Entryway {in progress}

6 Feb

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

Those are the crickets around here. Except that I live in the Midwest so we don’t have any crickets right now. I’d actually be surprised if we ever have crickets again. I’m convinced that our climate has moved from Humid Continental (I had to look that up) to Tundra. Permanently. The cold and snow this winter have been no joke. I’ll take some pictures of the mountains of snow piling up in my front yard from shoveling the driveway. (To be clear: From Pete and our super sweet neighbor kids shoveling the driveway. I take no credit for the actual shoveling.)

But that’s not what I came to write about. I have many, many things to catch you up on. And no time. It’s hard enough to move down the list of things I need to do, let alone even get onto the list of things I want to do. But I miss chronicling our projects and adventures so hopefully blogging can get some more of my attention soon. It’s been a HUGE year for us and I’ve been plotting a master recap in my head but let me spoil some of the fun and skip to one major, important to this post, highlight: We bought a house!! And so of course I’m in the process of plotting, planning, and decorating. Just even slower than usual given that toddlers aren’t really into that sort of thing. :)

And so that brings me to the real point of this post. I have a favor to ask. Our family photographer is having a fun give away for the client wall gallery that gets the most “likes” on Facebook. Our is very much a work in progress still but I threw this together to show what we’ve done, where we are, and where I’m headed.

Entryway Gallery

Please help us win a $200 credit for our next session (which would be huge because some of our other big news is that I just quit my job to stay home full-time!) by clicking {HERE} and “liking” the photo in her Facebook gallery.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any true “before” photos (I’m just lucky to get things done!) but close your eyes and picture a blank wall. That’s my before. I’m so excited to have the added functionality of the coat hooks and can’t wait for our gallery wall to be complete. The theme for the wall is based on something Pete’s grandfather would tell the family – Safe Journey, Safe Home – so the photos and artwork will combine that phrase, some of our favorite places (including our old condo!), our grandparents old homes, and family photos. I think it’s going to be great. And the icing on the cake? One of Claire’s favorite words is “home” too. It makes me so happy (and very teary!) that our home is somewhere she loves to be.

To see the inspiration for the wall, here’s my Entryway Pinterest board!

Freezer Meals

19 Mar

This post is very late in coming. And out of season now. But oh well. I’m posting it anyway.

Eating well is important to me. I am by no means the healthiest person on earth but I’ve worked really hard over the past few years to develop more healthful ways of eating. Most of my philosophy is centered on eating as much unprocessed food as possible. Though I certainly enjoy dining out, I like to do it as a treat and not just because I didn’t plan and cook a meal. In fact, how we’re eating has pretty much become a sign of how in of control I am of my life in general. When things get out of hand, I often try to re-focus by menu planning and grocery shopping.

When I was still pregnant, I worried about how we’d handle meals once the baby arrived. Knowing that I feel better when I eat better, I wanted to make sure we were prepared. A quick search on Pinterest offered many make-ahead and freeze meal options. But a lot of the recipes were just for chicken with some kind of sauce (which means it’s just as easy to sprinkle on some spices and throw it on the George Foreman grill…) or otherwise used ingredients I usually wouldn’t.

So, unhappy with those options, I embarked on the fun task (I’m being serious in case that isn’t coming across well in writing – ha!) of planning how to prep and freeze a few of our favorite fall/winter recipes plus a few new recipes that I thought would work well with this plan.

Here are the recipes I decided to try:

  • Lentil soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
  • Minestrone soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
  • Chicken tortilla soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
  • Chicken pot pie (ok, so maybe chicken pot pie is never *that* healthy…)
  • Veggie and rice skillet
  • Inside out stuffed peppers (from an old-fashioned cookbook! but one of my faves so maybe I’ll blog it eventually)
  • Beef stew (see my important note below about potatoes before you try this one!)

First, I made an Excel sheet (Yes! Excel! I told you this was fun! And again, I’m being serious…) of all the ingredients I’d need, the prep-in-advance steps for each recipe, and then the instructions for what to do once we wanted to unfreeze and eat the meal.

Menu planning in Excel

A few weeks before Claire was born, we went to Costco, stocked up on all of the ingredients, chopped up all the veggies (I kept everything sorted in individual bowls by recipe and had the freezer bags ready and labeled), sautéed, poured in stock, canned tomatoes, etc, added in spices, divided into the gallon size freezer bags, and froze. Whew!

Prep-ahead

Freezer meals

It was several hours worth of work and I nearly chopped off a finger at least twice while dicing onions. Yikes! I’m not sure it necessarily saved time overall (it did save time when it came to actually getting dinner ready though) except that we only had to wash the cutting boards, knives, and pans once. But, by the end of the day, our freezer was stuffed (maybe a little too stuffed!)

Freezer Meals 2

Given all of that, I wouldn’t necessarily plan on being this ambitious very often. However, having 11 plus meals ready to go was amazing. Between what we made and our kind and generous family and friends, Claire was over a month old before I even had to worry about what to eat.

But you might be wondering how things turned out. I was definitely a little worried since I hadn’t tried anything like this before. Here’s my quick recap:

Soups

All great. When possible, I’ll probably start doubling or tripling those recipes when I’m already making them as I think that will save time and cut down on wasted ingredients. I think this would be a more reasonable way of prepping in advance going forward.

Chicken pot pie & Veggie skillet

Both OK. A little runnier than usual. I probably needed to adjust something along the way to account for the freezing and did not.

Inside out stuffed peppers

A little mushy. Since this is one of my favorite meals, I’ll stick to making it fresh when I want to eat it.

Beef stew

So, apparently, you can’t freeze cut potatoes without doing something to them first or they turn black. Oops. Learn from my mistake. If you’re going to try to freeze potatoes, google it first and figure out the right way. I may be too scarred to ever try again or I’d figure it out for you.

It is important to us that we continue to eat well and prioritize family meals even now that Claire is here. I know that how that all comes together is going to need to change and we’re still trying to figure out our nightly schedule. I’d like to come up with some set weekly meal plans so I’m not starting from scratch each week but I just haven’t gotten there yet. And I definitely need to figure out how and what to prep in advance (frozen or not) so I can get dinner on the table quickly after work. We’ll see how it continues to evolve!

xoxo Claire

14 Feb

“Cute’s good. But cute only lasts for so long, and then it’s, ‘Who are you as a person?’ Don’t look at the bankbook or the title. Look at the heart. Look at the soul.” – Michelle Obama

Those words were spoken about finding a partner and yet, as I’m constantly thinking about how to raise my daughter into the strong, smart, independent woman I know she can be, I hope that message is something she’ll one day believe about herself. No matter what she has or what she chooses to do, I hope she’ll love herself for what is already in her heart. I know I sure do.

At the same time, she is pretty darn cute and that never hurts either. ;)

My little valentine Pretty skirt baby feet

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. Remember my Valentine’s post last year? Unbeknownst to all of you, we had just found out I was expecting! I was pretty much bursting with love…and still am. :)

Cannoli Dip

4 Feb

Hi everyone! Did you all have a good weekend? Eat some good food at your Super Bowl parties?

I think I discovered my new go-to dessert. Cannoli dip. Did you all know cannolis* are made from ricotta cheese? They’re my favorite dessert and I did not know that until yesterday. I don’t know what I thought they were made from except for deliciousness. Deliciousness that was unattainable at home. But not anymore!

Cannoli dip

I came across this recipe for the dip on Pinterest (of course!) but when I bought the ricotta saw that there was a cannoli filling recipe on the back too. So, in what seems to be my new way of cooking, I improvised a bit by combining my favorite parts of the two recipes. The final recipe was something, very loosely, like this:

Cannoli Dip

  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • about 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • about 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
  • about 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for garnishing
  • 1 package waffle cones

Stir the ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla together. Taste it and add more powdered sugar or vanilla if you think it needs it. Stir in the mini chocolate chips. Add more if you want to. Put into a serving dish and garnish with more mini chocolate chips. Break up your waffle cones into small pieces for dipping. And you’re done!

Way too easy. And soooo good. It even eliminates my least favorite part about cannolis – that they’re sometimes a bit messy to break apart and eat!

*I also just learned that those with good knowledge of Italian would actually use the singular form connolo and the plural form cannoli. But as I clearly do not know Italian, I’ll just go ahead and stick with the Americanized version. Also, I learned that cannolis are from Sicily, which is where the Italian side of my family is from. Must be why I like them! :)

The Year of No Comparisons

24 Jan

I’ve mentioned before how my friend Lauren starts a new theme of the year on every birthday. I often join in but sometimes get a little distracted. My excuse this year is better than ever as I had a baby on my birthday in 2012! So I’m a little behind. But I really nailed The Year of the Sparkling Buddha and it does help me to have a theme, something to reflect on as I make decisions or fight with myself in head. But it really has to be the right one and I haven’t had much time for reflection. Around the new year I finally discovered my theme for 31 when I stumbled across this photo-

Comparison is...[4]

{via}

 

Ah ha! The Year of No Comparisons.

Being a new Mom is hard. I love it, but it’s hard. I don’t always know what to do. I don’t always know what’s normal. I don’t always know where to go to find out what to do or what’s normal. Increasingly, I find myself wondering how some women seem to be able to get so much done when I’m just excited if Claire has eaten and slept well in any given day. She’s a good baby but she’s often fussy when she eats and needs a lot of coaxing still to be convinced it’s time to go to sleep. So, those two simple things can leave me physically exhausted after doing them so many times per day.

But what I have found, ever difficult as it might be, is that I often do best when I just follow my instincts. Comparing myself, or Claire, to anyone else doesn’t really work. The external input and advice has a way of getting into my head and making me more anxious than not. We’ve got our thing going and we may not be perfect but I think we’re doing OK. I know there are milestones to watch for and some places where comparison really is appropriate. But I think, overall, we’ll be better if I just do my best and not worry how that compares to anyone else.

This is going to get harder when I go back to work and still want to get more done than I have hours for in the day. It’s hard when I look at other photographer’s websites and compare my work to theirs. But that’s why it’s this year’s theme.

Claire’s Nursery

20 Jan

Claire celebrated her 3 month birthday on Friday so it seems about time that I finally share some photos of her nursery! I love love love this room. It’s the first time I really got to start a room from scratch and I had a ton of fun doing it. We painted the room grey the year before Claire was born and I promised Pete when we did it that I would not make him repaint if we had a baby. I knew he was worried that if we had a girl it would be right back to pink! But I had at least a tentative color scheme for a girl or a boy.

Once we found out we were having a girl, I started honing in on the design. I never had a theme in mind, just colors. With grey on the walls I knew I wanted to bring in pink, white, and one more accent color. I just wasn’t sure what that accent color was going to be or what shades. Stay pale and serene? Or more bright and bold? After lots of pinterest-ing, I settled on something sort of in between and teal as my other color. Pretty and girly while still being fun. At least I think so!

Seriously, I love everything about her room and can’t pick favorites.

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Room

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Claire already has lots of toys and books! The dolls and cradle off on the left were all actually mine though.

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I love everything about that little side table right now but I’d be lying if I said it usually looked like that. Usually it’s covered in books, my cell phone (for tracking sleep and eating patterns), and my water. But this was much prettier to photograph! How cute is the little pacifier charm my Aunt gave Claire? Love it. And her ruffly curtains. Hopefully she’ll like pink as she gets older since I thought these would be very pretty even in a bigger girl’s room.

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Anthropologie knobs for a little extra sparkle and fun texture on the ottoman.

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I was really excited to find these prints on Etsy. Such cute, fun characters.

Be Real

But, of course, my very favorite part of the room is the beautiful little girl who sleeps there. :)

Sources

Crib: DaVinci Jenny Lind – it was out of stock everywhere when I looked and (strangely, enough) Overtstock.com actually got it back in stock first!

Dresser: Ikea Hemnes – I wanted to buy an old one and paint it but luckily realized my limitations.

Dresser Knobs: Anthroplogie – though it looks like the exact ones are no longer available.

Curtains: Land of Nod – but no longer available

Rug: Urban Outfitters

Glider: Room & Board – little bit of a splurge but we figure we’ll use this in another room later!

Ottoman: CB2

Bookshelf: IKEA Expedit

Prints (above dresser): trafalgarssquare on Etsy

“Be Real” artwork: Target

Wall graphics: Blik Iron Vines

When it rains…

11 Jan
When it rains, it pours. Or, more specifically in our case, when it leaks, it ruins the floor.
IMG_0230

But let’s back up and I’ll tell you how we got there….

Tuesday night I decided to look at our finances and figure out how we’re going to manage without me working full time. I should note that it is impossible for me to look at our finances without getting stressed. We could each make a million dollars a year and I’m pretty sure I’d still feel that way. It’s just how I am. The thing is, I know we need to be more diligent about our spending. But I also feel like just our basic expenses/debt add up quickly. And it’s not like we have any weird/crazy debt so I don’t understand how other people do it. Anyway, totally stress myself out before bed time which is never a good idea.

I go to get a glass of water so I can head to bed but notice that the floor is bubbly in the middle of the kitchen. Not near any of the appliances but in the middle. And, yup, the new kitchen floor that I worked so hard to find. I thought I was imagining things except then I got onto the floor and noticed water coming up the seams if I pressed on them. Certainly I had to be imaging that, right?! There wasn’t any visible water or damage by the sink, fridge, or dishwasher. Totally perplexed. It was at least 11:30 so Pete was already sleeping. I felt awful but I didn’t know what to do so I woke him up. He couldn’t figure it out either and we decided we’d call someone to take a look the next day. I’m sure this was not the best plan as any water leak/damage could have turned into a gigantic problem overnight but calling someone in the middle of the night didn’t seem like a good idea either.

The next day, Pete had an appointment about 30 minutes away at 9 am. He leaves in our old car (an important foreshadowing point…), I have to fight with Claire to take a nap, and eventually I cry because Pete is so much better at getting her to sleep than I am. After all that, I finally call my go-to person, Tony – aka my Mom’s boyfriend (though I’m not supposed to call him that, sorry, Mom) and the person who probably thinks I should not own a home due to my inability to take care of these things. Tony guessed it was the ice maker so said to have Pete pull out the fridge when he got home and call him back. All right. Good plan. Until….

Pete goes to leave his appointment and the car won’t start. Did I mention that this was his last day of an amazing 12 week paternity leave? Yeah. He was not too keen on being stuck away from home. So he called AAA but they had to tow the car because it wouldn’t re-start (the battery was just replaced a couple weeks ago so I suppose in some strange way it’s good that wasn’t the problem? I don’t know. I’m grasping at straws. I think that would have probably been better.) OK. So Claire and I have to now hop in the car and go get Pete from the mechanic. It’s not even noon and this day is not going so well. All the while we’re gone I’m getting more and more stressed about the kitchen floor/leak situation.

Are you still with me? It’s only 2:30 in the afternoon at this point. And the story goes into the next day too!

Tony was near our house so he meets us there. They pull out the appliances, check underneath them, and still can’t find the leak anywhere. We finally decide we’ll check with our neighbors and see if anyone else is experiencing any issues. And then, on his way out, Tony realized it was the hot water heater. On the other side of the kitchen, not in it. 50 gallons of water leaking down into the floor, pooling in the kitchen, and potentially about to burst all over our condo. Awesome.

Paranoid of that last scenario, we empty the tank into the tub (and then later over our balcony) using our building’s garden hose.

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Oh, and the car? Super expensive to fix. But out of sight, out of mind for the moment.

Tony comes today with a guy to replace the water heater. They can’t move it because it had filled back up even though we thought we turned it off. Apparently turning on any water back fills it (or something?) I didn’t know that. I go to get the hose again and can’t get into the room it’s stored in. The key that worked the night before doesn’t now. My only guess is that the door wasn’t actually closed all the way so opened when I pulled it. I run around the building trying to find someone to let me in all the while leaving sleeping Claire in Tony’s hands if she were to wake up. Which is fine, he’s actually really cute with her, but if she did wake up she was likely going to want to eat. Stat. I don’t like this part of the day. I’m annoyed we thought it was done and annoyed I can’t quickly get the hose.

Finally find a neighbor, get the hose, they get the tank drained again, and replace it. We should finally be done, right? No. Now one of the pipes going into the tank is leaking. Corroded, needs to be replaced. Claire, miraculously, is still sleeping. I keep checking on her to make sure she’s alive. Seriously, she never sleeps more than an hour at a time these days (another issue for another day) and this is pushing two. Tony goes to get a new pipe and replaces it.

He needs to leave for another appointment but the water won’t turn on at the kitchen sink. Or the master bathroom. So now he’s back, Claire is still sleeping (about to hit three hours), and Pete is home early from work. The muck from the pipes clogged the pipes and/or fixtures. Tony fixed what he had time for and will be back tomorrow for the other one.

And now, you’ll remember this all started with a bubbly floor. Guessing that water was still stuck underneath, Pete pulled up the warped boards so everything can dry out. The good news is we know where to get more (ha!) and hopefully we can find someone to come put them in quickly. I’m ready for this saga to be over. Have I mentioned I don’t particularly like chaos?

The amazing thing is, after a bit of initial processing and the part about running around the building for a key, I’ve taken this all pretty well. It’s a bit overhwelming and rather expensive but it will all be fixed. And tomorrow will be another, hopefully less eventful, day. I think the moral of the story is really just to never, ever try to budget or look at our finances again. ;)

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