Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Big 3-2

Wow, I actually titled this post "The Big 3-1" until I thought for a moment and realized I'm older than I knew. Hmmm. So yes, at the beginning of December I turned 32 big ones. I had a super busy week leading up to my birthday and hadn't really made plans until I opened my front door and my parents were standing there! They came to help celebrate and best of all, they came bearing pie, the one request I had mentioned to my husband this year!

We had pie the night before my birthday because who in their right mind can resist my mom's homemade cherry pie, certainly not me! On my actual birthday, the hubs took me out for a lovely dinner at MK where we indulged in the tasting menu, a real treat.

But first, a photo of us getting ready to go out.. always a photo when my ma's around! 

And now, cue the crappy iPhone food pics!
Amuse-Bouche: Ceviche
Course 1: Chicken consomme with black truffle dumplings
Course 2: Scallops. The best I've ever had. Melt in your mouth.
Course 3: Bass with roasted parsnips
Course 4: Squab, foie gras, and MK's famous truffle fries
Course 5: Goat cheese
Course 6: Dark chocolate tart
The meal was fantastic and it was so nice spending a night out with M, in non stretchy waist band pants. Thanks to my parents for making that possible with their surprise visit! I'm looking forward to a great year ahead. The best is yet to come.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Christmas Tree

I just realized that last year I did not write a Christmas post! How sad, our first Christmas in our own home and everything. So this year you get two for the price of one, how's that for luck? 

For the past two years we've gone the cheapo route and bought trees from Home Depot. Last year our tree was great quality and lasted forever but this year I feel as though it's drying out quicker. Either way, I got a kick out of comparing pictures - taken exactly one year apart. How the time flies! 

Picking out the perfect tree! Look at how M looks exactly the same but Little m is so different.


Securing it onto the car.

And the best part, decorating.


This year Little m was SO extremely excited to help her daddy with the star. Days later she would tell anyone who was visiting how she put the star on "all my self". She also loved placing the ornaments on the tree, every single one onto the same branch, of course! She's also a great water girl, reminding and helping me fill up the stand every morning. Even now, 21 days since it's been up, as we come down the stairs every morning, she is awed by the glowing Christmas lights. "Wowwww, yights!"

Oh I just love this girl and Christmas is a million times better with her around. 

Bucket List, Complete!

I previously posted about our fall bucket list and for once in my life, I can boastfully announce that we completed it! Here are a few highlights:

A hayride! A hayride through the city streets, but it still counts, right? 

Apple picking and pumpkin patch. We had so much fun at County Line Orchard this year and were able to cross two things off our list in this one outing! Oh, plus we bought apple cider here, so make that three things to check off!

Apple pie. With our freshly picked apples I made a pie to celebrate our Canadian Thanksgiving. I think this is the best thing my mom ever taught me to make. It is just so good and Little m approves as well. I also made a pumpkin pie for American Thanksgiving, so that crosses two delicious things off the list. 

Pumpkin carving. Well, this is a given, along with roasting pumpkin seeds, attending the park's Boopalooza and trick or treating. What would Halloween be without these fun activities? 

Jumping and crunching in the leaves. This is one of Little m's favourite things to do while we walk the dog. Every day, crunch crunch crunch! So cute to watch.

And a couple of things that were on the list but not huge successes - leaf rubbings (no interest) and watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Wow, that is the worst movie EVER. Will not be making a repeat appearance on a future must-do fall list. 

And with that, we can now move on to our Winter Bucket List. What perfect timing, as today is the first day of winter, and look at that, we've actually already completed half of the list! 

 Stay warm, my friends.

Lake Geneva Getaway

This past Thanksgiving (American rather than Canadian), our little family and another little family rented a house together near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for a week away. Oh, it was just what I needed. An entire week of wearing yoga pants, sleeping in, watching tv, playing board games, and little else - heaven!

The weather was so cold we went outside only a few times the entire week, which is unheard of considering dog walks at the very least are a part of our daily life. But, holy crap, winter appeared out of nowhere and even bundled in layers, we were numb within minutes! One day we bravely ventured out for a nature walk in a nearby park and enjoyed the first real snow of the season.
Duct tape is required to keep mittens on. 
Although M had to work a few hours most days, it was just so great having an extra pair of hands around to help with Little m and keep her entertained.
Trying to fix daddy's nose. Good luck! ;)

At the last minute I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner and since I wasn't making everything from scratch like I usually do, the meal came together so quickly and easily. And it was good! Much better than the hot turkey sandwiches we were going to get an a local dive. 

We celebrated the other mama's birthday while we were there, which included cake at 10am, but what are vacations for if not precisely this?
Birthday celebration!
Little m had too much fun playing with her little friend and they ran around like maniacs all day long, just like kids should.

It was a wonderful week away and a nice break from reality, plus I was able to finish my Christmas shopping online and take advantage of all the Black Friday sales. Score!

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Spooktacular Halloween

As I sit here five days before Christmas, with Home Alone playing in the background of course, I figured it's time to post about Little m's Halloween fun. And my, what fun it was. Chicago really knows how to celebrate! We attended so many great activities this year and it was absolutely adorable watching the excitement in my little gal's eyes.
Carving pumpkins at Whole Foods Market


PJ pumpkin carving party!
So great seeing all our toddler friends dressed up!
Last year I randomly stopped at a garage sale and found two cozy costumes for 50 cents each, hence why I bought them both. Little m chose to dress up as a spider for a party at her daddy's work and my mom's group annual Halloween lunch - both on the same day, what an exciting time that was!
For the Halloween festival at our local park plus for the real deal, Halloween night, she chose the butterfly costume. Plenty of room for a coat underneath, which sadly, was a necessity this year.

Decorating pumpkins at Wicker Park Boopalooza
Actually,  it was more like umbrellas and rain coats were a necessity this year, but thankfully after the first 20 minutes of trick or treating, the rain let up. Trick or treating was so much fun but I can't even count how many sets of stairs I walked up and down. I was one tired mama by the end of the night! Little m became a pro at saying trick or treat and she especially loved when people let her choose her own candies! My little trooper spent close to two hours trick or treating on a couple of nearby streets that go all out every year.

Happy Halloween!
My parents visited over Halloween this year, which was a lot of fun, and they brought this cool light saber with them for Little m to carry around. So cute. Little m loved helping her granny fill up treat bags to pass out. To wait the rain out we practiced playing hide and seek by hiding treats up granny's pant legs and having Little M find them. Too funny.
Counting out treats

The lead up to Halloween night was just as much fun as everything else, I must say. This year Little m painted a pumpkin and then we stuck Mrs. Potato Head eyes, mouth, and arms in it. It turned out really cute and lasted SO much longer than the pumpkins we carved.
Painting her very own pumpkin
Actually, to be honest, I will tell you that I threw our pumpkins out just a week ago after digging them out from underneath a pile of snow. Two holidays collided at our house this year as our pumpkins sat for a couple of weeks in the glow of the Christmas lights!
I can't wait to see what next year brings! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

First New Hairdo

Little m had her first haircut back in October for no other reason than the fact that I won a mother-daughter haircut and it was about to expire. I probably would have let it keep growing since the ends had the most delicious curls, but I must admit that it does look a bit tamer, especially on the days where I remember to brush it :)

Watching Diego kept her totally occupied and I'm not sure she even realized what was happening! Oh my big girl, it did not phase her one bit. She is just the cutest.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Good Reads Lately

This year one of my 36 in 365 goals was to read 25 books from my goodreads list. I'm happy to say I've blown this one out of the water and am already on my 30th book with two months still left in the year. And only one of them did I have to listen to on double speed in order to finish in time for my book club meeting! Some are newer and some are older but hopefully this list of my favourites will help you find a book that you can't put down, because isn't that just the best? All of the summaries and images are copied from

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol...

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind...

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worked int he evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on he shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition. Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles...

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist names Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten...

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she's painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments...

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school - until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?...

Have you read any of these titles? If not, give one a try and let me know how you like it! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Day at the Orchard

I have such fond memories of apple picking during the fall season as a child. We were fortunate to have a big orchard minutes from our house growing up. Here in Chicago, the closest orchards are an hour away, which isn't horrible, but it takes a bit more planning that a five minute drive. A few weekends ago, we packed the car up and headed out to County Line Orchard in Indiana. We got there right for opening at 9am and I'm glad we did because it just got busier and busier throughout the day. 

First up, was the children's farm. Little m is obsessed with animals and she basically ran around like a maniac saying, "More anmals! Real anmals!" This girl has no fear and is more than happy to feed and pet anything that will get close enough to her. 

Next up we took the "Moo Choo" tractor ride around the farm and orchard. It was a bit of a tight squeeze with the two of us. As we passed the orchard, Little m just kept pointing in amazement that apples were actually growing from trees! 

Next up, we hopped onto the tractor to hitch a ride to the corn maze. It was a very exciting ride for the little one!

The pumpkin patch came later, and I was reminded how difficult it is to get a good picture of an active toddler! Here is her pained "cheese" expression!

And finally, apple picking! We ended up with 13 pounds of a variety of apples, plus our fair share of taste testing while picking. I think Little m ate her weight!

And after a busy morning, we ended with a picnic lunch where we fought off the bees while eating pb&j plus delicious (still warm!) pumpkin and apple donuts from the orchard's bakery. So good.

Finally, I was able to capture a real smile and I think it shows how much she enjoyed our day at the orchard. This will definitely become a yearly tradition!