first was born Monday afternoon/evening and the second came along on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she moved her nest into the corner and left two eggs in the middle of the coop (they were cold when I found them, and one was sloshy — definitely no good). Yesterday morning, I took the other three eggs out from under Rita, and I was surprised to find that they were also cold (and all sloshy). Makes it seem all the more amazing that two healthy chicks managed to hatch, with so many duds!

Two is actually exactly as many as I was hoping for — we don’t actually NEED any more chickens until the hens slow down egg production in a year or two. I just hope they’re not both roosters! They’re very curious and friendly, and both they and Rita have let me pick them up to show M, who is smitten. It’s quite a different experience having a hen raising chicks vs. hand-raising them indoors. Don’t have to worry about keeping them warm — Rita does that! She’s doing her job well, so far. I put some scratch grains out in the run (she and the chicks are living in the coop; the other chickens are all living in the barn at night), and she was very happy to stretch her legs and dig in the dirt. The chicks just stayed in the little pop door area, quiet and content, but not adventurous enough to join her outside yet. When I check a minute later, Rita was back inside with them, back to work.

M These Days

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M officially turned two and half last month. And earlier this month, we took a last-minute trip up to Duluth to enjoy the warm weather while we’re still a mom-and-ONE-kid family. It really felt like a vacation, even though we were gone for only one night. We walked all around, ate at restaurants, went swimming in the hotel pool, and found a great playground. I’m always amazed by the way M can grow and change her opinions on things with no intervening experience — when we went to Florida, she was quite nervous about the pool. But this time, I had to constantly remind her to stay back from the pool and not go in without me. She loved jumping into the water / my arms from the edge of the pool!

She’s also obsessed with playgrounds at the moment. I’ve actually ordered her her very own playset, and I made the mistake of showing her a picture, even though it was originally scheduled for delivery in two weeks. She spent a few days talking about how the “big, big playground” was coming to the house. I’d get her out of bed in the morning, and the first thing she’d say to me would be, “My playground will be here soon!” (Luckily, the delivery company called yesterday, and now it’ll be arriving THIS Friday instead of next — so she doesn’t have to wait quite as long.)

M would spend all day outside, if I’d let her. Which is better than the alternative: endlessly watching Paw Patrol indoors (which she’s done some days, thanks to my being really quite pregnant!). Although she recently discovered jigsaw puzzles, and she spent what felt like hours putting them together yesterday evening. The concentration! As eager as I am to get the show on the road, baby-wise, I’m really enjoying the simplicity of these last days/weeks of having one kid. It’s going to change very soon, but right now, it’s still all about M!

Chicks!

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We have chicks! I really wasn’t sure if the eggs were going to wind up being fertile, and whether Rita had done a good job incubating them. But one hatched yesterday afternoon, and as of this evening, there’s at least one more (I didn’t want to lift Rita off the nest to check the other eggs). They’re very cute!

Knits, with Buttons!

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I realized I never shared the little vest I knitted for Baby Sister — and I even sewed the buttons on it (and M’s chicken sweater)! I get so lazy when it comes to buttons, for some reason. M still loves her chicken sweater, and I was glad to use up most of a little collection of DK odds and ends on the vest. We’ll have to wait and see if it actually fits Baby Sister; my knitting was a bit smaller than the gauge, for some reason, but I don’t think I’d have had enough yarn if I corrected it. So it’ll either be a very-newborn vest or, possibly, just a doll’s vest. I used this pattern and added the colorwork myself.

Growing Up

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I recently saw somebody on-line ask about the difference between a “young two” (ie, a kid who’s just turned two years old) and an “old two” (one who’s nearing three years old) — and, of course, it’s huge. I mean, M is right in the middle, but it’s incredible how much she’s changed over the last six months. She took so long to start talking; I didn’t write down a list of her vocabulary when she turned two, but when she was 21mos, the only words she said spontaneously were “yeah”, “socks”, and a version of “no”. THAT sure has changed! (Parents of late talkers take heart!)

She’s discovering the magic of letters and words right now — I was surprised to find out a couple of months ago that she knew how to spell her name. (We hadn’t worked on it, but I guess she’d heard me spell it out loud enough times that it’d stuck.) She’s added a couple of words to her spelling repertoire (“Mommy” and “baby”) and is working on the pet names. It’s mostly an exercise in memorization at this point, but as you can see, she knows that the letters have shapes as well as names. I scrambled up the letters of her name this morning, and she quickly put them in the correct order. (Top to bottom, because that’s “like Chicka Boom Boom tree”.)

When I was scooping the cats’ litter boxes last night, M came out to get me and said she was playing “at the doctor” and asked me to play too. She has a Playmobil hospital set that doesn’t get a LOT of use, but every now and then she really enjoys it. I didn’t realize until we’d been playing for a while that she was using the play as a way to work through her recent medical procedure (nothing too dramatic, thankfully). I was the doctor and the nurse, and each of her Paw Patrol pups had to have a check up. It was really interesting to see how focused she was as I did each “check up”, waiting to hear whether each pup was healthy (they all were). I’d read about the importance of role-play games like that in helping kids process events/emotions, but I was surprised that M initiated it. She’s growing up so fast!

Broody

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There may or may not be new chicks in another two-ish weeks! I’m letting broody Rita sit on some eggs she’s claimed — we’ll see what happens!

Beany Cat

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Beany has been going outside a lot lately. Our cats are indoor cats, but a while back I was threatening to make them all live outside (they were peeing on the carpet — I’ve managed to stop that, though!). I speculated that, after a week of being on their own outside, Bear would have wandered off and found a new family to live with; Birdy would have withered away out of confusion; and we’d have to go looking for Beany — eventually we’d come across her in her new den in the woods, and she’d have a nice fire going to keep her warm. I don’t worry about Beany being outside. She comes back to the door when she’s ready to come in, and she’d never wander so far as to get anywhere near the road. She’s still an indoor cat 95% of the time, but she looks quite natural in the out-of-doors.

Marmalade Cake

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Make this cake! I mean, if you have a jar of marmalade going spare. There’s always one in the Fortnum’s hamper that Rob gets, but while I like marmalade, I don’t love it enough to get through a jar in the four weeks recommended on the label. So I went searching for a cake recipe to use it in. This one wound up being just right. I liked that it used a substantial amount of marmalade, instead of just a few tablespoons. And I just happen to have a 6″ wide, 3″ tall cake pan — convenient!

I was worried that the cake was going to be really overdone and dry around the edges, since it takes so long to bake through in the middle, but — at least today, when it was super fresh — it wasn’t at all. I covered the top with foil after 45min, and I turned the oven down to 325˚F for the last 10min (I was getting nervous!), but I did keep it in there for exactly the recommended 75min. The edges turned fairly dark and are crunchy (in a good way), but the interior stayed light and tender.

I don’t use self-rising flour, so I used cake flour (to keep it a bit lighter) and three-and-a-bit teaspoons of baking powder, plus a teaspoon of salt. That seemed like a ton of baking powder, but it was actually less than the recommended substitute for self-rising flour — at any rate, the cake rose nicely and doesn’t taste bitter! It’s basically a pound cake (lots of butter), but I thought the method was interesting: you cut the butter into the flour (I used a food processor), add the sugar, then add the wet ingredients.

I could see a sprinkle of powdered sugar being a nice touch, but I don’t think the cake really needs anything extra. There’s a lot of flavor from the butter and the marmalade, and it’s sweet-but-not-too-sweet. A perfect cake for eating with tea (or for breakfast, ’cause that’s definitely going to happen!).

Chicken Sweater

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Sometime last year, I started making this sweater for M. I’d had the skeins of dark blue yarn (Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino) since my London days, and the lighter color (same brand/kind) came from my friend Em and was left over from a sweater I made M when she was ~6mos. I found this vintage pattern and thought it would be a good use for all that wool. And while the elephants on the original cardigan are cute, well, they’re not chickens, are they? I hunted down some appropriately-size charts for a hen and chicks and used those instead.

My only real change to the pattern was to make the collar and bottom band seed stitch instead of ribbing. (The button band on the original was already seed stitch.) I knit the back and right side and then did about a third of the left side whenever it was that I started this sweater, and then I didn’t pick it up again until last week. Even though it’s a “size 3”, whatever that means when it comes to vintage patterns, I was worried that it wouldn’t fit M if I didn’t finish it NOW. I was down to my last skein and a bit when I got to the sleeves, and the first one used over half of what I had remaining! I made the other sleeve two stitches narrower, and I don’t know if that actually made a huge difference (you can’t tell it’s narrower now that it’s finished), but when I cobbled together all the scraps and everything, I had enough for both sleeves, the collar, and the seaming. Whew!

I still haven’t sewn on any buttons, but at least the cardigan fits M! She was really excited to wear her “chicken sweater” today. We love our chickens!

Junior Noodler

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I’m pretty sure there’s a box of spaghetti in the pantry that’s been there for a year or two. Same goes for whatever other dried pasta is in there. I almost never cook it. Yet, since I started making fresh pasta, we’ve gone through THAT at an astonishing pace. It’s not even the same kind of food, somehow. (“Somehow” probably = eggs.) I’ll make a batch or two of noodles, freeze them, and then they’re gone before I know it.

I let M help make spaghetti today. I’ve always made pasta while she’s distracted by something else — when I make macaroni noodles, for example, it always feels just a little stressful, making sure to cut them at the right point and then trying to stop them all sticking together. And forget about letting a child near a motorized pasta ROLLER. It makes me a little light-headed just to think of tiny fingers near that thing. But the extruder is safe enough, with adult supervision, and the spaghetti always comes out perfectly.

M was so excited to help! She had some real flair when it came to pitching the dough balls into the hopper — for some reason, I’d just been dropping them in, like a boring person. And watching the noodles come out is good entertainment if you’re two and a half. (Or, let’s be honest, if you’re a grown adult.) We wound up with plenty of spaghetti for the freezer, and I cooked some up — with pesto and broccoli — for our dinner. She loves those noodles!