meal plan: week of July 29

The oven is supposed to be fixed tomorrow…hopefully. It’s only been 7 weeks.

Monday: plans outside the house

Tuesday: sauteed chicken with quinoa and braised radishes

Wednesday: gazpacho with quesadillas, probably involving some squash and beans

Thursday: family dinner

Friday: black bean burgers with zucchini fries

Saturday: “ratatouille,” (or something else to use up a bunch of veggies), perhaps over rice

Saved the Best for Last {day 7…kinda…of blogging challenge}

Apparently I can’t count. Somehow I managed to skip the number 3 in this blogging challenge.

the count

[Sorry, Count]

AND I didn’t post yesterday. I actually wrote half of one, but I thought it was so lame that I didn’t want to take the effort to finish it.

This week we’ve learned the important lessons that not only am I bad with follow-through, but I also messed up something that most two-year-olds have learned.

So, there’s that.

Anyway, I thought I’d treat you to a little video. Philomena was not performing at her best: her tap dance moves veered a bit into her ballerina moves. That’s okay. We’ll let it slide…this time.

Click here and enjoy.

[You will also get to witness firsthand our breathtaking hunter green kitchen floor. We call the style, “retro-1997.” Fingers crossed for an Apartment Therapy feature!]

Philomena: 19 months {day 6 of blogging challenge}

IMG_7320

Dear Mena,

[Almost every. single. time. I go to type “Mena,” I inadvertently type “Mean.” And it makes me afraid of her future gradeschool taunting. Hopefully, she’ll be so sweet that “Mean” will merely be an ironic nickname and not an apt description. ANYWAY…back to the sappiness.]

Yesterday you turned 19 months old. Before I had kids, when people would say, “my child is 17 months old…or 20 months old…etc.” I would smile politely while thinking, “um, why don’t you just say ‘about a year and a half,’ weirdo?”

But now, I get it. I really do. You truly are a different little girl than you were last month. A couple days ago, I even corrected someone when she called you an “18-month-old.” Um, “she’s almost 19 months!” I chided. And now, Mommy is the weirdo.

I digress. This is not about your Mommy’s many ineptitudes.

Instead, I wanted to let you know just how much your Daddy and I are loving this age. You are so curious, so open to the world. You are making so many connections, it sometimes boggles our minds. I know you need to grow up (tear), but I pray you can keep this utter delight in life.

You have always looked like your Daddy [and your Aunt Sally and your Great Grandma Jane], but I have been noticing lately that you are starting to get his personality too. You have become a little bit more shy, more reserved. You have to take in all your surroundings and the people around you before you will really warm up. This cautiousness will serve you well in the future.

Although you are starting to exert your will more, I can tell you are still pretty laidback. If you don’t get your way, you get upset for an instant, but usually Mommy or Daddy can find something to distract you fairly quickly. You haven’t had a major tantrum yet.

You are not very verbal right now; you only say a few handfuls of words. However, you have become a masterful communicator. Through your baby signs and pointing and taking Mommy’s hand places, you make your desires known quite clearly.

For example, Mommy bought you a little treat of bunny graham crackers. If you want one, you stand in front of the pantry and say “hop! hop! hop!” while performing said motion, followed by your sign for “cracker.” Yes, indeed.

the little bunny in the flesh

the little bunny in the flesh

You still are a good napper, but lately nighttime has been a bit difficult. You insist on sleeping with your babydoll, which I find unbelievably cute. You still wake up ridiculously happy, which is baffling to your Mommy.

You fiercely love books. Usually it’s Mommy who gets tired of reading long before you do.

You are still ambivalent towards food. Again, this is inexplicable to your Mommy. Thankfully, you’ll at least try even the strangest of foods I put in front of you, but often your calories consist mostly just of cheese, broccoli, oatmeal, eggs, and fruit/green smoothies. We’ll get there, honey.

You insisted on eating her granola with the ice cream scoop. One can probably imagine how well that went over.

You insisted on eating your granola with the ice cream scoop. One can probably imagine how well that turned out.

Mommy has discovered the trick to getting you to eat more: she sends you out on the back deck, with little bowls of food. You’ll take bites in the midst of your playing. It might take an hour to get through a bowl of oatmeal, but at least the mess is outside. I realize I might regret these tactics in a couple years when you refuse to ever sit down at the family table, but we’ll just let future-Mommy deal with that.

Music is one of your new interests. Our days wouldn’t be complete without multiple renditions of “Wheels on the Bus” and “Do your Ears Hang Low.”

You are a little bi-polar when it comes to play. Sometimes, you are great at independent play. You’ll be outside on the deck by yourself for an hour (Mommy watching out from the kitchen, of course). Whereas some afternoons, you have a meltdown if you are farther than 2 inches away from Mommy for a millisecond. But that’s okay, I can be inconsistent too.

"Let me get a picture of your independent play!"

“Let me get a picture of your independent play!”

This summer your favorite activity has undoubtedly been going to the pool to swim with your cousins. Just seeing your swimsuit gets you in a tizzy. Auntie Marie and Grandma Mary have very generously taken you swimming many times. Mommy has even braved the dreaded swimsuit and taken you too. Like all things, you are cautious at first, but end up giggling and getting excited after just a few minutes of splashing and going down the slide.

Oh, Philomena, your Daddy and I love you immensely. This is such a special time. I want to bottle it up, so I can experience it when you are a distant teenager. We desire desperately to give you the gift of a little brother or sister, but we also know that this time with “just you” is unique and special.

And I am making myself gag with the sappiness of this. So, I will stop here.

All my love,

your Ma Ma

"Just call that one the 'artistic picture' "- your Daddy

“Just call that one the ‘artistic picture’ ”  – your Daddy

recipe: Mint Lemonade (Spiked and Unspiked) {Tasty Thursday and day 5 of blogging challenge}

As life would have it, the past few weeks we’ve had people over for various reasons. Some are pregnant; others are not. Some are really into a good alcoholic drink; others are more ambivalent towards spirited beverages.

So, I wanted to come up with a versatile summer drink that could be alcoholic or non-alcoholic easily. I posed the question on Facebook, and after some confusion [Alison] that it was a veiled pregnancy announcement [it wasn’t], I got some great suggestions!

However, despite all of that, I just decided to make up my own recipe.

bourbon mint lemonade

The lemonade is really quite fabulous on its own, but the bourbon gives it that extra yummmmm factor. It is so great for a crowd of people, but it’s simple enough to do on a weeknight.

And I think it tastes better if you drink it on a front porch swing, but that’s just me.

====

Mint Lemonade with Bourbon

Important note: this recipe makes a lot. Like, we had 13 people over, and there was still some left over. The recipe can be easily halved or even quartered to suit your needs.

Ingredients

16 cups of water, divided

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, rinsed

3 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 17-18 medium-sized lemons)

Club Soda

Bourbon (we like Buffalo Trace or Bulleit, but really any kind would work)

Method

1. Heat the sugar and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat until all of the sugar has dissolved. Stir often. You now have simple syrup.

2. Take the pan off the heat and add the mint leaves. Allow the mint leaves to seep in the simple syrup for half an hour. Remove the mint.

3. Mix together the simple syrup, lemon juice, and remaining 14 cups of water. Chill in refrigerator.

4. To serve: fill a glass with ice and pour in the lemonade. Add a splash of club soda [this step seems unimportant, but it really heightens the drink.]. Optional, add bourbon to taste. [I like about 1 ounce of bourbon, whereas Ryan preferred something more in the 1 1/2 to 2 ounce range. And some of our friends just wanted a splash.] Garnish with a mint leaf, if you are so inclined.

Five “Favorites” (2nd Ed.) {day 4 of blogging challenge}

Linking up with Grace, who is filling in for Hallie.

Here are some things I’ve been loving lately:

1. Lemon-Basil Natural Air Freshener

lemon and basil air freshener

The other day my house was smelling a little not-awesome. During the winter, I often simmer cloves and cinnamon on the stove to make the air smell better than the remnants of the meal I cooked the night before. However, those scents just don’t seem summery enough, you know? Anyway, I had some lemon rinds left from making lemonade, and our basil is doing well this year in the garden. I simmered this mixture with some water on low for about an hour. It left my house smelling much better than wafts of squash quesadillas.

2. Breakfast Cookies

I don’t have a picture, but I happened upon this recipe a couple months ago, and we have been loving it! I usually substitute dried cherries for the chocolate, because melty chocolate in a toddler’s hand is a “recipe” for disaster [pun intended, unfortunately].

3. Self Control App for Mac

self control

[Isn’t this a lovely logo?]

There are many plug-ins and apps for computers that either give you a time limit on certain websites or block them completely for certain durations. For good articles on these, see here and here and here.

When I was working on the textbook, it was sooooooooooooooooo easy to mindlessly waste time on Facebook and the like. I would always feel super-guilty, because this was time away from my baby, and I didn’t want to take advantage of my incredible family who were watching her.

Enter “Self Control.” It is extreme, but amazing. You add whatever sites YOU want to the “blacklist.” Then, YOU set the amount of time you want them blocked. Once you put in your password and press “start” there is absolutely no way [unless perhaps your are a computer smarty-pants, unlike myself] you can get to these sites. Even re-starting your computer will not let you into them.

Like I said, it’s a little drastic, but I can’t even express how much writing I would crank out when I didn’t even have the possibility of perusing blogs and the like. I still use it sometimes, when I really need to focus on something on the computer, even if it is for 15 minutes.

4. Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

eating hte alphabet

Alright, this one is kind of a lie… This was my favorite book two weeks ago, when it first found its way to our house. However, Philomena is obsessed, like scary-stalker obsessed, with it, so I am so tired of reading it over and over and over again.

However, it is still SUCH a beautiful book. It is simple- just pictures of fruits and vegetables, but the pictures are unique and vibrant.

For some reason, Mena would always cough and put her hand in her mouth on the pages dedicated to the letter “A.” It took me a couple days to realize that she would do it every time we pointed out “artichoke.” Get it? ArtiCHOKE. Since her ordeal, she still chokes quite often on various foods. And apparently our desperate, “she’s choking! she’s choking” has made an impression.  

5. You Need a Budget Website/App

you need a budgetRyan and I are big on budgets. As a one-income [well..one-and-a-half?] family, we need to watch every penny very closely. We generally follow Dave Ramsey’s principles [we worked hard to become debt-free; no regular use of credit cards; spending within our means; living today like nobody else]. However, not everything about his methods seem to work for us in this stage of life [namely, the cash-only system].

We’ve had a good budget for all of our marriage, but I kept track of it on all of these convoluted spreadsheets that really weren’t that great.

Enter YNAB.

This is an amazing online program that forces you to look at every single dollar that comes in and is spent. I’ll admit, I still need to take more time with it to understand its full potential [because there is so much!], but from what I’ve seen over the past few months, it is highly versatile and is in line with our view of finances. You will never again ask the question, “what happened to that paycheck?”

The only downside is that it costs. However, the fee of $60 is a one-time only situation, AND there’s a free 30-day trial. I really think you’d save that $60 within just a couple months of using it.

Ha, this sounds like a paid endorsement! It’s not, I promise. :)

Alrighty then….thus concludes day 4 of my blogging streak. Will it continue? Stay tuned to find out.

instagram dump {day 2 of blogging challenge}

I am at the second day of a hopefully [hopefully] seven-day writing streak for the blogging challenge.

And for day dos, what is even more lame than posting a meal plan?

Oh, how about I just dump all the pictures on my cellphone here. Sound good?

What follows are the pictures I’ve put on instagram the past month or so…yes, I realize I already show you them in that nice little widget to the right.

So really, this post is entirely useless. So be it.

However, I did provide some mediocre captions. I’m a martyr, I know.

Our "office" is another name for our "laundry room." Therefore, when I spend *just one minute* switching out loads, Philomena always manages to pull down at least two shelves of books onto the floor. Her favs are Ryan's not-geeky-at-all graphic novels. This time, she went and found him and convinced the doting father to "read" her one.  He is wearing a Flash tshirt. Not planned, but perfect.

Our “office” is another name for our “laundry room.” Therefore, when I spend *just one minute* switching out loads, Philomena always manages to pull down at least two shelves of books onto the floor. Her favs are Ryan’s not-geeky-at-all graphic novels. This time, she went and found him and convinced the doting father to “read” her one.
He is wearing a Flash tshirt. Not planned, but perfect.

On this particular afternoon, she *insisted* on wearing her tutu. She proceeded to look at herself in every reflective surface in the house. This was in the midst of her dancing in front of the oven.

On this particular afternoon, she *insisted* on wearing her tutu. She proceeded to look at herself in every reflective surface in the house. This was in the midst of her dancing in front of the oven.

Beets. No filter. Most beautiful vegetable in all the land.

Beets. No filter. Most beautiful vegetable in all the land.

Philomena has gotten quite "motherly" lately. She rocks her baby dolls, gives them little pats, swaddles them. And, of course, she insists on diapering them.  She hates getting HER diaper change, but like her mother, she is full of double standards and contradictions.

Philomena has gotten quite “motherly” lately. She rocks her baby dolls, gives them little pats, swaddles them. And, of course, she insists on diapering them.
She hates getting HER diaper change, but like her mother, she is full of double standards and contradictions.

This is her preferred spot in the house. Again, like her mother, Mena has a propensity for staring off into space for long periods of time. She has found a way to do it in which it looks like our watchdog.

This is her preferred spot in the house. Again, like her mother, Mena has a propensity for staring off into space for long periods of time. She has found a way to do it in which it looks like our watchdog.

Ryan and I bought this outfit for her whilst she was still in-utero. We didn't even know we were having a girl, but my pregnancy-hormone-crazed self just INSISTED we buy it (full price even!!). I was so psyched that she finally fits in it. She was excited too. Obviously.

Ryan and I bought this outfit for her whilst she was still in-utero. We didn’t even know we were having a girl, but my pregnancy-hormone-crazed self just INSISTED we buy it (full price even!!). I was so psyched that she finally fits in it.
She was excited too. Obviously.

Drinking and cooking are two of my favorite things in the world. This time is was a cab and potstickers. This combo will definitely be a component of heaven. RIght, God? Right?

Drinking and cooking are two of my favorite things in the world. This time was a cab and potstickers. This combo will definitely be a component of heaven. Right, God? Right?

It is CSA season again, which means creative uses for random vegetables. Since my oven STILL is not fixed, I have to use extra creativity. This time is was in the form of a stovetop frittata. One of my better on-the-fly creations as of late.

It is CSA season again, which means creative uses for random vegetables. Since my oven STILL is not fixed, I have to use extra creativity. This time is was in the form of a stovetop swiss chard frittata. One of my better on-the-fly creations as of late.

Debate me if you will, but the best donuts in Wichita are undoubtedly found at The Flying Donuts. They are so fluffy and fresh! Mmmmm.... I might marry a maple frosted one, if they're still around when Ryan meets his Maker.

Debate me if you will, but the best donuts in Wichita are undoubtedly found at Flying Donuts. They are so fluffy and fresh! Mmmmm…. I might marry a maple frosted one, if they’re still around when Ryan meets his Maker.

My family had their every-other-year garage sale. My mother made me go through EVERY SINGLE box of mine in her basement. I don't want to tell you how many of those exist. Being the sentimental fool that I am, I cried through a lot of them, but thankfully my sister helped me with my detachment issues, and I purged A LOT of stuff. Freeing. So freeing.

My family had their every-other-year garage sale. My mother made me go through EVERY SINGLE box of mine in her basement. It’s embarrassing how many of those existed. The sentimental fool that I am, I cried through a lot of them, but thankfully my sister helped me with my detachment issues, and I purged A LOT of stuff. Freeing. So freeing.

My nieces and nephew are quite the entrepreneurs. I think they made $2.50.

My nieces and nephew are quite the entrepreneurs. I think they made $2.50.

Looking outside before a walk on a near-perfect Saturday morning. Sigh.

Looking outside before a walk on a near-perfect Saturday morning. Sigh.

I asked Ryan to add tortilla chips to my shopping list. He knows me too well. Way too well.

I asked Ryan to add tortilla chips to my shopping list.
He knows me too well. Way too well.

One delightful Sunday it rained quite a bit. And then the clouds parted, and we enjoyed dining al fresco on our new-to-us table.  See that beer? It is Shiner's Ruby Redbird seasonal ale. AND IT IS MAGNIFICENT. Try it.

One delightful Sunday it rained quite a bit. And then the clouds parted, and we enjoyed dining al fresco on our new-to-us table.
See that beer? It is Shiner’s Ruby Redbird seasonal ale. AND IT IS MAGNIFICENT. Try it.

My latest of Craigslist spoils is this wooden children's table. It was well-worth the months and months of trolling the site.  Philomena likes to color, but she REALLY likes to have us draw things FOR her. In all seriousness, I think I've drawn 2,348 monkeys in the past week alone.

My latest of Craigslist spoils is this wooden children’s table. It was well-worth the months and months of trolling the site.
Philomena likes to color, but she REALLY likes to have us draw things FOR her. In all seriousness, I think I’ve drawn 2,348 monkeys in the past week alone.

I have found that our little girl's naps are infinitely better when she gets outside to play. Thus, I make it happen, no matter what. This particular day, I dragged her to a terrible park in the blazing heat. However, she just toddled around the cigarette butts and burning play equipment like a pro.

I have found that our little girl’s naps are infinitely better when she gets outside to play. Thus, I make it happen every morning, no matter what. This particular day, I dragged her to a terrible park in the blistering heat. However, she just toddled around the cigarette butts and blazing play equipment like a pro.

Caprese skewers. Enough said.

Caprese skewers.
Enough said.

Bourbon and mint lemonade.  Recipe forthcoming. You will love.

Bourbon and mint lemonade.
Recipe forthcoming. You will love.

Again, I insist she plays outside in the morning...even if it's raining. She didn't seem to mind.

Again, I am the outside-play-in-the-morning enforcer…even if it’s raining.
She didn’t seem to mind.

meal plan: week of July 22 {day 1 of blogging challenge}

Erika very kindly nudged me to join in on Jen’s 7 Posts in 7 Days Blogging Challenge. I really think it’s just the remedy to dust off my mind-cobwebs and get back to this [very thrilling] ‘ol blog.

That said, I’m not guaranteeing eloquence over this next week…or even coherence. Just some words.

Anyway, here is my weekly meal plan for the two of you who appreciate it.

Monday– caprese grilled cheese sandwiches [kinda like this one] with peaches

Tuesday- sauteed chicken, with pesto; summer squash patties [like this] on the side

Wednesday- I am going to attempt this zucchini crockpot chili

Thursday– family dinner

Friday- bean and summer squash quesadillas; mexican rice on the side

Saturday- all the nieces and nephew are spending the night, so we’ll order pizza…along with one specialty peanut butter sandwich for a certain kiddo with, um, “particular” tastes