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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Maundy Thursday

Last year we attended a Maundy Thursday service at our church which was really wonderful.  This year we had a Maundy Thursday dinner at home.

We ate on floor and read about the Last Supper.  I told the kids that at the Last Supper Jesus knew his time on Earth was coming to an end and he wanted to make sure, if they remembered anything, that his disciples knew that above all else  to love one another.  That's a message the girls really get and it felt so good to remind myself too. 

It was a lively dinner full of stores and at least 3 glasses tipped (or maybe they were kicked or knocked) over and so my bible is now drying's soaked in wine.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013


It doesn't feel or look like spring yet but we're still enjoying our spring break.  Early on Sunday morning my mom, the girls and I boarded a train bound for Chicago and our mini-trip began.  It was fun and full of lots of laughs from start to finish.

We all loved the train, it was on time and a great way to comfortably travel...some of us got more comfy than others.  

When we arrived we found a cab and away we went to our hotel.  When we got out Lucy said "that a nice man to let us borrow his van".   She made lots of friends the entire trip with her sweet, constant commentary, her friendly waves to everyone, her thank-yous, and her curiosity about who everyone was and what their names were.

The first night after renting a movie in the room and swimming we ordered room service   The girls loved it and it sure was easy!

The next day we rode the bus to Navy Pier.  

At Navy Pier we visited the Chicago Children's Museum and honestly it was a real bummer.  It was packed at 10:30 in the morning.  So packed that 30 seconds in I knew we'd made a big mistake.  It seems like a very neat place with all kinds of fun looking activities.  I can't tell you if they are actually fun though because it was so packed that we did 2 things in the hour and a half we were there.  Lucy did get to look through that magnifying glass.

After lunch we decided to do a little shopping.  Emma spotted this sign and I had to get a picture for our  own red headed piano player.

The weather was really lovely for Chicago and shopping is always fun on Michigan Avenue.  And made even better when Gram's buying you a new dress.

After resting up a bit we headed out for pizza- delicious!

  When I suggested going to Shedd Aquarium nobody was excited, the children's museum experience with all of the other spring breakers (and schools/camps) made us want to avoid museums all together.  So the next morning we swam again and I sadly realized that my scale must not actually be broken and that maybe (after Easter goodies, of course) I'd better start working to comfortably fit back into my swimming suit before June arrives and I am practically living in that thing.  

 After cleaning up we ate a late breakfast and did some shoe shopping.  We were all a little tired so we came back to the room and rested for 2 hours in front of PBS kids.    Then we went to tea at the American Girl Place.  It was terrific, and everything the girls had hoped!  However, after seeing the brand new dolls up close I realized our special solution only works well if you can't really remember how silky soft American Girl Doll hair starts out.  Ours were so awful that the change looked to the new dolls, not so much.  Oh well.

The next morning it was back to the train station.  We got on the train with 4 minutes to spare.  Really, 4 minutes.  We like to make things exciting. 

What a great way to spend a few days off!

Friday, March 22, 2013

How to untangle American Girl Doll Hair

Elizabeth, an American Girl Doll is under that hot mess. 

Today was our first day of Spring Break--yippee!  It was cold and dreary and a perfect indoor was also a day that if not executed well could have been miserable.  We had a few chores to do around the house and needed to pack for our mini-trip....hmmm not exactly an exciting first day off.   Plus the older girls have been fighting a lot lately (yes, they fight.  Yesterday when I picked up one of the girls from a play date, the nanny asked if my kids ever fought and when I said "Absolutely!!  All the time!" she was shocked and said she didn't believe me, my girls seemed so perfect.  Full disclosure here...I've also been known to yell, which I abhor, and feed my kids cereal for dinner.)     Anyway, I knew I needed a plan to avoid a day full of fighting, whining and yelling.  My American Girl Doll Salon!  The girls dolls are a mess.  Earlier in the week I googled how to untangle doll hair, because we are well aware over here that no amount of combing does the trick.  The advice I found was to comb their hair with a wig brush and a solution of  fabric softener mixed with a little water.   I found wig brushes at the beauty supply store and bought a couple of spray bottles and fabric softener at Target.  This morning after letting the kids sleep in as late as they wanted and then watch some PBS kids, I told them about the plan.

*They had to interview for the job which included a fashion inventory (what this really meant was...get dressed, do your hair, brush your teeth)
*The interview also included proving that they could keep the salon neat (this meant, clean your room)
*We needed signs for the salon
*We needed lemonade for the salon (quick trip to the store....we were out of milk and fruit, which we didn't need for lemonade but it made the trip become part of the plan)

The girls had so much fun, never fought, and did every single thing quickly and happily.  It was a total win-win.

The "secret" solution.  Each brush was $5, the spray bottle was maybe .50 and the fabric softener was $4.50 (which if I had it to do again I'd choose scent free, kids loved it though)and will last for as long as we're brushing doll hair and then some.  So all in I spent about $16.  Not too bad considering the girls worked their magic on 4 dolls and have the secret solution and brushes to do it again any time they wish. While the dolls still don't look factory perfect, when I think about what the American Girl Doll Salon would charge to get it back in shape, along the shame we'd feel bringing those raggedy dolls in, I know it was money well spent!

The lovely stylists at work.

 The salon clients were in real need of some beauty help!

Beautiful results, in every single respect! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A favorite

Tonight's dinner is one of my favorites.  Although there are quite a few ingredients it's easy to prepare and makes a lot so you'll have leftovers.  Ordinarily leftovers are not something I want but for this dish I happily make an exception.

Eggplant Caponata and Herb Polenta
Rachael Ray

Eggplant Caponata
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I leave out, Kevin and I can add to our dishes)
1 red bell pepper
1 large sweet onion (or any onion that I have)
2 ribs celery
1 jar (2 ounces) capers (or whatever I have left in a jar)
1/2 cup golden raisins (or regular if that's all I have)
1 medium firm eggplant, diced
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) crushed tomatoes

Herb Polenta
3 cups veggie stock
1 cup quick cook polenta
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Dice pepper, chop onion and celery. Preheat a big, deep pot over medium heat.  Add oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes.  Add veggies to pot.  Coarsely chop olives, and stir in along with the capers and raisins.  Dice and salt the eggplant and stir in.  Increase the heat a bit, add diced and crushed tomatoes and stir well to combine.  Cover pot and cook, 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat

Bring 3 cups veggie stock to boil.  Add polenta and stir constantly until the cornmeal masses, about 3 minutes.  Stir in herbs, cheese, butter, salt and pepper.

Serve caponata on top of the polenta.

The above picture was taken 4 years ago, just a few months before Gus died.  Kind of hard to believe.  I still miss the little rascal.  It's a real mystery to me, this incredible affection for him.  I'm not even close to what you'd call a dog person.  If you have a dog, I probably don't remember.  Even if I meet your dog multiple times I surely won't remember its name or type.  I don't love dog stories or find it cute that people treat their animals like humans.   I don't like their shedding or their jumping or their howling.  Except for  Gus.  He had all of the above annoying traits and then some and I still loved him.  I loved him so much that my heart felt broken after he died.    That cooky, smelly, shedding dog loved me so much that there was really no hope for me.  People have asked me when we'll get another dog and my answer varies, mostly I answer, someday.  I'm not sure if I don't want another dog because I don't think any other dog could ever measure up to Gus (which is a bit comical if you knew Gus) or if my heart can't quite handle another Gus.


Thankful today for:
a cold winter
the first signs of spring
wonderful friends who listen and are smart and passionate and give me hope for all that the world can be
clean water
fresh flowers
our upcoming Spring Break
remembering to renew my license the day it expired
Pi Pizzeria
teachers who love my children
handmade pillows and neck warmers made by 2 sweet crafters
garden plans
being a best job ever, and I've had some good ones
living close enough to school that we can walk...even when we weren't planning to
Triple A
being related to the 2 year old red head at the DMV who belted out the ABCs, while dancing in a fancy, green dance costume, sans boots and coat.  And who responded, when I asked her to put her boots back on, "I'm a ballerina, and I don't dance in boots" making the very tense room laugh.
not rushing
rainy days, but just sometimes
trying something new, being terrible at it, showing up over and over again and not giving up
being healthy both in body and mind
my parents, who have loved me always and remind me of what I'm made
my brother, who will always be my baby brother but who I'll always be in awe of
texting...but not while driving
The Gathering
a clean closet
my extended family, it's unbelievably extended in all kinds of directions and so full of life and love
reading "Good Night Zoo" for the 500th time and still making Lucy laugh on the dark page with just eyeballs
my cozy little house
having goals and plans but trying hard to remember to be 100% here in this moment

But everyday, and most certainly today, the four souls that make me certain this is the most lovely life I could have ever hoped for...

Emma, who is deep and strong and full of love
Eleanor, who is wise and compassionate and my compass
Lucy, who is joy filled and spontaneous and all in
Kevin, who is brilliant, and kind, and the very best sort of man

Good bye 36!  You were kind and fun and filled me with love and lots of laughter.  You also stretched my thinking and my heart and gave me much to wonder about.  Hello, 37!  I'm ready... I have a very good feeling about you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Weekend

 Happy St. Patrick's Day!  It's been a weekend of celebrations....
-birthday parties for both big girls (I'm seriously contemplating not allowing anymore birthday party sleepovers...I'm really getting tired of grouchy kids who have stayed up all night the previous night fueled by sugar)
-lunch out with 2 of my girls on Friday
-dinner out both Friday and Saturday nights
-a visit from Kyra and Grandpa
-a marvelous piano recital
-pre-birthday hoopla for family is really spoiling me this weekend.  Nobody fought all -afternoon and I read for nearly 3 hours, while they brought me snacks and drinks in bed.
Does it have to end?

Kevin made this shepherd's pie tonight.  He subbed Boca burgers for the ground turkey and left out the nutmeg, tomato, and all of optional additions.  It was very good.  Here is the shepherd's pie we usually make.  It is also excellent.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Eleanor and I attended a cooking class on Friday night called Peep-a-palooza.  Like the name suggests we "cooked" with peeps.  It was so much fun.  Spending one on one time with the older girls is a treat.  Every time I do I realize we need to do this more often.  Being one of three girls is very special but it has its struggles too.  I know getting special attention from mom or dad feels pretty good and is awfully important.

My favorite dish was the the little bo peep pizza (no peeps for this dish!), we used biscuits to make individual pizzas.  What a great, easy pizza idea!

The sunflower cake.

 Tonight I'm making a very, very easy dinner.  Mac and cheese, cantaloupe, veggie burgers (for Kevin and me) and chickenless chicken fingers ( for the girls).  A processed food smorgasbord!

Friday, March 8, 2013


I've felt like lazy bones this week.  I've not exercised even one time since last Friday.  Every morning (except this morning when I didn't even bother to set my alarm) I've hit snooze and have chosen sleep over exercise.   I'm fine during the normal day hours, from the time I get up (an hour and a half after my norm!) until about 4:30pm  but once 4:30 hits I'm beat and making dinner is the last thing I feel like doing.  Tonight Eleanor and I are going to a cooking class, Kev is in Chicago and my mom and Gordon are taking Lucy and Emma out to dinner so I'm off the hook for dinner prep and tomorrow we're going to some friends for the hook again!  Here are two recipes I'm making next week, both are from a cookbook I've had since before Kevin and I were married.  They are yummy and so easy, even when you're lazy bones, which hopefully I won't be next week but just in case.....

Linguine with clam sauce

1 medium onion
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can chopped clams

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and parsley.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften.  Add the tomatoes and their liquid and the clam juice from the clams.  Save the clams to add later.
Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 20  minutes, stirring occasionally.  The mixture should bubble but not boil energetically.  The sauce will gradually thicken as the liquid evaporates.  The tomato pieces should be surrounded by sauce, add a little water if too  much evaporates.

Serve over cooked pasta along with a green salad and fresh bread.

Lentil Soup

1 medium onion, diced very small
4 garlic cloves, diced very small
2 celery stalks, diced very small
2 carrots, peeled and diced very small
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
8 cups veggie broth
Add cinnamon to taste

Heat oil in pot, add onion, garlic, celery, and carrots.  Cook about 5 minutes until veggies begin to soften.  Add the tomatoes and their liquid, lentils, and broth.  Boil mixture then turn to low and cook for about 20 minutes.   Soup will be very thick when it is ready.  You can add water or broth if you'd like it soupier.  Add cinnamon if you like.  We love lentil soup from a restaurant in Columbia which puts cinnamon in.  I imagine I use about 1 teaspoon, maybe a bit less.  

Serve with a greek salad, use this dressing, hummus and pita.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On being 2 and a half....

Purple sparkle light up tennies and a new bow with a sparkly number 2.  Does it get any better?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Two and a half

This morning Lucy and I went to the Family Center and visited with our Parents As Teachers Educator, Jani.  We had a great trip.  The secretaries at the center were so excited to see Lucy and couldn't believe how much she'd grown since our last visit.  They've known Lucy since we were expecting her and once she arrived they helped me often  by holding her when I would come to drop off or pick up Eleanor from preschool.  It's fun to think back on those days but shesh they were exhausting.  The days of getting two little girls and a baby fed, dressed, and out the door by 8:20, dropping them off at two different schools, racing home to hopefully get the baby a morning nap (one which was not in the car) to turn around and leave by 11:30 to pick up Eleanor, to return home in time for lunch and fingers crossed, another nap for the baby, while entertaining a preschooler quietly as to not wake the sleeping baby, and to then load up the little ones for Emma's pick up by 3:25 were something else.   Makes these days feel like a vacation.  It's always fun to see Jani.  She knows our family well and has been our PAT educator since we moved to Clayton.  She remembers little details about the girls and notices so many things about Lucy.  Every time we see her she marvels at how independent Lucy is and reminds me what a fantastic trait this is.  I'm also reminded of things that I can let Lucy do... for instance zip her own coat, once I get it started.  We talked about potty training, something I'm inclined to wait to do until 3.   Lucy is very interested in the whole thing but I have my reservations.  Jani agreed that waiting makes sense, she told me why and gave me some handouts to read.  I trust her and the rest of the staff at The Family Center.  I'm so thankful for  all the smart, caring people we have in our lives.

Tonight we're having Greek wraps with white bean hummus.  I'll also make some roasted red potatoes.

Her most common phrase right now is, "Hey Momma, let me show you my tricks!".  And she has a lot of tricks.  A lot.  She also loves to wear Emma and Eleanor's clothes and tells us that they are "just perfect" on her.  We love this little goof ball so much!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Welcome Home!

Yesterday Kevin returned from a 10 day trip to Dubai.  Boy did we miss him while he was gone!  Even though travel is nothing new around here, 10 days is a lot longer than his normal trip and Dubai is pretty darn far away.  Every single week Kevin works a lot.  He leaves early, usually before 7 (he's been so helpful lately and a couple of times a week, when he is not traveling, he doesn't leave until 7:45am so that I can go to a 6am yoga class --a huge treat for me, and I know a sacrifice for him).   Thankfully he is home by 6 most nights but his normal routine is to do more work after the kids are in bed.  I know this is the norm for most people, which is a crying shame if you ask me.  Anyway, my normal schedule/work load doesn't really change all that much when Kevin is traveling because he works a lot and simply doesn't have time to do the day to day work that needs doing around here.  This is not a complaint, trust me I totally have the better end of this stick.  My point is that it wasn't so much that I missed his help while he was gone, I just plain missed him, and so did the kids.  I'm really thankful that even though Kevin works a lot he is still such a huge part of our lives and the time that he does have to spend with us he makes sure is his best.  Now, if he could also figure out how to shorten that work week I wouldn't complain!

On Saturday I made veggie soup and put it in the crock pot so that it was ready to eat as soon as we got home from church.  Our church just started a 5pm Saturday evening service and I'm thrilled!  About 5 years ago we spent 6 months too long at another church because they had a good kids ministry and a Saturday evening service.  And honestly, that's been just about the only thing I've wanted to change about The Gathering, and then they went and added a Saturday evening service.  Love!

Last night I made salmon (brown sugar for the kids) and mustard for us.  It's super easy and delicious.  Mix 2 1/2 T Dijon mustard with some salt and pepper and 1T dill.  Spread on salmon.  Heat oven to 500, place metal baking pan in oven while oven is preheating.  Once heated, take pan out, spray with Pam and place salmon skin side down in pan.  Cook for 10 minutes....adjust time based on thickness of salmon, mine took a bit longer last night.

Tonight I'm making chickpea curry in a hurry, served with steamed brown rice and carrots.  This is also very good made with eggplant, or if you're eating meat, chicken.

Curry in a Hurry
Adapted from Rachael Ray
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced, mild to extra spicy
1 to 2 inches fresh ginger root, minced or grated, mild to extra spicy
1 large yellow skinned onion, peeled and chopped
2 Cups Veggie Broth
2 tablespoons curry paste, mild or hot
1/3 to 1/2 cup mango chutney
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 cans Garbanzo beans, drained

Toppings and garnishes, mix and match:
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup toasted coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds or Spanish peanuts
1 /4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

Heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic, ginger and onions and saute together for 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add veggie broth to the pan and bring to a bubble. Add curry paste and mango chutney and reduce heat to medium low. Add garbanzo beans. Taste and add a little salt, if you feel it necessary. Simmer curry 5 to 10 minutes.

Assemble your toppings in small dishes. Serve curry in shallow bowls with scoops of rice. Garnish with any or all of your toppings.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 3

Sweet Eleanor is sick.  She got sick early Wednesday morning, I was hopeful that it was the quick 24 hour stomach bug that is going around.  It is not.  This sucker is hanging on.  Last night we were sure she was well.  She had a fever in the morning but seemed in good shape by the time we were going to bed.  She was not.  She woke up early this morning throwing up again.  Booooo!  I have trouble writing about vomit and sharing a recipe in the same post, so I'm not going to do it.  Send us good healing thoughts and prayers, please!

Last night was Black History Night at the girls' school.  It is a really wonderful celebration.  The 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade chorus sings and the entire 1st and 2nd grade perform as well.  I was so disappointed not to get to see Emma sing and also sad for Eleanor not to get to participate.  One of El's friends sent her a card that said "I am crying right now because you are sick and not coming to Black History Night", it had the perfect effect of making her feel loved and missed and so took some of the sting out of not going, plus the dozen roses my dad brought her didn't hurt.