Sunday, November 19, 2017

friendsgiving

Our small group is a second family to us. Every year we have a traditional Friendsgiving the week prior to Thanksgiving. As you know, I was in charge of the turkey. I didn't get many photos because dinner was during a time when Etta was supposed to be sleeping so I was inhaling food in an effort to leave quickly.

But it was all so delicious and our kids all had so much fun!!!

boudoir shot


Saturday, November 18, 2017

the best instant pot black bean and sweet potato soup (plus it's vegan!)

Here's the thing: my tastes keep changing and catching me off guard. Prior to this year I hated everything sweet potatoes stood for. "Potatoes aren't supposed to be sweet!" I would yell. To me, sweet potatoes were the invalids of the root vegetable world. Heathens, if you will.

When Jon told me he would be making sweet potato soup I grimaced. He asked if I would try any and I said of course I would try it but don't get your hopes up because sweet potatoes are a joke.

I don't know what black magic Jon worked with the pressure cooker, but that soup was frigging amazing. Furthermore, it was really healthy (there's no oil and since it's vegan it's obviously plant-based) and since it was cooked in a pressure cooker, it was super easy to make. We don't actually have an Instant Pot, but I know that's the type of pressure cooker most have, so here we are with a recipe tailored to you.

Instant Pot Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup

Ingredients
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 gloves garlic
1 stalk celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 cup dry black beans
4 cups veggie broth
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed (you can use your hands to do this)
2 bay leaves

Instructions
Set the Instant Pot to saute. Add a little bit of water*, onion, garlic and celery and saute until softened. Let brown slightly. Add slightly more water, the sweet potatoes and carrots and saute until the carrots and potatoes are slightly browned. Add remaining ingredients, close the lid and cook on high pressure for 23 minutes. When the time is up, allow for natural pressure release (about another 20 minutes). Remove bay leaves and stir with a wooden spoon. The potatoes will break up with stirring. 

*If you'd like you could substitute oil, but Jon cooks almost entirely without oil and it still turns out great. The key is just adding a little bit of water whenever anything starts to stick. The water will evaporate but not before soaking flavor into the food you are cooking.

I didn't take a picture because I blinked and it was gone, but I promise you the next time we make it I will take a photo. That being said, it is definitely not the prettiest soup, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor.

Friday, November 17, 2017

al franken, donald trump, roy moore, and modern christianity in politics

Generally speaking, I do not get into the trenches when it comes to politics. I will share my opinion if you ask and I frequently contact my representatives, but I believe it is futile to argue over talking points because it never gets anywhere.

I cannot stay silent any longer.

I am a Christian. I believe Jesus died on the cross to atone for my sins (and yours, and the worst of us). I believe the only way to meet Jesus in Heaven is to know this truth.

I am also a sexual abuse survivor. I was sexually abused by a relative when I was a child.

This has created a weird set of circumstances for me. I wish I could say I was alone in this, but the statistics are devastating. This means that every week as you sit in your pew, you are likely surrounded by sexual assault survivors. Now imagine being the survivor of a sexual assault and hearing your pastor--the person you most commonly look to for spiritual guidance--say you need to ask for forgiveness for your part in your sexual assault. Because you obviously did something that brought this upon yourself.

You're probably thinking that sort of thing doesn't happen because this is 2017. Except just a few years ago at a church in Chicago--which is a "liberal" / more accepting (others would likely translate 'accepting' to 'sinful') city--I sat in a pew and heard this very statement.

Let's take it a step further. Not only does one of your most trusted leaders tell you that you are partially at fault for your sexual assault, but they tell you your abuser is an "upright man" and should be forgiven.

I can't believe this is the year 2017 and this still needs to be said: there is nothing. NOTHING. "upright" about touching or trying to touch or alluding you can touch someone sexually who does not want it.

I don't care if you are Al Franken. I don't care if you are Donald Trump or Roy Moore. Republican. Democrat. Independent.

You are not fit to lead.

You are not right to support someone who has most likely committed these acts. You are particularly amiss if you claim to believe in and follow a higher moral power and support someone who has done these things.

And if your thought is immediately "an accusation is not a fact. An accusation holds no merit." then you are part of the problem. Every time you question someone who takes the (insanely brave, equally terrifying and likely damaging to the victim) step to publicly identify someone who has sexually assaulted them, someone close to you--it could be your mom, sister, best friend, child--quietly notes that he or she cannot trust you with their own experiences.

If you claim to love Jesus--if you claim to live a life not of this earth--then you simply cannot support a politician or leader who has sexually assaulted someone just because "we all sin" and they happen to support the main political issues you support. It doesn't work like that. That's called hypocrisy. And as Christians, we need to stop.

friday favorites

{1} Jon and I are drowning in toys. We have reached the point where we want to burn the house down and start over. Turns out, our library has a ton of toys you can borrow. We got our first toy this week (and we can keep it for 3 weeks) and it is a hit. I'm seriously considering donating 90% of our toys and relying on the library to mix things up. I'm going to start by going through all of the toys and putting the ones they rarely play with in a black garbage bag in the garage. If in a month or two they haven't asked for them (Elden is notorious for cycling back through toys months after he's lost interest in them and that has bitten me in the butt before) then they are being donated. No child needs the amount of toys that our kids have.

{2} I know. My first item discusses how much I hate ALL THE TOYS and then my second is spent gushing over the adorable tea set I found on Amazon for $22. Consider this my window shopping. I won't buy this for my kids but if I wasn't ready to burn it down I totally would.

{image source}
{3} Costco had these Japanese noodle bowls as samples the other day and I am hooked. They are vegan, every member of our family (except Elden, natch) likes them, and they are so delicious. Totally on par with takeout and for a fraction of the cost and calories.

{4} I can't speak to the comparison between these foot peels and the famous Baby Foot ones, but for a third of the price I am OBSESSED. I just did another peel this week and there are few things more satisfying in life than seeing my dead skin fall off. It's disgusting. It gives me life.

{5} I can officially say the baby-making chapter of our lives is finished. I got an IUD this week (in part so I don't make any rash I-want-a-baby-right-now-they-are-so-cute decisions) and now that I'm looking back I'm pretty sad about it. I keep reassuring myself that just because we are done making them, it does not mean we won't ever have another baby in our house. We still really want to foster and adopt, and even though right now isn't the right time for that, it doesn't mean the timing will always be off. Since I figured it would be best to spare you a photo of my uterus or my OBGYN inserting the IUD, here is Elden's stupidly cute school picture. Bow tie was his request--like father, like son indeed.

{6} I did it!! I cooked my first turkey! No one died! They said it was actually pretty good! You can find me on next season's Master Chef. I only had one (prolonged) mental breakdown but I am officially a #turkeyboss.

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

turkey update

If you read yesterday's post, you know that times were tough in Casa de Flip.

Thank God for my village, Google, and divine intervention.

Jon put the turkey in a water bath for most of my time at work. This means it was thawedish when I got home.

In addition to the turkey, I had to make vegan sour cream (Etta was eating it by the spoonful, if that's any indication of its taste) and three quiches for new mama meals (one was a spinach, leek and Gruyere quiche, one was a spinach, leek and Brussels sprout quiche, and one was a bacon quiche). Since I was terrified of the turkey I did all that cooking first.

Guys, it was traumatic, but I did it. I recorded the sordid tale in my Instagram stories (@daniellefilipko) if you'd like to watch me freak out. But I did it!
Today's challenge involves not overcooking or undercooking it and praying I used enough (but not too much!) salt. Who would have thought that as an engineer who has tackled classes such as differential equations, calculus, and organic chemistry something like preparing a turkey would be my biggest practical challenge?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

SOS turkey emergency mental breakdown

Last year, I attempted to make a free turkey that we had. I had never made a turkey before and for reasons unknown cooking a turkey scares the ever loving $#@& out of me. In the hierarchy of things that scare me, it goes something like this:

1. something happening to my kids
2. cooking turkeys
3. Donald Trump having access to nuclear weapons

I popped that sucker on the counter for three days to defrost. Then I decided to research how to prepare and cook a turkey. That's when I learned you are not supposed to thaw a turkey on the counter because everyone will contract salmonella and die.

That turkey went in the garbage.

Armed with my newfound turkey wisdom, I volunteered to cook the turkey for Friendsgiving this year. You don't thaw turkeys on the counter. What could go wrong?

Monday morning I gingerly placed the turkey in the fridge to start the thawing process.
actual photo of me on Monday morning. {image source}
Today, it is Wednesday. Friendsgiving is tomorrow. I am planning on prepping the turkey tonight so that all I have to do is put it in the oven in the morning. As my coffee brewed this morning, I decided to check the progress of the thawing.

It isn't good. 


I then proceeded to rapid-fire-manically-text my small group and update them on my fragile mental state (I keep forgetting to take my anti-anxiety medication...this is not a good time to be forgetting such a thing) and our turkey emergency. All week they've been planning a beautiful Friendsgiving complete with mason jars and the fixings, and I'm going to ruin the main event. We're going to end up eating chicken nuggets and lamenting

You know what they say. 
{image source}
Pray for us.

the most fun homemade gift ever

I am a scientist / engineer. Math and science are my strengths. Try as I might, I am not artistic. This is pretty odd considering I hail from parents who met at art school--my dad is a professional photographer and my mom is a professional artist. This girl? All left brain.

Thanks a lot, genetic variation.

LUCKILY! My mom is crazy talented. She also greatly enjoys crafting. This means I have my own personal resource for all things arts and crafts. More importantly, my kids can reap the benefit of having a family member that can make their wildest craft dreams come true since I can't do that for them.

For Etta's first birthday, my mom used patterns from Lia Griffith to make the cutest little felt garden I have ever seen.
^the worms and potato bugs were my mom's brainchild--no pattern necessary! These are Elden's favorite part of the garden.
There are also mushrooms, but Edith likely put them in one of her many purses and I was too tired to hunt them down. Etta loves taking everything out of the garden, I love putting everything back in the garden, and Edith loves carrying the vegetables in a basket around the house. This is absolutely a present that I will hold onto for eternity.

If you want something similar, you could either join Lia's website to download the patterns, or you could find a variety of felt vegetables / felt gardens by searching for them on Etsy. Honestly, looking at all the stuff Lia offers on her website, I am seriously considering trying my hand at them. It will likely end in disaster, but they are just too cute to pass up. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

etta's first birthday

Etta's birthday was on Sunday, so we decided to have her party that day, too. On Saturday night I ran to the dollar store to get a few helium balloons for the morning. When we all went downstairs on Sunday, the balloons were a hit. In fact, Etta preferred the balloons greatly over the toy we got her.

For breakfast, we had our traditional Dunkin Donuts fare.
The rest of the day was low-key and spent getting ready for the party. We did a taco bar for dinner. We shredded two Costco rotisserie chickens and put out all the fixings. I made this dairy-free and egg-free vegan chocolate cake with vegan buttercream frosting using Earth Balance vegan butter. Just as the case with Edith, Etta refused to smash her smash cake.
After dinner, we let her open presents. Etta was so happy to be the center of attention and loved the entire production of it.
I'm not going to lie, this was really surprising. Etta had a really intense case of stranger danger for most of her life, and just recently has become less skeptical. I thought for sure she would cling to us in the crowd and freak out if people paid her too much attention. I'm so glad she had such a good time and was so happy to be celebrated.

Monday, November 13, 2017

jon's 30th birthday

If you haven't already figured this out, I am an extrovert. Furthermore, acts of service are one of my main love languages (second only to physical touch). As such, it took every ounce of determination not to throw Jon--one of the most introverted people I've ever known--a huge 30th birthday celebration. While I know he would have appreciated it and enjoyed spending the day with those dearest to him, I also know that sort of thing wouldn't be his first choice.

Instead, I planned a night out--just the two of us--and arranged to have Elden and Edith spend the night at my parent's house and Etta at his parent's house. I took a half day at work on Friday just to make things easier from a logistical standpoint. After lunch, I took the big kids to my parent's house while Etta napped at home. Once I got back, we got everything together to drop Etta off at Jon's parent's house.
Once all the kids were where they needed to be, we headed downtown to the Cleveland Museum of Art. It is one of the most visited museums in the world, free to visitors (with the exception of special exhibits) and one of Jon's happiest places. Jon and I are so opposite in so many ways--he truly appreciates everything about museums, art, etc. He is constantly remarking how beautiful the sky / clouds look whereas I shrug and say something hella sophisticated like "it looks like clouds" or "it's really not that nice." Therefore, this act of service was a huge sacrifice on my part because I generally do not enjoy museums of the art variety. Not that I'm patting myself on the back for enduring the three (ugh) hours we spent wandering the museum and taking it all in, but pat pat.
I may not have appreciated the art, but I was all about the architecture.
Once we had seen every square inch of the museum it was time to head to dinner. For this portion of the night I arranged a special vegan chef's tasting with Spice Kitchen + Bar. I didn't really know what to expect going into it, but it was absolutely amazing. There was an amuse-bouche of pickled fruits and vegetables. I did not get a picture of it because I was starving and inhaled it. For the first course we had shaved beets and pickled apples with fennel, olive oil, grapefruit gastrique and maldon.
The second course was curried wild mushroom soup (using the chicken of the woods mushroom, something Jon has been wanting to try for ages) with cashew creme fraiache and cilantro. This was Jon's favorite course of the meal.
For our third course, we had sorghum glazed carrots with black pepper pecans, burnt orange and ginger vinaigrette. This course was my second favorite (dessert, aka the fifth course, won out for me) and also why this picture was taken after I had began eating it.
For the fourth course, we had roasted romanesco with cauliflower couscous, castelvetrano olives, poached apricot and turnip puree. I've never had turnips before and I gotta say--I am a BIG fan. Fun fact, I had been taking the food pictures without my flash all night because it is a dim restaurant and I didn't want to be that person, but for this picture my flash totally went off and I hid in shame. Hence why this picture looks so different than the others.
To finish the meal off, we had coconut ice cream with chocolate sauce and crispy quinoa. Never in my life would I have thought to put crispy quinoa on dessert, but it was SO GOOD. It added the perfect crunch and a mild salty flavor. I cannot wait to do something like this at home.
I cannot recommend Spice Kitchen enough. They were so gracious and accommodating with my menu request, the food was incredible, and it was an experience we will never forget. 

We left the restaurant at 10:30 and headed home. At one point during the drive back Jon remarked that he couldn't remember the last time he was out this late. And that is the story of how he is 30 going on 76. We were able to sleep through the night and sleep in until 7 am...if you consider 7 am "sleeping in." It was a perfect way to celebrate the guy I love so much.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

one

Hold. Me.
My sweet, stubborn Etta:

Today you are one year old. This year has felt like the longest ever (I love you so much, but you are very high maintenance) but now that we are at this milestone I can't believe you've only been part of our family for one year.

You are a little lady who knows exactly what she wants, when she wants it. You are a strange kind of independent - you want to do things yourself, but you also want one of us to hold you at all times.

At one year old, you give kisses (complete with the muah! sound), walk really well, sleep pretty well, and love food. You still can't have dairy because of your FPIES, but you also don't mind since you haven't had it in so long.

You can't help but dance when Daddy plays his ukulele. You mimic Elden and Edith and think they are the most hilarious people in the world. When you smile, your entire face smiles.

Etta Lynn, we are beyond blessed to have you. We love you so much. Happy first birthday.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

happy 30th, jp

Dear Jon,

Today is your 30th birthday and hot damn does it look good on you. I know neither one of us can actually believe you're so old, and it blows my mind that we've been together for more than a third of your life.

I am so glad you were born thirty years ago. You are my most unexpected blessing. I don't necessarily believe in soul mates, but I do believe that God had me in mind when he made you. You are the most perfect / sane match for all my crazy and you keep me grounded. You are so passionate about so many things, you don't care what anyone thinks about you, and you love our kids fiercely.

I say it every year, but it bears repeating: I am so happy you are ours.

I love you. Happy birthday.

Friday, November 10, 2017

five on friday

{1} Well, I finally did it. I finally joined a gym. I finally got sick of being lazy shamed by all the surveys asking me how often I was active per week. I had been eyeing Planet Fitness because of their $10/month / no contract membership, but there was a $40 start-up fee plus a $39 annual fee billed November 1st, so I never pulled the trigger. Suffice to say, when I saw they were having their 25th anniversary sale where the start-up fee was only $0.25, I immediately signed up. If you were on the fence like I was, it looks like the sale is good until November 16th. I went for the first time last night. I am dramatically out of shape. I am very sore today. I also couldn't find headphones anywhere so I had to steal Elden's.

{2} Jon sent me this text yesterday. I laughed out loud. Edith badger don't care.

{3} Kohl's is having their Veterans Day sale today! Since the only sneakers I have are my Chucks, I knew I would need to buy better shoes now that I am going to be exercising. I bought these FILA sneakers for $4 shipped after I used the Veteran's Day / Kohl's charge promotional codes and some Kohl's Cash I had!

{4} I know that this is a theme today, but I am eyeing a Fitbit. On Black Friday, Kohl's has a sale on both the Charge 2 and the Alta HR. I don't need it to do anything fancy, mostly just track my heart rate and activity. Any suggestions? Experiences? Recommendations?

{5} Tonight is date night for Jon's 30th birthday! I am super excited. I'm still not sure how the kids are going to do sleeping over our parent's houses since they are all sick, but even if they end up coming home tonight at least we will get a little break to celebrate Jon!

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

ramblings

It's starting to fill like the sickness will never end.

Edith is still coughing. Etta is also really sick. We have been doing showers + cold air for both girls in an effort to help.

Jon turns 30 on  Saturday and Etta turns 1 on Sunday. I have a whole evening planned for tomorrow night to celebrate Jon - Cleveland Museum of Art followed by a vegan chef's tasting at Spice Kitchen + Bar. Elden and Edith are supposed to sleep over my parent's house and Etta at Jon's parent's, but with how sick the girls are I'm not sure how well that is going to go...

I think it's safe to say that Etta is officially a walker. She can stand up in the middle of the floor, make turns, and her balance has gotten leaps and bounds better just in the last few days. I love this video of her - it showcases her walking skills and her admiration / mimicry of her big brother:

We want to go to Disney in about three years. This will make Etta 4 years old and able to get by without naps, plus will give us ample time to save for what will likely be the most expensive vacation we ever go on. One thing I've been doing is taking surveys for points that can be used to cash in on Visa gift cards. So far I have used Pinecone Research, National Consumer Panel, and Springboard America, and PrizeRebel.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Shark Ninja Chef High-Speed Blender Review

Jon and I had been on the hunt for a high-powered blender for several months now. Since he is vegan, I try to find recipes for meals that we both love but that he can eat. Hands down, my biggest issue with his vegan diet is cheese. I want all the cheese. Nay, I need all the cheese. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Jon's parents gave us this Ninja blender system our first married Christmas, so back in 2010. It has held up absolutely beautifully over the past 7 years. However, when I tried my hand at this vegan cashew "cheese," it just didn't give me the smooth consistency I desired. Since it wasn't a high powered blender it wasn't very surprising, but at that point I knew I wanted something better.

We went back and forth for weeks on this. Vitamix and Blendtec are the two obvious top contenders, but their price tags (most were $400+) matched their reputation. We are a family of five surviving on my income, so there just was no way we could justify spending that much on what is absolutely a luxury. Since we had such a great experience with our other Ninja system, we decided to bite the bullet and buy the Shark Ninja Chef High-Speed Blender despite there being basically no non-sponsored reviews since it was less than $200.

It arrived just over a week ago and we are SO happy with it! So far we've used it to make smoothies, sunflower seed butter, and soup. It is well constructed, powerful, and adequately blends whatever we put in it so there is no grit leftover. The best part is that it was a fraction of the price of its competitors.
The Ninja Chef blender has a high-speed blade design and Ninja's widest variable speed range. Coupled with the 1500-watt motor, this blender can cut through hard nuts to make the creamiest of butters.
A feature that I love about it is the cord storage on the back. It's such a simple concept, but for someone who has very limited counter space I love that I can wrap the excess cord up and out of the way.
Another perfect feature of this blender is the 10 preset programs. Since one of the main reasons we wanted a high powered blender was to make nut butter, having a preset for that makes life even easier. If your intended food isn't listed, there are also 10 manual mode speeds that you can adjust to fit your needs.
One of Jon's favorite features is the suction cups on the base. This obviously prevents the blender from moving all over the counter while blending since the motor is so strong.
We just used it to make another batch of hummus the other day.
As always, the results were creamy and delicious!
The final feature we love is the self cleaning mode for when you are done blending. Put a little soapy water in the blender, press the Clean button, and the blender does the rest! If that's too much work for you, everything except the base of this blender is top rack dishwasher safe!