The Christmas Season, etc.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The longer I stay away from writing here, the harder it is to come back! Why is this?

And I don't know why, either, this idea has wormed itself into my head, of not having anything to share with the world-wide internet when I don't feel like I'm knocking any area of my life out of the park currently. That's probably dumb because then the only person who could write on blogs would be Martha Stewart.

My kids are happy and busy, they love to sing, play and be with each other. They are not perfect angels all the time, by any means, but we've been having fun together with our extra time in the afternoons.

What I want to remember about Juliette on December 16, 2014: 

- She loves loves her books, and loves to sleep with them in her bed, mostly on top of one (whatever is the favorite du jour), and she will set up her stuffed animals likewise. We'll often go in after she's asleep and see her and three of her "friends" sleeping on top of a book also. So cute.

- Always the cruise director, she is either orchestrating picnics, slumber parties, or "dinner" for Molly and herself, and oftentimes me too. The activities include an ever-changing and ever-specific set of instructions that sometimes include the words "it would be amazing" thrown in there for good measure.

- She loves to speak for her and Molly collectively--like, "we don't want to do that" or "we're ready to get up and play." I love this so much, and Molly just grins and nods.

- Loves coloring/art-type projects more and more. I hope Santa knows this.


What I want to remember about Molly on December 16, 2014:

- She loves to hide, and will sneak off with a little grin on her face and say, "it's hiiide!"

- She can often be found wandering the house, calling, "Juuuu...Juuuu"

- Getting really good at singing! She'll chime in with perfect timing on words in songs like Jingle Bells (we've been listening to the Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters version and Michael Buble version), Sleigh Ride, and some Ben Kweller and Weezer songs. Ha! They love music so much.

- You can't talk this girl into anything she has her mind set against. Iron will, I think.


It's next to impossible to get a good photo of the two of them. These are the kinds of photos I end up with regularly:


Neither of them want to look at me, or one of them is making a weird face or moving or something. I guess this is typical little kid-photo stuff, but sheesh.

OK so Christmas! Once again, we've been enjoying Betsy's (a friend of a friend I admire so much) Advent Readings for the Very Young, which are wonderful. We have the Little People nativity set (I got it on super sale a few years back), which works well with this series too. I love teaching them about the Christmas story throughout the month, especially now that Juliette can retain this information a little better than last year (Molly likes to chew on the wise men, but that's par for the course right now, I suppose).

I've also been loving Oh Come Let Us Adore Him study book from SheReadsTruth. It's been so refreshing to my heart and mind to be in scriptures surrounding the story of Jesus' birth. Amazing, really. Also, we made the peppermint play-dough from the book, too! There are several recipes sprinkled throughout the study book, which I love! (Recipe posted here, but I used food coloring, not beets, with peppermint oil, and we only made one color--pink of course!)

It's so fun having kids at stages where their expectations for Christmas Day are nil. They don't really comprehend what "next week" means right now, and Juliette keeps telling us she wants Santa to bring her a candy cane. How great is that.

Everything we do (holiday activities/outings) is sort of a bonus, we can do as little or as much as we want. I hope we can always hold these parts of the Christmas season at arm's length--the traditions that can feel inhibiting, the gifts you think are "absolutely necessary" (not), and all the "stuff" of the season that is entirely besides the point of celebrating the birth of a Savior come to earth in the flesh. How marvelous, how hopeful, how joyful!


Baby 3 update - all is going well. I posted on instagram the other day that Juliette's name suggestions were "Captain Hook" and "Captain Von Trapp" over the course of a couple of weeks. Then this morning, she called the baby "Captain Von Trapp" again so we may have found ourselves with an in-utero nickname (we've never really done that before). I couldn't be happier with the selection. :)


End-of-year stuff: our 2015 planners are still for sale, and my 2015 one-page calendars available for download here. One week til Christmas (give or take a day)! I'm so excited!

2015 Day Planners!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The 2015 version of our "Long Leaf Planners" are here!



Almost identical to the August-August version we published a few months back, just a couple of subtle font tweaks!

If you're unfamiliar with this, here are a couple of features:

- 6.5" wide x 8.5" long x 2"ish thick (half a lettersheet)
- thick laminated cover and back cover
- weekly and monthly spreads
- meal planning line in weekly spreads
- plenty of notes pages in the back

Purchase here (and see more photos)!


On a similar note, 2015 one-page calendar available for free download through this link!

It's Cold = Chicken Pot Pie

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holy cow, it's been cold! According to my iPhone, it's not just us either. Pregnant or not, if it's cold out, I prefer to really bundle up...scarf, gloves, layers, boots, etc. (You'll likely never catch me in ballet flats in the winter, my feet get too cold!) (I realize that cold for us here in Memphis is relative to other parts of the country...but we've had several days over the past week or so that have stayed in the low/mid thirties. That is objectively cold, I don't care where you are.)

All I've been craving (yes, craving) since the legit cold came has been chicken pot pie. I posted a shortcut-easy chicken pot pie recipe several years ago that tastes good too, but I daresay I liked this one even better (and it doesn't use any cream of ______ soups). I have a few friends who have sung the praises of Real Simple's chicken pot pie recipe for years.



Like any mom, I've been trying to sneak in more veggies, so I was drawn to trying their Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie recipe. I adapted a few things (of course), so here's my version:

Ingredients
1 pound rotisserie chicken, de-boned, chicken chopped
1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
2 onions chopped (or frozen chopped onions, if you're me. #sorrynotsorry)
10-ish oz. slightly defrosted/chopped "Normandy" blend veggies (mine are that organic bag from Costco) - includes broccoli, cauliflower, yellow and orange carrots - or you can just chop 4 carrots
3 T all-purpose flour (I used white-whole wheat)
1/2 cup dry white cooking wine (I used water)
2 cups whole milk (that's all we keep now)
1 10 oz package frozen peas
1 T thyme, scant
kosher salt & black pepper
1 store-bought 9" pie crust (found this brand in the organic section, tasted great)

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. De-bone rotisserie chicken and chop.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan (I used my dutch oven pot) over medium heat. Add the onions and "Normandy blend" veggies, stirring, until they begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes (do not let them darken much). Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the wine (or water or chicken broth, whatever you have) and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a shallow 1½- to 2-quart baking dish.
  4. Lay the crust on top, pressing to seal. Cut several vents in the crust. Place the pot pie on a baking sheet (I forgot this and now I have to clean my oven! drats) and bake until bubbling and the crust is golden, 30-35 minutes.

I really thought this was a winner. Not too goopy or rich, the cauliflower kind of camouflaged as potatoes (so paleo of them), and I do like that thyme flavor. I should've used a cuter casserole dish but I am the worst at gauging how big of a container one needs for a container transfer.

I don't know if yall have heard of/seen this Mark Bittman Time Magazine article that published in October--basically exhorting Americans to get back to the kitchen, for health, family, sanity. But the basic premise of his argument is always close in my mind, no matter how bad I've been doing at cooking recently (I'll blame pregnancy, but I'm a perennial hot-and-cold cook). 

Want to know exactly what's in your food? Make it yourself. Besides the pie crust (which I tried to improve upon a little), the ingredients in recipes like this are in their intended form, simple and straightforward, and the recipe wasn't complicated. I like it.


In other news, how awesome is JT (again)? #Grizzlies

Predictable / Good News / October Report

Friday, November 07, 2014

(Editor's note: I started this post on 10/27...this is just how life has been.)

A whole month of no posts. I can't believe it. This blog is in the back of my mind daily, seriously. The weeks just evaporate with their own craziness, exhaustion and....

BABY! 


(Grainy mirror selfie at your service.)

Yes, that's right! We're expecting baby #3 in May of next year, and we're so excited.

This was taken at a mere 13 weeks. The baby definitely wants to make him/herself known, but they say that's what happens each subsequent time (?).

Something fun about this pregnancy is that we're not going to find out the gender this time. I'm so excited about the mystery of it all! The girls will move into Juliette's big girl room together, and then I'll get to neutralize the nursery a little bit (very ready for a change in there after two baby girls anyway). So excited.

Please accept my apologies for the ole predictable first-trimester-blog-break. We get the girls to bed at night (or I do), and I immediately crawl into mine!

What else has occurred? Hmm...

Halloween of course! Mary Poppins & Burt graced our porch & neighborhood this year.


I found Juliette's suit/dickie on eBay and spruced up the hat with some Michaels accoutrements, and Molly's chimney sweep get-up was a jacket and hat loan from my friend Anna (thank you, Anna!). They had fun, but were fine with trick or treating at about three houses. Gonna ride that train while we can.

The Mary Poppins costume was Juliette's idea (one of her favorite movies right now, thanks to my rigorous training). I figured we could still get away with Molly in whatever, so just went with the Burt accompaniment. So cute.

Also in October, the girls and I were in my friend Laura's wedding, in New Orleans. It was a very warm and sweltery weekend, but we made some great family memories and enjoyed seeing some famous New Orleans sights. I will say, it was a bit tough with morning sickness + Cajun food (which is usually my jam). Oh well. 

Look at my sweet flower girl.

Molly had sort of had enough of everything by this point in the day (she came down with something the day of the wedding, unfortunately), so we didn't get too many photos of her in her get-up. 

Before the wedding day, we went a few days early and got to take the girls to the Aquarium, walk the French Quarter/Jackson Square, and of course, eat some beignets (we of course walked by Cafe du Monde (just out of the shot of the below photo), but ate at Cafe Beignet this time. I think the ones we got were too hot or something because the girls just licked off the powdered sugar. Lovely :)



We had a couple of rough nights sleeping (Molly not feeling well and such), but overall, they did really well traveling and rolling with all the punches of the weekend. 

So happy for George & Laura, the wedding was so lovely! Happiest of wishes to my dear friend "Eve." 

If you're traveling to New Orleans with kids, I definitely appreciate this post from Love Taza--we ended up breakfasting at Elizabeth's as a result, which was my favorite meal of the whole trip. Definitely recommend!

October, you were good to us! Though I'm happy to be speeding into the second trimester and (hopefully) feeling a little bit better.


I promise I'll be back here more soon. I made a good soup this week that deserves to be on the internet.

One Year Ago

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

As it turns out, a year really isn't very long.

The hurt still stings when I remember the new reality, this new world order...tears can spring to my eyes instantly when it registers, yet again, that this is how things are now.

The person who taught me how the word "charisma" could be embodied, my best friend from high school is gone from this world too soon.

There have been so many times in this year I wanted to come here and write about this grief. 2013 was such a strange year; we welcomed Molly into the world and our family. We lost my precious Granny, after 93 full years. Then suddenly, bona fide tragedy, losing this friend also.

The juxtaposition of the two different griefs, along with the new life--it was too stark to bear sometimes. I missed (still miss) my Granny... but I can think about the last time I laid eyes on her, asleep forever, peacefully in her bed, after almost a century of life on this earth, and I can grieve with a peaceful heart. With thankfulness.

With the other...it has just simply taken my breath away. At thirty years old, my childhood has (obviously) been completed, with plenty of time for reflection, and thus the Important Memories have risen to the surface to possess always. For a bulk of my formative teenage years, in those memories that have risen to the top, so.freaking.many of them are with her, around her. Being such a magnet of a personality, she was a party in and of herself.

We took years of French together (and even made a summer trip, just the two of us, to Nice, France to study and live with a family there). My French classroom name was Lise, her Juliette. Yes, my firecracker/shining star of a friend sparked my love of the name. A namesake for my firstborn, in a way.

Adulthood led us in different daily directions. But the weight of her impact on my life supersedes how often we were getting together for lunch at the time of her death. I simply miss her, and think of her in a state of disbelief that the world no longer has her in it.

They say time heals all wounds. But this...for all of us who knew her, we will likely carry these scars of grief always. I've learned more about grief over the past year than the in the 29 years preceding. But I do remain enormously thankful for the myriad happy memories that go along with that electric smile.


miss you, kelly
xo

Anything and Nothing

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Juliette doesn't know the word "nothing" or "no one" - she thinks it's "anything" / "anybody." I can't bring myself to tell her the difference.

Leslie: What did you do at school today?
JTJ: Anything.
Leslie: Who did you play with?
JTJ: Anybody. 

(Do I have a sullen teenager in my house already, or a 3-year-old? Are they secretly the same thing?)

Leslie: What would you like to eat for a snack?
JTJ: Anything. I'm not hungry. 

Leslie: What did you just do to Molly? (Following lots of ruckus and or a little wrestling/gnashing of teeth)
JTJ: Anything. She did it to herself.

You get the picture.

The thing is, this logic sort of makes sense to me sometimes. Anything and nothing, somehow the same thing. That's what I feel like I've been doing lately--anything and nothing. Raising kids, going to work, holding down the fort, spending time with loved ones, going places, doing things...so much of it is the same week after week. But yet every week is different, every week brings a new challenge or developmental milestone for the kiddos, the seasons change, budgets may ebb and flow, and there's always more - "anything" - to learn. I don't guess any of that made sense.

My bachelors degree is in English--a degree I used to call the "anything and nothing" degree. Devoid of a teacher education-focused track, I graduated qualified to do anything and also nothing. Obviously, I found my way (being able to craft a sensible, appropriate business email can go a long way).


My dear husband had the day off yesterday (the first in a while), and we spent the afternoon as we like to do, pretending it's Saturday. We took the gals to this old old drug store here in Memphis, for milkshakes. They sat at the counter, feeling like big girls, enjoying every bit of the sweet sugary nectar.



Anything and nothing... I like it.

Books We Love Right Now (kiddies)

Monday, September 01, 2014

I'm not the first one to blog about books my kids have been loving, but I figured I'm always looking for new recs, so here this goes out into the universe and maybe we'll get something back our way?



(clockwise from top left) A Sister More Like Me | Girl of Mine | Read Aloud Bible Stories: Vol. 3 | The Bunny Hop | The Day the Crayons Quit

1. I read about the Frozen book on another blog, and I'm SO glad we bought it. The story of two sisters with different personalities is of course apropos to having two girls of my own (as any sister - or even sibling - duo would be). The illustrations are simply incredible and darling. Here's the post from the personal blog of the illustrator, about the book if you're inclined to read.

2. Girl of Mine was gifted to us by my dear Jesse when we were expecting Juliette, and it has been one of our favorites since we started reading it to her. The story/rhyme is so sweet, and illustrations are so pretty. Molly reaches for it regularly now.

3. Read-Aloud Bible Stories are a favorite of Jules. They read these books regularly at their school, so it works great in tandem with reading them at home too. I love the illustrations, and the way the stories are phrased make them easy for her to remember. We have volumes 1, 2, and 4. There are a few families who gift this to every new baby, and we've been so glad to have our own copies.

4. I don't exactly remember where we picked up this little copy of The Bunny Hop, but it's Molly's absolute favorite book right now. I don't hate reading it either, since it's a long rhyme (easy to animate), and the illustrations are pretty cute. Molly loves what she knows of Elmo (of course), and is also a fan of Big Bird. It's a cute one.

5. We're definitely not the only ones to love The Day the Crayons Quit, but oh boy. Such a fun book to read (I enjoy it!), and the illustrations by Oliver Jeffers are so clever. Definitely a crowd-pleaser for both boys and girls.


So hit me back--what have you been reading with your kids?

End of Summer

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's still hot in Memphis (even though the bulk of summer was blissfully mild!), so it's easy for me to forget that technically, Madame Summer is about to exit stage left (hello, Labor Day). This morning, when I was getting the girls dressed, I suddenly felt this compulsion to put them in super summery things that would technically be faux-pas next week (though I'll not strictly adhere to this...just saying it out loud).

Jonathan picked up this dress (and a matching one for then-tiny Molly!) on a medical trip to Guatemala last year. It's shorter on her than it was last year of course, but still fits my big girl:



We just got these gold Supergas for the fall (I lucked out on a sale!), and I am loving them big-time. They're the perfect gold! Not too shiny, not too bright, not too dull, no glitter...just the cutest things.

I dressed Molly in her little white Mexican dress today plus piggies, so use your imagination for all things labeled Maximum Cute.

We had a fun week because Daddy had two days off this week (after working many many days in a row). We enjoyed the last baseball game of the season for our hometown AAA team, which followed pizza and the girls' first trip to see the world-famous Peabody Ducks' march to the elevator and back up to their duck palace for the evening.

In between school/work/outings, one can usually find Juliette dressed as Elsa, traipsing around the house letting-it-go.

This weekend, we're going to enjoy relaxing and an extra day together, playing outside and possibly hitting up the zoo. I think I love riding the train as much as they do.

These are truly the days!

Have a wonderful three-day weekend--I won't tell anyone if you're wearing your white sandals come Tuesday.

LUNCH FOR ONE / PEACH (CANNED) SALMON SALAD

Monday, August 25, 2014

Alternately titled "Costco Does it Again."

I know we're "supposed" to be looking for wild-caught salmon when possible (not farmed), so when I saw this package of wild-caught canned salmon at Costco (Bear & Wolf brand), I had to try it. If you're scared of canned meats in general, I totally get where you're coming from, but I ain't. I grew up eating canned tuna salad for lunch every Saturday (a tradition I've carried on into our household too)...so canned tuna has just been part of life.

I also love "salads" made with tuna and chicken so I thought salmon would be an interesting one to add to the rotation (while getting more omega-3s, always a good thing).

And, I don't know about you, but is there anything better in the world to eat than a perfectly ripe peach? I'm not sure I can think of anything. This summer, I've been buying the (non-recalled) boxes of peaches at Costco whenever we go, trying to take full advantage of peach season. The other day we went to pick up a few things (really, just a few that time), and I was driving home a little before dinnertime trying to scheme something up to eat. Usually when we go to Costco, it's late afternoon so I'll pick up a $5 rotisserie chicken to have for dinner so we don't have to worry about cooking anything when we get home. The other day though, they had nary a rotisserie chicken for sale (no samples either that day! horror), so back to my scheming. I was mentally scanning what we had in our pantry and thought, "peaches...canned salmon...combo?" Quickly googled the two and found that there are lots of fresh salad recipes for salmon salad with peach dressing, etc. but didn't see a "salmon salad" in the "chicken salad" sense upon first look, so voila. This probably isn't original (nothing is), but let me think it is.

It's surprisingly good (my kids both devoured theirs, if that says anything), and came together super-quick (another favorite criterion). I've now had it twice and thought I'd share for those looking for an easy something to put together (for lunch or dinner, for one person or 4...whatever!).



In my everlasting interest in avoiding measuring devices, all of this was eyeballed.

Peach Salmon Salad

1 can wild-caught salmon, drained
2-ish scoops of plain Greek yogurt (I used Kirkland, holla)
1/4 peach, cut up in thin chunks
slivered almonds if you want
3-4 shakes of cumin (or more), to taste
2-3 shakes of coriander (seriously), to taste
salt & pepper
fresh spinach, salad, corn chips (those are the Kirkland organic corn chips), or bread for serving

Combine everything, adjusting to your preferences.

If serving over salad, douse the spinach/leaves with a smidge of balsamic vinegar & olive oil before placing the salmon salad on top. I toasted bread for the girls and made sandwiches and they gobbled them right up! Two cans of salmon/the above was plenty for the four of us.

It would be easy to tweak for Whole30--replace the Greek yogurt with paleo mayo and serve over spinach or salad. Yum!

Let's Do This

Monday, August 18, 2014

The longer I break from this space, the harder it is to come back. In the back of my mind all last week were post ideas, swirling around my brain...then, this small/ridiculous voice would whisper in my ear, "no one would care about that," or "who would want to read that?" or "is this really important enough to break your sudden/short-ish blog hiatus?" Then I would get psyched out and fold some laundry or go read Outlander. "Tomorrow," I'd think. "Tomorrow."

Here I am, Monday night, with nothing super profound or overly important to say. But I'm here. In my little space, putting fingers to the keyboards. Write, self!

The past few weeks of news have felt truly nuts, you guys. It really feels like the world is fraying around the edges. Between the Ebola epidemic, what's going in Iraq, and what's been happening in our own country (not too far from here) in Ferguson, MO... my heart is so heavy. Lord, come quickly. I get the luxury of sitting here, meditating on the heaviness of all of this, praying...it doesn't make sense.

-----

Adjusting to residency/my new work schedule hasn't been that bad (thus far). One has offset the pain of the other, in a lot of ways. I love having an extra hour in the mornings, and two in the afternoons. In the old regime, I would have to cobble together a little business-casual on my person, get the toots dressed with all of their accoutrements in tow, and leave our house by the very late hour of 7:20 AM in order to get everyone everywhere on time. Well, no longer, my friends. We can leave a few minutes before 8:30 and all make it where we need to be on-time. It's been so great. We actually eat breakfast sitting down! Ha. The girls get to play for a bit! Heck, I even get to sit down and read them a book or two (how bad does it feel telling your kid you can't read them a book right now because you're in a rush(allthetime)? oh, it's the worst).



Our afternoons have involved lots of blow-up pool/sprinkler time in the backyard, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, the park--summer goodness. The nights when Jonathan has gotten home around bedtime, I've been able to jet out for a little run/walk C25K action (sans Jules, she's over it for now), which has felt so good. We're staring down a pretty sweltering week coming up, but otherwise this has been (broken record of America) the mildest summer and ohmygoodness I love it. It's mid-August and we're finally getting a full-on hot week. I can deal with this--the light is at the end of the tunnel.

The evenings (writing time) have been a little more difficult to manage, with Juliette going to bed later, and the chores piling up. I finish all the chores and it's time to go to sleep! This is the life of everyone, I know / #nothingnewunderthesun. Just not sure where this fits into our new world order.

I never regret writing posts here, if for no other reason than I like to read them years down the line. This blog may only be for me, but I want to try to keep the wheels in motion.

This is 3

Monday, August 11, 2014

"Mommy, what did you do at work today while I was at school?"



These are the types of insightful questions brimming from my now-three-year-old.

We had a grand time yesterday, celebrating this little pistol, who spent the first portion of her party running around the yard yelling, "IT'S MY BIRTHDAY! IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!"

This girl is nonstop. She's curious, she's a little rough & tough, but manages to also be thoughtful and has a soft heart. She notices everything. Somehow she's girly but also not. She can 100 percent hold her own with the boys, but her favorite toys are purses and heels.

She loves collections, loves gathering pieces of things into containers, bags or bowls, and carrying them around to redistribute them. This morning it was the pieces to the new Frozen memory game in her purse; yesterday it was Molly's tiny bows she wanted to collect.

She still loves to sleep (when we can get her there). Once she's asleep, she sleeps hard (including naps). She would out-nap Molly six days out of seven. (I think they might even sleep the same number of hours in a 24-hour period.) She LOVES that sissy of hers too.

It's an understatement to say that music is her thing. I catch her almost studying songs when we're riding in the car, her lyric recall impressing us constantly. She loves "Paul" (McCartney, in any form), Feist, Sam Cooke, and songs from musicals (Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Music Man, Singin' in the Rain, Annie, etc.).

I love her.

I'm so proud of her. I can't believe she's a whole separate person sometimes (well, I can, she is asserting this fact to me daily). She is a joy. I'm not sad she's 3. I'm wistful, sure, but so excited to watch her grow up.

p.s. Two things I want to remember specifically: one, when I'm putting her to bed, she pulls me in close by the neck and says, "I'm gonna keeeeep you" (like from Frozen). Second, "A Whole New World" has always been our bath song, and ever since she's learned the words, she sings, "but when I'm way up here, it's Kristoff clear, that now I'm in a whole new world with you..." -- again, Kristoff from Frozen, and I can't bear to tell her it's "crystal." I hope she says "Kristoff clear" forever.

Leftover Quinoa "Stir Fry"

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This afternoon, we had the end-of-the-year parties at the girls' school. They're about to be promoted to the next room up, which always makes my heart ache a little. These years go by so quickly....Juliette is about to be in her FOURTH classroom at our school! I just can't believe it. And we have her birthday coming up too... heart. ache.

So we got home a little later than usual tonight (later for our new schedule later...yay!), and I needed to put some dinner together quickly. The kiddies weren't too hungry because there had been snacks at the parties.

I scanned our fridge real quick and saw:

- rotisserie chicken, already pulled off the chicken
- cooked but unseasoned quinoa, leftover from another recipe
- green beans from last night
- eggs

Hmm. We tried a new ramen/yakitori restaurant last night, so I already had rice dish/stir fry-ish things on the brain. I thought, what the heck? I'll give it a whirl.

Isn't it pretty? Ha.
▼▼



This could obviously work with myriad ingredients, but the idea is using LEFTOVERS.

Here's what:

1. Melt some coconut oil or butter in an omelette pan and let it get hot over medium heat.
2. Added however much quinoa (depending on how many you're cooking for) and let it heat up (rice would work too, obv).
3. Crack 1-2 eggs into the pan, let them cook a bit.
4. Shred some of the rotisserie chicken in the pan (any meat would work).
5. Then add some green beans (or something green).
6. Season with onion powder, garlic salt, s&p...it probably would've been nice to cook some onion and garlic at first, but I was in a hurry and doing this on the fly!

Cooking without measuring anything=my favorite.

If you care, this is technically gluten-free (wink), but not Whole30 compliant (the quinoa).

Choosing a White

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We moved into our house four years ago and promptly painted about five rooms...first the dining room, then the kitchen (and again), our bedroom and bathroom, the hallway, and the den. We were going for comfortable, serene, and some variation of green (being my long-time favorite color) infiltrated its way into about three-fifths of that list. Except for painting our kitchen yellow (it was an attempt to tone down the blasted wood cabinets, but exacerbated the problem), I don't regret any of the paint colors we've chosen.

Being a 1950s ranch, my house has your standard 8' ceilings. This doesn't really even enter my mind, except recently in our den, I've felt like the walls were closing in a little.

Once we found out we were staying here for residency/being in our house for a while, I started letting myself realize how dark and low the den felt. It doesn't feel dark in a bad way, I don't think...cozy, mainly. But I was really ready to brighten things up, clean things out, and make things feel a little more fresh.

Step one was acquiring a rug my mom had offered me a while backa neutral bound carpet piece with a simple/understated pattern, and thus moving our traditional Persian rug into the front living room (I still love it, but it didn't help the den feel "light" in the least. There's a small shot of it here). [You can see some reallllly rough "before" photos/current green paint color in the den here.] Side note: The Persian rug's move to the living room has made that room start to feel like an actual room in its own right, and not just look like our pass-through/expanded mudroom.

Step two was finally hanging the TV on the wall, which I've wanted to do forever and has been accomplished (thank you, T-Bone). It makes everything feel less cluttered and cleaner already. (insert visual image here. sorry!)

Next, I started considering painting the fireplace white or trim color (here's a festive/instagram shot of our fireplace). I remembered from reading Young House Love back in the day how drastically light-colored paint can transform a brick fireplace and thought maybe we would escape having to paint the room and just paint the fireplace (not that that sounds easier, when you think about it...).

But it's really good-looking brick. Exceptional, even.

And, you can't undo painting brick. Jonathan put the kibosh on it anyway, so white paint for the walls was the next place my brain went. We used Benjamin Moore's Old Prairie in the front living room, as well as both entries/vestibules, and the hallway. It's one of my favorite paint colors, and is sister to BM's Camouflage, another beautiful color and the first color we painted in this house, in our dining room (still love it as much today as I did then). BUT, I'm ready for something just a little brighter/fresher in this room.

A disclaimer: it's hard for me to post "inspirational" images because I don't want you to get the impression that I'm going to be able to change much of ANYTHING else about the room besides the paint, for a while. We're in it with the furniture/curtains we have for now (which is fine! really! except our couch, I hate our couch).

Have loved Joni's blog for years, and of course, adore her den. This is actually the closest to what our "stuff" looks like, from what I've seen surfing the internet trying to write this post.




image here

So bright and clean! (Funny though, that rug looks really similar to the one we just moved out! Who knowsit may get swapped back in post-paint.)

Not a den/living room, but one of my favorite kitchens ever:





image here

I'm really excited to do this, and have (attempted) to give myself the deadline of Juliette's birthday in two weeks to accomplish it. Cross your fingers it'll happen.

Now I just gotta pick a specific "color"do you know how many whites there are?!

How did I write this whole post and not use a single photograph of the room in question? And do I deserve an award for this or a slap on the wrist?

I'll (try) to be back, with actual photos.


p.s. my friend Hannah just painted her dining room white, and it's awesome. The internet speaks for itself here.

July 25th

Friday, July 25, 2014

This week has been so busy, with work, and also all that goes on after work (this week, vacation Bible school for Jules in the evenings too!). I really tried to Fresh20 this week, and it's been awesome (with prep and all!). We had this delicious crispy chicken with apple-celery slaw (YUM) last night that was knock-your-socks off good.

I'm dealing with our annual fly problem in the kitchen, around the windows. This happens every year, at this same exact time. Not sure why I haven't tried it before, but I finally busted out a gallon ziploc bag half-filled with water and several pennies inside. Have you heard of this? (And does July feel like the longest month of the year to anyone else? January may be a close second.)

Apropos of nothing, here's a little story for you...this morning, I made the girls some waffles (well, toasted some already-made frozen ones). After putting Jules' plate in front of her, along with a fork she's perfectly capable of using, she looked up at me and said, "Mommy, I'm not gonna use a fork cause I want my fingers to get some exercise."  --> Cue the age-old follow-up, where do they get these things?

I'll take us out of this nothing-of-a-post with my favorite pic from this week (grammed of course):



Happy weekend, mes amis!

Things That Are Red

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1) My cat, but only in name.

You may or may not know/remember that we have a black kitty named Red. My friend Leanne keeps asking me why Red has up and vanished from the blog (kids!), so here goes.

The best thing about cats is their independence; they decide when/if they need or even like you you, and how much.


The best photo of Red ever taken, of course by Stephen Jerkins.

The worst thing about cats is that they are so independent, you can almost forget they're there.

We feed him, and Jonathan takes care of his litter box, but unless he does something annoying (ahem, meowing at 5:45 AM), I am so focused on the kiddies or housework most of the time we're home, I really forget about him a lot. Poor guy! We try to make it up to him when we watch TV (he'll snuggle us on the couch), and he still sleeps on our bed every night. This whole paragraph makes me sound like a terrible person, I have just found it hard to be a devoted cat parent since becoming a human baby parent.

And it appears I didn't blog about this back when it happened, but about 3-4 weeks before I was due with Molly, Red escaped for a few days. We were so sad! He came back one morning, 3 days after going missing, when Jonathan went out on the porch at his breakfast time, calling for him. We were so relieved! (At the time of course, my late-term pregnancy logic determined that the only way to make it better was for me to have the baby. Made total sense at the time.)

2) Jamie Fraser's hair. But apparently not as red in the (forthcoming) show as in the book?



Yep, I've been reading the Outlander Series. Upon first recommendation from my dearest Erin, I've been really enjoying the concept, and eagerly anticipate the new show that debuts August 9! I read it on my kindle, so I can't tell you how many pages it was, except to say that it seemed like plenty of book to get through if you're looking for something summer-y to dive into.

I won't give anything away, but know the series involves: 1) Scotland 2) time travel from post-World War to the 18th century 3) a [very] lovable hero/heroine duo in Claire and Jamie. I can't wait to see what they do with this cinematically (I hope it doesn't go all Game of Thrones and cross the line with the love scenes). I'm now in the middle of the second book and counting down the days til the show starts. It's going to be 16 episodes in the first season covering the first book, split into two 8-episode mini seasons. There are 8-ish books in the series, and they're old enough to be pretty cheap on Kindle (and in paperback too, turns out).

Just...read it, and then email me so we can fan-talk about it.


2015 One-Page Calendar

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Somehow (a mystery), but I'm on the ball, again, with this.  :)

It's the same format for the 2015 version of my one-page calendar (if you've been following along for the past few years).

Here's a look:





2015 one-page calendar, color version (free download)

2015 one-page calendar, black-and-white (free download)


If you're into this sort of thing. Ha. Putting up 2014 and this new one was one of the first things I did at the desk at my new job. I love to be able to see the year laid out, what dates fall on what days of the week, etc. (like, Christmas on a Friday next year! yessir).


Also, here's a reminder that our Long Leaf Planners are still for sale! We have a few left if you're a teacher or a student or just someone who thinks in the school-year format...we've got you covered!

Bedtime Coping Mechanisms

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

It's totally easy to put almost-three-year-olds to bed.

Psych.

I've written about this before, but getting our oldest to bed can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Almost nothing can make me more instantly frustrated than the mind games and back-and-forth ... if you haven't experienced this, I can't describe the frustration triggers accurately enough to do them justice.

Some nights are easier than others for sure (and def. better than it used to be back when I wrote this post), though it does feel like there's a bit of mysticism as to what actually "works" on any given night. Jonathan is known as "the closer" in this process, but I've been trying to up my game recently since he'll be working more.

This is not a solution (this process has made me far too superstitious to declare myself possessing The Answer, no matter what I said before) but here's one thing that's helping my sanity (when my co-parent is home for the evening, obviously): taking walks.

Molly still goes to sleep really early, usually around 6:45, but I bathe them together, so Jules is clean and fed long before she's ready to go to sleep.

It's been so nice, loading her up in the single stroller, turning on Pandora while we bee-bop down the sidewalk, no shoes for her, maybe a book, enjoying the summer evening light and warm weather. I love this one-on-one time together, sometimes we talk, sometimes we just listen to the music while we stroll. It's the perfect, relaxing activity for that hour in between dinner/bath and bedtime.



Sometimes I'll do a little C25K and sometimes not.

So yeah. Nothing original here. Take a walk at night with your kid in the summer. You're welcome.

A Patriotic Pie

Monday, July 07, 2014

July 4th should always be on a Friday. How great was that?!

A sick baby kept me from making a pie on the actual 4th this year... but I rebounded last night.




Recipe here, from the dark ages of this blog. I tweaked it a smidge to make the stars/stripes seen above, so I'll just transcribe it afresh in this here post (since, in a stunning display of blogger prowess, my original recipe post didn't even include a photo of the finished product slash the photos are eye-numbing).

Ingredients
1 prepared 8 inch pastry shell, baked and cooled (this is my favorite homemade pie crust, if you're so inclined—I had one in my freezer already that I thawed, pressed out in the pan, and baked with pie weights on 350 for about 15 minutes)
2 pints fruit—this was about 1.5 cups blueberries, and the rest a mixture of raspberries/strawberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter (the real stuff)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 t vanilla
1/4 t cinnamon

Directions

Pour half of the berries into the cooled pie shell. Then mix the rest of the ingredients (in order) in a medium saucepan until juicy and bubbly, adding remaining fruit last. 
Pour combined fruit/goopy goodness on top of the uncooked berries (if doing the blueberries separately for the "stars," spoon a big spoonful of the sugar/flour mixture into separate small saucepan after it's bubbling and then stir in blueberries to cook).  
If you want to make the flag configuration, make dividers out of aluminum foil, arranging them wedged in between uncooked fruit before pouring bubbling fruit on top. Top with cut-out stars/stripes. Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown (I used a pie crust shield for the last little bit). You want the insides to be bubbling. Let cool completely before serving. 
Here's a reference for the aluminum foil "dividers" ...



We actually couldn't wait til it cooled to eat it, so it was more of a cobbler. Ha. 

In other news/photos...

The night before the 4th, we went down to a Memphis gem, the Levitt Shell, and enjoyed "Patriotic Pops," taking our big girl along. She loved it. 



Local group the Memphis Dawls sang some Andrews Sisters (any opportunity to link to Wikipedia, you better believe I'll take) songs with the orchestra, which was a bit of a dream come true for our gal (we may or may not listen to the Andrews Sisters on vinyl from time to time).

The next morning, we once again took part in my parents' neighborhood parade (baby cousin Jane's first one!). This little chickie was rocking about a 100° temp, poor lamb (turns out, she has had a sinus infection). She wa acting pretty alright, not fussy at all, just puny. It was also the first time I attempted big-girl piggies in her hair. Heartbreaker.



Martha and I went a little overboard on our wagon/stroller decor this year...when in Rome.





We didn't do the best job with photos during the parade, which included things like potty trips, swim suits (for firetruck spray fun), and the like. There's always next year, right?

The weather was incrediblethe high on July 4th was something crazy like 81°. It actually got down in the 60s or something that evening. So lovely!

I kept the little sickie home from church Sunday, and we took a lovely and worshipful walk that morning. So much thankfulness for His creation!



I hesitate to put this in writing, since it's part of my schtick to hate summer, but I'm sort of coming around to it. Everyone's so relaxed, there's so much daylight, no jackets or coats to fret over...cold treats, abundant fruit/veggies, looser schedules. I sort of get it.


Hope yours was swell.


2013 July 4th post
2012 July 4th post
2011 July 4th post
2010 July 4th post
2009 July 4th post (in which you can learn more specifics about our parade, and in which Jonathan and I look really young. Arf)

Beach...Baby

Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm no kind of expert, since I've taken babies to the beach a whopping one time...but any excuse to make a product collage, amiright? Here's a little round-up of a few things that helped make all the schlepping...better? easier? Nah. Made things a little easier though, just maybe.



Our babies did great. We had Juliette at 2 years 10 months, Molly at 15 months, and cousin Jane at 8 months.

Just another attempt at a group pic, NBD:



Ha.

They all decided to wake up extra early (it is vacation, after all!)so in an effort to not wake the entire house, we were up and at 'em early, tucking the Jerkins girls into the (rented) bike trailer with cheerios and milk and going on long bike rides. Bleary-eyed though we were to start, it was a fun way to begin each day!

All three of these gals need their afternoon nap, even more so after lots of fun in the sun plus early rising. It was nice taking the day in two chunks, and being forced to be inside during the hottest part of the day (at least it was for me and Jonny...we're not avid sunbathers).



After the naps, we would usually go to the beach; if it was a full beach day, we'd head back to our tent, where the grandparents/uncles had been holding down the fort. If it was a split day (between pool/beach/bike rides/whatever), we'd head to the beach and get a couple of umbrellas for the chickies and not have to worry as much about the sun at that point because it was normally 4 PM or later.

Here are a few things we employed during our beach week:



ONE : if they've been blogged about once, they've been blogged about a million times. The dearly beloved Saltwater sandals. Both of my girls have this color (tan little Molly's legs are practically the same color, gah I'm jealous), and they were great for when the gals actually needed to wear shoes (over hot sand or on pavement). They're constructed to handle water and sand, and hose off beautifully, plus they stay on really great. And...darn cute, duh.

TWO : a simple, blow-up baby pool (we got ours at Target) for putting under a tent. Jules loved helping ferry water in her bucket from the ocean into the pool (an activity that can occupy her for 30+ minutes usually earns an A+ from me). We were on a stretch of beach where they had these lovely cabana-style tents for rent, so we didn't have to carry the tent down to the beach, which was nice. But one of those tailgating-style tents would probably work, right?

Like so:



THREE : the surprise hit of the week, my genius sister brought these along for baby Jane, along with frozen mangoes and whole-milk yogurt to make popsicles (just blended together in the blender...easy!). She was so kind to share these with her nieces also, who devoured them while on the beach. Smarty-pants sissy just packed these in her lunchbox-sized cooler with an ice pack, kept fully in the actual molds, and they stayed plenty cold for when the girls ate them (while sitting in the blow-up pool, usually!). I'm scheming to acquire some of these for our household now!

FOUR : As you can see from all the photos, I kept my very fair-skinned eldest child in a rashguard shirt most of the week. For her part, Molly had the little short-sleeved/shorts version (matching Jane!). We would douse them in sunscreen of course, on top of this, but it was just so nice knowing their little shoulders weren't going to get torched while wearing these.

FIVE : Add rashguard to sun-hat and you're breathing a little easier. Jules was just a champ about keeping her hat on all week, much to our delight. Molly, on the other hand, wore her white version a total of two minutes. Dang it. Fairly priced with billions of color options, this item might earn MVP for the trip. Sweet little Jane was killer in the lilac.

NOT PICTURED BUT ALSO WORTH NOTING:

- The ubiquitous "puddle jumper", which the gals took turns wearing in the pool. Molly took to it pretty easily.
- Bag of basic sand toys from Target, $10. We didn't need anything this bag didn't have. RIP blue shovel.
- Blow-up twin bed for Jules. She slept great on this! I loved how the sheets tucked into the mattress so there weren't blankets everywhere. It was nice for her to have her own little space. Also nice that this comes with its own pump and travel bed, and is a useful bed for future adult guests too.
- Double jogging stroller (we have this one off Craigslist). Such a workhorse. We were fortunate that my sister/her husband had room in their truck bed to bring this for us. Whether we were strolling a combination of the gals around the myriad trails available, or using it to schlep things to the beach (thanks, Dad!) while the rest of us biked there, this thing got used.

Obviously, there are about a billion other things I missed. If you want to share in the comments, I'd love to hear what you got! We're hoping for a repeat next year! :)

One of my biggest takeaways from this trip?

There's a lot of just plain work behind a photo like this:



Worth every minute.

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