Growing Out On A Limb

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Popsicle Stick Puzzles

I originally saw this idea on pinterest and thought what a cute stocking stuffer it would make for Oliver.  I love the idea of doing seasonal puzzles but I knew that trucks would really catch Oliver’s eye and serve him all year round.

I had the colored popsicle sticks (dollar store) and mod podge in my stash so I set off searching Google images for various cartoon images – a fire truck, dump truck, police car, excavator, loader, garbage truck, and ambulance.

I laid out six popsicle sticks and measured the height of the whole thing, then printed and cut the images out to that size. Then I measured the height of one stick and cut the images into strips just a tiny bit narrower than that.

Working one stick at a time, I painted a layer of mod podge on the stick and on the back of a strip of paper and then laid it down on the stick, doing my best to center it.  I smoothed out the paper to get rid of any bubbles and then painted another layer of mod podge over the whole stick.  I continued on with the other sticks, making sure that the strips of paper were lined up underneath the previous one, so the entire image would line up properly .  After 15 or 20 minutes, I painted on another coat of mod podge.  I sewed an easy drawstring bag to corral them all.

A couple of the puzzles use sticks that are the same color so maybe I’ll draw circles on each stick of one of the puzzles and triangles on the other, just so he can easily distinguish which sticks go with each one.  We haven’t had a lot of time to play with them in the new-toy-madness that has occurred since Christmas but I’m hoping he gets a kick out of them once we have a chance to sit down and figure them out.

I was so impressed with how good the dried mod podge looks… I think I’m hooked (actually, I made these a few weeks ago and went on to use mod podge for a few other Christmas gifts).


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A Quiet Moment

Brian snapped these photos one day over the holidays.  It’s such a sweet moment between two brothers and I love the natural light coming in the window.

Oliver is becoming much more compassionate toward his little brother lately.  Sometimes it’s involving Emery in his play or stopping to give him a hug or wanting him to chase him around the kitchen island (“Come get me!”) or sliding over on the chair and saying, “Come on em-wee… there’s woom for you too!”.

Don’t get me wrong… he is still intentionally pushy when he is in a mood and sometimes nastily grabs toys from Emery but for a while that was his default.  And it was rough – rough to see Emery treated so poorly, rough to see Oliver not able to manage his emotions, and rough to constantly monitor and discipline the bad behavior (not to mention wonder if you’re handling it the best way).  It was rough and exhausting and pull-your-hair-out frustrating some days.  But it is obviously just a phase of the growing relationship with his brother and figuring out what it is supposed to be, where he fits, and what is expected of him.

I think we’re seeing a light at the end of that particular tunnel and it’s encouraging.  That’s not to say I expect my days as a referee are coming to an end but it is heart warming to see these moments happening more and more.

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Mmm… chocolate!

I made these Oreo truffles on Christmas eve morning, as Brian and the kids played around me.

When I got done dipping the truffles in the chocolate I left the dishes where they were and went down the hall to do some other Christmas-related chore.  I came back to the kitchen to see this hiding in the corner, hands behind his back, looking as innocent as anything and with a face that says, “Umm… what?!”.

Then I looked over into the living room to see this…

After I snapped that picture I went back to the kitchen to find …

Dad-dy!  I guess licking the spoon is one of the finer things in life that one needs to appreciate early on.

“Umm… more please!”.

“Mmm mmm!”.

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Hot Cheesy Spinach Dip

This is a recipe that I have made off and on for a few years but have never recorded anywhere.  I didn’t get a picture of it but it is definitely one for the books!

The original recipe is here and I mostly follow it to the letter.  It would also be really good with artichokes or maybe some parmesan cheese substituted for a bit of the mozzarella.

It is ooey gooey cheesy goodness but hey, the spinach and garlic have to count for something right?  It is also a great recipe to do ahead of time and just pop in the oven when the time comes.


3 Tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 bag fresh baby spinach (you might chop it if you mind bigger pieces of spinach in your dip)

1/2 cup white wine

salt and pepper to taste

hot sauce to taste

1/2 cup chopped green onion (I have used chives before too)

3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup half-and-half (I usually use whole milk because I have it on hand)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic, baby spinach, and white wine.  Cook and stir until spinach is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.

Mix in salt, pepper, and hot sauce.  Remove from heat.  Drain off the liquid and transfer to a medium bowl.

Mix green onion, mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, and half-and-half into the bowl with the spinach mixture.  Transfer mixture to a medium baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese is lightly browned.

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Oreo Truffles

A friend gave me a box of homemade goodies last week and these Oreo truffles were in it.  They were so delicious that I looked up a recipe right away, saw that they had just three ingredients (three!) and decided to make a batch last minute for our Christmas Eve get together.

They are so quick and easy.  Oliver could have helped with the sprinkles but he was into something else so I threw them on myself this time.  They are really good with the semi-sweet chocolate but next year I’m going to also try white chocolate or milk chocolate.  Because I can.  And because white chocolate makes everything better!



1 pkg Oreo cookies

1 block cream cheese, softened

16  oz semi-sweet chocolate



Put the cookies in a food processor and process until they are fine crumbs.  Add the block of cream cheese and pulse until combined.

Form the mixture into small balls and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.  Refrigerate to harden a bit before rolling (30 mins or so).

Melt chocolate in a double boiler.  Using two forks, dip each ball into the chocolate and place on another cookie sheet with wax paper.  Sprinkle with whatever prettiness you choose.

Chill until chocolate hardens.

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Christmas 2011

For every picture here there are five that I wanted to put up too, but I had to pick the best of the best!

Our first Christmas miracle… everyone thought we were having a green one but a beautiful snowfall left this on the trees for a couple of days.  What could be more Christmas-y than this out our window as we opened presents (once the sun came up, that is).

Christmas eve… someone’s excited to open presents!

This is the ‘before’ shot of the living room (the ‘after’ is coming).

The kids both slept in until 5:30 am – the second Christmas miracle of the day!

Brian had the video camera setup to record Oliver’s reaction to his Santa’s gifts.  As he walked out of his room, I said, “Oliver, did Santa come?”.  But instead of walking to the tree he ran to the door to see where Santa was.  Cute, yes, but not what we imagined for the video!

I think he was excited that Santa brought him his loader though because he insisted on having breakfast with it.

Emery’s Santa gift was this percussion table.  He’s gone to it several times in the last few days so I think it’s a hit.

Is this excitement?  I think so!

When Oliver got to a toy that he really liked we just took a break and let him play.  It meant we all got to relax a few minutes, snap a few pictures, and throw a little Bailey’s in our coffee.

We took a big break after he opened this rampy racer thinger up!  This toy is turning out to be great because it’s big enough that both boys can play at the same time (and they do – they really do!).

There were dozens of pictures taken while we opened our presents.  I didn’t notice it until later but a large part of them show Emery somewhere in the room with the same Lightning McQueen car in his hand.  He’s either amused really easily or was trying to stay out of Oliver’s way.

I love this shot of my three boys all running cars on the new mat.

Several times during the morning I looked over scenes like this and had to stop and smile.  Not because of the shiny new things but because they were quiet and content and their minds were whirring while figuring out the new things around them.  They don’t really get the spirit of Christmas yet but I do and, for me, this is the biggest part of it.  

Holy… trucks.  Notice that he has a truck piled on a truck piled on a truck here!

But there weren’t just trucks and cars and trains.  We got lots of puzzles, which is great because Oliver is showing a real interest in them lately, and lots of artsy/crafty things that, I admit, is a pile of fun for mommy at the same time.  

We had a wonderful, relaxed morning of presents and playing and family.  It took us several hours to get through all the gifts and we were all in our jammies until after lunch, just like I think Christmas should be!

We know that presents are not the most important part of Christmas (and our boys will know that as they grow up too) but we are thankful for all of the people in our lives that love us enough to think of us this time of year.  If there was ever a question of whether we are (too) spoiled or not, the ‘after’ shot of our living room should answer it!  (We cleared a path but it pretty much looked like this on Boxing day too).  

After the dust settled we headed to mom and dad’s for Christmas dinner.  This is the best picture I have of the boys dressed up in some of their new clothes.  Check out that sweater on Emery – so cute!

We spent Boxing Day relaxing at home, playing with our new things and cleaning up some of the mess.  I swear that I am asking everyone to unpackage what they give to the boys next year… what a pile of recycling!

It was also a really nice day so we also spent a little time outside.

We’re looking forward to more time outside tomorrow and lots more fun family time!