The Duck Egg

On Easter Sunday Dad walked outside to drink his coffee. When he turned around to go back in he saw a duck sitting on a nest. Dad saw an egg underneath her. A couple hours later the duck was not there, so we took the egg and incubated it. A few weeks for now we might have a baby duck.

This is the makeshift incubator.

Kit the chick

When we got Kit we immediately liked her! And she liked us!
She climbed all over Amelia. Kit likes to come in the house and be held. When we put her down she chirps loudly. She is the best chick we have had!

April 12 – Easter Egg

This morning, after waking up to an Easter Egg hunt, Dad found another egg outside. This one had been laid by the mama duck that walks around our neighborhood. We decided that we would take the egg inside and put it in a makeshift incubator after realizing the mama duck wouldn’t be returning for her egg. We should be able to see if there is any baby inside of the egg in 7-10 days.

The duck with her egg
The incubator

Wednesday, April 1 – Quarantine

Today I practiced my violin outside, and continued researching Resin jewelry. I was planning on actually making something today but found problems with the plants I was going to put in the jewelry. My plan is to find decorations to put into the resin rings, necklaces and earrings.

Baking

I have been baking. Breakfast is my specialty. I have made pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs, cinnamon biscuits, sweet rolls, and a quick chocolate cake, all from scratch!
These are the cook books I have used.

Thanksgiving ski trip to Keystone

We spent Thanksgiving in Keystone, CO, this year with our friends the Duncavages. Although there wasn’t too much snow (there were only a couple runs on the mountain open, unfortunately), we still skied and enjoyed some hot tubbing. We also had a great Thanksgiving feast, complete with turkey, pies, cakes… you name it. We didn’t take many photos, but the ones we have are pretty good. The highlight was getting Margaret on skis. She was a great sport, and really caught on to it. Check out the video, its pretty great!

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Keystone-Thanksgiving-2016/i-Lzmvd79

Eventful Memorial Day Weekend

There was more than one to spend Memorial Day weekend this year.

Option 1:  On the Pantazis farmette, spending time together, enjoying the great outdoors, and butchering chickens.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Memorial-Day-2016/i-cpmWjKR/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Memorial-Day-2016/i-sjbQfr3/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Memorial-Day-2016/i-qMzqzHF/A

 

Option 2: At Alderbrook Resort in WA, spending time celebrating Chris’ 40th birthday, enjoying the great outdoors, and drinking wine.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Alderbrook-WA-trip/i-GMxXpzp/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Alderbrook-WA-trip/i-Vq4m7sd/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Alderbrook-WA-trip/i-pBcD9xF

 

I can say, without a doubt, everyone enjoyed the weekend.

Grandma Shirley Comes to St. Louis

We love having visitors!! My grandma Shirley has traveled all over, lived in 20+ different homes, but prefers driving as her mode of transportation. Much to our delight she took the 4-hour flight out to see us, along with my aunt Karen and aunt Carla. We showed them the highlights of our city: a Cardinals baseball game, barbecue, the history museum, and some time just cooking together and enjoying the backyard in great spring weather. Maggie will tell you she loved having “the grandmas” here:)

 

I chose the game where we’d all get Yadier Molina jerseys.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Hello-Spring/i-v4zxzLj/A

Maggie took advantage of having grandma all to herself when the big kids were at school. She talked constantly and always had a suggestion for something to do.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Hello-Spring/i-QXWSjfd/A

I love you grandma.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Hello-Spring/i-3ff62Z8/A

 

Laura and Ian’s Wedding – Island Style

Laura and Ian got married this spring! We were able to make a long trip out of it, first heading to Eatonville for a few days and then up to Orca’s Island for all the wedding festivities. It was perfection to say the least. Naturally, food took center stage, it is a Spencer event. Oysters, salmon, baked goods, homemade wedding cake, just thinking about it makes me hungry! Laura and Ian planned a wonderful getaway for everyone where we could all exercise, a run to start the wedding day, and relax with several opportunities to sauna. Amelia is writing all about it for her 5th grade personal narrative. I will have to post it as it will be much, much more descriptive than mine.

 

The kids loved exploring the resort and took no time getting into the water, they are crazy awesome!

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Laura-and-Ians-Wedding/i-qwr3tmr/A

Amelia tried her first oyster.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Laura-and-Ians-Wedding/i-WRB89d9/A

The lovely bride,

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Laura-and-Ians-Wedding/i-H5qS3Sn/A

The handsome groom,

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Laura-and-Ians-Wedding/i-Jt8fGgJ/A

And their wedding party.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Laura-and-Ians-Wedding/i-d89FJSG/A

 

Chicago

In February we spent a long weekend in Chicago with Mark, Faith, and Jonathan. It was a blast! We took advantage of the spectacular museums, went to an interactive showing of The Princess Bride for Valentine’s Day, ice skated in Millennium Park, and the highlight – going to Jonathan’s high school performance of “Bye, Bye Birdie”. Seven months later (I’m way behind on website updates) and the kids are still singing “we love you Conrad, oh yes we do…”. We are looking forward to doing it again in 2017. Thank you Mark and Faith!!

Seattle skyline at the Museum of Science and Industry

http://photos.dspencer.net/2016/Chicago-trip-2016/i-2JrvFQR/A

Ice skating in Millennium Park

http://photos.dspencer.net/2016/Chicago-trip-2016/i-zgsPW3d/A

The famous “Conrad”, Maggie was star-struck!

http://photos.dspencer.net/2016/Chicago-trip-2016/i-CsjT6zW/A

New Sourdough protocol

Norwich Sourdough
(adapted from Vermont Sourdough in Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman)

Yield: Four small round loaves)

Time:

  • Mix/autolyse: 35 minutes
  • First fermentation: 2.5 hours
  • Divide, bench rest, and shape: 20 minutes
  • Proof: 2.5 hours (or 1.5 hours, then retard for 2 – 16 hours)
  • Bake: 35 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 76F

Ingredients:

  • 900 g white flour
  • 120 g whole rye flour
  • 600 g water at about 74F
  • 360 g mature 100% hydration sourdough starter (ie, 50/50 water and flour, make sure the starter is active!)
  • 23 g / 1 T salt

Method:

    1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute. I sprinkle the salt on top, but do not mix in, and proceed to the next step.
    2. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
    3. Mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This should only take about 3 or 4 minutes.
    4. Transfer the dough to an oiled container (preferably a low, wide one so the dough can be folded without removing it from the container).
    5. Ferment at room temperature (72F – 76F) for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes.
    6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 4 equal pieces.
    7. Sprinkle the balls lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes.
    8. Shape into batards or tight round loaves and let prove on parchment-lined baking sheet or a floured couche.
    9. Put the loaves into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2 – 2.5 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 1.5 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 – 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust.
    10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 400F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now by placing a skillet or pan in the bottom of the oven.
    11. Transfer the proofed loaves onto a semolina-sprinkled peel or parchment (if not on a baking sheet already). Slash loaves as desired and put in oven.
    12. Bake for ~30 minutes, until the internal temperature is 202F.
    13. Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until the loaves are completely cool.

Keeping up with Maggie

There are so many hilarious “Maggie phrases”, conversations, and mannerisms, if only I would write them down more often! Here are a few that I can recall tonight.

 

  1. When Maggie wants to share a secret with someone she will say “I have to whisper”. Then she puts her ear directly next to yours and speaks in a whisper while facing away from you. This is extremely hard to hear and absolutely darling.
  2. Due to too many uneaten and complained over dinner times, we’ve instituted a new monthly menu schedule. (The jury is still out on whether the little kids are eating any more dinner but there does appear to be a little less complaining.) In February the Monday night menu included eggs. On a Monday night Maggie came into the kitchen. I told her we were having eggs. She said, “I don’t like eggs. I’ll have a banana and you can call it an egg,” and left before I could respond. She’s a quick one!
  3. Maggie understands the progression of her upcoming school career. She recently told me “after I’m in Ms. Katie’s class I will be in Ms. Rachel’s class. Then I get to go to kindergarten. I can’t wait to be in Ms. Tadrus’ class. I love her.” She might be ready but I’m not.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-TnZvc2S/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-tms95pk/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-R9HMfHw/A

Merry Christmas

This year was one of our quietest holiday seasons. We had planned to spend Christmas at home and then join Anne and Brian in Effingham with Helen and her family. The “winter crud” hit hard on Christmas and Will and Maggie were sick for the remainder of vacation. Luckily Anne and Brian braved the illness and came for a few days to make things more enjoyable for all of us. The Pantazis crew came for a full day of St. Louis fun including the City Museum, lunch out, and holiday lights at the zoo. Here are a few Christmas highlights we actually documented.

 

Baking Peanut Butter Blossoms, a request from Amelia to honor Grandma Delores.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-htNdvgJ/A

 

Christmas Eve, Will is starting to fade a little already.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-SqxKPDB/A

Opening our packages from Melinda and Mike, our Christmas Eve tradition.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-bZg5Qv9/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-P88StFJ/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-7MQrtJj/A

And then this pretty much summarizes the rest of winter break at the Spencers –

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Winter-and-Holiday-Fun/i-x3Z9wJK/A

 

SOS Trips – UPDATED

Helen and I have decided it’s not too hard to get together midweek from time to time, or that it is essential to do so to maintain sanity…If we both drive 50 miles we can be in beautiful southern Illinois with Faye, Holly, and Margaret, what more could we ask for? I’m going to document these wonderful, hilarious, and life saving trips.

 

SOS Trip #1 – Tuesday September 1, 2015 at Eldon Hazlet State Park in Carlyle, IL

Helen found a state park 50 miles away for both of us and it was a find! Luckily the pool was still open and we pretty much had it to ourselves. Faye and Margaret swam, we all enjoyed a picnic lunch, and Holly napped. Success!

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-JMCPnPd/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-ZcNpH8d

 

SOS Trip #2 – Tuesday September 15, 2015 at Eldon Hazlet State Park (again!)

Why not? This time we took the girls on a little hike at the park, picnicked, and went to the great little creamery, Marcoot Jersey Creamery.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-46fXNvw/A

I think this picture captures just how Margaret feels about Faye:

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-vfjHzJM/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-LGwQwzS/A

 

SOS Trip #3 – Tuesday January 12, 2016 in Greenville, IL

With winter break over, it was time to get back on schedule. Helen and I needed a get together. Why not Greenville, IL?  It’s an hour drive for both of us and all we really knew was that they had a Federal Correctional Institution because you can see it from I-70. We met up at the public library, spread our germs all over the children’s room, and then went to a local coffee shop for lunch.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Welcome-2016/i-Hb8D3rs/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Welcome-2016/i-K8xFC3r/A

Holly was recovering from a winter cold, poor girl.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Welcome-2016/i-cTtgrM9/A

Faye and Maggie provided entertainment for the coffee shop patrons.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Welcome-2016/i-LXSNQtk

 

When we inquired about other things to do in Greenville besides the library we were told to go to Marcoot Jersey Creamery. So back we went, reliving a stop from our September SOS trip.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Published-Galleries/2016/Welcome-2016/i-jTLsQhb/A

Ice cream on a 20 degree day – success!

 

SOS Trip #4 – TBD

Happy Halloween

Every year we are reminded that Halloween is a big deal in St. Louis. Neighbors decorate their homes, inside and out, adults get dressed up, jokes are shared in order to get candy when trick or treating, and the festivities continue for days! This year Maggie’s school party was Wednesday, Amelia and Will’s parade and party were Thursday, no school Friday, and Halloween finally arrived Saturday. Here are some of the highlights.

 

The Mark Twain Halloween parade is always great. The kids all walk with their “buddies”, kids they are paired up at the beginning of the year.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Fall-Fun/i-BJGsrfr/A

It was a beautiful day.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Fall-Fun/i-8WGs5vk/A

Will is the ninja.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Fall-Fun/i-wxnZKgx/A

 

We went to the Science Center’s Spooktacular and met the Ghostbusters!

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Fall-Fun/i-mQ2pCjV/A

 

We carved pumpkins.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Fall-Fun/i-qQSx4XN/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Fall-Fun/i-73tTsqk/A

 

And trick-or-treated with friends.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Fall-Fun/i-tVmrB6H/A

 

A total success with our cowgirls and ninja for Halloween 2015!

 

Will is 7!

Will has another harvest season and birthday under his belt. This year the birthday celebration seemed to go on and on, much to Will’s delight. In early October we made our annual harvest trip to Iowa City. Will spent the majority of the weekend riding in various farm equipment and enjoying being out with the men.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-hVHTqvS/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-KH4Gvxt/A

 

We had a birthday celebration with Gramma Anne, Pop Pop Brian, and Larry.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-nvVj8LR/A

 

On his true birthday, October 14th, Will chose to go out for ribs and Ted Drewe’s for frozen custard, very St. Louis. It was delicious!

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-cqhfwBS

The grand finale was a ninja/karate party with his friends and Vera and Faye. The party included lots of running, jumping, and obstacle courses, pizza, Will cutting his cake with a genuine sword, and breaking a board with his foot. What more could a 7-year old boy ask for?

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-hzFfKLq

 

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-tmbRWW2

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-phhpQcd

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-98MZCDH

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Willvs-7th-Birthday/i-vPbZjsf/A

Margaret

There are things she says everyday that make me smile. Here are a couple comments she made in September, both when putting her to bed.

“Mom, when are you going to grow up and sleep in my room? Move your bed in here?”

“Sorry I was being mad of you.” – I’m guessing she was referring to what she calls her “fits”. I accepted her apology:)

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-ZsRbNGg/A

“I’m a pedaler now!” Maggie

Maggie has been riding the balance bike for about a year now. It didn’t take her long to figure out that if she had pedals she could keep up with Will and Amelia a little more easily. Recently, when biking, she’d say “I want a Dora pedal bike like Faye so I can keep up.” Last weekend she decided it was time to bring out the pedal bike and give it a try at Oak Tree Park. Twenty minutes later she was off and riding a bike. Awesome!

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-TvDCnsn

Summer Finale

August was full of time at the pool and running through fountains to stay cool.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-zTwWfFs/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-cx4LPQz/A

The kids started school August 12th. Amelia is in the 4th grade, Will is in the 1st grade, and Margaret is in preschool three mornings a week this year.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-5z2m52h/A

Margaret either bikes or walks to her school.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-MG4sKfB/A

On this particular morning she was using binoculars to find her way. (It took a little longer.)

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-W92RgXh/A

Will lost his second front tooth within the first week at school. He was thrilled because he got to wear his tooth home in a “tooth necklace” from the school nurse.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-BGFv5vn/A

Dave and I spent our date night at the Missouri Botanical Gardens viewing the Japanese lanterns.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-x77TgKf/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-Finale-/i-6Md9k9s/A

Wonderful July in Washingon

We spent a couple weeks of July in Washington visiting the Knellekens. Luckily we caught some of the activity on camera. What fun!

We swam, kayaked, and enjoyed Clear Lake. A highlight was Amelia learning to water-ski!!!!

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-V6s6s5S

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-z9rC5cH

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-xvdwLkQ

Dave came for the second half and we spent a long weekend in Wenatchee with Hilary, Nick, and Easton.

We hiked.

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-7G2fbbg

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-Gc5Zvp8

Amelia swam in the cool mountain water.

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-jp7v2Qr

And the kids had fun with their cousin Easton,

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-WnFmvk7/A

and Uncle Nick and Aunt Hilary.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-c2n8pdP/A

I was able to see Michelle and Caroline, friendships going on almost three decades!

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-sFrk6vb

Our last Eatonville adventure was our annual trip to NW Trek with Great-Aunt Linda.

http://photos.dspencer.net/organize/2015/Summer-in-Washington-2015/i-qgFVTFB

It was a great trip and we can’t wait to go back next year!

 

 

 

Yogurt Protocol

For seven 6-oz containers

For the yogurt starter I buy a container of plain yogurt, portion it out in ice cube trays, freeze and save for when making yogurt.

1. Remove 2 frozen yogurt cubes and let thaw at room temperature while getting everything going. One can also microwave on low power to thaw, do not heat at high temperture or the culture could die.

2. Heat 4 cups of milk to 185 degrees over medium heat, whisking frequently to prevent scalding.

3. At 185 degrees, remove from heat and add 1/3 cup dry milk, about 3 T white sugar or other sweetener to taste, and 1 tsp vanilla. Whisk well to combine.

4. Let sit until the temperature is between 95-105 degrees.

5. Add the yogurt culture and whisk well. Pour into yogurt containers and let incubate for 6-9 hours.

6. Refrigerate and enjoy!

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Anne Spencer)

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups chocolate chips

2 cups chopped pecans (optional, and I don’t usually add them)

 

Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a medium bowl combine flour, soda and salt and add to butter-sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop by teaspoonfuls on baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Happy Summer Vacation!

Summer vacation officially began at noon on Wednesday May 27th.

The kids all had a great year with their teachers! Here is Will with Jamya and Ms. Tadrus.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-W7vFhQD

 

Thursday morning started with an 8am swim team practice for Amelia and 10:30 practice for Will. We were ready!

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-Dx4QthF/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-7nVHSqP/A

 

Sunday we cheered the Cardinals on to a victory over the LA Dodgers. Great seats, lots of ice cream, and Dave assured me has close up pictures of all my favorite players!

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-Vkb74R4/A

 

Monday has found us indoors as the weather is pretty cool. This is what happens when the kids have to be inside during summer vacation. Enjoy (and help me!!!).

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-XxZZhF4

Save the Polar Bears – Part 2

Today Will presented information about polar bears, climate change, and what people can do to help minimize their carbon footprint to all of Mark Twain Elementary. It was his own idea to give this presentation, and his teacher made it happen. We are so proud of both Will and his sidekick Amelia:) Enjoy!

 

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-GfLGbNf

Blue Ribbon!

Amelia’s science fair experiment, “How Intelligent Are Chickens”, won a blue ribbon at the St. Louis Science Fair! It was quite a night of celebrations as Dave and I took her to the awards ceremony and then out to dinner at Pastaria and dessert at Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard to celebrate her 9th birthday. So much fun for all of us!

 

Amelia with other Mark Twain Elementary science fair winners –

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-t2d9nzf/A

 

Amelia introducing herself as one of the 3rd grade blue ribbon winners –

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-brKK7hn

Words of Wisdom

Amelia was helping with (being ordered around by) Margaret and her friend Sarah. They wanted her to push them in the swings over and over and she was getting frustrated. I told her to just ignore them and they’d be fine. She looked at me and very seriously said “I can’t believe you had three kids and are still alive”.

 

Amelia was telling me how some kids she knows are starting to act older than they are. She said “I want to get older and grow up but I just want to live every one of my years”.

Spring Break

Spring break was a success this year, thanks to outings with the White family, a couple days in Effingham, and some sunshine from time to time. Here are a few of our adventures:

 

A trip to Gus’ Pretzels after running another mile for Read, Right, and Run

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-h8DNP5S/A

A morning at Shaw Nature Reserve with the White’s (Jessica took amazing pictures as usual!)

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-W6vBMcx/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-SrSK266/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-92QTBKC/A

We went to see Cinderella, the second time for the kids

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-wfBj6Nh/A

And a trip to the Magic House with Maggie building,

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-QJ3BRBM/A

Amelia’s electrified hair,

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-3qspPcj/A

and Will in a bubble.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2015/Spring/i-7qQ8ct3/A

Now 7 more weeks until summer vacation…

Mark Twain Art Fair

The art teacher at Mark Twain impresses us year after year with her annual Art Fair. She takes wonderful photographs of every student, conducts an interview, and displays all of this with their art. Here’s what Amelia and Will’s displays looked like this year.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-nLmkhTX/A

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-8rTzRBM/A

Amelia’s favorite art project was the pig looking out the window.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-SM23Vdd

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-cMqtDNz/A

Will’s favorite art project was the Eiffel Tower in the bottom left.

Science Fair

2015 marks the first year of science fair project opportunities for the Spencer family, and I mean family! Amelia was enthusiastic when we came up with a project using our much loved hens. We decided to see if we could train the chickens to choose a blue cup over a yellow cup using meal worms as a reward. Amelia enjoyed the experiment phase which included lots of time moving and timing the chickens. The enthusiasm started to disappear when it came to completing her log book and poster. There were a couple late nights for all of us. At one point Dave showed Amelia one of his posters. She was very impressed saying “that looks like it’s from the internet. Wait, where are your references? How do I know you didn’t just copy that from the internet?!” Ah, she’s a smart one, and as one of Dave’s colleagues said, there were science teachers everywhere smiling when she said that.

 

Here is the final product. Amelia went to bed as I was gluing the final pieces so when she saw it the next morning she said, “Wow! That looks great, like a couple sixth graders did it.” We are taking that as a compliment.

http://photos.dspencer.net/Photostream/i-fMN4ZfH/A

 

Brown Sugar Cookies (Cooks Illustrated)

12 T unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 cups plus 2 T flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 T vanilla

 

Heat 10 T butter in a 10-in skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 T butter into hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix granulated sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar, rubbing between fingers, until well combined; set aside. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl; set aside.

Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to bowl with cooled butter; mix until no sugar clumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

Divide dough into 24 portions, each about 2 T, rolling into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (I used a small cookie scoop and made about 20 portions). Roll the balls in the reserved sugar mixture to coat and set on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.

Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; transfer to cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

Save the Polar Bears

Here is a conversation from this morning:

 

“Amelia, did you ask about doing the assembly?”

“No”, with an eye roll. “I get stage fright. I don’t think we can do it.”

 

After a few questions I discovered that, after watching a nature program about Orcas, polar bears, and climate change a couple weeks ago, the one that drove Will to hysterical tears about the state of our world, he wants to educate the population and make some changes! Will has decided that he, and perhaps Amelia, should give an assembly to the whole school about how we need to use less, turn off lights, and save the polar bears. He said he would talk without any papers (notes), just him. I’m thinking he may want to start out with a smaller audience, his class maybe, so I will discuss it with his teacher:)

 

I’m feeling good about this next generation.

St. Louis Pizza (America’s Test Kitchen)

Sauce

1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce

3 T tomato paste

2 T chopped fresh basil

1 T sugar

2 tsp dried oregano

 

Cheese

We use half mozzarella and half Provel, about 3 cups total

 

Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 T cornstarch

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup plus 2 T water

2 T olive oil

 

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the water and olive oil. Stir the water mixture into the flour mixture until the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead 3 or 4 times, until it is cohesive.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a pizza stone (or inverted baking sheet) on the rack, and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, press the dough into a small circle and transfer it to a piece of parchment paper dusted lightly with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll and stretch the dough to form a 12-inch circle, rotating the parchment as needed. Lift the parchment and pizza dough off the counter onto an inverted baking sheet.

Top 1 dough round with half of the sauce and half of the cheese. Carefully pull the parchment paper and pizza off the baking sheet and onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the underside is golden brown and the cheese is completely melted, 9-12 minutes. Remove the pizza and the parchment from the oven and transfer the pizza to a cooling rack. Cool for 2 minutes. Repeat with the second dough round and the remaining sauce and cheese. Cut the pizzas into 2-inch squares and serve.

Super Powers 

When I asked Will if he wanted to do an exercise video after school yesterday he gave me an enthusiastic yes! Next he explained that he and three other boys in his class were going to have a “show-off” and who ever won got to marry his friend Ellie. According to Will he needed to get stronger because his only super powers were being able to shoot lasers out of his fingers and do magic. Dave and I are wondering what the other boys super powers are.

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Our girls are growing up

Recently Will and I were outside and I went to check on our chickens. As I was walking to their coop I said “Hi chickie-babies” and Will said “I think they are more like women now, or at least young ladies.” He’s right, although we have yet to get an egg!

Room of Tranquility

Amelia was home sick today, poor thing. We had a morning of movies, a popsicle, and just some much needed down time. While Maggie was napping I suggested we sauna for a bit. While we were enjoying the “room of tranquility”, she asked if I saunaed everyday while they were at school. When I laughed and said no she replied “You should, after all the crying Maggie does and you get her to bed, you should sauna for 15 minutes. It’s really relaxing mom.” Let me be the first to say “I LOVE THIS KID!”

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Oh Margaret, you’re the best

When I went to get Margaret up from her nap she looked at me and said “you’re my mommy, you’re my friend.”

At her Valentines Day party today she received a couple bottles of bubbles. I told her when it warms up we can blow them outside. After her nap she said “when winter is upside down I will blow my bubbles.” Winter is definitely in full swing meaning it’s right side up, I guess.

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King of her Castle

I was just putting Margaret to bed in her newly improved and painted bedroom. As we walked in she said “I love the color. It’s so cozy, like a castle, and you’re like the king.”

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Happy Halloween

The Halloween celebrations started a day early for the kids this year. On Thursday there were the annual Mark Twain Elementary parade and class parties. The parade is a great tradition where the streets around the school are closed and the kids and teachers, decked out in their costumes, parade around the block.

Here is Will and his fifth grade buddy Austin getting ready.

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The parade

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Class parties were next. Maggie and I attended both Will and Amelia’s, meaning she had double the snacks and candy.

Here is Amelia’s third grade class.

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Costume highlights with Amelia’s friends Avery, Haven, and Alex.

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We were in Iowa City for Halloween. (It was a three day weekend and there was corn to be picked.) Here are our little trick-or-treaters, Hermione Granger from “Harry Potter”, Princess Elsa from “Frozen”, and Yoda.

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We went into town to trick-or-treat with the Galluzzos. Here are Joanna and Lucia as the Fox and Gingerbread Man. (Maggie’s not sure about the Fox.)

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Baby chickens…more things I’m responsible for keeping alive.

A month ago, after an evening with Helen and John in Effingham, and a few drinks, we decided we should get some chickens. Twelve hours later Helen and I bought a darling little chicken coop at Rural King. This is how it looks put together, and with two coats of stain and paint to make it pretty.

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The next weekend we bought four week old chicks: Clementine, Harriet, Penelope, and Josephine.

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They lived happily in our laundry room for two weeks before we decided, with constant heat from the heat lamp, they could move into their coop outside. So last weekend we moved them out and they loved the extra freedom and room, along with time to find crickets in the grass and take dirt baths.

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On a side note, one of our lovely chicks does seem to be getting bigger and more aggressive than the others, could she be a he? Just in case, when I bought more feed for them this week I also bought another chick. Here is Florence, our Speckled Sussex.

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We have been loving our chickie babies and grown quite attached. So when I walked outside yesterday and saw this hungry hawk eyeing my coop, I did what all good mothers do and started throwing rocks at him. Didn’t phase him. In fact he only flew away when the neighbor’s dog came over and ran after him. (I was a little intimidated by a hawk who doesn’t fly away when actually hit with rocks.)

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Needless to say, he came back, 6 more times yesterday and was here this morning.

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Since Maggie and I were going to be picking apples with Will’s class this morning, I took matters into my own hands using a neighbor’s fake owl and some aluminum foil. I’m the first to call myself “a crazy chicken lady”.

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The hawk was on our fence when we returned from the orchard, not on the coop, but there are claw marks in my foil to show he attempted to land there again. Wish me luck!

 

UPDATE: (30 minutes after the original post)

Apparently the hawk and owl go way back. They’re friends.

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Morning Goodbyes

We are well into the school morning routines. When Dave leaves for work all the kids require a big hug and will come running to him when they hear his backpack buckles come together. A little while later we walk to school to drop Will and Amelia off. Maggie gets hugs and kisses from her siblings, and then Will hugs Amelia and says “Maybe I’ll see you in the hall today” with a smile on his face. It’s a pretty great way to start the day (minus the tears over breakfast choices, getting Maggie to go potty before we leave, and keeping her walking or biking at a responsible pace).

Margaret Vision

During Will’s soccer practices, there are times when Margaret wears me down and I hand over my phone. Here is what she sees through the lens:

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Working Parents

Margaret was looking at a truck book this afternoon and said “dada drives a fire truck.” I asked “what does mama do?” She definitely answered “play”. Clearly she know exactly what we do!

First Day of School

August 13th was the first day of third grade for Amelia and the first day of KINDERGARTEN for Will! They were up, dressed, and ready to go by 7:15, 45 minutes before the school doors open. Margaret started preschool the next day, much to her disappointment as she wanted to head to “preschool with teachers” that morning. It was a great start to what will be a wonderful year I’m sure.

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2014 Summertime Synopsis

We had a fabulous, fun-filled summer vacation. The kids finished school May 29th and started their swim team season on May 30th. This was Amelia’s third season and Will’s first (last year was lessons). They swam every morning and Amelia competed in the meets until we left for our vacation in Washington. Will had to be convinced, aka bribed with frozen custard, to swim in the lanes instead of doing lessons. One swim coach had to give him a pep-talk regularly to get into the water.

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Amelia, Will, Vera, and Faye spent the third week of June in Iowa for Gramma Camp. This is always a highlight for them. They love running around the farm, going into Iowa City for story time and lunch out, and just having their grandparents to themselves.

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Maggie and I had some fun adventures that week too.

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On June 30th we headed to Washington for two weeks of vacation with the Knelleken family. The weather was amazing with temperatures in the 90s. We were able to have several days at Clear Lake where the kids went tubing behind Uncle Waylan’s boat, swam with their cousins, and visited with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

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All of the Knelleken grandchildren were together for the Eatonville 4th of July parade.

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We also spent some time in Seattle sight seeing and visiting friends.

The Ballard Locks –

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Lincoln Park in West Seattle with Laura-

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UW alumni babies: Cameron, Henry, and Jack –

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After a wonderful trip in WA, we flew to Denver, to continue our adventure with a week in Estes Park, CO with the Spencers. Yes, we are lucky!

We took a hike everyday.

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Here is the beginning of the Twin Sisters hike, 7.2 miles with a 2,400 elevation gain. We did this one with Amelia, Vera, and Will. They are amazing hikers!

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We drove along Trail Ridge Road.

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Horseback riding was a must.

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There was always something amazing to see.

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All in all, another great Spencer vacation.

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On July 23rd our Margaret Jean turned 2. We celebrated at the pool with Sarah and Hakon.

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Other highlights included a mid-week trip to Effingham,

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an amazing Cardinals game, thank you John!!,

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and a trip to Iowa to help pick and process the garden bounty.

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