Heating Adventures

This winter the grandparents were unfortunate enough to have to replace not one, but two furnaces.

Perhaps we come bearing bad luck for houses wherever we go.  I sure hope not.

Last week, when one of the new furnaces arrived, there was quite a process involved getting the new furnace off of Grandpa’s truck and into the basement in it’s rightful position.  As I learned recently, it’s pretty customary to ask friends and local family members to help out when you have a big house project to tackle.  It’s sort of a “you scratch my back this time, and I’ll scratch yours next time” mentality.  It’s quite refreshing, honestly.

So on this chilly February afternoon, three men showed up at the house, two friends and a brother, to help move a several hundred pound furnace into the basement of this old house.  All of these men were north of 50 years old (some more so than others), but all used tools and strength to hoist the furnace off the pick-up truck it came in on, roll it into the basement, and secure it into the spot for hook up.  Below are some photos of the process:


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Kitchen Adventures

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This girl right here is my fellow kitchen adventurer.  I cannot turn on the oven, open the refrigerator, or lay out a recipe without her asking to help.

She is four years old.

I am constantly amazed at her skills in the kitchen, as well as her willingness to help.

For my birthday I made chocolate cupcakes (Hershey’s recipe on the back of the cocoa powder box) with avocado chocolate frosting.  Because my green food-loving oldest is a self-proclaimed avocado lover, she wanted to see the concoction come together.

My little helper scooped the avocado flesh out of the rind, melted the coconut oil, measured the other ingredients, and used the stand mixer like a pro.  She has even learned the self-control it takes to not like the frosting knife or bowl until after all the cupcakes have been frosted.  I have a hard time with this, myself!

(Side Note:  I know there are a million recipes on the internet for avocado chocolate frosting.  I post mine here because I felt mine was less sweet and much more rich and chocolate-y than others I’ve made.)

Also, I apologize for the lack of pictures of the frosting itself.  Once the frosting was done I had two little helpers frosting cupcakes with me, and I needed both hands to contain the mess!

 

Avocado Chocolate Frosting

4 ripe avocados

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

 

Scoop avocados into a stand mixer bowl, and with the whisk attachment, blend until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.

Alternatively, this can be made in a food processor by first pulsing the avocados until smooth, then processing the rest of the ingredients with them.

This recipe made enough frosting for two dozen cupcakes, frosted with a bit of a heavy hand ;-).

I find this frosting goes well with a sweet cake.  As I said, I used Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe (which is found on the container of Hershey’s cocoa powder), but I could imagine this frosting tasting delicious on a yellow cake or strawberry cake.

 

….And just because my kitchen helper has some gorgeous curls, here’s a shot of her hard at work scooping avocados:20160226_15392820160226_154933

Recent Domestic Adventures and More to Come

There is truly only one downside I can find to leading a full and adventurous life whilst trying to maintain a blog:

It can be difficult to remember to (or have the energy to) blog about all the goings on.

To share with you some highlights of our winter that haven’t quite made it into full blog posts:

We enjoyed visits from both of my parents, as well as my in-laws, including my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and little nephew.  We loved our time with family here.

We rang in the New Year with cowbells….at 8 pm.  There is no way my kids are staying up until midnight yet!

My girls have been taking ballet at a school near my husband’s workplace.  Both my shy, self-conscious girl and my theatrical, musical girl loved this class equally, and I can attribute it to nothing more than the skill, patience, and manner of their instructor.  Baby Brother and I have loved getting to know some of the moms and caretakers in that class, as well.

My husband celebrated his 30th birthday this year.  We were able to celebrate with family, friends, church family, and as a couple.  We saw a concert of Schubert’s music at the local university.  Normally we are not fancy enough for such an activity, but we do both love classical music.

We had some unusually warm days in February that allowed us to go outside without thermal underwear.  Though I was sad to see the snow melt so quickly, the warm sun perked up my spirits for a few days.  Until it left and brought the colder true winter temperatures behind it.

I have been able to crochet much more than I ever have.  My mom taught me to crochet when I was a preteen, and I have picked it up off and on for years, never really excelling at it.  This winter, though, with some fewer household chores, I have been able to work at it some more.  I’ve worked on some things for Baby Brother, the girls, and Grandmom (in-law).

There has also been a lot of good cooking going on this winter.  There have been homemade soups from rotisserie chickens, tortellini, lots of butternut squash, and more onions than anyone should ever cook.  Needless to say we’ve all been fairly healthy this winter, and not as fragrant as one would imagine from our onion consumption.

The girls and I have explore so much of the wooded acreage here this winter.  My oldest daughter, at the tender age of 4, is able to remember the routes we take and can often lead us back home from different spots where we play.  As a woman with a very poor sense of direction, I admire this quality in her, and I purposefully encourage her to remember different routes we walk, as well as the drives we often take to town or to the grocery store.

Baby Brother is a champion breastfeeder, and he has been gaining weight like it is his job.  Well, it is, isn’t it?  For each of his pediatrician visits, the adults in the house write down guesses for his current weight (clothes and diaper-less).  So far, we have all guessed too low each time.

My husband and I celebrated my birthday early, and he spoiled me with what any girl would want for her birthday:  new running shoes.  I settled on a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Women’s KSO EVO Barefoot Shoes Purple / Grey 40 & Pemium Toesock Bundle
and I hope to be able to review how to get accustomed to them as I break them in.

Check back in soon for some more thorough updates on what is going on with this domesticated physicist in a new land.

New Accessories

Having a third baby has definitely added some challenges to my day.  Nursing every few hours and washing diapers at least every other day has made it more difficult to do all the things I had been getting into with the girls.  Let’s just say glitter glue and breastfeeding don’t necessarily go together.

Wearing Baby Brother has been very helpful these past 8 weeks.  Little Guy can come outside on warmer days, and I can still tackle most chores with him wrapped on me.20160119_120545

With the birth of a new baby always comes the memories of my “old” baby, my next youngest child.  Over the past few weeks our family has gone through pictures of the girls as babies, as well as telling fun anecdotes about their first years of life.  I love being able to show the girls, through how we care for Henry, how they were cared for as babies.  My second baby girl, coming a short 17 months behind her older sister, was in the Moby wrap A LOT, and I told her as much.  I even came across a few pictures to prove it.

Here is a photo my husband took of us when we went blackberry picking the summer after she was born.  She had just started to taste solid foods, and sharing freshly picked fruit with her was such a joy.100_2888

After seeing this photo, of course, this second daughter of mine asked to be carried again.  Since the Moby wrap holds “babies” up to 35 lbs, and she weighs in at a solid 32 lbs, I gave her one last opportunity to be worn by me:20160217_104720

Their Jungle Gym

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Each day we go outside to enjoy the crisp, chilly air.  Some days we take Baby Brother.  Some days we take Bruno.  Other days we take sleds.

Still there are days we take nothing but ourselves and a sense of adventure.

The girls have their favorite places to explore and their favorite places to stop.

This spot, not far from the barn where the kittens live, has a few fallen trees close together.  In the girls eyes, this is their personal jungle gym, meant for climbing, swinging, and imaginative play.  These trees have been a ship in shark-infested waters, a house, a raft on an alligator-infested river, and many others.

I am so grateful for a place at home for the girls to use their muscles and practice their balancing skills!

Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know much about my Swedish heritage other than the delicious meatballs.  I can’t speak a lick of Swedish, and I am not even sure which town or city my Swedish ancestors come from.  What I do know, though, is that the Swedes, my maternal grandmother included, seriously knew how to tolerate cold weather.

My body temperature, on the other hand, is often regulated by my southern Italian genes.  I was known for layering in 50 degree weather.  I am almost always cold.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking…

Yet you moved to Wisconsin.

That’s correct.  I voluntarily moved to one of the coldest states in the U.S.

I knew that if I let them, the cold, icy winter here could get me down, especially a year when I have a newborn.  It is so easy to sit inside and wallow in pajamas, using a tiny baby as an excuse.

Not that sitting inside in one’s pajamas on snowy days isn’t fun, but 3-4 months of that would drive me insane.  And nobody around here likes a crazy momma.

In order to combat my lazy-pajama-bum-in-the-cold-weather nature, I found myself a saying to get me through this winter and the ones that follow:

Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.

That is Swedish for:  “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.”

And so, in even the coldest of weather I have gone outside, if only for a few minutes, just to get some fresh air.  Bundled in long johns and wool socks, I find that I can tolerate wind chills well below zero.  I’m not sure I tolerated wind chills below 20 back in Virginia, so this is a vast improvement for me.

I also noticed that the cold weather didn’t bother the kids, just so long as they were bundled up, as well.  We bought long underwear and wool socks for the girls, as well, and baby boy got a fleece one-piece suit for when I put him in the carrier outside.  Everyone has warm hats, gloves/mittens, and scarves.  The girls have toasty snow boots.  Because of all these layers and warm accessories, we have enjoyed hours in the snow.

We are living on more acres than we could possibly have explored fully in our four months here, and the girls treat the wooded acreage as their personal playground.  Sometimes we take along a sled and find a nice hill in a clearing.  Other times we build snowmen close to the house.  Still other times we track rabbits and turkeys by their prints in the snow.

I am so glad we have decided to embrace this winter wonderland instead of hide from it.  20160109_105702 20160119_120951 20160119_120545 20160109_105714