From Orchard to Pie

Near the end of October, we took our annual family trip to our local apple orchard. We waited until the last minute, so of course the only day we could go it was overcast, rainy, cold, and dreary. To top it all off, the farm tractor that they use to cart folks to the far end of the orchard (and the high point of the whole trip, according to Silas) had some mechanical difficulties and while it was able to take us out into the orchard, it was not able to bring us back to the barn. Honestly, the whole ordeal was hardly noticed by Silas who had a fantastic time and once Steve and I had some hot apple cider and fresh apple cider doughnuts, we had forgotten our cold fingers and damp toes as well. We will, however, remember next year to plan to go earlier (much earlier!) in the season.

Of course, apples then made their way into much of what we've been eating since then: lots of squash and apple soups, pork chops with apples and onions, and the like. But, it was only just this past week that we got around to making the star of apple season: apple pie.

I've been making an effort to search more for recipes in the books on my shelves, rather than on the Internet. Not only do I think the recipes tend to be more reliable (especially with pastries!), it's also easier to include Silas in the hunt. It's so much more satisfying to sit down on the couch together and pore over beautiful photographs of pie rather than clicking through images on the computer. We settled on the basic apple pie recipe in this book, a title that I picked up years ago at the thrift store for a dollar or two and had almost completely forgotten about. It took us the whole afternoon to make; six hours, I think, from start to finish with all the crust resting times included, which served to make it an incredible treat for dessert after dinner.

During the process Silas kept trying to pull me outside to play in the dusting of snow that fell the night before and that had caused much excitement when we woke that morning. At one point we did make it out, shovels in hand, to do the important work of clearing the deck of the quarter inch of accumulated snow. 

The pie was delicious, thankfully, and, in fact, Silas and I are headed right now into the kitchen to make some homemade ice cream and have another slice for tea.

{This Moment} Happy Halloween!

Silas greatly enjoyed his first-ever trick-or-treating experience. Going along with his best friend to visit one neighbor who was giving out clementines? That's a Halloween this mama could handle.

Happy Halloween from Jenny Linsky and the Cat Club!

Joining SouleMama.

Carving Pumpkins


We had a lovely weekend 'round here. The sun warmed us as we played outside in the falling leaves, carved pumpkins, drank hot apple cider, and lit a bonfire. We all collaborated on the pumpkin decorating: Silas drew the faces on the pumpkins and mama and papa carved them. It was incredibly fun for all involved and our jack-o-lanterns turned out pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Add in checking some home repair off the "to-do" list, our second-to-last farmer's market visit, and the consumption of apple cider doughnuts, and it was a pretty fantastic weekend indeed.

Practicing Pre-Writing with a Salt Tray

We are pretty relaxed around here about all things academic. We loosely follow the Waldorf early education model and so have done absolutely no formal introduction of letters or numbers with Silas; saving those things for a few years down the road and instead focusing on open-ended play and motor skills development. So, imagine my surprise when Silas started showing a very intense interest in writing. He "writes" things all the time, on his easel, on scratch paper, on whatever he can find. Sometimes he writes directions to various locations around town. Sometimes he makes lists of what to get at the store. And sometimes he writes letters to grandma, dictating what he's writing the entire time. I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. He sees the communicative power of writing every day; why wouldn't he want to get in on that action?

While we do consider ourselves pretty Waldorf-y, I have no interest in being a purist and I always promised myself that when it came to reading and writing (as with everything else) I would follow Silas' lead. I would not push him to learn, but I also wouldn't discourage him if he showed an interest. He started making "M's" and then asked how to make "O's". It was when he started tracing on the table top to "write" with his finger that I knew it was time to introduce the salt tray.

This is just a small wooden tray filled with salt that he can use his finger to trace in. You could also use very fine sand. It creates a sensory experience and helps to connect the abstract act of making shapes with meaning to the concrete action of using his body to make those shapes. Right now we're not doing letters, but starting with some lines and shapes as a pre-writing exercise, using some laminated cards that I made as a guide.

I have to say, Silas was smitten with this project from the get-go. He was really excited and wanted to do each of the cards multiple times. There is definitely a progression in difficulty between the shapes. The "wave" line in the first picture was one of the hardest, but he didn't seem discouraged, only aware that he was struggling. After attempting the harder cards, he set them aside and went back to the simpler shapes, which were a better match for his ability.

Organizing the Preschooler's Books

We have a lot of books. Too many books? Well, I guess that depends on who you ask. Around a year and a half ago, when Silas turned two, I started a rotation system. Every two weeks a new box of books would come out and the "old" books were packed away and he wouldn't see them again for a couple months. This solved two problems. First, we weren't swimming in children's books that, somehow, have the habit migrating off the shelf and onto the floor no matter how many times I pick them up. And second, the novelty helped to keep him always interested in books. While it was in practice, it worked really, really well. I love book rotation day because he spends, literally, the entire day looking at books and I have a little bit of breathing room to get things done around the house.

This summer, though, we fell out of our rotation habit. The cardboard boxes that I was using to store books were falling apart, making pulling them out and packing them back up a chore. There were many of his books the he had really outgrown and that needed to be weeded out. There were even more books that needed to be purged from our collection altogether. And I wanted to have fewer books out at a time - only around 20 or so - which meant that I really needed to spread them all out and sort them properly.

So this was our project the other day. First, I picked up five plastic totes. Honestly, this was the hardest step for me. I always get sticker shock when I look in the home organization aisle (seriously? Nine dollars for a plastic box?) and I usually just abandon whatever project it is that I'm looking to organize. But, this needed to happen, so I took the plunge. I think they were 29 qt. totes and I chose them because they were small enough not to take up too much room, but big enough that a majority of our books would fit in them while standing upright. There were still some over-sized books, but because I was only putting 20 or so books in each box, they were able to fit at an angle without anything getting crushed.

Then, while Silas was having Quiet Time in his room, I pulled out all our boxes of books and did a quick sort and purge. First I pulled out all the board books and books that he's outgrown and put those in their own box to be stored away until next spring when the baby comes. Then, I weeded out what needed to be purged. I decided that we (both Silas and I) should truly love all the books that are in our collection. We have access to a wonderful library, so there is no need for us to own every single book; only those that are really meaningful and that we want to return to again and again.

I sorted the keepers into the five bins, making sure that a good variety of books in each set - a little poetry, books about nature and animals, some Dr. Seuss, etc. Next, I quickly printed out some numbers for the plastic bins, taped them on, and Bam! revamped rotation system! There are 24 books in each bin (meaning we have 120 books in rotation! I think I need to do some more purging!) and each bin stays out for 2 weeks. They are displayed in a sling-style bookshelf, which I much prefer to a regular shelf. Silas can see the front covers of the books, which makes it much easier for him to find what he's looking for, without pulling every single book off the shelf.

We keep seasonal and holiday books separate (fall/winter in one bin and spring/summer in another) and these books come out at the beginning of their respective season and stay out, in their own basket, for the duration of that season. There is also a separate basket for any library books that we bring home.

It feels so good to have this project done. We were getting overwhelmed by the book clutter, but now everything is back in its place. Although, I do have another 4 or so (!) boxes of "to grow into" books that I need to go through and either put into rotation or purge. Now, I just need to figure out what to do with the toys...

Balance Bike

One thing I am not is an action photographer. Silas gave me plenty of fantastic shots of him riding his balance bike and nary a one of them is in focus. Oh well! 

We got Silas a balance bike for Easter the spring that he was two. To be honest, he wasn't at all interested in it that summer. He was still in his cautious stage and I think he was worried about falling over. But this summer has been the complete opposite. He hops on that thing and rides. Usually, he pretends that it's a motorcycle or a lawnmower, but no matter what it is that he's pretending at the moment, it always elicits smiles and laughs. It was definitely worth the investment. My only wish is that the seat would raise a little higher to accommodate his long legs. It's already up as far as it will go and it's a bit too short for him; I think this will be his only summer to really get to ride it. Next summer? Pedal bike!

A Hat for the Three-Year-Old

Almost exactly a year ago, I cast on a Baby Surprise Jacket for Silas. I toddlerized it so that it would be big enough for my lanky-even-then-two-year-old and used all scrap yarn from everything that I'd knit for him up until that point. It went well for the first month or so. But then I hit a bump. And then another. And now a year later I am so close to finishing (I just have to sew up the seam), but when I hold it up to him, the sleeves hit right around the mid-forearm. It is far too small and I'm too heartbroken to look at it, let alone finish it and I've lost motivation to cast on anything else. It seems as if I'm doomed to always knit things that are too small for my child!

What's the solution to that? Well, how about an easy knit that I know I can finish in a week and that he can wear right now? Yes, that might do the trick. Silas picked out the hat pattern and the yarn (some unmarked hand-dyed wool that I found at the thrift store) and I added a little scarf. It was a hit with both of us and now we're ready for the cooler weather that is undoubtedly just around the corner.

Joining Ginny.