Sunday, December 23, 2012

evil genius or just plain evil?

Rob and I are so different.  Like night and day.  I'm practical.  He's not.  He's people oriented.  I'm task oriented.  He's fun.  I'm not. 

He's just informed me that I've been relieved of my Christmas duties for next year. 

Because of this:

Turns out my girls and their friends love to wrap presents.  My girls had been begging me to let them wrap presents for the past month. 

I enjoy Christmas shopping, but I loathe wrapping.  I used to have my sister wrap my presents for me and then I graduated to procrastinating until Christmas Eve night.  But this year, the girls were begging!

Rob thinks I'm evil for letting them wrap all of the presents.  I think it's wonderful.  I made sure all of their own presents were in boxes so they could still be surprised when they opened their gifts. 

What do you think?  Evil genius or just plain evil?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Compliment Book

Our elementary school, where all of our kids have thrived, has the best teachers and staff.  One of the teachers, though, stands out in my mind as the heart of our school.  He is the only "boy" teacher, as I've heard him described.  Even though the school doesn't routinely place siblings with the same teachers, our girls have both been placed in his class for 3rd grade.  Kate loved third grade, as well as every other grade.  She is a natural student.  Emma loves school and works hard, but academics don't come as easily to her.  This year, as Emma is currently in 3rd grade, she is working hard to develop great study skills, organization, focus, and she is learning by leaps and bounds (and gaining confidence every day)!

My favorite aspect of the third grade year with the "boy" teacher is the compliment book

Each student in the class helps to fill in the book of their classmates.  They basically write each of their friends a small "letter" to list the things they appreciate about them.  I can't think of a better way to encourage, build confidence, praise good behavior, or solidify  friendships than through this concept. 

I just read through Emma's compliment book and what stood out to me are the words of her classmates and teacher.  Words like: kind, joyful, smart, hard worker, and organized.  I'll be honest, organized is not a word that comes to mind when I think about Emma!  But, I am thrilled that her spirit is joyful and that her kindness is evident to all in the school setting. 

I think all of our relationships would thrive if we expanded on a basic third-grade exercise.  I would challenge you to extol the virtues of your family and friends during this Christmas season.  Maybe you could include a special message with your loved ones gift for Christmas morning (I'm totally going to do this!).  Along with each of the gifts we'll be giving out this year, we'll be attaching a piece of paper that will compile the reasons (submitted by the kids and Rob and I) why we think our family member is special. It won't be elaborate or lengthy, but hopefully it will make them feel loved. 

I will start by creating a compliment book for my family here on my blog.  If you also have a blog, feel free to duplicate this idea for your family or friends!  Let's love one another with words of affirmation. 

Dear Rob, 
I think you are awesome! You work very hard to provide our family with everything we need.  You are very talented in many areas.  You are so much fun to be around. You are the best. :)

Dear Josh, 
You are a hard worker!  You are always willing to help your dad with projects and chores.  You are a kind person.  I am proud of how you stand up for others (that shows bravery and leadership).  You are a great friend and I love how you organized the building of the fort in our backyard.  It was pretty awesome to look out the back window and see all of your friends working together to create something you all can be proud of.  

Dear Kate,
You are a great big sister to Emma!  You always take such good care of her at school.  You are a great leader.  You are so smart!  I wish I could help you with your math homework, but you're already smarter than me.  You are very thoughtful and kind.  You are always willing to help me around the house.  You are amazing with babies!  You will be a great mom someday.  

Dear Emma,
You are creative!  You have so many talents.  You are a very hard worker.  You are extremely thoughtful.  You have a great imagination.  I love how you can set up parties.  I think it's so cool that you worked hard to set up an ice-cream sundae bar last night for our family (as a surprise).  You are so good at making everyone around you feel special!  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas has come early!

A few years ago, I purchased these two vintage chairs from my friend's family estate.  They were part of a set with a matching sofa that had been in her grandmothers house for decades.  I really liked the size of them and the classic shape.  I'm guessing that they are probably from the 60's, but they had held up remarkably well and were still very current-looking.  With the exception of stains and some missing buttons, they've been a perfect addition to our living room for about three years. 

this is the before image - original fabric

the original fabric was very durable, just a little stained

For our Christmas present this year, my mom decided to get the chairs recovered for us!

I was unsure as to which type of material I wanted.  I toyed with the idea of geometric shapes or patterns.  I knew I wanted to have turquoise in the material, because I thought that would look nice with our brown leather sofa and chair.

I finally decided to basically purchase the exact same fabric that they were covered in, but in a nice light turquoise color.

We have a local upholstery shop here in York that's less than two miles away and she was able to cover both chairs in a fairly short amount of time.  We had inquired about them in October and just received them back today.

I love them. 

Thanks, Mom!  This was a perfect Christmas present!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Northern Lights 10,000 lux light box

So, remember how I really thought I had an underactive thyroid?  I experienced weight gain, irritability, lack of energy, and overall yuckiness?  I swore since I'd put on 12 lbs in a short amount of time that I had something medically wrong with me.  I eventually attributed my symptoms to getting older and not eating well. 

Later on the the fall, my mood really worsened.  Irritability probably would have sounded great to my poor husband and family.  I was literally lethargic all day with the exception of 8-9am. 

I'd always kind of realized that my mood was dependent on whether or not the sun was shining, but after a little research I discovered it was a little more than that.  I knew that people in areas with less sunlight benefited from sun lamps, thanks to my well-read sister!  I started doing a little reading and began to have hope. 

It all sounds very strange, but with about 30 minutes of light therapy per day, patients experienced more energy, better mood, less craving for starchy foods, and more restful sleep at night. 

I started shopping on Amazon and asked Rob for his opinion.  He felt very strongly that what we needed was the best light box money could buy.  I can say, with all certainty, that less than a month later, this was the best $300 we've every spent (I'm actually going to work on getting our insurance company to reimburse me). 

I can't tell you how much better I feel!  I am still not sure if what I was experiencing was seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or a more moderate depressive episode.  I do know that my outlook is so much improved that I literally can't imagine going back to how I felt before. 

So, basically, I am sitting in front of this very(!) bright(!) light for about 30-40 minutes every morning.  I am receiving Vitamin D which helps my body make more melatonin.  I have increased energy through the day and by evening my body is producing the melatonin it needs to get a restful sleep. 

These light boxes are also used to treat: sleep disorders, bi-polar disorder, and depression.  The company we purchased from is called Alaska Northern Lights.  The boxes have filters that allow the box to be UV free and I don't look directly at the box to avoid any eye damage.  

If you feel a little down in the winter or think you might have depression, I would urge you to research this.  I was a little nervous to try anti-depressants, and I am so thankful we made the decision to order a light box instead. 

I just wanted to share this information with anyone who could possibly benefit from my experience!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Open House Party

I have a fair amount of cooking to do in the next month or so.  I am thankful for the work and excited to try out a few new recipes!

Yesterday I provided food for Rob and his partners in their financial advisory firm.  They recently renovated and opened a new office and were having an open house for their clients.  I kept things pretty simple as we decided to keep the budget low. 

Three of the recipes were ones I'd found on pinterest, which is coincidental because Marg and Shay have started a pinterest recipe challenge! 

(If you're interested in any of the recipes, simply click on the highlighted name.)  

These shrimp and spanish chorizo bites were a new recipe (found on pinterest).  Marinated in sherry, red wine vinegar and spices, I grilled them instead of sauteing.  They were muy delicioso.  (I have no idea if this is a correct Spanish translation for "very delicious"!)

I'd found and made these tortellini skewers last year around this time.  For some reason, people love food on a stick and this doesn't disappoint!  

I didn't find this recipe on pinterest - but these are courtesy of the lovely Ina Garten.  Super easy and totally satisfying.  If you're looking for the perfect ending to a meal or party, these decadent dark chocolate truffles are the perfect bite. 

Lastly, these white chocolate truffles were also a find on pinterest.  I've started adding lemon zest into the mixture, but otherwise I follow the recipe as written.  Creamy, lemony and smooth, these are utterly addictive. 

I also made (but didn't photograph) baked spinach and artichoke dip with veggies, spicy molasses cookies, and shortbread.

I prepared a little bit each day this week, so when yesterday rolled around, my oven needed a good cleaning.  I decided to clean it while I worked in the kitchen.  Remind me never to do that again!  It was hot and smelly in my little kitchen.  Thankfully no one rang the doorbell yesterday morning, because this is what they would have seen! :)

Skinny jeans, high boots, a tank top and an apron.  Not so cute.  But way cuter than the spandex shorts I wore the day before! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Honorable Mentions

I've been cooking and taking some pictures with my camera, but nothing that I've made has really been worthy of a blog post.  Some of the things we've enjoyed have been delicious and some things have been a massive bust.

Tonight we enjoyed two favorites: smoky mountain chicken and roasted cauliflower

This focaccia was a bust.  I made it for Josh's soccer banquet and the recipe totally needed more salt.  It tasted fine with loads of butter, but what doesn't? 

I had made a large serving of mashed potatoes for the big storm and decided to serve it with chili (kind of a variation on a baked potato topped with chili).   Rob really liked it and I thought it was okay.  For some reason, I think the baked potato version has better flavor.

We enjoyed this pizza before trick-or-treating last week and while it was delicious, little about it was noteworthy.  One mention: Rob's brother husband gifted me with some dried poblanos to use and they were the perfect addition to a homemade pizza.  Just the right amount of zip. 

Speaking of trick-or-treating.....

I was hoping to have a picture of the cousins/neighbors in their costumes, but Malachi wasn't quite ready and neither is the baby-to-be-born.  Maybe next year! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Comforting Lunch

After two days of actual sun, we're back to grey skies here in southcentral Pennsylvania.  It's the day after the 2012 presidential election and I need some comforting. 

Enter this soup.  Is there anything more comforting than soup?  (actually, I'd have to go with sunlight, but work with me).  No one ever said that lentil soup was attractive, but I sure love it.  I could eat beans (or legumes) every day and never tire of them.  Typically I make my lentil soup with a ham bone, but I improvised today with some sliced ham sauteed in my pan with the veggies. 

Lentil Soup
1 medium carrot, chopped finely
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 T olive oil
2 cups fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups dried lentils (rinsed and sorted)
3 cups prepared chicken stock (or one ham bone and 3 cups water)

1.  Saute oil, carrot, onion, over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add garlic and saute an additional minute.
2.  Add spinach and lentils and saute for 2 minutes.
3.  Add liquid, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes until lentils are tender. 
4.  Taste, and add seasoning as needed (my soup was perfect because of the prepared stock)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Secret.

I say this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek sensitivity.  I certainly don't purport to have the secret to a perfect marriage.  Anyone who knows Rob or I realizes that with the marriage of two first-borns, things are very intense.  We're either getting along great or not at all.  I personally love the extreme nature of our relationship.  It definitely alleviates boredom.  And, anyone who knows me realizes that sometimes I can be a little, well let's say, moody.  What I have in my arsenal, though, is powerful.

I can take simple ingredients and create something so delicious that he'll fall in love with me all over again. click here for the recipe to a happy husband (or happy anyone, for that matter)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Now We Wait.

Well, we're battening down the hatches here in southcentral Pennsylvania.  Hurricane Sandy is on her way and we're doing all we can to get ready!

My biggest fear is that we'll lose our ability to draw water in our house.  I hate to be dirty.  Really, I hate it.  I don't mind a cold shower, but I need a daily shower.  And clean clothing.  Clean dishes.  And plenty of food.

So, while Rob has been preparing the outside of our house, I've been trying to prepare inside.  I've been keeping caught up on laundry and stockpiling prepared food.  I washed our sheets and towels and vacuumed everywhere.  Rob thinks I'm crazy, but I feel sooooo much better. 

this was the only pile on our bed that didn't have underwear on it!

I've made: beef chili, white chicken chili, beef enchiladas, broccoli soup, apple muffins, bacon quiche, peanut butter cookies, lasagna, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and challah french toast.  Even if we don't lose power, at least I won't have to cook for the next week!

beef and bean enchiladas

bacon, goat cheese, and thyme quiche

Rob grabbed the last two coolers and four bags of ice at Home Depot, so we can keep our perishables cold.  We're expected to have sustained winds from 30-50 mph, with gusts as high as 75mph.  We're in the "likely" zone to lose our electricity.  The shelves on our grocery stores are about bare, so hopefully that means we're all prepared.

The danger with this huge storm is the sustained winds and the fact that they may cause flying debris or uproot trees from saturated soil (we've already gotten about 4 inches since this morning).  We have two large trees in close proximity to our house (we lost one last year in a hurricane).  We're praying for safety, so we'll just have to wait and see!  At this point, we've done all we can.  Now we just wait.

Stay safe out there, everyone!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Because nothing says "welcome" quite like an M16. 

the new welcome sign Rob ordered for the cabin

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Few of my Favorite Things

Before we head into my least favorite time of year (winter), I'd like to try to celebrate the pleasures of fall.  I do enjoy the cooler temperatures, especially the less humid days.  I think the hardest part about winter for me is the shorter amounts of sunshine.  I've found that I am an easily pleased creature: enough food, rest, and sunshine make me fairly happy. 

Things I'm loving lately - fall inspired.

1.  Pumpkin Spice bagels (Thomas')

2.  My haircut!  I invest in a good haircut about once a year and I love it!  It's pretty short, but it's so easy.  I have an appointment to have it highlighted in two weeks.

3.  My new earrings.  I'm not sure if I'm cool enough to pull them off, but I think they're super cute.  I got them at Collage.  

3.  Clean flower beds.  My mom stopped by today and made me pull out dead flowers, trim perennials, and rake out our flower beds.  It looks so much better!

4.  A surprise flower bouquet!  My doorbell rang this morning while I was in the shower and when I went to the front porch I found these.  Courtesy of Jessica and Friends blossoms to blessings program.  

5.  These toppings from Stonewall Kitchen.  I never need an excuse to eat bread, but if I did, this would be it.  I think I like the apple butter the best.  But I love them both.  Especially with cream cheese and a pumpkin spice bagel.  Yum.

I received these and other treats from my friend, Whitney, at Collage.  Thanks, Whitney!

6.  The view from our front porch.   I love the colors of fall!

7.  My new baggallini. I got mine from Collage.  It's the perfect size for me.  I'm a minimalist.  I carry my phone, keys, sunglasses, debit card, checkbook, and pen.  The best part is that when it gets dirty, I can throw it in the washer and it looks like new!

8.  Apple cider.  From Brown's Orchards.   I'm not a big fan of Brown's, but they make a mean cider. 

9.  Making Christmas lists!  We don't spend much on Christmas, but I do love trying to find thoughtful gifts for our kids, parents, and our sisters and their children.  We've exchanged names on both sides of the family, so it will be fun to actually start shopping.

10.  Two new babies!  Two of Rob's sisters are expecting children.  The running total will be at three kids each, so we'll see how long that lasts!  I can promise you that there will be no competition here.  If they want to beat us, we wish them luck! :)

Well, that's what I'm loving lately.  How about you?  I bet you Aussies are loving the warmer weather and fresh produce!  Enjoy the sunshine for me. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Cabin Trip

We spent a glorious weekend at the family cabin last weekend.  The leaves are in their full autumnal color and the nights were chilly with warm sunny days.  Perfection.  We hiked, the kids practiced archery, and we enjoyed lots of quiet.  

For the third year in a row, we've took our kids to the Sherman's Valley Heritage Farm Days.  The highlight of the day is the tractor parade.  Sadly, our kids are no longer young enough to receive the candy thrown from tractors, but we still have fun!  There are different vendors, displays, and of course, lots of great food.  We had fresh-pressed cider, homemade potato chips, elk burgers, kettle corn, and local birch beer, just to name a few treats!

I wish I would have thought to take a picture, but when we first arrived, Rob was thrilled to have to pull another vehicle out of the mud [with our truck].  He was totally in his glory.  :)

Anyway, here are some pictures we took of our weekend away. 

And, yes, Josh is that tall!  I think he's going to pass Rob in less than a year.  Eek.