Thursday, January 28, 2010

Family Birthday Celebration

We have a lot of birthdays to celebrate right after the holidays. Munch, her uncle, and her cousin are all within 10 days of each other in mid-January. Grandpa's birthday is another week later in February. So we were really glad of course, to be able to have everyone in one place (for once!) so we could celebrate all together. Munch and her cousin A. got to have a sleepover the night before-
I prepared taco fixings and whipped up some fry bread while Grandma and Grandpa picked up the Costco cake- YUM!The three birthday celebrants-We gave cousin A. a really cool pirate playset by PlayMobil that folds into a treasure chest-Munch got to open part of her present- a coloring book and some fancy-cut scissors-

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Munch!

Happy 4th birthday to my little peanut- I love you Munchkin!

a few days old- she was just swallowed up by those preemie diapers!

on Munch's first birthday

2 years old!

a pony party for Munch's 3rd birthday

just shy of 4 years old!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peanut and Squash Stew

I've had this recipe tucked away for a while now. I came across it again during my recent reorganization of my recipe notebook. As good as it sounded when I first clipped it, inspiration took some time to strike again. A couple of weeks ago, I happened to record an interesting-looking 2-hour "Super-Chefs" episode of Iron Chef America, where the secret ingredient happened to be the White House garden. All the dishes turned out beautifully of course, but with vegetables as the star. The next morning, as I planned my grocery trip/meals for the week, I found that the majority of the dinners were fairly light on the meat and pretty economical as well (I spent all of $8 for this meal and it fed us for days! I'll certainly tuck half away into the freezer next time.) This one was our favorite by far. And it certainly hit the spot when my sister stumbled in one very late night after a LONG drive back from Tahoe. Warm and hearty, she easily put away a couple of bowlfuls of leftover stew before heading to bed.

Peanut and Squash Stew
The original recipe came from Real Simple magazine and I also found many variations of African Peanut and Squash stew around the web. I happened to misread the recipe and added the entire can of tomato puree. I'll try it with the correct quantities next time for comparison's sake, but I really like the way this turned out. I'd also add a little more peanut butter to get more of its flavor with the increase of the tomato puree.

1 c. brown rice
2 tbs. olive oil
2 c. yellow onions, chopped
1 tbs. grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
4 c. vegetable broth
1 28-oz. can tomato puree
1 c. smooth peanut butter
1 med. acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch-thick crescents
2 tbs. brown sugar
2 16-oz. cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded (I happened to have some frozen grilled strips from Trader Joe's so I chopped, heated, and used about 1 1/2 c. of those)
2 tbs. chopped roasted peanuts

Prepare the brown rice according to its package directions and set aside. Heat the oil in a separate 5 or 6-qt. pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook about 15 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, salt, and cumin. Cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the broth, tomato puree, peanut butter, acorn squash, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, covered, until the squash is tender, about 40 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and the chicken and heat through. Sprinkle with the peanuts and serve over the rice.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pom Pom Flowers

A friend from work popped into my classroom the other day bearing a humongous tissue paper pompom. "Could you use this?" she asked. She also had a large garbage bag filled with more where this first pompom came from. My initial thought was no way do I want more STUFF in my classroom, until she suggested that Munch might like them. Well, then there was no hesitation-"I'll take them!"
Up they went in Munch's room in shades of light pink, magenta, and coral. I figured they'd go well with the string of lanterns and the bright pink Tord Boontje Midsummer pendant light. It's a darling room, with buttercup yellow walls and splashes of every shade of pink. I just love hanging out in there! Here's a peek-
"Come on in!""Everyone who visits my room has to play pretend.""What are you doing?""Okay, we're done playing. You can leave now."Thanks for the pompoms and for thinking of us Sarah!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Year's Day at the California Adademy of Sciences, San Francisco

That's Munch standing in front of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Containing the Steinhart Aquarium, the Morrison Planetarium, and the Kimball Natural History Museum, the Academy of Sciences reopened almost a year ago after a major remodeling and we were looking forward to seeing it.
We had heard that the lines have been INCREDIBLY long even months after the reopening, so we made sure to get there nice and early.We also chose to visit on the morning of New Year's Day, hoping that the previous evening's celebrations would keep people home in bed a little longer. Thankfully, our hopes were realized and the museum was pleasantly uncrowded at least until lunchtime. Parking was super easy, with a new garage built under the Music Concourse that sits between the Academy of Sciences and the DeYoung Museum. Once we got inside, we split up briefly to pick up the free, first-come first-served, showtime tickets to the Planetarium and the special 3-D Bugs film that was currently running. With specific show-time tickets in hand, we then took our time exploring the museum. Our first stop was the African Hall in the Natural History Museum-upon entering it, I was immediately transported back to elementary school and the numerous field trips we took to the "old" Academy. Munch immediately bypassed all the life-size dioramas and headed straight to the African penguins at the back of the hall-that's her on AudioDad's shoulders.
We eventually got her to move on to the Madagascaar and Galapagos islands exhibit where Munch loved seeing the tortoises, lemurs and played a game, projected onto the floor, where she stomped around on piles of leaves and tried to catch bugs.My parents found the exhibit on the global effects of climate change really interesting. This was a display about everyday waste and reusable alternativesYou can check out my parents' collection of American-made reusable tote, lunch, and grocery bags at Clean Conscience Goods- some items are also available through
Next we moved on to the Steinhart Aquarium's section where we came to The Swamp, an old favorite from the original Academy, which now is inhabited by a creepy, ghostly-looking albino alligatorDownstairs, we LOVED the different jellyfish- these we adorably tiny, with short, squat tentacles and these anemone-looking upside-down jellyfish, which bury themselves into the ground Here's Munch and AudioDad standing the front of the massive curved wall of one of the tanks-

We had packed a picnic lunch for the day, in order to avoid the possible crowds in the Academy cafe (I HAD heard that their food was quite good). We headed out to a few benches in the Music Concourse, which gave Munch plenty of room to run and play after eating.After lunch, we headed back into the now-crowded museum to see the Planetarium show (it was incredible!), and visit the enclosed, domed, four-story rainforest which was filled with butterflies, a few birds, and lush greenery We also couldn't miss the hilly, window-spotted, "Living Roof" of the Academy before heading home for a family dinner.

Love Letters

Now that Munch is reading and writing, I come across notes like this around the house more and more often. They are so sweet and she is so proud!
(Vivian loves Dad)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alphabet Activities: Letter Z

After skipping around the alphabet a bit, Munch and I decided to work on the letter Z today. She had a tougher time writing this letter than most of her other letters, and many of her z's ended up looking more like 2's. Oh well, at least she's got THAT number down! After doing her z collage (we glued on rick-rack for "zig-zags"), Munch cut out stripes of black paper and glued them onto a white zebra body-I helped her cut around its legs and ears, then she attached it to some paper and drew some grass at the bottom. It turned out pretty cute-For our cooking project, we made zucchini muffins.I usually use a Better Homes and Gardens recipe, but have always found it WAY too sweet. Instead, today we tried a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil and the results were really wonderful- light and delicately fragrant. I put Munch to work on grating the zucchini. She found it to be hard work-We mixed in about 3/4-1 cup of chopped walnuts and about 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate chips (the 60% cacao bittersweet Ghirardelli chips are my favorite of the grocery store brands- I roughly chopped them because I didn't want TOO big a chunk of chocolate in the muffins). They were very well received-

Zucchini Muffins, makes 2 dozen muffins
3 c. flour
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 c. olive oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 c. grated zucchini
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chopped chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 12-cup tins with muffin papers (I also give the pan a spritz of non-stick spray around the edges of the muffin cups). In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the eggs at medium-low speed for a few seconds. Add the olive oil, sugar, grated zucchini, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in the chopped walnuts and chocolate. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake about 25 minutes or until the tops are dry and lightly golden.