Thursday, May 31, 2012

Favorite Things - Spring 2012

Isn't it fun to read about the things other people like every now and then? I think so, and a few friends mentioned that they enjoy reading these lists when I make them, so here you go. This is what we are loving right now. 
(Every time I do this, I wish I were doing a sponsored post by companies that send me freebies. But I'm not - at least you know my opinion isn't swayed.)

Organic Pink Lady Apples, stored in the refrigerator to keep them extra cool and crisp!

We slice them up with a few pieces of Oberweis' colby jack cheese, which is my current favorite, and it is such a delicious snack (or lunch, if you're me!).

Grande vanilla with whip latte. 
My artificial means for acquiring energy after particularly bad nights with the kids. Sometimes I just call it breakfast.

Not getting enough sleep means bad cravings for junk food. Isn't it so unfair how those things go together? This is my treat of choice right now. Peanut M&M's. I made the mistake of planning to purchase them when I made a trip to Costco the other week, so now we have a bag of peanut M&M's the size of our living room.

The Pioneer Woman's Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce.
The best thing I've made for dinner. Possibly ever. I want to eat this every week! Definitely worth a try - find the recipe HERE. (Photo credit: PW's website.)

English muffins - toasted with a little sweet cream salted butter and strawberry jam. The perfect breakfast, in my opinion.
 Sometimes I make an english muffin in the evening a pair it with a cup of tea. I just found this new black tea flavor, Vanilla Caramel Truffle by Lipton, and it. is. heavenly. Those little pyramid teabags usually mean $$$, but not with this one. A box of 20 sachets was something like $2.99, and it's so good (coming from a self proclaimed tea snob). Most grocery stores carry it. A little milk and sugar added to it = perfection. 

Wheaton's French Market on Saturday mornings. Fresh flowers, local produce, donuts made on-site, and our new favorite find... made-while-you-wait Crepes with Nutella and fresh Strawberries. Heavenly.

Wear & Share - our favorite resale shop! This picture is from a long time ago - now Kate has furnished the little shop with adorable painted furniture and she is busting at the seams with inventory. So much so, that she's looking to expand into a new space on one of downtown Wheaton's busiest streets! I'm so excited for her. If you haven't visited her shop yet, you're late to the party. But head over anyways!

1026 College Avenue, Wheaton IL 60187

I am currently reading this (when I can)... and loving it.

This Fresh Sugar lip balm is the only one you need. It's a little pricey as far as lip balm goes, but I bought a tube nearly a year ago, use it daily, and I still have plenty left! It's just wonderful, you have to try it for yourself. You can buy it online or at Sephora.

I have made a commitment to myself and to Rob to do everything I can to age gracefully and not get sucked into the idea that as women we should look like we're 20 when we're 50 (or any age other than 20!). That being said, a little tube of drugstore cream goes a long way when you're in your 30's, not to mention averaging 7 broken hours of sleep each night. This is necessary and I justify it because I'm not trying to look younger, I'm using it so that I don't look decades older than I currently am.

I love this eye cream - it's hydrating and has a satiny feel. Although my smile lines (or crow's feet or whatever they are) are probably impossible to erase with any cream, 1) I don't want to get rid of them - if you're happy and you know it, smile and let your face get all crinkly! and 2) this cream seems to give a little extra moisture and plumpness to the skin around my eyes and just feels good.

My skin is getting worse with age (shocker). I have this dry, red, itchiness on my jawline that came out of nowhere. I've tried a few, but this face cream soothes and moisturizes it the best, day or night, without being oily. Thank goodness, because if I start to absentmindedly scratch at it, little bumps raise up and it gets worse.

I have very sensitive teeth and I never knew that sensitive toothpaste does more than just be gentle on your teeth. After going to the dentist this winter, they recommended this toothpaste by Crest because it's gentle but it is also absorbed by your teeth (or something) and helps them not be as sensitive to cold or sweets throughout the day. I'm not explaining this well, but trust me when I say my teeth are much less sensitive and I thank this toothpaste.

This diaper cream was recommended by my friend Larissa when nothing else would work for Maddie. As in, prescriptions, baking soda baths, and every other miracle cream that was recommended or blended! It comes in a big tub and you don't need much for each application, so it will last a very long time. Obviously it's sort of unusual and the only place we could find to purchase it was online. Totally worth it.

So most of you know that my mom had Melanoma skin cancer when I was in high school. It's had a big impact on our family, from making sure I keep fresh fruit and veggies in our house, to limiting our sun exposure, to the products we choose for sun protection when we ARE outside. I was confused and disappointed to read that there may be cancer-causing chemicals in most of the sunscreens that are sold in stores. So I did a little research, and found this wonderful line by Josie Maran sold online and at Sephora. I can apply these creams to my kids' skin and to myself without worrying that I'm actually doing harm as I try to protect us from the sun. It's what we will use this summer. Bonus: it goes on clear and smells great.

Stevens park, our favorite place to go first thing in the morning before it gets to hot out. It's always nearly empty, and so far I've run into 2 friends there that I haven't seen in years. Also it has that forgiving rubber ground surface so it's perfect for Maddie who half the time crawls, half the time tries to walk and falls down.

Soft cotton shorts from Old Navy. Might wear them over my bathing suit this summer, definitely wearing them to bed and around the house. So comfortable and cheap! They didn't have as many colors online (white and yellow) as they did in the store in town (salmon, charcoal, indigo, green, etc.).

Old Navy strikes again - and I don't usually like this store because nothing seems to fit me quite right, and when it does it falls apart after a few wears or washes. Something happened this spring and I am loving their basics. I went in for something for Maddie and came out with this gem: the vintage V-neck T-shirt. It's versatile and perfect for sleeping, a morning at the park, or working out. It's lightweight without being too thin, and cheap. And I noticed they're starting to sell out, online and in the store.

And finally...

One of my friends gave me this recipe for White Chicken Chili. I make it a lot and share it with others when they're sick or just because it makes too much for one family to consume alone, and each recipient asks for the recipe! That's when it's good to have a blog. :) It's a cold and rainy day here in Wheaton today, so we will probably be having this for dinner tonight. And since my good friend is visiting this weekend from Florida, and she loves a good bowl of soup, I'm confident that we'll be able to finish off the entire batch!

White Chicken Chili

1 tbls. Oil (for cooking onion)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
48 oz. can great white northern beans, drained
2 14 oz. cans white corn, drained
14 oz. can stewed or chopped tomatoes with juices
4oz. Can chopped green chilies
28 oz. chicken broth
1 c. Water
 2 c. Chopped cooked chicken (4-5 chicken breasts)
3 cups Monterey jack cheese
16 oz. sour cream
In a heavy dutch oven or large soup pot, cook onion, garlic and spices in oil over med-high heat until transparent.  Add beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies, broth, water and chicken.  Simmer for about an hour.  Turn off heat, and add cheese and sour cream and stir well. Makes enough for 2 families!


And now, share your favorites with me!

I have been trying to find a cheap cream facial cleanser that won't dry out my skin and also removes make-up. What do you use?

I need some new healthy dinner ideas for the kids. We are in a rut! What do you feed your kids for dinner?

I am mess-averse when it comes to entertaining my kids inside on rainy or cold days. They are little tornadoes as it is! What projects have you done with your little ones that are safe for 1 year olds and are not too messy?

And just because I want to know, do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with extremely stubborn, strong-willed, adorable almost-3-year-olds?! My #1 rule is 'don't lose your cool, it only adds fuel to the fire'. After that, I start to run out of ideas. :) 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sweet summer weekends

So I know it's not technically summer yet, but with temperatures in the 80's I am just jumping over 'spring' and heading right to 'summer'. And this weekend was the perfect start to our summer. Robbie's preschool is technically over, save for one last hurrah at a park on Wednesday this coming week with his classmates. Summer, it is.

The weekend before Memorial Day weekend is always the biggest for yard/garage sales, at least in this area. My sweet friend Kacey and I met up across town and scoured a neighborhood-wide garage sale together. We each found picnic tables for our kids and matching scooters for our girls. (Why not?!) I thought I was more of a lone-shopper kind of girl, but garage-saling with a friend is so much fun. I took the kids out to my mom's for the rest of the day so that we could check out her neighborhood's sales as well. We found a great backyard playhouse and a bike for Ellie, and my sister and Elle were my shopping buddies for that one. After mom's lasagna dinner (sooo delicious!) we jammied up the kids and headed home for bed.

Saturday morning I took Ellie to the French Market with me for donuts and vegetables. She is getting so old and loves when it's "Just you and me, mom?!". She said that about 100 times while we were out together, always with a smile and a reach for my hand. Mima came out and stayed with the kids while Rob and I slipped out to look at furniture, which afforded us time to actually talk about the important stuff that's going on without interruption. I'm so thankful for those conversations now that they are hard to squeeze in on a daily basis.

Saturday evening we met our friends Matt and Liz and their little boy Peter at a park for a pizza picnic dinner. It was Liz's fabulous idea and it was such a great way to enjoy that perfect time of day! It was warm but not hot, we had full bellies and happy kids, and the dads pushed the babies in swings while the moms laid on the picnic blanket and talked. Liz and Matt are new friends and we love having this family in our lives. 

Maddie shows her affection for Matt, while Ellie and Robbie fussed over Peter and made him laugh.

We all laughed about the way Maddie sits back on her bum, sort of like a lazy cat all hunched over. I'm not sure if you can really tell from this picture, but maybe I should encourage better posture like Peter is demonstrating?! She is such a funny little kook.

Quite the pair... and you know I'm not above arranging marriages for my children.

Don't let these sitting pictures fool you. Cakes repeatedly stood up on her own and took 2 or 3 steps before falling into our arms. I think she was trying to impress Peter! This weekend definitely marks 'First Steps' for the babe.

"OOooooOOOooo!!" Sweet, happy, loving little Peter.

Oops, out of order. Before we left for the park I bathed Ellie (her hair is a magnet for sticky anything and was a mess). We blew dry her hair and she wanted a little more girly-time so I put a ponytail in her hair and fishtail braided it. She loved it. Then I might have let her have a little shimmer on her eyelids and sorbet lip gloss. She was so thrilled!

Sunday morning - Rob went for a run as the kids were waking up. I made a pot of coffee and Ellie helped me make french toast. And as I type all of this, I realize in one short weekend she has become my shadow, taking pleasure in doing anything and everything with me. Love.

A great morning at church, zero tears from the kids on the way in and out, and naps after lunch for the girls and Rob while I snuck out for a pedicure (incidentally, Robbie went to town in our bedroom with my lavender pillow spray while we thought he was sleeping). It's a stinky house as a result, but a happy one. And now we're looking forward to wrapping up the weekend with a BBQ at a friend's house tonight.

Can every weekend be this wonderful?


I bought mini cones from the store and we've been having small ice cream cones after dinner to celebrate the start of summer weather.

Madeline was especially fussy last weekend, and by Sunday night she was very fussy and refusing to sleep. Not like her at all. I did everything I could think of, including making a bed on the floor of her nursery and trying to coax her to sleep next to me. When that didn't work and we were still awake at 12:30am, I decided to take her in to be examined. She was screaming and miserable, and I was worried. She doesn't act like that even when she's sick. Thankfully, she only had a very bad double ear infection (I was fearing worse!) and after the first dose of medicine she was so much better. We fell asleep at 4am after the whole ordeal. Good times with sick kids!

Another morning, another opportunity to capture a few self portraits while mommy snoozes.

Last day of class at 3's preschool!

It was teddy bear show and tell day as well.

Fridays in the summer are good for garage sales! We found Ellie this adorable bike for CHEAP, and she was so thrilled.


Showing off her pussy elbow to her baby sister after wiping out in Mima's driveway. And no she wasn't on her bike, just walking. Haha.

Impromptu marching band in the backyard this week.

French toast at the park one morning after Maddie's rough go with the ear infections. 

We needed to get out and enjoy the sunshine and reclaim our energy! This did it. Parks are a wonderful way to start the day before it gets too hot and crowded. So peaceful.

Current self portrait. 
Am I fooling anyone? Can you tell how chronically sleep deprived we are?

Fishtail in her pony.

A new trick that he's mastered - balancing on one foot.

French market cinnamon sugar donuts. Now deemed an outside food. She got a spray down in the sink and my entire kitchen had to be cleaned. Not worth it. But it made for a cute picture!

Random evening outside before bedtime. 

HAHAHAHA haha ha. HA. This was the day I attempted to take the kids swimming at the gym after my workout. Who knew it would be a workout in and of itself. Family changing rooms - great in theory, but they could be about twice the size and include a 'dry' area.

It was total chaos and I'm sure if people were listening from the hallway they were cracking up. Or thought I was a horrible mom as I called out instructions and restrictions the entire 45 minutes we were in there, just trying to keep everyone safe and dry and alive.

This sums up life right now. Stuff everywhere. Maddie into everything. Blurry heads that never stop moving. I'm not exactly sure what is going on!