Tuesday, December 27, 2016

New Year

Christmas and New Years look a little different now than they used to.  There's no long traveling days and flurried packing and sadness leaving our tree on it's own hundreds of miles away.  But there's also no full week off for Ian.  He's loving his new job but the time off is built up so these first years are feeling tight on long family vacations.  We'll get there.

In the meantime I get this week to myself with the kids.  Right now that means staying up while Ainsley putzes around in her room until almost 11 and getting up with Felix at 6:20 to help him find his new favorite batman mask and costume because he just can't start the day properly without them (I get it bud, for me it's coffee and a plan).

To be honest I'm excited about this week.  The kids got so many wonderful new things to do and play with.  We spent all day yesterday (the day after Christmas) building and creating and napping (for me!).  I read 1/3 of the first Harry Potter book to the girls and if Ainsley had her way I'd have read the whole thing straight through. (When Louise woke up this morning she told me excitedly about a great dream she had about Hagrid...success!)

I LOVE seeing their interests so honed in on this Christmas.  Ainsley is particularly enamored with all of the doll goodies and medical things she received.  From Santa she got the American Girl diabetes kit and arm crutches and from her Aunt she got a playmobile hospital and between those two she was occupied for 5 hours yesterday.  Louise's favorite so far is a paint set she received from Grammy.  The paintings look so professional and her hands are adorably stained from her hard work. She's also IN LOVE with her new Wellie Wishers doll Emerson. As I mentioned Felix is SO into his new superhero duds.  It's so funny to me that Ian and I made this little uber boy.  Santa brought him the Millenium Falcon, that plus his new Rescue Bots, giant Firetruck, and read aloud super hero books are pretty much all he wants in life.

I feel odd not having a knitting project on my needles at the moment.  I have a few baby things I could knit, and I've been wanting to make myself a winter hat, but for some reason the motivation to start isn't there.  I'm putting a lot of my mental energy towards this yoga program I'm doing, that and trying to stay away from sugar and treats to up the effectiveness of the daily yoga seems about all I can muster!

Ian got me Molly on the Range for Christmas and I want to make nearly everything in it.  This woman and her recipes appear to be the combination of everyone and everything in my life.  Born in the north suburbs of Chicago (my parents!) to a Jewish mother (Julie and Sim and Rory) and a Chinese dad (yum cuisine!) moved to New York for school, married a Scandinavian man (Ian + his entire side of the family), moved back to midwest (north Dakota/Minnesota) and currently lives on a chicken farm writing her food blog (pretty much my life dream).
Ian's hankering after the cauliflower shawarma and I'm super excited about the wild rice hot dish, homemade dumplings, and Israeli Shakshuka, among many other things.

I'm still really trying to revamp my meal planning, mainly sticking to the meal plan.  It's been really hard to shake the take out habit.  By the end of the week I am so over cooking and cleaning up after cooking that pizza just sounds so much easier.

I'm slowly remembering that keeping simple pantry staples is enough to throw something together most nights.  Last night I made crepes stuffed with leftover ham from Ainsley's birthday and roasted cauliflower, from the veggies tray on her birthday, topped with a simple cheese sauce (recipe for that and the crepes from my Moosewood cookbook).

I've really liked having a soup in the fridge for easy healthy lunches this winter.  Yesterday I made a batch of lentil soup (also from moosewood) and love that it was so simple (made just from pantry ingredients) and super healthy.

Today I am hoping for a slow morning, getting a few things done, getting out a bit, and lots of fun family together time.

I hope you all have a great week bridging these two fun holiday weekends!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas week

I was up with Ian this morning, a rarity for me.  Now it's 6:30 and I'm showered and checked email and had coffee, and...now what?

December has been great so far.  Lots of fires and treat making, snow playing, book reading, wrapping paper making, things in Santa Mug sipping.  It's perfect.

I am so excited for Christmas this weekend. I'm like a  kid at Christmastime.  I love the excitement and the surprises and all of the anticipation and preparation.  This year my one big regret is not planning better with Ainsley to help her make gifts.  That girl has such loft expectations (trying to sew shirts for everyone!) I want to help her achieve her goals of giving in a realistic way for us both.

One thing I'm loving this year is letting go even more of having to do it all in time for Christmas.  Everyone will have something to open. We will all have PLENTY of treats.  But the decorated gingerbread may have to change into stars to make a January garland (or hearts for Valentine's day?!) The Christmas theater outing will have to be a late winter outing (I do HAVE To find a Nutcracker that won't break the bank for next year though, the girls were disappointed).  I don't have to buy and wrap every single great idea I had.  I can save things for when they need them, remembering that it's so fun a special to get things "just because" throughout the year.
I'm even trying to let go of Ainsley's birthday a bit.  She's reached the age where she's a bit sad that her birthday is shared with Christmas so we're waiting on her friend party until later in January.  I think it will be a good thing for us all.  Letting go.

This week is shaping up to be full but manageable (I hope!) Felix's preschool program yesterday was adorable and today and tomorrow are the girls' holiday parties in the afternoons.  I've spent the morning looking up some last minute crafts that the kids could make because Ainsley is desperate so I may go get some supplies with Felix today.  Last minute elving is the best!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas week!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Too Long! Fun New Food

I cannot believe that it has been over a month since a post.  Oops.  The truth is that my tiny macbook air is full and my phone is full and I just need to motivate to clear everything off so that I can take photos again.  Sad but true.  Well that and this new medication is making me feel so sleepy that I have no extra energy for anything.  Well, it's either the medication or the three children.  I feel like either way I'm in trouble.

I am so incredibly excited that it is December. But first! Thanksgiving....we had a wonderful holiday. We started the festivities with traditional soup dinner at my mom's the night before, all 18 of us. The next say we hosted here at our house.  Ian's family came, grandparents and all.  It was such a calm wonderful celebration.  I used the convection setting on our oven and our turkey was done in 2 hours.  Amazing.  The kids enjoyed watching the parade on TV in the morning (thank goodness for our free satellite TV over and over again).  We ate by 1 and then sat by the piano and sang and played and talked.  We enjoyed a quiet evening just us 5.

And now Christmas.  I have always been such a believer, such an enthusiastic supporter of this holiday.  I love most everything about it.  The excitement, the anticipation, the magic, the meaning.  I LOVE giving presents.  I love baking and sharing love and wondering what's to come.  It can feel like a lot to fit into a few short weeks, especially with Ainsley's birthday and full weekends and all of the normal school/after school stuff.  This year I'm thankful to have done most of my shopping early.  I feel like I can relax and focus on the making which is my favorite part.

I'm almost done with the body of Louise's sweater and hope to have that done soon.  I bought yarn to make a few simple felted projects as gifts so I'll have to motivate for that soon.  I have one or two simple sewing projects to do for Christmas, nothing for the kids though.  I'm realizing I love just making things as they need them or request them.  I think new dresses for the girls are on the docket soon.

I've been loving a new cookbook I found at the thrift shop.  It's all Christmas cookies and I earmarked 22 recipes that sound appealing so I'm hoping to work my way through some of those.  I love trying new recipes.  The excitement that I may find a new favorite is addicting.  Yesterday I tried some toffee squares and cream cheese cresents.  They were both really good.  This week I'm hoping to do some gingerbread and some iced orange cookies I found.

And in other food related news I'm on another health kick/reboot, this time geared at finding a diet that gives me more energy.  Less than 48 hours in I can tell you I feel a marked difference in my energy, mostly in my eyes.  They used to always feel so heavy and now I feel like I can fully open them and I just feel lighter, does that sound crazy?

I literally typed in "foods for high energy" into google and made a list.  Here's what I ended up with for the week.

Blue Smoothie - 1/2 cup each skim milk and fat free plain greek yogurt, 1 tsp, ground flax, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 banana, 1 tsp. honey, 1 large bunch of kale
I don't have a good blender, but my handheld did alright.  The flavor was good but the kale was still a little chewy for me.  I'll keep sucking them down though if they're working!

Granola on top of plain greek yogurt with strawberries and honey. I love Great Harvest granola or Eliie Kreiger's homemade variety.

When I'm in a hurry I grab one of the Melaleuca bars I keep on hand, either the Attain or the Fiberwise varieties are really good.  Or if I'm REALLY struggling to decided I just grab a banana and slap some peanut butter on it.  Yum.

Picture this, delicious fresh whole grain bread toasted, topped with 1/4. avocado smashed with lemon juice, arugula, sliced tomato and smoked salmon.  That was a good idea.

Chicken Curry Salad with a slice of that same whole grain bread and an apple (I can' find a link to the recipe I used! I did two cooked diced chicken breasts, diced apple, diced celery, chopped almonds and raisins, the dressing was simply half greek yogurt half olive oil mayo and a good teaspoon of mild curry powder, plus I always season with salt and pepper...it was really good)

Greek Quinoa Salad

Snacks: Dried fruit (cherries in particular are said to be good for boosting energy), Edamame, green tea and black coffee, I made some muffins today with Felix too if I get really hungry plus the kids love them for breakfasts and snacks (I didn't have any applesauce on hand so used apple butter, that was an excellent choice)

Herbed Pork Tenderloin with leftover brown rice broccoli casserole from the weekend
Lentils and Polenta
Sweet Potato Hash with sautéed greens and soft cooked eggs
Veggie burgers and sweet potato fries
Greek Cod Cakes with whole wheat cous cous and roasted zucchini
Whole Wheat tuna noodle pasta with peas
Canned Indian dishes over brown rice with carrots (trader joe's has a new line of canned Indian food so of course we had to try them!)
Brown Rice and Shrimp Risotto with Spinach
Trader Joes meat lasagna (I bought the individual spinach lasagna for myself because it's apparently much healthier, I hope it's good!)

I like that this menu feels very manageable and healthy and filling.  I bought enough that we'll have some meals to make for next week which is great because I know after a heavy cooking week I can get burned out and it's nice to have things already planned/in the freezer.

So up next will be the fun photo post I promise!
Happy December everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hump Day Nuggets

I'm sitting by the fire, drinking wine after a great streak of days.  As usual, I just want to bottle up life just as it is, and simultaneously go back and forth in time.

Life seems to be finally settling.  Have I said that before?  The truth is this first year here has been wonderful, but rocky.  Ainsley still cries about missing her old friends and our house and neighbors, even asking if we can just go back and knock on the door and tell them we changed our mind, can we please have our home back?  My heart breaks because I'm a feeler too.  I know what she's feeling and I hate that I can't make it better.  All I can do is surround her with love and the goodness that's all around us here.  It's just going to take more time than we'd hoped.

We decided to go to the cabin last minute last week.  It's our first MEA in Minnesota after all! (four day weekend for my Oak Park peeps)  It was so incredibly wonderful.  I started a new knitting project after finishing Louise's sweater.  We kept ourselves busy and lazed just enough.  I planned well mostly in that I cooked everything here (chili and  meatballs and potatoes) and just had to heat things up and cook simple things there (TJ's pancake mix and pumpkin rolls are the best!)

'Now we are home and looking forward to Halloween.  We are having a cousin party at our house and trick or treating with new friends and that all feels really good.   This week I've had fun making costumes for the girls.  Felix needed a store bought Iron Man because I knew I couldn't do that justice on my own!

I've been loving the weather, cool and beautiful, a few dark rainy days here and there.  Perfect for fires and knitting and being out and about getting things done.  That's Felix up there giving me the thumbs up for his first bread machine bread of the season (accompanied by Smitten's Beef, Barley and Leek soup - so incredibly good and easy.  He's also a superb yarn winder.  When I ask him to help he runs to get the winder out of the cupboard in the dining room and after I get it set up he does the whole thing.  I love that little guy.  (the red yarn is for a new sweater for Ainsley, Louise wants one in off white because I suggested a neutral might be good, oh that girl!)

Now a complete digression...
I want to share something personal, about mental health.  I hadn't been to a "proper" doctor in years.  I'd seen only midwives since I got pregnant with Ainsley and since we're done with that phase of life it was time to find a doctor here.  I was scheduled for a full workup in September and was so sure they were going to find something catastrophic.  Cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, some kind of incurable horrible cancer.  But you know what?  I'm completely healthy.  Except, I still have debilitating anxiety and depression.  I'd been on medication from high school until right before I got pregnant with Ainsley.  Then off it since because it wasn't life threatening.

It's been over three years since Felix was born and I've struggled so much.  For some reason as a mom I thought more than ever that I should be able to overcome it on my own.  But I wasn't.  I was miserable most days, but the few good days I'd get every once in a while were enough to convince me that I was going to make it.  Well, I decided to come clean at my exam.  Thankfully they made me take a mental health questionnaire and well, I failed.  I've been on medication for over 4 weeks now and I feel like a new person.  I decided to write about this in case anyone else in in the same boat.  It was so hard for me to admit that I couldn't fix my problems on my own. But here I am, doing so much better.

Ah, so life is settling in.  I pinch myself every day.  I love it here so much.  I wish I could meld Oak Park and here together somehow.  This will be life I think.  Figuring out how to meld it all together, and being thankful for what's right in front of us, all the while.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Biking and Yardwork and Decorating, Oh My!

Ah fall.  It continues to be my favorite.  Just last weekend I went biking on the trail, past the lake, into Excelsior for lunch and baby shower planning.  When I got home I walked in the door and demanded that Ian do the same, bike to the lake that is.  I still pinch myself almost daily that we are here, in this perfect spot, Minnesotans again, all five of us.

Felix and I have been living it up while the girls are in school.  I find I have to keep our plans on the down low or the girls get crazy jealous.  If they do, I simply remind them I had this time with them too when they were little.  They still think it's dramatically unfair.  I hear that, but what's a mama with her last little baby to do?

trike ride around the neighborhood

burley/bike ride to the park

picnic lunch at a park preserve after biking to the library

The Arboretum

Lunch with daddy on his telecommute day

Iron Man!

We've been biking everywhere.  If Felix had his way he'd chug along in that trike all day.  I compromise by doing one lap around the neighborhood and then hitching up the burley for the hilly miles long bike rides to our destinations.  I know I'll always miss the walkability of our old home, but I LOVE all of the biking.

Here are a few measly photos of the house, well more the decorations for fall and our new piano!!!!  I keep promising myself I'll take proper house photos when the house is mostly clean that one day a week that it is, then I never do.  Someday soon.  

I've finally begun to tackle the clean up of the yard for winter.  Bit by bit things are getting cut back and tidied.  I knew that it was going to be a big job and it is, but I love having the sun on my face and my helper Felix by my side and those gorgeous mums popping up everywhere don't hurt one bit.

This week I'm looking forward to the girls' conferences.  I love both of their teachers so much and they both seem to really be finding their groove in school.  I really love my morning alone, exercising and moving at my own pace for a bit.  This week I hope to start some new knitting projects. I finally finished Ruth and Dan's afghan and now I hardly know what to do with myself.  Perhaps finally finish our quilt top?  And of course the girls' costumes need to be made, though after seeing the Wizard of Oz for the first time tonight they're both reconsidering being munchkins instead.  Ha!  We'll see!


I cannot believe that it is already October!  The first month of school flew by.  It was almost one full year ago that I got the call from Ian that we were moving to Minnesota.  In a few short weeks we'll have been here for one full year.  One full year!

It still feels bittersweet at times for us all.  Ainsley was crying again the other day about missing her old school and friends, reminding us that she's going to go to college in Chicago and what are the chicago colleges again? I love imagining my girl all grown up going back to her hometown for college.

Ian and I both miss friends and neighbors a lot (yes all of you!!!!) I find I'm not an adult who jumps in easily to things.  I'm friendly (I hope!) but it takes a lot for me to make a true connection with someone.  I miss the ease with the friends I had there.  It's invigorating and exhausting all at once to have so many new faces here still.

I am so excited to have fall this year.  Last year fall was completely chaotic.  This year we are home.  We have everything in place.  The girls are loving school, after school spanish, dance classes, seeing friends.  Felix is loving preschool, staying after for lunch bunch, his sports camp with his cousin.  I am loving a few mornings a week to myself.  I get to workout at our gym, get errands done quickly and easily.   On Fridays Ian works from home and last week it dawned on us that we could go out to lunch, just us two, so we did.  It's a new phase of life for all of us.  It is so good right now.

After months of being outside in the garden and yard, at parks and on bikes, I'm preparing for the months ahead inside.  Our house feels almost entirely set up.  We got things up on the walls this summer which helped immensely and just yesterday brought home our (new to us) baby grand piano.  In a stroke of complete serendipity my childhood piano teacher was selling hers.  We spend a lot of time every day gathered around the piano, dancing, making music.  It's all I'd hoped it'd be.

I am loving fall cooking and preparing for holidays.  I found a few fun things at our thrift shop to decorate with, and am discovering new favorite recipes and unearthing old stand bys.  I cannot wait for the chicken wild rice soup and beef stew this week.  It's supposed to cool down big time after today.  We've already turned the heat on for a bit and I have a feeling it will go on for good in the next few days.  I can't wait for evening fires and lots of yummy things baking and bubbling away in the kitchen.

I am slowly finding my new groove.  Felix has pretty much stopped napping which has changed my days.  It's the first time in almost 8 years that I can't count on a few hours of time in the afternoon.  I honestly don't mind.  I have my mornings and I am so acutely aware that I have two years left with my boy before he too heads off to full day school.  I'm hanging on with both hands right now.

Today I am thankful for the rain.  I'll get the girls out the backdoor to the bus and Felix and I will hunker down.  Spice playdough? an art project or two? some reading and puzzles and blocks and knowing my guy some sword fights or chasing games around the house.  Then perhaps a nap together (the only way he'll nap) and if I'm lucky a bit of time to myself to finally finish our quilt top or cut out a dress pattern for Louise.  Maybe at least a moment to order my fall project yarn?  We'll see.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Almost Fall

School has started.  Somehow summer has rather seamlessly flowed into fall.  In fact I know it's not quite fall yet and am reminded by this by my ever inquisitive fact seeking know it all children, but still.  These cool breezes and first color changing leaves and fires needed for warmth, they are 

But first, lets wrap up summer shall we?

Ainsley's new gas station glasses. I really don't have words for how perfectly these suit her personality and how much amusement they give me.

The garden at summers end.  I'm sad that it's just about over, sad that the rabbits and squirrels have taken so much for themselves.  Delighted though by all it accomplished it's first year and how much joy that one packet of sunflower seeds has brought.

The perennials gardens continue to amaze me.  Now we had seedums and mums blooming.  I can't wait to get the beds all ready for their winter's sleep and dream of what next year will bring.

The end of a hot summer looks like this...Loudness and calmness and mess upon mess.

For those who have seen Stranger Things, doesn't Felix remind you of someone?  At any rate, the dress up productions this living room saw in August, well, they were epic.

Our church summer has come to a close too.  This photo shows the kids saying goodbye to our beloved summer intern Alex (who just so happens to be an Alum of Pop's soccer team too).  Between VBS, Wednesday outdoor services, drama camp and the summer musical we really solidified our love for our new church.  We enter the fall as official members with three children begging us to go as much as we can.  I love what it's done for all of us.

A handful of photos from our Labor Day trip up North.

It was windy but beautiful and so nice to get away one last time.

The girls' back to school photos are on Ian's camera, but here is Felix on his first day of 3 day a week 3 year old preschool.  He had a wonderful first day.  I'm so excited for him this fall!

As the children find their rhythm in this new season I find myself searching for mine too.  I feel as if I'm at a strange in between place.  For the first time in years I have some time to myself again, not much, but some.  For now it's filling all too easily with errands and appointments, but soon I hope to find a cadence that helps me grow a bit too and do the things I need for myself.

Here's to fall and all the wonder it brings!