Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recipe: Carrot Cake

ruby cupcake 1

I made a carrot cake earlier this week for a dinner at church.  The recipe is from my Grandma who got it from a restaurant (I think).  This is my favorite non-chocolate cake ever.  It is good (the two syllable kind of good).  This cake is so moist and crumbly and... just perfect. 

The cake was eaten up so quickly that I didn't even get a piece.  Never fear!  I had leftover batter, so I made a few mini-cupcakes and kept them stashed away safely at home.

CARROT CAKE

1- 20 oz. can crushed pineapple

2 c. sugar

1-1/2 c. vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1-1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

3 c. grated carrots

1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

(I also added 1/2 tsp. cloves)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Drain pineapple.  Cream sugar and oil.  Beat in eggs.  Mix dry ingredients separately and then add to egg mixture.  Mix well.  Fold in pineapple, carrots, and nuts.  Mix well.  Pour batter in greased and floured pans (3- 8 inch round pans or 9x12 inch pan).  Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (25-40 minutes, depending on pan size).

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 lb. cream cheese

1 c. butter

2 tsp. vanilla

2-1/2 lbs. powdered sugar

Cream butter and cheese together.  Add vanilla, then gradually beat in sugar.  Mix until smooth and creamy.  Frost cooled cakes.

If you make this, call me.  I'll be right over.

A (Wednes)Day in the Life of Alli and Ruby

Wednesday was a beautiful day... too nice to stay inside.  So we took advantage of the warm spring day.

We started the day at the zoo farm for a Mr. Singer concert.  Alli was invited up to the front to sing with him, but the huge crowd made her feel a little shy.  You can only see the top of her head in this picture... she was in the toddler mosh-pit up front.

mr singer

After the music performance, we walked around the zoo.  Both girls walked.  They would not be cooped up in the stroller.  oh no.  Ruby further exercised her independence by refusing to wear her coat.

 ruby smile 2 alli ruby hug alli smile 1

After the zoo, we stopped at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.  It was glorious!  The flowers were erupting with fragrance and color.  Alli and Ruby were not in the mood for a photo shoot... this is the best I got.

alli ruby conservatory 1 ruby 2

The walk home was no fun.  Ruby insisted on walking, and I insisted on putting her in the stroller.  Alli was hungry.  Ruby was hungry.  So was I.

After lunch and some quiet time, we ventured out to Adams Park.  Alli built a magnificent sand castle.  She also played monster (a chasing game) with Marissa and me.   She went straight into the bathtub when we got home.

alli sand castle 1

Ruby spent most of her park-time climbing and sliding down the slides... and giggling with pure delight.

ruby smile 1 ruby marissa slide 1

Alli and Ruby both love the twirly thing at Adams Park.  They spent quite a while whirling around and around, laughing at each other.

marissa alli ruby park 1

The walk/ride home was quiet.  Alli wasn't chatty.  Ruby's head nodded and then she slumped over and fell asleep.  She was so tired that I was able to get her out of the stroller and move her to the couch without waking her.  A rare treat.

At bedtime, Alli didn't want any books, just bed!

This wonderful Wednesday wore us out.  But we had to take full advantage of the sunny day... after all, it snowed today.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Weekend

Happy Easter!

The fun began Thursday when Alli had an Easter party at school.  (Sorry, no pics.)  Ruby insisted on wearing her fuzzy pink coat that she outgrew a year ago, which looked quite darling with the bunny ears hat.

alli ruby bunny ears

On Friday it snowed, just in time for Easter.  Marissa and Alli made the best of it.  They built two adorable little snow bunnies on the patio... complete with accessories.  The weather was wet and cold all day, so we had a practice Easter egg hunt in the living room.  Ruby was thrilled to find a jelly bean in each egg.

  alli snow bunnies

The Easter Bunny came to our house Saturday morning.  Alli knows the secret of the Easter Bunny, but she is more than happy to play along.  Alli and Ruby searched for their baskets, ravenously sniffing out the candy.  I tried to do a low-candy Easter this year, so each basket had one chocolate bunny.  They were thrilled.  They got other stuff too... I just skimped on the candy.

We had a delicious breakfast of English muffins, strawberry freezer jam, sausage, eggs, and cereal.  Ruby wore her Easter hat with her favorite nightgown.

ruby easter breakfast

We had an Easter egg hunt at church.  The practice paid off, because Alli and Ruby filled their bags with found eggs.

They got tons of candy.  Tons.  All of my low-candy efforts failed instantly.

From the egg hunt, we went straight to a birthday party.  Alli got to color eggs at the party... and eat more candy and treats.  Andy helped with the egg-coloring.  They really got into it.  We brought home a dozen+ eggs.  Egg salad anyone?

alli ruby coloring eggs

We spent Saturday afternoon twitching from the sugar overload.  Just kidding.  But we did go over to the park for a while to burn off excess energy. 

We did the Easter Bunny stuff Saturday so that Sunday could be more of a holy day.

We went to church early.  Alli and Ruby wore cute matching dresses and hats.  Alli insisted on wearing her sparkly red shoes with he dress.  Ruby wore her favorite pink shoes (that she insisted on sleeping in last night). 

alli easter hat 1 alli ruby easter dresses 1 ruby easter dress

alli ruby easter dresses 2 alli jumping 1

ruby easter dress 2

Alli and Ruby got these Easter treats at church.  They are little tombs made out of cupcakes, vanilla wafers, coconut, and frosting.  So festive!

easter treat

Easter dinner was healthy and delicious, but not very traditional: homemade pitas with seasoned ground turkey, yogurt sauce, tomato-cucumber salad, crudités, fruit salad, and an apple crisp.  Simple and fresh.  It was perfect after a super-candy-sweet weekend. 

Hello, is the Easter Bunny there?

Ruby brought me the phone yesterday and said,

"Call da Easta Bunny."

ruby 1

We called Daddy. 

Not enough.

We called Grandma Utah... who actually has an Easter Bunny costume.  That's the best I could do.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Words and music

Ruby is a funny little squirt.  She can say whatever she wants... if she wants to.

 

Alli sang O Susanna with Mr. Singer on Friday, and she and Ruby have been singing it ever since.  I love how Alli sings this song with a twang in her voice.  And I love Ruby's backup vocals... and her version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

St. Patrick's Day!

green butt

This is not an acceptable way to celebrate a Saint!  Girl, where are your pants?!

Oh the sights of St. Patrick's Day in Chicago!  In Chi-town, St. Patty's Day is right up there with Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, so everyone (and their little dogs) are out in their best/worst green get-ups strutting about acting quite silly... mostly because they are drunk.

We went downtown to see the Chicago River in her green glory.  We checked out the river from the Michigan Avenue bridge.

green river green river ruby alli andy marissa

This picture (above) was taken about an hour after the dye was dropped into the river.  A box of dye (about the size of a cereal box) is dumped into the river, and it is potent enough to turn the whole river neon green.  And it stays that way for a few days.

We battled through the crowds to get to Grant Park to watch the parade.  There were really way too many people, so we didn't stay long.  Alli was on Andy's shoulders, and Ruby was on my shoulders... they may have seen some of the parade.  We mostly saw crowds and more crowds... a ridiculous inebriated sea of green.

ruby karyn 2 ruby karyn 1

The St. Patrick's Day people-watching is the most fun (and sometimes disturbing).  Check out the green-bearded fellows behind us. 

St P day family 1

We tried for a family picture in the crowd, Alli did not cooperate... but here we are.

As we walked to the El, a trolley full of green revelers passed by tossing out green bead necklaces.  Alli and Ruby were pretty thrilled.  Around the corner a man sitting in a van was trying to sell the same necklaces for a dollar each. 

The train was full of singing honorary Irish.  It was a memorable ride home.

Andy Alli Ruby 1

We arrived home tired and hungry and ready for a little quite time.

Happy St. Patrick's Day friends!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring Fever!

I love how Chicago comes to life when the temperature rises ever so slightly.  The hibernating city shakes off its icy sleep and buzzes again with throbbing energy... until the next cold front.

Today was a gorgeous day (by winter standards), so I took Alli and Ruby to the zoo.  I wore a light jacket in celebration of 40 degrees.  Alli and Ruby were so happy to be out and about with the sun shining down on us.  We were definitely relishing the spring-like weather.

tiger

We weren't the only ones enjoying the preview of spring, the animals at the zoo were showing signs of spring fever too.  The tiger was working on his tan.  He has been indoors much of the winter.  The Arabian Oryxes were jogging around their enclosure.  They looked like they were dancing together... then they started getting amorous...ah, spring.  The gorilla gang was out on their playground basking in the bright sun.  Alli and Ruby watched from the glassed-in viewing area.  The gorillas watched from the other side.  Both sides fascinated.

ruby gorilla

Alli and Ruby played in the gorilla viewing area for quite a while, running back and forth on the sunny ledge.

ruby reflectionalli reflection

The light and reflections were just too fun to play with... for me.

ruby alli reflection

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Video of Allison

This is our first experiment with video on the blog. Here is a classic clip of Alli...



video

Sunday, March 9, 2008

lost in space...

carseat alli carseat ruby 1

There is something about the car seats that makes Alli and Ruby completely zone out.  They become unresponsive and wilted.  But after a boisterous afternoon, it is kind of nice... and quiet.

Family (and coworker) Night Out

bowling 1 alli andy bowling 4 marissabowling 2 alli andy bowling 3 ruby karyn 

On Friday night we met Andy downtown at 10 Pin for a bowling party with some of Andy's coworkers.  Ruby fell asleep on the way there, and was in a clingy mood... until she decided she wanted to run out on the hardwood bowling area.  Andy, Alli, Marissa and I shared a lane... with bumpers!  I got my highest score ever of 133.* 

Alli had a great time bowling.  She mostly did it by herself.  You would be surprised at how slow the ball can go and still make it to the end.  Although, sometimes we had to send another ball down the lane to get hers going.  She also found a way to bounce the ball off the bumpers a million times as the ball slowly rolled to the pins.  Impressive stuff.

Mike Kelly bowled an amazing game.  He had like 277 points or something like that.  He did not have bumpers on his lane.  He modestly said the computer must be broken.  I think he secretly owns his own bowling gear and is in a league.

*there must be an asterisk by my high score because there were bumpers in my lane... and I used them generously.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Choo Choo Diner

choo choo sign

Tonight we took a trip to the 'burbs to eat at the Choo Choo Diner.  I had heard about this little place and thought it would be fun to take the girls.  It is not famous for its food, it is famous for its delivery...

Dinner arrives at your table on a little electric train.  Here come our burgers!

choo choo diner

The girls were fascinated with the model train.  It runs around the track every minute or so.  And it is magic every time it goes by.  The walls are covered in train posters and paraphernalia.  Giddy children (especially boys...lots of them) watch the train whiz by carrying hotdogs and hamburgers to booths across the little diner.  The boys at the table next to us had train whistles that they blew incessantly... luckily they left a few minutes into our dinner.  The atmosphere was fun and quirky and loud... perfect for a family with young kids.  I thought of my nephew Bruce who is crazy about trains... this is his kind of place.

alli 1  ruby alli train 1 choo choo diner 2

Marissa came along with us.  I am sure she has never been to a place like this before.  What a good sport.

The girls rode in a little supermarket-style train car that just goes back and forth.  They didn't want to leave.  Alli asked if we could go back tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Alli left her favorite sunglasses there, so maybe we will have to go back soon.

Weekly Ketchup

I guess I have a habit of blogging weekly, give or take a few days... and so I have to bring you up to speed on our exciting lives...

alli slumber party

Alli had her first slumber party last weekend at her friend's house.  This was the highlight of her week.  She had a countdown to this party.  She packed for it the day before.  This was a big event.  Alli did great.  She stayed up until 11pm and was up by 7am.  She didn't miss us one bit.  I was glad not to get a 2am phone call.

The next night she had a pizza/movie party with another friend.  This is a girl with a very busy social agenda.

 ruby blocks

Ruby likes to build with blocks.  And she LOVES to destroy block buildings.   Ruby is our little chatterbox.  She says funny things like "Follow me!" and "What you doing?" and "More chocolate please."  She calls Alli's unicorn a "cornicorn."  She picks up new words daily.  Today she said "fart"... she was repeating what Alli said.

sushi

Mmmm.  I went to a cooking class where my friend Mo taught us how to make sushi, miso soup, and potstickers.  A few days later, I made sushi for dinner... sort of sushi... this roll has chicken avocado, cucumber, and red pepper.  It wasn't authentic Japanese sushi, but this is my first attempt all by myself.  Ruby liked the rice.  Alli wouldn't even try it... I think the nori (seaweed wrapper) scared her off.

I started a quilt for the auction at Alli's school.  It is almost done.

I also started another book, The Poisonwood Bible.

It has been a good week.