Friday, August 31, 2012

August Wrap-up

Overall a good month.  I had quite a few fun outings with the kids before school started. Now kids are all settled in and happy in their classrooms. We've got our morning routine pretty well set, just waiting for a couple more afternoon activities to start before we're going on all cylinders.

I logged 41 miles running and walking the kids to/from school adds another 4 miles of walking a week.

I'm hoping we manage to keep it up when it gets cold cause I enjoy our little walks - especially when the kids get a little ahead of me and talk about stuff completely forgetting I'm right behind them. My daughters would love to walk to school on their own, and the school would allow it.  Even though they're good about crossing the street safely, I'm not ready.

The end of summer vacation came upon us a little too quickly, but I'm grateful to get back into our usual routine.

Unfortunately I am waaaay off track with my weekly projects. I need to look at what still needs to be done and get back to it.

With the new school year I'm planning on setting new goals and routines for myself.  As great as routine is, if I don't set goals I'll just get caught up in the day to day stuff and never get any of the big stuff done.

Photo Friday Link Up

When my husband and I bought our house 9 years, this tree was one of the things we really loved about the yard. It's a silver maple that's over 150 years old. The canopy shades our whole backyard.

Lately a lot of trees in our town have been cut down due to disease.  Luckily not maples, but we've still lost 6 trees on our block alone.  Last night I dreamt that I came home from picking up my daughters from school and there were tree trimmers in our backyard cutting down our beautiful tree. I hope that never happens.

Linking up to:



I love this app! I used to run with a pedometer but since it was a relatively cheap one I was never really sure of the accuracy.

This tracks your distance and so much more. It saves your history so you can keep track of personal bests. When you reach each mile or a finish a run it tells the time difference between that run and the previous personal best.You can map out routes online and then save them to your phone. Some people are good at estimating distances, I'm not one of them. At this point I know that if I run continuously for 30 minutes I definitely ran at least 3 miles but I like to have something more accurate.

You can access routes posted by other people (nothing really great in my neighborhood, but a few a short drive away).

You can friend people and then compete against them (I've never done this as I only have a couple of friends and they are all in Europe). You can send peptalks to friends if you see that they are out exercising.

While so far I've used it exclusively for running you can use it for lots of other sports too - cycling and kayaking are popular among my friends but also team sports

You can connect to a heart rate monitor to get access all of that info too. Mine is too old to be compatible so I don't even wear it anymore.

But really it's the stats that I love. It even has some silly ones online. Since it tracks calories it also lists how many hamburgers burned. Since it tracks distance it shows your distance compared to running around the Earth, and to the Moon. Not sure how long it will take me to run around the world.  I know I could do the math, but I don't want to.  I'd rather just watch that number slowly increase.

I know there are plenty of other training apps out there. I started with this one as I saw it come up on one of my friends Facebook posts. You can share your stats on FB. I don't. Maybe when I get better, but not yet.  Right now I don't feel like I have much to brag about.

I started with the free version and recently upgraded to the premium. Free is pretty good, but premium allows you to do interval training, which I need to do more of if I want to increase my distance.That's my next step, and I like that along with preprogrammed interval training programs, you can also create your own interval training program.  I've made one that I need to try out - we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week 34 Menu

Sunday - Wiener Schnitzel
Monday - Pasta with Vodka Tomato Sauce
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Garlic Pork with Peppers
Thursday - Beef Tacos
Friday - Hamburger Stroganoff
Saturday - Block Party - my contribution chocolate chip cookies


Little Reader: Mommy, did you have any crushes when you were a kid?
Me: Sure, everyone does.
Little Reader: I don't have a crush on anyone right now.
Me: What about the boy you had a crush on last year?
Little Reader: I decided I don't have a crush on him anymore.
Me: Why not?
Little Reader: Well, it's not that he's not nice or anything. I mean we're still friends. I just decided I didn't want him as my future husband.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Little Man on the way to pick his sisters up at school. He told me we'd get there faster if he wore his cape.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

5 Things About Little Hugger

Little Hugger also had to bring 5 things to her class.  Here's what she brought

Sketch pad - since she loves to draw

Stuffed cat - she loves cats and has been lobbying hard to get one as a pet.  Right now we're sticking with stuffed "pets".  One of these days we'll get a real pet, but for now we are debating dog vs cat.

Stuffed elephant - elephants have been her favorite animal for a long time

Kitten's First Full Moon - her favorite book (partly due to loving cats, but also a very sweet book about a cat that thinks the moon is a big bowl of milk).

Mac & Cheese - her favorite food. She'd eat it for every meal if I let her, thanks Kraft for adding the cauliflower so she gets some extra vitamins. Yes, the teacher chuckled a bit when she pulled this one out. Most  of the other 1st graders agreed they like Mac & cheese but she was the only one to actually bring it to class ;)

5 Things About Little Reader

Both of my daughters were asked to bring 5 things into class to help the other kids get to know them. A photo or two were ok, but not only photos.

Here's what Little Reader brought:

The stegosaurus because she loves dinosaurs. She wanted to be a paleontologist for a long time, but then found out that there are often scorpions in the desert and is now scared. I've told her they have fossils in other parts of the world but she's since decided she wants to be a grade school teacher who will spread the word that there is no such thing as a brontosaurus/

Simba figurine as her favorite movie is Lion King. Her room when she was 4 and birthday party were Lion King themed - thank God for EBay.

A picture of her and her Dad at Tivoli in Denmark as she is Danish and wanted to show a cool place in Denmark.

A picture of the mountain on Mars that Curiosity is slowly making its way to - she likes outer space. After the Lion King theme, she switched her room to outer space.

A coin from the Pirates House in Savannah GA where we stopped last year for lunch on our roadtrip thanks to a couple of recommendations from bloggers. She had wanted to bring a ship in a bottle she had gotten in St Augustine (while we were in the next stop on our trip in Jacksonville) but unfortunately dropped it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 35 Menu

I've been planning menus every week but keep forgetting to post them.  Time to get back on track.

Sunday - Almond Chicken Casserole
Monday - Summer Spaghetti - New recipe - we skipped the crushed red pepper as my kids don't like real spicy food, they liked it.  My husband thought we should add mozarella chunks next time
Tuesday - Cafe Rio Chicken
Wednesday - Pasta Salad (to bring to pot luck)
Thursday - Roast Beef Tenderloin
Friday - Smoky Chicken & Cheesy Potato Casserole - I'm hoping I can use the leftovers from the Cafe Rio for this
Saturday - Hamburgers & Hot Dogs (kid request)

Thank Goodness for Lazy Sundays

We had a busy weekend.

Friday night we were invited to a neighbors house for a "Back to School" get together. They projected a movie - Spy Kids - on to their garage for the kids (and had popcorn and other treats), while the parents hung out. The Bears were playing a preseason game so all the guys were inside watching that while the Moms hung out outside in the backyard living room. By the time we went home (about 1030) Little Man crashed pretty hard after a brief meltdown.

Saturday morning I left before everyone woke up to go to the run.  I came home pretty shortly after I was done to get ready for our block party - filled water balloons, finished making the cookies, and finished our playlist for the iPod.

At 3pm we closed the street, the bounce house was set up shortly after. We strung Christmas lights in a big square across the street and little by little neighbors started to come out. We also set up tie-dyeing for the kids. Families were supposed to bring their own whites but we did have a few extra shirts just in case.Luckily we have enough big girls on the block who are experienced tiedyers so they were able to help the younger kids make some cool designs.  

We had a pretty good turnout - about 15 families including a couple from a block up and down.

We had water balloons and plans for musical chairs (even set the chairs up at one point), but never got around to doing any games as the kids were having enough fun just hanging out with each other and rising bikes in the street.

We had bought hamburgers and asked people to contribute sides, but one of our neighbors stepped it up a bit and rolled his smoker to the end of the driveway and made pulled pork for everyone. It was awesome - only a few kids ate the burgers, everyone else had the pork.

Around 430 the local fire department came by with their ladder truck.  They stop by every year (assuming they don't have a fire to put out, of course).  I think a lot of the kids had a been there, seen that attitude, but Little Man loooved it.  He got to climb up in the drivers seat, and check out all the equipment.  He's been wondering for a while how they get the water out of the hydrants, and one of the guys was nice enough to show him.  

Once it got dark we set up a projector and showed a movie (Megamind this time. We all ended up staying up til about midnight when we finally decided to call it a night. Overall a fun night. The kids went to bed tired, happy and filthy (after 2 nights without showers). My husband and I went to bed right after we got them tucked in.

Little Hugger still woke up at 7 am but had the decency to stay in her room quietly reading until 845.

Sunday was a rainy day, so after getting everyone showered and sheets changed we just stayed in, which was perfect, everyone got to chill and catch up on the homework that was ignored the past two days.  I'm glad that next weekend is a long weekend and we have absolutely nothing planned.  After the past two weekends, that's exactly what I need.

Back to School

School started for my daughters last week. They started Tuesday afternoon bringing all their supplies to school and getting settled in their classrooms. They had so much stuff we had to use the stroller to bring everything to school. Little Man and I walked behind them.

Our school has a different door for each grade so we dropped Little Reader (now 3rd grade) off at her door and then took Little Hugger (1st grade) to her door and waited for the bell to ring. It seemed like the first graders had the most supplies and the teachers didn't want parents coming in with their kids - trying to keep the tears and paparazzi to a minimum I guess. She went in happily and then Little Man and I went home to run some errands before coming back to get them. Wednesday was a full day. Thursday was Parents Night for 3rd grade. I had to bring my kids as my husband was removing appendixes all over the Northwest suburbs but since it was only a 30 minute group meeting with the teacher it went fine.

All the kids are excited to be back in the swing of things, and this week piano lessons start and the following week dance/soccer/basketball start up. Back when I only had one kid in school I thought the slow/spread out start was annoying. Now I like it. It always takes a couple of days to get back into the routine so it's nice to slowly build up to our full schedule.

Luckily I have a couple of things that are making things easier this fall
1. Little Man can and will dress himself
2. Little Man is starting to eat more regular food.
3. Running in the morning means three days a week I don't have to shower before dropoff, just throw on my running clothes and shower after.

Now I just need to work on my schedule for the time I am kidless. My plan is to run right after drop off, come home and clean some part of my house, shower, pick up Little Man, home for lunch and then whatever.

The cleaning is the main thing I need to work on. Since we let our cleaning lady go, I haven't been very good about cleaning. Time to get back on track.

My First "Race"

I did it.  Ran my first event this weekend.  I won't call it a race because it was a "fun run" not an actual race.  I didn't realize that when I signed up, but that's ok.  No bib numbers or official time keepers, just a 1.5 mile course, two laps and lots of water and pre/post run goodies. Still, according to my Endomondo I reached a personal best for 3 miles - 27 min 24 sec, so I was excited about that. I also felt pretty good as when I started I was behind the high school girls water polo team and I beat them.

My next event though I want to get an official time.  There is a 5k race here in town at the end of September.  Unfortunately it's the same morning as we are due to leave for Little Reader's Brownie campout but the start/finish is very close to our house, so it may be doable.

As for my running goals, I 'm putting an asterisk next to this one, as I didn't run a true race.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tigers in Red Weather

I wanted to like this book, but it fell short. From the description, I was expecting something along the lines of Rebecca Wells (the YaYa sisterhood) but a Yankee version. It didn't meet my expectations.

Nick and Helena are the main characters - two cousins whose families share a summer home on Martha's Vineyard. World War II is going on and Helena's husband Avery was killed and Nick's husband Hughes is still fighting.

Fast forward a few years, Nick and Hughes are living in Florida where she is miserable as she doesn't fit in at all, she's no good at being a housewife, and misses her cousin terribly. Meanwhile Helena is living in Hollywood with her husband and is equally miserable but refuses to admit it. Helena's husband is obsessed with collecting anything he can find about a certain actress who he feels was never appreciated in her time. I'm not sure if she's a real person or not, at this point I don't really care. I was ready to give up on the book at this point but was only on page 90 and I usually give books about 100 pages until I give up.

Fast forward again and both cousins have children Daisy is Nick's daughter. Ed is Helena's son. They are spending the summer together on the island. Daisy is taking tennis lessons and determined to win the end of summer tournament. Ed was also signed for tennis but never goes to his lessons.

One day he meets Daisy at the club and brings her to a secluded area and shows her a dead body. Now I'm starting to think this is going to take a Stand By Me turn, but nope. Turns out the victim was a maid, and her boss is immediately suspected. Ed takes an unnatural interest in the murder and this is when we see Ed isn't quite normal. As the book goes on you realize how dysfunctional Ed's family's life is, not that excuses his behavior, but unlike the Ya-yas there is not much humor in any of these relationships.  It has a somewhat satisfactory ending, but I still wouldn't recommend the book.

I'm taking a little break as I wait for my requests to come in from the library.  I've heard lots of good things from Gone Girl, so hopefully that'll be next.  We'll see.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hat Trick

Last night my husband had a hat trick. He doesn't play soccer or hockey, he's a general surgeon. So how did he manage the hat trick?

He's on staff at three different hospitals and was on call last night. Around 430 he texted to say that he was just starting an appendectomy at one of the hospitals and then had a meeting to go to and another appy scheduled at 8 at a different hospital. Ok. At that point I knew I would have to bring the kids with me to Parents Night at school and the party I had tentatively scheduled to attend was not going to happen. No big deal. To paraphrase Michael J Fox in American President - I assume that all plans are soft until I receive confirmation from him thirty minutes beforehand.

I figured he'd be home around 930. Finally at 1030 he texted, he was on his way home. He had had to do another appy at the third hospital.

So there you have it - an appy hat trick.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Day Out With Thomas

Like most little boys, Little Man loves trains. Sunday we went out to the Illinois Railway Museum to check out the trains and ride Thomas.

We kept it a surprise for him, cause it's just more fun that way. The museum is about 45 minutes west of the city so surrounded by farms and very close to Donley's Wild West Town which we'll probably go back and do another time, as I've heard good things about it.

As we got close he noticed a bunch of old trains lined up and asked why they were there. I told him it was a train museum and today they had a very special train that we would get to ride. Just then Thomas started going down a track not far from us. I pointed it out and he got all excited, " Thomas! Thomas! Thomas!"

We had purchased our tickets on line as I've been told that they sell out (they only do this 2 weekends a year). We picked up our tickets and had an hour until our train ride, so wandered around at the other exhibits. This is apparently the largest railway museum in the US and has over 400 different engines/train cars on display. We saw the steam locomotives first and they were huge. I tried to get pictures of the kids with them but the locomotives are so big and in fairly dimly lit sheds, it was tough.

Each shed has a different kind of train so there were others for urban trains (like the L), streetcars, passenger trains etc. There was one train from the 50s that had sleeper cars - where you could climb into the bunks, a dining car. The kids all thought that was pretty cool, and wanted to know if we could take a train on our next vacation. My husband and I have Eurailed twice, but never taken an overnight train in the US. Could be fun.

Finally it was time for our ride on the #1 Engine - Thomas. In reality, Thomas is just there for show, they have another locomotive in the back that pushes the cars - but we didn't tell the kids that. The train cars are not Annie and Clarabell, but in this case were passenger cars from the '20s. We sat in the last car which worked out well as we were able to actually see Thomas "pulling" us when we went around a curve. The ride itself is nothing special 10 minutes out of the museum grounds and then 10 minutes back, but of course the whole point is to ride Thomas.

There is a streetcar that does a loop around the museum grounds (with 4 stops). The whole loop took about 15 minutes and the driver lets kids wear a conductors hat and take turns driving the train.

 There is also a bigger train that takes a 45 minute ride out into the cornfields, but we skipped that one.

I had brought lunch for the kids, but my husband and I got lunch from the restaurant - basic burgers/chicken fingers/pizza. Not bad, and reasonably priced but you can easily bring your own food, there are tons of picnic tables. We sat right along the tracks where Thomas went by so we could see him while we were eating.

As people are getting on and off Thomas they let you get your picture taken with him. They have professional photographers there who will take your picture and you can pay for it, but they do let you take your own which is what we did. You can also get your picture with Sir Topham Hatt but we skipped that as that line was longer than the line for Thomas.

 There is a small but decent shaded playground (train themed of course), a small gift shop for the regular museum and then a special Thomas gift tent which has tons of Thomas merchandise. We let Little Man pick an engine and he picked James - who he's been wanting since Christmas but I couldn't find previously so he was excited. Our daughters each got a train whistle.

There was other entertainment as well - magicians, live music etc, but we skipped that stuff.

We ended spending about 4 hours there. The kids all enjoyed it, and it is definitely a must do if you have a Thomas fan in the house. Little Reader doesn't really play with the trains anymore but she liked seeing the old locomotives, and watching her brother get super excited about Thomas. Little Hugger still helps her brother build tracks at home, so she got into it a little more.

It is a little pricey - $19 per ticket for anyone over 2 years old (plus the "convenience fees" for ordering online brought it to $115 for the 5 of us), but we were there for over 4 hours and it was a nice sunny but not too hot day, and once school starts we won't have much time for these excursions due to other weekend activities (soccer, dance etc).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chicago Air & Water Show

Chicago really comes alive in the summertime.  After 6 months of hibernation and a ridiculously short spring, summer really shows the city at it's best.  There is a different festival every weekend (actually usually more than one). 

We've skipped most of the festivals the past few years since the kids are young, but this year we went downtown for the Air & Water show.  We parked and ate breakfast at Water Tower Place - foodlife was surprisingly good.  We walked up to Lake Shore Drive and picked a spot between Oak Street Beach and North Avenue.  North Avenue is the center of the show and if  you want to see any of the water aspects of the show, that's where you really need to be, but for most people (including us) the air portions are the cool parts.
There were a number of stunt aircraft teams, doing loops, stall maneuvers, corkscrews and other cool tricks

Of course the stars of the show are the Blue Angels.  They are the best of the best of the Naval Aviators.  They are a team of six aircraft and they do incredible maneuvers.  They get ridiculously close to each other as they do their flybys

Little Man thought they were cool, but a little loud
During the diamond formation they are only 18 INCHES apart

My favorite part of the whole experience though is that they are performing right in the middle of our city, not out in some remote airfield somewhere.  I have never been to Fleet Week in New York or San Francisco so don't know how they compare but this is definitely a great show.  

I remember my first year in Chicago, I was working in the Loop, and the Friday before the show the windows started rattling and the aircraft were zooming by our windows.  No one had told me they did practice maneuvers the day before the show. The past two years my husband has been lucky enough to go out on a friend's boat the Friday before and watch the practice from the water.  This year he was out on a waverunner when the Blue Angels were practicing and raced them for a bit.  He said he felt like Maverick racing the jets on his motorcycle.  


Friday, August 17, 2012

Lichtenstein Exhibit at the Art Institute

Most of our summer outings have been picked by the kids. Tuesday it was my choice. The Art Institute currently has a Roy Lichtenstein exhibit that I wanted to see. It's a retrospective exhibit and is the biggest exhibit of his works since the 90s and that was in New York.

I've always liked his art, mostly because it's fun. I have no art history/appreciation background. I just know what speaks to me and what I like. As I've said before my daughters have an amazing art teacher at school so are already familiar with Van Gogh, Monet, Seurat, Mondrian (and they are only in 1st and 3rd grade). While Lichtenstein is definitely a different style than those, it is very kid friendly.

We got to the Museum and just as we entered the Modern Wing, a guy came up to me and asked if we needed tickets as he had some comps he didn't need. The kids were already free (14 and under are free), but I gladly accepted his pass and got in free :) I was expecting to need to pay extra for the special exhibit or get an assigned ticket time but that wasn't necessary.

Many people wouldn't take young kids to an art museum, but I've figured out how to make it work for our family. First off, you have to have a strategy. For me it's alternating between what you want and what they will enjoy. In our case -Thorne Rooms, lunch, Lichtenstein exhibit, play room, gift shop, home.

Little Reader loves the Thorne Rooms especially since she read the Sixty Eight Rooms books.  They all love looking at all the details and the rooms and finding new things they may not have noticed last time.  Although they have a step running along the base of the exhibit to help give kids a better view, Little Man is still a little short so I had to pick him up for every room.  My back was relieved when the kids had seen enough here.

The Lichtenstein exhibit was really impressive. It was a true retrospective arranged chronologically with themed rooms of his different works.

The first work you see is Mickey and Domald (obviously recognizable characters for my kids). The thing that I thought was cool, and the kids appreciated as well was that if you get close to the painting you can see the sketch marks where he outlined the work before painting. Some lines were painted over, but many were not.

The kids didn't really understand the point of the pop art paintings inspired by advertisements of the time, so we went pretty quickly through that part.  Next was the War and Romance period. These were the ones I was most familiar with - the comic strip looking ones. My daughters liked coming up with back stories for the women, and Little Man liked the fighter jets. They also liked how even though the women's faces looked peach once you got close you could see it was purposeful spacing of red dots that gave that illusion.  There were other works that created optical illusions they also enjoyed.

As we moved on we got to works that were new to me and I liked to see his interpretations of Cubism, Impressionism etc. Some of the works, my kids easily recognized, others once I gave them a hint, they got it.

The new works (or at least new to me) I liked the most were the ones were his interpretation of Asian art.  The pictures really don't do them justice. 

 After the exhibit we went to the playroom for about 45 minutes before heading home.  As part of the addition of the model. Wing, the Art Institute opened the Ryan Family Center. My kids call it the play area. It's basically a place for kids to play with art influenced things, and get the wiggles out after hopefully having been on their best behavior inside the exhibit halls. There are sofas and benches for climbing, tons of books, puzzles, blocks, computers with art themed games, etc. They used to also have a craft in a separate room but that hadn't been open the past couple of times we've visited (maybe weekend only).

Of course when bringing kids to an art museum I don't always get to linger or read the posted information as much as I'd like, but we still all enjoyed the exhibit, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Lichtenstein or wants to learn more about him.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many new works beyond just the Pop art and War and Romance I was pretty familiar with.  The exhibit only runs for a couple more weeks (until September 3rd)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Payment in Dinosaurs

Yesterday when I was cleaning upstairs when I called down to my daughters to ask them to tidy up their rooms so I could vacuum.

Little Man came upstairs, "Do I need to clean up too?"

"No, I already vacuumed your room."

He looks in his room and turns to me, "You did a good job." He hands me a dinosaur and runs off. Compensation for a job well done? One plastic stegosaurus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back to School

Little Man started preschool yesterday.  He was extremely excited, he picked out his clothes the night before (including the extra set of "just in case" stuff).  He listened intently as Little Hugger told him what she remembered about the school, including how show and tell works.  She even had him do a practice. One with a prop and one where he pretended he forgot to bring something and then just told something about what he had done over the weekend.

Unfortunately the actually morning was rainy so we weren't able to get a lot of outdoor pictures, and his umbrella is covering his face in most of the ones I did manage to get.

We all walked him down to his classroom, and met his teacher.  She's new to the school (although I had found her on Facebook once the classroom assignments came out).  Based on her age, I'm assuming she's getting back into teaching now that her own kids are older.  She was very smiley and seemed nice and had big floor size coloring books for each kid to color in until everyone arrived.  We gave Little Man a quick hug and kiss goodbye and left.

To take advantage of our girls only time, we went to Michaels to get some supplies for upcoming craft projects, and then I surprised them by taking them for mani/pedis. They both got flowers and jewels on their thumb nails which they loved.

We went back to pick up Little Man, and his sisters started firing questions at him.  It's always tough getting real info out of kids this age, but we did find out that most of the kids were nice but there were a couple of mean boys (who hit one of the other kids - but the teacher scolded them, so it was dealt with).  He doesn't know anyone's name yet, but that usually takes a while - especially at this school as it also functions as a day care so kids can share a teacher but be on very different schedules. They played in the gym as it was raining outside.  They did a butterfly craft to hang in their classroom (aka the Fluttering Butterflies).  They each got a gummy bear as a reward for cleaning up quickly.  The snack was Cheerios which he said he didn't eat because he wasn't hungry, but I had a feeling was more because he has negative memories of gagging on Cheerios. 

For lunch he had his usual peanut butter sandwich, but since I want him to get over his fear of Cheerios (and other small chewables) I made him try one before his regular snack of graham crackers.  I told him that from now on he should try at least one of whatever is served at snack time.  He agreed.  It's ok not to be hungry and I'm not forcing the kid to eat, but the more things he tries the more he'll learn to like and hopefully we'll be able to drop the feeding therapy.

He did make another big kid declaration after school today.  "I'm not a toddler anymore, I'm a preschooler.  Preschoolers don't eat yobaby".  Woohoo!!  I have nothing against Yobaby.  It's obviously a great source of protein and calcium, but the more of the old "baby" foods that he drops and replaces with other things, the quicker I think he'll progress.  His sisters mostly eat Yoplait and Trader Joes yogurt so the consistency is a little different.  So far he's refused to try any of those, but I know one day he'll just decide he misses yogurt and try one.

He's very excited to go back again, and I'm sure will have even more fun as he makes some real friends and they get into a good routine at school.  

Week 33 Menu

Sunday - out
Monday - Shrimp Scampi
Tuesday - Chicken With Asparagus & Parmesan
Wednesday - Frikadeller and Potatoes
Thursday - Bacon Sloppy Joes
Friday - Baked Ziti
Saturday - 

Shrimp Scampi

1 lb pasta - Rachael says Angel Hair, but my kids have trouble getting it on their forks
1-2 lbs deveined, tail off shrimp
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp thyme
6 cloves garlic
1 cup dry white wine
juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup chicken broth
a couple drops Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons butter

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels.  Mix flour with thyme and pepper in a shallow dish.  Lightly coat shrimp in the seasoned flour. Shake off excess.

Pour olive oil in a deep skillet over high heat.  Cook shrimp in a single layer (in 2 batches if necessary).  Saute for 2-3 minutes, until edges are golden brown.  Remove shrimp from plate and place on paper towel lined plate.  Pour off any excess oil,

Return pan to heat.  Add garlic, then wine to the pan and scrape up any bits from the bottom.  Reduce wine by half.  Add broth and lemon juice.  Let the sauce simmer and reduce for 2 or 3 minutes.  Stir in butter with a whisk or fork.

Add the shrimp back to sauce and remove from heat.  Give the pan a shake.  Serve over a bed of pasta and crusty bread. 

From Rachael Ray Top 30 Minute Kid Meals

Seating Arrangements

The short review - don't waste your time with this book. If you want to know why I say that read on.

I saw this book hyped a few different places as a fun summer read. I think it's the author's debut novel (I don't feel like looking it up right now). I read it on my Kindle app only because I had ordered a while back from the library and forgot to cancel it. I really wish I had gotten the real paper copy as when I finished the book last night I noticed a couple of recommended reads at the back - The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe and the Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. All of which I read and didn't like any of them. Had I gotten a paper copy of the book I would probably have flipped through it enough to see that and put it back on the shelf. So yes, this was probably my last Kindle book too.

Ok, so what was so bad? It started off well enough, father of the bride heads to his beach house to join his wife, daughters, bridesmaids etc for his daughter, Daphne's upcoming wedding. When he arrives, everything is as chaotic as one would expect.  Seems like a fun concept.

Winn is a banker and they live in Connecticut but have a beach house on a fictional island called Waskeke. They're well off but by no means the most affluent of their social crowd. Status (especially club memberships) are extremely important to Winn, but he gets annoyed at ostentatious shows of wealth. Typical New England money mentality.  He is very concerned about other peoples opinions of him and his family, and is quite ashamed that Daphne is visibly pregnant at her own wedding. 

His other daughter, Livia, recently was dumped by her boyfriend once he found out that she, too, was pregnant. She is studying to be a marine biologist and as luck would have it a whale beaches near their home shortly before the wedding.  (Seinfeld flashback).

Other characters include Agatha who Winn has a long-standing crush on, Dominique the rational, practical friend, who helps Biddy with the final details when no one else seems capable, Celeste the alcoholic sister in law, and Sam Snead the wedding planner.

I feel as the though the author wasn't sure if she wanted to make this a satire (got close with some ridiculous subplots) or a step up from fluff beach read.  Either way I think she missed the mark.  Just like Bonfire of the Vanities, I didn't like or sympathize with any of the characters, which makes it hard for me to enjoy a book.  I need to have someone that I either can relate to/cheer for whatever.  In this case they were all just a dysfunctional bunch. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Best Day Ever

Was Saturday, at least according to Little Reader. What was so great about it?

Part 1 - She jumped off the diving board for the first time ever.

We went to the pool, and there was hardly anyone there. She decided she wanted to go off the diving board. She got a little nervous, the first 2 times. 

 First time she somehow managed to jump backwards towards the wall of the pool, not forwards or sideways. Not sure how, but we made sure she tried again so she didn't give up after one negative time. Jumping in the second time took longer. She would walk to the edge of the board, stand there for a while and then walk back.  A few times.  It was a slow day so the lifeguard manager even offered to have a guard in the water to catch her in case she got scared. Very considerate, but we wanted her to go solo.  They understood and assured her they'd jump in if needed. 

At this point we wanted to make sure she did it as this was probably our last pool day this year, and I didn't want a bad memory in her head until next summer, and then have her be even more afraid to try again then.  Finally she did it, and then did it again, and again, and again..... She only stopped because repeatedly swimming the 15 feet to the ladder was tiring her out. They rest of the day she had this little smile on her face because she had conquered her fears. 

Part 2 of the best day ever - my husband grilled and we ate dinner on the deck.  Always a plus.

Part 3 - we watched Mirror Mirror. They'd been asking for a movie night and that was the best offering on demand. It actually was pretty cute, and my daughters both enjoyed it. The story of Snow White told by the queen's point of view. Julia Roberts is the queen, and Nathan Lane is her right hand man. Snow White was played by Lily Collins (I didn't recognize her from anything else) Nathan Lane was funny as always. The queen has bankrupted the kingdom and needs to marry a rich prince in order to get money.  As luck would have it one finds his way to the castle, and she tries to get her to fall in love with him.  Unfortunately for her, he has already seen Snow White and is more interested in her.  The Queen finally tries to put a spell on the prince which of course doesn't work out quite as she had hoped.  As always fairy tales end happily - and in this case a Bollywood-esque dance number

It is rated PG as there are some sword fights and a beast in the forest that might seem a little scary at first.  The dwarves are a little darker than the Disney version (in this version they are bandits, and train Snow White to fight like them).  

How was your Saturday?

Saturday, August 11, 2012


As I mentioned in a previous post I recently started running again. I was in a pretty good groove in July, but the past week has been tough with kids being home, and my husband getting home too late for me to run in the afternoon.  Still I am determined to keep at it, and have signed up for my first 5k.  Ok it's technically not my first - I did run the Corporate Challenge in Boston, but that was in 1992, and I haven't run a race since.  But it was a pretty crowded course so basically was a slow jog that ended with a night of drinking.

This will be a bit different.  It's in my town and starts at 9am (very civilized start time unlike all the downtown races that have lots of traffic to contend with.)  A friend of mine who lives in DC has been posting on Facebook about all these great races that she has signed up for, and I've found a few cool ones on my own too.

Hot Chocolate
A 5k or 15k in November where you run for chocolate

Color Run
A early summer 5k where you get sprayed with colorful powder at each checkpoint and at the end you look like a sunning Jackson Pollock painting.

Glo Run
A nighttime race where you get outfitted with glo in the dark shirts run through black lights and other "extreme glow". There's a dj on the course as they discourage ipods, so you can hear what's going on around you.

Overall my hope is to run a half marathon within a year.  My Mom was diagnosed with MS 6 years ago and for a while I was considering walking the Chicago Marathon as a fundraising effort.  I have never wanted to run a marathon but figured I could probably walk it.  Of course there are time limits on the course, so after two many cons I decided to do a half marathon instead and just do my own training and fundraising rather than being part of a team.  It'll make a it a little harder to stay motivated but I think I'll be able to do it.  The problem is picking a good one.  The Chicago half happens to fall on my Mom's birthday next year so that's a possibility, but would be tough to train unless I become a good morning runner.

Any with any big goal, the best way to go about it is baby steps.  I have added a page of running goals to keep me on track.  I also love my endomondo app.  I'll do a separate post on that - but it keeps great stats (including some goofy ones) and tracks my course by GPS.  I also have a few friends on it who occasionally send pep talks as I am out which is always fun.  But what really keeps me going is my kickass mix of Bon Jovi music.  Their tempo is perfect for my pace.  So far this list gets me through my run.  I cool down to Just Older ; )

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pirates Cove

Earlier this week I took the kids to Pirates Cove, as a reward for Little Man's eating progress.  I had told him if he tried 10 new foods we'd go on a special excursion of his choice.  I thought he would pick Fire Zone, but he decided on Pirates Cove instead.  It's run by the Elk Grove Park District and is a great little amusement park for kids.  It was Little Man's first time, and he loved it - 3-5 years old is probably the perfect age for this place.  Little Reader is getting a little old for it at age 8 but she's usually willing to go along with this kind of stuff if her siblings are having fun.  She's good like that.

There is a carousel with horses that are a little smaller than usual so kids can get on and off on their own.

There is a little boat area.  I thought Little Man would have a tough time steering but he figured it out pretty quickly. We happened to bump in to a former coworker and her little guy (almost 2) at this ride.  Her son wasn't able to figure out so Little Man actually pushed him most of the way around.  I think at first it was by accident as he bumped in to him, but then realized it was helpful for the little guy who was stuck floating in the middle of the pool.    He had a tougher time with the little pedal train but at least that's a bit of a team effort.

While they do have a small concession stand, I prefer to bring our own food to these places as it's a lot cheaper.  There is a pirate ship in the middle of the park that has tables on the top deck and a craft area on the lower deck. 

There is also a bounce house, small train, a big slide, playground, climbing wall, and then this climbing structure.  We were there for about 3 hours and since we had a Groupon for two of the kids, it only cost me $20.  Usually it's $9 per person for out of town residents.

It started getting a little cloudy towards the end so rather than having ice cream at the park, we headed to Dairy Queen.  Little Reader had received a $10 gift card from her soccer coach at the end of the season, and we hadn't had a chance to use it.  This was the perfect opportunity.  Blizzards for everyone!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Make A Messterpiece

Yesterday I took the kids to Make a Messterpiece in Glenview.  They love going but it's pretty pricey $22 per kid if you want to do all the activities) so we don't go often.  Last time we had a Groupon but no such luck this time.  The one good thing though is that it wasn't very crowded - probably partly due to the cost - and we were able to leave for lunch at the Potbelly's nearby and come back.

They have 4 main areas to play - Creative Kitchen, Experimentation Station, Bubbleology, and Lil Sprouts.  The first two spots are instructor led so you are assigned a time for those places.  The theme this month is outer space.

At the Experimentation Station they made ET foam (using styrofoam balls, glue, borax, water, and food coloring).  Once they were all done making the foam they got googly eyes and pipe cleaners to use for whatever they wanted.  It was pretty easy and turned out pretty cute.  The instructor encouraged them to use their imaginations in creating their space creatures, pointing out that life on other planets may not be walking beings like us, but could even be tiny little things like bacteria, viruses, etc.  It was kind of sticky when they were done, so we put them on a drying rack before we went to our next spot - Creative Kitchen.

At Creative Kitchen they made "Moon Landing cookies".  They were no bake cookies made of oatmeal, cocoa powder, butter, butterscotch chips and soy nut butter.  All of that was mixed up and then rolled into balls, and then rolled in powdered sugar.  They don't let you eat your creations there, but we brought them to lunch with us and they ate them at Potbellys. They were pretty good and as far as I could tell was basically a teaspoon of each ingredient so would be pretty easy to recreate. 

After lunch they made bubble paintings.  These are always a big hit for my kids. 

Here are a couple of the finished products.  The colors are actually brighter on the real pictures, my camera wasn't cooperating. 

The Drum Roll area wasn't working as well as it should be more Blue Man Group ish with colored water on the drums that flies everywhere when you drum.  They still had fun putting all the gear on though and didn't realize what was missing, so had fun.  If I had thought more about it I would have asked an employee for help, but it was only when I got home and saw the website that I realized what was missing as we hadn't done this station last time.

The final station was Lil Sprouts, where you make your own craft.  This was completely DIY.  We were given the supplies when we came in, and there were pictures and instructions on the table.  The project was to make a mini Hubble telescope out of a toilet paper roll, tin foil, toothpicks, card stock for the solar panels and a couple of stickers.  Fairly straightforward.

Along with all the stuff I already listed, there is also an area of tables with paper and markers for coloring, a small play house and slide to play in.  They had fun and did learn a little about outer space (appropriate given that we went on the day that Curiousity landed on Mars.  I'm sure they'll want to go back and we probably will if I can get a Groupon again.  I was surprised how few people were there.  I'm assuming the cost is what deters people, especially in this economy.  Still it's a fun place and I hope they manage to stay open (and hopefully lower their prices.  As far as I know it's independently owned not a franchise - although they do have some sort of sponsorship by Bounty papertowels.