Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Art of Nothingness.

Doing nothing is not something that comes easily to me.  I think I've mentioned this before.  I like to be busy.  Activities, entertaining, cooking, creating fill my days and thoughts.  When I try to do nothing I find myself getting a little antsy and on the verge of boredom.  I know this is not necessarily a good thing.  Slowing down and doing nothing can be really, really good.  Over-planning and going from one thing right into the next without catching your breath can make it hard to enjoy the moment...something I have been striving to work on.  Matt is a good balance for me with this as by the weekend he is usually wiped out from his week and has the art of nothingness mastered. (I say this in a totally positive way)  I think, like with most things, there is a balance.  The girls are a great reminder of this.   I find myself wanting to fill our weekend with family "fun" and yet I see the girls, totally content just wanting to play.  This is when I remind myself simply playing is so important.  They work so hard at school all week long...each day a planned routine.  Get up, get ready, breakfast, to school all day, home, snack, homework, dinner, squeeze in a little play but not enough to really get into it, bed and repeat.  Monday through Friday.  No wonder on weekends they just want to get engrossed in some Polly Pocket land.  I am learning to embrace this also.  I think what is hard for me is that up until recently I was needed a lot more with their activities.  Now, these girls get involved in their pretend world and it is like Matt and I don't even exist.  If we are lucky enough for their play to bring them to the living room we at least get a peak into this world.  More often than not it is in one of their rooms, door shut, mommy and daddy not invited.  I get it.  My sisters and I would play for hours...lost in our own Barbie world.  These memories do not involve my mom, so I get the sisterly play world.  What I'm trying to figure out is where my place is.  All of us finding our individual way.  Trickier said than done when I've been so focused on being their mom these past years.  It's a transition...going from babyhood and toddler hood where you are so involved and now into school age.  Independent school age kids.  I'm figuring it out and I know it's not like they are leaving for college tomorrow but it still makes me a little sad.  

Anyways...back to our boring  quiet weekend.  

Waking up Saturday morning to a blizzard was the first indication it was going to be a tucked inside type day.  You could hear the snow hitting the windows and looked outside to a blanket of white.  First decision made was to stay in bed with coffee and watch Saturday morning cartoons with the girls.  (We actually do this every Saturday, snow, rain or shine.)  After, the girls went into their play world, Matt went to tackle the snow on the sidewalks and I began to wrestle with the thoughts in my head.  Do I make some plans for the day?  Try to see what might be going on in town?  Invite some friends or neighbors over for dinner?  Or, do I give in to this snow day and just relax?  Judging from the fact that the girls hadn't even gotten out of their cozy jammies, I decided to stop over thinking everything and try this do nothing thing.  The snow gave me the urge to bake, but I was a baker without flour, sugar or vanilla.  Not too much you can make with that.  After a quick trip to the store we were in business.

Sea salt, caramel chocolate crinkles.  Totally worth the trip to the grocery store through a snow storm.  The caramel centers were so ooey, gooey fresh out of the oven.  Kind of a delicious mess.  Not my own recipe...this was a Pinterest discovery.  They are very good, but the caramel does get a little hard and chewy after it cools.  I don't mind it like that, but a quick zap in the microwave makes them fresh out of the oven soft again.

A bit more from a weekend of nothing at our house...

Playing in the fresh powder after the snow storm passed-

I had a bunch of colored sugar left from Ava's class Valentine's party.  I didn't want to use it in anything after a bunch of 2nd graders had their fingers in it, but I also didn't want to waste it.  (I had drastically overestimated how much we would need for cupcakes)  A couple weekends ago my sister had let the kids use spray hair color (leftover from Halloween) to paint snowmen.  This gave me the brilliant idea to use the colored sugar in the snow to make fairy houses for snow fairies.  In the summer when we go camping the girls and I like to make little fairy houses out of moss and pine cones.  Same idea, just the snow version.



Ava's  had sea shells and palm trees.  This may confuse the "snow fairies"

Saturday night game night and cuddles-
Closing her eyes, wishing for a Yahtzee

I heart this photo
By Sunday, I was fully on board this lazy day thing.  Although, we woke up to blue skies and sunshine which makes it a little harder to want to just stay inside.  We ventured out to take advantage for a long walk and trip to the park-


And like any weekend around here, there was a lot of good eating.  One night some pasta  with pesto bechamel...

A couple months ago I made a lasagna with this same sauce and it was amazing.  I was not feeling quite as ambitious this time.  I just made the pesto bechamel sauce and used plain homemade noodles.  It wasn't quite the dish the lasagna was, but it was much easier and still really good.  

Friday night date I went with grilled pizza...

Last weekend Matt was watching some show on the Food Network about the countries best pizza places and I have been having a craving ever since.  What is it about pizza?  I swear every time I see it on a movie or show I HAVE to have it within a few days.  In college I used to order a pizza and rent Mystic Pizza just so I could get that crazy pizza craving and be ready for it.  Anyways...grilled pizza with artichoke hearts, olives, mozzarella and slow oven roasted tomatoes managed give me my fix.  

The latter part of today and into this evening has been spent watching the Oscars.  Even though I have only seen one of the nominated movies, I still love me some Oscars.  I like the red carpet, who's wearing what, the lame jokes, sappy acceptance speeches and the performances.  We actually rented Argo last night just so we could watch one of the movies.  By the way, I know I've only seen the one, but I think Argo should totally win.  It was SO good and I think I lost a few years of my life because it was so intense...even knowing the ending I was still on the ede of my seat.  We used to go to a lot of movies, pre-kids.  Now it's Netflix or Redbox for us.  

It was a very nice weekend.  I don't think I even talked to another person besides Matt and the girls.  (Well, maybe a text here or there.)  It's good to have nothing going on.  I need to work on embracing it.  It's okay if we don't have a ton of plans or activities.  It's okay to slow down and as my girls do...simply play quietly.  I will always be the type to have the urge to stay busy, make plans and jump from one thing to the next.  But, I am learning to find the balance.

Hope your weekend was lovely.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Present and Peaceful.

Lately I've been working on being present.  Sounds easy...but is actually really  difficult for me.  I constantly think forward.  Planning what needs to be done next, what is coming up tomorrow, what type of birthday parties should the girls have in April.  And although I don't do it as often, I occasionally tend to think backwards.  Why didn't I play more with the girls yesterday, how could I have handled a situation better, maybe I shouldn't have said that.  My mind is always going.  This is why I am trying to make a real effort to be present.  Maybe it's being back in yoga or the book I'm in the middle of that is a lot about being present and peaceful.  Whatever it, I think I'm doing pretty well.  Yes, it is a constant reminder.  I think some things take constant reminders before they become a habit and that's what I hope happens.  Focusing on being in the moment and quieting my mind from the past and future has helped me to feel content and with that comes an at peace feeling.  One of many of  my favorite lines from the book Eat, Pray, Love is... 

“The Yogic path is about disentangling the built-in glitches of the human condition, which I'm going to over-simply define here as the heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment"

When I calm my mind and focus on what is happening in front of me, I feel more content.  Something as simple as thinking about breathing.  Crazy thought, but how often do you think about breathing?  Yoga is all about that and when you focus in on the breath it really does calm you and bring you present.  This will be a work in progress for me.  For example, I chose not to be present while sitting at the dentist this week.  I figured it is not necessary to focus on what is going on when it involves your mouth wide open, drool down your chin and gloved hands scraping your teeth clean.  During this moment, I chose to let my mind wander.  


The other thing I have found with trying to be present is it makes me a better listener.  If you are truly in the moment of a conversation...not thinking about what you are going to say or what you are going to have for lunch, then you really get to hear what the other person is saying.  Again...this is a work in progress for me.  As most things are.  

Here is what is making me happy right now.  In this present moment.  

1.  Running after a fresh snow storm. 
Let me tell you, this is not a sentence I EVER thought I would write.  However, running in the cool snowy weather this winter has been awesome.  Running for me is very peaceful.  (As peaceful as running with Kesha on my headphones can be...rock star peaceful)  Especially when this is the view I get to take in as I run...
 
The contrasting colors of the bright blue sky with fresh snow capped mountains is amazing.  If I can't run with sand under my feet and a view of waves crashing, this is the next best thing.  Running is all about in the moment.  You can't forget you are breathing because you can see it fog like with every exhale.  You hear the sound of snow crunching under your shoes (between songs anyways).  You feel your heart beating.  Strong.  Sometimes I have to push myself through a run, or I can't find my wind.  But mostly I just feel peaceful.

2.  Do-it-Yourself Projects.  
I often have big visions of things I'd like to improve or re-do around the house.  PInterest is usually the fuel for this desire.  Recently I have been searching for new curtains to replace the blah, cheap tan ones in our living room.  Nothing has jumped out at me yet and it's been tricky finding the right length.  This morning, after discovering an old fabric dye kit I thought I'd get creative.
  
I imagined the deep dark purple would somehow transform these chintzy curtains to thick, dark more elegant looking ones.  It didn't.  I ended up with Easter egg color still cheap looking curtains.  

The color isn't bad...still a pretty purple.  It's just more suitable for one of the girls rooms than our living room.  Oh well, it was a good try.  It will also now force me to actually go buy some new curtains finally.  And, I know I want a nice dark color to contrast the walls.  Gotta keep the glass half full.

3.  Visions of vacation dancing in my head.
Two weeks from today we will be sitting on a plane heading south.  I know this doesn't go with my idea of thinking in the present since the trip is in the future.  However, I am presently researching restaurants and things to do so it counts.  I'm the type of traveler who likes to know the area before I go there.  I know some people can go blindly and go with the flow once they get there.  I actually used to be more like that.  I wouldn't look into anything beyond booking a hotel and maybe getting a map.  I have found I enjoy it more if I know a little more.  I relax more, knowing we have dinner reservations at a few places we really want to go to.  I like to have our trip "semi" planned.  Meaning I have a general idea of what we should do and eat, while leaving lots of room for spontaneity and change of plans.  This trip will be even more laid back because so far all my plans consist of what beach to play at and what restaurants are on the water.  The other night the girls made countdowns to vaca day.  At Christmas we made Santa countdowns, where each day they cut off a portion of his beard.  We did the same thing this time, but with palm trees.  By the time we get to the green part, we'll be packing up and heading out.  

 

4.  Homemade bread.  
In the spirit of being in the moment, if I think about what is making me happy this very moment it is the smell of bread.  This morning I made some fresh pasta and bread for dinner and as I write, curled up under a blanket, listening to some Mumford and Sons and the aroma of fresh bread in the air, I feel very content.  The pasta will be topped with some pesto bechamel sauce.  It's gonna be good.

5.  My girls funky style.
This is the outfit Layla put together yesterday...

I totally dig it.  I don't tell my girls what to wear or plan their outfits in anyway.  I figure they  both have closets full of adorable clothes thanks to two Grandma's who love shopping for them.  (I literally have probably bought them clothes only a few times...usually an essential like pj's or leggings)  I like to let this be their own creative process.  I love fashion and each day deciding what to wear is fun for me.  I want it to be the same for them, so I let them go for it.  The only time I put my foot down, is when we go to church.  Maybe it's old fashion, but I think it is important to dress up a little for church...no jeans or messy clothes.  I like the idea of wearing your "Sunday best".  Other than that, it's a free for all.  When Layla came out in this wild outfit, it made me smile.  Little Carrie Bradshaw in the making.  

That is all.  Happy Thursday to ya.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spring Today, Gone Tomorrow.

Yesterday was one of those sunny, beautiful Montana days.  Temperatures warmed up a bit, the sky was clear and the illusion of spring was in the air.  

We know better.  

Today we woke up to snow and it hasn't stopped all day.  What a tease it was.  And, I understand it is only February and spring usually doesn't make any sort of real appearance until at least May around here.  But, I was still disappointed to be smack dab back in winter.  If there is one thing us Montanans do well it is take full advantage of a pretend spring day.  I'm talking people out in shorts and flip flops when temperatures rise above 45-degrees.  Matt actually washed the car in our driveway and was not the only one on our street doing so.  It's funny...I read a blog about this mom who lives in Florida.  She mentioned on it a cold front had come in...a cold front in the way of 57-degrees.  Their cold front would have Montanans  pulling out the kiddie pools and slathering on some sunscreen.  All a matter of perspective I suppose.  We enjoyed the sunshine with a lovely drive back to Chico Hot Springs, this time with the girls...

Swimsuits and snow boots.  Matt had just taken me there for my birthday and even though the girls didn't show it, I know they were disappointed they didn't get to join us.  Especially because Ava had chosen going to Chico as her reward for filling her sticker chart.  (We were doing sticker charts to reward good behavior because we were having some...issues, to put it nicely, with Layla.  She's got a strong personality that girl.  I love it and don't want to squash her spirit, we just have to keep it a positive thing.)  Ava has been asking since we got back when we all get to go and yesterday was a great day to it.  A short drive away to spend the morning soaking up the water and sunshine, then lunch at the grill before heading home.  Perfect.

SUCH a pretty day.
Today the sunshine was long gone, so instead of swimsuits it was snowsuits.  Instead of lounging poolside, we headed to the sledding hill.  This has the added bonus of a trip to the coffee shop for hot cocoa and coffee...

The chocolate all over her face helps to hide the red puffy eye from a sledding injury.  I always worry when Matt sends them flying down the hill and I try not to, but there are a lot of "oh, not so fast"  "careful"  "watch out for your sister".  I can't help it, they're my babies.  Today, however, it was me who sent them down the hill too close to one another and Layla's face had a run in with Ava's sled.  Nothing a couple kisses couldn't fix, but I still felt bad.  This may be why I offered going out for hot cocoa instead of just making it at home.  Mama guilt.  

The snowy weather is also the perfect excuse to stay inside and cook.  Lebanese food is often requested at this house when I ask for input on meal ideas.  However, it's not something I do too often because it is a lot of work.  Especially when one little girl wants spinach pies and the other little girl wants grape leaves.  Matt wants it all.  I save most of this type of cooking for holidays or a day like today.  A lazy, stay inside Sunday that feels like a weekend still because there is no school tomorrow.  This morning I rolled a couple dozen grape leaves, made a few spinach pies and of course some hummus.  This Lebanese feast will be shared with friends later this evening.  My best friend also happens to be Lebanese...I must be drawn to them.
Spinach Pie recipe here and Veggie Grape leave here.
It was nice of Matt to let me invite our friends over.  He doesn't generally like to share this food.  

Speaking of food and good eating.  This happened on Friday night, date night...

Tons of crab legs and twice baked potatoes.  It was Matt's turn to cook and he decided to go old school.  You see, when we lived in Portland this was a meal we often splurged on.  Whenever we felt like something "fancy"  (this was back when I still cooked a lot of Hamburger Helper) we would get crab legs.  Back then we would enjoy this meal sitting on the ground using our coffee table, eating in front of the television.  Now we are proper grown ups and realize the value of some uninterrupted conversation so we have it candle lit over a bottle of vino.  Matt said he tried to come up with a different side dish but kept going back to the baked potato.  When he asked my opinion, I could think of nothing else that would fit with it.  It's like twice baked potatoes and crab legs are soul mates and simply meant to be together.  Nothing else is needed...no bread, no veggie...just a hot bowl of melted butter for dipping.  It was so good.  This is the one meal from our early marriage days that I am glad has stuck around.  (I'm also thankful none of the others have...it was that bad).

Speaking of back in the good old days, I had a couple other reminders this week.  First...Wendy's french fries and frosty's...

We are not a fast food type family.  However, we do know the pleasure of a Wendy's frosty.  My aunt gave the girls a couple coupons with their Valentine's so we of course had to go use them right away.  After school Friday we headed there and I taught them the way we used to do it...dipping your french fries in the frosty.  They both thought this was a gross idea.  Until they tried it.  Then they realized the goodness of it.  The Wendy's here in town in right across from the high school, so I spent many a day after school here with friends... ya know, just hangin.  As I saw the Hawk Letterman's jackets start making their way in, I couldn't help but smile at the memories.  

And one more throwback...

I notice my throwbacks aren't very healthy.  I guess it's good they are the exception now, not the rule.  Anyway.  These were my "Valentines" flowers.  It may sound crazy to some, but for me it was absolutely perfect.  Matt brings me home flowers on almost a weekly basis, so when he went to get some on V-day he changed his mind and decided to do something quirky.  I LOVE it.  I'm tough to surprise and I loved that he brought me something so unpredictable and silly.  Cocoa Puffs were my FAVORITE childhood cereal.  I have not bought it in years.  We are more a Kashi cereal family.  The next morning I made everyone my old favorite...Cocoa Puffs and peanut butter toast sprinkled with cinnamon.  It was as good as I remembered.  I won't go back to a bunch of sugary cereals for my family, but it was a fun treat.  And, I love how Matt knows me so well.  Made me smile.  

Now, it's time for another winter week.  I hope the "cold" front in Florida heads out fast because we'll be going that way in less than three weeks.  I'm so excited to get out of the snow, dust off my flip flops and see some real spring weather.

Hope you have a lovely week!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love Stories.

Valentine's Day.  I know it's a made-up, Hallmark holiday, but I still like it.  I like the idea of a day celebrating love.  What could be better to celebrate than that?  It's all hearts and roses and chocolates.  In fact, I'm enjoying some chocolate right now with my coffee.  It's never too early for chocolate right?  Because of Valentine's I got to thinking about love and all it entails.  I think it is something that can be different for everyone.  As an example of the differences I am going to share three love stories.  It may get a little mushy, but that's totally allowed today.

1.  Boy Meets Girl Love Story.
Matt and I have what I think of as a storybook romance.  We met our freshman year of college by what I consider fate.  Neither of us was supposed to be living on the 6th floor of North Hedges Hall where our love story began.  He was going to be in a different dorm building and I was supposed to be three stories up on the ninth floor.  I can't remember why he got switched, but I did by a twist of fate.  While at orientation I met a girl named Elizabeth.  We hit it off and both knew we really wanted to dorm together and not with the people we were originally set up with.  We came up with a scheme and went to the administrative offices and made up some story about being cousins and our moms wanting us to room together and could we pretty please switch?  For some crazy reason, they believed us and a month later I got a postcard in the mail with my new roommate and room #619.  This switch in itself changed so much for me.  Good old 6th floor led me to the  best group of friends who I have some of the best memories with.  I remember moving in those first few days and Matt swaggering into our room in his preppy Polo private school type clothes, introducing himself, sitting down at my desk and in full arrogance rating the senior photos of all my friends I had on my bulletin board.  I, of course, noted the cocky attitude but still thought he was a hottie.  As the year went on and he let his tough exterior down, we became friends.  Like I said we had a great group and all became a little family.  Matt and I got closer and I started to look at him as more than a friend.  I never acted on it, because I was sure he didn't share the same thoughts.  All this changed one night (April 24, 1997 to be exact.)  He made his move and the rest is, well...history.  After just a few weeks together he went back to Michigan for the summer.  I am so happy this was before Internet and email and cell phones were a big thing because we shared letters all summer.  Yes, I said letters.  I have a shoe box full of love letters we exchanged for those three months.  I love it.  Nothing lost in cyber space...real actual paper, envelopes with stamps and beautiful words we shared as we evolved from friends to more.  Something our kids can see one day and read about our love story.  Love letters and hours of phone conversations on a real telephone.  The kind where you get charged long distance by the minutes.  We have been living happily ever after since.  Not to say there aren't bumps in the road and knock down-someone sleeps on the couch fights...you gotta have those.  But, what we have is a rare and special love.  We got to grow up together and fortunately we have grown in the same ways.  He's my best friend and I am a lucky girl to be loved by him.

2.  Unlikely True Love Story.  
This next one reads more like the all American love story.  The kind where there are divorces, step kids, chaos, but at the end love prevails.  It is the love story of my sister, Kori and her husband Dave.  My sister had her first marriage before she was even twenty years old.  She found herself pregnant at a young age and married before my cutie nephew was even born.  The odds were against them from the beginning and they gave it a year or so before they threw in the towel and went their separate ways.  Marriage number two brought us my beautiful niece Jaelyn and all seemed perfect.  However, marriage is hard and things that aren't my story to tell ended things with this one as well.  So, now she found herself a single mama of two before the age of thirty.  Along comes Dave...also divorced twice with two kids.  When they got together and declared after a very short courtship that they were headed to Vegas to get married, we all just rolled our eyes.  I remember thinking...don't rush it, just wait.  She had been through so much, I assumed she was getting into another short lived marriage.  You see, my sister has always been the rebellious one.  She's the crazy one, who dreams big and does things on a whim just cuz she wants to live life to the fullest and doesn't care what anyone else thinks.  I admire her for that, but in this case just wanted her to date a guy for awhile...let the signatures dry on the last divorce before rushing to get married.  But, she is not to be stopped once she has her mind on something.  I didn't totally agree with what they were doing, but still wanted to be supportive.  I remember helping her pick out a dress with her at Macy's.  Even if she was eloping, she still wanted a beautiful dress.  How surreal to be in a dressing room helping my sister pick out a dress for her third freakin wedding.  It's exactly what she wanted...no fancy ceremony, no guests that she had to make small talk with, no bridesmaids or groomsmen. All she wanted was Dave, a helicopter ride and finally a real marriage.  I am so happy to say that today they are celebrating their 9th wedding anniversary.  For them the third time really was a charm.  Two more babies later, they are a happy family of eight.  The kind of fun family you want to be a part of.  This past year got to truly test their love.  They put the "through sickness and in health" vow to the test.  As those who read this regularly know, Kori has been sick and fighting since last May.  Through this roller coaster of events Dave has been her rock.  He has been by her side when a lesser man would have ran away long ago.  They have spent many nights together in a hospital room, with numerous doctors, through test after test.  This is true love.  Love that overcomes all the hardships they have been through and staying strong.  I am so thankful for the love they have together.  I am so happy they beat all the odds that were against them and have proved it doesn't matter how many times you've been divorced, or how quickly you get married.  True love really does conquer all.

3.  Pure Love.
This is a mama's love.  Unconditional love that you feel the moment you hold your baby for the first time.  The kind you didn't even know existed in you.  Before I had Ava I told Matt I wanted the doctors to take the baby after she came out and clean her up, then I'd hold her.  The moment Ava was born, that changed...I grabbed for her, slimy and all, and never let go. The love I have for my girls really is the best love story of all.  What other love can keep you up all night with a crying baby and you don't care?  What other love can throw up all over you and all you feel is so sad for the sick little one?  (and, maybe a little grossed out, it is puke after all).  When I was pregnant with Layla I remember wondering how it would be possible to love another little one as much as I loved Ava?  I was crazy in love with this little blue eyed baby who had captured my heart for the past two years.  I didn't think there would be room for more.  Wrong I was.  There was plenty of love to go around and share with my brown eyed babe who came out screaming.  I should have known then she'd be the sassy one.  Oh, and how I love her fire.  Even when I want to scream with frustration when she is throwing a tantrum that belongs on a two year old, not a five going on six year old.  That is pure love.  

So, today we celebrate all of this love.  I end with a couple of love happies...

-A poem from Ava


Translation:  
Love And Kisses.  
Love is all around you.
Kisses hugs
Cuddles.  Oh there is so much love in the world.
Especially the love that has hope in you and faith.

How adorable is that?  The things she comes up with amaze me.  Layla also wrote one, but it didn't show up well on the photo.  It reads:
Love.
Love is kisses
and I love you so much mom and dad
so much because I love you 
so much

Aaaww.

-Valentines scavenger hunt, pink milk and little love gifts


To make things fun I created a scavenger hunt for the girls to go on this morning to find their gifts.  It sent them all over house...lots of giggles.  It's all about the journey, right?

-A surprise delivery

A dozen roses from my Dad.  This is not something he has done before and it totally made my day.  I think this past year has brought my already close family even tighter.  Made us all appreciate one another in a different way.  I was touched by his thought fullness.  Your dad is, after all, your first Valentine.  I notice this as Matt goes out and picks out a special card and treat for each girl...just from him.  So sweet.

-Strawberry Cupcakes.


Two dozen cupcakes, frosting, colored sugar, sprinkles and candy hearts.  All ready to be decorated (or destroyed) by 2nd graders.  Good times.

Happy Valentine's Day to you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Memories...Past and Present.

We spent hours today watching family videos.  A couple weeks ago I finally took our old video tapes to get converted to DVD.  Something I've wanted to do for ages, but never did.  One of those things you think about, but don't follow through on.  I am oh so happy I did.  The girls were captivated watching their little tiny baby selves.  Giggling at the adorable things they would say in toddler hood.  Seeing their cousins and friends as babies.  Greg with his fire red hair, Dru and Ava- not even two years old jumping on her toddler bed and Jaelyn...now a very grown up teenager as an adorable 5 year old.  We only got a few DVDs in and I can't wait to watch more of them.  It takes me back.  It makes me long for those baby days, yet feel grateful for how far we've come.  Those days were amazing, but it's funny how much of a day care center our house looked like.  High chair in the corner, tiny newborn Layla in a bouncy seat, baby Kim in the exersaucer and Greg and Ava running around with their chubby legs in just diapers and t-shirts.  That was my life then...fully immersed in kiddos.  I think there were times when I was in it that it was overwhelming.  Looking back at it, it seems like the greatest time ever.  I am so happy to have those memories captured for our family.  (Except for my running commentary...I could do without some of my high pitched baby talk.  The girls thought it was funny tho).  The past couple of years I have not been as good about taking video.  This is why I am so thankful to  be keeping memories through writing and photos now.  It's not just me home with the girls all day to capture memories.  We are apart more than together it seems...more separate experiences.  Not as many video opportunities.  Which is why capturing our memories with words is so precious to me.  

In the spirit of capturing memories, our weekend...

Weekends officially begin for us when I pick up the girls from school on Friday.  Besides a little homework to get out of the way, we have nothing that has to get done.  No lunches to be made or back packs readied for the next day.  I put lunch boxes and back packs away.  Out of sight until Sunday afternoon.  This day I wanted to try out my new ice cream maker.  I wasn't too sure about making our own.  I figured getting it at DQ or Pickle Barrel was just fine.  Wrong I was.  Making your own was not only easy, it was delicious.  
See how hard we were working?
Starting with basic vanilla seemed like the best way to go.  Not too much to mess up.  You can tell by the look on these girls faces how well it turned out...
Topped with hot fudge of course.
Next time we'll be more adventurous.  The evening continued with movie night with my ladies...
Watched "Mirror Mirror"  I love me some Julia Roberts...even as an evil queen
And then a date night with my hubby...

Open face tuna sandwiches and caprese Bites.  So, so, so good.  It's been awhile since I've made the tuna.  It's so simple, but so wonderful.  (I'll put the recipe at the bottom)  I couldn't decide what to do as a side...what would compliment it well.  I was going to do fried caprese (tomato, mozzarella and basil, breaded and fried), but didn't really feel like frying.  I took inspiration from the wonderful spinach artichoke won tons my sister makes and simply put the three ingredients in a won ton wrapper, stuck them in a mini muffin tin and baked at 350-degrees until browned and bubbly.  They were the perfect side to the tuna.  It all tasted a bit like a summer day.  Something I've been longing for lately.  I love at home date nights.  A weekend away with just Matt like last weekend is amazing, don't get me wrong.  However, I have such a sense of calm knowing my girls are sound asleep in their own beds with us near if they need anything.  

The rest of the weekend was full of Valentine type things.  Both girls needed to make homemade Valentines for school and Ava needed to make a mail box for hers as well.  This spiraled into more.  Anyone who has read the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" books will understand this....If you give two girls some craft materials to make Valentines for school, they're gonna wanna make some for their cousins, and each other, and their grandma's and the cat.  I get it.  I got the craft stuff out and if you give a mama some crafts she'll end up making a Valentine's scavenger hunt for little girls to do later this week.  
Working so hard writing friends names from the list
Filling them with Swedish Fish
 Voila...
The finished products.  Thank you Pinterest for our inspiration
 Valentine making overflowing into Sunday...

We are all set for the holiday of love.  I'm excited for it.  I get to help with Ava's class party, decorating cupcakes.  I haven't been able to help in Ava's class as much this year.  I guess 2nd graders don't need as much.  Also, in her class they have a "room mom"  a new concept to me.  This is someone who plans all the class parties and decided which other parents will help with these activities.  Apparently it is competitive to get to volunteer to help in there.  I suppose this is a good thing.  We live in a community where there are more parent volunteers than are needed.   Either way, I'm glad I get the opportunity to be there.  And to make strawberry cupcakes.  Don't worry Matt...I'll leave you one.

We capped off the weekend with the most amazing dinner tonight.  Sesame Ginger Sweet Teriyaki Salmon with Ginger Quinoa Stir-Fry...phew, big name.


Okay, this was uh-maz-ing.  A wonderfully sweet glaze on the salmon and fresh veggies stir fried with quinoa.  I wish I could say this was my creation, but I found it on Pinterest.  Find the recipe here.  Make it, eat it, love it.  

It was such a nice, mellow weekend.  Small moments that make the best memories.  Watching the home videos makes me realize how many of those moments we do forget.  We forget until something like that brings them back.  I'm so thankful for videos, photos and this blog to keep bringing these memories back.  I end with one hilarious moment, that if I didn't document I'm sure we would forget.  Something that had both Matt and I laughing so hard.  It went something like this...

Scene:  Girls are getting ready for bed, Matt and I are hanging out in our room.  They come in and we're all goofing around on the bed...
Me:  "Go brush your teeth"
Matt:  "Yea, get out of here I want to make a baby with your mama"
Layla:  "I wanna watch"
Ava:  "I wanna help"

We are screwing them up one day at a time.

Have a happy week.  Make some memories.  

Open Face Tuna Sandwich
Start with good quality tuna steaks.  This is important with seafood...you do get what you pay for
Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and some herbes de provence (Italian type seasoning)
Set aside while you prepare a few other things...you don't want to over cook the tuna
-Slice some ciabatta or other yummy bread, drizzle with some olive oil and put on a baking sheet ready to broil
-Mix 1 cup mayo with some finely diced sweet pickles.  Season with a little s&p and refrigerate until ready to use.  This is your topping
-Slice some cheese, so it is ready to melt on the tuna.  (I use a sharp white cheddar)
-Grill the tuna and broil the bread until slightly browned.  Just before the tuna is done, remove and put on top of the bread in the oven.  Top with the cheese and finish cooking until cheese melts.  Top with arugula and the sweet pickle relish.  
Enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Crap Week.

This week has kinda sucked.  Those of you who read this blog often know I am a glass-half-full type of girl.  I try to write about the good times I enjoy in the day to day of our lives.  However, today I'm feeling glass-half-empty.  In fact it's so empty I can't find any cheer to write about.  I figured you'd all forgive me and allow me to complain a bit.  Instead of doing a list of happies like I usually like to do, I'm going for a list of crap.  But, since the figurative glass I mentioned above I imagine with wine in it I'll be sure to include a silver lining with each gripe.

1.  Sick Kids.  We are in full swing of winter sickness in out community.  Flu, colds, stomach bugs...everyone you talk to has someone sick.  At the girls school they said 15% of the student body was out with some puking bug...that's a lot of kids in a school their size.  Ava's class got another note sent home that there has been a case of freakin lice...second note in the past month.  I swear my head starts itching the minute I see that stupid note and I start picking through the girls hair like a monkey mama.  (We're good luckily)  This week both girls have been under the weather and it sucks.  Neither has been horrible, so I'm thankful for that.  Crappy coughs, stomach aches and a little puke thrown in just for fun.  The kind of sick where you wonder if you should send them to school or not.  The kind where on the days I did send them to school I jumped every time my phone rang anticipating the dreaded call from the school.  I didn't get any of those.  I did keep Ava home one day.  After the poor girl threw up twice last year at school I take her tummy aches more seriously.  I'm over it.  I'm over everyone being cooped up inside because of the cold and sharing all these germs and everyone being sick.  Winter sucks.  Come on Spring...get here so we can open windows, get outside and get healthy.  

Silver lining:  I got to spend a whole day home with my Ava.  This does not happen often. I'm sad she didn't feel well but we had a nice day.  Lots of snuggling, reading books and we even snuck in a little Valentine's craft when she started feeling a little better...
And voila!  Heart garland...

2.  Medical Mysteries.  I know I've mentioned a bit about my sister still not getting well.  After a couple weeks of test after test she met with her neurologist again and they still have no freakin idea what's going on.  Now, I preface this with knowing she is one hundred times more over this than I could ever be, but I am SO over it.  I just want her to be better.  I want my healthy, happy sister back.  I want to tell her she's crazy for doing so much...working, volunteering and chasing kids around.  It has been going on for so long and this not knowing sucks.  As I was driving to visit her last night at the hospital I got pissed off...I'm sick of visiting her in a freakin hospital room.  I want to visit with her at a bar over cocktails where we laugh until our cheeks hurt.  I don't want her to be scared or sick anymore...I want to make it all go away.  She has not shown much anger or frustration with all this to me so this is me being really, really ticked off for her.  

Silver Lining:  The new doctors she is working with are finally listening to her and trying to figure it out.  This is a much better approach than the "wait and see" and "you're just healing" that her previous doctors were trying.  They are taking her seriously and she is hopefully going to head to Seattle for some more tests with specialists who may be able to figure out what the heck is going on.  Being in Seattle will lead to the obvious Grey's Anatomy jokes which are perfect for our Derek Shepherd loving family.  

3.  Worry.  With the sick kids and medical nonsense comes a lot of worry.  I've spent a lot of this week worrying.  Worrying if I should take a kid to school or leave them home.  Worrying as I listen to little Layla hack all night sounding like a seal barking.  Worrying about my sister laying in a hospital bed and waiting for news.  I don't always handle worry well.  It makes me feel scattered.  I try to push the thoughts away, but I can't...they always creep back in.  Trying to meditate at yoga last night was a total joke.  I would tell my mind to relax, deep breaths, clear your thoughts.  Easier said than done.  I wanted to grab my mat and run out of the room.  The minutes dragged on like hours.  Worst yoga class ever.  

Silver Lining:  I didn't know what to do to ease my worries these last couple of days.  Running sometimes helps, but with sick kids that didn't easily work.  Writing sometimes helps, but before today just didn't feel I could express well all my jumbled thoughts.  So, I cooked.  Cooking gives me something to focus on and I know it sounds crazy, but it totally relaxes me.  It's my therapy.  (Which is why it's good that running is my other therapy...the eating and running balance each other out).  I've made bread, spaghetti sauce, quiche, zucchana bread (zucchini/banana bread...it's what happen when you have a little of both) and I'm thinking of throwing together some peanut butter brownie bites.  I guess my family benefits from my worry...lots of good homemade yummies.  
Mmmm...my zucchana bread was perfect with a cup of coffee this morning
Okay, that is enough complaining.  Life really is good.  It's just been a crappy week.  It'll get better.

Hope your week is going well.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Celebrations.

This photo sums up how I feel about my birthday weekend...

It was fantastic.  I got to celebrate with everyone I love.  Friends, family and of course Matt and my girls.  I didn't have to cram it all in one day...I got to spread it out over a nice long weekend and soak it all up.  Friday we had friends over for some appetizers and drinks.  As we hung out, the work week faded away and the celebratory mood set it.  Although, it felt celebratory at work because I have awesome co-workers who had a birthday banner up complete with chocolates, confetti and a birthday tiara waiting for me Friday morning.  It didn't take long for my tiara to be stolen by a little girl after school...

That night, Matt finally told me about our weekend plans and I'm happy to say they did not include Buffalo Wild Wings.  He had planned a night at Chico Hot Springs for us and a sleepover at Grandma's for the girls.  Win, win.  Chico has always been a favorite of ours for birthday and anniversary celebrations, but it is no longer a secret get away.  Unfortunately it has become quite popular so getting a room can be a plan a year in advance type thing.  Thanks to somebody cancelling Matt was able to get us in.  

You cannot help but feel relaxed as soon as you make the turn and see the Chico sign and the resort tucked into the snowy mountainside.  If you were driving down the main road and didn't make the turn you wouldn't even know it was there.  A true hidden (until it got discovered) gem.  I may have a middle of winter birthday, but it always seems to be pretty nice.  This year was no exception...the sun was out, not a cloud in the sky and I actually worried I'd get a sunburn when we were soaking in the hot springs.  Three hours and a couple of cocktails later I had not a care in the world.
Over the past few years we still go swim at Chico a lot.  In fact we owe Ava a trip there who picked that as her "prize" for filling her sticker chart.  We also had the best family night there last year for my mom's 60th birthday when we were able to rent the big house on a fluke the day before her day.  However, it has been years since we've eaten at their amazing restaurant.  We made up for lost time and ate until we literally could not eat anymore.  Oyster appetizers, fresh bread, salads, steak Gorgonzola, shrimp scampi, washed down with vino and topped off with desserts.  Not just one shared dessert...oh no...we each indulged in our own.  Dessert may not have even been considered after all that food, however the people sitting next to us insisted on buying our dessert and said we each had to have our own.  No reason...they simply "liked doing that and one day when you are older you should do the same"  Love it.  Two hours after we had sat down we dragged our very full selves out of the restaurant.  We had intentions of going to the bar next door, listening to the band, having a drink and behaving like adults who have no responsibilities would behave.  This did not happen.  We were officially in food comas and nothing else was going in.  We sat in the lobby, people watched a bit (always a fun time), made friends with the locals...
I was telling him I was sorry I had meat, but sometimes a girl needs a steak...especially when it is slathered in Gorgonzola and red wine sauce
We tried soaking again, even attempted to go dance at the bar.  Neither lasted long and we finally gave in and went to bed.  It was a pretty pathetic bedtime for kid-less parents...knowing no little girls would wake us up in the middle of the night needing a drink and knowing we could have slept in.  Oh well...I was about to turn a year older and needed my beauty rest.  It was glorious.  And, we did get to sleep in to the wonderful hour of 8 am.  Chico offers a delicious brunch on Sundays, but hunger had still yet to return after our evening meal.  Just a cup of coffee, a little more soaking and it was time to head home to celebrate my day with my girls.  

As much as I love having a night away I was missing my babies.  It was another sun soaked day so we took advantage and did a little sledding.  It was just us four and only for about a hour but it was one of my favorite parts of my day.

My mom had invited my sisters and their families over for a "Super" party.  Which was just her very nice way of having a Superbowl party but including my birthday in it as well. It was fine by me...I got to spend my birthday with the whole family, which has not happened in I don't even know how long.  Getting together for family dinners has not happened as regularly lately which made everyone being together a little more special.  Lots of food, kiddos playing, and an amazing birthday dessert....cappuccino chocolate cheesecake.
Cousins are the BEST!!!
Toothless girls


Matt with his masterpiece.  
Mmmmmm...the cheesecake.  My amazing guy hates cheesecake.  (Who could hate cheesecake you ask?  I wonder the same thing)  Yet, he spent hours researching, shopping and baking me this because he knows I love cheesecake and any dessert with chocolate.  Add some coffee flavor and I'm done for.  Well done, babe.  Well done.

I know when you are a kid birthdays are all about the gifts.  As I've gotten older I know the true gifts are just spending time surrounded by the people you love and enjoying those simple moments of togetherness.  That is exactly what I got this weekend.  However, I also got a couple really fantastic gifts that were so thoughtful and just meant so much to me.  My friend Amy made me this beautiful photo...

Yes, I said "made" it.  It is on a piece of wood and don't ask me how.  I tried to have her explain, but didn't really catch it all...just heard the word "PInterest" and it all made sense.  I really love it...and knowing that she took the time to make it for me...that's why she's my bff.  

And, then my two other bff's, also known as my sisters, got me this...

It is made by a local artist, Nikole Rae, each letter is a photograph.  I have been eyeing her work at the last few art festivals and markets we have gone to.  I have almost bought some of her work for myself, but didn't because it was Christmas time.  I could not believe when I opened it and saw it...I was certain Matt had told them I had admired her work.  Nope, they picked it out themselves.  Scary how well we know each other sometimes.  I cannot wait to hang this on my wall.  It represents what means all the world to me.  

I saved the very best gifts for last.  When we got home the girls grabbed the gifts they had been working on all week for me to open.  Beautiful artwork created by the sweetest little things.  They melt my heart.

The top card from Ava translates into "Couldn't have a better Mommy"  Are you kidding me with that????   

One of the best birthday weekends ever.  Bring it on 35.

Have a happy week.