Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thrift store Thursday

So, it's Thursday again, and it's the only morning that I have no kids AND no other major responsibility that I HAVE to get done. Granted, there are about 6 loads of laundry waiting to be folded downstairs, but that can wait. So, after I dropped off the kids, I headed to my new favorite thrift store, Unique Thrift. I wish I had my camera there last week so I could have documented the creepiest thing that has happened to me in a long time: I was stalked by an old lady!
Seriously, she followed me around town in her car first, honking at me and pointing her finger at me. Then, I thought I lost her for a good 10 minutes, so I headed to the thrift store, and she was already there! She followed me around the store standing really close to me and making loud sighing noises...sometimes she just stood at the end of an aisle and stared at me. Then, she followed me out to the parking lot and tried to block me in so I couldn't leave! It went on for quite a while, and then I lost her. But seriously!?
So, anyway, I went again today, (she was not there) and picked up some t-shirts for Sammy-Sam and some skirts for me for the summer. I was oddly drawn to this green floral one but then realized that maybe I liked it as a throw-pillow for Claire's bed and not neccessarily to wear. Who knows. But now it's in my closet so I probably will wear it. I'm all of a sudden drawn to everything old and vintage looking that exists. Tell me if I start looking like an old lady.
One of my favorite vintage things to find are old school books. They are so sweet and simple and they remind me of how school should be. Not stressful and overly grown-up like it is now. It's funny how even in this giant inner-city school where I tutor, the kids fight over the Dick and Jane books that they are republishing now. I think they just identify with the nice, familiar stories. Not all the weird Sponge Bob crap that they get so much of now.
Look at the illustrations in this science book. It's so pleasing to the eye, isn't it?
And there are these simple little experiments to do that Claire would totally get into. I haven't been great at introducing much science to her yet (beyond zoo-trips and the like) but this book makes me think I should do some stuff with her like this flashlight/globe experiment. Isn't it funny to think that our little people don't even understand these concepts like that the earth goes around the sun? It's fun to think of teaching them that and having them KNOW that for the first time.
Okay, but here is the funny part. This book is from '62 so there are some really funny things in there too, like how we have just GOT to find the exact right poison to kill all these bugs that keep attacking our crops! It says: "The scientists have tried many kinds of poison powders and liquids....it is very hard to get rid of insect pests when they find the right food!" I don't think these people knew the term "organic produce" yet. Haha.
The other story book has some funny poems, like Sammy's favorite called "Mr Nobody". Mr Nobody gets blamed for all the naughty things that happen around the house that no one wants to take responsibility for. I wonder why he likes this poem so much? Hmmm...

And, I've been collecting these old cross-stitch pictures. The one on the left I picked up at a thrift store, but the one on the right was made by my grandfather's mother, I think. Maybe sister? Anyway, it's old. And I have this idea about making a room in our (hopefully) new home some day that has all these old crosstitches on the wall. The idea is to make it look fun and new though...not old-ladyish. I stole the idea from Stephanie over at NieNie Dialogues. Her home was featured in Cookie Magazine. Look at her guest room here and tell me if I can pull it off. Actually, while you're there, look at all the homes that are featured. They are so fun! It makes me want to throw away everything I have and start over....

Alright, gotta go pick up the kiddos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New favorite thing

     So, I have a new "favorite thing". It's the magic bullet mixer. It's like a tiny blender, but very powerful. My mom has one, and when I used to make baby food for the kids, I sometimes borrowed it. One of my famous babyfoods for the kids was "green applesauce" which was just fresh (not frozen....it's too stringy) spinach and applesauce mixed together. Spinach has a really mild flavor so when it's mixed with applesauce you can't even taste it. And I put a LOT of spinach in. Now, Claire went on to eat spinach salad as she got older, but Sammy would never touch the stuff in salad form, so I kept the green applesauce going for him.

But we do get tired of it sometimes, so I bought the magic bullet and now we've moved on to all kinds of smoothies. The most popular right now is frozen mango, a tiny bit of juice (just to make it a little more liquid), plain yogurt, and spinach. And I use a LOT of spinach. You seriously can't taste the spinach!
This is especially true with the magic bullet because it pulverizes it so completely that it's not even a weird texture.
Alright, I sound like a commercial now, but I just had to share my new favorite thing. It makes getting fruits and vegetables into Sammy so much easier. And, I wash the thing the way my mom used to wash our blender by just filling it with hot water and soap and making a "soap milkshake". The kids think that's fun too.
No one would give me a good smile, (they just got home from school and were tired/dirty) but they really like it! Now, granted, I served it with hot dogs so I'm not exactly a health purist, but I do what I can. And I can make green milkshakes!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This week at our house...minus one Big Guy

Matt is gone again. For another 5 days. The stretch from Christmas until mid-summer feels like he's gone all the time. Then, from the end of summer until Christmas, it's like he's never gone. I'm not 100% sure why it works out that way, but such is life. So, he's gone again.





And because there are so many more hours to fill when daddy isn't coming home in the evenings, we end up doing extra crafty stuff and taking a few more field trips. It keeps us all sane. So, Claire finally talked me into buying whipping cream today at Trader Joes so that she could do the project she's been wanting to do since she read the Little House books: making butter. So, here she's shaking up a little pat of butter.




It takes a lot of shaking to make a pretty small amount of butter out of whipping cream, but it amazingly does work just as it's supposed to....and it's good!





And, of course, we couldn't eat the butter by itself, (well, Claire and I don't neccessarily believe that, but we try to be civilized people) so I was forced to buy a box of banana bread mix (lazy, I know) and also forced to add chocolate chips to it, so when Sammy awoke from his nap, we had a pretty fabulous snack.





Along with the extra projects, we've also been trying to get back to our very-extremely-extra-relaxed version of homeschooling. In my mind, we're officially starting next year. And, since she's already reading, I've been very lazy and just put everything on the back burner. But not anymore! We're getting back into it. Here's Claire doing her history lesson...she's studying the Jewish people right now.





Here's her new big-girl desk. I found it at a thrift store. It's just an old school desk from the 70s probably, but someone painted it a nice light blue color, so we picked it up.





She likes doing her math there and sticking her little school supplies underneath in the shelf. There are a few things that most homeschoolers wish they had that kids going to "real schools" have. One of the things is a desk...a REAL desk, (at least for Claire). Another is a chance to ride a school bus. That I'm not sure I can swing. City bus: yes. School bus: probably not. We'll see.




It's still grey and blah here in Chicago. Spring is supposed to be here and we're happy for the more mild temperatures, but it's not sunny and great yet.





But we still go to the park...especially when daddy's gone. Because it's that or I have to wrestle with them on the floor in the living room like Matt does...





..and Sammy doesn't think I'm as good at that as the Big Guy is. He always misses daddy from the very first day until he gets home. He always makes me save stuff for him too. Like, if he doesn't eat all of his toast on Monday morning, he'll say "lets save it for daddy for when he gets home". Yum...5 day old toast. Or, if he gets a sticker at Trader Joes he'll save one for his dad.




Not to segway into an entirely different subject, but Montessori Services is having a free-shipping special right now, and I love that place. So, I picked up this sweet tool set for Sammy for his 4th birthday which is coming up in April.



I also had to get the book "How a house is built" to go with it because Sammy is always analyzing how he thinks things must be built. This started when he learned the story of the 3 pigs. "Do you think they're going to build that house out of straw or sticks mom?"


He also requested a small broom "just his size" so I added that to the cart as well. He's into doing jobs for money now. And then, when he gets $1 saved, we have to go immediately to the dollar store so he can blow the whole thing. Claire, of course, on the other hand, saves her pennies and dimes and is probably a secret millionaire. She's just like Matt. Guess who Sammy is like?



I also got this embroidery loop thing for Claire. I don't actually know how to use it, but I saw a cool craft for kids in a book once that I think Claire would like. You draw a picture on a pillow and then sew over it with thread. That might be called embroidering, but I don't know. But I think they used this loop thing to make it, so we'll see. They were only $1 so....

Anyway, that's our life this week. We miss you Big Guy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Date night again

So, it was a Saturday again, and I needed a reason to get up in the morning. For some reason, although weekends should be a family-fun-filled experience, I sometimes get a little depressed. I think it's because I'm sort of newly surprised every weekend that I'm not 18 years old anymore and that weekends don't neccessarily mean anything. I'm not going to a party, or a movie, or to drive around in the car with my friends listening to music and eatting twizzlers, (alright....that's what we did at 15....not 18). And, one would think that since I've been a mother since I was 22 years old that I'd be over this by now. But I'm not.
I know most moms plan on Saturdays being for cleaning up the house, running some errands, doing a little yard work, and maybe throwing in a fun little trip with the kids to something like ice cream. And that is because they are real moms....and they are grown-up responsible women. Me? I lay on the bed moaning on the weekend afternoons wondering if I'll ever get to have fun again. What is wrong with me?  But if someone (my husband) whispers the words "date night" then all of a sudden I'm okay. I can go to the library with the kids, clean the house, take the fam to the park...I'm all good. I just like knowing that something "grown up" is coming later that evening.
I know that is a ridiculous way to be. And I know some moms feel that way but just literally can't get a babysitter to go out...and I've been there. On nights like that I have to content myself with a glass of wine and some take-out. We don't do the sitter very often...it feels like such a luxury. But I sure like it when we do! We love Coco! And, she lives down the street. Even better.
Our first stop was my friend Brigitte's house for drinks. We also needed to see her husband's recent work. They just opened an art gallery and they are collaborating on a big show coming up in April!
Then we went to one of my favorite restaurants in the city. La Fonda. Latin food at it's best. It's pretty far north from where we live, but it's worth the drive. Carne asada (with empanadas for an appetizer) is probably my favorite date-night dinner...when I'm not in the mood for sushi. The steak is amazing and it comes with plantains (love them! salty and sweet....my favorite combo) and rice and beans.
The only thing that keeps putting a damper on my city adventures lately has been the parking meter rate-hike. It's now $2/hour to park at a meter! That's not an exorbitant amount of money to pay for parking, but the problem is that who has 16 quarters floating around their car at any given moment?! 16 quarters for 2 hours! They need to put a change machine on every corner if they're going to do that to us.
Well, anyway, the Big Guy saved the day by running into a nearby grocery store for change...so we were all set.
Oh, and these are my latest thrift-store find. Red flats. I love red shoes...but don't think of them as practical, so I don't normally consider them. But for $5 I considered them!
Ah, La Fonda's....it was only missing Dan and Robin or Laura and Ben to accompany us. Fellow latin food lovers and dear friends/family.
Here's me...I'd like to blame this cheesy pose on too much sangria, but I can't. Because with all the rice and beans and rich food, you can hardly get a buzz on when you're at La Fonda's. This is just a regular ole' cheesy pose.
Do we have to go home? Alright, alright. But wearing red shoes, eatting good food, and smelling the fresh (city) air does make me feel like a real woman again...at least for a week or two....then I'm gonna be on the phone with Coco again so that I can get my date-night fix.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Baby mommy

My kids don't play that well together anymore. They have had their days of playing well, but they are pretty much over as far as I can tell.

But there is one thing they do like to play. It's called "Baby-Mommy". Someone is the baby and gets to regress back to "ga-ga-goo-goo" talking, and someone is the mom. The mom basically does whatever the fussy, baby-talking "baby" indicates that they want, and the baby just fusses and baby-talks.

Anyway, as you can imagine, it's not a game that I particularly enjoy participating in, but they do like to play it together. The baby usually has a basket or something as a bed.
Well, since they play it so well together, I decided to have Mr. Tad make a child-sized cradle for claire for her birthday....one which they could climb in and out of as big kids. It was a big hit for claire. And, as a bonus, it fits 10 babies in it! So, in Claire's "house", pictured here, her babies can now all get tucked in together for bed at night...although they have to find somewhere else to sleep when the kids are playing "baby mommy".
I figured that as a bonus, she can use it for a real baby some day, since she will most certainly have 10 real babies some day and be a fabulous real mommy. When Matt saw all those dolls in the cradle, he said that it looks like Claire is raising the Duggar family, (you know, the family with 18 kids from that TLC show). Haha.
It's made out of cherry wood and I think its very sweet. It almost makes me want to have a baby to put in it. Almost.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Big Guy!

Today is the Big Guy's birthday! He and Claire's birthdays are 3 days apart, so he hasn't had much of a celebration for the last 6 years. Usually, we just leave up the pink streamers from Claire's party, buy him a cupcake, and call it good.
But, being St. Patricks Day as well, we try to have a little fun for him sometimes. Today, we made green pancakes. This looks disgusting, but Matt's moms recipe for pancakes is the best one ever...and a little green food dye just makes them that much more fun!
Here they are with butter. Matt's did not have any butter. Did I ever tell you how Matt doesn't like butter? He doesn't...it's one of our biggest differences because in my family, we eat things like bread just so that we have excuses to eat more butter. Do you know what Matt puts on his pancakes? Peanut butter and syrup. Peanut butter! Well, to each their own.
Here is my dad having a few! With bacon of course...no one makes their husband a birthday breaksfast without bacon, right? Not around here at least.
And Grammy and Claire are preparing another of Matt's favorite foods: Oreo Ice Cream Dessert. Alright, now he's just getting spoiled. But I'll tell you what...if you want your husband to love you, make him my mom's oreo ice cream dessert. It's the perfect sweet and salty combination of fabulousness. I'm even going to give you the recipe.
Prepare the chocolate sauce first because you need it to cool for a while. Stir 1 can of evaporated milk, 4 squares of bakers chocolate, and 1 cup of sugar together in a sauce pan. Stir constantly and bring to a slow boil. Boil gently for 8 minutes or until it thickens and becomes saucey. Set aside and let it come to room temperature.
Put a package of oreos in a food processor (or just smoosh them up). Melt a stick of butter and stir it into the smooshed oreos. Shape this mixture into the bottom of a 13X9" pan. Take a carton/box (1 gallon) of vanilla ice cream and slice it into straight, square slices (cut the carton off of the frozen ice cream and slice it like a loaf of bread). Lay this ice cream on top of your oreo crust. If their are any holes, you just fill it in with little pieces of ice cream. If your sauce needs more time to cool, put this all in the freezer. When it's cool, pour the sauce over the top of the ice cream and sprinkle the top with peanuts. Keep the whole thing frozen and cut into squares to serve.
And then, because we REALLY love the Big Guy, we'll take him to Gino's East later for pizza. That is seriously his favorite food. Deep dish Chicago pizza with spinach and pepperoni. It's very good.
Actually, I can't eat much of it because it has so much cheese on it and I am a tad on the lactose-intolerant side, but sometimes it's worth the intestinal pain. The Big Guy and I have a little debate over who has the best crust: Unos Pizza or Ginos. But obviously he wins on his birthday.
Are you noticing a theme for this birthday? Pancakes, dessert, pizza? Well, don't forget that the ski trip was his OTHER birthday present....he should be in love with me for a while for all this fabulousness I think.
Hey Big Guy, do you remember that we met when we were 19? That means we've been together for 10 years! That's a third of our lives! Thanks for 10 years and 2 babies. You're a great husband and daddy....Happy Birthday!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Close your eyes...

So, if you're trying to make chicken piccata, which involves lightly breading chicken and then cooking it quickly in a pan of olive oil and butter, let me give you a little advice: don't let go of the piece of chicken too quickly and let it drop into the grease, creating a title wave of oil and butter onto your arm. Because that hurts....

I hurt myself in the weirdest ways. This nasty burn covers most of the area between my elbow and wrist. It's so grose looking. I asked Claire if Daddy would still think I was beautiful, and she said: "well, if you wear long sleeves over that thing." Sweet. At least I know I'm loved unconditionally around here.

Happy Birthday Claire!

Claire's birthday was yesterday. We spent the morning making the cake and decorating the table. My dad helped out by taking Sammy downtown for the morning. The city dyes the river green for St. Patricks day and there is a parade, so they had a grand ole' time. And we had a grand time not dealing with a 3 year old who is trying to take licks of the frosting all morning.
Claire had originally requested a Princess birthday, but she hasn't played anything resembling "princess" since she was 3 or 4! I think she just remembers having a princess birthday one time and remembers it being beautiful or fancy or something, so now she's stuck on that as a theme. I managed to turn it into a "fairy" birthday instead, which then turned into a "garden fairy" theme, which then turned into a "garden" theme...so we basically ended up with flowers. Thank goodness...I'm so tired of the princess stuff.
Claire's old teacher sent a bouquet which sealed the deal! They were very pretty and were perfect for the center of the table.
Claire and I looked at pictures of cakes online, and she found one with a big letter "C" on it, so she decided that's what she wanted. Grammy helped us with the frosting because mommy was a little lame on Saturday with a giant grease burn on her arm.....poor me. I'll show you a picture of that beautiful scar later.
Here is the pinata we got. Luckily, they now have pinatas where you pull a string which releases the candy instead of having to beat it with a stick. I learned my lesson the hard way when we got a unicorn pinata for Claire's 3rd birthday and all the kids ended up in tears when the unicorn head went flying across the room. Rookie mistake. We did not beat the butterfly.
Here are Claire's friends and a few moms...all the usual kiddos: Cecilia, Annabel, the curly-haired siblings, etc.
Here is Claire with her buddy Sonia. I didn't get too many pictures once the party started. And most of them were blury anyway. The girls painted door-knockers and made bead necklaces with pipe cleaners and beads. Both crafts were very easy for the kids to do by themselves...another lesson I've learned the hard way: don't set up a craft that kids can't do without a lot of parental supervision. This way, the kids are busy alone and the moms can actually take a little break. I'll have to admit: Sonia's mom and I even opened a bottle of wine and even my mom admited that a glass of wine really does seem to help a kid birthday go smoothly! I concur.