Thursday, May 31, 2012

National Marshmallow Day

We decided we needed a new holiday, so yesterday was National Marshmallow Day* at Casa de McMiller.  Armed with a pack of mini-marshmallows, a pack of star shaped marshmallows, and an armload of toothpicks, we set to work.

Robin mostly made ate a handful, made some triangles and sticks, then ate another handful.

Erin was totally focused.  She spent a good 20 minutes constructing.  She built mostly churches.  We worked on how to made a 2-D triangle into a pyramid to stabilize her spire.  And when the construction was finished:

What should be our next holiday?

*There is a National Toasted Marshmallow day on August 30, but who needs to wait for that? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Play time: Water beads

I've been reading about water beads for sensory play and finally figured out what water beads are. They are small polymer beads that expand greatly in water.  They come in a rainbow of colors, are meant for flower cuttings/soilless plant growing, and they are very inexpensive. 

Mixed up a first batch.  The packet on the left is 3 grams.  The bowl on the right is two packets worth, soaked in water for 2 hours.  They swell for 4 hours, so they probably could get bigger.

I set out the beads with some bowls and spoons as a first foray into water bead play.  No explanation, just the invitation.

The girls LOVED it, and played for about 45 minutes.  First, exploration, "They feel squishy, they feel slippery, they bounce, they shoot when I squeeze them, they tickle. " Then projects. Pouring into bowls, mixing, spooning, bouncing. Then gear shifting as we put them in baggies to squish around.

Finally moved it outside to the water table.  Lots of giggles, lots of good fun.  And they watered the potted plants, placing many of the water beads right where they're "supposed" to go.

We had so much fun and I bought so many packets, we'll share the love and try a McMiller PDX giveaway.  I'll mail a packet to the first 10 people who leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

CSA box 2: Apriums and Cherries

About 6 # Honeyrich Apriums and 1# Ranier cherries.

I'll likely be pinning a bunch of apricot-related recipes later this week.  Anyone have suggestions? Last week we ate most of the peaches and apricots, but I still ended up making and freezing about a pint of compote.

Monday, May 28, 2012

So simple a child could solve it.

What, you mean your 27 month old doesn't rock the Sudoku?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sacramento Family Picnic

More picts to come but . . .

Brian's Uncle Mike hosts an annual church/family picnic every Memorial Day weekend at a park in Sacramento.  We made the short trek this year and had a great time.  Amazing food!  Games for every age kid!  Interesting conversations, hiking along the American River, and did I mention really great food?

The really fun thing is the girls have a ton of 2nd cousins that they got a chance to meet/play with.  We've played with some of the cousins before, but this was the first time meeting others.

Grandma sent these pictures, which seem to capture the spirit of the girls.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hodgepodge dinner

For the adults:
Homemade pinto beans with sausage, avocado, cheese, tapatillo, steamed artichoke, boiled new potatoes.
For the kids: hard boiled egg, "sprinkle" cheese (shredded mexican blend), boiled potatoes, avocado, steamed broccoli, token beans.

Some dinners are just things on a plate and end up perfectly delicious.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Steel Anniversary

B and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary (two days early) true McMiller style:  fancy pizza, good beer, and a documentary movie about sushi.  Does it get any more romantic?

My parents took the girls out to a healthy dinner, and we came home to find the kids bouncing on their beds.  They crashed out soon after and in the morning retold many stories of the fun they had the night before.  Truly though, we were grateful for the outing.  Happy 11 years, Mr. B.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Open House

We went to the open house for Erin's Kindergarden school tonight.  Each grade showcased a dance.  The music moved Robin to heightened affection:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tape part II

Remember this?

It's morphed into this:

Tape ... who knew it could be such a fun toy?

And man, I love the sibling play.

**** OK, don't know why there's no sound on the video.  That's part of the extreme cuteness because Robin is chatting away the entire time.  Will work on that tomorrow.  If anyone else is getting audio, let me know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First CSA box

We joined a local CSA last week.  We did this in PDX, but hadn't found one here that was as close as our last one was.  Our drop point is 2 blocks away, on our street.  So with the girls in the bike trailer we rode down the hill for the first pickup. Behold the bounty: 

It's all fruit.  This threw me for a loop.  This time of year, all we'd be getting in the PDX box would be fennel, some lettuce, fennel, one box of strawberries, and more fennel.  We got used to fennel.  This is all fruit.  All drupe fruit.  About 6# of it.  (We'd already eaten about 1/2 the cherries, 7 apricots, and 1 peach by the time we got home.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

I love you a mole

E: "Dad? How much you love me?"
B: "I love you more than Avogadro's number."
A: "'I love you a mole.'"

Fishing for snacks

I found this on a blog I started following via Pinterest.

Snack Fishing:

Take a pretzel stick
Dip in peanut butter
Fish for Goldfish
Eat the bounty.

We'll try this with other dip/fish combos!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Brian's Birthday Bash!

Another year, another birthday.  We celebrated over the whole weekend.  Somehow I only really got 3 mediocre pictures.

The celebration on Friday (the actual b-day):
* Presents and cards over morning oatmeal and coffee.
* 5 miler run together when the kids were at school. (don't tell Brian's work!)
* Pizza dinner out on the lawn.  Frozen pizza.  From Safeway.
* 24 oz Mickey's can to go with the pizza.

Lots of shopping to prepare.

Of course, we need chocolate doughnuts to assist during shopping. 

BBQ at the park!  A great turn out of family and a lot of friends, with ice cream cake too!

Of which the girls each had two pieces.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Little Buppy

Robin's lovey "Little Buppy", also known as Little Blankie, or sometimes just LB, is her favorite.  She cuddles it when she's sleeping, it's usually to the side of her cheek.  She used to need it everywhere but now it resides solely in her bed.

I got a new LB from eBay.  An exact replica of the original LB, clean, unwashed, yet to be cuddled.  Note the difference that 2 years of cuddling can make to a trusty LB:

Friday, May 18, 2012

The playground is a tough place

Two days ago, we were at the local school playground after dinner to get some of our wiggles out.  Normally it's pretty quite, but since it's Little League season, the playground was packed.  No matter, my girls are so familiar with the terrain they jumped right into play.


Boy 1 and Boy 2 started picking on Robin.  Robin was on the little slide, Erin was 100 yards away on the swings.  I shuffled back and forth between them. Whenever I turned my back to Robin, she started fussing. Boy 1 was always behind her, Boy 2 by Boy 1's side, grinning.  At first, I thought she was taking too long on the slide and Boy 1 was annoyed.  It happens.

Then, protest #4 from Robin had me witnessing Boy 1 kicking her.  With both feet. With a look of grim determination on his face.  The mama bear in me rose up and I demanded of him, "Where is your Mom, Where is your Dad?"  He immediately knew the game was up and slunk away as best he could.  Dad 2 saw this, raced over to intercept Boy 2 and ask what was going on.  I said, "Boy 1 (probably age 6 or so ) was kicking my 2-year-old."  Dad 1 finally clued in that something was going on and chased Boy 1.  Dad 2 apologized profusely.  Dad 1... well, he just wrangled his boy and left.  Oh, during all the bullying Dad 1 and Dad 2 were engrossed in conversation.....

Today, we were at the city park, girls brought their push cars and scooters, again, to get wiggles out.  There's a center grassy area flanked by two playgrounds, one for little 'ins, one for big 'uns.  Around it is a paved path perfect for riding.  Erin was halfway around her first lap when I heard her start crying.  I saw to older folks and a smallish white dog.  I hurried over and asked if Erin was OK ( she was) and the couple assured me she was just startled by the dog, the dog was a reduce and not very well socialized.  Erin finished her lap and collapsed next to me.

She showed me the indentation and the break in the skin on her leg where the dog bit her.

I'm fine with rescue dogs, it's a good cause, it's not the animals fault.  I'm fine with trying to socialize the animal. But at a children's playground?  Where the dog is on a leash, but given enough lead to bite a passing child?  REPEAT:  ALLOWED TO BITE A PASSING CHILD???!?!!?!!


This was a challenging week for the McMillers at the parks.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Go Fish

Nice way to start a morning. Watch out though: Erin is a total shark.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordy Wednesday: Strange Subterranean Grubs

You may wonder where the dirt clods came from.  Well, last week Erin came inside after digging in the dirt screaming she'd seen a yellow jacket (or jaguar in her vernacular) flying into the ground.  We had a yellow jacket problem last year, set traps early this year, and are trying to be pro-active about eradicating the problem before it starts.  So Brian heads out with a shovel and some protective clothing with the intent of digging down and finding the nest.

Instead he finds this:

A pretty large, slowly moving, juicy looking insect nestled about 6-10 inches under the ground.  No wings, but winglets (my own term: perfectly formed but mini wings), 6 legs.  First thought?  Queen.  Quick search revealed nope. Not a yellow jacket, not a bumblebee, not anything we can quickly ID by a google search.  We put it to rest.

A week goes by and the dirt clods resulting from the excavation are perfect for throwing.  Erin asks for more dirt to throw, I pick up the shovel and dig further into the pit already started.  And another big, juicy bug emerges. It really looks like a bug that's not quite done with development.  Puny, squirmy lets.  Itty bitty wings plastered to its body.  Eyes pasty and the same greenish-yellow as its body.

Out comes the iPhone, a quick picture, a Facebook post, and lots of minds on the question of "what in tarnation is this bug?!?!?!"

Hats off to Jenna Mc for finding this.  Reading through this blog post, the ID process went much as the FB discussion did.  It is a cicada nymph. I had no idea these insects lived here.  I remember hearing that they spent decades underground.  And now I feel really bad about killing two of them.  And I will feel even worse this summer when we tear apart the back yard dirt patch to put in a shed and veggie garden.

Thanks to everyone on FB who helped solve the mystery!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Because throwing stuff is fun.

Let's talk gender stereotypes here. I've watched boys grown men throw things for fun. I mean, stand in a line and throw rocks into a pond, rocks at cans, whatever.  But is it a boy thing?

I learned tonight that everyone thinks throwing things is fun.  This game lasted well over 15 minutes, an eternity in the world of Erin.  It might have lasted longer, but it was time for bath and bed.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Face Dinner

Brian's creation: grilled cheese sandwich, dried plums, dried cranberries, apple sticks, crackers.

Erin ate the eyes.  Robin ate half of the face.  Either the kids don't like anthropomorphized food, or they just don't eat a lot.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

This morning, Robin settled into drawing.

A: Can you draw me a dog?

R: No, I don't know how to draw a dog.

A: How about an elephant?  Can you draw an elephant?

R: No.  I can't draw an elephant.  All I can draw is a lobster.  See?  Here, mama.  I draw a lobster for you.

May your Mother's day be filled with Lobster!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bike riding time!

We got one of those tandem kid bikes for Erin. Today we took an inaugural ride:


She LOVED it! Even when she took a big spill when Brian made a hard turn she cried a bit, then begged to go back on. I see a fun, bike-filled summer in our future!

Friday, May 11, 2012


Our local elementary school had their annual Walk-A-Thon fundraiser.  This is where Erin will be going to Kindergarden, but right now our nephew Brendan is a 5th grader.  I'm not sure yet how many laps he ran during the 2 hour event. (B, when you read this please feel free to tell us in the comments section).

Erin and Robin did two laps with Uncle Jim.  Then Erin went on to do 2 more by herself.  Each lap is 0.4 miles.  We've a little runner in the making!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baby birds

Yesterday, Robin and I were waiting outside a store for it to open.  We noticed, in the dirt next to a bush by the front door, three teeny baby birdies wriggling quietly.

They were teeny.  One was not moving a ton. The sun on their little bodies was already hot, and it was only 9:30.  I looked up into the shrubs above the birdies and spied their nest.  If I stood on my tiptoes, I could reach it.  I turned to the ladies around me, told them what we were looking at.  One quipped, "I heard if you touch the babies the mama won't feed them anymore."  I thought, "So I should just let them die right here and now?"

I said I had to do something.  I scooped them up, one by one, and carefully put them back in their nest.  The other ladies around looked relieved.  I was too.

When we got out of the store a little while later, I saw a mama or daddy bird leaving the nest.  Hopefully the babies are being cared for again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The apple doesn't fall far....

My dad is a cancer survivor - he had Hodgkin's lymphoma 11 years ago.  It was diagnosed, basically, on our wedding day.  When he was undergoing treatment, the only things that were remotely interesting/tasty/palatable to him were doughnuts and hot dogs. 

Guess what Robin ate for lunch today? 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tinker Toys: an oldie but a goodie!

Grandma and Grandpa brought over Brian's old set of Tinker Toys from when he was a boy.  Erin and he got straight to work on it this morning. 

The first creation?  A robot, of course.  It can sit, bend, reach, do all kinds of robot things. 

The construction site.  This toy, though messy, is a hit!  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pin Attempt: 30 minute french bread

Remember Pinterest?

I found this recipe today, and couldn't resist the allure of the quick, crunchy possible result.

The first attempt was promising, but not a success.  Not a total fail, but not a total *aha* kinda recipe.

First off - the recipe calls for 2 c water to 3-4 c flour.  I used about 6, and I think it probably could have used more.

Second, the rise.  The recipe says you don't really need one.  I did, for about 20 min.  It could have used more.  Traditional breads usually have two rises - one proof, one in the final shape of loaf.  Part of the attraction of this recipe is the allure of a nearly no-rise yeast bread, just as easy as a quick bread, right?

Third, the baking technique.  It calls for tossing 3-4 c ice in the bottom of the oven just as you put the loaves in, shutting the door, and not opening it for at least 15 minutes.  I'm down with that, I understand the steam will create a deliciously crisp crust.  However the logistics were a nightmare.  Trying to toss in that much ice, into a 425F oven?  Yikes.  Half the ice got wedged in the hinge of the oven door.  One reader commented it might short out the coils, and another suggested heating a rimmed baking sheet in a lower rack and putting the ice cubes there.  Will try that next time.

The fun part was letting the kids work with a hunk of the dough and making their own mini loaves.  Erin made a heart (bottom left on this picture), Robin made some lumps.

The taste:  Somewhere in-between a quick bread and a yeasted bread.  I will try tweaking this a bit and see if I can get it working for us.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Horse walks

In the evenings lately we've been taking "Horse Walks".

Erin and friends preparing for feeding time: Feeding time

Robin asleep in the stroller (dude, you're missing all the horses!): Robin asleep

The field (check the deer in the background) Field

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This reminds me of something

Shortly after we bought this house, we received a 3 page letter from one of the previous owners, detailing the contents of the terraced back garden.  This was her prize.  Her baby.  Nearly as precious as her real baby, now age 25 or so.  One of the prized plants is a flowering dogwood, and takes center stage this time of year in the garden. 

I can't remember now the significance for her - was it the present from her father on her 50th birthday?  The prize for her first published book of poetry?  Unknown.  For me it breathes of when we were firmly settled here, Erin at 2.5, Robin at 2 months, and we were finally starting to find our groove as a family of four. 

To me, it stands as a beautiful reminder of how our lives blossom, grow, and wilt, each thing having a season.  We no longer have babies, we have kids.  The previous owners no longer have little kids, nor a life together.  But we have all grown into something different, something unexpected, something just as beautiful, but maybe not as imagined.  Little things we plant here and there can grow into unexpected beauty that will be, by us or unanticipated others, appreciated and adored.