M and Kitty Cat Doll

Oh, Kitty Cat Doll. I got her for M when M was just a few months old, and she started sleeping with Kitty Cat Doll around five or six months. It’s been true love ever since. But it’s been especially intense lately! For a long time, KCD stayed in M’s bed all day long. When M woke up, I’d tell her to leave Kitty Cat Doll so we could let the dogs out or go get lunch, and she’d quite gleefully toss KCD down onto her bed. Now, if I suggest that, she gets upset. KCD sticks with her through most of the day. I can usually convince M to leave her inside when we go out, and if she comes with us in the car, she has to stay in the car while we’re in the store/restaurant/wherever. But they’re glued together at home!

Other cute M things, since she’ll be 21mos this week:

– I asked if I could give KCD a kiss on the nose, and once I had, KCD had to give ME a kiss on the nose.

– There’s a book we read before bed when we’re at my parents — it has a little horse finger puppet attached, and one page says, ‘I graze on grass and crispy apples.’ The last few times we’ve read it, M has pretended to pick one of the illustrated apples and feed it to the horse. Then, since I make ‘yum yum’ noises as the horse ‘eats’ it, she picks another imaginary apple and tries eating it herself.

– M really loves the chickens. We always head straight to the coop when we go outside now. I let the chickens out, and M tries to give them hugs and kisses. She hasn’t figured out that the chickens are interested in the same things as Nova, so she tries to give them balls and sticks. They’ll usually give them an exploratory peck or two, which delights her.

– She likes to talk on her toy phone. I can always tell when that’s what she’s doing because her ‘phone’ voice is different than her usual babble. She leaves pauses for the ‘other person’ and everything. And she’s figured out how to hold the phone between her chin and shoulder as she talks. She wouldn’t have seen me do that, as I only ever talk on my iPhone, but a girl has figure out how to keep playing even while she’s on the phone! Clearly, imaginary play is a big component of our days now.

– M loves, loves, loves swimming! I bought a pack of tickets to the ‘local’ outdoor pool this year instead of doing parent-tot swim class, and it’s been far more educational for M. My mom bought her a floaty ring things, and M just started kicking away with her feet as soon as I put her in it. She’s becoming really comfortable in the water and is starting to figure out that you can’t just walk in until it’s up past your head.

– M is also very social with other kids. Reserved around adults, but totally excited when she sees another kid. She’ll usually run up to them and squat, with her hands on her knees — her ‘Hi! Let’s play!’ posture. And if she gets really excited, she has to lie down on the floor. I have no idea why, but it makes sense to her.

– She’s still a little behind with her speech, but she knows a lot of signs from her signing videos. There are some I didn’t realize she knew until she started doing them without any prompting! She tries to repeat more words now as I talk to her, and her confidence is building. I feel like she’s gaining momentum now and will really burst into speech soon.

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In the Coop

The chickens are in their coop! There are still a few things to do, but it should be safe and secure, and they needed to get out of their smaller pen. M adored playing in the coop before it was finished, and I think she was confused at first when she was no longer allowed in there (since it was full of chickens). But then she decided that if she couldn’t be inside, peeking out, she could be the one peeking in. I had to keep telling her to leave the little chicken door closed at the back, as I want the chickens to stay in the coop for a while, so they’ll learn it’s their new home. She thinks it’s her own personal chicken hatch, though — you open the door, and a chicken appears!

The wild raspberries are abundant this year (usually the birds get them all), so I picked a bunch and let M feed them to the chickens. Now when they see her at the door, they all come running over for treats! I can’t help being a bit nervous when they go wild and try to grab food out of my hand, but M thinks it’s funny and great. She’s a natural poultry farmer.

I bought leg bands at the ag center today, as it was getting difficult to tell some of the chickens apart. I always know which one is Aster (yellow leg band), as she’s so sweet and affectionate and doesn’t run away or put up a fuss when I have to pick her up. Rita (no band) is also easy to distinguish — s/he’s got bigger legs, is a little darker, and clucks instead of peeps when petted. Charlie (red leg band) is smaller than the others and talkative, but Iris (blue) and Laverne (green) are very similar in looks and personality. I like to be able to tell them apart in case a health issue arises, but mostly it just feels rude not to know which one is which.

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I decided it was high time I did some actual cooking, preferably with results that I could put in the freezer for later. I came across this post on the Kitchn and thought several of the recipes looked pretty good.

First, I made these pierogi. Potato, cheese, and sauerkraut. I used really sharp cheddar, and I really like how the strong flavor of the cheese balances out the tanginess of the sauerkraut. When rolling out the dough, I found that letting it rest for a few minutes when it started resisting really did help. I would definitely make these again!

Sunday was really rainy and blah outside, so I did most of the prep for the empanadas and bean burgers while Maris napped. The empanada recipe is here. I left the crust recipe as-is, and it’s delicious. I used white whole wheat flour, which usually still tastes way too wheat-y to me (when used in things like cookies), but it was perfect here. I changed the filling quantities a little. I used one zucchini and two ears of corn (instead of the other way around) and added an entire can of black beans instead of just 3/4 cup. I also roughly doubled the amount of cheese, and I don’t think it would be going too far to double it again. The cheese sort of disappeared once it was cooked. I skipped the green chiles, so it wouldn’t be too hot for M, but everything else was as it is in the recipe. These are delicious! I wouldn’t have thought to roast the zucchini and corn, but it adds a ton of flavor. A+, would make again.

Yesterday, I cooked up the veggie burgers that I had mixed up on Sunday. They’re called the Best-Ever Veggie Burgers, so I was pretty excited. There’s a lot of work that goes into these — you have to roast and shred beets, puree some stuff (including prunes!) in the food processor, and saute your onions and garlic for quite a while. And then let it all mingle together (preferably) overnight before you cook them. By the time I put the first burger in the pan, I was feeling skeptical — they smelled really beet-y. But, with plenty of good, sharp chedder melted on top, they were actually pretty good. I wouldn’t call them the Best Ever, but I don’t love mushy veggie burgers — too messy. I’ve got lots of them in the freezer now, though, and they won’t go to waste. But with so many other interesting veggie burger recipes out there, I wouldn’t bother making them again.

So that’s a little progress in climbing out of my food rut. Next up: homemade pizzas for the freezer!

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Coop Progress

Whew! We’re finally in the homestretch with the chicken coop. I never thought it would take this long! My dad’s been coming over every weekend for the past few weeks to help me build it. It looks so basic once it’s finished, but there has been so much to do. I designed the frame (the stud walls) in SketchUp and tried to make it as big as possible to sit on a single slab of concrete. This pad was where the wood boiler used to be (before we owned the house), and none of the (three) individual slabs are level with one another, and a couple of them are cracked. So it was tricky to get the square footage that I wanted. Now that it’s finished, it’s 15sqft inside — that’s three square feet per bird, which is the minimum that I’m happy to give them. Of course, I thought there were only going to be four chickens when I designed the coop!

I still have to caulk the siding and then stain it, and there are a few last details to finish with the door and interior. But it’s looking good, right? I’ll be staining it to match the house. There’s a sidewalk that goes down to the coop from the house (from when the wood boiler was there), so it’s really going to look like it belongs, once it’s finished. And hopefully the chickens will like it, too!

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The chickens are looking more like chickens! Still small, though. They can get to be 8lbs, so they’ve still got some growing to do. The personalities have stayed the same over the weeks. Aster (who is sitting on my lap in the top photo) is the easiest-going, doesn’t make a fuss when I pick her up, and is always happy to be petted. Rita (who seems more and more likely to be a rooster) is the second friendliest, just not quite as out-going as Aster. Rita is who M is kissing above! And Charlie is still the smallest and the noisiest. I’ve never been able to find a reason for her size OR her complaining — maybe she just burns too many calories peeping all the time! Iris and Laverne have less distinctive personalities, although every so often I think I’ve got Aster on my lap, and it turns out to be Iris, so she’s also pretty friendly. A few of them have food coloring marks so I can tell them apart, but once they’re full-grown, I’ll get them leg bands, so it’ll always be clear who’s who.

They’re getting a little big for their brooder pen, but the coop isn’t finished yet. So I take them on field trips to the fenced-in garden. They always have a good time exploring for a few minutes, and then they realize where I’m sitting and all run/fly over to me. Then they stay under my chair or nearby. I had trapped Nova outside the garden yesterday — she’s gotten over-excited about the chickens in the past, when they’ve been in their brooder pen. But then a couple of deer ran from one field to the next, and since I didn’t want Nova wandering off to follow them, I let her in the garden with us. I held onto her at first, worried that she’d lose it and try to attack the chickens, but she went from really relaxed and interested to slightly nervous about them. She kept her distance! She wouldn’t even come over to me when I called her, because the chickens were under my chair. So I don’t think I have to worry about her!

And as you can see, M likes the chickens. She’s so kind and gentle with little creatures; I love it!

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I forgot I took all these photos on Saturday! We went out in the morning for a little wander around. It’s been warm lately, but that means it’s beautiful early in the day. The mosquitoes have been annoying, though!

My main goal for the garden this year was to get things more or less in place for future years. But I’m still disappointed that so many of my seeds didn’t come up. Only two of my (dry) bush beans sprouted, and NONE of the soy beans did. And 1/3 of the broom corn came up — that’s not going to be a very impressive broom! The flowers have fared a little better, so far. And the tomatoes and broccoli, which I bought as starts, are looking pretty good.

The chickens have gone out to the garage in their little brooder box — I hope the coop will be finished soon, so they can move in in the next couple of weeks! I shingled the coop roof since I took that last photo. There’s a lot I can’t do on my own (sheets of plywood need one person to hold them in place while another person nails, for example), so my dad’s been helping out. We’re making slow progress (it’s been hot out!), but at least the coop is looking a little more like a building now.

p.s. — M was licking the dew off the chair in the third photo. Toddlers are weird.

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Review: Block Island Sunscreen

Hooray! I’ve been looking forward to telling you guys about Block Island Organics, and I’m finally making the time to do so. They contacted me a bit ago to ask if they could send me a bottle of their Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 in exchange for a review, and I jumped at the chance. The timing was perfect, as I’d just been wondering what to buy to protect M’s skin from the sun.

The company itself sounds pretty great — family owned and run! And the sunscreen is vegan, not tested on animals, and free of all the nasty things you’re supposed to avoid. The only active ingredient is zinc, which was exactly what I was looking for for M. The last tube of zinc-based sunscreen I bought for M was really thick and difficult to apply (not the best when you’ve got a little kid who already doesn’t want you to cover them with lotion!). The Block Island sunscreen is so thin and smooth! And like they say, a little really does go a long way. I’ve blurped out a little too much a couple of times, because I forget how nicely it spreads. Luckily, a baby wipe seems to do a good job of removing it from between my fingers! It’s been very effective at protecting M from the sun, which is the best part, of course. She’d spend all day outside if she could, so it’s been put to the test!

M was pretending to put the lotion on herself in the second photo. Dab, dab, dab with the bottle, then put it down and rub the ‘sunscreen’ in. So she must like it, too!

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Sunday Fun

It’s amazing what you can fit into a day when there’s a toddler to entertain (vs being able to sit on your butt and veg out all day). Highlights of the day include taking a walk to pick wild flowers (well, things growing wildly — weeds and some chives that come up in new places every year), playing in the pool, and a visit from my mom. M had quite a lot of fun arranging and rearranging the flowers while I made dinner.

Oh! AND — we had some special visitors this morning. M was playing in the family room while I hung up mini blinds, and she made her ‘I see something exciting’ squeal. So I said, ‘Oh, do you see a bird?’ Then I looked out the patio door and was very surprised to see some of the neighbors’ cows parading through the back yard! No wonder M was excited!

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Recent Stuff

– I was in the other room for a minute this morning, and when I came back into the living room M did her ‘Look at this!’ noise and pointed to the tower she’d built. Not bad! I love that she built it all on her own and then thought, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta show this to somebody!’

– I decided to paint the top of M’s desk with chalkboard paint, after all. I’m so glad I did! It looks really sharp now (and matches the black legs of M’s chair) instead of being sort of disappointing. And M is taken with being able to color on it with chalk. Usually when she colors, she’ll just draw a few lines (with crayons or whatever), but she’s really into the chalk. I was asking her to draw me things (a butterfly, a flower, etc), and each time she’d purposefully turn back to the desk and draw something and then point to it. All just squiggles of course, but I love that she’s like, ‘Sure, I can draw a flower. Here you go!’

– The chicks are getting big! There’s a little heft to them now. Aster is still the sweetest. That’s her in the top photo, and she’s the one looking at the camera in the last one. She’s always happy to just perch on me and relax. The chick sitting next to her is Rita, who is still my top pick for possible rooster. She/He’s got the biggest feet of all of them, even though Aster has a bigger body. And I don’t know if it means anything, but Rita’s voice ‘dropped’ (sounds more mature instead of just baby peeps) a little while back. Everybody else still peeps. Either way, Rita is the second friendliest chick, so hopefully if (s)he is a rooster, and least (s)he’ll be a nice one. I just think the chicks are so fascinating — I’m really glad there’s a way to have tame birds who don’t have to be trapped in a cage all day (well, once they’re old enough to live outside). They’re very different from mammals but still so full of personality.

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