Thursday, August 22, 2013

At the cottage

So, this is an old post that should have been made ages ago. Sorry about that.

This post is very long, and incredibly picture heavy.

This summer the Llama Papa got a few days off and we all piled into the car and drove up north to visit family. But instead of staying in a hotel like we usually do, we got to stay in an awesome cottage right on the St. Lawrence! My parents had rented the cottage for almost a full month to celebrate my mom's retirement, so we hustled to get the time off so we could go and visit.

Since no trip up north would be complete without some weird car malfunction, the driver's side window decided to fall out of its track while paying a toll, and we ended up driving the last (very frigid, and slightly drizzly) half of the trip with it wide open. While the Llama Papa and I were miserable, the Llama himself was having a Blast! The wind blew his hair all over the place and he laughed maniacally for a good portion of the ride.

Once we arrived at the cottage, the first thing the Llama did was to give Sam the basset a biiiig hug.

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Then we went out to explore. The rocks were a bit too slippery to actually get into the water, but the Llama had a great time tossing pebbles.

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My parents had gotten him a new 3D book about animals, and he spent the rest of the night wandering around looking at everything in 3D

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After such a long and exciting day, the Llama settled into his room surprisingly easily and we all had a pretty good night's sleep.


The next day was picnic day, but first we went to visit the Llama Papa’s family.

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They had gotten him a bubble whistle, and he had a blast trying it out.

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After a while we wandered down to the river and the Llama got to explore, throw more stones, and sit on a boat with Grandma.

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The Llama Papa's brother and his wife were also visiting (but couldn’t make it to the party) so we had to take bunches of pictures with them too

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the lalonde
family summer 2013 (1)

the lalonde
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Then it was back to the cottage for the Llama's half-birthday picnic party!
We got to visit with my friend Momo, her husband and her daughter (who took an immediate liking to the Llama's bubble mower)

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and the Llama got his big present: a shiny new tricycle!

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He was in love, and was very sad when it was time to put it away and go back inside.

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The next day wad supposed to be farm day, but instead we spent most of the day at the mall waiting for the Llamamobile to be fixed

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Luckily, the Llama is easily entertained.

We finally made it out of the Mall, and along with my Mom and Aunt Mary, to Old McDonald's Farm. The weather had turned drizzly, and we got there just before closing, but we were not to be deterred!

First the Llama got to brush butterscotch the plush horse while we bought our passes.

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Then it was off to feed the goats!

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Then after an interval to chase some ducks, he got to visit some sheep, and Guinea hens, and feed the bunnies and piglets.

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Then there was a barn full of horses and donkeys, and some emus and even reindeer. Then the Llama got to feed some cows and visit a few of his namesakes, and then he got to pet some goats!

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I have to stop a moment and say how awesome the staff was, even though it was so close to closing time, they still insisted on opening up all the barns for us and even urged us to stay as long as we needed once closing time had passed.

Finally after all that it was back to the cottage for one last night before heading home in the morning.

Overall it was an amazing trip, and the Llama had a great time visiting with family and all the critters. We definitely want to do it all again next year!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Llama Preserves

Lately I've been doing a lot of cooking, preserving in fact. and in order to keep track of what recipes I use and how they turn out, and what I have in my pantry I've started a new blog:

Llama Preserves

Now, this is mostly for personal use, so the posts and instructions are rather succinct, and may be missing certain steps that are 'obvious' to me, or somebody who is well versed in canning rules.  Also, unless the recipe is taken directly from a trusted source, they haven't been tested for safety, so if you plan on trying any of them, do so at your own risk. That being said, I do try to make sure all things that I make are safe. I've tried to list my sources and inspiration for each recipe, as well as comments on the finished products, so you can go through and see how I came up with it or what I've changed or go buy the books I've used (highly recommended!).

As you can see, a lot of my posting and cooking efforts have been going in that direction lately, but do not despair, if you aren't into canning there will be more llama content soon!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cream of Broccoli Soup For One

The Llama likes broccoli. No, wait, he LOVES broccoli. He requests it almost every day for lunch. We buy at least two bags of frozen broccoli a week to feed his habit. I don't mind, I love broccoli too. At the bottom of every bag, even if you get just 'florets' there are always a handful of bits that are more stem than floret, and I save those until I have enough to make a small batch of cream of broccoli soup for myself. Yum!

cream of
broccoli soup

Cream of Broccoli Soup For One

2 C skim milk
1/4 C dry milk powder (optional, but makes for a richer more protein rich soup)
1/2 to 1 tsp vegetable bullion (I love Better than Bullion brand vegetable stock)
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp Mrs Dash onion & herb (optional, if you don't use it increase onion powder to 1/2 tsp)
1/8-1/4 tsp garlic powder (I like a lot of garlic, but most people don't)
pinch Thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp flour
4 C frozen broccoli florets, defrosted (approximately)
3 slices American cheese (or the equivalent amount of a mild cheddar, but all I regularly have on hand is American slices. For the love of food, don't use the stuff that comes individually wrapped, if you use American cheese make sure it is the real stuff that isn't 'processed cheese food'.)

take broccoli and cut off the stems as close to the florets as possible, chopping the florets into small bite sized pieces. Set florets aside and microwave the stems, with a touch of water, covered, until soft.

in a blender (or medium pot if you plan on using a stick blender) combine milks, bullion, spices, flour and broccoli stems. Blend until everything is smooth and there are no remaining bits of stem.

In a medium pot bring the soup to a slow simmer, whisking often to prevent the milk from burning to the bottom of the pan as it thickens slightly, let simmer for about a minute or slightly more. (to make sure the flour is cooked and the soup doesn't taste gummy or chalky).

Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese and whisk until it is all melted and incorporated, add the broccoli florets, pour into a large bowl and Enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Chocolate syrup

I have a ton of recipes I need to type up but just haven't gotten around to yet. But until then, there is a recipe for an amazing chocolate syrup:

chocolate syrup 05-17-13

Chocolate Syrup

1/2 C Cocoa Powder
1 C Sugar
1 C Water
1/8 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan over med heat. stir/whisk until the cocoa powder dissolves.

Bring to a slow simmer and simmer for about 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool a moment before whisking in vanilla.

Pour into a bottle and refrigerate for up to a month. (But it never lasts that long)

for a thicker syrup, simple simmer for longer, it will thicken considerably as it cools.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Llama Reads

Man, I've been sitting on this post forever. At first I thought we weren't really far enough along to warrant a full post, then I had a bunch of other things I wanted to post about, but it had been so long since my last post, and I wanted my next post to be all about the Llama, and then it just became a matter of overcoming inertia and getting the darned thing written so the blog will stop staring at me so accusingly.


The Llama is reading.
He's not even 3 1/2 yet, I'm not sure if I’m ready for this!

Reading about dinosaurs at lunch

Here is how our reading journey has progressed:
We started watching the They Might be Giants DVD Here Come the ABCs when The Llama was a little over 1 1/2. he didn't really get it, but we loved the music. Then a short while later we got Signing Time Volume 5: ABC Signs. I had already put a couple of posters behind the couch with the alphabet and ASL signs.

Time went on and The Llama began to memorize the alphabet. By 2 1/2 he had it pretty well down. He seemed to know that there was more to it than that, but I wasn't really sure if he was ready. To see, we started introducing letter sounds. I think the analogy we used for him was "you know how different animals make different sounds? Well different letters make different sounds too!"

Then we started poking around Starfall. The alphabet section really helped him solidify the letter sounds, and he loved the little videos and interactions. (He isn't allowed to touch or use the computers, but he could very easily tell me what needed to be clicked and where to put things.)

Eventually, right around the beginning of winter, he started getting bored with just the alphabet but still wanted more, so I began poking around the learn to read section. He did really well at the little preparatory games and could easily identify a letter by its sound in the beginning of a word, so we stated reading “Zac the Rat.” He could sound out the letters perfectly but at just barely 3 years old he just wasn't really getting how to string the sounds together to make words.

We continued to poke around the beginning books, but didn't really get very far because while Starfall would read the words for him, he wasn't making the leap to sounding them out for himself. He just did not grok the whole "smoosh the sounds together to make a word" thing no matter how much we modeled it for him. He would just keep saying the sounds with long pauses in between (or worse, “and” – like "c and a and t") and staring at us blankly if we asked him what word that makes, or to say them closer together, or faster, or to smoosh the sounds. (If we modeled sounding it out/smooshing the sounds, he'd say the word, but couldn't seem to do it himself.) He was starting to memorize the stories, and in some cases could recognize words outside of the Starfall books. But he had also started trying to guess what a word was if it looked similar to one he knew, almost always getting it wrong, and I didn't want him to get into that bad habit. So I decided to take a break from Starfall for a bit. I went to the homeschooling community for advice. They all agreed with me that he was just too young to get it yet, but gave me a lot of suggestions of where to go and what to do in the meantime.

A little while ago, I began poking around Progressive Phonics and downloaded their beginner phonics PDFs. I figured I would give them a try and see how The Llama did with them, they seemed simple enough, and I liked the co-reading aspect as well as the way they grouped words with the same ending to help with recognition.

So now we've been working on the "a" book on and off for a few months, and just started the "e" book this week, and I think it really is helping, The Llama is starting to string the sounds together without prompting, and isn't guessing as much. Awesome! I think we are well and truly on our way to reading! At Christmas time we bought him the first set of BOB books and we may pull those out soon. Up until now it's all been words and pictures on the computer and I think it will really cement reading in his mind when we transition to actual paper books, and it will be awesome that he will be able to read a whole book all by himself! It's a little scary to think of my little baby growing up so quickly, but I’m just so incredibly proud of him and all the hard work he is putting into this. Even when I’m a bit reluctant or don't feel like 'doing reading' he will still pester me until we do it. I love my little reader!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

catching up after the holidays

Wow! It sure has been a while eh? Things have been a bit wild around here, back in September The Llama Pappa started his new job (YAY!) but his training/work schedule was all over the place and it was hard for The Llama to adjust. Then, just when everything started to even out, the holidays arrived. We usually try to take Thanksgiving easy, we get a Tofurkey or Quorn roast, make homemade stuffing and mushroom gravy, cranberry orange relish, and sweet potato fries and that’s about it (this year we got a Tofurkey roast that came with its own gravy, but it wasn't nearly as good as home made). We live too far from family to be able to visit, but my parents came down to visit for a couple of days the week before and that was really nice. And then of course, we had to watch the parade. We don't do a lot of TV, so The Llama didn't recognize a lot of the pop culture stuff, but he really enjoyed the dance numbers, and the big balloons.

Watching the
Thanksgiving Parade

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Because The Llama Pappa was so new at his job we knew he wouldn't be able to get time off to go visit family for Christmas, but then one of his coworkers took some vacation time at the beginning of December, so The Llama Pappa covered for her. The best part was that her schedule was set up so that three were three very long days but then The Llama Pappa would end up with four days off in a row! It was kind of grueling while he worked because they were such long days, but we were able to get back up north to visit our families, which was really awesome. Everybody spoiled The Llama rotten of course, he was the star of the show! But he had a great time, and handled the trip and visiting really well and made a new friend with my parent's Basset hound, Sam. But I do have to admit that we were all very glad to get home afterwords.

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I think my favorite part of this Christmas was taking The Llama out on a ride to see all the lights, he loved it! He got especially excited whenever anybody had a train in their yard, it was so cute! And we started a new holiday tradition: home made Christmas Pizza! (The Llama Pappa and I were talking and we thought it was rather silly to have another big feast right after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is pretty much all about the food, (and parade) but for us Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, which is kind of hard to do when you are stuck in the kitchen all day.) Then New years was right around the corner, but we didn't really do anything special for that, besides go to bed early, because we are old fuddy duddies.

Checking out
the Christmas lights

And now we are finally starting to come back to some semblance of normal. The Llama Pappa finished training before the holidays hit, and now he has a regular schedule, so The Llama and I can get back into a routine. The weather has been quite frigid here.

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We got a little snow so I got to take The Llama out to play, whereupon we learned that The Llama doesn't really like snow all that much. Especially walking in it or when it gets on his mittens.

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He was very cute, but I guess we'll just stick to our usual walks around the neighborhood. The last week or so it has been too cold and windy to go out (and I was a bit worried about the people who never clear their sidewalks), but now that it has warmed up a bit and we are back to our route! It almost felt springlike the other day with the snow starting to melt and the birds all out and singing!


this was written a few days ago, and sat waiting for me to get around to adding pictures.  Since then the snow has returned and it is once again cold and dreary :(
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