Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before I write this post, I feel like I need to give a little disclaimer first. Valentine’s Day is one of those minor holidays that always seems to ignite a lot of strong feelings on whether or not it needs to be celebrated. I just want to put it out there that I believe everybody has a right to celebrate or not celebrate any of these holidays and you don’t need to judge everyone in the opposite camp. I personally think there’s a lot of drudgery in life and want to make occasions like Valentine’s Day special for my family. Why not give my kids another day filled with special memories? I always feel like I need to apologize to the rest of the world when I post pictures on days like this. Well, I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m not trying to brag or make anyone feel guilty. I just like to make days special when they can be. And gift giving is my love language, so all of these minor holidays are guaranteed to bring gifts. Deal with it. 🙂

IMG_0497 breakfast

I decided to make festive cinnamon rolls for breakfast. They don’t look that appetizing!! I bought myself pretty long lasting carnations last week, before the stores got flooded with roses. I’m not a fan of roses.

IMG_0498 roll

Caden was excited about breakfast. Shepard wouldn’t eat it because the frosting wasn’t white.

IMG_0499 techy

Caden checking out my Valentine present. (More on this later.) He’s seriously so much more tech savvy than me already. It’s kind of ridiculous. In first grade his teacher said that he was the classroom IT guy and was always fixing everyone’s problems.

IMG_0500 tree

Our Valentine tree with gifts!

IMG_0502 tree

I love giving gifts. LOVE IT. I tried to contain it to one thing each, but then I saw some really great puzzles at Barnes and Noble last week and the piles expanded a bit.

IMG_0506 school treats

My day at home was spent working on St. Patrick’s Day dolls to try and restock my inventory. I really should have just taken this week off of work because I have way too much else I should be doing to get ready for the weekend. But…I love to create! Here are the boys showing me their school treats. I thought it was really cute that Caden’s class went into Shepard’s class to pair up and read the younger kids all their Valentines. Caden chose to be Shepard’s partner.

IMG_0508 cake

I made a flourless chocolate cake for our fancy dessert. So yummy.

IMG_0509 issy face

Shepard’s really into kissing and making kissing faces lately.

IMG_0517 i love you

Reading me the card he made us. 🙂 My kids never verbally say “I love you,” but Shepard is constantly writing it on pictures for us that he makes at school.

IMG_0523 new happy space

My compacted cozy space in the living room! I thought I’d continue to be the only one using this area, but now that the Legos are in the room, it’s like the rest of my family finally realized this room exists. Caden was curled up reading on the futon all last night.

IMG_0526 evil eye

Jack giving me the evil eye.

IMG_0529 family

Annual family Valentine picture. I guess my kids have graduated past cutesy holiday shirts. But they did wear red!

IMG_0537 family

IMG_0552 pokemon books

Present time! I gave Caden the next box of books in the Pokemon series he loves.

IMG_0564 lego set

Shepard got a lego set. He loves the creator sets.

IMG_0572 pairs

I gave Greg the card game Pairs – The Name of the Wind edition. We both love The Name of the Wind series.

IMG_0574 ruler

Also a lego ruler. Because he’s always looking for rulers and he loves legos. Ha!

IMG_0579 hot tamales

And a 4.5 lb bag of Hot Tamales, his favorite candy.

IMG_0584 laptop

Let me just preface this by saying laptops are not in the Valentine budget lol. But Greg recently won this at work and surprised me with it early this morning. I was pretty shocked! I’ve never had a laptop and I’m really looking forward to getting some use out of it! It was really sweet that he chose to give it to me instead of selling it to pay for some gaming things he’s been wanting. It was definitely an unexpected, but really awesome gift!

IMG_0585 pasta

We had Valentine pastas and garlic bread for dinner. Simple, festive.

IMG_0586 strawberries

And finally, some chocolate covered strawberries because no Valentine’s Day is complete without them! After dinner we cuddled up and watched half of the first Narnia movie because they just finished reading the book. It was a really great day!

Now time to make some cocktails and settle in for the rest of the night. I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day as well!

Sunday Intentions

Well, I have some good news for once – I actually feel like I accomplished as much as I set out to last week! I had a big list of custom orders that needed to be done and I finished them all. I didn’t have many (or any?) other sales, but it also occurred to me just how low my inventory is right now. I think it’s just impossible to catch up to where I want to be with my workload. But I’ll keep working on it. Maybe next school year I’ll finally hit my groove with the work at home/life at home balance!

I also implemented a Self Care Wednesday this week! There’s been all this random shopping I’ve really been wanting to do. No regular errands, just fun things for myself. I actually ended up going Wednesday and Friday because Friday required a few necessary errands. I wandered around Ulta and looked at so much makeup. I even found a new lipstick brand and style to brighten my week. I tried on clothes at Kohls and found a pair of $10 jeans that actually fit and I liked. I went to Barnes and Noble – TWICE – to find more books to add to my list. I meandered JoAnn’s and found some fabrics and supplies for future projects. It was all very leisurely, mostly browsing, but really just a lot of fun.

I feel like I had a good amount of family time this week too. The boys were off of school Monday, so we ran a few errands and then went to lunch with my mom for her birthday. We worked on Valentines together and went to a rec department button craft night. Greg and I had our usual tv nights and a quiet at home date night. And we all spent the day together in Chicago yesterday. We also spent all of today working together to rearrange the house. Lots of family time this week.

And as an awesome bonus for the week – Greg finished our taxes AND he bought and installed our new toilet. No more fighting over the one toilet every morning!

So looking ahead to this next week – it’s a big one! Valentine’s Day and Shepard’s birthday and two birthday parties. Lots to get done in the next few days!

First Priority: Finish Straightening Up the House!

I’ve really wanted to get a Lego area set up in the house again. I can’t even remember why Greg moved them to the basement in the first place a couple months ago. At one point he was thinking about setting up a play area down there, but then we had all of our water emergencies. Between the constant thawing water trickling through and the pretty low temps down there, it just couldn’t happen. But I had already rearranged the family room to give him a desk/office area, so the Legos didn’t have anywhere else to go. We finally tackled that puzzle today, which led to basically rearranging every room on the main floor of the house.

We ended up moving one of my big bookshelves from the living room into my sewing room. And redistributed everything I had in that space into new spaces. Which in turn meant I had to reorganize everything in my sewing room. But now the Legos are set up in the living room. I think I’m going to take some real time to readjust to this. The living room was the one room I could always count on to be clean, peaceful, and pretty. Nobody had any reason to be in here except me and I loved it. I gave that up today for a mess that’s guaranteed to NEVER be cleaned up again. I figured it was for the greater good and a sacrifice I could make. I’m not the only one that lives here, after all. But when Greg said he plans on using the window seat as the spot to display all the finished sets….yeah, I couldn’t really swallow that one. 🙁 Goodbye picture perfect peaceful room. I guess my concession is that we were able to move the family room back to the way we had it, so it doesn’t feel too cramped and overwhelming. And without any Legos in that room, it’s hopefully easier to keep clean. Then all our rooms can be half clean, half messy…

Anyway! I need to find a rug for our new Lego area. Hopefully a rug that can strictly be enforced as the only portion of floor Legos are allowed on! I also need to do some major kitchen cleaning and bedroom cleaning before the weekend and Shepard’s parties hit.

Second Priority – Valentine’s Day

So Valentine’s Day isn’t a HUGE holiday, but we do like to celebrate. It’s fun to always find reasons to celebrate! I’m hoping we can have a nice family night on Tuesday. I’m going to make heart shaped ravioli and pasta for dinner, with a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. I also have small gifts for each of my boys. My goal for the week is to feel prepared, calm, and open to just enjoying the night together. I’m also hoping if the boys go to Grandma’s this week sometime, Greg and I can get a real date in.

Third Priority – Shepard’s 6th Birthday!

I’m a little nervous about birthday festivities this year. I feel like every single year I go so out of the way to make Caden’s parties awesome. And Shepard’s always feel like an afterthought. I finally planned out some food, but I have nothing that fits his Mario theme. He wants sundaes for dessert, so I won’t even have a cake to decorate. This is also the first year that he’s having a friend birthday party. AND the first year we’re having a party on his actual birthday. I definitely wouldn’t have ever done that if I could have found a way out of it. But with it falling on a Saturday, this is just the only way it could be done. Before party mode is always super hectic and stressful around here, but I want to try soooo hard to avoid that this time since it is his actual birthday. My perfectionism mode needs to go away on Saturday and just let things go. The house will probably be a bit messy. But the party is only two hours and we’re only eating one food. We’ll survive. And then his family party is on Sunday. He’s pretty easy to please, so I’m sure it will all go smoothly.

And if in between all of that I can have time to sew and build up my inventory – that would be AWESOME. But I can’t depend on it. Today was supposed to be my big work day this week. And then I spent the entire day rearranging and reorganizing. 🙁 So we’ll see what happens.

Finally, no meal plans yet this week. I’m so sick of making dinner, you guys. I’ve been sick of it for months. There doesn’t seem to be any meal anymore that everybody likes. And making a meal knowing one person is going to complain through all of it – it takes all the fun out of cooking. So we’ll just see what comes to me at 4:30 every afternoon!

Have a good week!

Mixed Feelings

Caden Reading

This is a post about our trip to Chicago yesterday. But it’s also a post about parenting a challenging child and all the yucky feelings that come with it. Words that will surely backfire on me and make me even more unpopular with my extended family, but I’m going to say them anyway.

So. We went to Chicago yesterday to visit my sister-in-law Melissa and her boyfriend Andrew. They’re unable to come to Shepard’s birthday party next weekend and we haven’t seen them in awhile – or visited Chicago in a couple of years. Shockingly, the boys were great on the drive there. I expected nonstop whining and complaining the way they could barely handle the hour long drive to the Dells last weekend. But Shepard mostly just looked out the window and relaxed and Caden spent most of the drive reading the entirety of a book. A book we bought at a book fair earlier this week because I thought he’d like it. Even though at the time he was having a meltdown because “books are stupid! books are dumb! I hate reading!”

shepard card

Shepard got to open an early birthday present.

shepard open

A marble run – something he’s been saying he really wanted for the last few months because it’s his favorite thing to play with at school.

dog butt

Melissa and Andrew were dog sitting, so we had some fun doggy entertainment. 🙂

greg caden perni

Dogs always know I want them to try and convince Greg to be a dog lover! I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. But I’m still hoping to sway him. Dogs are the best and I fully intend on owning one some day.

After the apartment tour (which was adorable) and hanging out for a few minutes, we went to a restaurant down the street for lunch. Which is when Caden turned the switch from being eight year old well behaved child to monstrous whiny brat for most of the rest of the day. It always just takes one tiny thing to set him off and ruin a day. Yesterday it started because he wanted to sit in a big upholstered booth and there wasn’t enough room for all of us. So we compromised to a half booth, half table and he sat in the booth. But then he realized he wasn’t sitting by Daddy, which is basically the end of the world. Sometimes I worry about how unhealthy his obsession is with being by Daddy ALL THE TIME. So he switched chairs, but then threw a fit because he was in a chair instead of the booth side. I eventually switched with him. I didn’t give in right away because at some point in life he needs to learn he can’t always have everything exactly the way he wants it. But shame on me, because I held out too long and ruined him for the rest of the day. He pouted through lunch and didn’t eat anything. Then he said he felt sick from the car ride, which ended an hour earlier.

map

The only planned activity for our day was to ride the train to the Wrigley Field stop. Shepard’s never been on a train before and was really excited about it. So excited that he ran full speed into a crosswalk and came extremely close to being hit by a speeding car making a turn in front of us. Sometimes it blows my mind how completely unprepared my kids are for being in a big city, even for a day. I thought once we lived in town they’d at least know how to stop at intersections and look both ways before crossing the street. But they don’t have a clue. They run everywhere, they are constantly pushing and shoving each other, they never pay ANY attention to the potential dangers around them. It’s so stressful. And when we try to remind them to be more careful, or hold their hands, or grab them before they’re about to be hit by a car, they retaliate with anger and even more carelessness.

shepard train

We were only on the train for three stops, but Shepard was having the greatest time. 🙂 He talked nonstop about what he saw out the window. Then he decided to stand up and “surf.” I grabbed him multiple times right before he slammed into the man standing behind him, which I’m pretty sure he was completely unaware of. It was nice to see him having so much fun, though. He was pretty delightful the entire day.

cubs

champions

The weather was amazing yesterday. I think it was around 50 degrees and Chicago didn’t have any snow or giant puddles, like we have here. It was the perfect day for a leisurely walk around Wrigley Field. Except for Caden, who whined and moaned the entire time. He’s just not happy doing anything out and about. Ever. And he can never just quietly go along with things. He has to make sure everybody knows he’s miserable and he’s not going to be happy until we’re miserable too. This was almost our entire trip to San Francisco in October. He was pretty well behaved at the few big family events (wedding, rehearsal, dinners). So nobody could understand why we were having a pretty crappy trip overall. The reason? Caden. Always Caden, always making everything SO difficult. He never wants to do anything, he never wants to experience what the world has to offer, he never wants to enjoy himself. It makes vacations absolutely suck.

The worst part about him acting like that, especially when we’re on trips with other people, is that it automatically turns me into the mean mom. I have to be in mom mode all the time. I try really hard to do whatever my kids need to keep them happy in the moment. Like battles over food at restaurants? It’s not going to happen because it’s not worth the outcome after a fight like that. But when my kids start being absolute brats and treating everybody like crap? I can’t just let it slide. When Caden was younger it was a lot easier to excuse behavior like this and still have fun. But he knows better now. And that makes everything worse.

printer

We were walking around Wrigley Field and there was a fan shop with a man embroidering a jersey in the window. So we eventually went in and Shepard stood and watched.

penny machine

Grandpa and the boys had to get Cubs pennies. Noe’s are Cubs fans, if you haven’t figured that out yet. I’m not, but I don’t care enough to protest them, especially after everyone’s excitement over the World Series last fall.

new shirt

Shepard really wanted a Cubs shirt. He doesn’t have any, so I helped him look through the kids section. It was so cute how carefully he was picking through every shirt to try and find one in his size with a nice enough picture. He was so proud of his (Grandpa’s!) purchase that he had to put the shirt on immediately after we left the store.

train

Train ride back, Shepard is still enthralled.

dog pile

More doggy love. I never really understood the corgi obsession, but Perni was pretty cute!

marble run

We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out while the boys and Andrew worked on building the marble run.

silly

tall marble run

birthday cupcakes

And finally, an early birthday treat. I think Shepard had a fantastic day. 🙂

Fortunately, we were all so tired on the way back that the boys slept most of the way. I’ve never seen them so well behaved for six hours in the car – almost none of that actually playing tablet.

Anyway. Back at home now and having mixed feelings about another day that could have been really awesome, but was ruined – at least to me – by Caden’s attitude. He’s always been a challenging child and we’ve gone through many, many phases of him being violent and angry. But for awhile things seemed to be going pretty well. I thought he was finally growing up. And then days like this happen. And last weekend at the Dells in the game room. And almost every night when he has panic attacks over not having enough time to do whatever it is he wanted to do that night. His anxiety levels over everything are so high. It reminds me a lot of myself when I can’t get to the things I really want to do in a day. But I’m an adult and can usually contain my stress a whole lot better.

Caden’s been miserable with school the last few months. He actually got in trouble at school a couple days ago, for the first time ever. I don’t know what to do with him. And maybe this sounds terrible, but I hate how much I feel like his attitude and the way he’s been treating people, reflect directly on how clearly I must be failing as a parent. It can’t be true, at least not entirely, because Shepard doesn’t have these problems. He does have stubborn fits usually over food he doesn’t want to eat, but for the most part he’s a sunny and funny and delightful and caring person to be around. So two years later we’re doing things right with him? That doesn’t make sense. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like such a failure. And from feeling like other people must surely blame me for the way Caden acts. He’s my son, he has my genes, and sometimes he has a lot of my personality. Shepard has all the best of Greg’s personality and then some. Caden has all the worst of my personality and more. Therefore this continues to feel like it’s all my fault.

I could ramble on about this for a long time, but I’ll stop now. I just wish we could have more good days. Especially when we’re out with extended family. He feels comfortable enough to act the way he does at home with us. At least with friends or at school he’s a lot better at containing himself. I just wish people could understand how hard this sometimes feels. I feel very alone in these challenges and some days are just plain tough.

Crazy Fun Weekend!

20170203_172152 great wolf lodge

It has been a couple of crazy days! I thought about dividing this up into a couple different posts, but I’m just going to cheat and throw them all together into one big compilation of our fun weekend.

On Friday morning I picked up my goddaughter, McKenna, and spent the day with her while her parents closed on a new house. We went to see the movie Sing, which I really liked! Maybe I do like animated movies. 🙂 Then we had lunch at Monk’s, did a little grocery shopping, and I dropped her off at her new house and got to look around for a few minutes. I can’t wait to see it when they’re all moved in! It was fun to spend time with McKenna, though I think I need to do it more often so she gets more comfortable hanging out with me.

I had just enough time back at home to take a half hour nap before it was time to gather everything up for the Dells. Shepard had a cold this week and Greg and I bought caught it on Thursday. Caden caught it on Saturday. Of course, because vacations are always the best time to get sick. 😛 Anyway, we were going into the weekend a little worse for wear, but we made the most of it.

20170203_173545 fireplace

The Dells

For Christmas, Greg’s parents usually give the boys a weekend in the Dells as one of their bigger gifts. We really appreciate the experience gift and it gives us all something to look forward to in the long winter months. This year we checked out Great Wolf Lodge for the first time. We left right after school, had a quick dinner at Taco Bell, and then got settled into the hotel. Our rooms were gigantic and had nice fireplaces and sitting areas. The boys were ready to swim immediately after getting in the room. We all went down for a little bit and explored around the waterpark. Their favorite of the night was the family “hot tub,” which was more like warm bathwater. 🙂

20170203_193828(0)dippin dots

After some time in the water, we explored the rest of the hotel and stopped at the sweet shop to share a container of Dippin’ Dots ice cream. Greg had never had it before (or the boys), so his parents had to buy him some. 🙂

20170203_194636 bear paw

More exploring. I was about to keel over from cold induced exhaustion at this point. But we still had to stop at the game room!

20170203_200056 game room

Just a couple of games before turning in for the night.

20170203_203943 bedtime

Before we got to the game room, Caden was running really fast down the halls and he ran into one of those penny smashing machines. He hurt his arm pretty bad and wasn’t in the mood for any more pictures. Fortunately, they both fell asleep really quickly. It was adorable because after awhile Shepard kept trying to roll over and snuggle into Caden’s arm in his sleep. Caden would start stirring, Greg would get up and move him back to his side of the bed, and then he’d immediately roll back over to Caden. I couldn’t stop laughing. But it was also really sweet.

frog pond

Despite the late night, the boys and I were up before 6. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring some donuts on this trip, so we just ate donuts and played tablet/read for a couple of hours. Then we were back at the pool when it opened at 9. This little bridge contraption is always Caden’s favorite at any waterpark we go to. This time he was honing his skills on getting across without even touching the rope.

caden ball

waterslide

It’s kind of funny to me how we keep going to waterparks, but the boys are mostly just interested in actually swimming. They both LOVED the wave pool this time around. Wave pools freak me out after feeling like I was going to drown in one at Noah’s Ark as a kid. But of course super swimmer Caden kept going as deep as he could and never wanted to leave! Shepard enjoyed going down the lazy river tube slide a bunch of times with Greg, but other than that had no interest in the slides. So Greg and I decided to check out one of the milder slides together. It was pretty fun, but the line was too long to feel like it was worth going again.

20170204_123234a ll the tickets

After swimming, we went back to our rooms for a little while. Steve ran to Culver’s to get lunch to bring back to the hotel. As much as I love going to delicious sit down restaurants, simplicity really is the best when you’re in situations like this with kids. After we ate we headed back to the game room to use up the rest of our points. Caden had some sort of meltdown and went back to the room, so Shepard got to play all the rest of the games and claim the tickets.

ticket prizes

Without any prompting, he spent his tickets buying two of everything, so Caden could have prizes too. He really loved his new purple bracelet and Love ring. 🙂 He also bought a bunch of candy bracelets and tootsie rolls for Grandpa.

20170204_141416 greg and amy

The Ice Castles

It was time to check out of the hotel, so then we headed to our final destination – the Dells Ice Castles.

20170204_141442(0) ice castles

20170204_141521 blue ice

20170204_141556(0) greg and caden

20170204_142009 ice

20170204_142330 cool blue ice

These were definitely quite the thing to experience! It would have been a little more enjoyable if it weren’t so cold or crowded, but we all had fun. Shepard never wanted to leave!

20170204_142521 caden

20170204_143951(0) slide

20170204_144017 slide

20170204_144901 chute

Overall, it was a really fun trip. Thank you, Steve and Cindy! We all agreed that Great Wolf Lodge was our favorite of the waterparks we’ve visited the last few years. I’d definitely be okay with going back again someday.

IMG_0455 dips

Mom’s Birthday

Now on to today! Today we celebrated my mom’s birthday. She requested spinach dip, one of her favorite things I make. When my dad found out, he requested “normal dip.” So – both dips!

IMG_0457 brie

I had another brie in the fridge and some berries that needed to be used, so I made another batch of that brie from earlier in the week. Yummy!

IMG_0458 garlic cheese bread

Pull apart garlic cheese bread.

IMG_0459 potatoes

Roasted potatoes.

IMG_0460 chicken

And Cuban chicken with chimmichurri.

IMG_0464 gracie picture

Shepard drew a picture of Grandma’s dog Gracie saying “Please don’t disappear, Mom!” I have no idea what made him think to write those words. They were equally disturbing and hilarious! I like the dandelion he drew on the front.

IMG_0467 cadens card

Caden also drew a picture of Gracie. Apparently she’s the only of the three dogs that make an impression on the boys.

IMG_0473 new annie

I made her an Annie and pig set with some pig fabric she mentioned loving a few weeks ago. Timmy and Brittany gave her some coveted Lipstick Queen lipstick. Jealous!

IMG_0478 birthday cake

My dad brought a white raspberry cake from Carl’s Cakes for dessert. It was delicious!

IMG_0479 birthday cake

Shepard, the ham ball. He was trying to show off his “blue” lips after he tried on Grandma’s Hello Sailor Lipstick Queen lipstick.

IMG_0482 birthday cake

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sunday Intentions

And finally, my last segment of this very long post. My intentions for the week are pretty simple – WORK! Last week was fun and crazy, but I didn’t get any sewing done. Even though I almost never get custom orders, last week I got an onslaught of them. Sometimes I like custom orders because they make people happy. But most of the time they frustrate me because I don’t have any time to work on the things I really want to work on. Which right now is a lot! So I need to get those done so I can move on to other things. Next week will be full of Shepard’s birthday related things, so this is my one big work week of the month apparently!

Have a good week!

Valentine’s Party

IMG_0442 valentine

Last night I had a little Valentine’s party with my friends. My Favorite Things party in Christmas was so much fun, I wanted to have another event for friends to gather and laugh and eat and drink. I basically haven’t even seen most of my friends since the last party because it’s been so cold and icky outside. I missed them!

IMG_0447 fireplace

The theme for the party was cocktails and desserts. I wanted to try and keep it simple. For drinks we had a couple kinds of wine and I mixed up a big container of this Valentine Love Martini (with pineapple rum instead of malibu, and peach vodka instead of citron) – it was delicious!

IMG_0449 raspberry truffle

The main dessert was my award winning Raspberry Truffle cheesecake. I don’t think I’ve made it in three years! It was still tasty! And pretty. 🙂

IMG_0452 dessert

I also really wanted to use these mini parfait and dessert cups, so I made tiny strawberry shortcakes and butterscotch pudding.

IMG_0450 salty

I threw in a few easy salty snacks to combat the sweets. My mom also brought some nuts.

IMG_0454 brie

And finally some AMAZING baked brie. I can’t have a party without brie. 🙂 I think this was the best baked brie recipe I’ve tried. I ate all the leftovers for lunch today. So, so good.

Anyway, besides just the eating and drinking, I also asked everybody to bring a $5 Valentine gift to exchange, just because gifts are super fun. Everyone seemed to put a lot of thought into what they brought and it was fun to see what each person received. I gave three fancy chocolate bars from World Market, wrapped in red and pink wrappers. I received a cake mix, Valentine cupcake liners and toppers, and a really cute Valentine spatula. I also gave everybody a gift bag of treats I’ve spent the last few weeks putting together. I wish I could have a career making themed gift bags. I love it soooo much.

It was a great party! Relaxing and special and just a really great time to connect with people again. I think it might have to be another annual event!

Happy (very early) Valentine’s Day!

What I Read and Watched January 2017

Hello! I wanted to start a series this year summarizing what I read and watch each month. I’ve noticed some other blogs that do this and I really enjoy it. I’m always up for more recommendations of books, tv, and movies, so maybe you are too!

BOOKS

the edge of never

The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerksi
Rating: 4 stars

An interesting YA book that mostly takes place on a Greyhound bus. It’s about character development between the two main characters as they slowly get to know each other and inevitably fall in love.

the edge of always

The Edge of Always by J. A. Redmerski
Rating: 3.5 stars

The sequel is more about trials and challenges the couple faces after their whirlwind romance. It’s about loss and heartache, but ultimately sticking together and becoming stronger. Both books in this series were solid YA novels, though neither were un-put-downable.

a man called ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Rating: 3.5 stars

There was so much hype about this book. Everywhere. So many people absolutely adored it. I did not. I actually found the first 3/4 of this book to be very predictable and boring. I’d rate that portion of the book 2 stars, which is about the lowest I’ve ever rated anything. But I powered through and it got really touching and wonderful at the end. I’m not sure I actually recommend reading it, but if you’ve started, it’s worth finishing.

did i mention i love you

Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3 stars

A story about a girl who spends a summer with her dad and his new wife and 3 sons. Predictably, she falls for her stepbrother. Normally I’d like this story line, but I HATED the main male character. He was pretty much the worst teenage boy you can imagine. So it was a struggle to be invested in their relationship. And yet I kept reading.

did i mention i need you

Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3 stars

This follows the main characters a year later in New York for the summer. They’re a little more mature and likable, but there was just a lot of excess detail and drama that annoyed me.

did i mention i miss you

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3.5 stars

Another year later, the story of Eden and Tyler concludes. I liked the character development better in this one, though from the beginning of the series to the end, it’s truly hard to believe it’s the same boy turned man. This series really could have been condensed to a single book. Possibly two. Three was way more than you need.

the night bird

The Nightbird by Brian Freeman
Rating: 4 stars

This was my Amazon Prime pick of the month. I really enjoy reading the occasional psychological thriller, even though it’s not a genre I read regularly. This story was pretty fairly fast paced. The character development did not delve very deeply, but the story line was intriguing. Worth a read if you like psychological mysteries.

the sun is also a star

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Rating: 3.5 stars

Another book that was getting a lot of attention in my online circles. I’ve been trying to throw in a lot more popular and well talked about books in between my favored YA novels. This was the story of a teenage undocumented Jamaican girl on her last day in New York City, and a first generation Korean American teenage boy that met her that day. They have a worthwhile adventure together and ultimately fall in love, after spending the intense day together. I didn’t appreciate having that obvious deadline looming over the whole book. Why read something when you know they can’t possibly have a happy ending? But I’m glad I read it overall.

too late

Too Late by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 4.5 stars

Colleen Hoover is one of my all time favorite authors. Her books are intensely romantic and fast paced and addicting. This one didn’t disappoint, but it was also very dark and violent. The story centered much more around an abusive relationship than the romance between that woman and the undercover cop who was there to take down her boyfriend. It was certainly a unique story and I couldn’t put it down. But it also made me uncomfortable and sad to see a woman used in such a way, so I couldn’t quite give it her usual 5 star rating. If you like romance novels with legitimate and interesting story lines, though, check out some of her other books! Slammed is one of my all time favorites. November 9 is also really good.

MOVIES

lalaland

La La Land

When I first saw a preview for this movie I wasn’t interested at all. But after it won so many Golden Globe awards and people were talking about it all over the place, I decided to check it out. I thought it was a little bit slow going at times, but definitely a very uniquely put together movie. The ending really threw me for a loop and I wasn’t in a very good head space at the time to appreciate it. But it truly was a wonderful movie.

sing street

Sing Street

We just watched this the other night and I loved it! I’ll watch pretty much anything that takes place in Ireland or has Irish actors. I’ll also watch just about anything with singing in it. 🙂 It was a really sweet movie about a bunch of Irish teens that started a band to try and better their lives. I found it highly enjoyable.

storks

Storks

I’m not usually a huge fan of animated movies. But we were looking for something we could all watch together and this was new at redbox and looked cute. I really liked it!!

honey i shrunk

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Caden and I needed something to watch together on the day he stayed home sick. All he wanted to watch were Pokemon things, which I have ZERO interest in. So I found this on netflix. He was not impressed. But he did start “playing invention” that day, so it did help his imagination a little! 🙂

antman

Ant-Man

Another family movie night. My kids used to hate movies, but suddenly this winter it’s all they want to do, if video games aren’t an option. Greg’s been watching a lot of Marvel movies with them, and I tuned in for this one. I’ve seen it before, I like it. But it does have a whole lot of swear words in it, very worthy of it’s PG-13 rating. Oops.

TV

I watch a lot of tv because I can do it while I’m working on an abundance of hand sewing. With doll making there’s a lot of that. Greg and I usually watch one tv episode a night as well.

TV – By Myself:

  • Shameless – I started this maybe in November. I’m just about caught up with all seven seasons.
  • Grimm – The newest (and last) season just started a few weeks ago. Still love this show!
  • Bones – This newest (and also last) season recently started too. Always a good one!
  • New Girl – I stick with New Girl purely for Schmidt, Nick, and Winston. I can’t stand Jess. Seriously, so annoying. And most fake laugh ever.
  • Vampire Diaries – I think this is also the last season for this show. What am I going to watch next year?!
  • Quantico – Still hard to follow half of the time, but I like the second season more than the first. We used to watch together, but Greg got sick of it.
  • No Tomorrow – I just found out about and started this one on netflix. I don’t think it’s one of my favorites, but it’s cute and fun.

TV – Together:

  • The Affair – Still trucking along. I’m not really sure where this show is going. It’s okay.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Funny and entertaining and a little bit annoying. I’ve been irritable ever since Greg, my favorite character, left the show. I don’t like it as much as I used to.
  • Riverdale – This just started and we watched the first episode. I think we’ll like it!
  • The Flash – Always a favorite! Love that Barry Allen. 🙂
  • Arrow – Not so much a favorite anymore. But we can’t give it up.

I think that’s about it! With such a cold, icy, gloomy month there’s been a lot of book and tv consumption. I’d love to hear what you’re reading and watching!

 

Sunday Intentions

Well, I thought I was setting myself up for a pretty easy week with my intentions last Sunday. But I epically failed at all of it. I didn’t have any super meaningful experiences with my kids, I read maybe one chapter of Present Over Perfect, and I didn’t give myself a Self Care Day. It didn’t help that Caden was home sick on Tuesday (more of a mental health day I allowed him) and Wednesday was another snow day. I planned to have a self care day on Thursday instead, but I didn’t feel like I could afford to take a day off from everything I desperately needed to work on. Another messed up week and many more days of plans I made for myself that didn’t work out.

This next week is busy. Compared to how quiet our schedule usually is, this next week is insane. It’s a lot of really fun stuff, but I’ve been very stressed out over pulling it all together. Last night I was nearing panic mode over everything I needed to figure out and get done. But today I sat down and made my lists for each day and I know it’s all going to come together. And it’s going to be great, even if it’s not “perfect.”

Top Priority: HAVE FUN!

I’m getting my hair cut for the first time in six months tomorrow. I’m looking forward to actually having a reason to make an effort again.

I’m having a Valentine party with my friends on Wednesday. Desserts and cocktails. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with people after basically two months of not seeing anyone since my last party! Wisconsin winters are hard for the social life. There’s obviously some prep I need to do to get ready for another party, but it’ll be well worth it.

I’m spending Friday with my goddaughter. I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet, but I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. I kind of miss having fun filled weekdays with a kid. It should be a lot of fun.

Then Friday night and Saturday we’re going to the Dells with Greg’s parents as part of the boys’ Christmas present. After this cold and icy winter month, I’m really looking forward to actually doing something exciting and special with everyone. I know the boys will really love having a chance to swim again. It’s been too long since we’ve seen a pool!

And Sunday we’re having a birthday party for my mom. Which will also be a blast.

Second Priority: Cut Myself Some Slack

So that’s a lot of stuff on the calendar. With a lot of cleaning and food prep and packing and planning and wrapping in between. I’m basically assuming I will get no sewing done this week. I’m fortunate I can take these breaks when I need it! Even though a week without working kind of freaks me out. As I mentioned last week, I do a lot better when I stay very consistent! But LIFE is more important this week and I want to enjoy it.

Basically, I don’t want the details to stress me out. Usually I have ONE THING on my weekly schedule – Drumfit. Having things every day in a week sometimes terrifies me. But it’s also been a long and gloomy January, and I’m really looking forward to having some fun in the next few days. Connecting with people again. Seeing my kids laughing and running around without a video game in sight. Celebrating my awesome mom for her birthday. It’ll all come together and it’ll all be great. 🙂

Meal Plans

Monday – Chicken Fajita Soup (I might have said I was going to make this last week, but it never happened)

Tuesday – Valentine Ravioli from Costco

Wednesday – Party food!

Thursday – Probably leftover soup! Maybe pizza…

Friday – Dells

Have a good week!

 

Pizza Night

IMG_0439 pizza

Friday nights are a huge deal in our house. Because: PIZZA. I think we might have started having homemade pizza every Friday night as far back as four or five years ago. And now everyone is so highly invested in the tradition that I’m never allowed to deviate from it. Unless on the very rare occasion we’re not home on a Friday night. Then pizza is required to happen on Saturday nights. Greg and Shepard LOVE pizza. I like pizza, but I love knowing what I’m going to make every Friday for dinner. It’s amazing how much pressure it takes off me even having that one night’s meal planned every single week.

IMG_0380 dough

The majority of the time I use a crust recipe from The Everything Pizza Cookbook. There’s a basic crust recipe and then a bunch of variations. Each crust is supposed to make four pizzas, though I always divide it into three. Most of the time I use the basic crust recipe and add a tablespoon of some sort of Italian seasoning to give it a little extra flavor. Sometimes I add a lot of black pepper, or a cup of shredded cheese, or some fresh garlic. The possibilities are endless and it always turns out great. The dough is basically fool proof and can be ready in as little as an hour if I happen to forget to make it earlier in the day. But I have a pretty set schedule of making a new batch every three weeks and freezing the dough for weeks in between.

IMG_0382 olive oil

I think the most important necessity for making a good homemade pizza is having a pizza stone, pizza peel, and making sure the oven is hot enough to cook it properly. I set my oven at 475 and try to have it (with the pizza stone) heating up for at least half an hour before the pizza goes in. A few weeks ago we had a disaster when I wasn’t feeling well and took a late nap and then Shepard woke me up demanding pizza NOW. Even though I knew better, I put the pizza in way too early and ended up losing half of it when the uncooked dough flopped off the stone. It was not a good night!

IMG_0387 olive oil painting

While the oven is heating up, we roll the dough as big as we can possibly make it while still keeping it on the peel. This is usually Greg’s job. Then Shepard does his favorite task of brushing olive oil all over the crust.

IMG_0394 heavy handed cheese

We always line the edges of the crust with garlic salt and shredded parmesan cheese. Shepard doesn’t usually do this and has way too heavy of a hand with the cheese! Which of course he thought was hilarious.

IMG_0396 cheesy

That’s a lot of crust cheese.

IMG_0400 sauce dancing

I used to experiment with a lot of different sauces and toppings. I have at least three pizza cookbooks with many, many options! One time I made a pizza that had broccoli on it and Greg freaked out. And he loves broccoli. So in the last year we’ve kept a pretty strict rotation between Buffalo Bacon, BBQ Bacon, and Pepperoni. Except recently Shepard decided he no longer likes pepperoni, or any traditionally sauced pizza, which has limited us even more. I fear his wrath over not having one of his favorite pizzas more than I want to risk trying something different.

But for a couple of other ideas, one of my all time favorites is really simple: olive oil, mozzarella, fresh garlic, and honey. It’s not quite substantial enough to be a complete meal, but it’s so delicious. I’ve also tried white pizzas with an olive oil base, riccota, and a bunch of other white cheeses – also delish. Thai pizzas are one of my favorites, but Greg doesn’t like peanut sauce, so it’s something I’ve only made for myself at lunch. Peanut sauce base, cheeses, chilies, sriracha, and maybe a little fresh cabbage salad and peanuts to top it off – yum. I think maybe it’s time to dig through the cookbooks and try to switch things up every once in awhile. I’m getting pretty sick of our standards.

IMG_0410 sauce tasting

But back to tonight’s pizza and the one we make most often. Buffalo Bacon. I realize most people make Buffalo CHICKEN pizza, but having already made chicken to add to the pizza was an extra step I got really sick of doing. So bacon it is. We always use Shur-Fine buffalo wing sauce. Which costs about $1.30 at Woodman’s. I practically buy it in bulk because Shepard uses it on everything. I’m not generally a buffalo sauce fan, but it is good with pizza!

IMG_0418 bacon breaking

Since I can’t vary the actual pizza itself that much, I do a lot of experimenting with different cheeses. A lot of the time I do just use a mix of store bought shredded mozzarella, monterey jack, and occasionally provolone. Greg and I aren’t really fans of cheddar, so we steer clear of traditional pizza cheese mixes. I love adding fresh mozzarella, but I’m the only one that really likes it. I like shredding my own cheese so I have more options and less of that chalky stuff that comes on pre-shredded cheese. One of my favorites to add to buffalo pizza is buffalo jack cheese. I’ve also used buffalo flavored cheese curds. Tonight we used a mix of home grated mozzarella and jalapeno munster.

IMG_0420 testing the bacon

And we can’t forget the bacon! I try to remember to cook up a batch of bacon in the oven every Thursday or Friday during the day. You really can’t beat real bacon. But I always have a bag of store bought bacon bits in the fridge to use in a pinch. There’s one brand that makes peppered bacon bits that are especially tasty.

IMG_0434 thumbs up

The final step is a sprinkling of cilantro. Tonight we just used dried, which basically has no flavor. But for awhile there I was using a fancy container of already chopped and half dried – yet still super fresh and green – cilantro that I found also at Woodman’s. I should really buy another one because the flavor is there without needing to buy fresh cilantro every week.

IMG_0437 spice shelf

I carefully slide the pizza in the oven and then madly spend the next 8-10 minutes getting everything else on the table and finally thinking about what to give Caden, who won’t eat pizza. The pizza is done in 8 minutes if the oven was hot enough, 10 if it wasn’t. As you can see, we’re very dedicated pizza eaters because we have an entire shelf of spicy toppings. I really just like crushed red pepper. Greg usually has grated parmesan cheese and “Pizza” (found at Target). Shepard likes to experiment with everything.

IMG_0438 pbj

Caden used to love pizza and then a couple of years ago he decided he hates cheese. Unless it’s pepperjack… So no pizza for him. Or grilled cheese. Or cheesy garlic bread. He’s otherwise an extremely good eater, so we don’t really put up a fight about the cheese issue. As far as Greg’s concerned, that’s one less person we have to share the pizza with! Caden usually has peanut butter and jelly on Fridays.

IMG_0439 pizza

And there’s our pizza! It had a lot of bubbles tonight, which does not usually happen. But still good. 🙂 Hopefully this post satisfies the people who wanted to know more about our pizza tradition. In much less rambling detail, the crust recipe is below. Enjoy!

Basic Pizza Crust (Slightly adapted from The Everything Pizza Cookbook)

  • 4 1/2 (or two packages) tbs. active dry yeast
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Combine all remaining ingredients. Use a standing mixer with a dough attachment, but if you don’t have one you’ll have to knead by hand.
  2. Continue to knead bread for 5 minutes until the dough is slightly shiny and not very sticky. If you’re using a mixer it should come together as a ball, pulling all the remaining dough from the edges. Add extra water if it doesn’t seem to be mixing well enough. If it becomes too sticky, add more flour.
  3. Place dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 1-2 hours.
  4. Pre-heat oven with pizza stone to 475 degrees. Divide dough into three portions. Roll out one section of dough onto a cornmeal dusted pizza peel or pan. Top with ingredients.
  5. Let oven heat 20-30 minutes. Slide pizza in and let it cook 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it at the end. Pizza is done when the cheese is browning and bubbling. Enjoy!

My Favorite Podcasts: Part 2

It’s time for an update on my favorite podcasts! Last month I wrote a post about my current favorites as a new podcast addict. I’ve continued to listen to them throughout my day and have come across a couple of new favorites. I had to share!

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

This is one I definitely listen to every morning. Generally only one or two episodes a day, so I can let the message of each one really sink it. They’re usually only 15-20 minutes long, which I’m finding is my favorite kind of podcast. It’s frustrating when it feels like it takes me an entire day to get through a single episode of a longer podcast. Anyway, this one is by the famous happiness guru Gretchen Rubin and her sister, tv producer and writer Elizabeth Craft. On each episode they talk about a try this at home tip for boosting your happiness. They are all really interesting and useful. They also talk about other happiness related topics and end each episode with a happiness demerit and gold star for things that have happened recently in their lives. Overall it’s a really positive thing to listen to every day, and I think it would be the perfect fit for just about everyone. Most of my podcasts are more niche centered, but this one can be enjoyed by all.

The Lazy Sisters Podcast

I only started listening to this one a couple of days ago, but I’ve been totally binging it. This is a podcast between two sisters, Kendra and Hannah. They just have a conversation about various things, usually centered around pop culture. It’s highly entertaining and SO funny. I only hesitate to recommend it because there are only 26 episodes that end with “A Temporary Farewell” at the beginning of last October. I really hope they pick it up again as I’m sure to be finished with all of the episodes in a day or two! There’s also a Lazy Genius podcast put on by Kendra, that I plan on listening to too. Hopefully that’ll be a recommendation for next time!

Doughboys with Nick Wiger and Mike Mitchell

I’ve realized I really like listening to podcasts about food. I’m just about caught up with my favorite, Spilled Milk, so recently sought out another. Doughboys is a podcast where they review a different chain restaurant on each episode. They always have an extra guest and proceed to talk about the history of each restaurant, what they’re famous for, and then their experiences at each place. It’s funny and interesting, especially if you eat at a lot of chain restaurants! I’m not very far into this, but I’ve found it entertaining. The only downfall is that each episode is well over an hour long.

Well, I thought I had more to recommend and then I realized I jumped the gun and wrote about them in my last post! Besides these three newest I also find myself listening to Spilled Milk, The Popcast, and What Should I Read Next almost on a daily basis. My list of subscribed podcasts is still growing, so hopefully I’ll have more recommendations soon!

Sunday Intentions

It’s been another kind of weird week that has left me frustrated with myself for a lot of reasons. Shepard was sick – again, there was no school on Monday, school was cancelled due to ice on Tuesday, and there was a late start on Wednesday – so it was definitely an off week for having them in a regular routine. Greg was also home Tuesday for weather and Friday because we had yet another plumbing emergency. We had to get our sewer pipe snaked for the second time in five weeks. I also had some fun shopping planned for that day that I had to cancel, which always bums me out. Things always come up on the rare day I actually have special plans for myself. I ran my grocery errands on Wednesday, so I really only had one “normal day” this entire week and it’s hard to cram everything I want to get done in a week into a single day. I spent the earlier part of the week really excited about possibly going on an Ireland/Scotland trip later this year, and then the second half of the week bummed because I just don’t think we can swing it. It would be an irresponsible financial decision when we have so many other things we need to focus our money toward first this year. Like a new sewer line. In between all the chaos, I’ve felt very unmotivated to get any of my real work done and constantly frustrated with my inability to just sit down and focus.

So something needs to change this week. I need to be more open to changes in my schedule and personal agenda for one. I think I have gotten better at this in the last few months since sick kids and bad weather have made me cancel or postpone way too many of my plans. But I’m still internally very frustrated when I can’t go through with what I wanted to do on any given day. Being a mom is supposed to always be my number one priority, but it’s something I’ve really lost sight of as my kids have gotten older and more independent. I don’t want to lose them and our relationships because I’m always too busy with my own stuff.

Priority One: Kids

I’ve never been that great with sitting down and playing with my kids at home. I greatly prefer taking them out somewhere – anywhere. Going on walks or bike rides, having picnics at the park, spontaneous lunches at restaurants, checking out zoos and special places throughout the summer. I love doing those things with them, but have an extremely hard time focusing on them when we’re just sitting at home. And in winter months with horrible weather, sitting at home is basically all we do. I’d just like to be more open to finding the fun WITH THEM during these long months. Last night we had a movie night watching Storks and eating popcorn. It felt like one of the best things I did all week. The boys and Greg have tons of movie nights, but I’m usually doing my own thing. It felt very worthwhile to institute and follow through with it myself.

Priority Two: Self Care Wednesdays

This last Wednesday I saw a couple instagram posts about Self Care Wednesday. I love this idea! A couple of weeks ago I went and saw La La Land in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. It felt like such a luxurious treat! It might not always fall on a Wednesday, but I’d like to start devoting one day a week to doing something that really makes me happy. Maybe with that one special day to look forward to, I’ll have an easier time getting serious about work on the other four days of the week. I can think of all kinds of fun things I’d like to do to focus on self care. Movies, special shopping trips to stores I like to go to just for fun, a few hours walking around the antique mall, reading all day, working on a special sewing project just for myself. The list is pretty endless. I really want to enjoy my life beyond the almighty to do list, and this seems like about the easiest and most fun way to do it.

Priority Three: Read Present Over Perfect

I started this book last night and was shocked and overwhelmed to see everything I’ve been feeling these last few months right there in front of me on the page. I’m not alone! The author, Shauna Niequist, talked about how she made busyness and her to do list accomplishments an idol in her life. She talked about her frustrations with how her husband and kids were allowed so much leisure time and her work could never stop. Chapter after chapter was an EXACT replica to everything I’ve been struggling with so much ever since this school year started when my expectations for myself and my time grew to more than I can actually manage. So I’m making reading this book a top priority for my week. I can’t wait to see what she suggests for moving past this crippling mindset I’ve gotten myself stuck in.

Priority Four: Work

Alas, working is still part of my life now, and I can’t forget it! I started a batch of 24 ornament sized dolls the other day and I need to finish them. A batch of 24 is A LOT. But they’re my best sellers and I need to make them for every major holiday. I’m hoping on Monday and Tuesday I’ll be able to get these done and then on Thursday and Friday I can start something new. Maybe St. Patrick’s Day, maybe spring, maybe Easter. I just need to keep going. Whenever I take breaks I have a harder time getting started again. Consistency is key in this kind of work.

MEAL PLAN

Monday – Hot Dogs (I’m all about easy this week)

Tuesday – Tacos (I’ve been craving tacos like crazy lately)

Wednesday – Chicken Fajita Soup

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Buffalo Pizza

Have a good week!