Thursday, February 12, 2015

Snow Days 2015

We got a good dumping of snow a couple of weeks ago and I had an absolute blast playing in it with Little m. We headed outside around 7:30am, just the two of us in the whole neighbourhood it seemed, and played in the soft, perfect for building a snowman, snow. It was magical. This is the only reason that snow should exist.

M took a picture of us playing from inside the warm house. 
Almost finished! Just eyes and mouth to be added.
Ta da!
24 hours and 20 inches later. Poor snowman lost his bottom!
The next day I tried to take Little m sledding. Fail! Too much snow, the usual
hill had been totally covered and the snow was too deep! 
What a great memory with my gal!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Pinterest Recipe Wins

For a variety of reasons, M and I started eliminating gluten and dairy from our diets. It's not nearly as difficult as one would imagine, although if you have an allergy versus just a preference, that's a different story.

Finding meals to prepare was challenging in the beginning but there are so many resources out there, it's easy to find meal ideas and substitutions. I thought I'd share my recent favourites. All of these recipes are on my pinterest board "Recipes I've Made and Loved", but I linked to the original sources for your viewing pleasure.

Find recipe here.
Yes, really, this is the best pulled pork I've ever made! It doesn't use any barbeque sauce, which is nice since that's often filled with high fructose corn syrup. The meat turns out tender and has great flavour. Usually I use a pork tenderloin from Costco because I have it on hand the most. If you have a kitchen aid mixer, remember that you can shred any type of meat in it in a matter of 30 seconds. So easy! And if you like pickles, these easy fridge dills are incredible paired with the pulled pork.

Find recipe here.
Pizza Spaghetti Pie. Me likee. So simple, so tasty. It uses a spaghetti squash as it's base, which I love, because the more veggies, the better. This is an easy dinner to prepare early in the day and then pop it in the oven an hour before you want to eat. I find it's even better if you add your favourite pizza toppings - mushrooms, peppers, etc.

Find recipe here.
What is it about avocado that makes the world a better place? This is such a delicious lunch choice or side dish. I was gifted some flavoured olive oils and balsamic vinegars for Christmas, so I use those as the dressing over quinoa, spinach, avocado and tomato - and it's amazing, every single time.

Find recipe here.
Pair this orange glazed brussels sprouts and butternut squash dish with a protein and it makes a perfect dinner. I can't wait to make this again. Make extras because you won't want to share.


Friday, January 30, 2015

My Baby's a Preschooler

Little m started preschool last fall. Half days every day. I have to admit I was very nervous for her leading up to this time because she had been at home with me since birth and was going to be the youngest in her class. Really, I should have known better. She is thriving at school and learning so many new things. She is absolutely benefiting from a more stimulating environment. Being a former teacher myself, I knew I could give her proper instruction but oh hell no, that child doesn't listen to me, and with a new baby in tow, it was impossible to even think about schooling at home. Her class seems like a nice group of children and she's in love with her teachers. She comes home with cute songs and stories and who knows what else because every day when I ask her what she did at school she tells me, "It's a long story mama." When I ask her what her favourite part of the day is she tells me, "Jumping." Every day it's the same, so apparently they do lots of physical activity in her classroom. Oh and did I mention that she's learning Mandarin? Ha, I have yet to hear Mandarin sounding words come out of her mouth but she often makes up her own languages, so well, there's that.

And whoever invented the school uniform is genius. Not having to fight about clothing in the morning is the best. How cute is she on her first day of preschool?
Not a single tear has been shed over school and never once have I heard a complaint about going. I am happy she's happy. Plus, they feed her breakfast every morning which is a win in my books. 
Oh my heart, she is so dear. She loves carrying her backpack like a big girl and looks forward to the nicer weather when daddy can start walking her to school again.. or wait, is that me? Her school is in the direction of M's work, so they walk together a few times a week when it's warm enough, which gives me an extra 45 minutes of peace. 
She's growing up!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Littlest Hockey Player

With a hockey playing dad, you better believe little M was signed up for hockey lessons as soon as she was old enough.

Her nanny and grampie gifted the lucky gal every possible piece of hockey equipment for her 3rd birthday and she started a program through Chicago parks last fall.

I wasn't able to go to the first class since it was during the baby's nap time (oh yeah, surprise, that's what I was doing during my year long blogging break) and she flat out refused to get on the ice. Womp womp.

The second class we bribed her with gummy bears and she got on the ice, but not without a few tears. Every class got better and better, so her dad tells me, and by the end of the fall session she was able to skate without holding onto anything.

For the winter session we've switched to an arena in the suburbs where there is better instruction. I went to see her a couple of weeks ago and there were a few tears near the end of class when she didn't get to win the race, but that's a whole other story. I'm so proud of my brave girl!

Last week she tried holding a stick for the first time and now M of course has been talked into buying one for her, plus purple, white, blue, and green hockey tape to decorate wrap it. I love that daddy and daughter have a special activity to do together.
And speaking of skating, I got out of the ice myself recently for the first time in 3 years. I am not holding onto to M's hand to be romantic in the picture below, I'm holding on for dear life! We tried the skating ribbon at the new Maggie Daley Park and I have to say, it was pretty great! M kept commenting on how cool the views of the downtown buildings were, and I just had to believe him, as I couldn't life my eyes off the ice in fear of falling. With a little more practice, maybe I'll be as good as my 3 year old!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Makes Me Happy #9

I'm making a list of 101 things that make me happy. Go here to read rounds #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7,  and #8).

A while ago during my mom book club, we were talking about fun events or traditions that we remember from our childhood. It took me a few minutes, but once I got my brain working, so many happy things popped up in my memory. More and more I'm finding that it's truly the little things that make lasting memories and I hope that M and I can create family traditions of our own that our children will look back on fondly.

Adding to the happy list...

38. Every Saturday night my parents brought us to church and then oftentimes when we got home my mom would pop popcorn on the stove and sprinkle on douse it with butter and salt (it is my mom, the butter lover we're talking about here). The whole family would gather in the basement and turn COPS on. Yes, church and then bad boys, bad boys. Such a random memory, but it makes me smile. My mom still makes good popcorn, albeit with less butter now.

39. My grandma used to make my dad and his sisters crepes when they were growing up, so my dad also made crepes for us. Come to think of it, this is one of the few things I've ever seen him cook, other than his beloved green beans and asparagus, oh and rice pudding as well. Anyway, on Sunday mornings, every once in a while, my dad would make crepes plus the delicious brown sugar filling that gets slathered inside. It's a time consuming process, but oh, every bite is a taste sensation. My dad made some a couple of Christmases ago and Little m was of course a fan. I must remember to get the recipe.

40. This memory is still so vivid in my mind and I think it's hilarious. My poor mother. We would all be driving somewhere in our childhood van and one of us kids would slide our foot up and sneakily lift the lever to recline my mom's seat. She would fly back in her seat, screaming in shock. Much laughter from children ensued. HA. We'd let a few months pass by before each attack, just to make sure she was off guard. What rotten kids we were! One of my all time favourite memories.

41. "Is there a little girl in here who wants to wa-ake up so dear?" I will never forget that tune of that dreaded song my mom would sing to wake me up in the mornings. I seriously hated that song but love the memory of it now!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

36 in 365: 2015 Edition

Well hello! Long time no see! 

I've missed this spot and am sad a whole year of unrecorded memories has passed because what I value most about this place is that it provides a way to look back and see what life was like at whatever moment in time. One reason I stopped blogging was because I had SO much to catch up on and was overwhelmed. I've decided to let it go, let it go and not worry about all of the things that I missed blogging about, just focus on what's happening now.

As a list lover, I couldn't pass up my traditional 36 in 365 list of goals for the year. This year, my overall resolution is to laugh more. I thought about what makes me laugh and of course the most laughter happens when I am happy. I thought about what makes me happy and narrowed it down to when I'm doing these things: eating amazing food, spending time outdoors, reading can't put you down books, exploring new places, and being with people I like. So, drumroll please....

36 in 365 (Round 7): 

1. Bari
2. Firecakes
3. Au Cheval
4. Bongo Room
5. Bang Bang Pie
6. Umami Burger
7. Sultan's Market
8. Do-Rite Donuts
9. Longman & Eagle
10. Dove's Luncheonette
11. Mindy's Hot Chocolate
12. Grandma J's Local Kitchen

Go Outside:
13. Graue Mill
14. Wagner Farm
15. Humboldt Park
16. Lakeshore Trail
17. Caldwell Woods
18. Maggie Daley Park
19. Apple orchard in autumn
20. North Shore Channel Trail
21. Explore 5 new Chicago parks (0/5)
22. Spitting fountains at Millenium Park

23. Middlesex
24. The Seamstress
25. All the Light We Cannot See
26. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman
27. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World
28. The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure

29. St. Louis
30. Milwaukee
31. Indiana Dunes
32. Starved Rock State Park
33. Somewhere in Central America

34. Call BFF once per month
35. Continue monthly brunch with mom friends
36. Host one neighborhood play date or moms night per month

Monday, January 13, 2014

36 in 365: 2014 Edition

(picture source)
'Tis that time of the year again for another list of goals. Last year I had a 55% success rate, which isn't so great, but better than nothing! This year I tried to make my list more specific and straightforward, so hopefully that will help me achieve more throughout the year. Here goes nothing:

36 in 365 (Round Six):

Get Busy:
1. Grow more strawberries this summer.
2. Hit publish on my New Zealand recaps.
3. Write blog posts about Machu Picchu.
4. Keep hosting neighbourhood play dates.
5. Start writing in my One Line a Day journal.
6. Get professional family of four photos taken.
7. Watch Happiest Toddler on the Block with M.
8. Learn more about essential oils - eucalyptus? thieves?
9. Listen to and whittle down my This American Life podcast folder till it reaches 75 files.
10. Read these books before they hit theatres: Labor DayA Long Way DownDivergentDark Places, and This is Where I Leave You (5/5).

Get Organized:
11. Back up iPhone on a monthly basis (12/12).
12. Keep car info binder updated throughout the year.
13. Clean up iPhoto pictures and delete duplicates when uploading.

Get Crafty:
14. Send Christmas cards.
15. Decorate a cute nursery for baby 2.0.
16. Decorate a cute big girl room for Little m.
17. Print out my blog in book form at the end of the year.

Get Places:
Try the following six Chicago eateries:
18. Eataly
19. Hot Doug's
20. Kasia's Deli
21. Ann's Bakery (not impressed - stale bread, bad customer service)
22. d'Amatos Bakery
23. Hoosier Mama Pie (oh yes)
24. Plan a kickass family vacation.
25. Bring Little m skating on a regular basis.
26. Visit the spitting fountains in Millennium Park this summer.

Get Healthy:
27. Call my bff more.
28. Unplug one day a week.
29. Give Bama more attention.
30. Plan a date night once a month.
31. Win dietbets until I reach my pre-pregnancy weight.
32. Continue to win dietbets until I reach my goal weight for this year.
33. Keep doing my 20 pushups x 2 on my toes at Bar Method, even with a big baby belly.

Get Giving:
34. Host another new mom's group once baby 2.0 is here.
35. Get Little m involved in sponsoring a child at Christmastime.
36. Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen at least every other month (0/6).

Anything you're working towards this year? 

Edited to add on Jan 1, 2015:
Well, 21/36 goals completed on this year's list of goals. 58%, that's a pass!