Fall and Christmas 2015
Four posts in one day! This is the last one, then I'll probably disappear from the blog for another three months :)
Since I last wrote, both boys have gotten really into coloring, specifically coloring pictures of vehicles found online. Felix tends to color his pictures "scribble-scrabble" (his words), mostly with orange markers, while Arlo considers his color choices more carefully.
Felix has become afraid of the dark in the past few months. He'll ask one of us to keep him company when he has to visit the downstairs bathroom when it's dark outside. He gets nervous when he sees his reflection in the window at night. Luckily, he'll go to bed without complaint as long as the upstairs bathroom light is on. He is also very worried about the robot kids from Monsters, Inc. and talks about them often. We have to assure him that they're not real. He's not worried about the monsters at all, but any computer-generated human in a movie or TV show terrifies him. Most recently, he's wanted to talk a lot about what happens when somebody dies. He's got a lot going on in his head these days!
He also remains very cuddly and affectionate, which is the best! Less good is that he's not afraid to repeat overheard swear words and other objectionable content (he keeps it clean in preschool, thankfully, but he's not afraid to shout potty words from the back of the bike when we're out riding, which is embarrassing). Recently, he has picked up "hate" from Arlo, much to my chagrin. Arlo tends to have a negative outlook at times (hopefully it's just a phase), but Felix has such a sweet spirit that it makes me sad to hear him say he hates things.
Arlo and Felix get into plenty of fights, but they also have wonderful moments together. Frequently, Arlo will sit with Felix and read to him and try to teach him new things or help him when he gets frustrated. They like to make up games together. Pictured below: Astronauts. Arlo is Chris Hadfield (note the mustache) and Felix is Scott Kelly.
In the mornings, when the heater turns on outside their room, they'll go sit together and look at books. Sometimes they fight, but other times they sit and talk so nicely. The other morning, Felix wanted to know if Arlo would live with him once they're grown-ups and they don't live at home anymore. Of course, Arlo agreed.
The day after my last posting spree, in mid-October, we went on our annual trip out to Kiyokawa Orchards to go apple picking. However, due to the hot summer, U-pick apple season was already over. Luckily, the nice ladies still let us walk around the orchard with wagons and sample whatever apples we could still find on the trees, which is all that Felix and Arlo really wanted to do in the first place. We bought a couple pounds of already-picked apples at the farm stand before leaving, which became pie and applesauce.
Because we lost an October weekend to our tenth-anniversary trip (well, "lost" may be the wrong word--that was an awesome way to spend our time!), we skipped going to a pumpkin patch this year. Instead, Patrick took the boys to our local grocery store, and they bought pumpkins there and hauled them home in their wagon, and then they got Blue Star Donuts. No bounce house or pony rides in this scenario, but still a good time.
For Halloween this year, Arlo wanted to be whatever Felix was, and Felix changed his mind a few times (he wanted to dress up as a giant pair of lips for a while, which would have been a challenging/creepy costume), but he finally decided to be a skeleton, inspired by a friend at preschool. I ordered two pairs of glow-in-the-dark skeleton jammies, made some ridiculously small masks, and we were all set. I did do a tiny bit of Halloween sewing--I made matching bags with reflective ribbon handles--but apparently I never photographed those. It ended up raining on Halloween, but we still did our cute little neighborhood costume parade, and then Patrick and the boys trick-or-treated for a while.
As I noted in my earlier post, when the rain came I sewed waterproof blankets for my cargo bike. I spent a while looking at different options to keep myself dry-ish on the bike (rain skirts, rain pants), and I ended up buying Rainlegs (I prefer to call them rain chaps) at Clever Cycles. The upper-thigh buckles got caught on my bike seat the first time I wore them, which was annoying, so after that, I fastened those buckles in front (just to keep them out of the way; they don't actually serve a purpose when buckled in front). The Rainlegs still stay on just fine, and I'm happy with their performance. The one day that it rained really hard, the backs of my knees got wet, but that's way better than how things were before the rain chaps.
For Thanksgiving, both boys made hand turkeys at school (yes!) and we went to a bikey friend's house for dinner. This was actually my first time meeting him because I'm a social recluse, but Patrick and the boys have gone on lots of rides with him. He lives in a building that used to house a little grocery store, and he has a super long table, perfect for Thanksgiving. We brought pie (my standard apple and pumpkin--I finally managed to bake the Cook's Illustrated pumpkin pie for just the right amount of time so the center wasn't jiggly), simple cranberry sauce, and rolls from Little T. That's Felix coloring vehicle pages at the end of the table.
In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we hired Bruce, the painter who worked on our kitchen remodel, to paint a few upstairs rooms. He doesn't have a website, as far as I can tell, but feel free to email me if you'd like a reference for a Portland painter--he does good work, and he's a nice guy.
First, we had him paint our stairwell Benjamin Moore Gray Wisp 1570, which was very similar to the color that was there before, just a little lighter. We had lots of almost-matching areas of paint where we'd had repairs done (electrical, plumbing), and it's nice to have a uniform paint job in the stairwell again.
We had the upstairs hallways painted BM Queen Anne Pink HC-60 (with Linen White 912 on the ceiling), which looks really nice with our dark wood (top picture is before, bottom is after). You can see the new linen closet that was added when we had our chimney taken down during the kitchen remodel. I love that thing! The third picture shows the Gray Wisp and Queen Anne Pink next to each other in the stairwell.
The bathroom was what finally pushed me to get the painting done. I was tired of looking at the messed up wood wainscoting behind the sink. I decided I'd like to have the wood painted (I know, painting wood trim is frowned upon. I like the wood in the rest of our house, but it was looking pretty worn out in the bathroom). We're planning on remodeling the bathroom in a few years, so we didn't want to spend a lot of time or money, so we only had Bruce paint three of the four walls (the fourth wall is partially blocked by our very heavy clawfoot tub, so it would have been difficult to paint the whole thing). This resulted in a funny-looking half-painted corner behind the toilet, but it's fine. I'm already used to it.
The paint color is BM Subtle AF-310, a nice warm yellow/cream color. The one thing I'd do differently in retrospect is have the baseboards painted. I had Bruce leave them wood colored, to echo the wood on the window and door, but I'm not crazy about the dark baseboard/white wainscoting look, now that I've seen it for real.
While we were at it, we had the boys' room repainted. I spent a long time looking at different shades of gray (from left to right in the first picture, there's Edgecomb Gray, Winter Orchard, Moonshine, Revere Pewter, and Gray Owl). I went with BM Revere Pewter HC-172 for the walls with Mascarpone AF-20 for the trim and Linen White for the ceiling. The room is north-facing, so I wanted a warm gray, and Revere Pewter is looking good so far. I would expect nothing less from the most pinned paint color on Pinterest!
When we moved the boys back into their room after painting, we also upgraded Arlo to a twin-sized bed (an IKEA Kura loft bed, bought on Craigslist--yay!), which gave us room for a little reading nook underneath. After lots of bean bag research, I ended up buying two 30-inch bean bag inserts from Land of Nod (with nice, sturdy covers from Etsy). They ended up being firm, not squishy (this could be because the covers are snug--maybe they'll be squishier when they're broken in), and they take up more space than I'd anticipated under the bed, but it's still a nice place to hang out. The boys don't actually use it much, but I like it a lot. During winter break, I snuck away and read under there a few times, while the boys played Legos downstairs. I have plans to fancy things up more (curtain, bookshelf), but who knows when that will happen.
We did the advent calendar again this year, mostly unchanged from 2014. The big new addition this year was that we actually rode on the Holiday Express train, instead of just going to see it from the Springwater Corridor (the boys didn't enjoy that in years past--too loud from outside the train). We almost missed the train because there was a super-long freight train blocking our original route, but thanks to Patrick's biking knowledge, we took an alternate route and got there with five minutes to spare. The ride itself was fun, though the boys got a little antsy. I hadn't read much about the train in advance, so when Santa and his elves came through the car, it was a bit of a surprise, especially for Felix, who was feeling nervous about Santa this year ("Why can't he leave the presents on the porch like the UPS guy? He doesn't need to come into our house while we're sleeping!"). But Santa gave Felix a candy cane, and all was forgiven.
Advent calendar baking was the same as last year (same recipes too): gingerbread cookies, panettone, and sugar cookies. This year, I made the full recipe of panettone and baked half in our 1.5-quart crockpot insert and half in a loaf pan. It got stale before we could eat it all--maybe next year I'll freeze the second loaf for later.
For our annual family Christmas ornament this year, I kept things easy and made felt letters.
Patrick's sister Meg came to visit for Christmas week, and she brought her puppy, Simba! This was Simba's first experience living with little kids, and there were some tense moments, but mostly he was a very good dog. Felix had variable feelings about Simba--"I love Simba so much" about 75% of the time, and "Simba is mean. He needs to go back home right now." about 25% of the time. I think Simba felt the same way.
We got to spent Christmas Eve and Day with the usual suspects (including all aunts and uncles!) from Patrick's side of the family. We did our big dinner on Christmas Eve, with maple-orange glazed ham, mashed sweet potatoes in the Instant Pot (from Pressure Cooker Perfection), macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls, kale salad, black olives, sparkling cider, and the aforementioned pressure-cooker Oreo cheesecake. The cheesecake was the best part.
On Christmas morning, the boys entered vehicle heaven (and now Patrick is working on building a shelf especially for all of the Bruder vehicles, because those things take up a lot of floor space), and then we had our traditional breakfast of sour cream coffee cake, sausage, eggs, and grapefruit.
After family left, we had a low-key New Year's Eve (I didn't make anything special to eat--I think we had quesadillas?) and rang in the new year listening to drunk people arguing at our next-door neighbor's party, same as last year (I can't complain too much though; they've had very few loud parties in the past year. If you've gotta have one, New Year's Eve is the right time). We had our standard New Year's Day Dutch baby breakfast, and then for dinner, I tried some new recipes from Alton Brown: Black eyed peas, collard greens (made in the Instant Pot: used 1/4lb chopped bacon instead of the ham hock, browned the bacon first and removed during wilting then added back for pressure cooking; skipped the second cooking step), and cornbread (1.5x recipe in our 10" cast iron pan; halved sugar but would use full amount in the future) and honey butter. It was all good (especially the greens!) and worth making again.
I had lots of leftover black-eyed peas, due to lack of interest from children, so I made them into minestrone. Still not interesting to the children, but the grown-ups enjoyed it.
On the last day of our two-week-long winter break, we got snow, and it was beautiful, and the boys took vehicles out and "plowed" the sidewalk, and Felix got to throw a snowball at me while I was wearing my pajamas. A good winter memory!
Less good was when that snow turned to ice, and the next two days of school were cancelled. We (mostly) enjoyed our family togetherness for those first two weeks of winter break, but those final two unexpected days cooped up in the house together were tough. We passed the time with movies on the first day (Monsters, Inc. again, and their first viewing of Toy Story) and Legos on the second day. And then school, glorious school, resumed, and we're getting back into our normal routine. Phew! Happy 2016!