Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Halloween Fun

With Halloween approaching, we've started to get out some decorations and have fun with some Halloween crafts! Here are some of the ways we're celebrating the season.

A Seasonal Photo

One of my favorite seasonal decorations is a 20"x30" photo of Will sitting in a pumpkin patch that we had printed to put in the frame over our family room fireplace. We used mpix.com, and it was $25.00 for the extra large print, which isn't bad for a decoration that will be fun to use in future seasons. We left the previous print right in the frame behind the seasonal one, where it can be switched back later. We loved this photo so much that we also used it to print some Halloween cards from Shutterfly to send to our family.

Goodnight Goon

As Halloween approaches we've also really enjoyed switching up Will's bedtime story. Our favorite: Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex. My mom gave it to him for his birthday, and I'm not sure who loves it more, Will, or us. Greg does the best reading, with a spooky voice and plenty of suspense leading up to "the hairy old werewolf who was hollering... boo!" which gets an inevitable laugh out of Will. It's available on Amazon or maybe even at your local bookstore so you too can say goodnight to pots full of goo and screechy bats for a fun little change to the bedtime routine!

The Witch Hug Scarf by Morehouse Farms

I knit this as a gift for my mom, who loves witches, Wicked, and all things Elphaba. She's made Will's Halloween Costume two years running, and I wanted to thank her with a little hand knit fun to wear this October.

I used knitpicks Swish DK yarn, a superwash merino, in peapod and eggplant. While I love the Morehouse Farms wool, I wanted brighter colors and something that could be washed now that Mom is starting to have grandchildren. The pattern was fun to knit, super easy, and pretty quick since it's garter stitch.

Jack O' Lantern Squishies

For a fun little project I knit up some Squishies from Itty Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anthony in a bright orange, then duplicate stitched them with jack o' lantern faces. Will loves picking them up, looking at the faces, and throwing them. Who knows, maybe I'll knit more next year and we can place them around the house as a fun Halloween tradition! Right now their place seems to be on the floor, where they can be thrown, chased, and thrown again.

I knit them in knitpicks machine washable swish worsted in orange, and then duplicate stitched them with the same yarn in black. I stuffed them with poly fil which is also machine washable, so the whole squishie toy can go right in a garment bag and through the washer and dryer if it gets chewed on or dirty.

I didn't use a pattern for the faces, just made up the duplicate stitching as I went along! That's why some of the mouths are a little crooked. I wanted them to look like I had carved them, and if anyone has seen the way I carve pumpkins, they'll understand.

Will throws and chases the squishies so quickly that it was impossible to get a decent picture of him holding one!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I love going apple picking in the fall, it's one of my favorite fall traditions. This year, I took Will for the first time with my Mom and Will's playgroup. It was so much fun, and we picked a ton of apples.

I made the requisite apple pie and homemade applesauce, but then decided I would try something new and made a butternut squash and apple soup. I ate two bowls with baguette as a meal, but it would also make a great first course for any autumn dinner.

I came up with the recipe myself, but it's based on soup and puree techniques I learned in a cooking class I took last year, and my refresher from Chef Marc!

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

2 T butter or olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a large dice
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup apple cider, white wine or water
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
6 apples, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves

Heat the butter or olive oil in a pan over medium low heat. Pour yourself a glass of wine to drink. Add the diced onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent, about ten minutes. Add the chunks of butternut squash and sauté about five more minutes. Deglaze the pan with the cider, white wine or water. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the apples and spices and simmer until you've given your son a bath and put him to bed. (Or until apples and squash are thoroughly cooked and softened and flavors have developed, about half an hour.) Soup can simmer on very low heat for longer if needed. Puree with an immersion blender or in small batches in a regular blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Freezes well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A First Birthday Party

Will's first birthday was last week, and we spent the weekend in Maine so he could celebrate with family! With so many relatives nearby, we ended up having two gatherings so each side of the family had an opportunity to spend time with him.

Here's how we celebrated!

Will's first birthday cakes

Mom's side: homemade chocolate cupcakes decorated with monkey faces.

Dad's side: rubber ducky pound cake with a chocolate cake base made by his great-grandmother Nana! She made Greg's first birthday cake, and it was so nice that she agreed to make one for his son, too. We thanked her with a photo book of our favorite pictures of Will with her and her side of the family. On the front was printed "A photo book for Will's Great-Nana, who made his first birthday cake".


8x10 framed photos of Will, in an apple orchard for Mom's side and with his favorite rubber ducky in the bathtub for Dad's side. The photos were given to each set of grandparents to thank them for hosting. On Mom's side, we also displayed a sock monkey that Greg and I learned to make at a workshop, but that's another story!

Party favors

Since all the invitees were close family, we thought they would really enjoy having mini photo books with pictures of Will chosen to show how he's grown over the past year. My brother's wife is always five steps ahead of me with photo projects, and she pointed us in the direction of My Publisher, which lets you make twenty page 2"x3" softcover mini photo-books for $2.49 each. We then added some organic dark chocolate bars, customized with homemade wrappers (Thank you Greg!!), and put them in clear plastic treat bags.


Greg took all the videos we've taken of Will during his first year, and edited down almost two hours of footage into a twenty minute DVD with our absolute favorites. We made copies for each set of grandparents, and showed the DVD at each party. I can't wait to play it in ten, twenty, and thirty years to see some of his first laughs all over again.

Photo Albums and Baby Book

We used Will's birthday parties as a deadline and incentive for finally selecting digital photos to print and putting them all in albums for his first year. I learned a few things - one, we take way too many photos. Two, it's best to choose just the best from each event to print, and it's great to do it on a monthly rather than an annual basis! We ordered a case of black photo albums so that they'll all be the same, and I used our label maker to both number and date the albums for easy browsing. We brought them to each party along with Will's baby book and kept them out for relatives to flip through.

Will had a wonderful time at each party, although I think he's wondering why cupcakes and cake aren't a daily occurrence anymore. He had so much fun interacting with grandparents and great-grandparents! He also received some wonderful gifts to keep him busy and entertained when they're not here. We ordered customized thank you notes from shutterfly that I'm sure he'll hand write and mail shortly.

Happy Birthday, Will!