Friday, 28 September 2012

My Little Girl Starts Pre-School

It wasn't long after Ruby started Kindergarten, that my little Tilly started Pre-School and I'm so glad she has something to do 3 afternoons a week, as without Ruby she was a little lost at home.

Everyday without fail my two girlies would head off to their bedroom to play, sometimes it's princesses, sometimes it's pet keeper, sometimes they can sit for hours playing Lego Friends together but play they do, I often hear them in their own world of imagination and often I get called in to play the "customer" at their restaurant or the customer at their pet shop - it's so cute but don't get me wrong I'm not painting the perfect sisters playing happily together, as we do and often have our fair share of arguing, fighting and not sharing arrrghhh the joys of sisterhood.

There is an upside though with Ruby at school there is no arguing over Lego pieces, colouring books, horses and marker pens, there has been a peaceful air around the home, Tilly can often happily amuse herself, whilst I am busying doing chores.

Tilly surrounding herself with things to do

So Tilly starting Pre-School is a big thing for her, she gets to socialise with children her age, it's only for 2.5 hours a day, 3 days a week, but she does look forward to it. It's so nice she is going afternoons too, as mornings are a big rush to get Ruby to school, so often once Ruby is dropped off Tilly & I get to have some time together and I'm loving I have my little girl to myself she is so easy.

Lunching before Pre-school

First Day At Pre-School 

Tilly's been at school 2 weeks now and has made several friends, settled in well and learnt some fabulous new songs including icky sticky bubblegum which she couldn't wait to sing to me and this week she even got to celebrate her birthday there (her birthday is on Sunday), they do encourage Birthday celebrations.

Celebrating with Cupcakes

All the kids do a picture birthday wish for her, which gets made into a book for her to keep, she gets to make her own crown, and at circle time (with mummy included) they read out the birthday wishes book to Tilly, then they get to enjoy a birthday treat - the highlight of the afternoon, Tilly picked chocolate & vanilla cupcakes (much to my disappointment we are not allowed to supply homemade goods to the children they have to be store bought - a rant for another time)

All in all pre-school is going down a treat, and I have a little free time on my hands too.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

D-Dad Comes For A Visit

My Dad arrived 4 weeks ago last Friday, the girls call him D-Dad, a nickname that stayed, when they couldn't pronounce Grandad and D-Dad stuck instead.

The first thing Tilly said when we told her D-Dad was coming was "D-Dad licks my ear" yes D-Dad is the ear licker.

We've had lots of fun with D-Dad and it's been an absolute pleasure to have him. He came at the perfect time, the girls were still off school, the weather was still gorgeous and there was plenty to do & see

Plus having D-Dad around freed me up for a few important school & pre-school meetings, visits to the dentist etc.

So we had lots of visits to parks, our favourite free pastime, an excellent way to keep the girls busy, and burn off some energy.

D-Dad the swing pusher

D-Dad the balance helper

We've had plenty of days out with D-Dad we've taken him to the Field Museum on their free day to see Sue (the dinosaur skeleton) and lots of other things, we've had cocktails up the John Hancock Tower before heading off to a Cubs baseball game, they lost but we all had fun.

View of Chicago 96 levels up

Once Ruby started school, Tilly & I took D-Dad to the Botanical Gardens, where he showed Tilly how to collect spider webs on sticks - do you remember doing that? I do, D-Dad really enjoyed the gardens we showed him our favourite bits, the model railway, Japanese Garden and the waterfall area and didn't even see half of it - we've saved the rest for next time

D-Dad showing Tilly how to collect spider webs
We also took advantage of the Science & Industry Museum free days and went twice in one week, D-Dad absolutely loved the museum, it is packed full of interesting things to do and see for adults and kids, the first time we went we only saw half of it, which is why we ended up going again and still we could have done with more time there.

Another exciting trip we did with D-dad was our trip along Route 66, it was very interesting and D-Dad knew more about it than us, a highlight of the trip was discovering this fabulous gas station, it was truly iconic.

D-Dad outside an old fashioned gas pump

I think this was one of our favourite days out. And in between the days out, we had plenty of time at home chilling too, where D-Dad and I got a little addicted to some TV pawn, Pawn Stars, Hardcore Pawn were our favourites - good job the shows are all about Pawn shops.

We discovered we liked travelling into the city better by the Metra rather than the "L" as it's much quicker and quieter, and still easy to get to where we needed to go from the station.

We took D-Dad down to the Children's Museum at Navy Pier and had a great day there and around Navy Pier, we've seen the Bean in Millennium Park and hit the shops shopping, all in all we've had such a good time with D-Dad.

Cuddles with D-Dad

The girls absolutely adore him, especially Tilly she was always cuddling D-Dad, it helps he is a big kid too. We're glad D-Dad liked Chicago and where we live, phew as it is a change from Sydney.

He's been a wonderful help too, around the house and coming with me to PTA meetings/play dates at
Ruby's school (I did keep having to explain D-Dad was my dad not my husband as people just assume), looking after the girls for me to attend parent room nights (whilst Mr C was away), getting jobs done etc. It's lovely having family over.

And we even got 2 extra days with him, as his flight got cancelled after I've dropped him off at the airport, I went back for him later in the evening and the girls were very very surprised to see D-Dad the next day, the earliest they could get him on a flight back was 2 days later and we weren't complaining.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Knit Knit Knit

I have been bitten badly by this knitting lark - I love it, I knit knit knit and knit some more. When the day is over, the girls are in bed and the TV is on my knitting needles are out.

There is a special birthday coming up soon and back in August I thought I would knit the little girl in question a Baby Kina, it was my first attempt at it and I was really pleased with it, as I had a little yarn leftover,  I went looking for a little hat pattern, I didn't want anything ordinary or too easy, and eventually I came across this this lovely tutorial for Two Lace Baby Hats and I knew it was just what I was looking for.

I picked the Tiffany Lace pattern and proceeded to cast on, it is an easy pattern to follow (although it looks hard) and a delight to knit, I did have a few ups & downs with it, and ended up restarting it a couple of times, and having to unpick a few rounds, but this was mainly due to my inexperience and not knowing how to pick up a dropped stitch, but I got there and I got into a lovely knitting flow with it and it wasn't long before it was finished and I was beaming like a Cheshire cat as I was so pleased with it. I can't wait to knit a few more, Ruby has already picked out her yarn pink of course.

I feel with each garment I knit, I am getting better and better, better at knitting, better at reading patterns, I just need to get better at picking up dropped stitches etc, a project for Grannie to teach me I think when they come over.

I was glad I had just enough yarn left over to knit the hat, as I think it goes beautifully with the Baby Kina and makes a lovely present together. I hope the birthday girl loves them too.

And what's on my needles now? well I'm now knitting a dress, yes a dress for my Tilly, she picked the colours, and I'm excited to knit this one, but it may take awhile.......then I will knit something for me, well after a few more hats I think.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday after Ruby finished her first week at school, we made chocolate chip cookies and we used this recipe after all we couldn't not try a recipe that states they are the best ever chewy chocolate chip cookie.

As Ruby takes a pack up (packed lunch) to school I like to include a small homemade treat, last week she had Monkey Squares another Pinterest recipe I was eager to try out as I had so many ripe bananas in my freezer, and they went down a treat by everyone. This week I thought I'd give these a go although I'm not sure they are going to last the weekend.

Best Ever Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 c of unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour (plain flour)
2 tsp cornstarch (for Aus & UK use cornflour)
1 tsp baking soda (bi-carb soda)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until light & fluffy. 
3. Add egg and vanilla blend in.
4. Mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt, once combined stir in chocolate chunks.
5. Roll a small ball of the cookie dough (using a tablespoon as a guide), place onto a prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly.
6. Bake for 8-10 mins, until barely golden brown around the edges. (The tops will not brown, but do NOT cook longer than 10 mins)
7. Let cool, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Ingredients ready to go

Ruby's favourite bit - liking the paddle beater

I love baking easy quick recipes, the girls love it too and because they are quick the girls enjoy helping out without getting bored. It's a win win and great activity to do with your kids. I find it also encourages then to have an interest in food, and they certainly like to eat what they bake.

Tilly pouring in the chocolate chip cookie
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ready to roll

The girls enjoying adding all the ingredients into my mixer, licking the paddle clean and scooping up the cookie dough mixture to make the cookies.

Tilly shaping the cookie dough
Tilly flattening the cookie dough balls

Although the cookies only need 8-10 mins in the oven, this can be a long wait for a 5 & 3 year old, who are eager to try their homemade goodies, try telling them they need to cool down as well, luckily I got over this by telling them it was too close to dinner for cookies, but they could have them after dinner (providing they ate up all their dinner of course)

Chocolate chip Cookies yummy yummy

And are they the best ever chewy chocolate chip cookies? well of course I did have to sample one in secret with a cup of tea and I can honestly say these are seriously good chewy cookies and I know for sure, not one of this batch, will make it into Ruby's packed lunch on Monday - a good excuse to make some more on Sunday.

Recipe Source - Apple A Day - barely adapted from Anna Olson, Food Network Canada.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Getting Our Kicks Down Route 66

We're so lucky we live in the city where the famous Route 66 begins and we had the pleasure of travelling down some of it last Saturday.  Route 66 begins in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles covering over 2451 miles (3945km ). It is commonly known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road. One of the original U.S highways, Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926. The highway which became one of the moat famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona ans California before ending at Los Angeles.

So we headed down to Lou Mitchell's to dine at this famous restaurant - known for it being the start of Route 66, so with our bellies full, we set off to discover what the Route 66 had to offer.

The Famous Lou Mitchells - Start of Route 66

As Route 66 got decommissioned it isn't shown on any modern day US road maps so we were at the fate of following the historic road signs and the internet and because of this we did have a few problems following the route, but it wasn't long, before we got on track and enjoyed a few hours meandering down Route 66. We did miss a great photo opportunity in Joliet of the blues brothers and the Route 66 sign, oh well next time, but we did stop in Wilmington to look at the Gemini Giant Statue - which my dad proudly informed us was featured in the Billy Connolly series about Route 66 which he has watched and got excited about.

D-Dad with the Gemini Giant

Next stop along Route 66 for us was the little town of Gardner where we discovered a two cell jail and a former horse-drawn streetcar diner that's over 100 years old. It's been in Gardner since 1932 and in 1937, the streetcar became a cottage and playhouse, the diner was moved to the grounds of the two-cell jail after a fire in 2010 , where it was located behind the Riviera Roadhouse. 

Two-cell Jail
Streetcar Diner

After Gardner and continuing along the Route 66 we passed through Dwight and imagine our surprise when we came upon an old gas station, which was open for people to look around, it was amazing, well kept to the era, it still had the employee time cards on display and it turns out this historic 1933 filling station was identified as the longest operating gas station along Route 66. It dispensed fuel for 66 continuous years until 1999.

The Ambler-Becker Texaco Gas Station

After our visit to this wonderful gas station we hot footed it to Pontiac our final destination as we wanted to see the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum, and we didn't have much time up our sleeves.

Inside the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum
Tilly & Ruby on one of the many painted cars

Luckily though we got there in time to have a look around this great museum and to discover something that was also featured in the Billy Connolly show - a converted Chevrolet school bus that Bob Waldmire lived and travelled in. He was an American artist well known for his artwork of U.S. Route 66.

Bob Waldmire's Converted School Bus

One of Waldmire’s modified vehicles, an orange 1972 Volkswagen Microbus, was the inspiration for the character “Fillmore” from the animated motion picture Cars.

Iconic Mural of the Route 66

After the museum we had a walk around Pontiac and discovered what a great little town it was, it featured lots of amazing murals around the place as well as little painted cars

3 great murals of shops "back in the day"
Mural of the Route 66 - A tribute to Bob Waldmire  - his original design
Fantastic Coca-Cola Mural

We'd had a fantastic journey along this stretch of the Route 66, albeit in sections we got lost, veered off the 66, found it again, missed a few things, but all in all it was a great road trip down a great historic road, one we are keen to venture along further, although we'll be a little more prepared with our directions. We didn't take the Route 66 back to Chicago but our journey back consisted of lots of talk about our day.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Ruby's Big Day - Kindergarten Here We Come

Today is Ruby's 1st day at school and boy is she excited - she's been excited for weeks and each day I am asked how many more days is it Mummy? - I guess I have one big girl ready for school.

As I went to bed last night, I always check in on my girlies and give them kisses, Ruby briefly stirred with a big smile on her face and said I'm thinking about school I'm as happy as a plum. It was so cute.
This morning, for the first time in 3 months, I had set my alarm and was out of bed at 7am, I got the girls up at 7.20, Ruby bounced out of bed as excited as can be, I made breakfast and Ruby's lunch, and over breakfast I asked her (for the record) what she would like to be when she grows up and she said she'd like to be a Swimming Teacher.

When I Grew Up I Want To Be A.....

Once breakfast was over,  the girls got dressed, Ruby's school bag was packed, teeth cleaned, her hair brushed and we were all ready for school, the morning routine went like clockwork phew.....

All Ready For School

As it was her first day we all went to witness the big day, Daddy, Tilly, D-Dad (Grandad) and I, we drove her there (but next week she gets to ride the bus to school, the iconic yellow school bus), it was a bit overwhelming for me especially when we got to the playground, there were so many parents and kids. Seeing all the Kindergarten kids lining up in front of their Teacher just tipped me over the edge and I have to admit I did have a sob.

So with no tears from Ruby but plenty from me (until Ruby told me not to cry as she'd be alright) she walked happily off to her classroom with just the merest of waves & smiles for us. And just like that Ruby's school years had begun.

Cuddles from Ruby and tears from Mummy

We stayed behind in the playground after all the kids had gone in, as the PTA had provided a welcome breakfast and coffee, so we mingled with a few mums, over our coffee and bagels, chatting about, what else, but our kids, it was a lovely way to meet a few more mums all in the same boat.

My only disappointment (and it's only a little one) about Ruby starting school is - they don't wear a school uniform in America, not that we did either when I was a little girl (although they do now) but I would have loved to have that first day at school photo in a lovely little school uniform.