Monday, April 25, 2016

The In Between

I really love this time of year.  This particular year especially. We are getting the first glimpses of what the next season will bring, both in our yard and in our family.

Ainsley as Charlie Brown in an Earth Day drama.  My girl reading in front of an entire congregation?!  I can't even put itinto words. Oh I can.. GOOD GRIEF!!!!! ;o)

New Costco hammock. Thank goodness it's only $30 and we have lots of trees. We definitely need another.


He promised he'd nap there.  He lied.

Our Magnolia tree!!!!

Sideyard, the underdog of the 1/2 acre, but wait! FOUR lilac bushes?! AND the raised berry beds and the perfect spot for t ball and soccer play?! Ok, new favorite spot!

Babysitting Rory for the weekend!

Watching Star Wars for the first time...all three of them.  They are officially more cultured than I am.

Felix on his THIRD birhday!!!

Ainsley continues to tire of my procrastination with properly decorating her room by doing it herself while we all sleep. This girl.  I tell you.

Ahem.  That's a Rory photo held up between a hair binder stretched between two nails.  Are you kidding me???!!!!

My parents came over for dinner last week (how fun to get to do that, mid week, just because!)  After giving Felix an early birthday gift (his very own soccer ball and rebound net!) and dinner and brownies my mom and Louise and Felix and I walked around the yard, my mom helping to walk me through identifying plants and upkeep help.  It was so much fun. This house and our plot keep revealing magic to us.

Just last week Felix and I found rhubarb and onions growing in the strawberry bed.  Tonight I learned so much more about what we have growing. Lilacs and bleeding heart bushes, crab apple and magnolia trees, new sprouting raspberries (in addition to the 30 foot bed of them!), tons of ground cover and more perennials than I knew to exist.  I remember how exciting it was to have our first yard space in oak park and to discover all that was planted there that first year.  Now to watch this garden unfurl, well it's a bit like Christmas morning every morning.

In this in between we're still finding our footing.  It's little things like how to take care of and clean a bigger house, how to do laundry and grocery shopping efficiently.  In general, how to parent growing learning little people, how to fit everything we need into a day, week, a season.

Today I was feeling overwhelmed.  I wasn't handling things the way I wished I had.  I am really struggling off and on to transition from my early years of parenting little ones to big elementary kids.  I am so resistant to all the homework and memorizing and un fun that must go into a day. I am resentful that they spend 8 hours at school and we still need to do more at home.  If we have even one thing after school it can feel like such a flurry to get it all done.  I am really thankful for my down time in a day and I want that for my girls, and growing boy when it's his turn for school. We are learning to balance a bit more and already choose the things that mean the most.  I'm finding I am so excited for the long open days of summer. I'm starting to plan for that too.

Our garden has been put on hold while we wait to get some utilities mapped out. I ran into our phone line while taking off sod (mere inches under the ground!) and am panicked about finding a gas or electric line while making the garden. I don't deal with stresses and set backs like this well.  I am SO antsy to get the hardy seeds in the ground. I may have to go get some tiny seedling planters to get things going a few weeks early indoors.

Though! I still have lots of yard and garden work to keep me busy. I weeded the whole raspberry and strawberry/rhubarb patches and have started transplanting some of the raspberry plants that have migrated out of the raised bed.  I love being able to watch the life cycle of those plants. We have tall thriving stalks that will produce this year, just as many dead stalks that produced last year and need to be cut back and brand new seedling plants that will produce next year.
The strawberries look very hardy and I'm excited for the yield that will bring and all those delightful white blossoms to come. Ainsley is already asking when the strawberries will be ready to pick. Gearing up for patience for us all this first year figuring it all out!

Louise's Tball season starts next week and I find myself excited and a bit weary.  I know once we get out first practice and game under our belt it will all be fine but I want it to go well and I feel some definite pressure being the coach.  I'm glad they make it so low key with very low expectations! And Louise looks so darn cute in her full baseball gear.  It'll be fun!

Spring life is so wonderful.  This first spring together in our new Minnesota home feels almost monumental.  I watching it happen, already knowing I'll remember it forever.  Special, magical stuff.

Food. Reboot.

Ian asked for Moosewood recipes this week. That's how I know how bad it's gotten.  Felix's giant hot dogs for his birthday hardly felt like a treat.  Whoops!

I am not in a routine with so many things still and I'm spending way too much time lamenting it. I just need to do it!!!

"Long December and there's reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last."

I made a new pandora station today.  Blue's Traveler.  Perhaps it's moving back to my hometown, or driving by the Caribou turned Chipotle that I worked at all through high school or my girls going to my elementary school, but I'm feeling nostalgic like whoa.  Blue's Traveler Pandora is essentially my high school soundtrack.  It was just what I needed to motivate me for my afternoon cooking extravaganza.

Prompted by Ian's Moosewood requests I made a drastic menu plan and grocery list for the week, blew our whole food budget for the week on two grocery stops this morning and it was go time.

I made seven dishes this afternoon.  It felt phenomenal. These are the moments I know where I'm right where I should be.  Some people thrive on a good progress report or streamlining some mundane task or giving a killer presentation.  Me?  I am downright high when my fridge and freezer are stocked and my week is planned out and I can BREATHE.

A lot of my inspiration came from a cookbook I stumbled across and requested from the library Family Cooks.  So far so incredibly good. I actually focused a lot on breakfasts and lunches this week.  I've found I can't just plan dinners and rely on cereal and sandwiches long term. This makes everyone bored and lazy with food and inevitably after eating poorly for the first two meals of the day we give in to convenience for dinner.

Coincidentally those were the dishes I was most impressed with in this book.  Her ideas for overnight parfaits and porridges were especially appealing.

Today I bought 12 8oz jelly jars from the hardware store and filled them with "Summer Berry Porridge".  Kefir, yogurt, rolled oats, maple syrup, berries and chia seeds.  The oats and chia seeds soften overnight and result in a fancy feeling grab and go breakfast. JUST WHAT I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR MY WHOLE COOKING LIFE.

I also made a batch of breakfast burritos for Ian.  Sausage, sauteed onions and peppers, hot salsa, parmesan, spinach. I was feeling bad that my guy goes to work without a homemade breakfast.

I then made two lunch salads. Quinoa and carrot and apple.  The kids weren't as big of fans of the carrot and apple as I'd hopedbut I'll put some in the girls lunches regardless. I've found they eat things better when it's their only option.  I'll add a cut up cheese stick. That should do the trick.  I love the quinoa salad.  Red quinoa, baby kale, parsley, carrots, celery, dried cranberries and a simple lemon vinaigrette.  I'll probably add some feta and walnuts and sunflower seeds to make it feel like a legit lunch.  Yum.

To finish I made some Chocolate Chia pudding which, admittedly, took a few bites to get used to, but once I did sprinkled with berries, it was delicious. We like dessert in this house.  Healthy dessert is a good thing.

For dinner tonight I made a Cottage Pie, from Moosewood.  The kids will choke it down and Ian and I both like it.  It's always a welcome blast of veggies and I love the unusual combination of fennel and dill in it.

 This + eggs and cottage cheese baked in a pie crust til golden and bubbling.  Yum.

Wait that's only 6...oh yes! I also made some banana muffins also from Family Cooks.  I was dubious because they used coconut oil for the fat which I've only had moderate success with in baked goods, and ONLY whole wheat flour.  They are delicious.  I amy never make "normal" muffins again.

So I feel pretty set for breakfasts and lunches.  I got some good lean smoked ham and chicken and smoked salmon for lunch proteins.  For dinner we are trying Pakistani Kima, a simple ground beef curry, Tuna patties, One pot pasta with whole wheat noodles and kale, wild rice soup, potato leek soup (spring rain weather is good for soups!) Zucchini bread to go with all that soup, and then fish and roasted chicken for the weekend.

I may be resistant to routine, but groceries and heavy cooking on a Monday never served me wrong.  One foot in the right direction!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Florida and Beyond

This week did not go as planned.

We got back from Florida last Thursday.  It was such a wonderful trip.

It was hard not having Ian there the whole time but much easier than previous years. Ainsley was diving to the bottom of the deep end for toys, Louise was swimming the length of the shallow end under watera nd Felix was happy as could be with his cousin pal Sam and his floaties.  I spent the better part of those last 4 Ian-less days sitting on a chair poolside just watching my kiddos play. Life is changing!

I opted for evening flights this year, mainly so that the girls would miss as little school as possible and because they were the cheapest non-stops from Minneapolis.  It went really well!  I am such a nervous flier and hadn't been by myself with the kids in two years.  It's SO much easier to navigate an airport when all of your children can walk by themselves and carry their own backpacks. The girls even fought over who got to pull the carry on!  Game Changer.

For the plane ride we splurged and put The Peanuts and Shaun the Sheep movies on our ipads.  The kids happily watched, then snoozed a bit. Bliss.

I was excited to have four full days on the other side of our trip to reboot for real life.  Friday felt a bit hard as I had to grocery shop with all three which is MUCH harder without at least one child in the cart. I checked out with numerous items I hadn't intended to buy and duplicates of many things the kids know we eat.

Saturday we went to the Macy's Flower show which was beautiful but crowded. I took the girls to Excelsior Bay Books over nap time and we spent a good hour perusing for Felix's birthday and for new books for my budding readers.  I found Brave Cowboy for Felix and Ainsley got her first Mad Libs and she's obsessed.  And can I just way how much I HATE the Rainbow Fairy books? $5 each for total fluff reading that's a part of a never ending series with the same problem in each book? They are Louise's current favorite and the bane of my existence.  She also loves Elephant and Piggie though, so we're making do.Ainsley on the other hand is loving the Magic Tree House books which I love too, and just finished her first chapter book, Alice in Wonderland, all on her own.  It's an exciting time!

We spent the rest of the weekend celebrating Emmiline's 2nd birthday with family, seeing Ruth and Dan's new St Paul apartment and exploring their neighborhood, and having cousins and neighbors over to play on a bright warm Spring afternoon.  Ian and I were both so giddy Sunday night.  Life is so full and easy here.  It was a great weekend.

Monday the girls had school off so we all took Felix to preschool and then I let them each choose a special thing to do. Louise wanted to go to the indoor playground and Ainsley wanted to get hot chocolate.  I took the girls to Beanhaven after the Treehouse and noticed something was off when Louise barely touched her hot cocoa or her half of a cookie.  She'd spiked a fever within hours and has been laid out for two full days.  Poor girl.

The girls missed their first dance class of the season and Louise has missed the first two days back at school.  Now Felix has a fever and a cold as well and I'm actually going a bit batty being indoors when all my plans included being out and about.

I'm trying to reboot and have been cleaning and planning a bit.  I am so very excited about all the things I'd like to make.  Just when I thought I was winding down with knitting after finishing a shawl for myself and Ainsley's spring sweater I find my needles furiously clicking to make the girls each a pair of fingerless mittens and Ruth and Dan an housewarming lap afghan.  I made some pillow tops for Ruth and Dan as well and it's sparked my sewing bug again.  I'd love to make the girls some summer dresses and still have to make valances for Ainsley's room, the dining room, and living room.  I'm also a bit antsy for a new quilt.  I was browsing Anthropologie and found a fun design that I think I could replicate rather simply.  Our current quilt is a bit too short scrap quilt I made, and my 6 foot tall guy pulls it all the way off  almost every night.  So that makes it a need right?!

I'm hoping to continue my good cooking groove from before break.  It's disheartening to spend so much our first week back on food thanks to all those eager helpers at Trader Joe's on Friday, but I'm good at using what we have and hoping to make it last a long time.  Meals on the list:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Carmelized Onions and Sauteed Greens
Tuna Melts and Tomato Soup
Barbeque Chicken Breasts with Baked Brown Rice and Spinach
Swedish Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and Corn (Ians request of course)

I'm thinking of doing some kind of creamy polenta meal and a breakfast for dinner at some point.  Both easy and cheap.

So here's to revamping my plans.  I'm trying to motivate to start digging up the space for the vegetable garden (the ground is finally mostly unfrozen!) take down the Christmas lights and gear up for this new season outdoors.  The flowers and trees budding on our 1/2 acre are so incredibly exciting.  I'll try to keep up taking photos so you can all help me figure out what we have growing here!  It's great!

Happy Spring!