Wednesday, April 22, 2015

She Writes...She Scores!

It's official...Nat is a writer.  Last week we got the call she won first place for her age division in the St. Louis County Library's Write Stuff writing contest for her story titled, Pigs in Space.  It was truly a dream come true as she has been trying to get others to read her stories since she was five years old.  While she was happy to collect her $50 prize, the bigger thrill came from being able to call herself a published author. Her piece is featured on the library's kids blog.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Deep Thoughts From Noah #60

After watching the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens...

"Han looks old and wrinkly, but Chewy still looks good."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You're a Good Man, Steve Felgenhauer

While many were scrambling to get their taxes filed on time, our family was celebrating...not taxes, mind you.  We were toasting Steve as today he turned 48.

Natalie had clear ideas for what we needed to do to show our affections.

"I'm going to make him a coupon good for free whoopins," she declared.
"For you or him?" I asked
"He can give me one," said Nat.
(Clearly, she's never been the recipient of a whoopin.)

Nat also wanted me to pick up some Charlie Brown favorites because she often hears her Dad interject phrases from C.B. shows into conversations. Easy enough as Family Video had several options and all were shelved in their free kid movie section.  For dinner, while the kids and I had pizza, Steve was "happier than a pig in poop" enjoying catfish and jalapeno hush puppies from King Edward's.  Afterwards we sang happy birthday, but Noah would only let Natalie put one candle on the pie because he worried more than that might send our home into flames.

Steve didn't say much, but his clean plate and smiles (more than I've ever captured in our nearly 13 years of marriage) assured me it was the best 48th birthday he's ever had.

You're a Good Man, Steve Felgenhauer

Happy Birthday!

Cowabunga,'s a birthday tree
compliments of Noah and Natalie

Homemade coconut cream pie...though I'll admit I bought ready-made graham cracker crust.

Girl Scout cookies taste better when you know most of the planet has already 
consumed theirs and have to wait till next year for more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Musings From Natalie #112

Natalie: Mom, what's your job?
Me: Chief Bottle-washer
Natalie: What does that mean?
Steve: (interjects from the other room) It means your mom has the toughest job. She's the glue that holds our family together.
Natalie: I get it... 'cause we are like a puzzle and sometimes we don't all fit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pigs in Space

by Natalie

Natalie recently submitted, Pigs in Space, for the St. Louis County Library's Write Stuff contest.  The rules required that it be typed and 250-500 words (it was tough for her to keep it so brief).  She also needed to insert the following words into the piece: "I pulled back the paper and there you were." While typing is new for her and the process is slow (Natalie told me, "Writing is like carefully unwrapping a delicious piece of candy.") she enjoyed it and seemed to produce work with far greater detail than she ever has by writing things out by hand. However, after submitting her piece, she decided it needed a few a table of contents and artwork. 

I can’t believe our owner is going to space!” squealed Gracie. 

“It would be cool to study Mars,” said Gerty. 

“What do they eat?” asked Fred.

“Kids, we are not going to space,” said Mr. Pig.

“We are just plain, old guinea pigs,” said Mrs. Pig. 

“But, said Gerty.

“NO BUTS,” yelled Mr. Pig, “WE ARE NOT ASTRONAUTS! NOW GO TO BED!”                                                        

The pigs scrambled to their favorite pile of wood shavings and fell asleep very fast. But when the cage was very quiet they leaped out and tumbled into their owner’s lunchbox. 

“It smells like a tuna sandwich,” said Gracie holding her nose.

Gerty and Gracie went to sleep by an apple, but Fred had other plans. He bounced onto a bag of potato chips. He tried to open the bag 17 times! Finally he belly flopped on the bag and POP! Potato chips flew everywhere.  It was so loud his sisters woke up.

"AAAHH!" Said Gerty and Gracie.

 “WHAT ON EARTH?” asked the owner.

“Mr. Burny,” said the owner’s partner, Mr. Kean, “we aren’t on earth anymore.”
“FRED!” said Gerty. 

“Mmmmhhh!” said Fred

“He’s in the bag!” said Gracie.

RRRRIIIPP! Went the bag.

“How did you find me with your tiny paws?” asked Fred.
“Well, I peeled back the paper and there you were,” said Gerty.                               


“The lunchbox is opening!” yelled Gracie.

“AHHHHH!” said Fred and Gerty.

The pigs raced to the apple and hid.  The owner picked up the big potato chip mess. Then he spotted the apple. He picked up it up and looked on all sides to check for bruises. Then he spotted the pigs.

“OH DEAR!” said the owner.


Mr. Bark is the owner’s boss. The owner hid the pigs in his lunchbox again.

“I…I will sir!” Then he whispered, “I’ll take you to the moon without my boss knowing,” said the owner.

“Ya, hear that?” said Gerty “we are going to the moon!”      


Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Break 2015 Wrap Up

For Spring Break, our family didn't leave St. Louis, however, we did enjoy lots of adventures together.  While none of our jaunts, cost anything. I did spend some time in tears...mostly out of joy but occasionally out of vacation-togetherness overload - a sure sign we played hard.

Natalie's vacation began a day earlier than Noah's.  This was perfect as it gave her the chance to join me at his school's annual talent show.  He and his friend, Jonathan were "The Jesters" and told knock knock jokes to a crowded gymnasium filled with family and friends.

"I can't believe Noah is doing this!  Miriam must give him confidence," shared Natalie.

Noah is the Jester wearing red pants.
Saturday morning we took part in a free program offered year-round, throughout all St. Louis County Libraries called STArt@ (Science, Technology and Art programs).  We met at Grand Glaize Library to learn the fundamentals of building bridges and explore and build some of our own using various materials and techniques. 
Our instructor involved the kids in activities to help teach various concepts.
Here they discuss tension
While he wasn't excited about coming...he quickly went to work.
Natalie and her friend, Addison had lots of creative ideas.

The instructor placed coins on each child's bridge to see if it could hold weight.
Success! They each earned golden chocolate coins.
In the afternoon we headed to Montgomery Bank for their latest kids club event featuring egg hunts, crafts and games.  If you are looking for a "small-town" bank with friendly tellers and a place where your kids can earn 5% on their money (up to $500) -- look no further than Montgomery.

On Monday we conducted some hair-raising experiments with the help of a Mad Science instructor  at Tesson Ferry Library...another fun, free class offered through the STArt @yourlibrary program.

Temps were crisp on St. Pat's Day, but we still had fun hanging out at the zoo.

"Mom! Naked Mole Rats are so adorable! Can we get one?"
Normally the hippo exhibit is very crowded, but we had the place all to ourselves. 

While we are mostly of German-descent, Natalie assured me everyone is Irish on St. Pat's Day.  She wanted a party.  I obliged by providing green pasta noodles while she made the decorations.  The store was out of Corned Beef and Cabbage (no matter because no one in my family besides me will eat it). Instead, I made Pork Chop Suey.  Very good and easy to make.  For dessert, I dusted off my Bella Mini Fluted Cake Maker purchased on a Swap & Sell for $2.  I was skeptical it would even work, but the results had my two kids singing it's praises.  The cakes only take 3-4 minutes to cook.  I topped them with chocolate ganache and gold sugar.  A perfect solution for when you want cake, but don't want to heat up your kitchen.

Clearly she thought my photo-taking was breaking her bingo concentration.
That evening we headed over to Kirkwood Library for Family Bingo Night.  We visit lots of libraries, but this one is one of our favorites. The programming is outstanding and the staff are wonderful.  I also love their kids blog. We made out like bandits that night.  Everyone came home with at least one prize...and not junky stuff -- nice things like books, games and stuffed animals.

On Wednesday we lay like broccoli and watched Big Hero 6.  In the afternoon Steve and I got out my great-grandmother's recipe for vinegar pie crust and made ourselves a big, fat apple pie.  I've since been eating it for at breakfast and dinner. 

On Thursday we joined some friends for a trip to Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Co. for a free, factory tour.  It was fun as the kids and I have been reading all things chocolate as part of our "Read & Ramble" project. Later we headed to Powder Valley Conservation Center to say hello to Peanut and friends.
No Oompa Loompas at this place.
Powder Valley Conservation Center

Friday morning we headed back to Kirkwood Library for their "Inventor" class.  The kids got into teams and were each given a large, garbage bag full of stuff to create something new.  Noah and his buddy worked together to create an airship complete with working catapult.

On Saturday we took advantage of the sunny rays and free admission into the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  While the Children's Garden doesn't open for another week - we had plenty of things to see and do in the Climatron including make and take nature crafts and feeding the fish near the Japanese gardens.

For our last day we participated in Family Sundays at the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM).  Each Sunday afternoon, SLAM host crafts and a docent led tour.  During the month of March, the theme is Mummies.  While I had to practically drag Noah to the car to go -- once we had arrived, he was quick to involve himself in the craft. The kids made Egyptian-inspired hieroglyphic charm necklaces.  During the tour, my little "I hate all things art" became the most active participant in our group.  While there we also took in Nicholas Nixon's: 40 Years of the Brown Sisters.  To say, I found the series moving would be an understatement.  By the time I reached the last photo, I was holding back tears.  It's hard to explain, but to see the collection in it's entirety is breath-taking.  In each black and white photo, the sisters face the camera head-on.  Their stoic expressions and casual stances draw you in.  If you wish to see this exhibit -- better hurry! It leaves April 4th.

Noah's hieroglyphics spelled out Ninjago.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Read & Ramble #2: All Things Chocolate

This month our Read & Ramble focused on all things chocolate.  We read:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Box Car Children Candy Factory Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith

Dahl's, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was definitely tops with my two.  Natalie would sneak the book now and again to read ahead.

"Sorry! I couldn't help it," she'd say.

This afternoon we decided to ramble on over to the Chocolate, Chocolate Chocolate Co. for a free factory tour.  In business since 1981, this family owned operation houses 5,000 lbs of chocolate each day.  They make their own peanut butter and marshmallow and all of the decorations are handmade. They use no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Our guide shared that it takes 40 minutes to create any one of their candies from start to finish.  Their cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast, vanilla from Madagascar, pure cane sugar from Belize and all of their products are marked as "fair trade certified".

A fun outing for sure especially when paired with good friends.
While milk chocolate is tops in sales at CCC, Noah is partial to dark chocolate confections.
"Chocolate Waterfall"...kind of a letdown compared to the one featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Chocolate Crew - the Brauns, Felgenhauers and Simpsons!