Friday, October 30, 2009

Zhu Zhu Pets

Zhu Zhu Hamsters from Jim Britton on Vimeo.

Have you heard of Zhu Zhu Pets? Picture cute, cuddly, energetic little hamsters - without the mess and fuss of a live pet. You can see them in action at our house in the video above.

A few months ago, Mom Select offered to send me a Zhu Zhu Pets party pack. It included eleven of the little hamsters, plus a hamster habitat. And what did I have to do in return? Host a party to give them away! So I happily agreed.

The enormous Box O' Hamsters arrived during nap time one day, but Evie and Chris tore into it when she woke up. Right away, Evie fell in love with her hamster. She squealed as it zoomed around the kitchen floor and yelled "Oh, no!" when it darted under the sofa. We met my family for dinner later in the evening, and she insisted on taking her new pet with us! And the next morning when we woke up, she headed into the living room and began playing with him again. Seriously, this little guy has kept her occupied way more than the average toy.

And the hamster habitat we received was cool, too. It included a funhouse, tunnel and wheel, ramp and spiral slide, adventure ball, surfboard and sleep dome, U-turn ramp and skateboard, and a hamster car and garage. Somehow, the hamsters know what room of the habitat they are in, and make appropriate noises - like snoring in the sleeping dome.

The entire habitat is easy to set up, but pretty large. We had to move our kitchen table to make room for it! But you can choose the pieces that work for you, creating a customized home for your Zhu Zhu pets. Everyone's favorite accessory seemed to be the car (kids and parents both flipped for this one.) I thought the adventure ball was the best. Watching Evie's pet zip around in it made me remember the hamster I had as a child. Plus, it stopped him from getting stuck under the couch!

The party was great! It was so much fun to watch the kids playing with the hamsters and habitat. Everyone took a pet home, and I've received great feedback. One of our little friends still sleeps with his hamster in a shoe box next to his bed! (Mental note: the pet bed and blanket would make a great Christmas gift for him!)

Since our party, my sister watched a news story that Zhu Zhu pets are going to be THE hot item this Christmas. And they're already among the top hot-selling toys on After trying them ourselves, I know why!

Oh, and special thanks to my friend Jim Britton for shooting and editing the video of our party!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Insult to Injury?

Part of our "car routine" is that I always kiss Evie before I close the her door in the minivan. Yesterday, I buckled her into her seat and kissed her nose. I whispered "I love you, Little One." And she sweetly replied "I love you, too, Big One."

Did I mention I'd really like to have this baby soon? Like now?

So today, we scheduled an induction. If Ethan doesn't make his grand entrance by the morning of November 1st, we're heading to the hospital for a little medical intervention. I think a baby born on All Saint's Day should be an angel, don't you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thirty Three Months

Sweet Evie,

You turned thirty three months old yesterday. Since you're so tiny and so very verbal, people often look at me with surprise and ask how old you are. It feels odd to say "She's almost three." I don't know how the time passed so quickly, but it's been the best almost-three-years of my life.

This is the last birthday letter I'll write to you as my only child. Ethan will join our family in less than two weeks. You are so excited about his arrival. Just this morning, you were snuggled up to me and felt him moving. You said "I can't wait to meet him!" You plan on holding him and making him "comfy cozy." You're ready to help change diapers and soothe him when he cries. You are going to be such a sweet and loving big sister.

We've been making the most of our time together lately, with special "family" activities. We've been apple picking and to the circus. We've been to the park a million times, where you just want to swing and swing and swing. We've been out to dinner and played games and read books and cooked together. We've made crafts and colored and used glitter glue and put Halloween stickers on paper for hours. We've talked and talked and talked. You love doing anything "like a family," even mundane things like brushing your teeth!

You still require pickles each day before your nap. I lay down in bed with you as you crunch them and you always ask for stories. You need a story about Pablo and Rose, two made up characters, and a story about when you were born. Pablo and Rose used to take trips around the world on airplanes, but now you insist they get hurt in the story. So I find myself thinking of ways someone can break a bone! (Isn't this crazy?) They slip on water by the pool, trip on a branch on the sidewalk, and bump into each other when they're not paying attention. Then they are rushed to the hospital, where the doctors ask them what color cast they need. Of course, the answer is always pink! Let's just say your birth story is more fun to tell!

In addition to pickles, you love sushi. Last time we went out, we allowed you to eat the raw stuff for the first time. You devoured spicy tuna hand rolls and discovered a true love for masago. Pomegranates are in season again, so I have been spending lots of time pulling the jewel-like seeds out and putting them into bowls for you. You also like to eat cupcakes and candy, like any child!

Recently, you want to know what road we are driving on. "Are we on Manchester Road?" You know most of the street names close to home, and others that we travel frequently. It always makes me laugh to hear your little voice asking "This New Ballas Road?" I joke that you are already better with directions than Aunt Rachel!

You are becoming more musical all the time. Sometimes I'll see you tapping on something (your tummy or the table or the kitchen floor or a park bench) and you'll say "I'm making music!" You play your recorder and have just learned how to move your fingers up and down on the holes to make different notes. And, oh, do you love to sing! When we went apple picking, the orchard had a stage for Kid's Karaoke. You marched right up and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - three times! You are a great performer and you did not want to leave the stage!

Your favorite musical artist is Taylor Swift. You discovered her by chance on the radio one day, and begged to hear her each time we went somewhere in the car. I finally had Daddy download the CD and now we play it constantly. You used to like You Belong to Me because of the line "She wears high heels, I wear sneakers." Your face lights up and you belt it out! But now you like Love Story. You love the end, where Romeo pulls out a ring and proposes. As the only two-year-old I know who is obsessed with weddings, it is the perfect song for you!

So we listen to those two songs over and over. I hadn't even heard many of the other songs until the other day. You stayed with GaGa while I had an appointment with my doctor. I'm so used to playing your music that I didn't even think about turning on something else. I just listened to the CD and the song The Best Day made me cry! It's a simple song with little memories of childhood, and a girl who is thankful for her mother. I hope and pray I am this kind of mother to you. And I hope you have these kind of memories to look back on when you're grown.

I always have the best days with you...

Love, Mommy

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fright Night

Wednesday night was freaky, to say the least.

It started out as a pretty normal bedtime affair. Evie fell asleep on the couch and Chris took her into her bed. About 3:00 AM, she came into our room. Of course we were fast asleep, but her little sing-song voice woke us up.

Evie: (Holding up Shamu, her lovey, her pillow, and her blanket) I brought in all my stuff!
Me: Good! Now, please lay down on your Backyardigans bed and go to sleep.
Evie: Okay. Night night.


Our dog, Murphy, suddenly jumps up and runs barking to the kitchen. We live very close to Bluebird Park, so this happens several times a night. Murphy hears deer or skunks or who-knows-what. We ignore it.

Evie: Someone is standing in the hall.
Evie: (Sitting up in bed, pointing) Someone is standing there.
Me: (Heart beating fast, looking in the hall) I don't see anyone in the hall.
Evie: (Insistent, still pointing) Someone is standing there.
Me: There is no one there!
Evie: (Angry now) Daddy is standing there!
Me: Daddy is in bed next to me.
Chris: Now she's really freaking me out! (Gets up with a flashlight to check things out. Finds nothing.)

Murphy comes back in the room and lays on her dog bed.

We all settle back in our beds. I can't stop opening my eyes to check the hall.

Murphy gets up again, runs to the kitchen and barks. She comes back into our room a few minutes later. I hear Evie's breathing, even and deep, and thank my lucky stars that she's already asleep.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

Murphy gets up again, runs to the kitchen and barks. She comes back into our room a few minutes later.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

Murphy gets up again, runs to the kitchen and barks. She comes back into our room a few minutes later.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

I check the hall. I check the hall. I check the hall.

Somewhere after 4:30, I finally fall asleep.

During the day, I am (usually) a sane and rational person. I don't worry about ghosts and things that go bump in the night. I know there is no such thing. But at 3:00 AM, things just look different. Especially when my daughter insists she sees someone in our home.

Soopy times here at the Hub House. Last night, she didn't mention anyone in the hallway. But I checked several times, just to be sure...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boo! Salt Dough Ghosts

Evie is really into Halloween this year. Of course, she remembers that you dress up and get candy. We've already purchased her costume, one that she's declared is "too scratchy." The tags have been removed, though, so she's wearing it if it kills us both.

Our neighborhood really decorates for this holiday. Evie keeps her eyes open for all the "soopy" (in English: spooky) sights. We see pumpkins and lights and spiders, skeletons and goblins and GHOSTS. She is fascinated by the ghosts - especially the big blow-up decorations on lawns. At night, we find ourselves driving her around to see the best houses, just to watch her excited reaction!

Yesterday, I found instructions on how to make salt dough ghosts. (Or "ghostes" if you ask Evie. She even corrects us if we say "ghosts.") We can't get a break from the cold and rain, so it was the perfect day to mix up this dough and bake our little ghosts in the oven. And don't you think they turned out well? So cute! Evie was even able to form some of the ghosts herself. (Hers are the three smallest.)

After they were finished, Evie played with them for a long time. Then she put them on our bookshelves, on the entryway table, and in her room. We even had enough to stick a couple on the mantle. It's beginning to look very soopy in our house!

Salt Dough Ghosts
1 c. salt
2 c. flour
1 c. water

cookie sheet
fine point Sharpie marker, black

(This dough is not edible. It won't hurt you, it's just way to salty to taste good!)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together salt, flour and water until a dough is formed. Turn out onto counter and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. If dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour, and knead again. (Don't add too much flour, though. You don't want to dry out the dough and have it crack before you even bake it!)

Roll the dough in your hands into a short, fat tube. Stand the tube on a cookie sheet to form a ghost with your fingers, making the head smaller than the rest of the body. Use the tip of your finger to create waves at the bottom of the ghost, by pointing your finger straight down on the cookie sheet and tapping gently into the dough to make dents.

Bake for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Check the bottom of your ghosts for wet spots. If still wet, continue cooking in 20 minute increments until dry. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Using a fine-tip marker, draw faces on your ghosts.

(I can't remember where I found these instructions, so I'm not giving proper credit. Sorry. You can also visit this link for a microwave version of salt dough.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Bread & Applesauce

Why didn't anyone ever tell me it's easier to make your own applesauce than to drive to the store and buy it?

A few weekends ago, we went apple picking. Chris and Evie and I, and Rachel and Jyoti, loaded up in the minivan. We took several wrong turns, resulting in a very long trip, but we made it to the orchards safe and sound.

And it was so worth it! Evie rode rides, we fed farm animals, we filled our tummies with barbecue, and then we headed out to the apples. A little tractor pulled us out to the fields. Then we picked and picked and picked! Evie liked the smaller apples, and Chris often had to hold her up so she could reach higher branches. The only variety that was in season was Golden Delicious, so I scouted out the greenest of them. I mistakenly thought I didn't like Golden Delicious apples, but changed my mind after tasting some that were crisp and sweet, with just a little bit of tart flavor. It is a very special day when you get to rub a shine onto an apple and sink your teeth into it - right in the middle of an orchard.

Then we loaded our little bags back on the tractor and went to pay. Would you believe we ended up with TWELVE POUNDS of apples. What can you do with twelve pounds of apples? You can only eat so many plain. Here are two recipes I tried and liked. And I really meant to post pictures. But we ate everything too quickly!

Apple Bread
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 apples - peeled, cored, and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8X4 inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, mix the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix into the butter mixture until just moistened. Fold in the apples. (It will seem like a lot of apples, but don't worry.) Transfer into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake one hour in the preheated oven, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cook completely.

4 apples - peeled, cored, and chopped
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher. (I used a stick blender when the apples were still hot.)


Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crazy Talk

It's been raining like crazy for the past few days. Fortunately, we've had a lot of activities that have taken us out of the house. Mostly doctor appointments, but we haven't been cooped up much. Until now. Evie is battling another allergy flare-up and I am sick of the bottom of my jeans being wet. So we are home for the day.

But even a sick Evie has a lot of energy. After we played and watched TV and glued noodles to paper, she was antsy. And what did we do to release this energy? Why, we had a pillow fight, of course!

It was so much fun! We bonked each other in the head and ran around the living room, giggling. She learned to block my hits. She sneaked behind me to whack my bottom. She was out of breath by the time she started chasing the dog and we had to end our game.

A few minutes ago, we were eating lunch. Evie looked into the living room and noticed our pillows in a heap on the floor.

Evie: We shouldn't hit. It's bad to hit.
Me: It was okay this time. We both wanted to play. Plus, we hit with pillows so it wouldn't hurt.
Evie: It would hurt if we hit with bats.
Me: Bats? Like baseball bats?
Evie: Yes, bats.
Me: Well, yes. It would hurt if we hit each other with bats. That would be really bad.
Evie: What if we put pillows around the bats?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Now that it's October, pumpkins are everywhere. And Evie loves them. We have a visit to the pumpkin patch scheduled for later in the month, but we bought a very tiny pumpkin when we went apple picking this past weekend. (Pictures of apple picking to follow soon!) Evie likes to look at it, but mostly she wants to eat it.

I've explained we have to cook pumpkins before we eat them. I must say I'm not a fan of pumpkin at all. I might take a small sliver of pumpkin pie occasionally, but that's just so I can pile on the whipped cream and then pitch the pie in the trash later. (I can hear the boos and hisses from you all now.)

However, there is one exception. My sister-in-law, Cathy, makes the most yummy Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins. We make these often for potlucks and the occasional breakfast. This fall weather and spooky season is making me crave them, so I know I'll be baking these for Evie (and Chris and myself) soon!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
2 c. sugar
15 oz. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. oil (I sometimes substitute apple sauce)
1/2 c. vanilla pudding (can use 1 container of handy snack pudding)
4 egg whites
3 c. flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
12 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. In a separate bowl, combine cinnamon, salt, baking soda and flour. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until moist. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into muffin tins.

Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, October 5, 2009


Evie loves the color pink. She loves pink toys, pink food, pink clothes. She's been known to refuse to wear a dress because it's not pink. "It looks kind of like boy clothes." Whoever heard of a boy in a teal and yellow dress?

It should come as no surprise that her favorite book is Pinkalicious. We read it over and over and over, and over and over and over, till we are pink in the face. For those of you who don't know this story by heart, Pinkalicious is a little girl who bakes pink cupcakes with her mom on a rainy afternoon. She eats so many that she is pink when wakes up the next morning! After her doctor diagnoses her with Pinkititis, she learns two lessons: the importance of a well-balanced diet, and that it's always more comfortable to be yourself.

This afternoon, Evie woke up from her nap crying. Hysterically. I think she didn't have enough sleep, but I couldn't get her to calm down. She kept saying "I'm sad!" and "I don't know what's wrong with me!" After at least ten minutes of this, I asked "What do you think we could do to make you feel better?" The waterworks stopped immediately (I'm a sucker, I know,) and Evie said "Do we have the stuff to make Pinkalicious cupcakes?"

We did, and the last batch is in the oven now. We had fun mixing and adding lots of pink food coloring. Evie is tickled pink about the whole thing. But just a couple minutes ago, she said "I'll eat all the cupcakes and then I'll be pink like Pinkalicious!" Um, that might be an ingredient I don't have.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Evie's negotiation skills are going downhill.

We have this wild and crazy rule in our home: You may not throw food. You can't throw it across the table, can't throw it to the dog, can't throw it on the floor. No food throwing, are we clear?

But this rule must be unreasonable to a two-year-old. Most of Evie's Time Outs are for one of two things - bothering the dog, or throwing food. Last night was no exception. Evie threw an apple slice across the table. I warned her, and Chris gave her a lecture. "You are not allowed to throw food. Mommy gave you a warning, but no more warnings. If you throw food, you will go in Time Out. Mommy and I are on the same page here, food throwing gets you a Time Out. Capiche?" And Evie pretended to understand.

A few minutes later, she sent the apple slice sailing to the floor.

Me: Okay, you threw the apple on the floor. You are going in Time Out.
Evie: I don't want to go in Time Out.
Chris: You know the rules, and you already got a warning. You are going in Time Out.
Evie: No! I don't want a Time Out!
Me: Too bad, you shouldn't have thrown the apple.
Evie: (sitting in the Time Out chair) But I don't want to sit in Time Out!
Me: We're not talking anymore. Be quiet and sit there for two minutes.
Evie: No! I'll sit here for FIVE MINUTES!

I think we may need to work on her concept of time...