Cooking Outside Our Norm

EJ's school does a daily tasting exercise and this month's theme was legumes.  EJ's assigned day is today and because she was the last tasting of the month, there weren't a lot of choices left.  So I asked for suggestions and we decided on edamame.  EJ & I prepared them yesterday and they were so simple to make.  In addition, everyone in the family liked them...even Jack!  Truly shocking.

I am excited for this new snacking option and am planning to hunt for some recipes that use them too.  I am also hoping to uncover some other foods I can sneak by my picky eater.  Introducing edamame as "popping beans" certainly helped Jack try them (still shocking that he liked them too though).  Any recommendations/recipes for things kids can't help but love (even though they are good for them or different)?

She Did It!

It took 2 hours, lots of patience (from both of us), some tears (again from both of us), lots of changing up teaching strategies (she & I do not learn the same way and that can be difficult), and a ton of determination (she would not take a break until she finished), but we now have a cute little rainbow fish waiting to be ironed!  I think now that she has down the concept of following a pattern and working row-by-row it will go much smoother in the future.  I'm very proud of her and I think you can see how proud she is of herself too!

A Discovery at the Craft Store

EJ always wants to do exactly what Jack is doing, and lately that has been creating with perler beads.  Every evening she patiently stands next to Jack's chair "just watching Jackie" but you can see in her eyes that she wants to be doing it too.  Matt made each of the girls a gift (a butterfly & a panda) to distract them a bit, but...while she loves her butterfly, it doesn't seem to be enough.

So you can only imagine the happy dance/freak out I had when I happened upon these Biggie Beads at the craft store!  I seriously did not even know these existed!  I showed them to the family at dinner and EJ was so excited!!!!  She can't wait to get her little fingers on these completely manageable-sized beads.  I can't wait to see what she creates (and how these bad boys melt too...they're huge!).

{top is Jack's regular perler beads, bottom is the Biggie Beads}


True to form, I have found many spectacular gifts (in my opinion) for the upcoming birthdays, but have been stumped on my own daughters' gifts.  So frustrating!  So, I started watching them play and they have started doing a ton of pretend play together...and nicely.  Olivia has also developed a love for making sure her Dora doll has a new outfit and shoes at all times (your doll is well-loved Meg!).  I'm thinking this means they are both ready for a dollhouse.

Given that their birthdays are so close together, we could easily give them this shared present and then smaller things just for them (although honestly, everything ends up shared in this house).  As they both need to be playing at the same time, I'm thinking we should go bigger (not crazy but shareable) and of course I'd like it to be sturdy, but other than that, I don't know a lot about dollhouses in general.

So, anyone in love with their kiddos dollhouse?  Anyone have a cute one on their wish list that they'd be willing to share a link to?

Birthday Celebrations

{each of the kidlets at their last birthdays}

I love birthdays! I mean what's not to like...there is cake and presents and excitement!  I love it all!

Usually my own excitement and love of all things birthday translates into crazy (but fun) parties for the kids, but this year we've decided to do things differently around here.  Our kids are not having friend parties this year.  Instead each will have cake with the families as usual and then have a special date with one friend of their choice (I'm sure Olivia's friend will be me, but maybe we can talk Fin into a day at the Children's Museum?).

Why have we decided on this plan?
1) The friend factor - EJ goes to school with a bunch of kids from another neighborhood.  Everyone there is her friend & she really doesn't talk about anyone more than anyone else.  We know one kid there personally.  Jack, on the other hand, has too many actual friends.  Every year its a semi-new set of classmates, so we now have 3 rooms of good friends.  Both situations make it tricky to pick a small-sized group of party guests.

2) We've slowed down - Well, maybe just I've slowed down, but this Winter is turning me into a bit of a hermit.  I'm enjoying just snuggling up at home with my little family and doing my own thing.  Party planning isn't high on my list of things I feel like doing right now.  I realize Jack's birthday will be after I'm all pepped up from Summer weather, but we have to make things fair!

3) March and April are crazy! - I just counted and we have 14 family & friend birthdays in March & April (including EJ, Olivia and 4 of my nieces).  That's a whole lot of celebrating, shopping, and crafting.  I'd like to be sure enjoying happens too!

To be honest, they are all really excited about this idea.  EJ & I have been working on the plans for her big day already and Jack is brainstorming a full 6 months ahead of the game. 

So, have any of you celebrated your kiddo's birthday with a bestie date day?  What did your kids choose to do?  Did either of you miss having a party?

Words With Friends

So I hear there are a ton of people playing Angry Birds.  Not me.  Nope, I'm completely hooked on Words With Friends.  I'm afraid to ask this (as I already have more games going than I can keep track of) but anyone else playing?

Maybe creating words will smarten me up a bit?  Improve my memory?  Well, if nothing else, it gives me a reason to smack-talk my little brother!

Five on Friday

Yep, I totally made that up!  But I have a couple of random things to say today, so just go with it...just this once.

1) I am now the proud owner of a valid Driver's License that bears my actual weight (You all thought I was going to lie again didn't you? Yeah, I may have considered it).  I went with Olivia and she is now the only person EVER to get upset about LEAVING the DMV!  I'm not quite sure what the attraction was, but I will admit it was a smooth experience all around.

2) I made this Chicken Marsala Wrap last night for dinner and oh my yummy!!!  Seriously, Matt & I were debating have more all evening long.  Definitely going in the rotation (even if it does mean I have to make a different meal for the kids.  It's that good!).
{not a pic of my own version though...this is from the recipe creator herself!}

3) Jack and I are going to see E. T. this weekend.  I can't wait!  I really hope he likes it, but I know we'll have a great time even if he doesn't!

4) I have been loving reading memoirs lately!  Over the past few months I've read Open, The Kids Are All Right, A Little Bit Wicked, Eat Pray Love, and a few from "celebrities" I'm not going to name.  I'm currently reading Unbearable Lightness and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House.  Loving them both...but today my friend Kristen posted about this book and I can't wait!  I know all of you are closet Little House fans too...admit it!

5) I had a couple of requests for additional photos of Duff and the kids hanging out.  Here are a few of my favorites...the middle pic is Duff showing off his strength by lifting both girls.
{photos courtesy of James Conway Photography}

Last Weekend We Met Duff...

{thanks to James Conway Photography for capturing this!}

Yeah, we're still in shock too!  Read all about Auntie Sandy's huge, amazing, successful Iron Cupcake event here.  We are so proud of you and so thankful to have you in our family!

Stating the Facts

So I've come to grips with my age even though sometimes it's not so fun.  For instance, due to my stellar diet, it was suggested I get more fiber.  So now, I'm on the fiber gummies...getting it done my way!  Oh and don't worry about the weight management part...this version just had some additional vitamins and I figured, couldn't hurt?  But on the topic of weight, I've got a question for you...

I need to head to DMV soon (like seriously, my bday was last week) to replace my driver's license issued in 2003.  Now I have tended to follow the 10 lbs under your current weight rule for my DL most of my life, but my current weight is 10 lbs under the one listed on my 2003 DL.  Seriously?  Now I could tell you I was pregnant (which is true) but let's be honest, I wasn't factoring that weight gain into the equation.  Clearly and truthfully, for a number of reasons, it was just one of the times I was bigger in my life.

So now, I'm pretty much at the weight I usually sit at.  I am working out more than ever, but I'm not really trying to lose weight (like it's not even on my radar), I just want to be more active and tone what I'm already working with.  So that being said, do I still go lower?  Admit the exact weight?

Tell the truth (I promise not to call the DMV) your license correct?

Paper Butterflies

This weekend Matt, Jack & EJ worked on a big secret project (luckily for them I actually left the house a couple times) involving spray-painting tp tubes, crayon drawings on construction paper, stickers, pipe cleaners and markers.  In the end I got these lovely butterflies as Valentine's Day mantel decorations.  I love Dad crafting time!

{Matt got the idea for this craft here}

All true...

{available at Paper Wheel}

{available at nellie*design}

{jackie's fortune at dinner saturday night}

{available at mateo and tobais}

{available at Sapling Press}

{new to my private collection designed by my amazing friend Sandy}

{my kids as chocolate boxes...via Auntie Sandy...couldn't have said it better myself!}

Happy Valentine's Day!!!


Everyone who knows me knows that I am not a big fan of the princess stuff.  I think the messages involved can be really awful (especially in princess movies made by that famous mouse's company).  Evil witches, violence, a focus only on the outer beauty of the, no thank you!

But...I've got these two little girlies in my life who tend to love all things dress-up and ballerina and fairy wands, etc.  And overall, I think they have a good balance of interests, so I definitely let them have their "princess stuff" too.  For example, their favorite line of their Princess and the Frog book is "I'm green...and I'm slimy!" and this is how they dressed up the other day to be ballerinas.

Still, I'm always on the lookout for positive princess stories and this animated short (we spotted it on Nick Jr) is wonderful!  And yes, the narrator is Parminder Nagra (or Neela if you're an ER junkie like myself).

Isn't it cute?  Any other stories you can recommend for my girls?

Birthday Notes

Today is my birthday and while it's not "the big one" (that's next year), I wanted to do something special.  I was so inspired last year by Robyn's random acts of kindness birthday celebration, but I decided to make it personal. 

I sat down and wrote 39 people.  Some I've known forever (like my Mom) and some not too long at all, some I talk to every day and some may have only been in my life a brief time, but every person has changed the person I am today for the better. 

{amazing custom stationery set by nellie*design}

Honestly, it was so much fun to write these notes.  In doing this writing, I was counting my blessings...counting the people I am blessed to have in my life and thinking about what they "give" me every day.  What a great way to start your birthday...already overwhelmed by all the awesomeness in your life!

I hope they are well-received and I hope my words truly convey how I feel about each person.  It was a little scary to put these in the mailbox, but I'm really glad that I did.

P.S. Be sure to check out the new nellie*design blog.  Nellie is an amazing graphic designer, momma to the uber-cute Finley and an awesome friend!  I'm so excited to see all she has to share...and right now she's sharing 3 super cute free printable Valentine cards!

CF Great Strides 2011

 {Lindsay & Ella at Disney on her Make-A-Wish trip last October}

Lindsay was my college roommate and a great friend from the day I met her.  She is now a Mom to an amazing little girl named Ella.  Ella has Cystic Fibrosis and every day she & her family fight. 

I've talked about my amazing friend before but this is the short of it.  This fight is beyond difficult...Ella has had two major sinus surgeries this year (that did not go well for a number of reasons), her medicines & breathing treatments cost over $1500 a month, their family took a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney for Ella's 7the birthday.  Lindsay has been a dedicated volunteer for both the CF Foundation and Great Strides, she works hard to help her daughter lead as normal a life as possible, she is Ella's biggest cheerleader...and she is tired.  And I think, now more than ever, she needs to see people fighting with her...she needs support.

The bottom line is this...Ella is sick.  There is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis at this time and money is needed to not only fund research but also to assist families living with CF.  If your child (or niece or grandchild or friend or neighbor) was sick, wouldn't you want everyone to help.  Simply giving up one trip to Starbucks and donating that money makes a difference.

I haven't updated my Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk page from last year as there is a lot of great information there including an incredible video Lindsay made explaining CF.  Please take a moment to check it out.  The walk is Sunday, May 15th.  PLEASE make a donation or consider walking with us.  Please help...

Ten on Tuesday: Valentines Fun

Ten Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day 2011

1.  Send an e-postcard courtesy of kate spade.
{image courtesy of kate spade}
Lots of super cute designs to choose from and perfect for all your bffs!

2. Craft a gumball necklace for the littles in your life.

3. Eat lots of yummy seasonal candy!
Yep, I got my gumdrop hearts!  Jackie tracked down two places that have them and even delivered a bag to my door!  Yum!

4. Enjoy some creative coloring time with free printables from Vale Design.
{image courtesy of Vale Design}

5. Follow Jack's lead and turn a school "fun page" into a super cool gift for your sister.
He also had me print an Olivia page for our Olivia.  I bet if you did a quick search you could find a coloring page that fits the interests of anyone you like to give some "art" to.  And I bet grown-ups would love these too!

6. Enter to win this gorgeous LOVE print from Heartfish Press!  Just comment on this post with your favorite love song by Friday, February 11th.
{image courtesy of Heartfish Press}

7. Check out the phenomena that is Iron Cupcake: Milwaukee! Sunday, February 13th from 10am to 2pm.  Everyone is going to be there...seriously!  And Duff Goldman is the celebrity, right?
{image courtesy of Iron Cupcake: Milwaukee}
If you go and happen to run into the Cupcake Queen herself (my girl Sandy), be sure to wish her a Happy 29th Birthday.  It's going to be an amazing birthday party, that's for sure!

8. Treat yourself to a heart-shaped pizza from Rocky Roccoco's.  Sure it's cheesy and kind of lame, but isn't that truly the core of Valentine's Day?  Besides, it tastes delish and they throw in a free balloon too!

9. Give a naturally sweet Valentine to your uber-healthy friend (yes, I mean you Jackie) with these super cute fruit stickers from Twig & Thistle.
{image courtesy of Twig & Thistle}
I chose the clementine photo as those are the absolute favorite fruit of my girls, but there are also stickers for pears, apples and bananas.  So cute!

10. If you are under age 4 and live in my house, you're gonna need a cute outfit too!  Character graphic tees and also a complete outfit for my accessory girl.

{images courtesy of old navy}

No matter how you celebrate the day...make it special!

Gumball Necklaces With A Twist

This past week this gumball necklace tutorial has been everywhere!  So cute right?  I was inspired to try myself and when I found two boxes of the perfect size gumballs in my pantry, I decided it was meant to be.  The tutorial is for Valentine's Day themed necklaces, but the other colors in my box were perfect for a little Super Bowl spirit!

I had enough for necklaces for both girls and bracelets for the other girls at our Super Bowl gathering too!

The "jewelry" was a nice addition to their outfits on game day, especially given that they don't have official Packer shirts.  EJ was so proud to pose, but this looks like the worst school portrait ever right?

And with the other gumball colors we made some Valentine's gumball jewelry too.  These are my favorite traditional looks, but we made some fun combinations too.

This was a pretty simple project, but I did develop a short list of tips in case you want to attempt it yourself.
*Do not hold the gumball with your fingers!  I had an accident (ouch!) and then developed a great system of holding the gumball between the handles of a pliers (not the actual plier part, the rubber covered handles).  The awl I was using still slipped, but with this set-up, the rest of my fingers were saved!
*Protect your work surface.  Whatever you are using will slip at least once and I was very glad to have a self-healing mat protecting my table.
*Make the holes in all the gumballs first.  I think it saves time and if you're working on these with kids (like I did) you can do the dangerous part alone and then have them join you.
*Only certain ribbons will pull through the gumball easily.  Stick to satin or sheer ribbon in 1/4" or 1/8" width and you shouldn't have any trouble.

Wall Hoops

I've mentioned this project before (feels like a million times) and I am pleased to say it's now complete and brightening up our living room!  Inspired by this project (and a huge empty wall space above our new tv), this past November we sat at a family dinner and brainstormed the words that define us...things that are important to us, qualities we aspire to show, things we do together.  We narrowed it down to a list of eleven and then...I got to stitching!

The center embroidery hoop features simple outlines of my kid's hands.  This is a project I've done a couple times as a gift but never for myself.  I love it!

And here is the completed wall.  I love the patterns & colors, the special words, the shapes & (random) layout, and that I made it myself!

Snowtorious B.I.G.

or Our Snow Day in Instagram Pics (but the first title was too good not to steal)

Backyard drifting

Side door - before

And after

It took me an entire hour to get this little bit shoveled

Luckily, the kindest, most hard-working & polite kids I know (who also happen to be our neighbors) arrived to save the day!

I came in to find EJ sporting moose antlers

And baby antlers too.

I was actually sporting my own headgear...well, actually it's Jack's hat. I never wear a hat, so you know it was cold (but I didn't think it looked too bad...maybe I should get my own hat?)!

Cocoa on a stick

Valentine production by Jack

My lovely sous chef

Inspired by Cyndi's applesauce cake baking, we cooked up a crumb cake of our own.

Yoga time for me and Jack

Missing a few ingredients, but the perfect afternoon snack (and lunch for the next day or so)
Jack's marshmallow smile (it was a multiple hot chocolate kind of day)

It's back to school for us today! Hope everyone is staying warm (and taking pain meds for those sore backs)!