Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Picture

Little Man's preschool teacher was thoughtful enough to knit slippers for all her students. He was very excited about these, and also all the Star Wars stuff he got for Christmas. We used this picture as a thank you to the teacher with the following message....

"thank you very much for the bunny slippers. They keep my feet nice and warm while I fight the rebel forces"

Sincerely
DarthVader
Aka Little Man

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy 2nd Day of Christmas

The past few days have been too busy to write but now that Christmas is over and grownups are relaxing while kids are busy playing with their toys it's time to catch up.

Christmas Eve we had our traditional dinner - Honey Baked Ham with potatoes au gratin, and green beans with bacon vinaigrette. This year I also got a side of sweet potato casserole from Honey Baked Ham since Little Man liked it so much at Thanksgiving. Dessert is Swedish Apple Pie with vanilla ice cream. It's one of the few days out of the year that we eat in the dining room and bring out the fancy stuff - china, crystal, silver etc.

After dinner the kids changed in to their new Christmas pjs and my husband read Twas the Night Before Christmas and then we sent them all to bed. I prepped the French Toast Casserole for the following morning and while we waited for the kids to fall alseep. It took a while before the kids finally fell asleep and we could put the last of the gifts out, and get to bed ourselves.

Christmas morning my in-laws woke up before the kids. Not because they are super early risers, but because they kids were asleep til 8am!!! They actually didn't get out of bed until my husband and I opened their doors. It took us about 4 hours to open all the gifts (with a brief break for breakfast). The kids were all very happy with their gifts - tons of Lego stuff for everyone, and Star Wars stuff for Little Man. Our daughters both got cameras from Santa and have been having a great time taking pictures and videos of everything. This will be our most documented Christmas ever - thank God for digital cameras or we'd be spending a fortune in film :)


Since we've had hardly any snow this year my father-in-law's one wish was to have a White Christmas. Sure enough it started snowing mid-morning. It was the perfect amount, just enough to make it pretty, but not so much that we had to get out the snow blower. We took the kids out for a while to get some fresh air and have a snow ball fight.

The adults got good stuff too, I gave my husband AppleTV - we're finally joining the 21st century, and he got me a new iPad with keyboard which will back blogging much easier. But my favorite gifts as always were the crafty ones from the kids.

Little Reader painted this in art class. 


Little Hugger made this handprint ornament

Little Man made this handprint wreath.

Midafternoon we had a snack of aebleskiver and glogg, and I used the ham bone from the Honey Baked Ham to make split pea soup for dinner. 

Today I am slowly taking my time getting the house back to relative tidyness.  Dinner tonight is going to be very easy - Sloppy Joes.  I've done enough cooking and baking in the past couple of days I need a break.








Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Shopping

Christmas shopping is tough when you have little kids. You can't buy stuff for them when they are with you as that would ruin the surprise - obviously. You can't buy a lot for other people as they can necessarily be trusted to keep secrets. But as a Mom it can be tough to get away to shop.

Online shopping is a godsend of course, and I did buy quite a bit online this year. Still, I like to browse and find those surprise gifts that the kids didn't know they wanted but end up loving. I hate browsing online.

My daughters are in school full days but Little Man is only at school three mornings a week, and while I manage to pack a lot in to the 2 1/2 hours I'm without him on those days, there is a limit to how far I can go.

So for the past three years, I've picked a random night when I go to Schaumburg and get as much as I can. Anyone from Chicago knows that Schaumburg is the home to our largest mall and every other major retailer you can think of.

Before I go, I call the various stores I need to go to to find out their hours and chart my course based on earliest closing times. I make a list of stores and items I'm looking for, kiss the kids goodbye, grab a Coke to keep me going and head out.

While I usually like to go earlier, this year I had to wait until tonight to go. Usually I go midweek as it's less crowded but even for the Friday before Christmas it wasn't that bad. Long lines in some stores but not the ones I needed.

I made it home just after midnight and while there are a couple of things on my list I'd like to get but couldn't find, I am basically done. If I have time this weekend I may check around for the last few items but the fact is our kids will have a very happy Christmas with what they get - most, but not all the wishes from their lists and a couple of surprises.

Now I am sitting by my tree in a quiet house with a quick glass of wine to counteract my 9pm Coke, before heading off to bed. Tomorrow I need to start wrapping.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Card Display

One of my favorite parts about Christmas is getting cards from everyone. Even though I am more up to date with friends lives due to Facebook I still enjoy seeing pictures of everyone's kids. We don't send a newsletter but I enjoy most of those too - as long as they are not 8 pt single space chronicling every detail of that family's life that year. Feel free to brag, but let's stick to the highlights please.

For a while I put the cards in a little bin as we received them and even though it was a cute Christmasy bin, the cards were quickly forgotten. So a couple of years ago I bought some red velvet ribbon which I attach to the doorway between our living room and front hallway.If we get a lot of cards I also run one along the top of the doorway connecting the two, but I feel like people aren't sending as many cards as they used to.

I use clothespins to attach the cards but to make it more fun I had the kids paint them in Christmas colors. They were 5 and 3 at the time, and now want to repaint them as they think they can do better now that they are 3 years older, but I won't let them. I kind of like their imperfection.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Pick Two

My parents arrive today which means I spent the last week trying to finish my Christmas shopping, cleaning the house and converting our playroom to a guest room.  In the middle of the craziness a friend posted this on Facebook, and I couldn't agree more.  Right now I had to pick to let my sanity go by the wayside, hopefully once the parents get settled my sanity will return.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Sing

This past Wednesday Little Man had his school's holiday sing. He was very excited and knew his songs well. Wednesdays are always logistically tough as my daughters have piano lessons after school. So after Little Reader's lesson I dropped her off at Little Man's school to save seats and then headed back to pick Little Hugger up from her lesson. Little Reader was all excited as she felt like a big kid being trusted with a big responsibility.

We got seats almost in the front row so Little Man found us in the audience right when he got on stage and gave us a big smile and a wave. His class sang one song "Wrap It Up" a song about the elves getting the toys ready for the sleigh. I'd never heard it before but it was cute.

After a couple of other classes sang, all the kids came on stage for a finale. Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Everything went well for the first song and then right in the middle of Jingle Bells the boy next to him started crying. Big sobs, so Little Man stopped singing and was staring at the kid, who then tried to push Little Man's face to face front. He kept staring at him for a while and then faced front again. As soon as the song was over the teachers got the boy off stage and brought him back stage.

After the show I asked Little Man what had happened and as I suspected the poor kid had wet himself.

The school had arranged for Santa to come and see the children but since we had already seen him we skipped that part and went out to eat instead.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Lights

Along with the traditions of decorating the tree, baking cookies and doing crafts with my kids, I have always enjoyed seeking out the over the top house.  Here is a video of this years' find.  I was in Target buying lights for our bushes when an employee came up and started talking to me about lights.  This is her house.

Unlike a lot of other houses where the lights are on a timer and you never see the owners, this family comes out and greets everyone and hands out candy canes.


In case you're wondering, they have over 18,000 lights and it takes them 17 days to set it all up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Card Pictures

I love decorating our house for Christmas. We have a lot of decorations collected from various travels over the years, and while they are all Christmas themed they still remind me of the places they are from and the things we did there. I'm always a little sad to put it all away at the end of the season.

My favorite Christmas decorations are not ornaments though, they are our Christmas card pictures. A few years ago I saw this idea (I think in Parents magazine) suggesting that each year you frame the picture you use for your Christmas card and put it out with your Christmas decorations. After Christmas you pack them up with the rest of the decorations. The reason to pack them away is that while I have lots of other framed photos around our house, I hardly ever really look at them. I see them, I know they are there, but I hardly ever take the time to look at them.

We now have a collection of nine pictures of our kids growing up through the years. I love unpacking them every year and seeing how much they've changed. I purposely get a different frame each year to take the pressure off of finding a match the following year (or having a huge stockpile).

Here are a few of my favorites through the years.... 
Little Reader as a baby - she's now 8

Little Reader (4 yo) and Little Hugger (2yo)


All 3

2 years ago




Monday, December 10, 2012

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Today was a busy but fun day. I don't think we could have crammed more Christmas activities in if we'd tried.

This morning we got the kids all dressed up and went to a Santa brunch at Makray Golf Club in Barrington. It's a public course so the brunch is open to everyone. It's reasonably priced, they have a professional photographer there and let you take your own pictures (the one on the right was the one I took, not quite card worthy but still cute). They email you their picture so you can use it however you want.  The one weird thing though was that when my kids started to tell Santa what they wanted he told them to write him a letter instead.  I guess because they do take their time with the pictures, they don't have time for the actually telling about wishes.

After we were done eating we all changed into warmer clothes and headed out to cut down our Christmas tree for the first time ever.  A friend of mine had recommended Oney's Tree Farm in Woodstock IL so that's where we headed. The weather wasn't that great. It was raining most of the ride there but by the time we arrived it was just misting and eventually stopped.

There is a little store and bakery right by the entrance but we skipped that and headed straight for the trees. You can bring your own saw or borrow one of their's (with a $20 deposit that is returned when you bring back the saw). There is a horse drawn wagon that brings you to the middle of the field and you just wander around among the trees until you find one you like. In the past we've usually gotten Fraser Firs but at this farm (and maybe it's this way at all of them), they are all mixed together which made finding the right tree a little trickier but still fun.  Little Man loved looking at all the little trees, especially the ones smaller than him.

It was extremely muddy after the rain, but the kids had fun with that ;). When we finally found our tree we were a little further and downhill from the wagon stop than the entrance so we walked back. Pretty tricky with a nine foot tree in the mud, but we made it back.

The farm workers shook our tree (to get any critters out). The kids thought that part was hysterical, and they bailed it for us and helped my husband get it onto our car. Note, they only lift it on the car, you are responsible for tying it down.

We stopped in the store to pay and have some cocoa, before heading back home. It took us a little over an hour to get back, but part of that was I didn't want to be barreling down 90 at my usual clip in case the tree did come loose - which it didn't.

We got it into our house really easily since it was bailed, and are letting it settle in a bit before we decorate it. Ok, ok, it settled in pretty quickly since it was so fresh, we were just too tired to do it.

After dinner we decided to keep the Christmas theme going and we all sat down to watch Charlie Brown's Christmas. It's fun to watch Christmas movies with the kids cause my daughters now know them well and often giggle in anticipation of the funny lines, while Little Man is really only appreciating them this year.

Nyhavn in the snow
We all slept very well after a fun but Christmas packed day. The only things missing were the Christmas cookies (I'm catching up on those today) and the fact that we still haven't had any snow. I read in the paper that if we didn't have any measurable snow today - we didn't - it would set a record for longest gap of snowy days for Chicago - 282 I think the number was. It makes it a little harder to get in the Christmas spirit without snow, but thankfully my friends and family in Denmark have been posting some gorgeous snowscapes on Facebook so at least I can enjoy their snow.

The view from my aunt's apartment





Sunday, December 9, 2012

Feeding Therapy Success

As I mentioned in a previous post, my son has officially been discharged from his feeding therapy.  It's amazing to think that this time last year he was still eating only stage 2 baby foods and yobaby - and pretty specific flavors at that.  If you tried to put any regular food on his plate he would scream and cry and refuse to touch it.

While he is still technically a picky eater, he probably eats more variety than his sisters did at his age.  For dinner in the past week he's had chicken, shrimp, italian sausage, and beef.  He loves raw carrots, and has been willing to try pretty much anything we put on his plate.  Last night's cheesy zucchini rice was a surprising hit.

Admittedly his breakfasts and lunches are still very much in the "beige" category of typical toddler fare - pancakes for breakfast, peanut butter or cheese sandwiches for lunch.  I insist that he eats some sort of fruit or veggie with every meal and he often chooses applesauce, but since I get the no sugar added variety, I'm ok with that.

My advice to anyone who has a kid like this who is over 2 years old, has hit all the other usual developmental milestones, and still refuses to eat table food, get some help.  For a while my pediatrician and I pushed it off as something he would grow out of, but honestly it would have taken a long time and possibly affected his future growth if we hadn't gotten some help.  He had a strong gag reflex which created a psychological fear of eating.  My husband insisted this was a first world problem and I was enabling him by giving in to his food requests.  While the first part of that is probably true,  I was never so sure about the second.

When I brought him in for his 2 1/2 year well check the pediatrician recommended trying feeding therapy. Once diagnosed he was prescribed a 8 week feeding group with other kids with similar issues, as well as weekly in home visits with a therapist.  Thankfully, most of the cost of that was covered by the state until he turned 3 - in our case Illinois - I don't know if every state covers it.  We did have to pay a small monthly fee (based on a sliding scale of income).    After he turned 3, the state stopped covering the weekly therapy (we only did one session of the group therapy), but insurance still covered a large portion of the cost.

In the beginning stages the therapists would just have him play with the food, and the more he tolerated the more they encouraged and gently pushed him to go further.

Some weeks he refused to do anything, other weeks he happily did whatever was expected of him. The main thing was the therapist made it fun coming up with silly games to get him to try the food. Finally he started eating - at first tiny nibbles, but over time he would take bigger and bigger bites. Once he was comfortable with the mechanics of chewing it became less about play and we worked on getting him to try more flavors, encouraging mixing things together. For example instead of just eating scrambled eggs, make an omelet using cheese we knew he liked and adding one more ingredient. Once you find something they like, change subtle things about it to encourage trying new things.

After about 9 months of therapy he built up to about 30 different foods that he likes (10 fruits & veggies, 10 proteins and 10 carbs), and he was ready to be discharged. He does still occasionally refuse to try something new, but now it's just typical 3 year old stuff, and I know that if he doesn't eat his dinner, he'll make up for it the next day at breakfast and lunch. I've also told him that the more dinners he tries and likes the sooner he can get a night of the week where he chooses our dinner just like his sisters get.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Moloka'i

My in-laws lived on O'ahu for a number of years so I was lucky enough to travel to Hawaii 4 times and able to visit the main islands on those trips. I never made it to Moloka'i though I was always intrigued by the history.

Anyone who has been to Hawai'i has probably heard that Moloka'i used to be a leper colony and that is the focus of this story. It's historical fiction starting in the late 1800s in Honolulu. It tells the story of Hawai'i through the Kalama family (but mostly the daughter Rachel).

Rachel contracts leprosy at the age of 7 and after a quarantine on O'ahu she is transferred to Moloka'i. On O'ahu she was still able to have her family visit on occasion, moving to Moloka'i makes visits difficult and expensive . Upon arriving on Moloka'i, Rachel sees leprosy patients who are far more advanced in the illness than she is. She is both repelled and scared of them, as she hadn't seen anyone so advanced in the illness before and worries about her own future.

Over time Rachel settles in to the routine of the hospital and befriends some of the nuns working as nurses. She is both fortunate and unfortunate to have a very slow progression of the disease so sees people younger than her pass, but also forms strong bonds with some of the long term residents of the island (healthy and not).

While children are required to stay in the hospital until they are 18, after that they are allowed to leave the hospital as long as they stay on the island. Not long after Rachel is allowed a little more freedom, a young Japanese/Hawaiian arrives on the island. They fall in love but are still exiled from their families and have a hard time feeling that their lives are complete.

I always enjoy well researched historical fiction, and this was one of those books.  While Rachel does have a rough life, this is not a depressing book.  There is humor, and the compassion displayed by many of the characters is heart warming.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Traditions

I'm posting about my favorite Christmas tradition over at Chicagoland Moms Blog today.  Click on over and check it out.  What is one tradition you enjoyed as a kid that you are contributing for your own kids?


Monday, December 3, 2012

Tortellini Alfredo

Linking up to Mom's Test Meal Mondays - favorite recipes using cheese

First of all, asking me to pick which is my favorite recipe using cheese is like asking me to pick a favorite child.  I love them all for their own reasons.  The best I can do is narrow it down to my favorite app and favorite pasta dish.

Favorite app is the Kraft Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

My favorite pasta dish is tortellini alfredo, because it super easy, and very filling.

1 lb of tortellini
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup shredded parmesan - the good stuff, not the powdered or preshredded stuff (no offense Kraft but it just doesn't melt as well)
3-4 slices prosciutto, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas (thawed)

Make tortellini according to package directions.  Combine cream, butter and parmesan in a pan, warm over medium heat stirring occasionally until well blended. Reduce heat to low. Add the prosciutto and peas, stir some more to combine.  Once pasta is finished drain and add to the pan.  Mix the pasta in until well covered.  Serve with a little more shredded parmesan on top.

One tip: the sauce is smoother if the ingredients are at room temperature before you start. For me that just means, getting the cheese, cream, and butter out at the same time you start the water boiling for the pasta.

Tip:  the cheese melts better and the sauce combines better if the ingredients are at room temperature before cooking.

Makes about 4 servings




Making Up for A Wasted Sunday

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Chicago. 60 degrees, kids were outside playing most of the day.  I had intended to enjoy it too, but had a bit too much fun Saturday night and felt like crap for most of the day.  I did sit outside for a little while watching my kids play, but there was no way I was going to be able to run.

Still since running the Hot Chocolate I've run one time.  Pretty pathetic.  It's pretty obvious I need a goal to keep me disciplined and on track.  I hope my husband gets his schedule for next year soon so I figure out which half marathon I'm doing and start training.

Until then, I need to just start getting in a routine again.  So this morning since it was still pretty warm out (although a bit foggy), I got my butt in gear and went for a run after dropping off the kids.  It wasn't pretty.  I cramped up a little and had to walk a couple of times.  I barely made it the 3 miles I wanted to hit, but.....





Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lights




It may not have felt like December today, but at least it was warm enough for my husband to finish putting the lights up in front of our house.

December in Chicago



Saturday, December 1, 2012

December Goals

I'm not going to go crazy with goals for this month as I want to enjoy the Christmas season.

But there are a few things that I do need to take care of, beyond the usual getting ready for Christmas stuff.

1. Sew curtain for laundry room
2. Work out. I know that as the weather gets colder I won't be motivated to run.  I haven't been in almost 3 weeks and my clothes is starting to feel a little tight. Not good. Luckily our local community center has a daytime membership for $200/year or $16/mth. Pretty good deal. I don't like running on treadmills but I do like the ellipticals and some of the other machines.
3. Start teaching the kids Danish. We're going this summer and while most of my family speaks English well, my cousins' kids don't speak it yet. They'll have more fun if they can communicate on a basic level. It's hard though cause I have yet to find any resources to use as teaching tools, so will just have to make it up as I go. 
4.  Go through my Pinterest Recipes To Try and Desserts and try to make a bunch of new things.  Some I have purposely been saving for this time of year, others I just haven't gotten around to. 

That's really it.  

Kicking off December

As I mentioned yesterday my husband and daughters went to the tree lot to sell trees last night. They left around 630 and figured they'd stay an hour. They ended up coming home after 9pm. They had sold a lot of trees and the kids mostly ran around with their friends and made s'mores. They came home sticky with tree sap and marshmallows and some pine fronds and cones that had fallen off some of the wreaths, and definitely in the Christmas spirit.

After they went to bed I did some Christmas shopping on-line and finished organizing all my pre-Christmas gifts.

The kids were all excited this morning to go down and check their stockings for the first Pre-Christmas gift. As has become the tradition for the first day, they each got a Christmas calendar. I just get a paper one with pictures as my parents usually send the chocolate ones. Those haven't arrived yet but I'm sure the kids won't mind catching up when they do arrive ;)

This morning I hung our wreath, and we are going to our first Christmas party this afternoon - our neighbor's annual open house. Part way through the party I have to take Little Reader to a birthday party. After that my husband and I are going out with some friends and then we have a holiday brunch tomorrow.

A busy weekend but fun.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November Goals Wrapup

1. Buy all advent calendar stuff. DONE

2. Plan Christmas gift shopping and budget. DONE and have even started shopping

3. Keep running. 3 miles 2-3 times a week should be doable. No more long runs, I'll start that up again when the weather gets better. BIG fail here. I ran my 15 k and have barely run since, mostly because I've been using my kidless time to take care of the first two goals.

4. Give the house a good deep cleaning. I have done about half the house.

5. Make curtain for laundry area. Nope. Will have to tackle this one this month

6. Sew flannel duvet cover for Little Hugger. DONE. Now she's all warm and snuggled.

7. Get passports for the kids. Applied for 1 set and have an appointment for the US ones in January. My husband has to be there for those.

So not too bad, but not great

Christmas Is Coming

Christmas is my favorite time of year. While I get annoyed when stores decorate and play Christmas music before Thanksgiving (or even Halloween), once Thanksgiving has passed it's time to celebrate the Christmas season. And to me it really is a season not a day. It's about the feeling of being with family and friends. It's about all that winter time nesting, staying in and working on crafts and baking because it's too cold to go outside.

My husband put up all some of our outdoor lights this past weekend, and plans on finishing this weekend. Yesterday my kids and I decorated our house. Here's one of my little helpers. Our decorations are a mix of store bought and stuff that the kids have created over the years.

We get a real tree so will wait on that for another couple of weeks, although my husband and daughters will be selling trees at our local tree lot tomorrow along with other members of their Indian Princess tribe.

 Stockings are all hung up ready for my modified advent calendar tradition to start on the 1st. More on that in a future post.

I'm looking forward to starting baking this weekend, just have to figure out what the first batch is going to be. I've found so many great recipes on Pinterest recently I'm a little overwhelmed.

Over the next few weeks my posts will mostly be about Christmas - favorite traditions, crafts, recipes etc. If you love Christmas as much as I do, follow along, and share your favorites too.




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Swedish Apple Pie

This is my go to dessert when I need to bring one to a fall pot luck.  I've brought it to every Thanksgiving I've attended since my friend first gave me the recipe almost 15 years ago.  It's super easy as it is more of a crisp than a pie, and is always well received.  For the record, I am not Swedish, neither is my friend, so not sure where the name is from.  She got it from a Girl Scout cookbook her troop put together.

5-6  Macintosh apples
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Peel, core and cut apples into chunks.  Put into a 9x9 baking dish.  

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar so all apples are covered.  

Combine egg, flour and sugar.  Melt the butter and add that to the sugar mixture.  

Pour on top of the apples to cover.  Spread out the flour/sugar mixture with a spatula if needed.

Sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar.  

Bake for 35-45 minutes (until golden brown) and a little crisp on the edges.

Let cool a little and serve with vanilla ice cream
 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Slacker Blogger

OK, I admit it.  I've been a totally slacker blogger the past week or so, but on the upside I've been extremely productive in every other aspect of life.  So what have I been doing?  Mostly getting ready for my favorite time of year.  Usually I get pretty stressed out this time of year as money has been tight at this point the past couple of years.  This year we're in a much better place as my husband already got his Christmas bonus instead of having to wait til mid December.  I'm trying hard not to go overboard. Most of the money we plan on using to pay down debt, but it's nice to have flexibility and not have to charge everything like I did last year.  I can't remember the last time I had already started Christmas shopping in November.

To get ready for cold weather and the holidays I've sewn the flannel comforter cover for Little Reader.  I've been doing some serious cleaning to help get ready for our parents to come visit for the holidays so I don't have to spend the final weekend before they arrive doing nothing but cleaning.

My kids get a little present in their stocking everyday until Christmas starting on December 1st.  I try to buy a bunch all of the stuff before the month starts to minimize the stress, and as soon as I finish this post I need to organize the stuff and see how much more I need to buy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Thanksgiving Book

I know everyone is gearing up for Christmas now, but my son brought this Thanksgiving book home from school today and it was too cute not to share. They made a different page each day, each one pretty easy although probably needing some help from the teachers since he's only 3.










Each page is really simple but still very cute


Friday, November 23, 2012

What I'm Thankful For

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I did. My goal today is to stay home and avoid the craziness of Black Friday at all costs.

I have a post about what I'm thankful for over at Chicagoland Moms Blog. Check it out.

http://chicagolandmomsblog.com/what-im-thankful-for/

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My little secret admirer

When I was going to bed tonight I reached under my pillow to get my pjs and found this :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trip downtown

The kids are off of school all week this week, so I decided to use yesterday as the day to get their passports.  The weather was good, so we took the L to get downtown which was much easier (and cheaper) than parking, and felt like an adventure to them as we hardly ever do it.

Our consulate is in the Hancock building which the kids got excited about, to get to go a building they've walked by many times but never been inside.  They got kind of antsy during our meeting at the consulate but I told them if they behaved I'd show them something special in the basement. That helped get them settled down for a little bit.

Finally we were done with the paperwork and headed downstairs. They have an elaborate and FREE train setup in the lower level. It really was quite impressive and the kids loved it.  We probably spent 20 minutes there looking at all the details.

We went to M Burger in Water Tower for lunch. It's a Lettuce Entertain You place, but fast food style. We got basic plain cheeseburgers (because that's what we wanted, you can make them more interesting) and fries. They were pretty decent for the price and speed. It's not Blackies, but definitely a step up from the usual chains which I avoid at all costs.

Since we were in Water Tower we stopped at the Lego store and American Girl. Little Reader spent a lot of time studying the different dolls to figure out which one she wants. She's leaning towards 57, but wants to go on line to see of they have something better. I could tell Little Hugger was starting to get interested in them too but luckily as soon as Little Reader pointed out that they were for 8 year old + she stopped and focused on their little pets. Thank God. Bad enough that I'll have to get one, I did not want to get two. The worst part is that this $105 doll is dressed but it's a pretty lame outfit, basically forcing you to buy an outfit as well (another $30). I tried to impress all this upon her today, that if Santa is so generous as to bring her one, she's may have to purchase future outfits accessories using her own money. Once she saw the grand piano for the doll and saw that it cost $150 she understood ;)

I still needed to get the title transferred to the car we refinanced, so we hopped on the bus and headed down to the Loop to the Thompson Building. I let them play at the Dubuffet for a little bit hoping to get the wiggles out before dealing with the DMV.

They thought the building was really cool but got bored pretty fast at the DMV. Luckily we got through there relatively quickly.

Kids wanted another snack before getting back on the train to head home. We picked up some drinks, cheeses rocks and grapes at Walgreens and sat in a little courtyard between some of the buildings. Quick stop at the Renaissance hotel to use the washroom before getting back in the Red Line home.

All in all a good day. I got the things done that I needed to do and the kids had fun. On the way home I noticed a FB comment from a friend about a gingerbread display at the Marriott on Michigan Avenue. Oh well, we'll have to save that for next time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Killer Critique

I'm not going to be *that* harsh ^^^^^, but suffice it to say I wouldn't recommend this book. I read it out of curiosity. It was written by a grade school friend's Dad and has been pretty well received and translated in to multiple languages. He is a former finance guy turned food critic turned author. He's not French but has spent most of his adult life there.

Anyway, this is the third in a series of Capucine mysteries. I like mysteries but I'm not a foodie so probably wouldn't have picked this up if I hadn't known the author.

Capucine is a detective on the Paris police force. Her husband Alexandre is a food critic. The books starts off with a prominent food critic being murdered in a restaurant. Capucine is assigned to the case.

Not long after a second critic is murdered also while dining out. Theories of a serial killer quickly spread. Capucine begins to worry about her own husband and wonders if he is also a target.

After the third murder she figured out who the killer is, but struggled to find proof.  In order to prove her theory they set up an elaborate trap at the reopening of the Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. The ending while plausible is a bit anticlimactic, as it doesn't really explain in detail how the murders were committed leaving the reader to assume the earlier theories are correct. I prefer getting a little recap of the how at the end of a mystery.

Since the author's background is in food and his target audience are foodies, there are quite a few details of the meals prepared and consumed throughout the book. These parts were for the most part wasted on me. I've eaten crazy concoctions off of tasting menus at renowned restaurants but I much prefer a good steak.

Still I enjoyed the part of the book describing the Diner en Blanc. I had heard of it before but had forgotten about it. Turns out there is a copycat version in Chicago - may have to try that next year.

While most authors do end up sharing their opinions in aspects of the story, there were parts where I thought the author's disdain for certain things were too abundantly clear. The current French president and his young wife,  and a restaurant where patrons eat in the dark to experience what it is like to be blind are two examples.

At times I feel like the author tried too hard to create interesting characters. That may sound like a weird critique, but just as flat characters are boring, some of his characters were so over the top some of them didn't really make sense - Vavasseur being one of them. When Capucine tells her brother Jacques that she is having trouble with the case, he introduces her to a man named Vavasseur who lives in a tunnel along the Seine. Whenever she comes she brings gourmet food supposedly provided by social services, and he provides the wine (which he keeps chilled in the river) They talk about the case but also about other things which all help Capucine solve the case. I'm not saying homeless people can't be intelligent, but the author seemed to go over the top with portraying Vavasseur as an intelligent refined man, but then never gives a reason for his current situation. Maybe he already has plans for him to develop this character more in a future book and provide more of his back story.

Bottom line, if you're a foodie or a Francophile you may enjoy this.  If not, I'd say skip it. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Girls Night Out

Monday night I went out to dinner with 4 friends for a far too infrequent girls night out. We all know each other through my friend who is getting divorced. She wasn't able to make it, and in a way that was better. This was the first time we'd all gotten together since getting the news and we all needed to talk through it. We all have known both sides for a long time and I admit there are other members of the group who will have a much harder time with this than I am.

Our little group was made up of
- her sister in law
- the wife of her close friend (and former high school boyfriend) who used to be roommates with the husband
- the wife of her good friend from college
- the sister of her college roommates exhusband
- me

Obviously the first two are the most conflicted. We all agreed that we don't have any desire to socialize with the new guy. Although one of our group actually did meet him one night when they happened to go to a play on the same night. She wasn't impressed.

I think we would all have had an easier time with it if there was no infidelity involved. They have finally told their kids which apparently did not go well - no real surprise there.

We didn't spend the whole time gossiping about them, we also caught up on other happier topics. but it was therapeutic for all of us to talk about since we are all in the same boat, and like I mentioned she is the common friend that brought us all together.

The next few get togethers are going to be awkward no doubt. I hope as they make the transition to their new lives (they're still living in the same house) things will get easier, but I think we're slowly working our way through the stages of grief and now are mostly in the anger phase. Next apparently is sadness and then finally acceptance and hope.

I'm sad for the kids having to be dealing with this all right as the holidays are coming up. It's going to rough for all of them, but I hope they make it through ok.

Since it was a Monday night it was a fairly early night, I was home by 10. My husband was initially surprised that I was home so early, but as I told him women can cover more in two hours than men will in a month ;)

We all decided we need to make these get togethers more frequent and hopefully we will make it work.





Thursday, November 15, 2012

American Girl

My daughters are 8 and 6 and thankfully have shown no interest in American Girl dolls. They've been to a birthday party there (they brought their teddy bears). Little Reader likes the books, and until now that was it, and that was just fine with me. I never liked dolls growing up, I preferred my snuggle buddies as we call them in our house. My daughters seemed to be following my lead until I asked them to write up their Christmas wish lists.

Little Reader wants an American Girl doll that looks like her. She specifically said she's going to ask Santa for it as I had mentioned before that they are pretty expensive.

Here's the problem. So far it's her only Santa wish, and if she had shown interest in dolls in the past I wouldn't think twice about it, as she does take good care of her things. The problem is I really don't think she'll play with it that much. I also know her well enough that if I push that opinion she'll say even more that she wants it. Also I know that like me she thinks about things a lot before she verbalizes them, so has pretty much made up her mind.

So, what's my plan? Well as luck would have it, between her and her sister they have 3 birthday parties coming up. Today we're going shopping for the gift for the first one. Normally I go to Target but today I plan on taking them to Toys R Us. My hope is that she'll see something else and will change her mind about the AG doll. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Good Weekend

This weekend my husband took our daughters on their fall Indian Princess campout.  They left after breakfast on Saturday (actually Little Reader made breakfast for all 3 of them so my husband and I got to sleep in).  She did this all on her own, which was a nice and much appreciated surprise.  Granted it was just microwave pancakes and milk, but still, I got to stay in bed an extra 15 minutes - that's priceless :)

Little Man is doing pretty well on the eating front, but I had told him Friday night that that Saturday morning he would have to have some banana.  He used to love banana baby food, for some reason he doesn't like real bananas.  I told him that he could have the banana on a graham cracker with peanut butter (his favorite snack), but I wasn't going to play with him or have us do anything fun until he ate some banana.  That may sound harsh but his feeding issues are purely stubbornness at this point so I have to be equally stubborn.

The good thing was I got a bunch of laundry and cleaning done while he pouted.  Finally around lunch time, he caved, and ate it.  After lunch we went back to the indoor playground.  We got there at 2 and there was a birthday party scheduled for 3 which ended up being perfect.  He played for an hour and once the party guests arrived we went back home.  It was pretty warm out so we spent time outside playing and winterizing the yard.

That night after dinner I let him pick a movie.  No big surprise he picked Cars.  He's only seen it once or twice before and kept asking when Lightning was going to race.  All that plot development and character building stuff wasn't very interesting to a 3 year old ; )  But once the racing started, he started cheering for Lightning.  Then I had to explain why Lightning would choose to lose the race and help another car.

After I tucked him in I watched Scandal from Thursday night - one of the few shows I watch and one my husband isn't at all interested in.  I started watching it cause of Josh Malina (David Rosen on the show).  I always liked Josh on West Wing and Sports Night and so far am enjoying Scandal.  I found out via Facebook that a friend of mine in 7-8th grade is his younger sister.  You know what that means right?  I'm 3 degrees from Kevin Bacon.

This morning, Little Man woke up around 745 a bit confused as his sisters usually wake up first and this morning the house was quiet.  We had a quiet morning and the rest of the family came home after lunch.  They were all very sleepy after staying up well past midnight but I could also tell that they were up to something when I helped them unload the car.

Sure enough when I came inside with a few last things from the car, they started singing Happy Birthday and had a cake and cards for me.  My birthday isn't actually until Wednesday but Little Man has a Thanksgiving sing at school that night and next weekend my husband is on call, so better early than late :)

The rest of the day was spent catching up and getting ready for the week ahead, the kids all crashed pretty quickly after being up late Saturday night, which left my husband to catch up on his fantasy football and me to finish my book.   A good mellow recharging weekend before the holiday craziness begins.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My First Award

I've been a delinquent blogger.  When I first started blogging I wondered how people got all these awards. Then I got one and it's taken me about a month to actually respond.  Anyway, I am finally spreading the bloggy love.  I received the Versatile Blogger Award from Holly over at My Life, as Mommy & Wife 
My first award - Yay!! Thank you, Holly, and so sorry for the delay.


Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award: 

1. Add the award to your blog. 
2. Thank the person who presented it to you.  
3. List seven random facts about yourself.  
4. List the rules.  
5. Pass the award onto seven other bloggers.  
6. Inform each blogger they have won by posting a comment on their blog.

My 7 Random Facts:
1. I can't swim and have no desire to learn.

2. My blog pseudonym is the name I used to use for myself when my friend and I
would pretend we were rockstars and sing in our bedrooms.

3. I used to be obsessed with Michael J Fox (until I literally outgrew him).
He's 5'4", I'm 5'6".

4. According to Myers Briggs, I'm an INTJ.
According to an old boss, my work style is passive aggressive.
 Both are right on.

5. I have such a severe fear of spiders, I had to cancel my subscription to National Geographic.
 Those pictures were just too real looking.

6. I don't like coffee but can't get through the day without at least 2 cans of Coke.

7. I love getting rid of things - either donating or throwing away if it can't be used.
Unfortunately for my family, I'm better at purging their stuff than my own.


My 7 Nominees:

Make sure you stop by their lovely blogs before you leave!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mt Prospect Recplex Indoor Playground

Since my oldest is 8 I figured that by this point I had been to or at least heard of all of the indoor play areas around me. Yesterday I found another one.


Inside of the Mt Prospect Recplex is an indoor playground. It has a climbing structure, slide and ball pit. Kids are supposed to be at least 3 and no taller than 48 inches, although I don't think anyone checks.

I took Little Man there and he loved it. We got there about 10 and ended up staying for two hours! There weren't a ton of kids there (maybe 8 at the most) even though the weather was kind of blah this morning.

It's located at 420 W Dempster in Mount Prospect and is open whenever the RecPlex is open - which on weekdays is 530am to 11pm.

The play area is not supervised. There are restrooms, vending machines and water fountains in the Recplex. Little Man had a lot of fun, and the price can't be beat for an indoor place. Best part, since it's about half way between us and Woodfield, I can use it as a reward for being good at the mall or a place to get the wiggles out before we get to the mall.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Lives, One Russia

I have had this book on my bookshelf for so long I don't even remember where or when I got it.  As a child of the Cold War I was always fascinated by US-Soviet relations, so much so that when I went to college I majored in Russian and spent a semester in Moscow.  It was in the fall of 1994 and an amazing experience.  It was probably some time after returning from my time abroad that I found this book in a bargain bookstore.  I finally read it last week when I had run out of other books to read, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

It's a true story of a US News & World Report journalist - Nicholas Daniloff - who is stationed in Moscow.  Daniloff is an American citizen of Russian descent.  Towards the end of his posting there he is arrested by the KGB and imprisoned in the infamous Lefortovo prison.  While in the Soviet Union Daniloff researched his family history.  One of his ancestors Alexander Frolov was a Decembrist and was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.  The book alternates between Nicholas' experiences and Frolov's story. I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction as I find it can be very dry and tedious.  This was not.  It was engaging and the back and forth between the two men's stories and some parallel experiences worked well.  There were some passages that were difficult to read due to the harsh realities of their stories, but that is a testament to how well this was written. 

It's no spoiler to say that Nicholas did get out of Lefortovo - otherwise he obviously wouldn't have been able to publish the book.  Even knowing that I felt myself worrying about him as I was reading it and wondering if he would get out.  I'm not sure how easy this book is to find these days as it was published in 1988, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about the Cold War. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hot Chocolate 15k and Walk for Little City

Today I'm posting over at Chicagoland Moms Blog about this past weekend's Hot Chocolate - my 15k and the walk my kids did with my husband.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Halloween Candy Buyback

Last week we took the kids trick or treating and even though we only went to 2 blocks worth of houses, they each came home with about 100 pieces of candy. More than I would want them to eat. So rather than them eating it, my husband or I eating it all (cause I would never throw away perfectly good candy), we went to a local orthodontist yesterday and dropped it off as part of Operation Gratitude's Halloween Candy Buy Back program.

Each dentist can decide what they give the kids in exchange for the candy. This one gives one $1 coin for each pound of candy.

The kids love the dollar coins and thankfully agree with me that the troops deserve the treats as a small way of giving them a taste of home and letting them know that people appreciate them and their service.

It's always funny watching my kids sort through their stuff and decide what to keep and what to donate. They each have a Ziploc box that they keep their treats in to pick from for Saturday treat day.

Little Reader is very methodical. She spreads out all her candy, groups everything by type, keeps one of each kind and donates the rest.

Little Man keeps all the chocolate unless it has nuts in it. He's not allergic, he just doesn't like nuts.

Little Hugger takes her time deciding and struggles through it. She keeps all her favorites, and slowly whittles down the rest. Usually it takes a few rounds for Little Hugger to weed out enough to get the box to close. She actually handed in the most candy this time earning $3, Little Reader got $2, Little Man was technically less than 1 pound but they were nice enough to round up for him.

http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mom's Day Off

Saturday I took the day off. It's been a while but it was great. Since it's my birthday in a couple of weeks I decided to splurge a bit.

I spent 3 hours at the hair salon getting a very overdue cut and highlights. It's been almost two years since I last went. After being pampered and leaving feeling a few pounds lighter (since he cut off abut 8 inches), I headed over to 1154 Lill to order my new bag. They had a very helpful but not pushy salesperson. I ended up getting something different than I had originally planned on, but am really excited about it. I usually wear a backpack as that's easier with kids, but wanted something that is less Momish for those times when I am kidless. Also since I wear jeans a lot, I wanted something with some blue in it. All the bags are custom sewn in Chicago and I'll be able to pick it up in 3 weeks. I could have had it shipped, but I like to have an excuse to go downtown.

After that I did some window shopping for a while. I found lots of things I like at Banana Republic that I may need to add to my Christmas list.

Happy early birthday to me.

My First Real Race

I did it!!  Got up at the ungodly hour of 5AM yesterday to head downtown before the sun had even risen to run 15k through the streets of Chicago.  It was chilly in the beginning but standing in a corral full of people actually helped keep me warm until the official start.

My overall time was 1:34:09 which means a pace of 10:07
I came in 8375 overall. 745 out of 1657 for my age group, and 4932 out of 11258 women.

I'm pleased with my time and happy that I beat my previous "training" time of the same distance.  I thought the crowds would slow me down, but actually I think they helped me stay on pace.  The course was fun running mostly along Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.  There were some brief parts where we were running under the bottom of McCormick Place which was a little dark, but when you're surrounded by other runners nothing's going to happen. 

Not too shabby for my first race.  My husband and my kids met me at the finish line holding the signs they had made at the expo and cheering for me.  Then we went and got our big mug of chocolate goodies.  Yes, I run for chocolate, and I'd do it again.



I'm still a little sore today so I'm taking a rest day, and after that I'll take the running day by day.  I hope to continue at least 2 times a week through the winter but since I really prefer running outside over treadmills, I'm not sure how realistic that is through the Chicago winters.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hot Chocolate Expo

I had been warned that the expo was a nightmare. Two separate friends went to pick up their packets for the charity walk for them and their kids and waited for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. One took time off from work ( so was kidless), the other had her youngest (3 yo) with her in a stroller. They both offered to pick our packets and drop them off at our house. I declined. I had told the kids I was going to take them to the expo and I wanted to see what it was like since this is my first race.

As the day went on FB was full of complaints about how badly the race management had planned this expo. Waits were still long at 330 when I picked the kids up at school. I brought snacks and warm clothes for them and we headed downtown. I was hoping to make it by 5 to avoid more people arriving after work to pick up their packets. We parked at 505. The line was down the length of the parking lot and then wrapped back around about half way. I was about to start giving the kids snacks when a guy waiting in line told me that they were letting people with kids in the back door. We went back there and sure enough scooted right in. We'd barely gotten inside when one of the race workers saw us and escorted us to the packet pickup so we could get our bags.

Now time for fun. Little Reader joined a game of musical chairs and won a hat, all three bounced in the bounce houses, they all made signs for me, and of course we had some hot chocolate.

By the time we left around 6 it was getting dark and the city was all lit up. It dawned on me that they had never seen the skyline at night. It was a very clear night so they really got to see Chicago at its best. They actually complained a bit when I headed West to get on the highway cause they couldn't see the buildings anymore.

So what could have been a miserable afternoon ended up being a lot of fun. The only bummer is I never got to use my ace in the hole. I had brought along some sidewalk chalk figuring if they got really bored standing in line they could color on the asphalt. Oh well, I'll save that for another time.

November Goals

1. Buy all advent calendar stuff.  24 days x 3 kids is a lot of stuff.  I like to have it all bought before Dec 1 so I can plan what to give when.  I may need to make a printable to keep it all straight ; )

2. Plan Christmas gift shopping and budget.  My Santa app is a big help, I just wish it had a bar code scanner.

3. Keep running.  3 miles 2-3 times a week should be doable. No more long runs, I'll start that up again when the weather gets better.

4. Give the house a good deep cleaning.  We have both sets of parents coming in over the holidays and ideally if I pick one task a day of deep cleaning, then the pre guest cleaning won't be so bad.  I've got a bunch of printables from other sites, just need to start using them.

5. Make curtain for laundry area.  The sliding doors have finally annoyed me so much that I removed them, which makes the space easier to access, but it's an eyesore.

6. Sew flannel duvet cover for Little Hugger.

7. Get passports for the kids

October Goals Wrapup

Ok, so I'm a little behind as we got busy around Halloween and are now coming down from the sugar high and time to get back on track before the holidays.  Yes, they are coming.  I was in Michaels this morning and while I was glad that most of the creepy spiders were gone, and I like that the stocking stuffers are coming out so I can start planning my advent calendar goodies, I was not ready to hear "Silver Bells" playing over the stereo system.

Anyway, here were my goals for October and my results

- Sew Comforter for Little Readers Build A Bear Bed - Done, and it was really easy as the piece of fabric I had just happened to be the perfect size for the bed.  


- Refinance Car - Done and we'll be saving about $300 a month, and get this month off as the paperwork is still being processed. Sweet
- Hot Chocolate Race Training - I'm ready.  Its going to be cold this weekend, but I know I can do the distance with brief intervals of walking between each mile of running.  I have my cold weather gear, I have my Bon Jovi playlist set with power songs in the appropriate spots, I'm going down to the expo today to get my packet and figure out the best place to park.  
- Finish putting photo albums together - I'm almost caught up.  All photos through August are in.  I do need to go to Archivers and get more stickers but have been too busy running to go over there.
- Start planning Christmas shopping - I found a great Santa app that lets you enter info (and pictures) about gifts for all the people on your list and helps you stay on track and on budget
- Organize and file away CDs. - I got most of them done.  Down to one bag.  My husband is slowly going through it. 
- Weatherproof Little Man's room - 95% done.  My husband filled in most of the gaps in the attic insulation, and I just got more today so he can finish up this weekend.  It's getting better, but I think the real fix would be new windows - not happening for a while.

Hot Chocolate 15K

This weekend I'm running in my first real race and although I know it's going to be cold and I'm going to have to get up insanely early (I think 5AM) I'm pretty excited.  One good thing is that since I'll be running I obviously don't need to shower first, just roll out of bed, get dressed in lots of running layers, hydrate, have my banana and drive downtown.  When I started running in July I wouldn't have thought I could do 15K.  The first couple of weeks I had to do intervals of walking in order to even make it 3 miles.  Little by little I started pushing myself further and further.  I know I can do the distance (with some brief intervals of walking).  I've been taking it easy this week - skipped running yesterday as I did Trunk or Treat at Little Man's school, and tomorrow I think I'll just go for a walk. 




What I'm really excited about (aside from the mug of chocolate goodies at the end - check that thing out) is the actual course.  We'll be running through downtown Chicago along the lakefront.  As long as it's not super windy, it'll be a really pretty course for a run.  It'll be really cool to be able to run on Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. 

Any tips from veteran runners as I prepare for Sunday would be appreciated.