Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween



Haunted
I dare you all to go into
The Haunted House on Howlin’ Hill,
Where squiggly things with yellow eyes
Peek past the wormy window sill.
We’ll creep into the moonlit yard,
Where weeds reach out like fingers,
And through the rotted old front door
A-squeekin’ on its hinges,
Down the dark and whisperin’ hall,
Past the musty study,
Up the windin’ staircase—
Don’t step on the step that’s bloody—
Through the secret panel
To the bedroom where we’ll slide in
To the ragged cobweb dusty bed
Ten people must have died in.
And the bats will screech,
And the thunder will crash
Like a horrible dream,
And we’ll sing with the zombies
And dance with the dead,
And howl at the ghost
With the axe in his head,
And—come to think of it what do you say
We go get some ice cream instead?
~ Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nike Kit + ipod = happiness

First and foremost, this is a plug for my favorite material possession.
Secondly, I preface this plug with an important notation - I am an exerciser, not a runner.
Let’s just say, for an imaginary second, that I am Oprah. No laughing. No. Please don’t choke. I know, not even close. But if I was Oprah, I would produce a “favorite things show” and hand out a bazillion Nike kit + ipods.
The nike kit + ipod sensor and receiver. If you know someone who has an ipod and walks, or runs, or wants to walk, or run, or hop, skip or jump, please consider this as a gift. My sister sent this to me last year when I announced that I was going to officially work on losing baby weight. It sat, unwrapped in its packaging for almost a month before I decided to figure out how it worked. Had I known how easy it was, how much I’d grow to love it, how dependent I’d be on it within 4 weeks, I’d have torn through the packaging in less than a minute.

The nike kit + ipod comes with a sensor which attaches to your shoe, and another do-hickey, receiver, that goes on the ipod. Together these two little pieces of heaven chat with each other to determine your pace, distance, time spent sweating, and how they can make you happy, by playing your favorite songs. It’s because of this little nike kit that I am now running 10k several times a week and am training for a 20k race in the spring.



Well, actually I’m training for a 20k race to raise money for the French school where the kids attend. Taking a class in French currently, my hopes are dimming that I’d ever be able to sputter a complete and proper
 “thank you for all you’ve done, teaching 3 of my kids a second language and showing our family so much courtesy and respect, kindness, and patience as we stumble through your courtyard daily…”
So far all the French class has yielded for me is “My name is…” “I was born in...” “He is Indian.” She is from Netherlands.” ”My phone number is…”
So, as you may imagine, it’s going to take awhile to get up to “thanks so much for all you’ve done…” Actions are better than words anyway, no matter what the language.
Hence, a goal to sweat out a grand "Merci" via a 20k run / fundraiser for the school.

(If you’d like to contribute, by all means, contact me!)

But I digress. The Nike kit is fantabulous. When you use it you can link online to a Nike site where training plans, goals, calories burned, teams, and ‘friends’ are available. You can map your routes and save them. All the while a strange cartoon figure “mini” dances a jig along a path so you can procrastinate daily chores and instead, change her hairstyle, clothing color, or even give her a nose job.

The only things the nike kit doesn’t do that I wish it could are as follows-

1) Keep the Man upstairs from causing rain showers. I imagine He sees me grab my nike kit some days and thinks “hmm, that garden needs watered, let me aim my hose right over Belgium.” Then with a hand on one hip and some nice pressure on the hose, He lets loose with the waterworks.

2) It won’t map hills. But Google Earth doesn’t either. I learned this on the first 10K route I mapped and then ran. All uphill. Yeah- both ways. I’m going to try running it backwards to see how much the pace improves.

3) It won’t tie your shoes for you. No. You at least have to make the effort to put on the shoes and get out the door.
I couldn’t run a single kilometer (happily) without it anymore. The Nike kit is the right price, (around 30 bucks) and is completely worth every penny. If you know someone with a wish list that has anything to do with getting in shape, exercise, walking, etc. absolutely consider the nike kit + ipod to give the best gift this season.

Apple Advertisement


And speaking of apple ipod and candied apples-
Stella took this photo as we were making carmel apples this weekend.
~ perhaps an advertisement to make more?
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Tis the Harvest Season


Fall. Love it. The cool, crisp air is a relief. Piles of leaves are big fun. The colors are spectacular. And who doesn’t enjoy cider and a warm fire on a chilly autumn night?
These photos go out to family friends in Singapore. To the Scarbellos, we share these autumn photos with you and wish you were here to enjoy it.  


During our time in Guam, we missed fall a lot. The change of color, the leaves, the relief of a chilly breeze, bundling up in sweaters and coats. We know you guys are enjoying Singapore, and that you make the most of what’s around you. But in case you miss fall in the last bit, here are some pics to let you know we miss you guys as well….
We also know that in that part of the world, the temperature is quite warm, all year round. So, before we share a few fall recipes, here's one that's sweet, and cool relief for those celebrating the harvest season in the warmest of weather!
Pumpkin Pie-cicles
2 1/2 lbs. butternut squash
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup light cream
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Instructions
To make a batch, cut a butternut squash into quarters and scoop out the seeds.
Boil, bake, or microwave the squash until it's soft. Let the squash cool a bit before scooping its flesh into a medium-size bowl. Add pure maple syrup, light cream, and pumpkin pie spice to the bowl. Use a potato masher or food processor to mush the squash and blend all of the ingredients.
Spoon the mixture into ice pop molds (we were able to fill 10), add sticks, and freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.

And here's one for thoe who are wrapping up in sweaters and coats to keep warm in the chilled air...

Warm Caramelized Onion Dip
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
4 large sweet onions, sliced
1 4 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Pepper to taste

Melt the butter and heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and slowly caramelize on over medium-low heat for about 1 to 3 hours. Mix skillet contents and remaining ingredients and place in a baking dish.
Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven until the top is nicely browned, about 30-50 minutes.
To serve, you can either leave the dip in the dish, or spoon it into a seeded and cleaned pumpkin. Placing the lid and stem back on the pumpkin bowl will keep the dip warm. Serve with veggies, bread, or crackers.


By far though, my favorite thing to make in the fall is candy apples,...and apple dumplings, and applesauce cake, and apple pie, oh my!
Here's a candy apple recipe for the sake of sharing.
Candy Apples
1/2 C light corn syrup
3/4 Cup Water
2 C sugar
food coloring (1 tsp or more depending on tint)
4-6 small apples - crisp apples like granny smith or honey sweet work well - washed and dry.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine all but the apples. Heat to boiling at 320*. It's important to get the temp very high so that the candy hardens. Avoid stirring to much because this will cause crystallization. While waiting for the candy to boil,  place a piece of parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet and grease it very well. Put 1 stick (Popsicle, skewers, lollipop sticks etc) into each apple.
Once the candy is boiling and has reached 320*, quickly work to dip the apples into the coating, gently turning the apple via the stick to get the entire surface coated. Then set the apple onto the prepared tray and allow to cool for at least 20 -30 minutes. Store at room temp. These make great gifts and are such a yummy fall treat!

A swashbucklin' jolly good time

Ahoy! A family who we are good friends with here invited us to celebrate a birthday with them at a children’s party. The theme, ‘Pirates’, beckoned a jolly good time.


Mateys were to fix a map and set sights on a swashbuckling adventure, in full costume.
We careened upon their plank with birthday booty and feasted on mighty treasure. Shiver me timbers there were games, d├ęcor, scurvy dogs, and scallywags running all about. Here are a few of the photos from this hornswaggling crew.

The actual party occurred several weeks ago, but I post it now because several people have asked about Halloween costumes. In Belgium, Halloween is not celebrated in the grand fashion we’re accustomed to in the States. There are parties here and there, trick or treating is kept to a bare minimum, and occasionally there are jack o’ lanterns or decorations perched upon doorsteps, or draped in windows. Overall, it’s simply not the same. There is enough celebration however, that parents seem to scurry to come up with some sort of outfit for their children to attend in costume at random seasonal festivities.


Hence, my new favorite easy costume must be the pirate.  



(Argh! That's  how a pirate downs a cookie eh? Rrrrrrr!)


We needed very little to transform our full crew into scallywags and buccaneers. For the boys, a little paint on the face made a beard that went a long way. Add a vest, bandana hat or a pirate hat fashion from felt, a belt, and some jeans, perhaps a hook made of cardboard and foil and, matey, you have yourself a regular pirate. The girls wore dress up that they had from their dress up bin, but a red or black dress would have worked just as well. We tied scarves over their heads and used scrap fabric to tie around arms here and there. We made eye patches from ribbon and felt with a dab of hot glue. A project that took all of 10 minutes.


Really easy and lots of fun. This has to be one of the most fun, cheap, and quick family costumes we’ve created for a jolly good time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday Night Swim Lessons

This year, the kids have swimming lessons twice a week on Wednesday and Friday. Addie asked why we don't do "Family-French movie- Friday nights" anymore. And, Um, that would be because we are out of time on Fridays now. So she asked if instead, we could substitute our family movie time for a little family pool time after swimming lessons.

There is a big slide on the pool and a nice baby pool next to the gigantic pool where the lessons are conducted. So there's a little something for everyone....
Bravo! That makes for a happy family- especially at the end of a busy week and the bottom of a big water slide!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Arleigh-loo-loo-ya

There we were, in church, a violinist and pianist enthusiastically tossing off lovely notes, while the choir belted out "Alleluia".
In the song, the word is drawn out over several notes "All-lay-looo-ooo-ooo-ya, All-lay-looo-ooo-ooo-ya, ....All-lay-looo-ooo-oo-ya".  You get the picture.

And there was little Arleigh belting it out too, with all the heart and might of a two year old...
"Arleigh-loo-loo ya, Arleigh-loo-loo ya, Arleigh-loo-loo ya,... Arleigh- lo- ya, ...Ar-leigh-loo- ya"!

I just know God was smiling :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Movie Stars, or, uh, extras...

We had received an email, a newsletter from the Embassy, and a flyer, all asking for Americans to play as extras in a movie being filmed, in part, here in Belgium. The story is about the struggle of orphaned siblings who live in a poor, factory neighborhood, perhaps in the Detroit area. After a little research on the movie and paperwork, we agreed to let the kids try out a little acting as extras for the movie "The Tamed Ones".
The learning curve was steep. We realized right away that there would be a lot of waiting around between scene taping. We also realized that it's not easy to be dressed for a winter scene when the sun is shining and it's a balmy 70 degrees outside.


Once the ball got rolling for the movie stars extras, it wasn't long before Stella was spotted, charming her way around the film crew and others. Addie however, was used in a more scenes, because she was the same age as one of the main characters.

 Here, Addie, Stella, and I are waiting to play our part as extras in the background. I was even given a line-
That's right...I called out with great skill and a theatrical wave of my arm "Elliot! Come on!" and viola, a star was born :) Just notice the woman giving a thumbs up- she just had to be noting what fab acting skills I brought to the set right? (hilarious really)


 Most of the day though, was spent wandering halls of the school where the taping was going on, or sitting in the school cafeteria and entertaining the kids. We thought in a hopeful way, that the endured waiting would turn them off of any future career in acting. Instead Addie and Stella said they loved the experience and they'd like to do it again if they ever had a chance.


There seemed to be a lot of breaks...
Meanwhile Click and Clack were busy, trying to keep busy....


In the end, the kids earned spending money from the ordeal, not to mention had a fun experience regarding movies and how they are made. We hope the movie goes on to do well for itself. The crew said it won't be released for about a year, much to Stella's dismay.
When we left for the car, she asked me "so can we watch the movie tonight?"

Best of luck to all those folks we met today-from the kids that Addie and Stella made friends with, to the wardrobe lady who picked over every one of our scarves, mittens and boots, thanks for a great experience.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

ABSOLUTELY ADDIE

I've said jokingly "we breed brilliance". Now I say "we breed bloggers". Addie is attempting to write her own blog. She has lots of ideas to spill and we're hoping her blog is the place to let 'er rip.
It won't hurt to have a little typing and writing practice to boot. The first month or so has been a learning curve, though she's getting the hang of it and still seems determined. So here's the plug. Check out her new blog site "Absolutely Addie" then add her to your favorites!

http://absoluteaddie.blogspot.com/

Tw-ooo


Yep, he hit the mark.
the big 2 point 0 folks.
With a speedy quick celebration complete with race cars, games for the big kids, and of course, a race car cake,
he sped through his party and onto the track of a third year.




Happy Happy Birthday Bucka.
You're quite a champion!
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I love this photo because it reminds me of an assortment of little stories and moments.
Our trip to the organic pick -your -own farm with Miss Alina and Mr James was, as Mr. James mentioned "memorable".
 That group photo reminds me of how sweet James and Alina were to come along with us. How Miss Alina bumbled through her first frustrating experience with a wheelbarrow full of berries in the thick mud.
How Mr James kindly accompanied the kids into the fields, carried pumpkins, and pushed wheelbarrows in the rain.Mr James and Miss Alina, you are real troopers. Braving the wet and cold, the mud and muck, in the name of "fun at a farm". Thanks for joining us on our adventure.

That group photo recalls the excitement for Stella to visit the farm. She'd been begging to go back for several months. She loved romping through the fields, digging in dirt, and picking veggies from the ground.
The group photo reminds me of how much my kids enjoy being around James and Alina. Stella finds a friend and mentor in Miss Alina.

As thrilled as she was to pick out her pumpkin for carving, her sadness was extreme over the broken pumpkins in the field. She spent quite a long time examining them, studying the damaged pumpkins inside and out to determine what happened to them. A pumpkin smashing contest might just break her heart.








In that group photo, Addie is the most reserved of the kids. She's not making a goofy face, or dancing in outlandish fashion. The group photo reminds me of how Addie is gaining in maturity. How this week she asked more than ever if she could help around the house. It reminds me of how she has become better at quality control- taking better care of her room, learning to organize, and manage multiple activities.
Yet she's still so young, and unable to hold back occasional excitement, like when she shouted out in her loudest voice across a field that she was certain she'd discovered "the perfect strawberry!"






The group photo reminds me of how Emory can change his mood abruptly and how puzzling we find this as his parents. The girls were never so moody or persnickety. Emory was thrilled to fill baskets one moment and scared out of his rain boots of a potential downpour the next.




Matt too, not smiling in the photo, seemed grumpy at the farm. Mr. James chalked it up being "overwhelmed", but I think Matt needed a nap. We've been incredibly busy, working hard to keep the ship afloat and still we seem to be falling behind. Nevertheless, he'll get his nap, eventually. In the end, no doubt he'll enjoy the strawberries, squash, lettuce, pumpkins, carrots, and rest of the bounty we brought home with us. That group photo reminds me of how important it is for daddy to have his down time too.
 


That group photo reminds me of how Arleigh wanted only to pick the "widdle gween pompkeens".
He was all too protective of his little basket and insisted upon carrying it around the farm by himself.
It reminds me of how Arleigh stomped through thick mud and diligently worked to pick up a little round pumpkin, only to get stuck in the mud, unable to move his feet.

He ended up in tears...

He ate all the strawberries he picked.
Who can blame him? The last season berries were tasty.

He ate as many tomatoes as he could manage to fit in his mouth on the way home, still clutching a little basket.

Two years ago, he was lounging around on another scale of sorts.
Today's weight must account for a full pint of strawberries ingested in the fields.
Still a pip squeak, he's grown into his own little person in the last 2 years.

With that, it was time to pack up and head back to celebrate his 2nd birthday.

So- goodbye for another year, or at least another season little bunny.
As the kids reminded you, keep warm this winter!


Goodbye farm. We'll see you again in the next year,
when we hope to come again and fill our baskets with all that you offer!
Who knows what the next group photo will tell us...