Friday, January 23, 2015

Stuff I Love

Here is a bunch of stuff I love... 

(Subtitle:  One of the Most Random Posts Ever)

1.  This picture:


Because who doesn't like to eat dinner with a dolphin on their head?


2.  This recipe:

Chicken and Dumplings / via Southern Living

Ingredients
1 (32-oz.) container low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14-oz.) can low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 lb.) 
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup 
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can reduced fat cream of celery soup
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning 
1 (10.2-oz.) can refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits 
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
1. Bring first 6 ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat . Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; return to a low boil 
2. Place biscuits on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat each biscuit to 1/8-inch thickness; cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (I use a pizza roller or pastry sliver which works very well!)
3. Drop strips, 1 at a time, into boiling broth mixture. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking.

I made it last week and even though it contains shredded chicken, which Frank typically doesn't like, AND it's in a creamy/saucy form (double no).  Still, we all enjoyed it, and the leftovers were even good.



3.  This post on Five Ways to Keep a Living Room Classic.

Since I am doing a little freshening and updating to our first floor, I found this post very helpful.


4.  Speaking of decorating, Emily A. Clark is my design muse.  If she says it, I do it.  Recently, she posted about  4 Beautiful Books to Gift & Frame, so what did I do?  Bought the botanical book she recommended, of course, and now I have a gallery wall.  (So hanging six pictures in a completely symmetrical fashion is REALLY difficult for me, since I can't measure worth a darn.  It looks good; however, it's not perfectly symmetrical yet, and I blame the relaxing of the picture wire for this.  I'll eventually take pictures to show you.)

5.  This picture of my cousins Nate and Adam at the State of the Union Address this past week, which I shamelessly stole from my aunt's Facebook. Doesn't it look like a scene from a movie?




6.  For the last few months, I've asked Carter if he's ready for me to take the side off his crib, converting it to a toddler bed, and each time, I was met with a resounding, "No."  Well, when I asked last week, he said, "Yes," so I went with it.

He's done very well and is very proud of having a "Toller Bed," ("Toddler Bed")



7.  This quote sums it all up:


Happy Friday!



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

All Are Architects of Fate

I've never known much about my paternal side of the family, and that's always bugged me. Whenever I watched the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? I would wonder if tracing my ancestry would lead to any surprises.  (Nice surprises, like descending from royalty.)

For Christmas, Frank gave me a subscription to Ancestry.com.... and I promptly fell down the rabbit hole of researching.  It was perfect timing because I didn't teach the week of New Year's, so I could spend some extra time on my family tree.  And when I say "extra time, " I actually mean that most days that week I could tell you the name of my 16x great grandfather but I had no idea what we were going to eat for dinner.  Rarely have I gotten so lost in a project.

It's interesting because I have all this information that I didn't have before: names, dates, locations, and then I start wondering about the actual people.  Why did they move to a certain location?  Was she a good mother?  What was it like to be in the Revolutionary War?  What was it like to learn your husband was killed in the war?  Were they smart?  Happy? Hard-working?   Those questions will probably never be answered.

Frank has gotten sucked into researching as well, and we've spent several evenings looking up particular people and places and wondering whether our ancestors knew each other (they might have!) and fighting over the computer. :)

Despite having to share the computer in the evenings, I like that he's had fun doing it, too, and it has really highlighted to both of us that family is what it's all about.  My man H.W. Longfellow was right on...
The Builders
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky


***


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Even though there are approximately 487,924 things I should be doing right now (this is finals week in my class; we're packing to leave for 4 days; I'm hosting Christmas dinner, and I haven't finalized the menu; there's still one more present to wrap-- after I thought last week that I'd wrapped the last one--must stop buying stuff!), I wanted to take a minute and share some photos from the last few weeks.

If there's one thing we do well in this house, I'd say it's Christmas.  I love Christmas!  My kids are at awesome ages for all of the magic, and I really want to maximize all this innocent excitement.  It lasts for such a short time, but it's the stuff you remember all your life.

So, we have an elf.  His name is Kiki, which is how Jacob pronounced, "Cookie," when we got him in 2012.  Kiki doesn't throw elaborate parties or anything, but he does move each night; and each morning, the kids are so excited about finding him.

He's left them candy canes, written notes to them, gotten tangled up in Christmas lights...


but the best thing Kiki has done this year is eating Elf Soup!  When Grandma Anna was here, she made Elf Soup with the kids in the evening (whipped cream and sprinkles) and left it for the elf.  Of course, Kiki was found in the kitchen the next morning "eating" his treat!




We also like to drive around and look at Christmas lights.  There are some pretty amazing displays here in town, some even choreographed to music.  The kids get in the pj's, and I throw their blankets over them, and we drive.  Honestly, I probably enjoy this more than the kids!

This year, we've had a fun treat from Great-Grandma Marion.  She gave each boy a fleece blanket, and a box of 25 wrapped books with instructions to read unwrap a book and read it by the tree each night.  It's been a lot of fun to see what book we'll unwrap each night!  ** The only minor change we've made to our instructions is that I unwrap the book to avoid the fighting over whose turn it is.***  :)




We also baked Christmas cookies this week.  Soo... my inner Grinch is coming out on this one because I just don't enjoy it!  I used slice-and-bake sugar cookies, and it still took an hour and a half to bake all the cookies.  Once they cooled, we started decorating.

Jacob was into it, as evidenced by his chef's hat.


Heck, even Frank had a smile.


But Carter?


Not a fan.  I'm not sure what his issue was that night, but he was not amused.


Eventually, he quieted enough to sit on Frank's lap and help (sort of) decorate the billion cookies I'd baked.


All kidding (and naughty kids) aside, I do feel the importance... not a pressure, necessarily...but the importance of making the holiday magical during the years when the kids are young.  You only get one shot at this, and I promise you, the oldest person in the world will remember the Christmas traditions that their family had when they were growing up.  I realize the underlying message is that no matter what your family did, you will think it's awesome, because it's your family and your childhood, but I want my boys to look back and have such warm and happy memories of the holiday season at our house that when they're adults, they'll work to provide that for their own kids, no matter whether they have to stay up late to put a bike together, or rearrange their schedule to attend Christmas Eve service, or decorate cookies with a screaming toddler.

Maybe that's the reason for traditions in the first place.  It's all about the memories and carrying them on for the next generation.





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Picture- A Caption

 I wear underwear on my head.


 My shirt is the same as Jake's.  Coolest.  Day.  Ever.


Seriously, just take the picture.  I can only fake-smile for so long.


Wanna go outside and play in the snow, Mom! 


When you get a card from Great-Grandma M, even the backs of the envelopes are fun!


Everybody plank! 


Our church decorated for Christmas this week.


"You won't like that; it's kale."  "Wow, I hate it worse than I thought I would."


Happy 5th Birthday Mimi!  Please note her princess crown and birthday brownie.  This really happened.



Monday, November 10, 2014

License Plates, Cleaning and Other Randoms

Late last week the kids and I took advantage of one of the last warm(ish) days and headed outside. Jacob is all about dressing up his car.  He had some little foam letters from a school project, so he added them to his license plate.  Notice it now spells, "Jacob"?



He says he needs a cross for his rear view mirror, an air freshener, and-- of course-- a top for his vehicle, so he can drive it all winter.  Where does he come up with this stuff?!

I'm in that sweet spot right now where I don't have much going on in the class that I teach, so I've taken advantage of the time to do some extra cleaning.  Most people talk about spring cleaning, but I'm more of a fall-cleaning person.  If you're going to be stuck in the house with the windows closed, it seems like a nice idea to freshen up a bit, no?

In the last few weeks, I've deep cleaned all the bedrooms and closets, and moved all the furniture to vacuum and dust behind everything.  Needless to say, I have been sneezing my head off for the last few weeks. Perhaps I should do this more often...


On Saturday, we took the kids to Monkey Joe's in Peoria.  We had visions of them running off their energy, and us supervising them as minimally as possible.  (Yes, I just typed that. Don't judge.)

Monkey Joe's, in case you aren't familiar with the franchise, has huge, indoor inflatable bounce houses and slides.  It's awesome.

Seriously, who wouldn't like playing in this?!


One guess.

You guessed Carter?  That would be correct!


Oh man, we tried.  Frank and Jacob were both in the "Under 3" area with Carter, trying to get him to warm up to the idea.


Daddy swung him around, which he actually liked, but couldn't last forever.


Meanwhile, Jacob and I hit up the slides.


But eventually, Carter just would NOT go back in to the bounce houses, and Jacob decided he wanted to play with Carter, so.....


Everyone played in the little baby area.  How nice that they wanted to play together, yet how annoying that no one was doing any physical activity. [Use your energy children!  Jump here, not on my couch!]

Not really what we came here for.

So we hit the road after just over an hour.  So much for minimal supervision and a little break...


This evening, Frank took the train to Chicago for a seminar.  Usually, when he rides the train we like to see him off at the train station.  (We're his "posse!")  Our train station in Uptown Normal is recently constructed, quite nice, and has a Subway.  We eat at Subway and wait for the train which is inevitably delayed due to the construction of the new high-speed rail system.

Tonight, we started with our usual Subway/waiting-for-the-train evening, but Frank's train kept getting delayed... and delayed... and delayed....

His original departure time was 5:56.  One thing to note about the beautiful, new train station is that all four stories of glass and tile and marble produce quite an echo.

Picture a naughty little 2 year old yelling, "Help me!  Help me!  My not be quiet!! My not like this!!" in a large, glass-walled area.  For the sake of the other passengers, we called it quits by the 6:28 departure time.  Honestly, I'm glad we did, because the train ended up being delayed by nearly an hour, and there's no way we would have made it that long.

As an additional note, hustling two small children through a parking garage after dark isn't on my to-do list any time soon, either.


Then there's Carter.

This kid is SO NAUGHTY.   As my mom says, "He's a really good two-year old."  It's interesting how Grandmas can find the best in you.  I don't remember this behavior with Jacob, but maybe because Jacob was my only at that time.

Carter screams; he's stubborn; he's so articulate.  He knows exactly what he wants to do.  He wants to do everything Jacob does, but he also wants to do it at the same time!  I think I say, "Take turns," and "He'll be done playing with that soon," about 8 million times a day.

His saving grace is that he's so dang cuddly.

(Naughty? Who, me?)



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Spook-tacular Halloween 2014

To properly recap Halloween, I must first recap the Kiddie Parade at the Fall Festival in Frank's hometown.

Jacob was a Mad Scientist.


Carter was a puppy.


A very angry puppy.

I have to say, Jacob did a good job and the parade and judging. He had a tray full of "science experiments" and slime, but he cooperated and ended up winning 1st Place in his age group.

Carter, on the other hand...  Carter didn't want to wear his costume, and he especially didn't like the hood.  He basically screamed all the way down the street and during the judging.  He was adorable, though.  I really think if he had cooperated, he would have won, too.  (Or maybe I'm biased, Whatever...)

By the actual evening of October 31, the temps were in the mid 30's here, and there were 30 mile-an-hour winds.  Not great trick-or-treating weather at all!

Frank and the kids loaded up right away at 5:00 while there was still some daylight.  It was hard to stay in costume and still stay warm! (Yes, he has his Easter bucket... I couldn't find their jack o' lanterns.)




They were back after about 20 minutes!  Frank and I ate some Lasagna Soup (which is an awesome recipe!), and the kids had mummy dogs and monster eyeball cookies.



After dinner Jacob decided he wanted to go back out, so Frank braved the weather with him for another half an hour or so.

I was prepared to have a lot of leftover candy because of the nasty weather, but the trick-or-treaters kept coming, long after the kids had put on their pj's.

(I had to find a way to sneak in this cute shot of Carter in his jammies)

We ended up turning off the light around 7:30 and everyone, including Shadow, spent the rest of the evening enjoying the fire.




Monday, October 27, 2014

Visit to the Pumpkin Patch

Last Wednesday afternoon was a sunny 60 degree day, and Frank took off work a few hours early (cue the angels singing) so we could make our annual visit to Rader Family Farms.   Rader's is so so much fun, but always SO busy; I highly, highly recommend going during the week when there are fewer people.



They have a spot at the entrance set up specifically for photos.



I tried really hard to get some good photos.




Really, really hard.  (Notice Carter trying to run away in both shots...)



The kids just wanted to play, so we did. There were some old favorites like the big slide, jumping pillow, and caterpillar train.














This year there were also some new activities, like gigantic field tiles that you run inside like a hamster wheel



and the runaway hit:  the Duck Races!




Jacob got to sit in a tractor



while Carter played in a grain bin.  (which sounds scary as I am typing it, but it was really safe.)




After that, Carter had a little accident resulting in a huge bruise on his cheekbone.  You can see his cheek starting to turn purple in the picture below.


So we made our way towards the exit, pausing to check out all the awesome pumpkins and gourds.





Minus Carter's nasty bruise, it was a fun afternoon at one of our favorite places!