Baby Sister And Retirement – Take 3

Recently, our family has experienced two momentous events.

A few weeks ago we welcomed our fifth grandchild and first granddaughter!!!

Baby sister

To say that girls are scarce in our family would be an understatement. Baby sister is the first female to be born on either side of our family in almost 25 years.

She’s kind of a big deal. And she is beautiful.

Her twin older brothers, Chip and Dale, are quite besotted with her. The household is settling in nicely; that is to say, they will be once the wee darling gets a little better grasp on night vs. day.

To celebrate her arrival, we opened a bottle of 2009 Wallis Family Estate “Little Sister” Proprietary Red Wine from the Diamond Mountain District of Napa Valley.

2009 Wallis Family Estate Little Sister Proprietary Red

Perfect, right?

We discovered Wallis Family Estate at a Family Winemakers of California tasting event about 5 years ago. Pouring wine at their booth on that day were both Mr. Wallis and his younger daughter, AKA the Little Sister.

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Shortly after Baby Sister’s arrival, Peter started retirement.

For the third time.
Peter Begins Retirement

Retirement #1 never really happened even though the date was set and we completed the planned relocation.

You see, Peter is a team player. When the company came to him saying, “We’ve had a bit of a situation and we really, really, really need to have you stick around for another six months or so. Pretty please???”, he couldn’t say no.

Retirement #2 proceeded swimmingly for a grand total of three months.

During that time we packed in all sorts of fun activities like concerts and wine events.

I became quite accustomed to having Peter cook dinner, pairing it with the perfect wine, as I perused my People Magazine.

Well, that arrangement came to a screeching halt when Peter received a call asking if he could help out on a teeny, tiny project  – “should last no longer than a couple of months” – which turned into a big, big project consuming about fifteen months.

Now, finally, all is as it should be in Maison Lux. Peter is home and splitting his time, once again, between his two happy places: the kitchen and the wine cellar.

Wine Spectator magazine’s website has a series called “8 & $20” which features wonderful recipes (with suggested wine pairings) serving up to 8 people for $20 or less (not including wine, obviously).

One, in particular, caught Peter’s eye and he decided to give it a whirl.

Braised Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Sauce

Braised chicken thighs in mushroom sauce.

Now I was a little wary of this dish for two reasons: I don’t like dark meat chicken and I REALLY don’t like mushrooms. Other than that, it sounded great…

But, if Peter was doing the cooking I figured the least I could do was to be a good sport and try the dish without complaining. Besides, I knew it would be served with a great wine so not a total fail.

I may not have instantly become a dark meat/mushroom convert, but I will tell you that this combination was delicious! Check out the recipe here.

Peter paired this yummy gem with a 2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir.

2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir

Located in Santa Barbara County, Foxen makes a wide variety of wines including single-vineyard Pinot Noirs like this one, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and red blends.

The Foxen tasting room in Santa Maria is a simple and rustic but beautiful place and one I highly recommend to anyone visiting Santa Barbara County. Just a tiny bit down the road is their second tasting room, known as The Shack, where visitors can enjoy selections from Foxen 7200 which focuses on Italian style and Bordeaux wines.

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Now that Peter has more free time, I’m looking forward to many delicious meals, great adventures and lots of time to spend with the five grandchildren: Baby Sister, brothers Chip and Dale and cousins Andy and Harry.

Life is, indeed, good!

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A Grandmother’s Guide To Toddler Books – Part Two

I love reading books to my young grandchildren. I especially like it when the toddler books are entertaining and do not make me want to poke a sharp stick in my eye.

Please let me share with you some of the books I recommend. You can find more in Part One.

(By the way, as in Part One, this post contains some affiliate links which means that if you buy something after clicking on the link, Amazon will send a few pennies my way. I will promptly send the pennies back to Amazon as I buy new books for the little ones. I thank you and they thank you.)

I will be spending lots of time reading these and other favorites to the little guys during my upcoming stint as granny nanny.

 

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Goodnight, Goodnight COnstruction Site

Even the toughest equipment on the construction site needs to tuck in at night to be rested up and ready for the new day. This story helps rambunctious four-year-old twins realize that they do, too.

 

Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps written and illustrated by Sophie Henn

Pom Pom Panda Gets The Grumps

We’ve all had those times when we get out on the wrong side of the bed and everything that can go wrong throughout the day does. Pom Pom Panda’s friends help him to turn his day around.

 

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups written and illustrated by Tadgh Bentley

Little Penguin Gets The Hiccups

This sweet and silly book illustrates the pitfalls of serving chili to a penguin. Little penguin needs help to vanquish his hiccups and he calls upon the reader and the audience to help.

 

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Spoon

There is something about this book that I absolutely adore. Captivating illustrations depict this creative tale about Spoon who thinks those around him (Fork, Knife, and Chopsticks) lead more interesting or, in the case of Chopsticks, more exotic lives than he does. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Spoon, help him to realize that there is something special about each of us.

 

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

Giraffes Can't Dance

As someone who was kicked out of ballet class at age six because the teacher thought I was “too clumsy”, I feel vindicated by this book. With some encouragement and the right music in our hearts, we can ALL dance.

 

Finally, you can’t go wrong with ANYTHING by author Mo Willems. True, I might be drawn to him because of his awesome name but just look at these examples…

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

The Pigeon Needs A Bath

The Pigeon series (including other gems like “Don’t Let Pigeon Stay Up Late” and “Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus” are silly tales about a cantankerous pigeon. He doesn’t think he needs a bath; he had one last month. Our little guys find the Pigeon books to be hilarious.

 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Even from the cover of the book, you can see the personality that comes out in the illustrations.

Wee, little Trixie and her beloved knuffle bunny go along on a trip to the laundromat with dad. Unfortunately, knuffle bunny gets left behind and Trixie can’t get her parents to understand baby-speak. Finally, determination wins out and Trixie speaks her first real words, “knuffle bunny”.

 

The Elephant and Piggie Series

Elaphant and Piggie boks

There are 25 books in the Elephant and Piggie series. The books tell of the adventures of best friends Gerald the Elephant and Piggie the pig. The books are entertaining for all ages – seriously, I could read these over and over and over again.

The Elephant and Piggie books are also written to be “easy readers”. No dumb “See Spot run.” nonsense for this generation. The brilliant and talented Mo Willems helps children learn to read and want to read.

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book), in particular, engages young readers.

Here is how the New York Public Schools Library Journal describes the hilarity:

“…the best buddies star in a witty metafictional romp replete with visual gags, such as Piggie hanging from a speech bubble and Elephant blocking the author’s name on the title page. Willems revs up the fun when the friends realize that someone is watching. Who can it be? Cautious Gerald asks, “A monster?” while savvy Piggie answers, “No. It is…a reader! A reader is reading us!” Mirth ensues as the delightful creatures comprehend a newfound power: “If the reader reads out loud,” they can make the reader say words.”

 

All of these books would be great additions to any family’s library. And, without a doubt, instilling a love of books in children is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Happy reading!

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A Grandmother’s Guide To Toddler Books – Part One

If you have been to a baby shower recently, you may have been asked to bring a book instead of a card with your gift. Hallmark may not be happy but new parents love this idea as a way to build their family library.

But shopping for children’s books can be overwhelming. There are so many great options – and some stinkers, too.

I thought I’d share with you some of the toddler books that have become my favorites after hours of reading to my little grandchildren, ages 2 months – 4 1/2 years old.

Sure, you can’t go wrong with the classics like “Goodnight Moon” or anything by Dr. Seuss but thinking outside that box, you might consider these gems.

(By the way, this post contains some affiliate links which means that if you buy something after clicking on the link, Amazon will send a few pennies my way. Then I will promptly send these pennies back to Amazon as I buy new books for the little ones.)

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Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Little Blue Truck

Little Blue Truck Leads the Way

These sweet books tell the tale of the Little Blue Truck who shows by example that kindness is best.

 

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Red Pajama

The headliner in the Llama Llama series, this book is written in a melodic tempo which makes it a delight to read.

Caution, however, if you are reading this to a young one who is suffering from separation anxiety you might want to skip the page that says,

“Llama llama red pajama feels alone without his mama.”

Just a little word of advice. From experience.

 

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna

The Pout-Pout Fish

Featuring whimsical illustrations, The Pout-Pout Fish tells of a gloomy Gus who learns to turn his frown upside-down. The story is particularly riveting when the reader uses a different voice for each of the friends as my son does when reading to his twins.

Again, there are a number of “sequels” in the Pout-Pout series but you will want to read this one first.

 
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type

Farmer Brown’s cows have some demands which they present to the farmer in the form of a typed letter. Negotiations go back and forth until – spoiler alert – the animals win.

 
The Gruffalo by Julie Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo

A tiny mouse uses bravery and quick thinking to outwit those who would like to have him (as in EAT him) for lunch.

 
Digger, Dozer, Dumper by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by David Slonim

Digger Dozer Dumper

The important jobs of each digger, dozer, and dumper are described in a rhyme. Truck-obsessed children like the ones in our family will love this.

 

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Last Stop on Market Street

This award-winning book first came to my attention when I saw it on a list of children’s books that encourage kindness to others.

CJ and his grandmother ride the bus across town together as they do every Sunday. Through their conversation along the way, Nana open’s CJ’s eyes to the goodness all around him.

The beautiful message and captivating illustrations won my heart immediately. And might have even brought a tear to my eye.

 

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Stay tuned for Part Two of my toddler book recommendations – more great stories that have earned the Momo seal of approval.

In the meantime, what are your favorite books for young children? I’m always looking for suggestions!

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Newest Member Of The Family – Grandson #4

Did you miss me?

Did you think I was still celebrating the Cubs World Series win? Or that I moved into a cave after the election?

Both good guesses but the actual reason for my blogging break is way better than that.

I’ve been in Boston for an extended stay to welcome the newest member of our family. Grandson #4.

This guy.

Introducing Harry

For those of you keeping score, baby Harry joins his big brother, Andy

and twin cousins, Chip and Dale.

(All names have been changed to protect the little nuggets. And, it is my policy to not show their beautiful faces on this public site. Trust me. They are, in my completely biased but accurate opinion, ridiculously adorable.)

Particularly in light of the current tumultuous state of affairs, these precious boys are a compelling reminder of my obligation to do everything in my power to make the world a better place.

I want these boys to grow up in a world where kindness, inclusion, and compassion are the guiding principals. Where “love your neighbor” means ALL your neighbors, not just those who look, think and act like you.

This sentiment was expressed beautifully by our daughter, Annie, in her remarks at Harry’s Bris.

(These excerpts are shared with Annie’s permission.)

“…may you always stand up and fight for your beliefs and the beliefs of others. Speak up when you see others being wronged. Love everyone fiercely, not in spite of your differences but because of them.”

“Use your history as your guide. You are the great-grandson of Holocaust survivors whose mere existence is the strongest form of resistance. You are also the great-grandson of a politician who fought for civil rights. Remember this compassion for your fellow man. The fight for equality lives on in you.”

“…we pledge to raise you to live up to your name and your history, to encourage empathy and understanding and to reaffirm that the most important thing you can do is to be an ally and friend to your fellow man.”

Welcome, little one. We are so happy to have you as part of our wonderful, loving family.

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