The Big 4, Oh!

As the end of March nears, the weather is generally still cold and crummy, but we are in full celebration mode at the Cleaver household. 

When I was a kid, I was big into birthday parties. As early as nine, I would plan my own birthday party, devise games, and make decorations (usually modeled after a recent issue of American Girl Magazine) and thrill at the thought that I'd get to see all my friends in one place. So it's strange that when it comes to Little Miss Cleaver, I'm all about the simple. And fortunately for me, she seems to be pretty content with that as well.

I took the day off work for her actual birthday, which was a Wednesday. We opened presents and then headed into Portland to visit the dinosaur exhibit at the Portland Science Center. The animatronic dinosaurs were a bit loud, but she enjoyed the exhibit overall, then we had a lovely lunch with a great view at RiRa's. Then it was home for nap and then cake and more presents with Memere in the afternoon. 

On the weekend we headed to Gorham to celebrate our other March tradition, Maine Maple Sunday, with some ice cream, maple cotton candy, and a strangely large amount of cows. We did have a small friend party at the house this most recent Saturday, but even that was limited to our neighbors because of a major April 1st snowstorm. But kudos to LMC, who didn't skip a beat and played party games with her parents anyway. 

And honestly, for as much as I loved big birthday parties as a kid, as a parent, these are moments I love. So while I'm sure we'll follow the lead of the other parents we know with a shindig at some third-party location where the kids can run wild, I will treasure the turning of this year, the big 4, as something oh so special..

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Spring Things!

Parent who have kids with birthdays near Christmas, you have my sympathy.

This year, LMC's birthday and Easter were four days apart and that meant a week full of activity, and stuff, and more sugar than Momma would normally allow. Pair that with a bad cold and her cousin's birthday the weekend before,  it means I'm just getting my feet back under me right now.

That said, it was full of joy. LMC is at the age now (3!) where she gets that these are special days and is super excited to meet the Easter Bunny or find eggs, blow out candles, or get to wear her birthday crown. She is cultivating a deep appreciation for Peanuts and Bass/Rankin holiday specials. She also doesn't have huge expectations about it though. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she merely asked for a pink cake with pink frosting and pink candles. I wanted the cake to be pink tasting and not just pink-colored, so I made cake flavored/colored with raspberry jam (and a few drops of food coloring). It was a little over-sweet with the jam. but was still a big hit with the birthday girl (especially the frosting). 

She got a number of neat gifts from family and friends for her birthday, but the one I'm most proud of is her quilt I made to be just like Curious George's (her favorite character/tv show). I managed to find a Michael Miller fabric that was really close to the print on George's bed and used a tutorial for a Self-Binding Blanket (scaled up and modified to include batting) and then tied it with some multi-colored cotton yarn. I had no idea how tiring the tying process would be for my hands, and the cotton yarn plies separated more than I would like, but for my first completed quilt, the whole thing turned out rather well and is very cozy. I can see how this quilt thing could get addictive. 

We just moved her to the big-girl bed a few weeks ago and while she had chosen to lie on top of, rather than under it, I think she appreciates the quilt (as much as a three-year-old will appreciate a blanket). I also finished my Good Night Sleep Tight embroidery I started forever ago in time to hang it over her new bed. I'm kinda in love with my little french knot sheep and am planning to turn it into a pattern/kit. LMC must like it too, because when I started working on my new embroidery project from cozyblue, she asked if that was for her room too.  

Despite the fact that Winter has seemed to hold off doing all it's wintering until Mach, it was actually warm enough to do our egg hunt outside, which was great fun. That tiny patch of snow is all gone now, my bulbs are starting to bloom and my seeds are sprouting indoors. It's all starting to feel very much like spring, even if we still have to wear our winter coats for a little while longer. 

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Happy Birthday TWO you!

Little Miss Cleaver is officially two! And as timing would have it, her birthday fell on Maine Maple Sunday - so it was a BIG day for a big little girl.

We kicked things off with cards and presents from Mom and Dad in the morning. She decided to open the books first, with Nothing Like A Puffin eliciting a demand for Daddy to "Read it." But as great as books are,  it's hard to say what was the bigger hit, her new tool box, or the new playhouse.

Follow my trend of Pinterest-inspired projects, this playhouse tutorial worked out pretty well. Two extra-large moving boxes from U-Haul, one roll of colored duck tape and about 40 minutes of cutting and taping, produced what can only be called a new favorite hangout. I wanted it to be big enough for her to stand up in and this just barely made it. It's a tight squeeze when I'm asked to go in, but it's a perfect fit for her.

As we have for the past few years, we drove up to Sebago for a pancake breakfast at the town hall and then a quick jaunt to Grandpa Joe's Sugar Shack for the warm syrup on ice cream and sugaring demonstrations. It's always cold on Maine Maple Sunday, but this year it was really cold, so we spent most of our time huddling by the evaporator. And since it hasn't really warmed up yet, there wasn't much sap to boil, and we picked up the last pint of syrup they had (sorry everyone else!).

If we weren't sugar-ed and present-ed out from the morning, we had applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting and more presents with Memere after naptime. LMC's uncle made the stuffed monkey, which is entirely hand-stitched and amazing.

I'm a sucker for traditions and in moments like these, those traditions really bring to the forefront how much LMC has grown and changed since last year and how much I've grown and changed over the many years I've been visiting sugar shacks and eating pancakes. 

When my mother moved out of her house a few years ago, my brother, at my request, tossed 2 milk crates of my journals and sent about 8 years of my scrapbooks from my middle and high school years. I shelved the scrapbooks and have only recently been looking at 1998 a lot, because LMC likes the Winnie the Pooh cover.But looking back at that year, i doubt that girl would have any inkling who and where she'd be now and how she'd be so different in some ways and how very much the same in others. 

With LMC its such a fascinating process as a parent to watch her grow and become more independent and opinionated and more herself and to wonder, which of these things will stick and what will change? Will she always love fixing things or will it go away along with the preference for pink socks? Or will the pink socks be a signature style? I can only hope that as a parent, I give her the room and support to explore and find out for herself.

I've packed away the birthday crown for another year, but I look forward to seeing who LMC will be when she wears it again.




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Epic Birthday Weekend























Little Miss Cleaver turned one this weekend, and it's hard to believe it's been a year already. The days can be long (3:30 wake up calls, anyone?) but the weeks and months, and now year (!), just speed by.  It seems not so long ago she was just this tiny squishy thing and now she's walking and babling, and has opinions and is just a tiny little person.

To celebrate her first birthday we made a weekend of it. First on Friday, Mr. Cleaver and LMC met me at work and we went out to lunch at the Olive Cafe, picked out some birthday presents at the local toy store, and LMC tasted her first ice cream - Gelato Fiasco of course!

For her actual birthday on Saturday we kept it fairly low key. She wore a new mom-made birthday dress. There was breakfast and cards. Then we went to LMC's very first swim class, the first half of which involved a wet baby clinging to me like a barnacle, until we got to the picking up and splashing into the pool part and especially the singing part. During the singing she clapped her little hands with joy and looked at me as if to say, you didn't tell me there'd be singing mom, I'd have been more open to this whole thing if I knew there would be singing! The swim class totally wiped her out and resulted in a nearly two-hour mom lap nap.

In the afternoon Memere joined us for a few balloons, a few presents, and a cake. In honor of her birth on Maine Maple weekend, I made a applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting. I modified the original recipe to use 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, less sugar in the cake, and no nuts/raisins. I'd probably cut back on the whole wheat flour next time, as it got a bit dense. I also added a bit of water to the frosting to get it to a spreadable consistency, but it was otherwise delicious.  The frosting tasted almost exaclt like maple sugar candy. The cake decorations I made myself out of some scrapbook paper. The birthday crown was a free pattern on Ravelry that took about an hour to make.

Later in the day our neighbors, who watch LMC two days a week and are like second family to her came over for a while.  Then we ate some pizza, gave LMC a bath, and everyone went to bed about a half an hour early and slept in late.

Today was Maine Maple Sunday itself, and we made our usual jaunt up to Sebago for a pancake breakfast and sugar shack visit. All in all it was a sweet time with a sweet little girl and a very good first birthday/first year of parenting celebration.

Weekend Update

Somethings I've been up to this weekend:

Blowing the Candle Out


Banana Pepper

Brentwood Farms Community Garden

What did you do this weekend?

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Birthdays (of the Spousal and National Persuasion)

What a wonderfully busy weekend! Between Mr. Cleaver and the country - we spent our whole weekend in celebration. Not that I'm complaining :)

After a leisurely morning on the 3rd, involving the farmer's market and the bakery and a new fishing pole for Mr. Cleaver, we lazed away the afternoon ( I finished my dress) and headed out to eat around 4. We grabbed a meal and some bird watching at The Good Table (our favorite) and then drove down Highway 77 to Prout's Neck for a trek around the Cliff Walk.


The cliff walk is one of those hidden gems that I'm sure everyone knows about, but I didn't until about two weeks ago and Mr. Cleaver didn't know about it until I took him there this weekend, so maybe it is secret. In any case, to take the cliff walk find the house above, right next to the Black Point Inn,  and find the small stone path that cuts across the grass. This will take you out to the Cliff Walk.


The Cliff Walk is stunning.  There are rocky crags, pink sand beaches, and a beach entirely of smooth round rocks that rattle when the waves recede.




The walk takes between 45 minutes to an hour. Afterward we stopped at the Black Point Inn for cocktails. The bar was busy so they sent us down to the Adirondack chairs on the front lawn (too bad, right? :) ), where we sat and sipped and watched the sun set.


Mr. Cleaver declared the birthday a success. On the way back to town we stopped by the side of the road to snap a few more shots of the sunset.



For the Fourth, I spent the morning baking a belated birthday cake for the Mister, which we had delayed because we knew it would take a while to make this much cake! Though it did mean I had our tiny oven running for a few hours on the hottest day of year thus far!


After all the baking I finally got to put on my new dress!

IMGP8033.JPG[Dress: Vogue 8184; Modifications: made band from contrasting color, skipped boning, added in-seam pockets, added horsehair band to hem]

All snazzed up, we headed our to my Mother-In-Law's for a cookout with the family. Mr. Cleaver's older brother offered some hints and tackle for the new pole.

Once we were stuffed to the gills, Mr. Cleaver and I joined half of Portland for the Portland Symphony Orchestra pops concert/fireworks show. The addition of PSO to the festivities was a great touch!





I hope every one else had an enjoyable weekend too!

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Crazy Week

Usually I try to post on Tuesday, but I'm a tad late this week and I'm not even going to cover a project I finished last week yet. It's been a crazy week:


Monday: We turned in our non-renewal of lease to our landlords, so there's no turning back on the move now (not that I'd want to).

Tuesday: I started cutting out a dress that I needed to finish by today (Sunday) to enter in a competition.

Anda collar

Wednesday: My 25th birthday was filled with beautiful flowers, food, cards, facebook messages and phone calls. Not to mention the cake Mr. Cleaver lovingly made from scratch.

Thursday: Stretched by birthday into a two-day affair with cake for breakfast, donuts with my co-workers and lunch with a friend. Picked up a copy of Alice in Wonderland at the Newberry Library book sale, and Vol II. of a beautifully bound book called Wide Wide World. Did a happy dance at the results of So You Think You Can Dance.

Anda Back

Friday: Spent the afternoon at the American Cheese Society's award ceremony, but sadly, had no cheese. Did some sewing. Watched Road to Perdition (it's really good - and it has Paul Newman, not to mention wonderful cinematography). Ate cake.

Anda Embroidery

Saturday: Had some cake. Sewed a lot. Knitted a tad. Went to two different moving-away parties. Loathed the CTA with the fire of a thousand suns.

Sunday: Sewed some more. Embroidered the dress. Took some pictures. Uploaded them to Burdastyle and hoped I get some votes. Wore my new dress for a walk around Andersonville. Ate the last of the cake.

Anda Adaptation

Did I mention I like cake?

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Can't Say It Wasn't Memorable

Okay, so this weekend was so chock-full of wonderfullness, that I'm going to have to break it down into several posts over the next couple of days. We'll do it chronologically, starting with Thursday.

Birthday Cake

July 3 :

Mr. Cleaver's birthday.

The day dawned and I did NOT want to get out of bed, I was so groggy that I was the worst wife ever and forgot to say Happy Birthday to Mr.Cleaver - who after about 10 minutes decided to jog my memory. Oops!That said, as embarrassed as I was, this ended up low on the totem pole of things to go wrong that day.

As I headed off to work, Mr. Cleaver was hunkering down to watch Wimbleton on the laptop, only to discover that our internet wasn't worked, only to call our service provider and discover that the phone wasn't working wither (same company). Mr. Cleaver is probably the first to admit that he's not the world's most techno-savvy guy, and was quickly frustrated, especially when it looked like neither phone nor DSL would be repaired for a few days.

Fortunately, I was able to come home a little early from work, due to a co-worker's going-away party. So I stopped at the grocery store and picked up some ingredients for the birthday cake and the manliest looking flowers I could find for my guy.

Birthday Flowers

Well, the flowers perked him up and so did my present. We also decided to go to our favorite fancy restaurant to dinner, so things were looking up. I started working on the cake, and frosting so it could cool while we were out to eat.

The cake fell a little in the center, but otherwise, seemed to be fine. We walked up the street to the restaurant only to find it boarded up and smelling of smoke. Yes, our favorite restaurant had burned down. At this point, really, we just had to laugh. And eat Chinese, which was nearby and also very good.

When we got home the internet seemed to be momentarily working and we discovered that the restaurant had caught fire in May and didn't look to be re-opening anytime soon.

I set to assembling the cake and it seemed - well -dry. I did a quick check of the reviews on epicurious and discovered I had forgotten to include 1 cup of water.

[wp_caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="How Many Candles?"]How Many Candles?[/wp_caption]

Well, this was just perfect. Again, we could do nothing but laugh, and despite the dryness, enjoy the cake. I can't say anything about the cake itself, having not made it right, but Mr.Cleaver and I both think the frosting is to die for, so it came out all right. (It also didn't stop us from finishing off the whole thing by the end of the weekend - fresh raspberries help cover a multitude of sins).

Birthday Cake


In the eveing we headed down to the lakefront to try and see if we could catch any of the City of Chicago fireworks (they always do them on the 3rd, more on that in the next post).

Not exactly what I would have wished for my husband's birthday, but you can't say it wasn't memorable.

My New Go-To Chocolate Frosting from Nana Edie's Devil's Food Cake

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar and cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add chocolate, butter, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill frosting, stirring frequently, until thickened and spreadable.


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Check One More off the List


It was my friend Kasey's birthday this weekend, and in honor of that very special event, Kasey, her boyfriend David, Mr. Cleaver, and I all went down to Navy Pier.

As some of you may know, Mr. Cleaver and I are moving back to Maine this summer and our time in Chicago is quickly dwindling.

With this in mind, we've been constructing (a mostly mental) list of things we have to do before we leave Chicago. The list includes things like see a show at Steppenwolf (done - Dead Man's Cell Phone), visit the Shedd Aquarium (not done), see a Cubs games (done, but like to do again), eat Katie Cakes at Taste of Heaven (never too many times for this), and so on.

Ferris Wheel

One of the things that has been on my "Chicago-to-do List" ever since I moved to the city was to ride the Ferris Wheel that towers over Navy Pier. At 140 feet in diameter, and a seating capacity of 240, this baby is big - though not as big as the original Ferris Wheel that was built in Chicago for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 - which stood 264 feet and could carry 2,160 people. (Thank you Devil in the White City)

Well Saturday was finally my day to check that one off the list and was well worth it. The view are amazing:

Chicago Skyline from Ferris Wheel

Chair Swing

Bird's eye view of Mirco Golf

Now it must be said that Mr. Cleaver is not a fan of heights. So here's me waving at Mr. Cleaver.

Waving at John

And here's Mr. Cleaver waving back:

John on the Ground

In addition to our jaunt on Mr. Ferris' wheel, our party of four ate a great lunch at Charlie's Ale House and played a rousing gold of Micro Golf.

Now I say micro and not mini because seriously, look at the size of each of these (18) holes.

Blockin' my shot

My favorite part of the game was making up random "pars" for each hole. I think five was the highest and the average was two or three. Let it be said though, that this is a speedy game, which throngs of small children on either side.

Not that you can't take time to make that perfect shot :)

In the Hunt

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