Weekend Reflections 08.30.2020

We made it through the last week of summer! It was even a much more exciting week than usual because we went ON VACATION. I had a lot of complicated feelings this week, as I always do with the end of summer break. More so this year because our fall isn’t going to be anything like it usually is and I’m mourning that loss more than anything else that has changed in the last six months. But now that we’re two days away from school starting I’m a little more optimistic that we WILL survive this, no matter how hard it turns out to be.

To celebrate the end of summer and really just give everyone a much needed change of scenery, we rented an airbnb near Richland Center. It’s in the driftless area of Wisconsin which shockingly, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to before and it’s only about an hour and a half away. Maybe I went as a kid, but I don’t remember it. There aren’t many bigger cities in that direction, but the landscape is absolutely gorgeous. I loved our drive there on the curvy backroads. Taking car trips further than Madison or Beaver Dam feels like such a rare treat these days!

The first night we arrived after our normal dinnertime, so it was a bit chaotic trying to get everything unloaded and organized while I threw together a meal. I took a video in our first walk through of the house, but didn’t get a chance to take any photos before our stuff took over the place. It was SO beautiful, though. This was our first airbnb experience and it probably spoiled us for all others! Most of the house was on the main floor, but there was a loft area with a bunch of beds the boys could pick from. We thought Annie would sleep up there too, but she was scared of the slotted staircase. She seemed to move around a lot in the night, but spent most of them on the floor by our bed. She can’t usually go in our bedrooms at night, so it was a treat for her too.

After dinner we explored the 40 acres of land the airbnb was on. We didn’t actually end up walking around it as much as we anticipated because most of it was a huge valley. My ankle doesn’t do well on uneven ground and it was also crazy hot this week (at least MUCH hotter than all the other days this month). But Shepard went down to the trees at the bottom and then walked back up to the top on the side of the hay fields. There were a couple of small barns and sheds up on the property as well. It would have been an amazing place for Annie to run around (the reason dogs are encouraged to stay at this airbnb!), but we still don’t trust her off a leash. It was a little annoying to constantly be hanging on to her leash, but I’m really glad she was able to come with us.

Watching the sunrise has been one of my favorite things this summer, so I was really looking forward to watching it over the hills. Unfortunately, it rained the first night and was very cloudy the second night, so neither of the first two sunrises were that beautiful or exciting (the third morning was much prettier). BUT it was really awesome being able to just be outside and walk around in my pajamas – and silence – not worrying about anybody seeing me. That’s one thing I really, really wish we had at our house. Some sort of outdoor space with actual privacy.

You guys don’t even want to know how many photos of the sunrise I took for the two hours I was outside each morning watching it (lol). Shepard was with me for most of the time too trying to catch his own sunrise photos.

My main regret about this trip was that it turned out to be so hot. Which was obviously out of my control. But after such a beautiful August it was really disappointing to deal with the overwhelming heat when we wanted to be out exploring the area every day. It would have been nice to have lazy mornings and go out later in the day, but we needed to get out of the house as early as possible if we wanted to do anything. On Tuesday morning we found a really neat hiking trail at a county party and then we stopped at a bunch of parks with bridges in Richland Center. We attempted to walk a more scenic trail too, but it was a pretty bizarre place and we couldn’t figure out where to actually walk. It was also in the thick of the woods going up pretty steep hills. We gave up on that one. The boys were great for a few hours, but got pretty crabby by lunch time. We picked up some food from a takeout restaurant, ate in the car in a parking lot, and then went back to the house to relax the rest of the afternoon.

There were a lot of fun places to lounge around in the house! Both of these chairs were in the “porch.”

On the second night I made tacos for dinner. The owners stopped by to tell us some more about the property and they gave the boys a ride in their new vehicle across the fields. They also dropped off a big plastic sheet to use as a slip n slide by the barn. After they left we ran back into town to the same place we had lunch to get some ice cream. Then we made a fire, though it was so hot nobody except Greg lasted very long. The house also had a huge bathtub, so I enjoyed a bath that night.

The second morning’s sunrise was pretty uneventful until the sun actually came up and it was such a cool neon pink color. Of course that didn’t translate in my photo, but it was really pretty to see in person. Shepard was fascinated by it.

I didn’t take many photos because it was just so hot, but we went to the Kickapoo Valley Nature Reserve on Wednesday morning to hike a few trails. We kept trying to walk toward a river and dam, but we never ended up finding it. Shepard and I gave up on one of the trails because the uneven and wet grass pathways were really getting to my ankle and Shepard just couldn’t handle being in the heat any longer. We were closer to Viroqua by then so we stopped at a grocery store that sells a lot of local foods and I went in to quickly explore and pick up some local cheese, meat, cookies, crackers, and coffee. Then we found another county park to have a picnic lunch at before heading back to the house.

After a quiet afternoon we set up the slip n slide and the boys tried it out for a few minutes. It wasn’t really that long, but it was nice to see them having fun with something outside. Then we ordered Chinese takeout and went to eat it at another park. It was so good!

On our last night we watched a movie together and then went out for some dusk yard games (for the boys) and photo shooting (for me).

I finally got a really pretty pre-sunrise on Thursday morning. The sky was so pink! Annie and I both sat down to watch it for a really long time.

Our last morning was more relaxed since we weren’t rushing to head to another park. I walked around a lot more outside taking pictures and then got everything gathered and tidied up.

It definitely wasn’t a perfect vacation – those don’t really exist when you have kids. But overall, it went better than I had expected. The super high temperatures really sucked. The internet wasn’t that great and caused a lot of extra tension with the boys and their devices. But it was still awesome just to get away from home and realize we really can have exciting moments and stay safe in the midst of this never ending pandemic lifestyle. I’m glad we took the boys with us on this trip, but being in even closer quarters made me really, really wish I could go on a trip by myself. Maybe even back here! I loved it so much there and would definitely go back again.

We took a little side trip on the way home to ride the Merrimac Ferry. It’s just a couple minutes across the water, but a fun experience! Annie was a little concerned about what was going on, but Shepard enjoyed standing with half his body out of the sun roof watching as we crossed. It was a nice ending to the trip!

Friday was back to reality. I still couldn’t get back to biking because it was storming, then I had to get groceries, and then we had to pick up virtual learning supplies from school. I was pretty stressed out because we’d been bombarded with new school information all week and I finally had a chance to sit down and go through it all. I’m definitely worried about how it’s all going to work out – especially since it seems like Shepard might be working more independently and Caden will be livestreaming his teachers in the classroom all day. Their learning styles would probably benefit better with the opposite teaching methods. They also might end up having very mismatched schedules and workloads, which is going to cause a lot of problems between the two of them (and therefore all of us). I hope it turns out pretty evenly, but it’s definitely too early to guess.

The highlight of my Friday, though, was sitting down by myself (Greg even took the boys out of the house for awhile) with popcorn, tea, and a candle to watch a live Pen Pals podcast show. There was a different podcast show I was looking forward to watching earlier in the week too, but it didn’t work out with the poor internet connection at the airbnb. So I was extra excited about this one and it turned out to be SO enjoyable. It was great to have that special thing to look forward to, even though I didn’t have to leave the house for it. It was a fitting treat at the end of a pretty rough emotional day.

I spent about three hours on Saturday morning cleaning Shepard’s room. I’ve been harping on the boys all month about getting their rooms cleaned so they can work better in a tidy environment. Of course nobody actually listened to me. I knew I’d finally have to give in this weekend and just do it myself. Greg and Shepard did help after awhile and we got it cleaned up. Now to keep it that way! Greg and Caden worked on his room this morning, but it wasn’t as bad. I intended on helping, but I’m just so tired of cleaning up messes that aren’t mine that I bowed out. To write this. 🙂

It wasn’t a terribly exciting week for food. I was going for the easiest meals I could think of on vacation just to make my life easier. But at home before and after I made four mini pizzas to use up random ingredients, jalapeno popper grilled chicken, Caribbean jerk grilled chicken, four different types of grilled meats and potatoes, my favorite migas tacos, a tiny brie from the shopping trip, gluten free banana muffins, and guacamole.

The garden really exploded this week. I picked a bunch of tomatoes and peppers on Sunday and made a couple batches of salsa before we left. Then I picked a lot more when we got home to make pickled jalapenos, guacamole, and I strung up some Thai peppers in my sewing room to try and dry them out to make chili paste in a few weeks. Hopefully that plan works because my little Thai chili plant has been by far the most prolific plant in my garden (besides the grape tomatoes – NOT my favorite) and I’m not really sure what to do with them other than add them to curries and stir fries. This morning I found my first mini pumpkin and accidentally picked it. Shepard and I planted SO many pumpkin plants. Only three or four of them actually grew, but I hope we’ll still have lots of mini ones pumpkins decorations in a few weeks!

No biking pictures this week! Greg took my bike to the shop last Saturday and then went to pick up my mom’s to borrow until it was done. I biked on it Sunday and Monday and then we packed it up to bring on the trip, but I never ended up using it. We really didn’t understand just how hilly and twisty the roads were going to be! I didn’t feel physically fit enough or safe enough to try it out. Plus it was just too hot. I was anxious to ride again by Friday, but then it was storming! And then my bike was done in the shop, six days earlier than they expected. So I really enjoyed getting back on it this weekend and look forward to many more beautiful morning bike rides before winter comes.

Because I was attempting to force myself to be on a true vacation this week, I haven’t done any sewing! But I did finally get out my embroidery supplies after years of not using them and made myself this rainbow. I finished a second one on Friday night. I have one more I’d like to complete before I get back to my dolls. I’m kind of antsy to get back to work, but I know as soon as I have them started I’m not going to be as openly ready to deal with any school related problems that might arise this week. So I’m trying to put it off a few more days. I’m not so sure I’ll make it!

I think that’s about it for this past week! I’m nervous about the week ahead, but I think I’m ready to tackle the challenge. At least more ready than I was a few days ago. I’m also really excited to get my fall decorations out and start enjoying my favorite season! I’ve been mentally pushing it off because fall means winter is close behind, but after how hot it was this week I am MORE than ready for the cool and crisp days ahead!

Weekend Reflections 08.22.2020

Is anyone else getting really sick of themselves? I feel like the longer I’m shut away in my house the uglier my personality is becoming. Mostly (fortunately?) my ugly parts are staying IN my head and not bursting out at the people around me. But it’s making me really dang sick of being in my head all the time. I keep finding myself fixating on choices other people have made that have literally nothing to do with me, but I don’t understand or necessarily agree with them, so I can’t stop wanting to argue my points, but also won’t actually do it because I can’t stand conflict or having people angry with me. I’ve been crazy resentful of the people who stopped caring about the pandemic or are willing to take a lot more risks than I am because it feels like they’re rubbing their freedom in my face. I envy everyone who has kids that are still excited about and up for outdoor adventures when I can’t even get my kids to go on a walk anymore. I cried for two days when I felt like someone had “stolen” one of my cancelled vacations even when I logically know that I have no claims to a vacation spot. The other night Greg went on his first bike ride of the year and rather than cheering him on I became irrationally upset when I saw that he not only beat my longest bike ride, but his speed was almost triple what mine usually is. It made me feel so stupid for being proud of myself and everything I’ve accomplished this summer. I’m so, so sick of all these ugly and icky emotions, but I can’t seem to rid myself of them. The things I’ve been using to distract myself don’t seem to be working anymore. I have way too much time to think and stew. I wish I could just turn it all off and be happy. Some days are just really, really hard.

Anyway! I didn’t mean to get so depressing there – sorry. It’s been a very up and down week, as usual. That’s just life, right? At least that’s what my therapist keeps telling me. 🙂 It was a double therapy week and I think both sessions actually went pretty well. We were extremely disappointed to learn that our first in person therapy with Caden was once again postponed and switched to virtual. The last session was such an epic failure that we almost cancelled this one. But he actually cooperated this time, better than he ever has before. Then I was able to get a last minute session in for myself on Friday, which I really needed after a lot of very difficult things happened this week. I talk a lot about parenting struggles with my therapist and this week she suggested an official diagnosis that she thinks might fit Caden, as something to look into. I did a little reading on it and it really sounds just like everything we’ve struggled with his whole life. Why did none of the other therapists ever suggest this as a possibility?? I’m hoping we can continue on with a professional psych evaluation, as his therapist suggested a few months back but hasn’t been able to happen yet with no in person sessions. It might really help us going forward to know more about what we’re dealing with and continue getting him the right type of help.

Tuesday was Shepard’s half birthday. We usually celebrate half birthdays in our house by letting the special person choose a restaurant or place to get a good dessert. They’re also typically allowed a little more freedom to do whatever they choose that day. I picked up a cherry kringle for his breakfast, but then Greg ended up taking him for the day to work/game at his parents’ house. I had planned to get takeout for dinner, but Greg took him out to lunch and after he had a migraine (the first in quite awhile) on Monday after eating so much crap over the weekend it didn’t seem very responsible to take him out again. Then we had another big blow up (not from him) and I ended up leaving and spending the entire evening sitting in my car at the cemetery reading. It was honestly a pretty terrible half birthday for him. Much like his actual birthday when we brought him to one of his favorite restaurants in the Dells, but he was instead very angry about the spontaneous change of plans. I used to be the kind of person that wanted to celebrate every little holiday, but they always seem to be set ups for disappointment these days. Better to just keep every day boring and predictable.

Most of my week was really just spent sewing! I’m going to be on vacation next week (more on that in a bit!), so I really wanted to get another restock in this week. I’m trying to pay off the bike I preordered, so I’m a little more pressured than I usually am to stay focused on being super productive. I pretty much worked sun up to sun down, but I managed to make nine dolls between Tuesday morning and Thursday night! They all sold right away on Friday, so that’s always a plus! I think I’m going to have to switch over to fall and Halloween dolls when I start up again next weekend. While I’m normally desperate for fall to come, I’m really dragging my heels this year. Fall means winter is right around the corner and winter means we will truly be trapped in our house. Fingers crossed we have a very late cold snap this year!

When I was really upset last weekend about all those ugly feelings I decided to think about what I could actually do to change my circumstances. I’m a big believer in not getting swallowed up by things that you really CAN change. And something I could change was getting us all out of our house for a few days. I spent hours and hours doing research and ended up booking an airbnb in the middle of nowhere on 40 acres of land next week! It looks like the perfect spot to have a low key but really nice and SAFE little vacation before school starts. Annie can even come with us! I’m really looking forward to a change of scenery for a few days and a forced stop from being so focused on productivity every minute of every day. It also goes a long way in alleviating the guilt I feel about not taking my kids to do anything exciting this summer. It will be good for all of us.

I’ve biked every morning this week for a total of 45 miles. I’ve been feeling pretty strong this week, which makes going out a lot more enjoyable. But at the same time there seems to be something wrong with my bike, so it’s an added stress to keep worrying something might blow apart and break at any minute. I’m clearly not very knowledgeable in bike maintenance, but there’s been a lot of clicking in my chain and as the week has gone on I realized I really only have two working gears on my seven gear bike. It’s been stressful trying to figure out if I should sink money into it to try and fix it or just power through and hope it stays together until early December when my new bike arrives. When Greg went out for his second bike ride last night he ended up blowing a tire, so he’s actually taking his tire and my bike to a bike shop today to see what can be done. Hopefully it’s a cheap fix, but it will definitely make me feel better about my next three months of biking.

Making food every day continues to be the bane of my existence. It’s such an inconvenience! Especially when you’re madly trying to get a bunch of dolls finished. I keep trying to remind myself that keeping everyone fed a variety of healthy foods is truly my most important job right now. It kind of sucks that it’s totally my responsibility and it’ll never ever go away, but that’s life. I just don’t understand how people with more than two kids manage to do it, though. I’m hanging on by a thread trying to keep my kids full. It’s so much work!

For Shepard’s half birthday I made french onion dip, roasted salsa, and giant cookies. One night we had marinated grilled hot dogs and zucchini which was pretty tasty. We had make your own salad night. I’m still trying to use up tomatoes, though getting a little sick of them. Last night we had jalapeno popper grilled cheese. And a few days ago I tried to make salted caramel roasted nuts as a somewhat healthier dessert option, but they ended up being more of a candied nut and were so sugary that I’ve gotten massive headaches both days I ate them. My body has been very clear lately on its dislike of sugar.

Overall, it’s definitely been more of a down week for me. But I’m optimistic about next week and our little getaway. I’m nervous about it being the last week of summer, though. Emotions might be getting pretty intense by the end of the week when that realization sets in. Even though life won’t change THAT drastically once school does start, it’s still going to be a shock to the boys to suddenly not have all the daily screen time they’ve been revelling in. But I’m hoping once we all settle into the new normal it’ll actually be okay. Never ideal, but I think we’ll figure out how to make it work.

Weekend Reflections 08.16.2020

This is going to be brief this week, I promise! I’ve had a pretty emotional day and am too tired to go back and look through any of my photos from the week that I didn’t also put on instagram. So – quick recap!

Last Sunday we celebrated my brother’s birthday at my parents’ house. It was a beautiful day and fun to spend some time with Hudson. He was at his best, running around and wildly entertaining the rest of us. So cute!

Everyone was pretty worn out afterward!

We also had a chance to babysit Hudson on Thursday. He was very reserved and shy that day, so we just walked to a couple of parks and played on the playgrounds. It was kind of a tough visit, to be honest. I hate dealing with the tricky circumstances and emotional balancing of trying to see relatives during this stupid pandemic. Wanting to play with our only nephew and cousin, but also trying not to get too close because he’s out in the world a lot more than we are and was visibly sick with something. Fortunately we haven’t had to make a ton of hard decisions like this in the last five months, but when they come up it’s never easy balancing the benefits and risks.

Shepard got his cast on Tuesday! He picked black, not really any surprise since most of his wardrobe is black. The doctor said that when he comes back in four weeks there is a fifty percent chance he’ll be able to get it off then. I really hope so! Then he’ll only have to balance schoolwork left handed for a couple of days.

On Friday morning I had a dentist appointment. I was pretty nervous about being there and not having a mask on for the majority of the appointment. I assume they have a ton of safety measures in place, but there were just a lot of people there and a lot of random things that needed to be touched. I didn’t like it. As a reward for getting through this week I had planned to stop in at both Marshall’s and TJMaxx. Before the pandemic I was going into at least one of these stores every single week! Since the pandemic I’ve only been into them once, in early June. Unfortunately their stock is still really low, so I didn’t find anything and it felt like a big waste of time. But I did get some delicious Chipotle for lunch! And then I ran into Hyvee for just a few things, but it was late enough in the day by then that the store was absolutely packed and the cart and cleaning situation was very confusing, so I pretty much just left and now have to go back to Madison tomorrow to get the things I actually need.

We’ve had more parenting struggles, as usual. Caden decided he doesn’t like living with us, so he went to go “live with” Grandma and Grandpa for a couple of days. So Shepard and Greg ordered pizza Friday night for their mini at home date while I was in the other room eating my BLT. But then they went over for dinner on Saturday and Greg came back with Caden and left Shepard behind. I think it did us all some good to get a bit of a break from each other.

It was a pretty good food week! I made a really great mojo chicken and key lime bars on Monday. Roasted garlic, jalapeno, and pepperoni grilled pizza on Tuesday. Pulled pork sandwiches on Wednesday. Thursday…leftovers, I think? BLT/restaurant pizza on Friday.

I didn’t take any bike photos this week! I actually took three days off from biking, much to my dismay. Though one of those days I did go in the evening, but only a short distance. I didn’t go today either after a really rough night of sleep. I’m slacking! (My foot has also been hurting the worst its hurt since I started biking.) Maybe I’ll head out after I finish this. 🙂

Pandemic living has really been getting to me this weekend. My life feels so small. In many ways, I’m okay with it. I HATE being busy, I hate having obligations I’m not fully into. I’m getting SO much more work done because I’m hardly ever leaving the house. I’m finding more joy in cooking (most days) because I don’t really have a choice – we need to eat. And eat often. I’m able to go on long bike rides every morning because I don’t need to be back home at any certain time since Greg is here too. I have more time to take care of myself and there are so many less distractions pulling me from what I really want to spend my time on. BUT. I feel like I’m missing out. I’m feeling like I deprived my kids of doing anything fun or exciting this summer. The most exciting thing we’ve done is go to a dog park where Annie got sick (and they complained the whole time) and then to a park five minutes away (where they also complained). Every time I open up my timehop app I’m reminded of all the amazing August trips I’ve taken in the last few years – most of them by myself (my favorite way to travel!). Every single time I open up social media I’m bombarded with everyone who has still found a way to take a vacation this summer. I’m resentful of the people that are constantly pushing the boundaries just so they can get out of the house every day. I’m angry at the people who just don’t care and continue to risk themselves and their children by going to as many activities as they can fit in, and if a mask isn’t required all the better. I feel so trapped by my circumstances. And I’m so sick of having this always responsible/type A/wouldn’t break a rule if my life depended on it personality. We are still following social distancing rules and staying home as much as we can. Besides this week’s trip, I only go to one grocery store a week. That’s it. That’s how many times I’m in a building other than my house in a week. ONE. Greg goes to the post office. That’s it for him. The boys have only been in one grandparent’s house this entire time, no other places or events or anything. We’ve been trying so hard to stay safe and it all just feels so completely pointless when most of the world has given up. We’re never going to get this under control and it scares me, but it also just pisses me off that I’m going to continue to follow all these rules, but I’m also going to continue feeling like I’m really missing out because of it. It’s been weighing on me a lot the last few days. I hate all of it. I want my normal life back.

Anyway. Greg was trying to cheer me up, so he packed a small picnic and he, Caden and I went to a park across town to eat it today. And despite my mood, it really did help to just get that change of scenery. And like most problems I have, after wallowing in it for a bit, I decided I needed to DO something. So I spent my entire afternoon researching and ended up booking us an airbnb in the middle of nowhere next week. It looks amazing, it is affordable, it has tons of beautiful open space to explore, AND Annie is allowed to come with us. And best of all, it will go a long way in helping me feel better about giving us all a breath of hope for better days ahead.

Friday Favorites #13

Welcome to Friday Favorites! I’m starting this post at 4:30 in the morning in hopes that I’ll actually get it written this week! And because I don’t know how to sleep. For awhile there these early mornings were really working for me because I’d get in an hour of biking before anybody else woke up and feel really great about my myself. But now it’s just too dark for comfort, so I keep having these very awkward super early mornings where I can’t fall back to sleep but I also can’t convince myself to do anything productive because I don’t WANT to keep getting up this early. I used to work in the early mornings, but that’s a great recipe for major burnout when I am also typically still working until the boys go to bed at night. I think my life would be a whole lot better if I actually got a solid night of sleep. But I don’t know how to DO that, despite years and years of trying. So frustrating!

Anyway! I’ve been working on this list since my last Friday Favorites, but still don’t have a ton of new things to add. It’s hard to find new and exciting products when you only leave your house once a week. (You also have SO MUCH MORE TIME when you stay home!) But I want to share a couple of my tried and true favorite recipes, a few new recipes, my favorite summer pajamas, one of the most enlightening books I’ve ever read, and a few other fun things. Read on!

Food Stuff

Fool Proof and FAST Pizza Dough – We’ve been making homemade pizzas once a week for at least the last six or seven years. I’ve tried so many crust recipes it’s ridiculous. But I finally landed on this one about a year ago and I keep going back to it because it just works so much better than any other I’ve tried. It comes together in a stand mixer very quickly and unlike most doughs that need closer to two hours to rise, this one is about ready to use in 30 minutes, in a pinch. I try to wait an hour as directed, but sometimes I’m just in a rush (or more likely – SHEPARD is). I love that, though, because it’s so easy to mix up at the last minute. My favorite part, however, is how easily it rolls out. Most doughs I’ve tried continue to pull back into itself no matter how many times you try to roll it bigger. It drives me crazy! This one will roll out easy peasy. The recipe suggests that this is only enough for a single pizza, but I always split it in half and freeze the second half for later. I wanted to give the single pizza size a shot this week, though, and made an ENORMOUS pepperoni grilled pizza. It worked, but the crust was also so thick that it detracted from the flavor of all the toppings. If you have a huge pizza stone then have at it. But I think you’ll like this a lot more if you split it up and make a much thinner crust.

Dry Rub Air Fryer Wings – I’ve tried making chicken wings at home a handful of times over the years and it was never a success. I’m pretty turned off by certain aspects of food and my own chicken wings always struck me as being too gross to actually eat. But then one day Butcher Box offered some sort of deal where you pay $35 once and then you get three pounds of chicken wings in every box forever. So I needed to learn how to make chicken wings! I had just gotten the air fryer at Christmas and decided to try this recipe out. They were PERFECT. Honestly just spicy, crispy, delicious perfection. I’m never even going to try another wing recipe because this one works out so great. The only frustrating thing is that you definitely need to make it in two batches (if you’re making 3 lbs), so you have to deal with either half your wings being cooled off or sitting around at the table waiting for the second half to finish cooking. But they’re SO worth it. I’ve even used this dry rub recipe a few times on grilled chicken breasts. So delicious!

Doner KebabsI made this recipe a few weeks ago and it was so tasty! Caden said it was the best meal I’ve ever made. It did require a bit of work to marinade ahead of time, plus make the garlic yogurt sauce, but it was worth it. I would have loved to have eaten it on a pita or flatbread, but we had it with rice and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Yum!

Vegan Maple Almond Butter Granola – I’m always on a mission to find more breakfast recipes that aren’t too sweet. Major bonus points if it actually has a lot of nutritional value. This one was perfect! I used the lesser amount of maple syrup and stuck with the slivered almonds, culling the temptation to add more nuts (though that would have been delicious!). I also added my favorite secret granola ingredient – puffed quinoa! It adds an extra fun texture and crunch with a bit more protein and fiber as well!

Tony’s Chocolonely’s Milk Caramel Sea Salt Bar – This is the new weekly grocery store treat I pick up for myself. It costs about $5, but it’s really substantial and I’m usually very satisfied only breaking off a small chunk here and there. I’m not exactly thrilled with the name of the bar because I expected salty gooey caramel, but it’s really bits of toffee. Then every once in awhile you get a good bite of extra salt and it’s just perfection!

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries – Okay, this one is most definitely a splurge. I first heard about them from Erin Moon on a Popcast live AUA show a few months ago. They’re meant to be used very sparingly in cocktails, only one or two needed to get a great maraschino flavor. I tried to make a cocktail, but…I still don’t like alcohol. So I ended up eating these on chocolate ice cream. And OH MY GOODNESS. You’ll fall over when you try this combo. It’s magical. Definitely something to hide away from the rest of the family and treat yourself with when you need a special snack!

Drink Stuff

Tiesta Nutty Almond Cream Tea – I’ve been simmering down on my coffee drinking lately, trying to add a lot more tea back into my days. I picked this one up at the grocery store and was surprised by how much I liked it! Though be warned, it doesn’t really taste nutty, almondy, or creamy. It’s more of a really delightful apple flavor. I expect to be drinking a lot of this in fall!

Apparel Stuff

Ekouaer Women’s Nightgown – The pandemic life is all about being comfortable, right? I’ve made a couple of different pajama purchases in the last few months since I tend to put them on earlier and earlier in the evenings, desperate for extra comfort. I’ve never been a nightgown person, but I decided to give this a try since it has so many great reviews. And I love it! The fabric is so soft and feels wonderful against the skin. It’s flattering, it’s long enough that it usually stays down even when you’re moving around in sleep. I just love it. I own it in wine red and purple (so far!).

Health Stuff

Fiber Choice – I take a lot of different vitamins and supplements to help with all my various ailments. I’m never really looking to add to my pile because it already takes me a whole day to swallow them all. But one day I was looking for something to add to my cart to hit the free shipping mark from Target and decided to try out some fiber gummies. Everyone needs more fiber, right? And they were fine. I went through the whole bottle and figured it was a worthy experiment and nothing much changed, so I could live without them. But then I went a week without taking extra fiber and realized how much hungrier I suddenly was. NOT GOOD. I wasn’t really thrilled with how the other gummies tasted, so I sought out a different brand and these are SO much better. They have more of a fruit snack chew to them than a gummy bear, if that makes sense. I’m disappointed every single day when I realize I already took them earlier in the morning and can’t take them again. I’m not sure if they’re really giving me any extra energy or helping my metabolism, but they are definitely helping curb my appetite and that alone is worth continuing to take them! (Also, I just looked at my bottle and you can actually take up to 6 gummies a day. So…that might start happening!)

FabCBD Oil – I’m pretty sure this was one of my Friday Favorites a couple of months ago. But I’m adding it again because I’m genuinely finding a lot of value in taking this every day. My original reason for taking the oil was to help with my foot pain. But it’s had the added benefit of also helping ease my anxiety and depression. I was hoping it would also help with my sleep, but so far my nights are still just as short, but I think the actual quality of my sleep has improved (at least according to my fitbit!). It definitely takes some trial and error to figure out your correct dosage. I’ve finally landed on the 1200mg bottle, taking .5mL in the mornings and .25mL at night. I tried to cut the morning dosage in half (to make the bottle last longer), but I really did notice a difference in my pain levels that week, so I bumped it back up. CBD oil is definitely expensive, but this particular company comes very highly rated and they almost always have some sort of discount code available. I think it’s completely worthwhile for what I need it for – natural pain management and a calmer disposition. I’ve tried the mint, vanilla, and berry flavors and mint is definitely my favorite. I’m just starting the berry bottle now and I kind of hate the taste, but I’ll suffer through until I can get the mint one again!

Book Stuff

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron – I both read and listened to this book last week. And it is LIFE CHANGING. If you’re not familiar with the enneagram, this is a wonderful place to start. If you have a vague knowledge of it and mostly pay attention to your own number like I did, this is also wonderful because it will provide a lot of enlightenment. I found this book to be most mind blowing because it helped me FINALLY understand why my kids act the way that they do, once I made a pretty good guess on which numbers they were. (Disclaimer that you’re not supposed to typecast your kids, but Caden is WITHOUT A DOUBT an 8 and I’d guess 90% that Shepard is a 7. I’m a 4. I’m undecided on Greg, waiting for him to finish reading and tell me what he believes he is.) Anyway, I’ve found enneagram discussions very interesting the last few years (on podcasts, nobody in real life is ever into the same things as me!), but it REALLY helped to read this book and gain a deeper knowledge into how each personality type ticks. It was absolutely fascinating. I highly, highly recommend it.

Well, here we are almost twelve hours later, finally finishing this up. In my defense, I was gone half the day and then took a much needed nap! But here you go, some new favorites to try out and hopefully love as well!

Weekend Reflections 08.08.2020

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ever going to have a week that’s not fraught with emotional turmoil! Such a rollercoaster, this life. This past week started out so great. Well, technically, one of my children was once again losing it, so I decided to just not be stressed about it for once and focus on the child who is desperately looking for more attention and adventure and fun. We whisked away to my parents’ house last Sunday morning and spent a good few hours out with the puppies.

Shepard actually spent most of time helping my dad chalk up a tree for cutting and then loading branches and logs into the trailer to bring out to the burn pile. He was so eager to help and seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself. He NEVER wants to do any kind of work, so it was somewhat miraculous! He told me on the drive home how much fun it was!

While we were there we borrowed some very old tennis rackets and later in the day went over to the tennis courts to try them out. We were honestly horrible at it, but we had so much fun! I loved tennis as a kid, but haven’t played since. It was kind of a shock to my body to have to actually run a little bit, but we were having such a good time that I didn’t even care. It really was a fantastic day.

But – story of my life – I can’t seem to have something good without immediately something bad happening. On Monday afternoon Shepard came running into the house crying and kind of hyperventilating because he was doing a flip on the trampoline and landed wrong on his extended arm. He thought it felt broken so Greg rushed him to the ER and yep, broken. I think I was more devastated by this than he was. With just a few weeks left of summer now he can’t trampoline anymore, can’t swim, can’t bike, can’t properly hold a controller to play video games, can’t do ANYTHING easily because it’s his right arm that broke. And no tennis, after just one day of finding out how much we liked it (and ordering new rackets!). I’m so sad for him and how life is messed up enough already and now he can’t even do the things that have been keeping him happy the last five months? It sucks SO MUCH.

The first day was pretty rough. Not because his arm hurt, but because the splint was wrapped so tightly around his hand, crushing his fingers into unnatural positions. It was bothering him so much that he started thinking his wrist might actually be broken too. We waited overnight on that one and it felt a lot better the next day, so I think it was just the splint, which we got permission to unravel a little bit. He’s proving to be incredibly resilient, not complaining about it at all, and not even asking for help with anything. He seems to be handling the one handed/left handed life just fine! It’s been more of a challenge helping him find things to do so he doesn’t just sit and watch youtube all waking hours, but for the most part he’s handling it quite well. He gets his cast on Tuesday and then we’ll hopefully find out how long it’ll be out of commission. I’m hoping we’ll get lucky and he can get it taken off before school starts, saving him from needing to write/type entirely left handed. But that’s probably too optimistic.

On Wednesday Greg was actually able to get into his office to clear out the rest of his stuff since he still doesn’t know when or if he’ll be going back to work (there). He took Caden with him after another horrific morning. (Car rides – the best punishment. :P) Shepard and I went back to my mom’s to hang out and to puppysit Herbie while Ollie went to the vet. They were both very full of kisses that day! I like that they recognize us and get so excited to see us!

On Thursday we were able to have a spontaneous date night, which was really great! We ordered from Monk’s and tried out another Sun Prairie park. Annie was with us and we went on a long walk after we ate. This is only the third time we’ve gotten out together since the pandemic started, so it was very much appreciated!

My garden is still slowly ripening up. Yesterday I was able to pick the first bigger tomatoes. I ate them today with mozzarella on an english muffin for breakfast, then with mozzarella plain for a snack, then on a BLT for lunch. And I’m going to cut them up and put them in ground chicken tacos for dinner. So tasty! I wish I were getting a bigger pepper crop, but my plants are still so small. Maybe I planted them too close together? Maybe I should have fertilized them somehow? Those are what I want the most, so it’s disappointing that once again I’m only getting one or two peppers per plant.

Meals were pretty spontaneous this week. I did have Peri Peri Chicken prepared for Monday, but that’s the night Shepard broke his arm, so it was thrown together late and not as prettily put together as I wanted. But it was still good – chicken marinade, basted, and dipped in a homemade roasted red pepper sauce. On Tuesday the in-law’s brought over stir fry. Wednesday I grilled cheddar wursts. Thursday we had our date night and Friday was a frozen pizza. I picked up more convenience food breakfasts at the store to try and cheer Shepard up, but also ended up making a banana bread scone recipe I’ve had my eye on for weeks. I made the original recipe and then made a second batch subbing in gluten free flour, coconut sugar, and hazelnuts for me. They were really good! Tonight I’m going to try and create some sort of fancy (“fancy” because I’m adding a bunch of garden vegetables to it) chicken taco meat to put on nachos, trying to use up a random pound of ground chicken I’ve had in the freezer forever and a bag of Mexican cheese that needs to get eaten asap.

Biking has gone pretty well this week, but I’ve also been riding for significantly less time each day. The week before I put in around 47 miles and this week I’m only at 27. But my knees have really been bothering me this week – I think it’s because of the TENNIS, not the biking, but I’m still trying not to overdo it. Fortunately the tension headaches have gotten so much better! Still a little bit each day, but not enough to really bother me.

The most exciting news of the week is that I finally pre-ordered a new bike! I’ve been spending a ridiculous amount of time researching bikes the last two months. I wanted something lighter and faster than my current beach cruiser, but my non-negotiable feature is that I NEED to be sitting upright or my body is just going to fall apart on me. And it’s pretty hard to find a bike that’s built for both comfort and speed. It’s also just really hard to find a bike, period. Add it to the list of the many, many things that sold out in like March and April and won’t be back in stock for ages. But after countless hours of stressing over it, I finally picked out the bike I wanted and ordered it last night. It won’t arrive until early December, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth the wait! I do have the option to cancel the order if I find something better in the meantime, but I’m so tired of researching them that I’m okay with waiting it out. I just hope there isn’t a massive blizzard in early December that’ll stop me from trying it out! It seems very cruel to have a new bike arrive when conditions for using it will be the worst. But many bikes aren’t even shipping until spring, so I’m lucky I found one I really think I’ll love that will come sooner.

That’s it for this week! I’m hoping next week will be much better! But it’s going to be a busy one. Probably the busiest we’ve had in months. My brother and his family are visiting for the week, so lots of time spent with them. Shepard also gets his cast on, I have therapy, we have a day of babysitting Hudson, I have a dentist appointment, and I’ll have to fit an errand day in there somewhere. There’s just a lot going on. BUT it should mostly be fun!

Have a good week!

What I Read July 2020

Whew, I’m behind! July was a terrible reading month for me, which is why I’ve been dragging my feet about writing this review post. I was so distracted by everyday life and just could not seem to get into any of the books I tried. It was a struggle. I only read nine books and the first half of them were not that great! But I did find a couple of fantastic ones, so check them out!

The Twin by Natasha Preston
Rating: 2.5 stars

Ivy and Iris are 16 year old twins who went to live with separate parents after their divorce six years prior. When their mom dies in a running accident Iris comes to live with Ivy and their dad and is acting shady and mysterious, refusing to discuss their mom or her old life, determined to jump right in with all of Ivy’s friends. Ivy is determined to figure out what’s going on with her. I’m going to start out by saying – do not read this book. It’s not worth it and the bizarre cliffhanger ending (with no sequel) will infuriate you. The entire story seemed to just be a lot of talking in circles about Iris’ “off” behavior and not a whole lot actually happening. I stuck with it because I assumed Ivy would have redemption by the end of the book and (spoiler) she does not. It pissed me off, to be honest! I do NOT recommend.

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
Rating: 2 stars

Technically this book was a DNF for me, but I didn’t give it up until 75% in so I’m counting it in my totals. So it’s a book about an anxious and uptight guy, Jordan, who is trying to hold together a romance book club that is quickly losing its members. He meets Rex in the bookstore and is immediately turned off by some of his comments and challenges him to read the books for himself before he makes judgements. Rex joins the book club and the two men are instantly attracted to each other. This book…ugh. It has so many plot holes. What I really couldn’t stand was how it kept jumping back and forth between points of view from paragraph to paragraph with no rhyme or reason. It was SO poorly edited, if edited by a professional at all. I couldn’t take it anymore. The plot sounded so promising, but the lack of polishing was just too much for me.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Rating: 3 stars

I’ve been in such a reading rut that I decided the best thing to do would be to pick something in a different genre than what I’m typically drawn to. Historical fiction has never been my sweet spot, but I’ve really liked all the Jojo Moyes books I’ve read and this one came so highly rated (though also with a lot of controversy), so I dove in. And honestly, I was pretty disappointed in the whole thing. Alice meets Bennett and his father and moves from England to Kentucky to marry him, but soon discovers she doesn’t really fit in and doesn’t love the life of leisure that is expected of her. An opportunity arises to join a group of packhorse librarians, riding books out to all the rural houses in the area. The book is about Alice and the other librarians and how much resistance they meet with what they do. All in all, I thought it was just so boring. I didn’t get enough depth in Alice and was frustrated by how prudish and closed off she seemed for the majority of the book. I wanted her to actually feel things instead of just shutting down. I kept expecting the book to take a turn and really grip me, but it never did. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time powering through it.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Rating: 4 stars

Luc is the son of a washed up celebrity who abandoned him when he was a toddler. They haven’t seen each other since, but it doesn’t stop the press from following Luc around and continuing to destroy his reputation. About to lose the only job he was able to secure he begs a well respected acquaintance, Oliver, to be his fake boyfriend for a couple of months to help gain back the respect of his lost donors. Oliver is also in need of a companion for a large family event so he agrees to the arrangement and they begin to spend time together so secure their cover, even though almost all of their friends know the truth. I enjoyed this book. Luc grew a lot during his fake relationship with Oliver and Oliver was such a stand up worthy guy it was hard not to love him. It still took me forever to read – I just cannot concentrate on books anymore. But I liked this one a lot.

Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is the first book in a spinoff of the Winston Brothers series. It really needs to be read after Beard Science, the third book in that series, to get all of the great character development and back story. I think the main reason I enjoyed this book so much was the nostalgia factor of going back to the Winston brothers’ world and spending more time with Cletus, my favorite brother. The premise of the book was trying to solve a mystery surrounding all of the unique local suppliers to the Donnor Bakery. Cletus of course gets involved and he and Jenn concoct a plan to get to the bottom of what’s going on around town. It was fun and cute and just made me happy to revisit everybody. I still haven’t even finished the all Winston Brothers books, so I’ll have to move back on to them soon!

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the reimagined retelling of what happens to the real Jo March in the year between writing the first and second half of her beloved book, Little Women. I mostly chose this book because the cover is so beautiful. And I was curious to see what the authors would do with this story. I’m not a hardcore Little Women fan, but I imagine those that are might not be thrilled by this book. It pokes fun at a few things in the original story and of course takes some creative liberty in what happens with the characters in their “real” lives. To be honest, most of this book was maddening. Jo is so stubborn and frustrating and refuses to just let herself love and be loved. SO much of the story is just Jo bemoaning how difficult it is to write a proper sequel. It was quite stressful to feel that nonstop writer’s block with her! I enjoyed how it ended, but wish a little more romance had been interspersed throughout the rest of the book because I was rather fed up with it all.

The Player Next Door by K. A. Tucker
Rating: 3.5 stars

Scarlett moves back to town she grew up in twelve years after she left, and finds herself living next door to the boy she was once in love with, but hurt her deeply. He’s hoping to reconnect in friendship, but her heart is guarded against letting him in again, even though she can’t stop thinking about him. This is clearly a very predictable story, but it was still sweet and I enjoyed it.

Hate Thy Neighbor by S.M. Soto
Rating: 5 stars

This is the first book I read all month that I didn’t want to put down. Enemies to lovers romance novels are usually a win for me, it’s one of my favorite tropes. This was just released and sounded intriguing, so I snapped it up. It didn’t disappoint! Olivia moves to a new city and immediately makes an enemy with her surly yet gorgeous neighbor Roman. With no explanation behind it, Roman immediately hates Olivia and does everything possible to thwart her attempts at friendship. This is my one and only complaint about the book. Roman said a lot of pretty cruel things to Olivia in the first half of the book and it’s hard for me to forgive a leading man for being such a genuine jerk. Rude? Fine. But downright cruel? It’s not a turn on. Anyway, both characters seemed to have a lot of depth and I thoroughly enjoyed how the story progressed!

Heartstopper Vol. 2 by Alice Oseman
Rating: 5* stars

It’s been a nine months since I read the first Heartstopper and was so upset to realize it wasn’t a single volume! It took quite awhile for my library to get the second one for me, but it was worth the wait. Coming back to this sweet budding romance between gay Charlie and sexually confused Nick was such a treat. It’s a very fast read with few words, but incredibly emotional comic drawings! It continues to amaze me how much feeling can be shown in the graphics. I adored this graphic novel and can’t wait to read the third!

Weekend Reflections 08.01.2020

This has been a really emotionally taxing week. I’ve been working through a lot and it’s left me a bit of a mess. I won’t get into all the details, but I’m trying to climb my way out of the pits. It would just be a lot easier if each day wasn’t bringing on new battles!

I believe I mentioned in my last post how I’d been suffering from one of the worst headaches of my life. I think stress is a big part of it, but being too tense on my morning bike rides is probably the main culprit. It’s SO discouraging to me how every time I get excited about some new physical activity that I think will finally change my life around, it causes a new negative issue with a different part of my body, kind of rendering all the benefits null. I’ve been loving my early morning rides so much that I never take a day off from them. But it’s wreaking havoc on my neck and shoulders so I finally forced myself to stay home on Tuesday, for the first morning in the month since I started. I was so angry at myself because I don’t want to start giving in to lame excuses and taking more and more mornings off without a really valid reason. But a whole lot of people told me that breaks are necessary and not to be so hard on myself and on Wednesday morning I actually started feeling a lot better. Now I’m trying to alternate long bike rides with shorter ones every other day. I’m still pretty tense and have a constant lingering headache, but it’s not as bad as it was last weekend.

I listed some dolls last Sunday as well and had more people than usual upset with me that they missed out on a doll they wanted. I had one customer in particular quite angry with me for having a restock a day earlier than I had mentioned “probably” having one to her the week before. (Which I genuinely forgot about, otherwise I would have given her a head’s up.) This is a frustrating aspect of owning your own handmade business that continues to wear me out. I avoid conflict like the plague. I hate having people angry with me. But I also really, really thrive on having my own creative freedom to make whatever I want, whenever I want, with zero outside pressure on me to perform to somebody else’s standards. Which is the main reason I almost never take custom orders and I refuse to make duplicate dolls. But I get tired of trying to explain that to upset customers, especially when so many other handmade businesses depend on making duplicate items as their main source of income. I just don’t want to do it that way. And I wish I didn’t always have to justify that to other people. The whole ordeal really messed with my motivation to start new dolls this week. I did end up making six, but it’s been hard to get myself to sit down and actually work.

We had therapy on Tuesday. It went shockingly well a few weeks ago, so we stupidly assumed it would go well again. It didn’t. At all. I won’t get into it, but it was a pretty sucky day. Fortunately our next session will be in person for the first time with this particular therapist. I think it will go better that way. Virtual therapy with a kid who can just walk out of the room whenever he pleases is just a recipe for disaster.

In positive news, however, I started reading the book The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron. It’s about the enneagram – something I hear about all the time in my online circles. I’ve owned the book for quite awhile, but only finally picked it up because a small group of online friends invited me into a buddy read discussion with them about it. And I honestly think this is going to be the book that will make a bigger impact on my life than any other. One of the first chapters talks about one of the personality types that fits Caden to an absolute tee. You are not supposed to typecast your kids – or try to tell them what they are until they’re old enough to understand all of it, like late teens. But seriously, this was Caden. And it opened my eyes to an understanding of who he is that I have never, ever been able to grasp before. I was uncontrollably crying while I listened (I’m doing audio and physical book) to that chapter. I’m working on getting Greg to listen to it asap so we can maybe finally understand what’s going through Caden’s mind all the time and why he acts the way he acts. And maybe really come up with an effective plan to help him – FINALLY.

I started my week making a batch of donut muffins, with my newfound plan of always having breakfast foods on hand. Of course everyone ate them all in the first day, so it didn’t last! I did go to Costco, however, on Wednesday and picked up quite a few easy options. Not exactly healthy, but some weeks you just need to roll with it. This was our last week of getting free school meals, so my efforts will need to go up a notch next week.

On Monday I made carne asada on the grill. It was my first time grilling such a large cut of meat and it worked pretty well! I’m still not really a fan of steak, but I will eat a bit of it if it’s on a taco. Everyone else loved it.

Chicken wings on Tuesday. This dry rub is amazing. It will most likely show up in my next Friday Favorites!

The rest of the week I kind of gave up cooking all together. We had a Costco rotisserie chicken on Wednesday and on Thursday we ordered Mexican and ate it with Greg’s parents on their deck. I did make this beautiful chocolate ganache tart for dessert, though! It was fun making a fancy dessert – that used to be the only kind I made! Now I just make cookies or brownies, whatever is fast and easy. Yesterday Greg was finally able to pick up some of his things from work, so he also grabbed a Qdoba family meal for lunch. And tonight he’s getting Chinese because that’s Caden’s favorite and he always gets so disappointed when we pick up food from other places.

I continue to pick through my garden every morning to get the next few ripe tomatoes and peppers. I was really excited about that purple bell pepper! I thought none of my pepper plants were the same, but I keep getting so many weirdly shaped long light green ones on multiple plants. I’m not even sure what they are, I just cut them up and throw them into whatever I’m making that day.

I also had my own therapy session on Friday. Some weeks our talks are pretty surface level and some weeks they get a lot deeper. This week we talked a lot about body image and just trying to focus on being healthy rather than what you look like. It was a pretty triggering conversation. It’s frustrating to me how I’m exercising an hour, sometimes more, every single morning and it doesn’t seem to be making a difference yet. I have never consistently exercised and definitely never more than 15-20 minutes tops! It seems like I should be feeling and seeing progress! There are days I feel stronger – on the bike – but every day activities like walking around? It’s can still be so hard, which is pretty infuriating! My body continues to deceive me and I can’t seem to get out of this downward health spiral no matter how hard I try.

Anyway! It’s been a rough week. But maybe the kind of week I needed. It’s really helped to remind me I need to take better care of myself, every aspect of it. This weird pandemic season of life has been so, so hard. But it’s not all bad. I think I’m growing. I have a LONG way to go, but I’m giving it my best effort and I feel good about that.

Weekend Reflections 07.26.2020

Another week behind us in this weird pandemic existence. It’s been such a stressful week as we try to make a decision on what to do about school in the fall. Weighing the pros and cons of going full virtual versus a split week for Caden and a four day in person week for Shepard has been really overwhelming. Every time I feel confident in our decision somebody throws out another perspective I hadn’t considered and then I doubt our choice all over again. (Or it’s validated!) We haven’t turned in our final decision yet – we have until Friday – but I’m about 95% sure we’re going the all virtual route. I’m not happy about it. It’s going to be HARD. But it’s the only way I can guarantee my children will be as safe as possible. And other kids and teachers and our family as well. I wish I knew what all virtual will actually mean in terms of a time and workload commitment, but I guess we’ll find out in five weeks! I really hope a vaccine will come out soon and we won’t have to do this for an entire school year. My brain can’t even handle thinking about that possibility right now. Being home, all of us, all the time…it’s rough.

We visited the puppies on Monday! I liked how both of them immediately climbed into my lap and settled in. In reality, owning a dog that wanted to be held all the time would drive me absolutely insane. But it’s pretty sweet to visit them and have them cuddle up!

I had a farmers market pick up scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. My first in about a month. Instead of doing a grocery pick up as well I decided to go in a couple of stores, but it ended up being incredibly stressful. I normally only go in stores in the early mornings – in pandemic life AND in regular life. So I wasn’t prepared for how busy it was going to be. Then I had to make an extra stop because Caden was out of sunflower seeds and he can’t survive a week without them (he kept texting me “MY LIFE IS OVER!!!!). Then I had a very low tire and had to learn how to refill it for the first time. By then I was pressed for time on my Trader Joe’s run, which was supposed to be an extra special treat. And then I barely made it to the market on time. I was so upset that the one thing in the week I was really looking forward to turned into such a stressful disaster. I really miss when shopping was fun.

The boys have been fighting so much this week. They always fight a lot – because they refuse to EVER be apart from each other. But it’s seemed even worse than usual this week. I suggested a small field trip to the dam on Thursday after dinner. I somehow keep thinking a change of scenery will do us all some good, but it often makes their moods even worse. Caden calmed down, but was uninterested in the adventure aspect of the trip. Shepard enjoyed walking through the river until a giant spider landed on his hand and then he was traumatized. But Greg, Annie and I still thought it was fun to get out of the house and do something different for a little bit!

On Friday Greg surprised me by asking his parents to babysit for a few hours so we could have our second pandemic date night. We ordered Chili’s and went to a park to eat and walk around. I just picked the park on a whim from google maps and it turned out to be such a beautiful surprise! I’m definitely looking forward to walking around there again soon.

I didn’t take any pictures, but on Saturday morning my friend invited me over to walk around some trails near her house. I probably scared her a bit with how enthusiastically I jumped on that opportunity! It was really great to see a friend in person – it’s been almost two months since my last outdoor friend visit. And it was fun to walk around in another new and beautiful place too! Annie came with me and loved the adventure.

This morning I took the boys back to my parents’ again for another puppy visit. Six days was a long time between visits! They were both pretty sleepy today and much more interested in sleeping on the ground instead of us. But it was cute to watch them!

I biked all seven days this week for a total of 45 miles! I’m still loving it! There are certainly a few mornings here and there where I’m dragging my feet a bit more just because I’m not used to getting up early and immediately leaving the house. I much prefer getting up early and enjoying some peace and quiet at home before everyone else wakes up. But these bike rides are totally worth it. I love the days I’m out early enough to catch the pre-sunrise, but I get so frustrated at how poorly my phone captures the beauty! I’m pretty tempted to bring along my real camera, but haven’t done it yet. I bought a mirror so I’d feel more comfortable on the busier streets (though let’s be honest, “busy” in a very small town at 5am usually means I see three cars at most), but I can’t figure out how to secure it properly so it actually stays up. I also bought some bike cleaner and lube to try and learn how to take better care of it, but haven’t gotten around to learning about proper bike care yet either. The only downside of biking is that even though I’m in an upright pedal position, I’m still apparently tensing my neck and back quite a lot. I’ve been having daily headaches from it and today is one of the worst I’ve ever had. I still think it’s a worthwhile trade off, but I wish it didn’t happen at all.

I haven’t done quite as much sewing this week, but still managed to finish nine more dolls. I’ve been binging the show Manifest while I watch and I’m really into it!

I didn’t put a ton of effort into food this week. It’s just one of those things that I really care about or it’s the neverending responsibility that breaks me. There is rarely an in between!

We had a big batch of hamburgers, hot dogs, green beans, and pretzel buns on Monday night. Greg really likes the burgers from Butcher Box. This is the first time I tried their hot dogs and I didn’t like them at all. But I’m pretty picky about what kind of hot dogs I like and these didn’t fit the criteria. But now I know!

I used my new little espresso maker and try and replicate the salted caramel iced latte I always get at my favorite coffee shop. It was pretty close! I have determined that making full espresso drinks is actually a lot of work (lol), so I only have one every few days. I don’t even drink regular coffee every day, but I like to have the option!

I needed to use up some farm eggs I had bought on a whim before they expired, so I tried out this magic custard pie recipe one night. It was really good! I don’t normally make non-chocolate desserts, so it was fun to have something really different.

We ordered pizza and a calzone on Wednesday night. I love those calzones SO MUCH. They’re just amazing.

After my stressful shopping adventure I decided to try out an improvised cocktail using my new fancy maraschino cherries and liqueur. I don’t usually drink at all because I’m not so fond of alcohol and it’s not great for my liver problems! But I wanted to give it a shot. And….still not my thing (lol). But the cherries taste AMAZING on ice cream.

I used my farmers market produce and a couple things from the garden to make some fresh pico de gallo. I’ve been eating a lot of the tomatoes mixed with cut up string cheese, pepperoni, olive oil, salt flakes and fresh pepper. So good! And I used the zucchini to try a new brownie recipe, but was disappointed it ended up just tasting like chocolate cake. I’m not a chocolate cake fan.

Looking ahead, I can’t believe it’s already the last week of July. Normally I’d be thrilled that summer is officially 2/3 over, but I’m trying to really soak up these outdoor opportunities while I can this year. Now that we’ve decided to keep the boys home for virtual learning, I’m really dreading winter and those long cold months of truly feeling trapped. I need to make the most of these days while I can.

It feels like another busy week, with appointments or something on the calendar every day. Most of those will only be an hour or less of my time, but it still feels like a lot. Especially with how headachy and stressed out I’ve been lately. I’d love some truly lazy days, but I don’t think they’re going to happen.

My biggest goal this week is to get more on top of having pre-prepared snacks and meals around the house. We continue to have breakfast arguments every single dang day, though my struggles are usually with Shepard because he’s just not happy with whatever we have on hand or whatever the school gave him and he loves to make sure I know just how enraged he feels about it. Caden’s pretty much given up, he just won’t eat anything and I don’t even really care anymore. But like every struggle we have, I get sad or upset about it and then I pull myself together and figure out a way to do better. And as frustrating as this whole neverending food debacle is, the food making is still my responsibility so I need to try harder.

Have a great week, everyone!

Weekend Reflections 07.19.2020

This has been such a busy week around here! Probably the busiest we’ve had in months. Lots going on and many, many photos to share!

Last Sunday I was feeling pretty down and wanted to do something fun and different to brighten my spirits. It was the first somewhat cooler day we’d had in like four weeks, so we decided to go to the Token Creek Dog Park. It’s one of my favorite Dane County dog parks, and one of the two closest to our house. We hadn’t been there at all yet this year, so I was excited to get out and explore. The boys were not very cooperative, but I’m never surprised by this anymore. They don’t like doing anything outside of the house. So Greg and I tried our best to just ignore them and had a fun time walking around the park while Annie checked everything out and then we had a picnic before going back home.

Unfortunately, later that night Annie started acting a little off. We assumed she just got a bit overheated at the park, even though we weren’t even there for more than half an hour and she didn’t do that much running. But it was in full sun and she has long dark hair, so it still seemed like a logical conclusion. But on Monday she was clearly feeling worse, spending most of the day walking or sitting with her head hanging off to the side, not eating anything, and almost no energy. On Tuesday it was even worse and in the afternoon she started vomiting all over the house. Her stomach was pretty empty at that point, so it was mostly just bile, but then the blood started coming. I called the vet and was able to get her in immediately so I rushed her over and then spent two hours in my car waiting for the verdict. Her x-rays and blood panel came back fine, so at least it wasn’t anything that needed surgery. But we also really have no idea what happened, other than she PROBABLY ate something at the dog park. I took her back home with a bag full of meds and by the end of the night she wasn’t even walking anymore, Greg had to carry her around. It was pretty scary, especially after my mom’s dog passed away with similar symptoms just a few months ago.

I woke up Wednesday morning to a pretty horrific poop explosion in the family room and Annie still obviously feeling pretty awful. But with each day and each dose of medicine she’s been feeling a lot better. I wouldn’t say she’s 100% quite yet, but her appetite is back and she seems much more like her old self. I’m so glad I was able to get her to the vet so quickly because I’m not sure we would have had the same results without all the medication.

While the whole situation with her this week has been scary and sad, I’m also just really bummed that we probably can’t in good conscience go back to that dog park again. I’m pretty wary of going to ANY dog parks at this point because she probably just ate a random weed or something which could very well be growing all over the place! I purchased an annual pass when we were there on Sunday and I briefly felt elated that I now had another option of something fun and free to do that would get us, or at least me and Annie, out of the house every week or so. And then a day later that option was taken away. It really sucks!

I continued on with my early morning bike rides every day this week. Actually, there were two days that I had to postpone because of rain or storms, which is really annoying because I can’t tell those things are actually happening until I’m standing outside ready to leave! But I still got a ride in all seven days, which has been great! Earlier in the week my legs were really tired and then around Thursday it was like I suddenly graduated to a level of being just a bit stronger and it all came easier to me. But then it got super humid and gross, so yesterday and today’s rides were pretty short. I’m hoping to make up for it with an extra long ride tomorrow morning.

I’ve made twelve new dolls this week (one of my photos does not want to upload!) and had a restock on Wednesday, selling out within minutes. I’ve really been having so much fun now that I limit myself to making three at a time, completing a batch every day or two. But I still struggle with feeling like I’m not making enough or not making them fast enough. At the same time it’s like I literally do not know what else to do with myself anymore, so sewing is practically my whole life. It’s probably not very healthy. But it distracts me from feeling utter despair over the state of our world and our lives right now.

I was pretty on top of meals this week. I’m trying to get back in the habit of actually caring about what goes into my body, as well as using up as many random ingredients as I can before they go to waste. Most days I enjoy the challenge of seeing what I can cobble together. I made a delightful grilled bbq bacon jalapeno and roasted garlic pizza earlier in the week. We also grilled steak kebabs and I made roasted garlic and bacon mashed potatoes – my first time ever making mashed potatoes and I didn’t even use a recipe, but they were great! We had a giant pretzel from Milwaukee Pretzel Company for dinner that night I took Annie to the vet. I made a blueberry honey simple syrup for coffee drinks, though I honestly can’t taste the blueberry, so it was a bit disappointing. I also tried out my new espresso maker a few times. I need some practice making “official” drinks, but it works pretty well! I tried a new granola recipe that I really like because it’s the first one I’ve made that doesn’t taste too sweet. I have a lot of problems eating anything even remotely sweet in the morning without getting a massive headache, so I finally found a winner. It’s great with fruit! We needed more freezer room for our latest Butcher Box, so I made some banana bread, but with a gluten free flour mix this time. (A large chunk of our main freezer is filled with frozen bananas.) So good! Especially the third I made for me topped with lightly salted walnuts.

I forgot to take a picture of the actual meal, but last night I made a grilled Turkish chicken that we ate with curried rice, fresh tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers (all from the garden!), and a Greek yogurt garlic lemon sauce. For dessert we had fresh cherries topped with a mascarpone whipped cream, fresh mint leaves, and shaved dark chocolate. YUM. Caden told me multiple times over the evening that it was the best meal I’ve ever made.

On Thursday the boys and I went to meet my mom’s new puppies, Herbie and Ollie! She knew she was getting Ollie since he was a few weeks old, but Herbie was an added surprise. They are SO CUTE. Ollie is very snuggly and Herbie seems a lot more interested in playing. The boys were in love and back on a campaign to get their own puppies.

On Friday night Greg and Caden had a camping trip in his parents’ backyard. It was a reward for Caden FINALLY cooperating at therapy this week. I was concerned Shepard would be really upset about being left out, so we planned a fun night together too. We picked up some Burger King and then went over to play with the puppies some more! We plan on going over every few days whether they want us there or not so they get used to us!

We made it back home with just enough time to make popcorn and ice cream and watch A Dog’s Purpose together. Shepard listened to the audiobook recently and wanted to see the movie. Then in the morning we went on a short bike ride together. It was really fun! It’s pretty hard to get the boys to spend any individual time with me when they’re both home and distracted by their screens, so we should probably plan to split them up like this more often.

Today is my sisters-in-law’s birthday, so Greg and the boys went to Chicago to meet one of them for lunch and a walk around the botanical gardens. I wasn’t yet comfortable going into a major metropolitan area when I knew I’d definitely need to use public bathrooms multiple times, so I opted to stay home. I spent most of the day sewing, doing laundry, and cleaning. Which feels like a really dumb use of my rare alone time, but it’s so refreshing to clean a room and actually see it stay clean for a whole day, instead of just three minutes until Shepard grabs his next snack that half ends up all over the floor. I also picked up some Mexican for lunch. I love getting food from the place in town because it’s definitely enough for two very full and delicious meals! I added chile toreados to my usual order today and it was a great spicy addition eaten with the flautas.

Besides all the Annie stuff and one terrible night with the children, it was a pretty good week overall. I’m hoping this next one is a little bit quieter, though!

Weekend Reflections 07.11.2020

For the first 99 days of quarantine I was writing nightly instagram recaps of what I did each day and how I felt about everything going on. It was quite a cathartic ritual for me to process this extreme change in our daily lives on a much smaller and more personal scale than a long public blog post. My favorite thing to come out of that exercise was realizing just how much I do in a single day. I’ve always been cursed with constant feelings of “not enough” and it was so helpful to see that even though it felt like my entire life was reduced to just cooking and cleaning and cooking some more, I was still living a very full and productive life, even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted or what I was used to. I stopped doing those nightly posts around the time I went into a store for the first time in three months. Quarantine was officially over about a month before that so it started to feel silly to keep counting the days after I had been doing a lot more regular pre-coronavirus activities. (Though going into one store a week isn’t exactly “a lot!”) I also started feeling like the days were becoming very monotonous and my mental health was taking another dive, so it was better to stop doing those nightly evaluations when I couldn’t think of anything positive to say anymore. I want to always be honest about what’s going on with me, but I also don’t want to come across as being whiny and ungrateful all the time.

In the last few weeks since then I’ve been pretty quiet on social media. I’ve been quiet in real life too. Summer is always the hardest season for me for so many reasons and it all just feels so amplified this year after already having the entire family confined to the house for three months before summer even began with three long months ahead of us and still no guarantee that any part of life will go back to normal come fall. It’s really overwhelming to this extreme introvert who only thrives when she gets a ton of alone time and space to exhale. Being caught in the middle of so much familial conflict and screen time noises and always having so many demands on my time and energy to cook, clean, and again cook – it’s really starting to get to me. I feel so trapped. I’m irritated with everyone all the time. I struggle to even know who I am anymore outside of these bizarre new circumstances we live in.

Fortunately, I am a fighter. And even though I’m prone to wallowing in despair more often than I should, I also like to problem solve and work on finding solutions to make at least my own life easier and better. Unfortunately, most of the solutions I’ve come up with in the last month have had unexpected negative consequences because my life is invariably linked to the three humans (and three pets) that live with me. Which is really frustrating. But I’m doing my best to just keep moving forward because what other choice do I have?

The best part of my life lately has been going on an early morning bike ride almost every single day. I started about two weeks ago and it quickly became the favorite thing I do. I’ve never, ever been a person who enjoyed exercise. But apparently I’ve just never found the right thing to connect with. I’ve also struggled greatly since breaking my ankle two and a half years ago and getting plantar fasciitis every single time I make a commitment to start walking more. Amazingly, biking doesn’t hurt my feet nearly as much as walking and my ankle seems healed enough (finally!) that it doesn’t hurt at all. My legs certainly get tired when I’m out – probably because I can’t seem to go a day without it right now. But the only lingering effects I have are feeling calmer mentally, feeling less restless physically, and sleeping more soundly (though so far not for longer lengths of time). There are ONLY POSITIVES. Okay, there are actually some negatives, like this morning when apparently one of our pets decided to open the French doors and go wake everybody up while I was out. All three of them get so hyped up when they see me ready to leave the house so early in the morning. It’s really annoying! Both Rory and Annie know how to open those doors to get upstairs if they work at it long enough, but the blame was still placed on me. My biking every morning also means that I’m too tired to go on our regular morning family walk, so those have just disappeared completely. Greg will often still take Annie, but he prefers to go on his own than try to force the boys to go with him when I’m not also trying to make them follow through on this four month long ritual. It really bothers me that I found something I’m enjoying SO MUCH with so many health benefits both mentally and physically, but it still means other things then fall to the wayside as a result. But I’m trying to just focus on how happy it makes me and go with that feeling for as long as I can! I really like going early because there aren’t many other people out (though surprisingly still quite a few at 5am in a very small town!), the streets are free of cars, it’s much cooler out, I can usually catch the sunrise – though my options for seeing it on a more rural road (for a better photo!) are pretty limited – and it’s just a great way to start the day.

I’ve also been taking a lot of joy in my garden this week! We’ve harvested all of our radishes, a big bouquet of broccoli, one huge cucumber, a variety of hot peppers, and our first two tomatoes. I usually check for ripe produce every morning after my bike ride and it always surprises me to find at least one new vegetable ready to pick every day. I’ve always loved the idea of gardening, but am terrible at following through on them. Since we don’t have much else to do with our time these days we’re really taking good care of it and I love seeing the fruits of our labor!

After a month of being more productive sewing dolls than I have in years, my sewing room was a bit of a disaster. I also had this corner that I used to use when I was bullet journaling and doing devotions every morning and night, but haven’t really sat down and used in probably a year. I wanted to make it more useful to who I am right now so I finally went ahead with a project I’ve been toying with for a long time – making my own drink station!

It took awhile to perfect how I wanted it to look, but I’m very happy with the results! Since I’m really the only one that uses it I decided to have a more minimalist look with only two mugs out at a time, even though I have quite a collection. If I’m ever allowed to have friends over again I’ll add in a fun mug tree display. I was also happy to finally find a good place to display this adorable little pebble family art that my best friend gave me.

The real winner of all my hot drinks is this Cosori electric kettle that my mom gave me for my birthday last year. I use it multiple times a day for tea or coffee. It’s amazing.

I usually drink more tea than coffee, so I picked up a fun spinning tea bag display to make it look a lot more organized. And of course some tasty syrups that I like to add to cold drinks.

My beloved little pour over pot is what I used most often. The Moka espresso pot is the only thing I couldn’t actually use IN my drink station area, but because I still wanted the ability to make fancy drinks I actually ordered a small real espresso maker. I haven’t taken it out of the box yet, but I’m antsy to set it up and give it a go! I will be a full on barista by the time people are allowed back into my house for visits!

Coffee grinder because I’m hoity toity and only drink coffee from freshly ground beans. My ember mug is my favorite for tea since it tends to take me so long to drink a mug. And a recent addition – a milk frother which is a total game changer. I actually whip up my regular creamer in there and it’s amazing. I also used it for salted caramel cold foam on top of a cold brew the other day.

The main addition was adding in a cute mini fridge! While I of course just wanted it for looks and convenience of having all my coffee items in one room, it also solved the problem we’ve had since quarantine of having more stuff shoved into our main fridge than we technically have room for. It’s amazing how much more space has opened up now that I took all my extra things out of there! Plus we have room for Greg’s soda again – he had to sacrifice that space awhile back. And of course space for my emergency chocolate supply!

I also bought this really cute set of three shelves to add some layering and dimension to the drink area instead of just shoving it all on top of the table. I ran out of things to display by the third shelf so I grabbed a rainbow of my favorite books and added this delightful candle which smells like blueberry pie.

Once the drink station was complete I spent another couple of days reorganizing and slightly rearranging my entire sewing room. The biggest difference was changing the direction of the table. My main reason for choosing to put it there is that I wanted to find out if I could carve out some space for an exercise glider I’m thinking about buying in a few months when it gets too cold and icy to do anything outdoors again. I think it’ll definitely fit, but for now I’m really enjoying how spacious the room suddenly feels! The table definitely looks more like a workspace now rather than any type of welcoming entertaining space, but who knows when we can entertain again so I need to make the room work for what I need now and this is perfect! I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in the last few days just staring at my beautiful room!

I also managed to make seven (one not pictured, I’m not that bad at math!) dolls in between everything. It feels like a bit of a disappointment after making at least 15 a week in the last month, but still better than nothing!

I have had some pretty decent alone time this week, so I shouldn’t complain too much. Greg and the boys went to his grandparents’ house on Sunday so I had about eight hours to myself, which was very much needed! I treated myself to some local Mexican food, which we haven’t ordered since Mother’s Day, I believe. So good! Their chile relleno is my ultimate comfort food. Then on Friday I had a grocery pick up, but made a point of ordering myself some lunch from Canteen for pick up as well. Remember right before all this started and I declared it my mission in life to hit up every taco restaurant in the Madison area? Canteen is definitely at the top and it’s been my favorite curbside pick up place I’ve tried because you can easily order online and the directions for pick up are very clear on where to park, who to text, and they rush it right out. They also have the most amazing arbol salsa, which I prefer to eat with their wagon wheel duritos instead of chips. Yesterday I had carnitas and barbacoa tacos and both were so delicious.

As for other food adventures this week, I haven’t been that energized about trying new things – it’s too hot. But after the millionth morning of the boys arguing that they hated the school breakfast food (another solution that has almost only caused more problems) I tried out a new recipe for chocolate peanut butter muffins that don’t have any flour or grains in them. I was really impressed by how well they turned out, but I probably wouldn’t make them again because it required a 1.5 cups of peanut butter and 3/4 cups of cocoa powder. That’s a lot of relatively expensive ingredients! The only really big dinner I made were grilled chicken shawarma and spicy potato and tomato skewers with a roasted garlic sauce. We did run out of propane halfway through cooking, but it was worth the wait! And on Friday we went to the in-law’s house and they ordered food which we ate out on the deck. Today I also made some pretty tasty grilled raspberry jam, bacon, jalapeno, and havarti sandwiches, but I forgot to take a photo.

Well, this is quite a reflection post, so I’ll leave you now with this photo of me holding up this cute rainbow unicorn bottle I bought a few weeks ago when I went into TJMaxx for the first time in 3.5 months! Happy weekend!