Thursday, March 22, 2012

I have fond memories of blowing out eggs and making an Easter egg tree when I was a kid, so this year I decided that would be a fun thing to do with my own kiddos. We dyed eighteen eggs, even though I didn't think our tree would need that many eggs, just because the kids were having fun with the dying process. While the eggs were drying, we went on a walk to search for branches. Luckily, there had been a storm with a lot of wind the night before, so there was no shortage of branches laying around the neighborhood.

Next, Emma and I blew out the insides of the eggs, and it was at this point we realized it had been a good idea to make eighteen eggs. There was a bit of a learning curve, and we ended up breaking the first four eggs while trying to poke holes in the end. We eventually got the hang of it and were able to finish up the project without too many more egg fatalities. Our next problem came when we were rinsing all the egg goo off of the eggs - the colors that had been so bright and varied rinsed off with the goo, leaving nothing but light pastels. The greens turned to light blue, the reds and purples were pink, and the yellows were basically white. We considered dying them again, but opted not to, mostly because I didn't want to go to the store and buy another dying kit.We glued ribbon onto the eggs and hung them on our branches. I also printed out some Easter subway art to set on the table. It looked cute, but something was still missing, so I found some fabric in the basement and sewed a quick and easy (and very crooked) table runner. Perfect.
Our Easter table is complete, and I love that, whenever I am in the kitchen, I can glance over to the dining room for a little Easter cheer.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oh, man.

When Jose, our old dog, was alive, I would sometimes tell myself that we wouldn't get another dog after he died. No one to remember to take outside, no one to remember to feed, no one to worry about when we go on vacation, no one peeing in our house when he's home all alone during thunderstorms...nice, right? Then, after Jose died, it made even more sense not to start all over because we have a new house and new furniture and the last thing I want is some new dog peeing in our new house and chewing up our new furniture. Makes sense, right?

In spite of all that, Steve was thinking that we should get a new dog, because his opinion is that "it just seems like a family should have a dog". While I kind of agree with that, I knew that getting a new dog at this time didn't make a lot of sense. At least, my reasonable side knew that. The problem was that my emotion-driven, idiotic, completely unreasonable side was telling the reasonable side to shut up. And then after telling it to shut up, it beat it into submission. Then, knowing that reason could no longer play any part in this decision, that darn unreasonable side started to look online for puppies that might be available. Grrr. So, even as I was telling Steve and myself that I didn't want to get another dog, I was at the same time telling Steve about this puppy or that puppy that might be a good fit for our family. Crazy, I tell you.

So last weekend I finally found a breeder that had a litter of Shih-tzus that were ready to go and reasonably priced and that looked super cute online. We drove about two hours to get to her house and look at the puppies. The little Shih-tzus were pretty cute, but there was another dog there that really caught our attention. He was a Shorkie, which is a half Shih-tzu, half Yorkie. He was unbelievably cute and so playful so we started to think we should get him instead. However, we had our hearts set on a Shih-tzu because that's what our old dog was and we know they are such great dogs. So, before my reasonable self could step in and try to restore order, we bought two puppies and headed home. Gah!

So, here is the Shorkie, whom we named Sherman, on his way to his new homeand here is Mickey.I am being super diligent about getting them trained well, for the sake of our new house and furniture. In the car on the way to the breeder I read "Everything You Need to Know To House Train your Puppy" out loud to my family so we could get a head start on learning the best way to train these guys. I'm sure my children were riveted. We also have an obedience training lady coming here on Wednesday night to give us a crash course on training puppies.So far it's been going pretty well. We're crate training them, which was sad the first night because they cried a lot, but after that it's been much easier. Now they don't mind being in the crate at all. I'm already tired of setting my alarm for 2:00 a.m. to let them out to go potty, but I suppose that won't last forever.They really are adorable and lots of fun, so - so far, at least - I am not regretting the decision to get them. I am, however, looking forward to when they are completely trained so I can stop being so vigilant all the time. My book promised that would be in 30 days, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that that is really true. Twenty-one days to go!

Friday, March 02, 2012

I am clueless about plants. Absolutely, utterly clueless. I would like to learn how to take care of plants and garden, but I am at a loss. One morning we met a nice older lady a few houses down from ours, who mentioned that she loves gardening and would be happy to help me if I have any questions. Come Spring, I think I might have to take her up on that.A couple months ago, we bought two plants to go in our entryway. I really love these plants, so I was determined to keep them alive. I read the (short, mostly useless) instructions that came with them and tried to water them the right amount and keep the front door open all the time so they would get enough sun, but things are not going so well.They are obviously dying. For awhile I thought maybe they would be okay, but the brown spots on the leaves of one and the constant withering of leaves off of the other one are making it pretty clear that they don't have long to live. Boo.Despite this setback, I decided to bring even more plants in our house. I saw some cute little terrariums on Pinterest and I knew I wanted to make some of those for myself. I tried to find some artificial succulents to put in them, but I couldn't really find anything that looked half as good as real plants. When I came across the perfect terrarium containers - in the cookie jar section at Target - I figured it was time to just suck it up and get some real plants.

We took a trip to Suburban Lawn and Garden, where it just so happened that a lady working there that day was a self-proclaimed "terrarium expert". She was eager to share her extensive knowledge with us, which I very much needed and appreciated. The kids, however, weren't too thrilled to be walking around looking at plants while this lady talked about terrariums for more than an hour. By the time we had gotten everything we needed and left, I felt like I was a terrarium expert!As soon as we got home, I set up my little terrarium workstation and got busy putting in all the necessary layers - rocks, charcoal, and some particular kind of potting soil, then more rocks - and deciding how to arrange the plants. Aren't those little plants adorable?It's been a couple weeks now and so far they are not only still alive, but they appear to be thriving. Hurray! I'm not exactly sure why, but I really love these terrariums. It makes me happy just to look at them. They look a little lonely on this table right now, so maybe at some point we'll add something else, but for now - as long as I can keep them alive - I'm content just to enjoy them here all by themselves.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just over ten years ago, back before we were married and even when I was still in college, Steve and I drove about an hour to look at a litter of tiny Shih-Tzu puppies. We played with the puppies and listened to the very talkative breeder prattle on for a quite awhile, until we finally decided which puppy would be perfect for us. He wasn't old enough to leave his mom, so we had to wait a couple more weeks. I remember the day he was ready - it was a Friday, and Steve went and picked him up after he got off work for the weekend. I was SO excited, waiting for them to get home. Steve usually just let himself in, but that night he knocked. I ran to the door and threw it open, then squealed with delight when I saw the new puppy, nestled under Steve's coat.
We named him Jose, and soon pretty much our entire lives revolved around that little dog. We were absolutely enamored with him. I have an entire scrapbook from that time that consists mostly of pictures of Jose, adorned with little paw print stamps and bone-shaped paper punches.By the time we had two kids, I was much less enamored with Jose. I think it was right around the time that Noah was born that we didn't let him sleep in our bed anymore. For awhile - I think when I spent a ridiculous amount of my life trying to get babies to sleep and when barking used to wake up those sleeping babies - I was really indifferent towards him. Over that last few years though, he worked his way into my good graces, just by being his agreeable old self.

Probably my favorite thing about him, and I know I've written about this on here before, was that he immediately ate every crumb of food that ever even came close to hitting the floor. I think my second favorite thing about him was that - unless it was hot or too cold - he always rode with us in the car, wherever we went. When we arrived at our destination, he'd wait contentedly in the car until we came back, at which time he'd happily greet us with a cheerful wagging of his tail.

On Valentine's Day this year, Emma chose to go out to dinner to celebrate her birthday. When we came back to the car afterwards, Jose cheerfully greeted us, as always. Per Emma's request, we then drove to Peachwave to get some birthday frozen yogurt. All was well until we came back to our car, where I was completely shocked to find that poor Jose had died while we were at Peachwave. We were utterly blindsided by it, particularly since he had appeared perfectly fine twenty minutes earlier.

I was kind of surprised by how sad I felt about it -literally on the verge of tears for the next three days or so. I started crying about little things, such as when the UPS guy rang the doorbell and nobody barked. The kids like me to cut the crusts off their sandwiches, and I used to marvel at Jose's ability to rouse himself from wherever he was in the house by the nearly imperceptible sounds of crust-cutting, and run to the kitchen and wait patiently for me to give him the crusts. The morning after he died, no one came running for the crusts, and I burst into tears as I watched them disappear down the garbage disposal.We took Jose to a pet cremation place, then buried his ashes in our front flower bed, under a stepping stone that Emma and I made for him. Before we buried him, we all talked about our happy memories of him, and about how much he loved us all (well, except for maybe Allie) and how much we loved him. He was such a good little dog, and even even though we will not always feel so sad, I think we will always miss having him around.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

When we looked at this house before we bought it, there was a pretty wreath on the front door. Once we moved in, I remembered how much I had liked that wreath so I wanted to get a wreath of our own right away. The one they had looked like it was store-bought, so I looked around at a few different stores, but didn't see anything very exciting.I turned to Pinterest, where I discovered this fabric rosette wreath. I thought something similar to that would be perfect, but I had some trouble picking out the colors for it. I wanted something that wouldn't clash with our red front door, but every color combination I could think of that would look okay with our red door and our grey house seemed way too 4th of July-ish. Once again, I consulted the internet, and happened upon this color combination. When I saw it at the time, I was looking at it on my phone, where the colors looked slightly different than they do now on my computer. I'm glad, because the colors that I see on my computer screen right now don't match quite as well. Anyway, I went to Joann's and used the image on my phone to pick out the exact colors that I needed.Making this wreath was fun, and super easy. Emma even made a few of the flowers for me, once she convinced me to let her use the glue gun. I love the end result, and I'm happy with how it looks on the red door.Speaking of looking good, little Allie has been really into the clothes she wears lately. She always wants her clothes to look pretty, which for her apparently means piling on as many layers as possible. Today after she dressed herself, she asked me to take her picture. I happily obliged, then showed her the resulting picture. "Awww," she cooed. "I look darling!" And, even though she looks a bit like a three year old bag lady, I agree.Moments after I took that picture, she grabbed a cup from the play kitchen/pretend microphone and announced in her deepest voice, "And now here is Mommy to do some singing for us!" When she gestured to me, I immediately started belting out the National Anthem. Right away she stopped me and suggested I sing something else. I guess because Whitney Houston has been in the news lately, I started to croon The Greatest Love of All. Before I even got to the chorus, she stopped me again, clearly displeased with my singing. "Mommy," she said disdainfully, "why don't you sing something good...like A,B,C,D!" Apparently her taste in music is not quite as refined as her taste in clothes!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Aaughhhh! Pinkeye is taking over our house! Noah had it last weekend, then Emma had it during the week, then I had it in my left eye towards the end of the week. We had to cancel plans with friends last weekend because of it, which was disappointing. Then this weekend, we were planning to have friends over tonight and, since we thought we were pretty much through the pinkeye mess, last night Emma and I made an icebox cake to have for tonight's guests. Except, this morning I woke up with pinkeye in my right eye! What the heck??? We had to cancel our plans again, which left us with a delicious-looking cake in the fridge and no one but our family to eat it. This is particularly unfortunate because that cake called for three cups of heavy cream, and I would not have made such a cake for just my own family to eat for no particular reason. It's also unfortunate because, after I knew our guests were no longer coming, I tried a bite of the delicious-looking cake, and it is absolutely every bit as delicious as it looks, if not more. Now I keep sneaking bites of the delicious, three-cups-of-heavy-cream cake and I wish someone would just take it out of my house so it would stop taunting me from the refrigerator!

Moving on...

So, the other day I mentioned that we moved out of our little house into a bigger house. All along, we did not want to move out of that house just for the sake of getting out of it, but we wanted to wait until we could move into the house where we could be happy living for the rest of our lives. I am so excited to say that we found that house, and every single day I am thrilled to be living here.There are a number of things that I particularly love about living in this new house:

1. Counter space! Hooray! After years of zero counter space, I now have this stretch of countertopand this island
and even this little bonus section. It's wonderful!2. We are so much closer to everywhere, particularly the kids' schools. Emma's school and Noah and Allie's preschool are right next to each other, but Emma's day starts and ends at 7:50 and 3:00 while the preschool day goes from 9:30-1:30, thus requiring separate trips. The YMCA, where we go on a regular basis, is also right next to the schools and we often have evening activities at one of those three places. Because of all this, I make the trip over there about four times a day. Our old house was 8.4 miles away and our new house is 1.8 miles away, which saves me over 250 miles a week of driving! That part is the best, but it's also wonderful that we are much closer to our favorite stores, restaurants, etc. I can't tell you how much I love being 1.4 miles away from Trader Joe's! Steve's work commute is about 1/3 of what it was before, which is nice for him as well.

3. Whenever my parents came to visit us in our old house, my dad slept on the couch and my mom slept in the bottom bunk, and the kids jumped on them and woke them up at the crack of dawn pretty much every single morning they were ever at our house. All seven of us also had to share the one bathroom. My parents are good sports and they never complained about this, but I think they are happy about the new house as well, because now they can have the whole basement to themselves - with a guest bedroom, a full bathroom, and a rec room with the TV and computer - whenever they stay with us. Since we have out-of-town family staying with us as often as we do, I'm so glad that we no longer have to make anybody sleep on the couch!

There are many more reasons why I love this house, but those are probably my top three. And now, if you'll excuse me, there is some icebox cake that is calling my name.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Probably the biggest news during my blogging hiatus is that we moved. For the last eight years, we've been living in a little 830 sq. ft. house, and for the majority of those eight years, I've been wishing fervently that we could move out of it. Often when I'd be complaining about where we lived, Steve would say, "Aren't we all happy? Don't we have a great family here in this house?" Which was true, of course, so then I would try to force myself not to hate it there and appreciate everything that we did have. Still, it was really hard for me to not begrudge my yard full of snakes and my complete lack of ANY counter space.

Still, looking back, that house did have it's good points. Out of necessity, I mastered the clean-as-you-go technique. I also became pretty ruthless when it came to decluttering because with five people and a dog in such a small space, it's easy to become overrun with clutter. Even though we have more space in our new house, I don't want to fall in the trap of accumulating more clutter, just because we have room for it.Another thing about that house was that our kids shared one room with one bunk bed. A bunk bed that all five of us would pile into every night - Emma on the top and me, Steve, Noah, and Allie on the bottom. We'd squeeze in there and Steve and I would read until the kids all fell asleep. We still all lay in a bunk bed together at night, but it's a bigger bunk bed. I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy the freedom to move my arms and legs now, but I will always look back fondly on the days when our family of five would pack ourselves into this little bunk bed on a nightly basis.Probably the main reason that we will always feel an attachment to this house is that is that both Allie and Noah were born there, in our bedroom. I imagine we will drive by this house many times over the years and reminisce about the days that they were born, and also all the many happy times we had, growing our family in this little house.We've got the house on the market now, and despite my nostalgia over the years we lived there, we're really hoping someone buys it soon. Perhaps someone looking for an inexpensive little vacation getaway in Grandview (ha!) will see this little gem and snatch it up. We can hope, I guess!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Well, well... hello again.

I've been missing this old blog a little bit so I thought maybe I'd post an update or two.

Today was a snow day for all the kids, which was an unexpected, but lovely, surprise. We all went out and played in the snow, although I didn't last too long out there because honestly, playing in the (wet and freezing) snow is not something I really love to do. Still, I was glad I went out for a little bit because there is still snow falling and everything looks so pretty. Here is Emma next to the beginnings of a cute snowcat that she made on our front porch.We've been busy making Valentine's goodies around here, mostly thanks to ideas from Pinterest. Too many ideas, probably, because by the time we finished everything I was sick of making little Valentine's treats!

First, we made little Pretzel Buttons, which we then wrapped up and delivered to our neighbors.
For the kids' classmates, we bagged up little Teddy Grahams and leftover Peanut Butter M&Ms, and idea that I stole from here.Lastly, we made chocolate dipped Oreos for Emma to bring to school for her birthday treats this week.I think these are super cute, and I hope they are yummy too. I'm sure I would have tried one, but we had a frustrating issue with the Oreos falling off the sticks into the chocolate and after a number of ruined attempts, we had JUST enough for everyone in her class.

Monday, October 31, 2011

We went to the pumpkin patch last week and our goal was to buy 100 pounds of pumpkins, because if you get 100 pounds, then the price goes down to $0.25 per pound. One of Emma's friends was with us and all the kids walked around the patch, grabbing pumpkins of all shapes, colors, and sizes, declaring each one the "perfect pumpkin". I was pushing the pumpkins around in a wheelbarrow, and as the load got heavier and heavier, I had to tell the kids not to walk next to the wheelbarrow because I expected it to tip at some point and I didn't want to crush any young children with tumbling pumpkins. I think I said, "Okay, that's the last one," about ten times, but finally we made it back. It probably shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, then, when the people weighed our wheelbarrow and we had 180 pounds of pumpkins! Sheesh. So, we have a LOT of pumpkins this year. We tried to give away a bunch to Emma's friend, but were still left with a huge amount.Steve carved a cute little one right away, and ever since then Emma has been begging to carve her own pumpkin. I was kind of against it but Steve said he would get some safer tools for her to use. I felt slightly better knowing he wasn't going to be just handing her a big old butcher's knife, but still a little nervous.She worked very intently for about an hour - apparently the little tools are not only safer but slower as well. I only came in the kitchen long enough to take these pictures. I couldn't bring myself to watch her for much longer than that because I expected blood to start gushing from her limbs at any moment.
Emma's pumpkin is the one on the right, and the other two are the pumpkins that Steve carved for Noah and Allie.
We've had these jack-o-lanterns out for two nights now, and they are already pretty deteriorated, thanks to our squirrels. They ate the one Steve carved awhile back, and they are wasting no time with these new ones. We can't remember squirrels eating our pumpkins before, but they are sure into it this year. Almost every time we pull in our driveway, it seems like there is a squirrel gnawing on our pumpkins. Weird.Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I have recently made three new cooking discoveries about which I am feeling kind of excited. It's very likely that no one else will be as excited as me about these things, but nevertheless, here they are:
1. Steve sometimes eats breakfast, but sometimes not, usually because he is in a hurry to get to work and doesn't have much time. I saw a really great way to make breakfast sandwiches on Pinterest a couple weeks ago, and thought they would be perfect for Steve (and anyone else who wants them) to have for breakfasts.
I used English muffins and bagel thins, but the bagel thins aren't quite as good as the English muffins. I only got them because initially I, for some unknown reason, only got one package of English muffins. When I went back to the store they were out of the whole wheat ones and I couldn't bring myself to by the white ones, so bagels it was. Ah well, live and learn. I also included sauteed spinach, eggs, soy "sausage", and white cheddar cheese. I wrapped and froze them all, and they are easy to thaw in the microwave for a quick breakfast or snack. They ended up being pretty delicious, and I will be making more of these for sure.
2. I have been seeing baked donuts on cooking blogs for awhile, and the idea seems pretty clever. However, I figured that most of the deliciousness of donuts comes from their being fried, so I did not rush out and purchase a donut pan. Eventually I couldn't resist anymore, and I decided that our first batch of donuts should be chocolate with chocolate icing. More "treat" than the donuts I will probably make most of the time, but I wanted the kids to warm up to these non-fried donuts, and also, I had half a carton of buttermilk in the fridge that I needed to use up.
Noah was so excited about making these donuts with me, and we both impatiently waited for Allie to wake up from her nap so we could all eat them together. Unfortunately, even though they were cute, these donuts were NOT good. I guess the buttermilk should have already been thrown out! We had to throw those donuts away, and I was starting to regret my donut pan purchase.
Luckily, I came across another delicious-sounding recipe for cider donuts and this one happened to also be much healthier than the first. These, thank goodness, were a hit! This afternoon we made our second batch of them in three days. Even though we just had them, the kiddos were pretty excited to have them again today - too excited, apparently, to let me take a picture!
If you ever try making donuts, it's a good idea to put the batter in a gallon Ziplock bag with a corner cut out and pipe it into the pans instead of trying to pour it in. I learned that the hard way. We also found out that, when sprinkling powdered sugar on the donuts, you should do it right before you eat them because if you do it on all of them at once, the sugar on the ones you don't eat right away will disappear. Then, of course, your children will insist that you add more powdered sugar before they eat those.3. There is a restaurant that opened up here a few months ago called Unforked. It's like a fast food place but with actual good food. They have this kale salad that is amazingly yummy, and sometimes we will go there mostly to get the kale salad. The other day I looked online to see if I could find that recipe anywhere, and voila! I tried it out at dinner last night, and it wasn't quite as delicious as the one at Unforked, but pretty darn close. I'm going to try to tweak it a little to see if I can get it to be exactly the same, but in any case, I see a lot of kale salad in my family's future!