Thursday, June 30, 2016

chicken, potato & spinach soup (recipe)


This is one of my all-time favorite soups. There is actually a local tea house that serves it and when they put the recipe in their cookbook my mom snatched it up. Fair warning: this recipe makes a LOT, so if you are not a big family/not big on leftovers, I definitely recommend halving it.






Wednesday, June 29, 2016

what's up wednesday

I decided to do a link-up this week!


What we're eating this week:

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Chicken, Potato, Spinach Soup (will post the recipe another day)

Vegetable Stir Fry

What I'm reminiscing about:

2 years ago.
This little guy has been pulling at my heartstrings a lot this past week. I'm not sure if it's because he got so used to me being home 24/7 on vacation or what, but there has been a whole lot of "I want you to hold me" and "cuddle me, mom" in our house lately. He is rapidly approaching his fourth birthday (which he wants to be soldier/bug themed... this kid) and will begin preschool at the end of August and I just can't believe it. He asks me if I get sad that he is getting bigger and I try to explain that it is bittersweet but yes. I am sad.

What I'm dreading:

Getting larger. I am in one of my best friend's weddings in September and I am petrified that I will be unable to squeeze the bump into my dress. I'm already much larger than I was at this point with Edith so I'm worried that buying a dress 3 sizes larger than my normal size was not enough.

What I'm working on:

I am no artist. I made the vow wall art for our bedroom but hadn't touched much else since then. I decided to make one of these for my friend who's wedding I'm in this September:

It's hard to see in this photo, but it has their names and wedding date written on it. I am also planning on making one for the wedding we are going to this weekend, but I haven't exactly started it yet. Need to kick my butt into high gear!

What I'm excited about:

Redoing the kids' rooms! We are in the process of picking out paint colors and I got the cutest nightstand for Edith's room off a Facebook buy/sell page:
I also got her this bed set for her room because she loves "mingos." Her room will likely be pink (although she first chose a teal blue similar to the nursery, so this may change). In all the excitement of Edith's new room, Elden also decided he wanted to change his room. First he chose purple but he is now on the pink train. We are going to take them to the store so they can see ALL their choices and go from there.

What I'm watching/reading:

Reading? *crickets* I can't remember the last time I actually finished a book...

Watching: The Mindy Project and Modern Family

What I'm listening to:

The Maine on Pandora almost every day

What I'm wearing:

We are going to a wedding this weekend so I just bought this super cute dress from ASOS (would link but it was on clearance and no longer up on their website):


What I'm doing this weekend:

The kids start their next round of swim classes on Saturday (Edith's first swim class!).

Sunday we are going to my friend's wedding.

Monday we are hopefully going to a parade and then to my sister's house for a 4th of July celebration/birthday party for her dog, Knox.

What I'm looking forward to next month:

Planning Elden's birthday party! He already told us he wants it at our neighborhood pavilion/playground. Initially he just wanted it to be bug themed but as of last night he also wants soldiers (with binoculars) involved. He said he wants a lemon cake but also a lot of little cakes for his friends. I am almost definitely going to make him dirt cups but other than that I have no real plans. 

What else is new:

I got a long overdue (6 months) haircut yesterday!

I LOVE the salon I have gone to the past two times. I am definitely going to ask my family for gift cards there for my birthday so I can go a little more frequently than twice a year / not feel guilty for spending money on myself.

Friday, June 24, 2016

tips: traveling long distances by car with two toddlers

The total drive time--excluding traffic, accidents and pit stops--from our house to Delaware was 8 hours.

Facing this drive was pretty darn daunting with a 3.5- and 1.5-year-old. Elden is forward facing in his car seat so we were able to utilize the car DVD player to keep him entertained.

Edith, on the other hand, is still rear facing so the TV is not really a big distraction for her. She is also at an age where she cannot be reasoned with and doesn't understand that the current car sitch is temporary. Suffice to say, we learned a lot about the do's and don'ts for traveling with two toddlers from our trip.

DO:
  • Stock up on new books your kids have never seen before. Our kids LOVE looking at books are are particularly into the touch-and-feel ones. I loaded up on books from TJ Maxx and Amazon (used books for the win!) and--this is the key--kept them out of sight until we were in the car. They definitely looked at books more than they played with the toys we brought, so the more the better. These also come in handy while you are actually on vacation.
  • Buy a bunch of little toys from the dollar store, Target, etc. Bonus points if they light up (glow sticks, light up wands, etc.) Similar to the books, do not reveal these toys until you are en route. On a related note: don't let on that you have a whole bag full by you and make sure you also save some for the ride home or--like us--you will need to stop for additional 'new' toys.
  • Bring snacks that they might not usually get but love. In our case, the kids devour freeze-dried fruit (these are their favorite) but given their price point these are a rare treat for us since they only last about 3 seconds. They are also big, big fans of Gerber's Lil' Beanies. We packed both of these items, along with pretzels, grapes, blueberries, etc. for the car ride. Whenever they got fussy we plied them with food and it was actually a pretty darn successful diversion tactic from their car-induced misery.
  • Leave mid-morning and run your kids ragged as much as you can before you get in the car. This makes sitting still for a long time a lot easier. (note: if you think your kids would actually sleep on an overnight drive and just want to do that, by all means - do that. We did not expect the kids to do well on an overnight drive so this was the best time for us to leave).
  • Plan to stop at places that permit movement--including for lunch. We brought our trusty picnic blanket with us and ate lunch at a Sheetz in the grass so the kids could literally run off their energy without disturbing other people. For our other stops we stuck to interstate rest stops for the same reason.
  • Make an I Spy jar: 
contents hidden within the jar
jar filled with rice
This is really easy. Just buy (or find) a bunch of small items that you can include. A lot of the items I bought at Michael's on sale and then my mom had a bunch of small beads and scrapbooking items from her craft collection that she donated to the cause. I used a cheap plastic water bottle as the vessel, filled with rice as I stopped to add the little pieces, and then hot glued the lid shut. This provided serious entertainment for the kids on both car rides, as well as while we were at the beach.
  • Have low expectations. If you go into it mentally prepared for 8 hours of hell, you will either meet expectations or be pleasantly surprised.
DON'T:
  • Expect your kids to be willing to go to a restaurant or grocery store when you arrive at your destination. You will want to order food for delivery or have one parent go pick something up and bring it back. It is well worth the money.
  • Let your kids see or know about the treats/books/toys you will have waiting for them in the car.
  • Wake your kids up for any reason whatsoever if they fall asleep in the car. If they were hungry they would not be asleep. If they had to pee they would not be asleep (maybe). Don't be like us. It is a mistake.
  • Make any plans for the day you arrive at your destination at all, unless said plans involve running around. And even then, for your own sanity, you may just want to put it off.
A lot of these are probably pretty obvious, but it wasn't necessarily the case for us. The key is surprise and giving them things they've never seen before. We preferred cheap things because our kids are notorious for getting bored with new items so we don't see the point in spending a lot of money on something they'll use for twenty minutes and then be done with forever. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

vaca 2016: bethany beach, delaware

first time seeing the ocean!
We got back from our first major vacation as a family of four this past Friday and it was absolute perfection. Both mine and Jon's parents rented this house with us in Bear Trap Dunes. We left on Friday, June 10th and drove just outside of Washington, D.C., to stay with one of my second families for the night and catch up. This served two purposes: to see the Terrell's and to give the kids a little break from driving. On the way to D.C. we stopped about once an hour and Edith only napped approximately 10 minutes that day. In her defense, we were the ones who stupidly woke her up for lunch thinking she'd doze off again afterwards. Nope. Big mistake. Hashtag never again. Elden's highlight out was a mountain tunnel in Pennsylvania. Luckily, we had bought a light-up dinosaur wand for each of them along with glowsticks so that was the best happy accident ever. The best move we made on the way out was stopping at the outlets in Hagerstown for about an hour. There was a playground and a toy store so the kids were able to get quite a few wiggles out to finish the drive.
the ocean never got old
After a much too short visit in D.C. (that was beyond wonderful and perfect and we are so grateful for the hospitality of the Terrell's) we hit the road for the final three hours and arrived at the house a little bit early. Thankfully it was ready so we were able to go in and get settled. My parents arrived a bit later--right after we had ordered pizza for delivery since the thought of putting the kids back in the car that night was horrifying--and Jon's parents a few hours after that.
eating strawberries as he picked them
Elden had his own room, along with my parents and Jon's parents. We originally planned on attempting to let the kids bunk together but that idea just did not seem wise upon arrival so we actually took the twin mattress from Edith's proposed bed and put it in the walk-in closet in our room.
daredevil at funland
Don't hate. This wasn't a Harry Potter situation. It was quite spacious and even had a light and an AC duct so it was really cozy for her.
first snow cone
she loved it too
The rest of the week we went to the beach (the community had a shuttle that did drop-offs and pick-ups which was awesome), swam in one of the community pools, walked the boardwalk, went strawberry picking, and drove up to Rehoboth to check out Funland and the outlets. Our kids are definitely fans of the beach and ocean. Edith could play in the sand for hours and Elden loved the waves. Funland was also a huge hit. The strawberries were the best we've ever had and my mom made two pies which were quickly devoured. We all took turns cooking--Jon's mom brought a bunch of food and my mom made some once we arrived--so we only ate out once for breakfast, once for lunch and once for dinner while we were there. That definitely helped the budget! Elden was able to stand in the shallow end of the community pool and he suddenly got quite daring with holding his breath under water. We made so many wonderful memories and it was very restful... and absolutely helpful having our parents there to help us out.
sand fiends
brave water boy
i love him a lot
the only decent photo of all four of us from the week
We left a day early, on Friday, because the weather was supposed to be stormy all day and miraculously pulled off the drive only stopping three times. The kids were rockstars in the car and Edith took a 1.5 hour nap. I'll write a post with tips about traveling with two toddlers because we learned a lot from this one. We are so glad we got to do this and Jon--resident ocean/beach hater--even mentioned returning to the east coast for subsequent vacations because he enjoyed it so much. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

baby turkey: anatomical ultrasound

Profile!
So first and foremost: no, we did not find out what we are having. After seeing the baby, I still have no particular inclination one way or another as to what this one is. However, the baby's head size is smaller (less than the 40th percentile) so I am leaning a bit more towards girl since Edith was definitely the smaller head of the two.
Holding onto the foot
I am relieved to report that baby looks 100% healthy and is developing right on track. The estimated weight was 12 ounces. The placenta is posterior and my cervix is nice and long so that significantly reduces my odds for pre-term labor. Based on the anatomy they were able to see, everything looks normal so they don't expect any major surprises once baby arrives. BT was all curled into a ball with his/her hands and feet by the face the majority of the scan. BT was also playing with his/her feet and kept putting one hand by the side of its face. Heart rate was in the low 160's. We shouldn't get another ultrasound until near the end to check my fluid levels, so it was nice to get a little preview of what's to come in about 20 weeks!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

baby turkey: 20 weeks

Halfway there! I have absolutely no idea where the time has gone but I am grateful this pregnancy hasn't been dragging on. We had our anatomical ultrasound yesterday but I will post some pictures and details in a separate post on that. So far I am feeling really great, much to my surprise. I was a little worried that I wasn't as big as I was with Elden/Edith (pre-ultrasound) and when I went back to look (here and here) I was shocked to see I am actually much larger than I was with them...which doesn't bode well for how large I will be overall. 

Baby is becoming more active - you can feel movements from outside now for sure. Jon felt the first movement outside a week or two ago and it's definitely obvious when BT is kicking. This morning I believe I felt my first case of fetal hiccups so it looks like we will have another hiccuping baby. I have officially returned to my pre-pregnancy weight and now I am trying to be semi-aware of what I am eating because I don't really want to gain 35+ pounds this go around.

Sleep is deteriorating but it still isn't bad, so no complaints there. Nothing crazy with pelvis, umbilical hernia, etc. at this point (emoji praise hands). Heartburn is still around but again, nothing crazy. We are finalizing our name choices but I think that is pretty well decided. 

My OB did warn me at our ultrasound that they have changed the standards for diagnosing oligohydramnios (why I was induced with both kids at 39 weeks + 6 days) again--so it has been different each pregnancy--and that now the standards are so intense that it is very rare for someone to need induced because of it anymore. I laughed (I had begged for them to find a reason at each of my final appointments to get the baby out - and luckily, my children complied) because he clearly remembers this and mentioned that I really hope to go on my own this time since this will likely be my last labor/delivery and I'd like to experience that side of things. My doctor then laughed and said he would make a note of that in my file to remind me at 40 weeks! Can't say I blame him. The good news is he won't make me go to 42 weeks for an induction so it looks like our latest baby birthday would be somewhere around November 14. Here's to hoping it's not quite that long!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

kitchen remodel: daydreaming

One of my last posts, coupled with some pictures of our kitchen reno at the old house that have been popping up in my Timehop recently (how can it be we finished it just 1 year ago?), have me daydreaming about our future kitchen!

The layout of our house now is inefficient for our purposes: you walk into the foyer; stairs are to the right / kitchen is straight ahead / formal living room is on the left. If you go through the formal living room, that connects to a formal dining room. The kitchen is to the right of the formal dining room (which is an eat-in kitchen) and that steps down into the family room.

Here's a little secret about us: we aren't exactly fancy. Our "fancy" dinner on our honeymoon was Ruby Tuesday and we aren't embarrassed to admit it. We've tried the fancy restaurant scene before and walked away scratching our heads like what are we missing here? - because in our book it was awful. As such, a formal living and dining room just aren't our cup of tea.

One day we hope to completely redo the layout of our first floor: the formal living room would become a dining room with a huge farm table for hosting gatherings. The formal dining room will become our kitchen for a multitude of reasons (one of which being ease of connecting a gas range and another due to the layout and ability to gain a LOT more cabinet space than our current kitchen). Our kitchen would disappear and we would make this an extension of the family room - we are thinking of it being a little home library on the kitchen side and the eat in kitchen area would become a little sitting area. Given our penchant for DIY, we could comfortably do this for relatively inexpensive compared to hiring a professional contractor, but all of it would still likely be somewhere on the order of $25-$50k (so no small sum at all) when you factor in materials (flooring, cabinets, counters, appliances, bookshelves, etc.) and some outsourcing of electrical, plumbing and HVAC work. 

In any case, Jon and I very briefly entertained the idea of trying to redo just the new kitchen aspect sometime within the next two years and after some research we quickly decided that taking on more debt was not worth it and we would just have to pinch our pennies until we could actually afford to pay for it in cash. So not for probably 5-10 years. Doesn't mean I can't dream though. :)

For inspiration, here are a few kitchens that I love:
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This kitchen is likely the approximate size (except maybe a bit deeper) and layout of what I would go for. We could cut a window out to what would become the library area if we wanted, or we would just forego that because we do have a window where the stove in that picture is (so lost space).

In terms of color/cabinet styles, I'd say this is my favorite at the moment:
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Ultimately, my favorite color of cabinetry has always been a dark espresso-y brown. However, the space we want to use is very small and I'm pretty sure dark cabinets would make it feel cave-like. I also like the timelessness of white cabinets, but they show dirt so easily so I would ultimately lean towards gray cabinets (assuming I could get Jon on board).

{image source}
Have I mentioned the new kitchen won't exactly be massive? I love that this kitchen shows the type of impact you can have even with a small space. We will most certainly have to be creative with our designing to ensure we maximize our space, but that sounds like one of the most fun challenges ever.

Friday, June 10, 2016

five on friday

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{1} Vacation: I have been looking forward to vacation for over a year and a half and it's almost here! We rented this house with Jon's and my parents in Bethany Beach, Delaware, for a week. If you have any fun or kid-friendly tips for the area, please let me know!

{2} New Door Hardware: Because nothing likes to go smoothly, the other day our front door knob broke and we couldn't open the front door at all. Luckily, Jon is pretty handy and was able to run to Home Depot to replace it. Now I'm daydreaming about painting the front door. I'm thinking something like this or this.

{3} Little Readers: Both of our kids are book fiends. We keep a huge pile of them in our room so that they can look through them when we get ready in the morning. One of their favorite places is the library. I'm so glad that they enjoy stories and I really hope it carries on into their teenage years.

{4} Raspberries: We planted 7 raspberry plants (3 different varieties) at the beginning of the season. Six of the plants are still in cane form so we don't anticipate any berries growing on them this season. However, we did buy one plant from a local nursery and it is well on its way to making raspberries for this summer! I can't wait to try them.

{5} Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: We have really been getting good use out of our membership. Jon takes the kids at least 2-3 times per month. We went last weekend to see the new tiger exhibit. We also fed the giraffes lettuce! The kids really enjoy the zoo and it's a nice way for us to get out of the house without having to spend money (since the membership is already paid for).

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

wedding registry: dreaming

Since wedding season is upon us and we just celebrated our sixth anniversary of wedded bliss, I thought it might be fun to put together a collage of items I would register for again (including a few "never would I expect to get this in a million years" items). Some of these are items we actually registered for and use way more frequently than I ever would have thought, some are things we have acquired over the years, and then a couple are my dream items.

(from top left - clockwise)

Restaurant-Quality Gas Range: This is something I would never expect someone to purchase for us and is for sure a "dream" item. We cook a LOT, and our kids have also begun to really show an interest in cooking. In the old house we had gas, but in this house we currently only have electric. And let me tell you: electric stoves are the bane of my existence. It takes way longer to heat the burner, the burner is constantly switching between on and off, and everything seems to stick to our pots and pans. I HATE it. We have dreams to eventually redo our kitchen and get a gas hookup, but right now that is just not an option financially. Since we did our last kitchen remodel for less than $10,000 including all brand new appliances, I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that one day I could own a BlueStar gas range. But for now this remains on my grown-up wishlist.

Greenhouse: This is another item that I hope to one day (probably post-retirement) own. We do a lot of gardening. Unfortunately, northeast Ohio weather is pretty unpredictable and temperamental (it is currently 50 degrees out with our high reaching the mid-60s today) and as a result a lot of my plants don't always grow. I love growing my own fruit and veggies so if I could have a greenhouse that would encourage growth while also giving me a little oasis in my backyard, I would be all over that.

Pots and Pans: Having come from the young and single lifestyle, most of our pots and pans were hand-me-downs from our parents or thrift store/cheap Target buys. We registered and received an incredibly nice pots and pans set that we still use and is in pretty good condition six years later.

Griddle: This is something I scoffed at when Jon wanted to buy it a few years back. Our children are homemade pancake fiends. We have pancakes anywhere from 1-3 times per week. Our griddle is definitely well-loved.

Pressure Cooker: This was something we acquired on an Aldi special buy and I highly doubted we would ever use it. Jon uses it frequently - it's how we make all of our rice, which we eat a lot of, as well as our broth. I'm pretty sure we paid less than $40 for it and it has done great--despite me repeatedly dropping the lid on our kitchen floor.

Bed Linens: Jon and I were young when we got married--22 and 21, respectively. We didn't really have grown up bedding and so we registered for a bedding set. We only recently had to get rid of it because it was all worn out and starting to fall apart. A nice bedding set is a must in my book!

What are your must-have items that you received from a wedding or bought on your own and now you can't imagine living without?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

the candy and iron anniversary

At this time six years ago, despite not needing to be awake for several hours, I was lying wide awake in bed, horribly anxious about the day ahead. I've always had quite a bit of stage fright and the thought of standing in front of 200 people where all eyes were on me (and Jon) made me physically ill.

The rest of the morning moved both slowly and way too fast and the next thing I knew I was lining up with my flower girls and bridesmaids, preparing to walk down that aisle.

I swore I wouldn't cry. I honestly didn't think I would.

As soon as the doors swung open and I saw Jon waiting for me about three hundred miles away, I lost control. I was a mess. To this day I'm not even sure what I was feeling. I do know that we may as well have been alone in that room--I didn't even realize how many people where in the sanctuary. All I saw was Jon (and occasionally Pastor Dan).

Six years later, the daily excitement of waking up next to my best friend may not register as high as it did those first few weeks of marriage, but my gratitude for this privilege is certainly deeper. These six years have brought some particularly ugly circumstances and behavior out in me, and in spite of all of it, Jon put up with me. More than put up with me, he loved me unselfishly--often sacrificing his own feelings in an attempt to help me work through mine. I am so grateful to be blessed day in and day out by someone who truly is a partner to me. When I was in high school I had a specific vision for where I would be in ten years. I can honestly say my reality has far exceeded those expectations.

Jon, thank you for loving me and choosing me every day. Thank you for your patience with me when I go to my dark place. Thank you for being such an incredible dad to our babies. I love you more than ever before and I would merely be surviving my life if it wasn't for you.

Friday, June 3, 2016

baby turkey: 17.5 weeks

In just two and a half weeks this pregnancy will be about halfway over and I really can't believe it. I'm sure it's a combination of being busy with two jobs and preoccupied with the kids, but this pregnancy is going really fast. 

This morning as I laid in bed at 5 am with insomnia, I changed positions and rolled from my left side to my back. BT was not a fan of this and started kicking frantically. I decided to put my hand over where I was feeling the kicks and sure enough--you could feel it on the outside. I think this is about when I could feel Elden outside. I've definitely been feeling this baby for a few weeks now but the movements are either much more subtle or I'm just not paying as close attention as I did with the other two. In any case, I'm hoping the laid back movements indicate a mellow baby!

As far as movements--the timeline is similar to it was with Elden, although with my anterior placenta with Edith I'm not sure whether that is any sort of gender hint. My fatigue and nausea are almost entirely gone, and I have had a few heartburn spells but luckily nothing crazy (yet). My sleep is getting slightly worse at night but I think it's more because my mind is constantly racing with our upcoming vacation than pregnancy-related.

We haven't really done anything to prepare for this baby yet. We did get a like new Mamaroo off Craigslist for 60% of the retail price so I was pretty happy about that, but we should probably get a move on Edith's big girl room so we can phase her in since the baby will be taking the nursery. And we have a girl name contender! I don't want to share it just yet because Jon is very much "it's our top pick right now" even though it's one of the names I've been pushing for from the start. In any case, the big anatomical ultrasound is in just three weeks and this is starting to become more real for me.