Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Before...                                                                After.....

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

January Project - Family Tree

I realize it's almost March, but I still haven't finished my January project yet. As I've mentioned before our bedroom walls are still bare a year and a half post construction. I asked my kids to each make me a painting using colors from the Restoration Hardware color palette of the rest of the space. To tie it all together I wanted to paint a tree and have the kids handprints be the leaves. I have the tree done, and I hope to have the kids do their handprints by the end of the week.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Week 9 Menu

Sunday - Chicken Cordon Bleu
Monday - Chicken Tarragon with Dijon Cream Sauce - I add a 1/2 cup of white wine too since everything is better with wine :)
Tuesday - Caprese Chicken Pasta - winging this one, based on other recipes
Wednesday - Cajun Chicken with Red Peppers and Linguine
Thursday - Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Potatoes and Pears
Friday - Hamburger Stroganoff
Saturday- Leftovers?

Catching Up

Thursday my son's feeding therapist came again. After his warmups, she got him to promise that he would try to bite a piece of a real banana and spitting it out would be ok. He agreed. She asked him to show him where the bananas were. I asked if he wanted to pretend to be monkeys, and he agreed. When we got in to the kitchen, he pointed to the fruit bowl and said "oo-oo aa-aa" like a monkey. :)

He was very excited to tell her of his progress and she tried to get him to eat a real banana mushed up in the purée that he already likes. He wouldn't do it. Still he has gotten better at scraping things on his teeth, and licking food off of crackers or just licking them to try them. Unfortunately, he loves Fruit Loops. Yuck.

That night we went to Open House at our daughters' school. They were both really excited to show us their classrooms and the projects they've been working on, like my kindergartners "pinch pot" from art class.

It was a fun but busy night.

Friday was a good kid day. After dropping my daughters at school, my son and I played since we didn't have any errands to run. My youngest daughter had her half day for school, so after lunch and getting her brother to nap, we finally started work on our paintings.

My bedroom walls have been bare since we finished construction, so awhile back I decided that I would have the kids paint something for me using the color pallet of the room. The walls are Restoration Hardware Silver Sage. I decided that I want to paint a tree and have the kids make the leaves with handprints. It'll be a little tricky as it is latex paint, but my little guy has been doing lots of handprint art at his tots class so hopefully he won't mind too much. I did the blue background and the grass. Now I have to do the tree. I need to do a couple of samples before I do it on the canvas. My daughter did a pale blue background on hers and wants to paint designs and squiggles on hers.

After school we picked up my oldest daughter and picked up her Girl Scout Cookies. She sold 156 boxes. A few boxes went to the troops but most came to us. We spent the afternoon sorting them.

Once the kids were in bed my husband and I watched the Iron Lady. As usual Meryl Streep was very good. She always gets do deep into character that you forget she's not the person she's portraying. I try not to read any critiques of movies before I see them, but did see one about this movie that I agree with. The story was told based on how she is today (frail, forgetful, hallucinating that her husband is still with her) and flashing back to her past. While it was well written and the flashbacks made sense and helped tell her story, it made me a bit sad to see what she has become. Obviously she is elderly, she's 87, so the present day portrayal of her is probably accurate, but it was hard to see the Iron Lady looking so frail, especially the opening scene. I don't know if she or her family helped with the movie or were even consulted but hopefully it was done with her blessing. It wasn't disrespectful just sad. Overall, it was a good movie though. Well acted - a given when Meryl Streep is involved. growing up in the 80s I took for granted that Britain was run by a woman (or two women including Queen Elizabeth) but I didn't realize how hard she had to fight to get and stay there.

Today was a good at home day. My daughter and I worked on little cards to put on her Girl Scout Cookies,. For some reason the Girl Scout site doesn't have these ready made so we made them ourselves finding relevant pictures through Google and then adding our own caption. and then since it was relatively warm, we took the kids to play outside.

My friend stopped by with my Lia Sophia stuff which I am looking forward to wearing (just need to do some laundry first). I got the Vino Necklace and Birthday party earrings,

and Adriatic Earrings which I think will go well with the Blue Sky earrings I already have.

Caspian Sea Necklace

The one thing I don't like about these parties is that I tend to order things that are only in the catalog so can't always figure out how they will really look or fall. But so far I've only been disappointed once and was able to return the piece for a refund two years later so can't really complain. I received my invite to the other party today too, so hopefully will be able to make it to that so I can get the Wallflower necklace for my daughter.

And a couple of other things for me depending on what special they are running in March.  I'm thinking about these......

High Strung Necklace

Back Up Your Blog

Last week I had one of my shower epiphanies. With 3 kids running around, I don't get much time to myself. My morning shower helps me wake up but also helps me clear my head, and sometimes even gives me the luxury of a couple of extra minutes to think about things other than mentally prioritizing the day's to-do list.

Anyway, back to the epiphany. I started this blog for the convenience of writing on the go, and being able to track things that happen in our family. What if one day through some computer SNAFU it all disappeared? That would totally suck. I wasn't really sure how to back it all up, and then happened upon a blogpost by another blogger who showed how easy it is. Check out this post by this post by A Simply Klassic Home for easy instructions on how to do it.
I just did it with mine. I have it saved on my hard drive now and feel better (I know an external hard drive would be even better but since I don't have one, this will have to do for now.) It was very easy and only took a couple of minutes. So while you're sitting at your computer anyway, take the time to back yours up too.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Morning Drama

We were supposed to get 4-6 inches of snow last night so I was expecting that the kids would have a snow day today. Sadly, 6 am came and went without a call from the school despite snow on the ground and more falling.

I got the kids ready for school and as my daughter was getting her boots out of the closet I heard a bump and a scream. I ran over to hear and she was screaming crying and holding a tooth in her hand. Oh shit! She is in the middle of losing her baby teeth, but hasn't had a loose one in a while. She was bleeding quite a bit, so I ran down to get my trusty red washcloth (if you have kids you need to have some of these, trust me). I brought it upstairs for her still not knowing which tooth she had lost and thinking we may have to go to the dentist this morning as all her front teeth are now her adult teeth. We sat in the bathroom for a while with her on my lap crying while I cleaned her up with the washcloth.

Once she calmed I look at the tooth and the new space in her smile and confirmed that yes this was a baby tooth, and probably next in line to fall out given that she lost the opposite one not long ago. Phew!!!

The bleeding stopped pretty quickly and we left to walk to school. As we were walking I asked her how many teeth she had now lost. She answered 8 and then thought a little and said, "Duncan Keith may have lost 7 teeth but I lost 8".

In case you are wondering about the red washcloth, it's a tip I got from my Mom. Most little kids don't like the sight of blood (especially their own). So if you use a dark colored washcloth to clean them up, the appearance of the blood won't be as dramatic as say a white washcloth. I use red as I have gotten a couple of rally towels from Hawks games over the years that I keep for this purpose. I think one year they need to make one with the old line, "Give Blood, Play Hockey". Until then, I use these.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2 Good Moments

I started this blog with the intent of keeping track of the cute/silly things my kids do so I don't forget them. It's been a while since I wrote about one, but this week I actually have two.

My daughter is the "VIP of the week" in her second grade class this week. They are supposed to bring in pictures of themselves and their family, their favorite book, and fill out a questionnaire about their favorite things. She filled it out well in advance but said that she was nervous about one of her answers - her favorite TV show, Dinosaur Train. I asked her why and she said that she was afraid all the other kids would laugh at her and say it was a babyish show. One of her best friends told her that she watched it when she was two and she thought it was a stupid show. For the record, that's impossible as they are 8 and the show is only 2 or 3 years old, and I told my daughter this.

Most of her friends like shows like iCarly and Victorious and other things I've never heard of. I don't let my kids watch a lot of TV so when they do I want them to learn something not just watch some mindless tween crap. Every now and then they'll ask about a new show and I'll watch it with them and decide if it's appropriate. Sometimes, I'm ok with it, sometimes not.

Anyway, I asked her if it still was her favorite show and she said it was because she likes dinosaurs and likes learning about them. My husband and I told her that your opinions are important and while it is important to respect other people's opinions even if you disagree, it is even more important to stand by your own beliefs and opinions. People will respect you more for standing strong rather than bowing to the common opinion.

Her day came and she stood in front of her class and gave her presentation, including saying that Dinosaur Train is her favorite show. Guess what, no one said a thing, good or bad. She admitted that she had been silly to be worried.

Ok, story number 2. I was changing my son's diaper the other day and as he was lying on the changing table, he said, "I pulled on the curtain, and it fell down, and I'm sorry." I asked him which curtain, and it was one on a tension rod hiding a storage closet in our basement. I thanked him for telling me, and told him I would fix it. I have to say I was surprised and proud of him. He'll be 3 in May so I wouldn't have expected to admit to wrong doing, especially when we were not even in the room where it had happened. It was an easy fix but I made sure to praise his honesty again to him, and when I related the story to his sisters and my husband. I'm a big believer in catching your kids being good.

3 things I discovered this week

1. You can wash cashmere in baby shampoo and cold water. It's certainly gentler than dry cleaning and also better than Woolite. I tried it this week (starting with a couple of my older sweaters) and it works. I put them in a basin to soak for a couple of hours to overnight (if I forgot about them) and laid them to dry on a towel after gently pressing the water out - do not wring or squeeze. Done and done and still nice and soft.

2. Olio board - I love Pinterest for crafts, recipes, home organization stuff, but when it comes to decorating, this is so much better. You create boards of decor stuff by picking based on what other people have pinned or you can search through certain retailers. The best part is that if you click on anything you selected, it takes you to the seller's website and you can buy it!!!!!! Isn't that awesome? I have seen so many things on Pinterest that I like but have no idea where the pinner found them so it doesn't do me any good. Not all retailers are on there yet but Crate and Barrel ( and affiliates) are as well as tons of others. I haven't created any boards yet but look forward to starting.

3. Feeddler RSS - I've been following a bunch of blogs through GFC for a while but honestly rarely read their posts as I don't use a real computer much. I had resisted following new blogs as I knew I'd never find them again to read them. This app let's you access all the posts on your phone. It's perfect. I'm all caught up now (after reading through over 300 ppsts that were waiting for me) I look forward to keeping up with my favorite sites.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pasta with Tomato, Cream, Red Pepper & Vodka Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 - 14 oz can Italian diced tomatoes
1/2 lb penne 1 tbsp vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine oil, garlic and red pepper in a warm skillet. Heat gently until garlic starts to sizzle. Puree the tomatoes and add to the skillet. Cook stirring about 5 minutes. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Once finished. add the drained pasta to the tomato mixture. Stir in the vodka and cream. Continue stirring over heat so that the pasta takes on some of the sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week 8 Menu

Sunday - Beef Stirfry - failed, beef too tough for my younger one
Monday - Pasta with Tomato, Cream Red Pepper & Vodka Sauce
Tuesday - Chicken Quesadillas - no recipe, my local supermarket sells premarinated chicken, super easy
Wednesday - Italian Sausage Rigatoni
Thursday - Meatball Soup and Grilled Cheese
Friday - Mama's Amazing Ziti - I used mild sausage instead of ground beef to give it more flavor
Saturday - Out with kids
Sunday - Chicken Cordon Bleu

Week 7 Menu

Sunday - Almond Chicken Casserole
Monday - Weeknight Lasagna Toss
Tuesday - Chinese delivery
Wednesday - Chicken Bolognese
Thursday - Kid Food & Leftovers
Friday - Tortellini Alfredo
Saturday - Cheesy Chicken Rollups

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines Day

I've never made a big deal of Valentines Day and now that I have kids I figure it's just a fun excuse for school parties for them. I didn't get my husband a card which I probably should have, but I never liked Valentines cards card shops have. They are full of stupid innuendo jokes or over the top mushy. I happen to have a friend who writes cards for Hallmark and have told him this, but that didn't change anything.

I didn't want to ignore the day completely, so I showed my love for my family my usual way. I baked :) I didn't have time to do full on homemade, so just made Betty Crocker brownies. To make them a little more festive I used a cookie cutter to make the heart shapes.  Simple and cute. 

As my daughters were going through their Valentines I asked them who they got cards from (knowing full well that they all get from the entire class).  My Kindergartner told me that she got two cards from one boy and when he was giving her one of them he said, "Happy Valentines Day, you're my girrrrlfriend."  My second grader asked her if she also liked the boy and she answered no, she has a crush on a different boy.  I asked her why she liked him and she said that when they have free play at school and the girls want to play with blocks he always lets them and tries to convince the other boys to do the same.  So he is polite and shares - sounds good so far. 

My oldest then admitted that she has a crush on someone too.  He's not in her regular class but she sees him twice a week in the accelerated classes she's in.  I asked her why she likes him and got a similar answer, that he plays nicely with everyone, and is respectful.  He also doesn't yell like most of the other boys, except if he's trying to get someone's attention.  Again, good choice.

I let the kids have a couple of sweethearts with their snack and my son surprised me and asked for one.  He licked the whole thing, but even when it got down to a paper thin heart he refused to try and take a bite. It got stuck on his tongue at one point and he kind of freaked so I took it off for him. Even so, a big step for him. Twice this week he has asked me to get some of his snacks so he can play, and he has been licking lots of sweet things. When we were at the supermarket the other day he even got a box of Ritz crackers off the shelf and said that we needed to get them because that was one of the things he has used with the feeding therapist. I got a low sodium kind so hopefully he'll like it more.So far he hasn't really liked the crackers and I think they are just too salty since he's pretty much only been eating fruit so far.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Almond Chicken Casserole

3 cooked boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup red pepper
1/2 cup yellow pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 slivered almonds
1 cup shredded swiss cheese divided
1 cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350. Cut chicken into cubes. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add bell peppers and garlic. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Combine the chicken, 1/4 cup of almonds in a large bowl. Stir in the bell pepper mixture and 3/4 cup of Swiss cheese. Add mayonnaise and mix gently. Spoon chicken mixture into a large baking dish. Bake until golden brown about 25 minutes. Sprinkle remaining almonds and Swiss cheese on top of casserole and bake for 5 more minutes. Serve with French bread.

Total time 25 minutes prep, 30 minutes in oven

Adapted from Easy Everyday cooking. They included celery and used onion instead of garlic.

Week 7 Project - Kitchen Drawers

This week's project is organizing the kitchen drawers. After 3 trips to the Container Store (the first two because I didn't measure properly) I finally have our junk drawers under control. Thanks to some pegs I found at Meijer, my cleaning closet is all organized too. It already had the peg board, I just didn't have enough pegs. Anyway, here is the before and after.

After the first trip to the Container Store was unsuccessful I dumped most of the stuff in the second drawer and put stuff we needed most in the top drawer (not sure why I put the cigar in there).

I got some mesh wire separators at the Container Store and this how it looks now. So much better and easier, and I only removed a few things that didn't belong.

I also found some pegs at Meijer so decided to tackle our cleaning closet.


And now after

Everything has a peg, and nothing is in the way of getting to anything else.  For some reason I had two Swiffers, so I brought one upstairs for quick bathroom cleans. So much easier.  It almost makes me want to clean (almost).

Since I was at the Container Store I also got some bins for our coat closet too, so have already started working on that, even though that's next week's project.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

He Doesn't Like Real Food Unless It's Chocolate

Can't say that I blame him. I've often said that pretty much anything tastes better with chocolate or cheese on it. Seriously, think about it.

Anyway, a little progress report first. Last night I put some more Cheerio dust in my son's yobaby. He saw me do it, said he would eat, but then refused once I put it in front of him. This morning I gave it to him again, he still wouldn't eat it. I told him he couldn't go to his drop off class (which he loooves) without eating this first, still refused. So no class this morning. I worked on taxes and around 1045 he finally agreed to eat it. Again he said it was fine and couldn't taste it.

His therapist came around 1130 and I told her all of this. She said to keep doing it, and as he gets used to it thicken the consistency with blended oatmeal. She also said that kids shouldn't eat the same thing more than once every 2 days. Too hard to do at this point since there are so few things he will eat, but the idea is if the kid likes oatmeal, don't give the kid oatmeal every day for breakfast unless you change it up - either with mix-ins or even adding food coloring or sprinkles. After the usual warmups, we went to the kitchen for the food play.

She had asked me to buy Fruit Loops (my daughters were really shocked to see those come out of my grocery bags), and the small fudge stripe cookies. We did a lot of the same exercises as last week but this time with the fruit loops instead of Cheerios. Licking them, resting them on our tongue, putting them on dental floss and moving them with our tongue. She also asked him to nibble a little bit of the Fruit Loop. He got scared when he got crumbs in his mouth, gagged and started to cry and asked us to take it out of his mouth. We calmed him down but said no we wouldn't take them out of his mouth. He must have swallowed the pieces because he never actually spit them out. After getting him to do it again but biting off less we moved on to the fudge stripes. This time she had him scrape the chocolate off with his teeth. He was wary at first but once he realized that it tasted good, he did it with ease. He actually did a lot today, I think because he prefers the sweet foods to the salty (as do I, although the Fruit Loops were way too sweet).

Tonight after dinner I asked him to show the rest of the family what we did today with the fudge stripes. He sat in his chair licking that cookie til all the chocolate was off and the cookie part was all mushy. He had to have swallowed some of the cookie, but refused to bite it. We'll work on that more tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Week 6 Project

We're meeting with our accountant this week to prepare our tax returns, so this week's project is to get all our stuff in order. I like to do them as early as possible as we have always gotten a refund, and call me greedy but I want my money.

We've received all the documents we needed - W2, bank interest statements etc.
I got all our bank statements organized today and have gone through them to identify any checks that would be deductible.  Not many but we have a couple.
I've gone through my receipt folder and we have quite a few repair expenses on my husband's car, some basic office supply stuff, and a few charitable contributions (both goods and $).
I've downloaded the AMEX summary to find any deductible items on there.

Tonight I need to figure out the cost of my husband's car insurance for the year and our total cost for our second phone line and internet access, since those also qualify as business expenses. I need to figure out the value of the goods we donated. Once I have all that I can put it all in my usual spreadsheet to give to our accountant when we meet.  It makes it so much easier to review everything with her this way, and then we can use more of the meeting to discuss bigger questions of our finances for this year, like making sure we adjust our withholdings correctly to make sure we maximize my husband's earnings to take care of our short fall.

Menu of the Week

S- Super Bowl party - chili & pulled pork
M-BBQ Chicken
T- Peasant Pasta with Garlic Bread & Salad
W- French Country Chicken
T- Garlicky Baked Shrimp
F- Macaroni & Cheese
S- Chinese.  We haven't ordered out in ages, and I am really in the mood for some Szechuan beef

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I did it!!! I made a button

I've been wanting to make a button for a while but every tutorial I found used some of the applications I use but not all. I wasn't going to pay for new software just for a button. So after piecing together the advice from 3 different sites, I finally have it. I'll admit I don't love the design and will definitely play around with it some more.

I have to work on the coloring of the letters to make it easier to read, but I think it's a good start.

I figure now that I have the whole thing coded correctly, replacing it later with a better picture shouldn't be a big deal right? As a way of thanking the bloggers who helped (and so I can find them again if I have trouble), here are the ones I referenced.

Blogging With Amy - How to Make a Blog Button

Hip Chick's Guide to PMS, Pregnancy, Babies - How to Make a Blog Button

Musings of a Housewife - How to Create a Button Code

I ended up making my button in picnik, uploading it to photobucket, and then entering the code to my sidebar. As hard as I tried I could not get a URL from Picasa web albums, not sure what I was doing wrong.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dragging today

After a long but fun day yesterday, I'm having a hard time getting motivated to do post party cleanup. Luckily the damage isn't too bad but unfortunately most of the mess is in the kitchen.

We ended up with 49 people coming. 3 families cancelled day of due to sick kids. It ended up being the perfect amount. All the adults were able to sit and watch the game while the kids played in the basement. It was warm enough that the kids were able to play outside before it got too dark.

We had a good mix of food. We have a lot of left over chili and pulled pork but I froze it for my husband to eat another time.

Unfortunately, the birthday girl was one of the people who cancelled and I didn't get her text until I had already started making the cupcake. I made it anyway and it was a big hit with the kids.

As usual I didn't see much of the game but did catch the tail end and was glad the Giants won. I actually don't think anyone at the party was rooting for the Pats. I think everyone's gotten tired of Brady and Belichick. I know I have.

I managed to get the kitchen pretty well cleaned up while my son napped and am feeling much better now.  Hopefully once I get the kids to bed, I'll get some of the downstairs put back together.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Earlier this week I got a reminder email that registration is now open for the Chicago Marathon. I don't consider myself a runner, but when I do exercise, I do prefer to run over other options. 3-5 miles are my standard and I have never gone significantly over 5 miles. Despite all this next year I am planning on doing the Chicago Marathon. I say "do" not "run" on purpose.

This is not a bucket list item, in fact I always swore I would never do a marathon. Too many of my friends trained for months and were injured close to race day and couldn't participate. So why am I doing this?

For my Mom. She was diagnosed with MS 6 years ago. There is no cure and while she gives herself injections 3x a week, the effects of the disease cannot be reversed. The medication merely slows the progression.

The MS Society holds a myriad of fundraising events most of the ones by me are short walks 1-3 miles. I assume that is so people afflicted by this disease can participate. However, I feel if I am going to try to do some serious fundraising I need to do more to deserve the funds. I checked out the Chicago Marathon and the MS Society is one of the fundraising partners. They don't have a training team like the Leukemia Society or some of the other non-profits, so I'm on my own for that. There is a 6 hour limit to finish the marathon. My plan is to walk but I'll need to run some parts to make it in time. When I was in high school I did the March of Dimes WalkAmerica a couple of times with some friends. I think it was 25 miles but we stopped for lunch at McDonalds and ice cream at Baskin Robbins. I know I won't be able to do that this time. I would like to do it this fall but after thinking about it realize that 2013 is a better option for me. I haven't worked out in a while and know that with my youngest still at home, sticking to the training regimen would be tough. He starts preschool in the fall 3 days a week. It'll be much easier to start working out again at that point. I figure if I start in the fall, I'll be in good shape by next spring and then the training regimen would be no problem to get me ready for fall 2013.

I also figure I should try a few real races before the big day and have heard of some cool ones through running friends - Hot Chocolate, Color Run, Home Team Charity Run, to name a few.

There isn't much I can do to help my Mom day to day since she lives in Europe, but if I can raise some serious funds for research by doing the marathon, I would feel better. A bit selfish, but at the same time, I know walking 26.2 miles won't be easy, so it's not completely selfish

Super Bowl Menu

Tomorrow is the big day. SB XLVI.  We are expecting 59 people (about half adults/half kids).  We make a few basic things, and the rest is pot luck. Our contribution is as follows.....

Chili - gotta have chili, it goes together like turkey and Thanksgiving.

Barbecued Pulled Pork  - We used to get this part catered from someone my husband works with who competes in those BBQ competition.  This year I decided to do it on my own to save a little $.

Charleston Cheese Dip - found this on Pinterest, and did a test run a couple of weeks ago, it's sooooo good.

Chocolate Chip Cookies - they may not go well with beer, but after making them for years, my guests expect them, cause they are damn good - if I do say so myself.

The rest is pot luck, and luckily our friends all bring yummy stuff.  Looking forward to trying new things, and getting a couple new recipes.