What's happening with the Hill family!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I go by Ma. Ma Hill

Connor came home from school last week practically bubbling over with excitement about a science project they had done in class. They made butter. He had memorized every thrilling detail and shared it with us with an overwhelming amount of joy. He was desperate to recreate this dairy magic at home. I checked it out online and it did look really easy so I promised him that we would make it a spring break project.

The wait for homemade butter has been almost interminable. I have heard the steps of butter making so many times that I could picture it in my sleep. When we went to the grocery store he flung open the refrigerated cases, giddily demanding the "milk with the most amounts of fat." He regaled his brother on an almost nightly basis with the most dramatic telling of the birth of butter that one could ever imagine. Obviously I had a lot to live up to. Since we were in this homespun type of mood I decided on a whim that not only would we make our own butter, we would go ahead and whip up some homemade bread and strawberry jam. Why not? I had been wanting to try Ina Garten's Easy Strawberry Jam recipe so this was the perfect time. You could probably already guess if you have ever met me, that I was in way over my head before we even started.

So. Today was the day that we were going to go all pioneer. Connor's enormously high expectations had me completely immersed in his world of delusion. I even started out the morning googling antique butter molds a la the strawberry mold Ma Ingalls had in the Little House in the Big Woods. You know, in case I want to get a booth at an artisan craft fair or something. Stop laughing.

First things first, I made my bread dough and set it out to rise. Easy. I am frankly feeling super good about myself at this point. Enter Connor dressed in what he considered to be appropriate butter making attire: jeans, flip flops, no shirt and a flannel robe loosely tied. Whatever, I couldn't let that distract me because we had some butter to create. Here is the basic plan for butter making according to my child and the internet: Put some really fatty milk in a shaker jar and shake it until butter forms. Then drain the buttermilk off, rinse the butter and then BAM! You're done. We hit our first hurdle about 1 and a half minutes into our endeavor. Combined, Connor and I have the arm strength of a 6 year old. Broken down, that means he has the strength of a five year old and I have the strength of a one year old and that is me being generous with myself. I then felt like I should have asked him more details about the butter making at school. How long did he estimate it took his class to churn out that delicious butter? About 40 hours. Wait, what? It turns out that his super smart teacher had each of the sixteen kids take turns shaking the jar. Well, isn't that convenient to have 32 arms at your disposal? Our four arms just weren't cutting it. After I thought we had put enough pioneer effort into it, we busted out the food processor and in seconds had butter. Thank goodness. Connor quickly spread it on his prearranged cracker platter and went to town. I headed back to my jam making. After all a pioneer mother doesn't get much time to rest. Since the jam recipe was titled "easy" that usually means intermediate to advanced to this home cook. It went okay. It all did what she said it would but we thought there was way too much sugar in the recipe so none of us really cared for it. So now we have about ten gallons of overly sweet strawberry jam, ten loaves of bread and a minuscule amount of butter.
I might hold off on the artisan craft fair.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Little Stuart

Since I have been absent from my blog lately due to a myriad of excuses, I was really torn about what story to share for my first post back. Should I cover our snow and ice days? Maybe the epidemic level sicknesses that we have survived this month? No, the answer was very clear to me. There could only be one story important enough to supersede all that other crazy stuff and that particular story is the arrival of Little Stuart.
Some of you might be familiar with Little Stuart's predecessor, Stuart the Dog. If you don't know Stuart the Dog, well, how nice for you. Stuart is Connor's dog personality and he has been around as long as Kenny. The distinction is that while Kenny is a separate, imaginary person, Connor IS Stuart the Dog. Slowly but surely though, over the last year, Stuart has slowly been separating himself from Connor and we talk more about him in the third person as opposed to the first. I started to have a tiny ray of hope blossoming in my soul, that finally, we might be getting rid of one of our weirdo characters. Alas, this was not meant to be. As usual, once I decided to allow myself that tiny shred of hope that we might soon stop talking to ourselves and hugging air, I found out that Connor has been laying the groundwork for his little brother to take over the throne of family dog. Enter Little Stuart.

Since I have had a kid walking around this house barking and wagging his imaginary tail for years now, it really shouldn't have come as such a shock when our two year old started panting and licking the windows. But it did. I thought that maybe, just maybe, at least 1/2 of my children that would resist the urge to be completely sucked into the world of odd. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love that Connor is so super creative and smart, but a lot of times I just don't get him and I was kind of hoping that I could at least say I 'got' one of my kids. Connor, the devious puppet master, was thrilled. He and Little Stuart immediately dropped to all fours and started barking and wrestling with each other. FYI, Kenny was also overjoyed at the new addition to the family.

The following are some highlights of Little Stuart's personality. First of all he is absolutely so adorable you can hardly stay mad at him (Hudson also possesses this particular quality). He is particularly good at fetching things and if you ever instruct him to pick something up off the floor, he is happy to comply and will carry it wherever you desire, clutched tightly in his mouth. If I had to nail down a breed for Stuart the Dog, I would always have said some kind of sheep dog, a la the shaggy dog. I don't know why, but that is just how I picture him. Little Stuart is without a doubt a small breed, like a Chihuahua. I base this purely on energy level and the timbre of his bark. He can hear a siren ten miles away and will race to the nearest window, throw back the blinds, and let a yip, yip, howl combo that would put any purebred to shame. His favorite activity is to be walked on a leash, much like the original Stuart. It really gets his tail a waggin' to be hooked to that stupid leash. Never in all my life did I ever think I would be the kind of mother walking her kid/imaginary dog on a leash around the backyard. Yet, here I am.
Little Stuart also likes to wear his dog hat from Halloween two years ago. It is way too small and tends to rest on top of his head like a beanie, which contributes to the very distinct, possibly mentally unstable look.
I have included several pictures of both Stuart the Dog and Little Stuart taken several years apart so you can see how disturbingly similar these two animals are at their respective ages of two and half. That's two and a half in human years, by the way, not dog years.