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I am not much for frequenting the local Starbucks, or any other coffee shops anymore.  It isn’t really the thing with four kids and breastfeeding.  However, I had recently discovered the Starbuck Pumpkin Spice Latte and was getting a bit addicted.  It was hitting me hard in the wallet too, so before my hubby could notice all the charges on our bank card for $4 drinks, I decided to save him some money and my own sanity by making them at home!  Sonlight ladies turned me on to making the key ingredient at home: Pumpkin Spice Syrup! 

Now I didn’t exactly follow a recipe here, but I guarantee you can whip this up without one. 

In a saucepan, mix about 1-1/2 cups sugar and about 1 cup of water. Stir to dissolve.  Add in ground cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.  You could also use allspice in this, but I didn’t have any.  You could also include a bit of orange peel, maybe some brown sugar in place of some of the white, pure maple syrup or even just regular pumpkin pie spice mix.  You want to achieve that “fall” taste.  I also included two chunks of fresh pumpkin from our just carved jack o’ lanterns.  Bring to a slow boil and stir a lot so it doesn’t burn.  Cook until the water is mostly cooked off and you have a syrup consistency.  Remove the pumpkin chunks if you used them and any “whole” spices you may have used.  Put your syrup in a jar to keep in the fridge.  Add to coffee or steamed milk and enjoy! 

PS.  If you don’t have a fancy coffee maker, you can make simple, frothy steamed milk easy on the stove.  Pour the milk into a saucepan and turn on the heat.  With a whisk, beat the milk into a froth until it is hot.  You can achieve a lot of froth this way.  Just be careful not to let the milk come to a boil.  Pour into mugs with pumpkin spice syrup and enjoy!  This is a great treat for the kids!


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Being busy

Being busy is a great thing, I suppose.  Some days though I feel as if I have had enough of it…while it only takes about one day of the lack of busy-ness in life to make me wish I was busy with something!  Funny how that works!  I have been wanting to post about some of the things that have been keeping us busy.  Here is a random assortment from the last few weeks.

We recently took an evening hike along Akron’s newest section of completed towpath.  I was looking forward to exploring one of the most urban sections of the path, especially as it boasts a floating bridge for part of its distance. I came away from the hike with mixed emotions.  We hiked it on a lovely fall evening, cool and crisp andwith a beautiful sunset.  As you start from the parking lot, you have  a lovely view out across Summit Lake. 

Looking across Summit Lake

Looking across Summit Lake

 You also get  some views of “industrial Akron” (for which I use quotes, as this is not as ominous as it sounds considering that much of the industry is not quite what it once was, to put it nicely. ) I was suprised to find myself walking underneath Kenmore Boulevard even, but that was about as far as we got considering that it was getting quite dark.  But therein is where the problems started.  My spouse was getting rather insistent that we get back to our car lest we get robbed or mugged.  For while on one side of this path you have a lovely lake view and there are marshy areas , quaint fallen trees and geese swimming, the other side of the path is lined by Section 8 housing, and poor neighborhoods and basketball court frequented by local unsavory boys.  I say this because we saw some of these boys.  I even saw a boy I guessed to be about 13 carrying a  gun as he strode past us, and then started to run as he got just behind us.  A bit weird…or scary?  It is really too bad.  It is a lovely place…and I am grateful that locals who aren’t able to afford better lodging can have this view and this bit of nature and recreation at their back door, too, but it is unfortunate that this spot will undoubtedly become an after hours hang out for kids and ne’er do wells.  There will be grafitti and litter, which the towpath is generally free of in other areas.  I really did want to keep going to find out where this part of the path goes, and I probably will sometime, but as the sun sank, we got a bit nervous and headed back.  One of these days I plan to follow it back through the Kenmore neighborhood where I grew up, past the salt mines.  It will be interesting to see where it take us. 

Another rite of fall is the pumpkin patch, of course.  We made our annual trip to Boughton’s farm for pumpkins a couple weeks ago.  We pick produce there all summer and cap it off at the end of the season with pumpkins.  The family that owns it is so great…they always remember us and they are great with the kids.  One of the reasons I love them is because they are so UNcommercialized!  There is no quaint country cafe or gift shop selling “made in China” harvest decor.  There is no fancy parking lot or pricey corn maze (Thanks be to God).  Just a farm and a small farmstand and some really awesome proprieters.  It is THE REAL THING. Great produce and great prices, too.  We bought some lovely big pumpkins, it was sunny…we took a short hay ride…and then two days later our pumpkins were stolen off our porch.  Who take a little kid’s pumpkin?  This is the second time this has happened to us and it is sickening.  All our neighbors have pumpkins, but we were targeted.  Well, I came away with great memories and pictures at least.







So this week we went back to Boughtons.  When I told them about our pumpkins, they very graciously offered us an “insurance policy” and allowed us to pick out anything we liked for free…which was so generous and I really appreciated their kindness.  The kids had the fun of picking again and we brought them home along with a pound of chestnuts that we picked up from their tree.  Hopefully we’ll have better luck this time. 

We have also been out and about just hiking and walking…kayaking too.  One day we drove to Peninsula and parked the cars and I took the baby in her stroller and the three kids rode their bikes and we headed north to the Boston Store on the towpath.  Steve launched his kayak there and followed us upriver.  We actually only saw him a couple times, but it was fun and I was able to get some action shots of him on the river.  He has been going out to learn more and practice about once a week and is making lots of progress.  He is also planning to take a couple of our kayaks to Florida in a few weeks. 


We have also been busy homeschooling and taking field trips and learning all sorts of interesting things!  We spent a week doing a science unit study about the weather and how it works.  During that same week, we took time to make a bunch of fun crafts that focused on Native Americans.  We have started Sonlight’s Core 3 which introduces native cultures and early American history.  We had just finished Walk the World’s Rim and had ben reading our American Indian Prayer Guide amongst other things.  So we put together some dioramas of Indian homes and we also made our own moccassins from felt.  We made several types of Native American-style musical instruments and paper crafts found in central and south America as well. 

Breslin with his Seminole Chickee, Niall with a Plains Teepee and Hazel with a Southwestern Pueblo

Breslin with his Seminole Chickee, Niall with a Plains Tipi and Hazel with a Southwestern Pueblo


But frankly, what you really want to see is more baby pictures right?  Yes…Louisa is keeping us busy too.  Breslin and Hazel have been busy learning to change diapers.  Louisa herself is busy learning to laugh and smile and even starting to try rolling over!  I have no idea how much she weighs now or how long she is…but I know she is healthy and growing fast!  She wears Sarah’s pilot cap everywhere and is giving us lots of good opportunities to take pictures.  She is doing her first Metroparks Hiking Spree.  She just got her first bathing suit for the trip to Florida!  So she is a busy baby…busy like the rest of us! 



Love this hat!

Love this hat!



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Enable Me

I have developed an addiction.  I am in a “relationship”.  It is going to cost me…it is going to be blissful and dangerous at the same time.  This new little toy, desire, whatever you want to call it, has got its hooks in me.  And I don’t even care!  You may say that this is unhealthy….but I swear it isn’t.  You’re just jealous. 

It’s the sundried tomatoes. 

I have become hoplessly addicted to them.  I crave them at all hours…their salty soury vinegary leather!  I love everything about them!  The texture!  The color! The flavor!  The recipes!  The price per pound!  Oops…not that.  They are a bit “dear” as you might say. And considering how quickly I can consume them…they aren’t exactly cost effective.  At about $4-$5 a pound, I can either practice restraint or topple my grocery budget in one fell swoop.  It may be dangerous to let me grocery shop alone from now on. 

Oh, I haven’t just discovered the little darlings.  I’ve had them in hummus, soup and on sandwiches for years.  But ever since Barbara Kingsolver turned me on to the sundried tomato pesto with the balsamic vinagarette and the walnuts (which I eat with a spoon by itself some days) I have begun an earnest relationship with this objet de desire! 

If you find my name on your Christmas list this year, I beg you…enable my addiction.  It will be the cheapest and most heartfelt gift, I assure you.  If you knock on my door and I answer with oily fingers and red smeared cheeks, don’t try to talk me down. 

I prefer the ones that are not packed in oil, and I prefer them with herbs.  I prefer them on pita with a smear of hummus.  I prefer them plain and chewy.  I really, really just prefer them!

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The Marble Jar

We have recently instituted a new policy around our house we refer to as the Marble Jar.  I should start by saying that, in the past, I have been privately skeptical, even disdainful of this concept.  So it goes to reason that I ended up instituting the Marble Jar out of desperation. 

Our summer vacation lasted about 3 weeks longer at the end than everyone else’s because of our new baby and because of a trip to the ADK’s. So by the time we got back from the trip and were ready to start school, I was pulling my hair out in frustration over the behavior of my children!  Those last few weeks they had  become a powerful whirlwind force of fighting, screaming, arguing and tantrum-throwing banshees and I had had it!  I decided on the Marble Jar for lack of any better ideas that could be quickly put into place as the first day of school drew near. 

We decorated some mason jars, and I put all the colored marbles into another jar.  The problem was attitude.  The solution was get a marble for good attitude.  The reward was that the person with the most marbles at bedtime on Thursday night gets to go out for breakfast before school with mommy on Friday morning!  This was my little bit of inspiration, this breakfast thing.  I knew there needed to be an easy, immediate reward that would make the whole thing worthwhile. 

The contest was immediately on…the competition for marbles was astounding!  The change in atttitude was like night and day within 24 hours.  Now of course I was skeptical at first about a few things.  I was worried about the kids trying to figure out ways to exploit or manipulate the system, and also about the kids fighting with each other over who would win.  Mainly I was worried because my chief problem with a system like this is that I think the kids should show good attitude/behavior without the promise of a “treat”.  Of course this is an idealistic view…I mean they have to learn somehow right?   In the real world, a good attitude has it’s rewards…so we went forward. 

Breslin won the first week, then Niall and this week it was a tie between Breslin and Hazel.  So far I have made one trip to Einstein Brothers and two visits to Krispy Kreme.  They are really having fun with this!  But most importantly I have seen an actual, tangible change in their attitudes and behaviors.  Steve agrees that he has seen less tantrum throwing, etc.  They know that if they show a good attitude towards choses and schoolwork and EACH OTHER they are rewarded.  I have been happier, less inclined to yell and there has been much less arguing.  It is working out well for all of us. 

I think that this was a good time to try this.  With all the confusion a new baby brings, added to a new school year starting and a new schedule of weekly activities, there have been a lot of good “learning” opportunities.  I would reccommend this technique, now, without my former skepticism.  However, I would caution to resist any temptation to “rig” the outcome.  The first week there was a lot of tears form the two non-winners.  We felt really bad, but we resisted the urge to help the others win the following week.  Today, when we had a tie, we honored it. 

Most thankfully, the Marble Jar has thus far kept mommy from losing her marbles!

Before the Marble Jar

Before the Marble Jar

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Things I Don’t “Get”

There just isn’t enough blog space around to post about all the things I don’t “get”.  But I have thought of a few that are particulary unfathomable to me. 

As I was working out at the gym on the elliptical the other night, and checking out the other gym-goers around me, one of these mysteries hit me. 

Thing I don’t “get” #1:

Why do women who punish themselves daily by running, lifting and training for marathons, etc. come up to me and tell me that they could NEVER in a MILLION years live through the horror of natural, unmedicated childbirth? 

I mean, I don’t get it?!  When you have a baby, you have the best kind of reward, way better than the reward of winning any marathon, and not only that, you only have to do it once for a few hours, not day in and day out, hour after hour.  The irony of course is that these exceptionally fit women are the best ones for the job of natural childbirth because they have a lot of endurance, good health and a great mindset about pain.   

When I am working out, I am thinking something like,  “This totally sucks, give me childbirth anyday over this”.  So I guess they wouldn’t “get” me either.

Another mystery:

Thing I don’t “get” #2:

Why is it that in a house of six people (like mine) if even one person is absent from the house for awhile, especially during meals, does the house seems to stay infinitely cleaner or the meal seems infinitely easier to prepare? 

My husband and oldest son were gone over the weekend.  This still left me home with three children under seven.  However, somehow everything seemed to go so much more smoothly, meals were so easy and clean-up a breeze.  The majority of the family was still here, but somehow, the house was much cleaner and easier to manage for 72 hours. 

And finally, Thing I don’t “get” #3:

How do my fully grown chickens manage to fly up and over a 6 foot high fence the day after I have clipped their wings (almost completely off!)  Are they that much smarter than me?


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Another new header

FYI, the new header is looking from the town of Piercefield towards Mt. Arab, near the road to Gull Pond.  Adirondack Forest Preserve, September, 2009.

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Looking towards Mt. Arab From the edge of Piercefield as we drive in at dawn

Looking towards Mt. Arab From the edge of Piercefield as we drive in at dawn

So we just got back from another fun ADK trip. New baby, new camper…it was great!  And for the first time ever on a trip to the ADK’s for us…it didn’t rain once!  We hiked to the top of Hurricane Mt. the first afternoon, which was probably a bit ambitious as we were tired from driving all night.  Then we ate at the Lake Placid HoJo’s for dinner, as we were well exausted from the day of hiking.  The next day we finally got to drive up to the summit of Whiteface.  Every time we have wanted to do that we always had to delay because of clouds or rain.  It was fun, and the kids liked seeing the “Castle” at the top.  We then drove over to Paul Smiths, where we visited their farmer’s market on the college green, and bought some ADK roasted coffee and some sourdough bread.  Lots of fun, yummy stuff at the market that day!  I was inspired by some needle felted pumpkins and acorns I saw there and came home and made some with the kids last week.  We took in the Paul Smiths’s VIC the rest of that day, which the kids really enjoyed.  The asked this evening, while hiking, if we could go back there specifically!  On our last full day we played around in the water…first at the gorges, ponds and falls at Wilmington Notch, which was where we camped, and then in the mountain lakes nearby as we hiked up to them, Copperas Pond mainly.  Of course I didn’t get in much on the water action…too cold for me and baby!  But the kids and Steve went all out.  We stopped at Taylor Pond for a quick hike before we left and even made it to Niagara falls on the way home.  Whew!  I am tired just thinking about it! 

Not even 24 hours into it and we have a major snake catch and release!

Not even 24 hours into it and we have a major snake catch and release!

Breastfeeding...it's so portable!  (Top of Hurricane Mt.)

Breastfeeding...it's so portable! (Top of Hurricane Mt.)

Handknit by Sarah...we love the hat and Louisa got a lot of compliments on it all weekend!

Handknit by Sarah...we love the hat and Louisa got a lot of compliments on it all weekend!

Looky Grandma,  I am sitting on the top of the mountain!

Looky Grandma, I am sitting on the top of the mountain!

Looking for pitcher plants along the Boreal Life trail at Paul Smiths VIC

Looking for pitcher plants along the boreal life trail at Paul Smiths VIC

Beaver lodge...almost at eye level from the trail, near our camp

Beaver lodge...almost at eye level from the trail, near our camp

Swimming in Copperas Pond, a wash bowl about 1.5 miles up the mountain

Swimming in Copperas Pond, about 1.5 miles up the mountain

....and more than a few big ones, too!

Just one of our amphibious adventures of the weekend!

A worthy grand finale to another NY trip!

A worthy grand finale to another NY trip!

Worth Noting:  Hazel says to me, upon our arrival at Niagara Falls…”I thought you said it was going to be big?!”  WHAT??????
Oh, and just add it to my already noteworthy list of “Places I Have Breastfed”

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