Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thoughts on a Saturday Night

The snow has started to fall.  We're supposed to get over a foot between now and tomorrow.
I hope so.
After holidays and weeks of running around and plans I am so looking forward to just settling in, playing in the fresh white, reveling in it all.

I just finished Parenthood.  Do you watch?  It's one of the great last family dramas on in my opinion.  I am so sad it's done but so glad with how it ended even if I'm still sniffling over it.

It reminded me of my grandpa, Bop, who died in September of 2013.  Towards the end of his life he kept commenting on his family, sitting back and taking in this large brood he and his wife were responsible for.  Now his grandchildren are all grown, his great grandchildren growing every day.  We're spread out all over the country living our lives, doing our own things.  It's such a treat to be together, even for my own nuclear family.  I am so thankful for us all.

I have become so aware in my adulthood of the preciousness of time.  Each day that we have is truly a gift, as cliche as that may seem.

Today I ventured out only once to get some groceries with Ainsley.  After a week of eating mere fiber bars and lean vegetarian meals I was excited for some good meat and a bit of decadence.  We had roast and mashed potatoes tonight. Tomorrow we have an assortment of sliders, stuffed jalapeños, battered baked veggies, and homemade wings. Who knows if friends will be able to join us thanks to the storm, but us 5 will have fun nonetheless.

I worked on our quilt.  Ian's and mine.  It should get done tomorrow.
I love that boy so much.  I am such a lucky girl to have found him.

Ian took the girls to get haircuts and then out to eat for lunch.  I snoozed with Felix after making the roast and dancing to Taylor Swift.  His toddler laugh and joy is all I need in the world most days.
Then the girls swung in the basement while I sewed and Ian took Felix on an errand to get shoe polish and to wash our van. He vacuumed it out and I am so excited to see it all clean tomorrow, or Monday, whenever I make it out.
Louise has lost her nay nay.  She has two but this is the one I made her.  I think I'm more devastated than her.  I don't know where it is, she doesn't either.  She's never lost it before.  I hope we find it.

Ian's fellowship is up in August.  He can apply for an extension which he most likely will as a safety and  because he loves his work right now so much.  I'm still holding out for Minnesota.  My heart always aches for that state.  It's been over seven years and Chicago has just never felt like home in the way that Minnesota does.

But I am thankful.  We have so much. Tonight I'm thinking of all the parents out there and grandparents and families and friends who are like family.  We are all so fortunate to have each other.
Each day is a gift.
Love to you all.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fun Things

I'm excited about a few new things.  I thought I'd share.

Ian bought me this blue light after Christmas.  I use it every day and have noticed a pretty remarkable change in my mood and energy levels.  I really really love it.

I just ordered a few things from Chinaberry.  It you haven't heard of this wonderful company I highly suggest perusing their sight or requesting a catalog.  Their book is my all time favorite reference for children's literature and general parenting goodness.  This go around I got their Valentine's kit, our hearth song one is finally depleted, and some fun treats for the kids for Valentine's day.  I really had to hold back and not get one of their mystery book boxes.  Someday!

Lately I've rekindled my love of sewing with amazing fabrics thanks to Felix's quilt.  Poor boy's favorite blankies barely covered his toes and I wanted to make his crib feel  a bit more like a bed.  I bought this fabric bundle from my absolute favorited fabric store and was so incredibly pleased.  The quilt turned out so well and I had the perfect amount of fabric.  I have two more quilts on my docket so I just made another order and cannot wait to receive all the beautiful fabric.  I was emailed right after my order was placed to clarify something and an 8 part conversation ensued about the awesomeness of fabric and ended with me scoring an awesome scrap bundle in my order.  I love this store!

I'm excited to have stumbled across these ABC coloring pages.

We've been working our way through First Art, a book I requested from the library.  The kids loved making colored gelatin to mix in ziplocs and it reminded me of some simple sensory fun I'd forgotten about (cornstarch, food coloring, water). It has lots of new dough recipes too so I'm excited to make some on these long winter afternoons (or at least the ones where we're not running around to activities!)
I'm also excited to dive into Drawing with Children with Ainsley and Louise.  It takes a bit more planning on my part but the lessons are awesome and since both of my girls are such little artists I really want to build and develop their confidence and skills.  It should help me brush up too!

These tiny mugs Santa brought the kids in their stockings and these clothespins are two of my new favorite things.  The mugs hold the perfect amount for hot cocoa, especially for Felix and the clothespins are used all over on yarn lines holding art projects, drawings, paintings, and tiny inspirations for the kids.  I love them! (really everything on this site is awesome, just have a look around)

I found Felix's new hiding spot which is definitely a fun thing.  I found the third wiseman from my brand new nativity set that had been lost since mid December.  Yay!  I was so worried he'd thrown him in the garbage. (His hiding spot is down the back cover of the tiny poang chair we have.  I found LOTS of tiny things in there)

The girls new favorite after school show is Odd Squad.  I feel like there are so few good "transition" shows from preschool to elementary aged.  This show is awesome.  Oh, and Wild Kratts of course.  Go PBS!

I just finished this book compliments of my father in law. It's the best book I've read in a long time.  I'm currently halfway through In the Woods by Tana French.  I'm loving it.  Yay for being able to find time to read again!

I bought a bunch of cheap old navy workout clothes on sale a few weeks back and was super pleased.  I needed new yoga pants and capris and they were by far the cheapest.  So far so good!

I got myself a few new things with Christmas money from one of my favorite places to shop online.  This dress (mine is teal, they must have sold out of that color, but seriously SO comfy and cute) and this swimsuit were my favorites.  I also found a new brand I love too, Horny Toad.  Lots of beautiful practical organic cotton pieces. I got a new skirt and a top that I'm excited to wear in Florida and all summer long.  I'm all about comfy skirts in the summer.

So yeah, lots of fun things.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Meal Plan and Weekend

Our weekends have been so full and good.  Saturday we took advantage of the Brookfield Zoo's free days.  The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny! and we enjoyed it a lot.  Felix spotting giant cats from afar is just about the cutest thing.  And poor Ainsley couldn't find a second quarter in her purse to make one of those fun smushed pennies.  Louise loved the dolphins best, especially the baby one.  We got home late, and I played with the girls while the boys napped.  Then I ran outside! Such a thrill.  Then I make frittata for the family and got to go out to a movie with friends.  We saw Imitation Game.  It was excellent.  Well done, intriguing, thought provoking, all the earmarks of a great film/good time.  Then we got a drink out and Ian ALMOST locked me out of the house.  What a night that would have been.  It was a spectacular day.

Sunday it snowed in the morning and we just hung out.  I cleaned lots and stayed in my jammies all morning.  We were having friends over for dinner so I made some blondies for dessert while Ainsley and Felix played and Ian took Louise to a birthday party.  We ate yummy take out burritos for dinner (why have I not thought to get take out when having friends over?  great idea) and the kids tuckered each other out before bedtime.
Great weekend.

Now the snow is falling again this Monday afternoon.  Felix and I bought all the groceries for the week this morning and dinner just needs to be assembled and baked.

This week I'm making three recipes from my Moosewood Cookbook.  Whenever I feel like we need a veggie/health boost it's my go to and I'm excited for two old favorites and one new recipe.

Old Country Pie - lots of veggies sautéed with herbs mixed with cottage cheese and eggs and baked in a pie shell, I'm excited! I was going to make our favorite cauliflower cheese pie but found this recipe and thought we'd give it a whirl.

Vegetarian Chili - Kidney beans, tomatoes, lots of good spices and bulgur in substitute of meat.  I'm subbing faro for the bulgur because TJs didn't have any bulgur and I was too lazy to go to a second store just for that.  We love it with a bit of cheese and organic sour cream on top and this time I'm going to serve it over polenta.

Ratatouille - for some reason I was just craving this.  I'm going to go get some fresh french bread from the bakery for this meal.  Yum.

Baked Beans and hot dog bake with cooked carrots, you know to even out all that healthy cooking for the rest of the week.

I never made the Martha Stewart one pot pasta so that will be this week and I'm thinking we'll have lots of leftovers from all the veggie chili and ratatouille so we'll do a leftover night, perhaps with some over easy eggs to round it out a bit.
This weekend I'm looking forward to another spur of the moment yummy meat meal from the new butcher up the street.  I think we'll just go on Saturday and see what they have that looks good and go from there.
I hope you all had a good weekend, and happy cooking!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mo Peez

Ok guys.  I finally got my photos up.  I've been so bad with my photos lately.  I LOVE my tiny macbook air but I do not love how little storage it has.  It means I'm having to find a new groove with my photo back ups and removal (which lets face it isn't a bad thing).  But I'm not a change girl so I'm still getting used to it!
Upside?  Lots of fun photos all at once.

If possible life just keeps getting more full.  I swear we don't have any more kids but the load just grows and grows.
I've told countless people that THIS has been my hardest parenting year, and I think it's true.  I don't have one single moment to myself in a day (until the kids crash).  It's just nuts, but so full and good.

More than ever I'm hanging on to the good.  I'm so much more aware of how good now is and how with each stage in all of our lives, something new and amazing shows up.

I love watching my girls learn to read.  At night they sit by the light of their nightlight and sound out words from my big adult chapter books.
Almost every day Ainsley comes home with a note of me that she wrote at school.
She has a book to fill with 100 words for their hundredth day celebration at school and she wants them all to be complex and new.  Not words like cat and Mom and love that she knows how to spell.  Oh that girl. She's not a simple one that's for sure.
We're finding a new groove with her too.  Using more humor and distraction to douse flare ups and tempers, finding alone time for her in a day. So far long baths and sink play are working wonders, as is a bit of one on one time with mom or dad on weekends.
Ainsley is so very creative, even I, with a like mind, struggle to keep her occupied and challenged.  She is forever arranging and rearranging and concocting and planning.  It's all so very elaborate and specific and exhausting and incredible.
Louise has taken to carrying around a tiny pink notebook and drawing all day long.  Her pictures are just the sweetest.
Our second girl is like a tiny angle sent from heaven (well they all are, but you know what I mean).  The other night I remarked at dinner that we forgot napkins and she quietly walked up and grabbed us all some and put them in our laps without a word returning to her seat.  She is so observant and calm. I try so hard to channel her zen most days.  She is the sweetest big sister imaginable to Felix and those two are such a pair.  One of the things I'm grappling the most with about kindergarten next year is taking them away from each other.  They are so in love.
And Felix?  Oh goodness he'll be two in three short months.  He sings and talks and is saying 3 and four word sentences (I want mo peez, is my new favorite).  He LOVES to read, and he loves birds.  He loves to watch the garbage trucks (just like his big sister Ainsley) and is most content to just wander around exploring.  Most of the time he loves when I sing and do finger plays with him.  But he can also be very opinionated and will vigorously shake his head no if he's not in the mood.
He is the sweetest little man I can imagine.

After a short break after Christmas making I'm enjoying new projects.  After finishing some last minute leg warmers for my dancer girl Louise, I stumbled across a half finished cap sleeve cardigan for me that I'm close to finishing.  It's quite the treat.
I made a spur of the moment decision to make Felix a quilt.  I am so in love with it I'm already concocting an excuse to make another.  Perhaps a throw for the living room? The girls need so little for the spring (so far) that I'm holding off on dresses and skirts until the need arises.  I simply must make Felix a light spring cardigan and summery quick change trousers though.  Who knows how long that little guy will be happy to let me dress him?

Ian is gliding along at work and we are anticipating changes in the next year.  Finally we should know where we'll be long term and while that thought is daunting I'm surrounding myself in the comfort of knowing and being here right now which has turned out to be a darn good place to be.

Late January love to you all!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Food This Week (1.19.15)

It's sad that I've resorted to documenting my weekly menu to get me writing on here.  It reminds me of my pathetic diaries in elementary school.  Oh well.  I'm hoping to get some photos and fun anecdotes up later this week. We've been having so much fun!

This weekend was a LONG weekend, starting with a day off for Ainsley on Friday and ending with MLK day today.  Saturday and today were awesome, Friday and Sunday not so much.  I was SO tired Sunday that I just laid in bed most of the day watching Gilmore Girls.  It was actually really nice.  Saturday we had friends over for breakfast and just had a great family day.  Today we went to the Shedd Aquarium.  It was so nice to get downtown on a beautiful blue sky day and see the kids all so excited about the fun sea life.  I LOVED the otters.  They've always been my favorite.  Then we hung out and Ainsley and I went shopping, got groceries and lattes.  I LOVE our town on these kinds of afternoons.  A 2 minute drive each way for great food and coffee.  Yum.  Then we cooked and I ran (!!!) and bathed and we had friends over for dinner.  There are hard things about winter but an excuse to have friends over more because you don't just run into people out and about in the summer sun.  There's nothing quite like a happy messy home at the end of a great weekend.

Ah!  Back to food!

Sticky Coconut Chicken with exactly what Mel suggests for a meal (coconut rice, spinach and strawberry salad, grilled pineapple)

Martha's One Pan Pasta

Potato Leek Soup and bread (recipe to be determined)

Baked Beans on Toast (kind of loosely based on this recipe, I think)

Life is getting crazy during the week and I'm succumbing to super simple meals and not even thinking about the weekends.  On Tuesdays we don't even get home from after school stuff until after 6 so I have to have dinner all ready and waiting.  For now, soups made earlier in the day seem to do the trick, though I may have to enlist some more crock pot meals.  I love them, but just don't have lots in my arsenal as of yet.

I hope you all had a great weekend.  Happy cooking!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Food This Week (1/11/15)

Oh man.  Last week was good.  Tonight was AMAZING.  Ian bought some pork belly at this new butcher and I found a taco recipe and it was THE BEST THING EVER.  Seriously one of the top ten things I've made, and it was so easy.
Pork Belly Tacos
(we just had 1.5 lbs of belly and it worked just fine.  I couldn't find the slaw he used so I just used regular and it was THE BEST SLAW!  And how ingenious to put a delicious slaw and avocado on your taco?  Yum.  I want more already.)

There's no way I can make this week live up to last week so I'm just winging it.  Still excited though.

Giada's Winter Minestrone with rolls (a healthy hearty favorite I haven't made in a while - and you must MUST add the parmesan rind.  It makes all the difference)

Butternut Squash and Kale Gnocchi (never made it last week thanks to the pork belly deliciousness)

Moosewood Spinach Calzones (another favorite I'd forgotten about)

Potsticker Soup (I have one package of potstickers in the freezer and since 1 package is not enough on it's own to feed our brood, soup it is!)

Eggs in Tomato Sauce (one of my favorite ways to have eggs for dinner when I'm all frittata-ed out, and a simpler nod to an old favorite Birds Nests

Trader Joes Fish and Chips (battered baked cod and sweet potato fries...another family favorite I haven't made in a long time, and by make I mean put in the oven.  Thank you Trader Joe's)

I'm also hoping to motivate to make some homemade cheesy crackers and raisin oatmeal muffins.  We'll see how motivated I stay after such a big cooking week this past week!

Happy cooking!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Food and Getting Organizes and Other Big and Little Things

One of my (many) new years resolutions is to stop trying to play catch up.  So right now I'm here and I want to write about now.

Today I am excited about cooking (again, finally).  It's a never ending annoying (for you to listen to too I'm sure) battle.  I love to cook but having it be such a large part of my job wears on me almost daily at some point.

This past week I've been making bread again.  The bakery where I buy our bread takes a nice long winter break (which I LOVE for them) but it means we need bread.  I pulled out my sunbeam bread maker and have thrown this loaf in three times now.  It's perfect and delicious and the giant load lasts us at least two days.  And can I just mention how much I've missed a good grilled cheese on thick slabs of fresh homemade bread? or coming in from the morning run around to a warm yeasty house?  Yum.

I have to mention this pasta I made last week.  It was amazing, so easy, and with light cream cheese and 2% milk a delicious nod to it's alfredo cousin.

I also made this yummy chickpea and greens stew that we put over baked sweet potatoes.  I loved it more the more I ate it and had it again for lunch.  This kids weren't such great fans, but sometimes I just don't care too much about that.

This week I'm making...

Pioneer Woman comfort meatballs, mashed potatoes, and green beans (an all time family favorite.  I always make a double batch to freeze for another time)

split pea soup with barley and ham (oddly enough I have ALL of the ingredients for this just lying around the house)

gnocchi with butternut squash and kale - super excited about this one, my sister made an amazing hoe made sweet potato gnocchi at Christmas (or was it Thanksgiving?) and Ive been jonesing for some ever since

crock pot chicken tikka masala, with peas and naan - we went to our indian buffet this past weekend and they DID NOT have butter chicken.  It crushed me.  I'm hoping this will suffice.

roasted chicken and veggies - a favorite simple meal of mine

and of course, a frittata, ALWAYS frittata

ooh, and a Moosewood blueberry lemon poundcake.  I made it with that delicious grassfed irish butter and it was ridiculously good.

Food aside, life is good.  I am really looking forward to these next three months, just being here, in our groove.  I took advantage of some end of Christmas sales to get the girls each new swimsuits, cover ups, and sandals.  Felix got some new sandals too.  Now I feel all ready for Florida in March and can really just sit back and relax.

My next big project is to get caught up with my photos.  I just ordered 1400 prints from shutter fly which will catch me up to this fall.  Then I'll do a batch after Florida (I assume) and get all caught up.  I'm just doing simple binders and photo sheets.  Perhaps I'll cover the binders in fabric to make them pretty.  Really I just want hard copies.  And if I'm REALLY ambitious I want to make myself a favorites photo book with all of my absolute favorite photos from the past 5 years or so.  Oh, and I have to make Ainsley her 6 year photo book.  Goodness, lots of photo work to be done!

I'm excited to do a bit of sewing soon as well, though I'm struggling with finding the time to fit it in.  I would love to make myself this dress with these fabrics, and of course new sundresses for the girls (Louise picked that one out).  Felix's button down I made him still fits, but I may try to find some simple shorts pattern for him as well.

Ok, so maybe there's nothing too big in this post, just fun little things.
I'm hoping this new year finds you all well.  Happy Monday!

Christmas 2014

Typical.  Sunday night, the last night of winter break and here I am scrambling to get my Christmas post up.  Ha!

It was great you guys.  A whole week in Minnesota to celebrate a-mundo and have so much fun.  Now a whole week back at home to nest and veg and play with friends.  It's been a great way to end and begin a year.

One of the cards for my camera is acting funny so I'm missing a few photos but I think you get the picture.  We had a great time.

Highlights:: quiet days and meals with Nana and Grandpa Dan, outings bowling and the Mall of America for Louise's fantastic build a bear thanks to Pop, decorating Ainsley's birthday tree with Auntie Jenny (she insisted on Auntie Jenny!) our slow happy Christmas morning, Ainsley's wonderful 6th birthday with lots of family and funny orange cake, Christmas Eve service with just us five, playing with sweet new baby Rory and all the cousins.  It was amazing!

At home we've celebrated New Years with friends, had friends over, went over to other friends, played and relaxed and organized a ton.  It was the perfect new years week.

Now school starts again and we are all ready.  I put up our new calendar this weekend and am gearing up for our fun full weeks.  For just this month we have the girls'  ice skating and gymnastics classes in addition to their new activities, Felix too.  It's going to be full, and good I hope!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday break!