Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Typical Walk in the City

We go out for walks ALL. THE. TIME. In the city, there isn't parking like in other normal neighborhoods. Well, there is if you want to buy and put a city sticker on your car for around $100. Then you can find street parking and pay at a meter, or pay to park in a parking garage for around $25 or so. And then you risk getting your car broken into, towed, bumped while other people try to parallel park, or your windows smashed in.

And plus, walks in the city are fun, and we live in a great location that is close to most of everything fun in downtown Chicago. And so we walk.

We walk to playgrounds, outdoor concerts, museums, the beach, restaurants, the lakefront path, people's houses, coffee shops, the bank, the grocery store, Walgreens, the library...You name it, we walk there.

Our "backyard" is the city.

So here we go!

Diapers, check. Wipes, check. Extra outfit for Judah, check. Blankets, check. Check. Check.

Okay. Ready to go!

This particular walk didn't start out so good. Not in a good mood to pose for the camera. Walked to a restaurant. Closed on Sundays. Walked down by the loop. Everthing is closed in the loop on Sundays. Got stuck in the rain. Judah was fine, everyone else-getting wet. Buy umbrella at Walgreens. Major meltdown in Walgreens when Maddy bugs Judah in the stroller and gets in trouble.

Stop at McDonald's when the Princess gets hungry and whiny. Very unhappy princess.

But the chicken nuggets and a McDonald's toy quickly change the mood!!!

Yeah. Drying off. Better moods. Good times.

Even the little prince was in a better mood once we stopped at McDonald's and got out of the rain.

Finally get home and changed into pjs. This is a weird pic but captures it all so well. Tad trying to make it through the story. Judah is like, "I'm ready for bed." and Maddy, well, is just Maddy.

Goodnight all!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top Ten Things I Have Learned As A Mommy (so far)

10. The things you tell your children at home will be repeated and in situations when you don't want to hear them.

Example: Loudly, at Trader Joes with her little kid cart, to my husband, "Mommy says we shouldn't run into old people or else they have to go to the hospital." Sadly, I had to teach her this after she almost creamed some old person with her tricycle while crossing the street.

9. Don't leave your older child alone with your new baby.

Example: They might put a sticker over the baby's mouth so the crying won't hurt their ears. Might.

8. Don't let your toddler play with the new baby in the laundry room while you do laundry.

Example: You might look over and see that the toddler has sprayed Spray 'N Wash on the baby. Might.

7. Always make sure there is a bathroom close to where you are going.

Example: If not, they will just pee wherever they are, i.e. playground equipment, in the sand at the beach, in their carseat, in the stroller, in the pool, etc.

6. Don't expect your cleaning efforts to make much difference for the next several years.

Example: As soon as you turn around, it will be a mess again - a trail of wherever your toddler has toddled all over the house.

5. Find active stuff to do daily to get out of the house and get your child's energy out.

Example: McDonald's playplace, parks, playgrounds, museums, beach. If you don't, they will go crazy and destroy your house. Oh wait, they will do that anyways.

4. Schedule time for your husband, grandparent, friend, babysitter, etc. to watch your children so you can have a break and refocus.

Example: Go to Starbucks, go see a movie with a friend, go grocery shopping by yourself, sit in your car and take a nap.

3. Take time to teach your kids everything you can and answer their every question along the way.

Example: And if you don't know the answer, don't admit it, just make up the answer!! They'll think you're brilliant! (Wink, wink, dad!!)

2. Sometimes you have to be that bad parent and bribe your kids to make it through the grocery store.

Example: If being the good parent in that situation means my kid screaming through the whole rest of the store, then send me to jail for being the bad parent!!!

1. Value this time as a mother of little ones, it goes so fast and the time will soon be gone!!!

Example: You will look back fondly on this time and remember small amounts of good things because of lack of sleep and say "they just grow up so fast!"

Now as a disclaimer, obviously this is humorous, doesn't cover the whole realm of parenting, and is a little far fetched at times, but the stories are not made up, folks!!!!! As a parent, you gotta learn to let things slide and not be so uptight and JUST HAVE FUN!!!!!

Quick Grilled Lemon Chicken with Garlic Basil Butter

Let's just say...YUM!!! This turned out soooo good!! And it was so easy!! This recipe was taken from "Food to Live By" that I referenced earlier this week. Love it!

You marinate in the morning, and in the evening, you take it out of the marinade and grill. How easy is that?? I made this for a friend who came over for dinner. I was gone all day, but it was marinating, and then I had a stress free dinner to come home and grill!! Wonderful!!

With the chicken, the cookbook suggests you make grilled summer vegetables (also in the cookbook) to accompany the dish, and I'm sooo glad I did!! This may have been even better than the chicken!! You can pretty much pick whatever veggies you want, but she has you pick zucchini, onions, eggplant, and yellow summer squash (which I didn't get because I accidentally got spaghetti squash, which I didn't use but is pictured here!).

I love all the fresh ingredients that this cookbook requires you to use!!

For the vegetables, you can either make an herb-flavored oil, or you can just use regular olive oil, which I chose to do since I was making several other things. You just brush the veggies with the oil and salt and pepper them, and let them sit for about 30 minutes to soak up all the flavor of the oil, salt, and pepper. I have grilled veggies before, but letting them sit and soak in the oil for an additional 30 minutes really made a big difference! They were divine!!

You can use an outdoor grill (which we haven't fired up yet for the season) or you can just use an inside grill, which I used and it worked just fine!!! The smell was amazing!!

The marinade for the 6 chicken breasts was as follows:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup herb-flavored olive oil or regular olive oil (again, just used regular olive oil)

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

2 Tablespoons minced, fresh basil, or 2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

First, you pound out the chicken to tenderize it, to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. This really helps to chicken to cook faster as well, and to cook through when grilling.

You then whisk the above ingredients together and throw it all together in a ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 3 hours, all day, or overnight, turning it (if you are home) to evenly distribute the marinade all over the chicken.

Then you just grill it. 2-4 minutes per side.

But, oh, did I mention the Garlic Basil Butter??? Oh my!!! In the morning, I also made this amazing butter that melts ever so delicately on top of the chicken, and you can also use it on bread, corn on the cob, fish, etc.

Garlic Basil Butter

8 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup minced fresh basil

1 clove basil, minced

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Pretty much just blend all ingredients together with a fork, put it in some plastic wrap and form into a cylinder. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Delicious!!

To serve up, just run a knife under hot water and slice as many slices as you need. Shown below on top of the chicken!!

This is the complete dish. Served with just plain 'ole brown rice. Healthy, delicious, and fun to make!!!!!

And great for entertaining!!!

Thanks for coming over for dinner and going to a movie, Kara!!!
Another recipe is as follows: Save the leftover chicken and grilled vegetables. Place on 2 slices of Foccacia bread, and use Jalapeno Aioli (another recipe in the book) as a spread!!

Can't wait to try this with the leftovers!!!

Again, all the credit goes to Myra Goodman and her "Food to Live By," the most amazing cookbook!! If you have any questions about the recipes shown here, or want me to email more detailed recipes your way, comment here, or email me at!! Thanks for coming along with me on my culinary journey!!

Oh yeah, and Happy Spring!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Food to Live By

I love, Love, LOVE this cookbook!! I wish I could cook from it all the time!! But unfortunately, not only is it a library book, but the recipes have lots of ingredients, and have lots of steps!!! The reason there are so many ingredients and steps is because it is an organic cookbook written by the founder of Earthbound Farm, Myra Goodman, who makes everything from scratch. It is an amazing cookbook with beautiful pictures of their farm, produce, family, and farm traditions.

Most recipes have other recipes for the required ingredients, such as making the mango chutney from scratch, herb-flavored oil, sauces, marinara sauce, etc. She makes everything from their very own organic produce. She doesn't cook with artificial ingredients, so when cooking with her cookbook, you have to buy as much as you can cook soon, so produce doesn't go bad.

She gives reasons for growing organic produce, which they began in 1984, before "organic" was a buzz word and something that everyone knew about. The contents of her cookbook is as follows:

It all began with Raspberries


Leafy Green Salads

Meat and Poultry Main Dishes

Fish and Shellfish

Pasta and Vegetarian Main Dishes

Side Dishes

Breakfast and Brunch


Basics (Stocks, sauces, vinegars, staples)

Just to tickle your tastebuds, I will give you a peek of some of her recipes. Their farm started out with their raspberries, so they have a lot of things that they sold at their farmstand such as raspberry corn muffins, raspberry cream scones (to die for!!), raspberry jam, and raspberry-lemon cremes brulees. So yummy!!!

On the menu for this week out of this cookbook is Miso Soup, Quick Grilled Lemon Chicken with Garlic Basil butter, Shrimp Cakes with Lemon-Caper Aioli, and Quick Grilled Vegetables with Basil Oil.

In the past I have tried the Raspberry Cream Sones, Foggy Day Chili, Farm Stand Greek Salad, Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and basil, Pizza dough, Blue cheese smashed potatoes, and Homemade Chai. They were all GREAT!!! And the scones and chai were great together!!

Someday I hope to make Mexican Albondigas Soup, Baby Greens Salad (with grilled figs and walnuts), Lamb Curry with Saffron Couscous, Curried Chicken Salad, Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Sweet Pea Risotto with Prosciutto, and "Wild" mushroom ragout with creamy polenta.

This is such a great cookbook, I should just go ahead and purchase it!! I have gotten it out of the library so many times!! If you like healthy, fresh ingredients, how-to's about all kinds of produce, and tons of yummy recipes, then try out this cookbook. If you need a trial run before purchasing, check your local library!!! Happy Cooking!!

Stay tuned for pics and results of this weeks recipes!!!

What cookbooks have you found that you just LOVE???

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Identity in Christ vs. My Identity as a Homemaker

It's interesting in life how we interact and relate to each other based on our current role, marital status, job, or place in society. It's a natural way to meet people, form friends, and figure out if you relate well with other people. In my current role as a homemaker, I seek to form friendships with other people my age who are in the same stage of life - a stay at home mom with 1 or more kids and a house to take care of. As normal as it is to identify myself in these terms, and others, it can also be easy to find my identity in these terms. And I find myself doing it often.

Right now, and not forever, I am a stay at home mom. I spend my time making meals, nursing a baby, cleaning my house, walking to parks, doing laundry, going to AWANA, going to my parenting study, entertaining...the list goes on. And though I spend my time doing these things, it is not who I am. I forget this. I get caught up in the things that I do, and try to find my worth and value in them.

One really good tidbit I have heard from my small group leader is "this is just a season." And though being a stay at home mom is a LONG season, it is still just a season. Someday, my kids will grow up, move out, and have their own lives, and I will no longer be doing these same things. But for some reason, since this is what I do, I try to find satisfaction, worth, and control in this role as wife, mother, homemaker. I feel happy and joyful when my house is clean, the dishes are done, my kids aren't crying, I'm dressed, showered, and on my way out with a fully packed diaper bag. But if my kids are fussing, I look a mess, my house is a disaster, and the dishes are piling up, I tend to feel like my worth as a homemaker is lost. I feel I have failed, and the things I'm suppose to be doing, I'm not doing well enough. In other words, my role is temporary. I can't find my entire worth and fulfillment in a temporary role that is just part of my life and who I am.

I find myself playing the comparing game. Comparing to other moms, other bloggers, other single people, other people with more discipline, other skinnier, prettier moms, etc. Its' not a good path to be on.

But lately, I think God has been trying to show me that my identity must be in Him. Though my role defines what I do from day to day, it doesn't define who I am. Who I am is a child of Christ. A sinner saved by grace who daily needs the Lord (and needs to start seeking His face daily) to get through my tasks as homemaker. A servant who must seek to glorify the Lord in every small area of my day. A daughter of Christ who should not only be seeking Him intentionally in my day, but also throughout my day through prayer, singing, the way I speak to my kids, the things I think about, thinking of how I could better serve others, and seeking joy in the menial things that seem to make no difference.

So things that I want to fight against:

1. Lack of joy in being a homemaker (Psalm 92:1-2, 1 Thess 5:16)

2. Comparing myself to others (1 Samuel 16:7, Deut 5:21)

3. Seeking fulfillment in my role (Philippians 1:9-11, 1 Thess 5:23, Ephesians 3:14-19)

4. Not daily seeking God and remembering that my purpose in life is to glorify Him, not find fulfillent in anything else (Colossians 3:2, 17, Philippians 3:20, 1 Thess 5:17, Ephesians 5:19-20)

This is a big lesson to me. If I would spend my day seeking out opportunities to serve the Lord instead of trying to find fulfillment in a clean house, happy kids, and a life that looks like it is perfect, I would have better, more fulfilling days because God would always be the One who was filling me up to overflowing with Himself. I can't get that kind of joy from clean floors and momentary happiness from my children.

Moms: Be challenged. We might be called (and it is a big calling!!) to this life for a season, but it does not define who we are!! I am first and foremost a child of God, and I should live in a way that is constantly trying to bring Him glory.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in you inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

Friday, April 16, 2010

Second Jobs, Springtime, and Ice Cream for Dinner

Is this what you usually think of when you think "second job?" Well, this isn't what I would think of either, but I'm not Tad. I usually wouldn't think of the things he conjures up. But when our family needed some extra income, for some reason, this is what he thought of. And for those of you who don't know, this is called a rickshaw. And it will only work in a big city, not some small town with dirt roads. You could try it, but you might get some stares. Tad gets stares too.

So, for his first day on the job, he worked the Cubs game, taking rowdy fans from the game to their car, a restaurant, or back into the city. That night, he came and got Maddy, Judah, and I and rode us to Moody Church, where Maddy had Cubbies that night (AWANA). She loved it!! She was telling random kids at the park that day that she was going to Cubbies in a Rickshaw. I'm sure they had no idea what she was talking about!

Usually, on Wednesday nights after we drop Maddy off, Tad and I have a date night. So he rode us up to some gardens by the zoo and dropped down a blanket and we had our date night, with Judah in tow!! It was so nice to talk and watch the sunset, and play with Judah!! I wore him in the front pack in the rickshaw, and it was nice to spend time just the three of us!! Welcome to date night, Judah!!

We then headed back to Moody Church and picked up Maddy (still wearing her Cubbies vest), and had a little joy ride before heading home where Tad dropped us off and then headed out for some more fares!! Only in Chicago!!

Our March and April have been uncharacteristically warm, and we have soaked up every minute!! We have started our days outside in the sun much earlier this year, and we are so thankful!! It was a long winter inside with 2 little ones, and we are enjoying the daily dose of fresh air and sunshine!! Tulips are springing up all around the city and this pic was taken right outside Borders on Michigan Avenue, by the Watertower (for those of you who know Chicago!!)

One night while Tad was at work, I decided to take the kids to Oz Park, and pack a dinner to have a picnic in between playing on the big wooden playground. I promised Maddy we would have ice cream for dessert!! Well when she had to go potty pretty early into her time at the playground, we headed over to Dairy Queen to use the restroom, but didn't want to go in and not buy something. So needless to say, we had ice cream before dinner, and it ended up being our dinner!!! A fun time for us!! Judah enjoyed it too, even though he didn't get any ice cream (though Maddy was insisting that he wanted some!!)

We LOVE Chicago in the Spring!!!

Spicy Chicken Pizza (That's not really spicy)

You have to try this pizza!! Ok, you don't have to, but if you want tasty, easy, cheap, and simple, then you probably should!! It's so easy, and pretty much only 6 ingredients. You can switch things up, adding different toppings that you like, or change ingredients to make it healthier. Whichever way you do it, it's really tasty!! First, you cut up the chicken into cubes and cook until it is no longer pink.
Then, after cutting up 1/2 a red onion and a whole medium sized sweet red pepper, or really any color pepper you wanted, you saute them in a pan until tender.
Then set both the chicken and the red pepper/onion combo aside, for now.

Then, you take a 10 oz. package of refrigerated pizza dough out of the can and spread it on a baking sheet (15x10x1 in), pinching the sides to form a crust. Pour some mild picante sauce over the dough, and spread around as the sauce(this is what the recipe calls for, but you can really use any kind of salsa, mild, medium, or hot. I used a kind that was actually called "picante" sauce, but it is the same thing. Or if you want to get interesting, you could choose a different flavored salsa to add some kick!"). Top with the chicken, onions, peppers, and cheddar cheese. Again, you can play around with the ingredients topping it with your choice of cheese, using whole wheat pizza crust, etc. It's all up to you!!

Then, after placing into a 400 degree oven and waiting 13-18 minutes, depending on your oven, and when the cheese is melted and crust is golden brown, remove and breathe in the southwestern goodness you just created in a very short amount of time. It's fast, easy, and only 6 ingredients, some of which you probably have on hand already!!! Hope you enjoy!!!
Spicy Chicken Pizza
2 tsp. cooking oil
12 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Nonstick cooking spray
One 10 oz. package refrigerated pizza dough
1/2 cup bottled mild picante sauce
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar (2 oz.)
Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
305 Calories
Total Fat: 9 g
Carbs: 34 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 21 g
This recipe was taken from American Baby magazine. April 2007

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Source of Sanity

Good Morning, Beautiful.

Coffee has really been there for me. It has taken on many different roles over the years in my life. In highschool, I didn't really have a taste for coffee. Coffee shops had just begun to spring up around the Ohio area, and I didn't know a thing about what they sold, and why they started to be so popular. Then when I was about 15, I applied to work at a Gloria Jeans Coffee shop in the mall. This is when it all started. When you learn about all the coffee drinks, and then have all-out unrestricted access to them, including your own Gloria Jeans coffee mug in which to make them, you become accidentally, hopelessly, crazy addicted.

I would come home from my shift and my mom would ask how much I had drank, or how many chocolate covered espresso beans I had eaten. On my days off I would have to check myself into rehab to make it through without my 2 or 3 white mochas complete with 2 shots of espresso each. Or pop plenty of advil.

And so the lifelong caffeine addiction began.

The smell of coffee beans. Of coffee being ground. Walking past a Starbucks. Waking up in the morning. Getting up early. Guests over for dinner, and dessert. Meeting a friend to chat. Date night. A walk pushing the stroller. All these things scream COFFEE for me.
I then moved to Chicago for school and my senior year worked at another Gloria Jeans coffee shop. More addiction. More free coffee. More addiction. New favorites. Old favorites. More addiction.

Coffee has walked me through life. Life in highschool with one job and homework. Then onto 3-4 jobs in between highschool and college. Coffee was HUGE in college through those endless sleepless nights. The French Press stood proudly in my dorm room, getting used constantly. I think it broke. Then on through my first pregnancy while working and going to school (sorry Maddy, your addiction has been explained!!). And now as a mother with 2 small kids, especially a newborn, with back to back sleepless nights and feedings, all while entertaining a toddler with more energy than I have in a week, I continue to run to coffee, my oldest, dearest friend.

There is just so much I could say. I love French Press coffee (pictured above.) If you love coffee and you haven't experienced this kind of coffee, I suggest you buy a French Press and discover what you are missing. The coffee is ground more course, measured into the bottom of the French Press, gets boiling water poured over it, and then the strainer sits on top for a few minutes. You then push down the strainer and should get a creamy gold colored film on the top, proof that you have made the perfect kind of French Press coffee. This coffee is so much better (if done right) to regular coffee.

This label, this brand, this name has brought me so much grief. And debt. I can't walk by without breathing in deeply the smell of my favorite drink, an iced caramel latte, or as I've been corrected lately, an iced caramel macchiato since I like the caramel drizzled on top as well. After all those years at Gloria Jeans, I have become a Starbucks brat. Sorry Gloria.

So after studying coffee, telling others about coffee, sampling coffee, being a college student, and a tired mom, that gives me the right to have some working knowledge of good coffee. So I will compile a small list of some of my favorites for you. Enjoy!! And for petes sake, go get yourself a cup of coffee!!!!

Starbucks: Iced Caramel Macchiato

Gloria Jeans: White Mocha (iced or hot)

Dunkin Donuts: Plain 'ole coffee (with any addition of flavoring)

McDonalds: New Caramel Frappe

Caribou Coffee: Caramel High Rise, Mint Condition

Coffee to buy for home use: Trader Joe's (any brand, theirs is awesome!!), Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks (love the packaged stuff, but brewed in store - YUCK!!), Gloria Jeans (anything is good, really!! especially White Russian, Pumpkin Spice (in the Fall), and French Vanilla).

There is so much more I could say, but I'm exhausted and have a dirty kitchen and house that needs tending to. If you have any other good suggestions for coffee, please comment!! I'm always open to trying better and new stuff!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Easter 2010!!!

(Maddy and Judah, Easter Morning)

Does it get any cuter than this on Easter??? This mom of two says, "No!!!"

Easter baskets!!! Maddy was so excited about Tinkerbell and her candy, while Judah loves his new soft Easter bunny!!!

Maddy got to wander around the living room looking for both her and Judah's Easter baskets, as well as colored Easter eggs and plastic eggs filled with candy. She needed some extra obvious hints to find them all :)

Sipping her hot chocolate on the way home from a coffee shop in Chicago!

We made these Rice Krispie treat egg things dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. Emphasis on the chocolate.

Judah loving on his new bunny. He is so cute by the way!! His little laugh will make you melt!

(Emphasis on the chocolate!!!)

So pretty!!

Thanks for taking a picture journey through our Easter weekend!!! Hope you all had a glorious day and enjoyed the weather!!! It is fun beginning to show Maddy the meaning of Easter and talk through things with her. She is asking more and more questions, and she knew her verse from AWANA this week, "He is not here, he is risen!!" She is very excited about this, and says it with emphasis with her hands up in the air! The "Why did Jesus die?" questions are a little bit harder to put into 3 year old terms, but we are doing our best!!!

Hope the grandparents get to gander at this post! Their grandbabies are growing up so fast!!!

Happy Easter and Spring!!!

Everyone Needs a Best Friend

This is my best friend, Liz. Many of my friends here in Chicago don't know her because she is my friend from back home in Ohio. We met when we were 15 when she started going to the church I grew up in. She started in youth group, and that's where our friendship began. It was not, however, love at first sight. But after some minor misunderstandings to start off our friendship, we have been the best of friends ever since.

There really aren't words to describe our friendship. If you have a best friend, you know what I mean. You really just don't find a deep connection and bond to every friend that you have, even if you get along perfectly. We have been through thick and thin, good times and bad, exciting times, painful times, living far apart (like the last almost 8 yrs), different life choices, and different backgrounds. One phrase that has not left our friendship is, "I'm on your side." It became an inside joke, not that we always did the smartest things, or did the best thing in every situation, but that phrase always meant that no matter what you do, I'm always behind you.

We have worked at a coffee shop together, gone on vacation, visited each other in different states, stayed at the Ritz, been in youth group, gone on road trips, gone on double dates, gotten close to each other's families, stayed at a resort, babysat together, overheated someone else's car on a roadtrip, slapped some sense into each other, pleaded for advice, had each other's back.

Everyone needs a friend like this. In life, things change. But to have someone who always has your back no matter what the time or circumstance and who will always there - priceless.

If you looked at us now, you might say that we wouldn't be friends based on our circumstances and who we are as people. We are quite different- single and married, living in Ohio and Chicago, working and a stay at home mom, a nanny and a mom, from a big family and a small family, homeschooled and Christian school, etc. etc. etc. But there is nothing that will keep us from being best friends forever. And though that sounds cliche, it's true for us because nothing has been able to break our 12 year bond.

So Liz, I love ya, I'm so glad for all our crazy, fun times together, and excited to see how our lives continue to be different but merge together in our friendship. Thanks for a great trip this past week!!! Until next time!!!