All Posts By

Kristen

Life

A Quick Drop In

April 22, 2016

Hello friends, Kristen here. Ilana and I have had a super busy few weeks, and we both caught the germs that have been going around recently:( We hope to be more active on the blog soon with some crafting and cooking goodness!

What I’ve been up to…I’ve been doing some spring cleaning and baby prep! I think that our last amazon order has been placed…until I remember something else that seems essential. We finally ordered our diaper sprayer, monitor, and white noise machine. I plan on making our reusable flannel baby wipes soon. I’ll share that project if I am successful, or maybe I’ll share it either way and we can laugh about it!  So far, we have four meals frozen: chili, lasagna, sausage and peppers (vacuum sealed), and a meatloaf! I am hoping to freeze enough to get us through one week of dinners. Perhaps we’ll make enchiladas or veggie frozen pizzas next. I know some folks freeze a month’s worth before baby, but I do not seem to have the energy for that right now. Work is winding down as I have recently reduced my hours. The plan is to work until the baby comes, or until I feel done- whichever comes first.

I’ve taken a little break from reading about labor and baby stuff and have been delving into a few fun reads. I recently read Remembrance by Meg Cabot- one of my favorite authors in high school. Next up, The Girl on the Train, which I have heard good things about! My husband and I have been going on a ton of dates. I think it is sinking in that we are going to have a new little person to take care of soon, so we have been spending extra quality time together. We just tried Pho Queen, a new Thai place on State Street in Schenectady and loved it. The food was so good, but I think they are underestimating how busy they are and need to hire more staff!  We saw people turned away because all of the tables were full.

What I’m looking forward to… The arrival of our son in about a month! We are also loving the weather and trying to get our yard ready for cookouts and lawn games. I’m planning on doing an inexpensive patio makeover under our carport. I am on the look out for bargain outdoor string lights, pillows, and a carpet. If we are going to be stuck at home for a lot of the summer, I really want our outdoor spaces to be comfortable and functional. We are also extra excited for the Schenectady Green Market to move back outside in May.

Thant’s all for now! I hope everyone is doing well and avoiding spring colds and stomach bugs.

Life Parenting Uncategorized

Hi, I’m Kristen, and I’m planning to cloth diaper my baby boy. Here’s why.

April 13, 2016

When I first heard of cloth diapering years ago, my first response was, “Eww why?” I guess college Kristen was blissfully unaware of the cost of living in the world as an adult, as well as the environmental factors. My only worries were student loans, homework, and how come my boyfriend won’t text me back (It was because I ran out of minutes on my Virgin mobile flip phone).  I also had never laid eyes on a cloth diaper. When I actually saw a cloth diaper while working in childcare, I was surprised by the bright colors and easy to use snaps. I’ll admit, I still rolled my eyes a bit-after all, don’t daycare workers already have enough to do? My friend who was a teacher in the toddler room at the time explained that really, the parents do all of the hard work. Her job was simply to remove the cloth diaper and put it into a bag for the parents to wash when they got home. It’s not like she was washing diapers at daycare! Not so bad after all!

A few years later, I happened to reconnect with a college friend who cloth diapers, and I made a new friend who also happened to cloth diaper her daughters. They explained that it really was not that difficult at all, and that they were really pleased with how it was working out for their families. I was definitely intrigued, and asked my husband what he thought about trying it once we had our own little one. He was surprisingly interested as well! When my good friend recently gave birth to my unborn child’s future best friend (no pressure boys!), I had yet another experience observing cloth diapering up close. After a few weeks of trying it, my friend confided- “It’s easier than I thought. The biggest complaints I’ve heard from people about it are from those who have never tried it.” I can relate, as I’ve definitely gotten some criticism when I’ve mentioned our choice to people as well. However, it  hasn’t bothered me much because I remember my opinion of it all not too long ago! If you don’t know what it’s like today, the phrase cloth diaper conjures up the image of a white towel and safety pins.  Although my mom is never one to criticize, I think she felt relieved when a friend from her church showed her the cloth diapers she uses for her daughter. My mom liked that they looked easy to use and thought that they were very cute! There are definitely way more options available now than there were years ago! If you haven’t seen one, google “cloth diaper” or the “Green Nursery”. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the different terms and types. I still am! The silly brand names had Ilana’s husband amused. He was like, “Bumgenius, Rumparooz, Thirsties…really?”

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My pup Hamish is investigating the cloth diapers and wet bag! He has been very curious about all of the baby gear we’ve brought home recently!

So, why the decision to cloth diaper?

Well, first of all, its definitely a way to save money. After I have baby boy, I will be working very minimally doing billing, or possibly not at all if baby is too grumpy to take into the office (as my boss has generously offered to allow me to do). My income isn’t much, but we will be essentially adding a person to our family and living on one salary- so I am going to do whatever I need to in order to budget so that we can still save money. I’ll admit, the initial cost of cloth diapering is expensive- you can spend around $350 building a stash- but if you do the math about how many disposable diapers you’d use over the course of around 3 years- you are absolutely saving money! To me, best kind of cloth diapers are the ones that grow with your child so that you can use the same diaper from infancy to potty training. Plus, if you treat them appropriately, you can use them for future children- and they have great resale value. There is a huge market for gently used cloth diapers. You can shop the sales and giveaways, and you can look into buying a gently used stash. It sounds gross- but diapers that were washed and treated appropriately will look like new. I know, because I was recently gifted a large stash from a sweet friend of Ilana’s. My husband thought they were brand new! I also recently got two brand new Bumgenius Freetimes from a good friend of mine! As you can see from the picture above- I practiced using them on my son’s teddybear!

Our second reason for cloth diapering- we also like the idea of not filling up landfills with years worth of diapers. I in no way criticize those who use disposables, in fact, we plan to use them when baby boy is an infant- unless he happens to weigh enough to fit into cloth right away.  We also plan to use them when we are traveling. I think that the only way this will work for us is if we are flexible. This is supposed to be a small step to help the environment, and our finances- not an excuse to feel like a failure or lay on that “mommy guilt” when I put my kid in a disposable. Baby steps, guys. This is just one way to help that works for our lifestyle. I fully recognize that this is not for everybody! There are always a million decisions to make about parenting and childbirth.  Cloth diaper, disposable diaper,  epidural, home birth, formula feeding , breastfeeding- don’t hate! You never know what someone else is going through. Don’t feed into the mommy wars! I recently learned about this when I joined, and unjoined a cloth diapering Facebook group!

Right now, I am still a newbie and in the learning process! There is a ton for me to learn as far as types of diapers, and the washing routine. There are detergents that are cloth diaper friendly, and ones that are not. There are also certain diaper creams that can be used and creams that will ruin your diaper’s ability to absorb. I’ve recently learned that coconut oil is safe for cloth diapers.  I’m also currently shopping for a diaper sprayer. As I learn more from experience and friends, I’ll update you on how this is going. I’ll share the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Do any of you cloth diaper? I’d love any feedback or advice if you have it!

 

Life Uncategorized

A Few More of Our Favorite Spots in Schenectady

April 7, 2016

Hi there! Kristen here. Remember a few months ago I wrote a post about my favorite spots to eat and drink in Schenectady? No? Well, not only did that happen, but I also promised a Part Two. So here it is for your reading and hopefully eating pleasure. This post will focus mainly on coffee and dessert! And breakfast.

Perreca’s – I first discovered Perreca’s when I went there for breakfast with friends for our book club. It’s a church book club, because we are cool like that. It’s located on a small block that is called Schenectady’s Little Italy. A few years ago, Hillary Clinton made that official. There is even a sign on an archway that says so. Anyway, initially I was not super thrilled with the choice because I could not find breakfast anywhere on the menu. I’m the kind of weirdo who likes to look at a menu ahead of time because I really love food and planning what I am going to eat. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised when we walked into the restaurant. Its a cute little Italian place with a bakery where they make their famous bread right next door. The menu includes complicated dishes, like Eggs in Purgatory and various breakfast pizzas, as well as simple breakfast choices. I ended up being so impressed with Perreca’s that for months I bugged my husband to go there with me. We finally went about three weeks ago, and he liked it so much that we went again on our Friday off together. We both got the breakfast special-coffee, eggs, potatoes, sausage, and that famous toast! Our bill was a grand total of $11 for a breakfast so large that we had trouble finishing it. Somehow, we managed. Afterward, we went to the bakery next door, and got a loaf of bread for Easter Sunday. We ate it all in two days. So much for that. It was awesome, though. Go there.

Villa Italia– If you are looking for a large selection of gelato, and a ton of Italian pastries, Villa Italia is the place to go! It is a bakery, but it also has little groupings of tables so that you can sit inside or outside with a cup of coffee and an authentic rainbow cookie. They do have a lunch menu as well that I have not tried yet- but everything I’ve had there is good- so it seems promising. It is one of the best places to get dessert in the area- or to grab a snack before walking over to the movie theater. My husband and I take turns surprising each other with boxes of their pastries after important life events. I got him treats after he passed a final, and he got me a box when I started teaching preschool.

The Happy Cappuccino– I remember shortly after we moved upstate and discovered the wonders of Jay Street, I was dying to try this place due to the name alone! It’s a cute little coffee shop, kind of dark inside and filled with estate sale furniture and board games. When you go there, a Jay Street hipster will most likely be serenading you outside. It’s a nice place to sit and talk, or just a good place to grab a coffee before walking down to the Green Market. They offer a few baked goods at the counter, but this really is a better place to get a latte than dessert. My drink of choice is an iced green tea matcha latte! It’s pretty amazing if you are into that sort of thing. Apparently The Happy Cappuccino just opened up an Albany location, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Puzzles Bakery and Cafe– I get extra excited about Puzzles because they train and employ adults with developmental disabilities. I worked as a job coach right out of college, and I’ve seen this exact type of endeavor very poorly run- but Puzzles seems to be the real deal! The Schenectady bakery is the first of what will hopefully be many locations. Every time I have gone into Puzzles, all of the staff members were courteous to customers, and seemed to be friendly and respectful to one another. The food was also delicious! I have tried their desserts, and their chili during the Schenectady Soup stroll this past winter. I’m definitely looking forward to going back and trying more items on their menu!

Top’s– Top’s Diner is about three minutes from my house, so we find ourselves going there pretty often! It holds a special place in my heart because we ate there with my in-laws, including Ilana, the first weekend we moved into our house. I remember sitting there, dead tired after moving boxes all day and eating dinner at 9 pm. The guys were even more tired than us because they all started tearing down plaster in one of the bedrooms. Remember how I recently wrote about how we decided to restore the damaged plaster in our home? That’s why! Anyway, back to Tops.  They offer a huge menu and make just as good breakfasts as they do dinners. All of their omelets are huge and delicious, with the most amazing home fries. I also love the Eggs Florentine- kind of like Benedict, but with spinach. I’ve also committed the sin of ordering Italian food from a diner- and guess what? I have not been disappointed yet. You can get just about anything there from wraps to risotto or a nice steak- and it will be delicious. They also have an assortment of cakes and pies. We end up taking home pie or a slice of rainbow cake to eat almost every time we go. I can’t wait until Key Lime is back in season!

So there you have it, more recommendations for places to eat in Schenectady! We’ve had fun eating out a little bit more because we know tiny baby boy will most likely have us cooped up at home for a bit! We’ve already started a little freezer meal prep! So far, we have frozen chili, next up- lasagna! Does anyone have any good freezer meal ideas? We’d love suggestions!

At least the weather should be warm by then. I say SHOULD BE because we just got about four inches of snow on Sunday night- and it’s STILL HERE. I’m dreaming of eating gelato and taking the baby for long walks in the stroller next month! Unless baby comes in June instead. Who knows:)

 

Decor Health & Home Life

Cracked Popcorn Ceilings and Plaster Walls #veryoldhouseproblems

March 22, 2016

We are elbow deep in all things baby prep right now- and that includes getting baby boy’s room set up! He’ll be in our bedroom in his co-sleeper for a few months, but we don’t want to be worrying about renovating a room and making a mess with a newborn in the house, so our goal is to have everything completed soon. With about 9 weeks to go, I know that we do have time to get it done- but everything does feel urgent. We have furniture from various rooms all in the living room right now as we shuffle things around to see what new arrangements make sense now that we are eliminating the office (that will be baby’s room). We are also eager to put away all of the adorable baby gifts that we received at our showers, and hang up the art that we have been collecting for a few months now. I received a beautiful print from a friend, and the things that I have bought myself have all been on Etsy! For example this, and this. If you have never shopped on Etsy- please do! It is a fantastic company to support- you will find  nearly anything you can think of- and they treat their employees like gold.  I am super impressed that they have recently extended their Parental Leave Policy so that new parents are eligible for 26 weeks paid leave for up to two years after the birth or adoption of a child! It’s just cool to see a company that is so motivated to keep parents in the workforce without sacrificing family life.

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We have been hard at work for the past few weeks, first with clearing out the office and repairing some of the damaged surfaces.  Plaster walls, man. Its a messy, crumbly business. Although we do appreciate some of the charming, original characteristics in our home, plaster walls and ceilings that have not been properly cared for are a pain. When we first moved in, we tore out most of the plaster in our bedroom, but it ended up being much harder work than we anticipated, and it was months before the room was sheetrocked and ready to be lived in. Since that experience, we have worked on repairing the existing walls and ceilings in the other rooms. In this particular room, my husband took down all of the wallpaper border, while I patched cracks and holes in the plaster walls. There is something satisfying about doing home repairs yourself. I was pretty confident about the spackling because I did some in our living room over the summer. We had been taking down some crooked molding, when we discovered that it was not tacked in, but glued on- and we  accidentally took down part of the wall with it! It was up to me to spackle and sand the damaged walls and I am happy to say that you can no longer tell a piece of the wall was ever missing in that spot.

In the nursery,  my husband then sanded the walls, and together, we used joint compound and a sea sponge to cover the cosmetic cracks in the ceiling and recreate that bumpy look. I’m only allowed on the ladder when someone is standing right there. Its frustrating when you are used to being able to do things yourself, but I don’t want to put th the baby at risk, so it makes sense.  In this particular room, we were very lucky, the cracks were all minor. In the guest room that we repaired a few years ago, parts of the ceiling were actually falling down! We had to insert giant screws in several places just to make it safe before we could plaster over it. In the baby’s room, we were able to cover all cracks with one coat. Unfortunately the ceiling is old and has clearly been repaired more than once over the years, so there are certain areas where, due to the difference in elevation, it looks like it is still cracked despite the repairs. I am confident that a fresh coat or two of white paint will camouflage most of these flaws though!

That’s what we are up to now- the painting part. The tan will be an accent wall, and the white is going on the other walls. It’s a small room, so I did not want all of the walls to be dark. The other colors are being considered for the peg board diaper holder that we are building next! If you haven’t seen one before, check this out!

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I wish I could help more, but I can’t be breathing in those fumes, so my husband has been priming on his own and will begin actually painting today. I’ve done the taping and tarping of the room, a process that always makes me feel a little bit like Dexter (if you’ve ever seen that show), and I’ve been finding other ways to help out where I can! The goal is to spend our Friday off together assembling furniture and getting our house somewhat back to normal. We are hoping to get so much done that we can spend Easter lounging around after church. How is this Sunday Easter already? And what am I going to make for brunch?

Happy Tuesday Friends!

Baking Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Irish Soda Bread and an Easy Crock Pot St. Paddy’s Day Dinner

March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Maybe treat yourself to a Guinness and some Irish Soda bread today. Better yet, throw an easy corned beef and cabbage dinner in the crock pot before you go to work so you can kick back, relax, and watch The Quiet Man later instead of hanging out in the kitchen.  This recipe is nothing fancy (or photogenic!), nor is it health food- but we look forward to it every year. It’s also a pretty lazy kind of recipe. I pour a beer over it, scatter on the seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef and call it a day! You can easily customize it to make it more interesting, but we like it as is! Be forewarned, the cabbage cooking will smell kind of stinky, but cabbage actually has a pretty mild flavor. The soda bread is a little more labor intensive, and requires an hour to bake- but I promise its worth it!

 

Corned Beef and Cabbage in the Crock Pot

1  package of corned beef (ours was a little over 3lbs)

5 potatoes cut into large cubes

1 large onion, halved and cut into slices

5 carrots, cut in half

Half of a small cabbage, cut into wedges (wondering what to do with the other half of cabbage? Make this yummy cole slaw. I’ve made this dairy free by making “fake” buttermilk with nondairy milk and vinegar or lemon juice, and reducing the amount of sugar doesn’t hurt either! Change nothing else!)

Beer of your choice, we usually use a Guinness or a Bass

 

Place all of your chopped veggies, except for the cabbage at the bottom of your crock pot. Next, place the corned beef on top of the veggies, and then nestle the cabbage around it. Pour the entire beer on top of the layered meat and veggies, and then carefully scatter the seasonings from the flavor packet over the top. Funny story- this year I somehow bought a package without the seasonings. I improvised with a generous sprinkle of black pepper, parsley, and a little of Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning.  Cover the crock pot and cook everything on low for about 7-8 hours.

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When it is finished cooking, remove the meat and cut it into slices against the grain, and place the cabbage around it. Using a slotted spoon, strain out the vegetables (they will be hiding in all of that liquid), and place into a bowl.

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I like to eat this dish with a side of applesauce and Irish soda bread, and my husband likes spicy brown mustard instead of applesauce. Do whatever appeals to you! Please note: Corned beef leftovers make good sandwich meat for lunches during the week!

 

Now for the Irish Soda Bread Recipe! This is actually a recipe that my mom passed down to me from my dad’s mom, my grandmother. Its pretty special to me, and I hope you enjoy it! I always think of my Nana when I bake it. She was a pretty amazing lady. She and my Grandpa immigrated from Ireland and raised 10 children together! I remember climbing the trees in her front yard and having sleepovers at her house. I was always running wild, and she tried to get me to comb my hair. I really miss her, and wish she could meet my son.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups of flour

3 tablespoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

3/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 tablespoon of baking powder

6 tablespoons of butter

2 eggs

1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk (once again, you can make your own “fake buttermilk”, although the recipe does include butter, so it won’t be entirely dairy free)

1 and a half cups of raisins (I actually cannot stand raisins, so I always leave them out!)

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Next, cut in the butter by hand. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and then pour most of it into the mixture, reserving a little to be an egg wash. Add the buttermilk and stir until everything is combined. Once the mixture is well combined, add the raisins. Form a loose ball with the dough (if it feels too wet, its fine to add a little more flour at this point), and then place into a greased pan (I use a round cake pan).  Use a brush or a spoon to coat the dough in an egg wash. Feel free to crack another egg if you didn’t have enough leftover. Lastly, use a sharp knife to cut a cross into the bread, and place in the oven. The recipe says to cook the bread for an hour and 20 minutes, but I usually keep a close eye on it after an hour.

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Once your bread is cooked and cooled a bit, spread with butter and enjoy!

I hope everyone has a fabulous day and enjoys this easy dinner!

 

 

Health & Home Review

Maybe Marie Kondo does know what she is talking about.

March 14, 2016

I finally got around to reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. If you have not heard of her, she is an organizing consultant in Japan who uses some unusual methods, but claims that her clients have a zero percent rebound rate. Her methods include organizing and sorting by category instead of by room, thanking your belongings for being useful to you, and releasing the items that have served their purpose and no longer bring you joy.  That’s right, one of the biggest take aways from the book are only keeping items that “spark joy” within you. My husband noted sarcastically that none of his underwear brings him joy, but you can’t go throwing out all of your underwear. While he does make a good point, I can tell you that Marie Kondo would say to throw away any underwear that you find uncomfortable or that is old with busted elastic!

Although I enjoyed the book, my first impression was that this book did not really take into account family life. It does seem to be more practically geared toward someone who lives alone. It is probably hard to fully commit to this method if it is not something that all of  your family members are interested in doing too. I also  realized that my room by room method is something that Kondo frowns upon as ineffective in the long term. This struck a chord with me, as I remembered how hard I worked on organizing each room in our home last summer, only to find things in disarray again once I returned to work. Kondo’s reasoning is that if you organize room by room, you will not realize how many belonging you actually have because they are all stored in different places around your home. Despite my skepticism, I can see Kondo’s  point there.

I decided to do a little experiment and “konmari” my beauty supplies. I love samples and trying new products, which means that I have amassed quite a stock of make up and hair products. Some have worked well for me, and others have not. As I searched my home, I found some products stored in my travel kit, some in a bin in my closet, and some on various shelves in my bathroom cabinet. I dumped everyhing out onto my bed and it hit  me how much money I’ve wasted trying new products. Because I spent money on them, I kept them because it felt like a waste to throw them away. Then I realized that I will literally never use some of these things. Ever. If a lipstick just isn’t a good color on me, it never will be, and it will continue to take up space in my house. Using this method, I ruthlessly eliminated any hair and make up supplies that did not work well for me, and only kept my favorites. Although I was tempted to put a few things aside to see if anyone wanted them, I restrained myself from doing so. If you find something that you specifically think a friend or family member might like, Kondo allows you to set it aside. However, she cautions you not to burden friends and family with things you are just trying to get rid of.  Nothing fit the category of something I knew someone could use- so away it went! I paired down my beauty supplies so that everything I actually use fits in my travel kit, which now lives in the bathroom cabinet. Hair stuff has gone from three containers to one, and I rounded up all my hair ties and bobby pins into a small bag. Everything I use now lives in one place, and I know exactly where everything is. If you’ve ever seen the tiny bedroom my husband and I share (and soon we’ll have a bassinet in there too!),  you realize how huge this accomplishment is as far as making space!

Having tried this method for one category of my belongings, I can definitely see the effectiveness of it. I  like that Marie Kondo discourages you from spending a ton of money on organizational bins and knick knacks, as she believes this will only cause you too hold on to more things that you don’t need. I’m probably not going to thank my socks and my purse for all of their hard work, but I will try to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness for what I do have, and try not to fall into the trap of buying things I don’t need. I don’t know that sorting through every category in my home is a practical choice for me right now (sorting clothes at nearly 30 weeks pregnant is probably not the best judgment call), but after having success with one category, I may try it with a few others. My husband and I own probably about 500 or more books. Perhaps we can pair this down a bit and put a few boxes aside for the church rummage sale! If you are at all interested in organizing, I recommend that you read this book. Although I am sure it is more effective if you follow it to to the letter, you can just take what advice seems practical for you. I am glad I tried this method for myself. I have definitely learned some things that I want to keep in mind for the future. I am nesting like crazy right now, so I am wondering what else I can organize next. Although its unrealistic, I want to bring baby home to a perfectly organized house. I think my lack of control over anything in this pregnancy is making me seek control of my home or something!

I hope everyone has a happy Monday and eats some pie! Did you know that its Pi Day? Were living in a construction zone with furniture and baby gear everywhere right now, so I won’t be baking. I wonder if I can tempt my husband to take me to the diner for a Pi date later? The man loves his pie, so I think I have a good chance at succeeding!

Life Review Uncategorized

Quick- read these books before you see the movies: Room, Brooklyn, Me Before You

March 9, 2016

I am lucky enough to have spent a week with my sister in Virginia recently! I tagged along for my husband’s business trip, rented a car, and drove out to her dorm (more like an apartment) every day while he was a work. We spent time going to the mall, visiting puppies at the pet store, watching Married at First Sight, and eating Chick- fil- A. My sister also walked me around her beautiful tree lined campus, showing me her classrooms, as well as the on campus coffee shop, Cafe Moka. That’s where I spent part of my time when she was in class. The PB Moka Frozen Latte was amazing! Plus, the college kids did not snark at my complicated soy and decaf order…that time. Luckily my sister had a few classes canceled that week- so we got to spend even more time together. Sister time is the best. It was also fun to travel with my husband. I love taking adventures with him. I’m so glad I got down to Virginia Beach before the baby is born!

Although seeing my sister was the best part of the trip, I also enjoyed a freshly made hotel bed and a tidied room every day- as well as a yummy (and expensive ) room service breakfast. It was nice not to cook or clean for a week. I’d say that I spent most of the time that I was in my hotel room reading until my husband would roll over and mumble, “Turn off the lights. Go to sleep!” Between the plane, the hotel room, and the coffee shop, I read more than I have in a very long time. It was so, so nice. I also got lucky with my book choices, so now I am here to review them for you! It just so happens that they have all been made into movies that have been or will be released soon. I cannot speak for the movies, although I have heard good things- but I do recommend these books.

Here’s What I Read:

Room, By Emma Donoghue

This book is told from the perspective of 5 year old Jack.  He chronicles his and Ma’s days spent in Room, which to Jack, is the whole world. They spend their days playing, reading, exercising, and once a day, they climb onto the table and scream up at the sky light- the only window that exists in Room.  The reader quickly comes to the sinister conclusion that Ma is actually a young woman being held captive by a man Jack calls Old Nick, and Jack is the child who was born to her in captivity. Although the premise is horrifying, the story is riveting and is ultimately one of survival, and the love that connects a mother and her child. I could not put this book down. I do not want to say more and give anything away!

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

Eilis is a young woman living a fairly contended, if predictable life in Ireland with her mother and an older sister Rose, whom she adores. She goes to dances with girlfriends, and works a job below her education level to help support her family. Rose and her friend, Father Flood, a priest visiting from America arrange to send Eilis to America, where they believe more opportunities for her to succeed await. Eilis goes along with this plan, although it is very clear that she was never asked if she wanted to leave home. At first, Eilis is crippled by homesickness and has trouble making friends. However, once she starts taking night classes to move up at work and falls in love with a young Italian man, Eilis’ confidence begins to grow. When circumstances bring her back to Ireland, she faces the decision about where her heart and her home actually lie.  Eilis is a frustrating heroine, continuously letting life happen to her, instead of taking a more active role. It is a constant struggle for her to take charge, although there are times when she does manage to stand up for what she wants. By the end of the story, it does feel as if Eilis is painted into a corner, although she does face the choices that she has made, leaving the reader just as torn as she is.  It is a beautiful story with an imperfect heroine. Perhaps that is what makes Eilis so relatable.

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

So, I actually read the sequel to this book on my trip- but I am not going to tell you anything about it because I loved this book so much more and don’t want to give anything away! This book tells the story of Louisa Clark, a young woman killing time in her small town because she is afraid to ask for more out of life, and because she believes she doesn’t deserve more. When she finds herself suddenly unemployed, Louisa takes a job caring for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor.  Although Louisa is intimidated by his sarcasm and haughty attitude, the two eventually forge a strong bond, and Louisa realizes there is more to Will, and her job than she initially thought. They both manage to change one another’s lives, and Will helps Louisa to come to terms with an abusive past, and let go of old demons so that she can begin living again.

So there you have it- three  book recommendations! Have you read any of these or seen the movies yet? If you are a real life friend or family member and would like to borrow one of these books- I am happy to share! However, you must promise to sit down and discuss it with me over good coffee and maybe this bread. I made it this morning and it is quite delicious:)

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Cooking Uncategorized

Easy Make Ahead Breakfast: Burritos

February 28, 2016

I know this is way, way late but-how was everyone’s Valentine’s Day? I hope you ate chocolate and spent it with people you love! We had our fancy Valentine’s Day dinner out the Thursday before at Cella Bistro. It was, as always, fantastic. We are planning to go back sometime this summer and sit in the more casual bar area, if Tiny Baby has a personality that will cooperate with that sort of thing. As for the day of, we spent a very low-key Sunday, and it was pretty perfect. I made waffles, bacon and eggs, and we braved the sub zero temperatures and ventured out to church. I took church membership vows in front of the smallest group I’ve seen in awhile- probably due to the insane cold. That was okay with me though- as I hate standing up in front of big crowds! Once we got home, we spent the day cooking a whole lot of comfort food- and doing the dishes we created.  We made mini apple pies and chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert. We also made garlic mashed potatoes and the meatloaf style meatballs. It wasn’t fancy, but it was a delicious accompaniment to catching up on Downton Abbey, and watching a ton of Top Gear.

We also decided to take care of breakfast for a few days! My husband made breakfast burritos, and I supervised and then took over the rolling responsibilities. He did all of the hard work though! I’ll share our recipe, which includes meat, but this could easily be made vegetarian if that is your thing! Just substitute out the sausage for black beans or tofu- or just let the egg and avocado be your protein! Cheese would also be delicious in this- but we wanted our burritos to be dairy free.

Breakfast Burritos (makes seven servings)

You’ll need:

7 large flour tortillas

4 eggs

1 lb ground sausage

1/2 a diced onion

2 potatoes (cut into small strips, drizzled in olive oil, covered with a paper towel and microwaved for about two minutes to speed up their cooking time)

a few bunches of spinach leaves

1 avocado

salsa

Salt and pepper (according to your taste)

Making the omelet filling:

First, we cooked the sausage, and then set it aside. Next, we sautéed our diced onions with a little olive oil, until they were soft. We threw in our microwaved potatoes, and sauteed them for a few minutes as well. We again added the sausage to the pan, and let everything mix together.

Next, we cracked four eggs into a bowl, whisked them together with a little salt and pepper, and added them to the pan to make a scrambled omelet. Once the omelet was cooked, it was removed from heat, and allowed to cool enough to handle as filling.

ingredients cooked

 

Assembling the burritos:

By the way- try not to overstuff your tortilla, or it will fall apart when you try to roll it! We learned this after attempting to assemble our first burrito!

We set out a square of tinfoil that was larger than our tortillas. We added raw pre-washed spinach leaves to the bottom of the burrito (Next time, I would like to cook the spinach and add it to the omelet filling. It didn’t bother my husband, but the texture of raw spinach in the morning isn’t my jam. This is a total judgment call though!) Next, we added some of the omelet filling to the tortilla. After that, we added three thin slices of avocado and a drizzle of salsa to the top.  The tortillas were then rolled up carefully in the tinfoil. We chose tin foil because this would be easy for my husband to grab on his way to work, and heat up in the toaster oven. If you know you’ll just be eating your burrito at home, you could always roll them and carefully place them in a small casserole dish for storage.

burrito wrapped

We think these breakfast burritos were a delicious grab and go breakfast, which is ideal for us- since my husband leaves for work at 6:00 am sharp! Except for today, when he was a little late because he cleaned off my snowy car. He’s the best.

Try this recipe! I’d love to hear what you guys decide to add to your own burritos!

 

 

 

Health & Home

Homemade Carpet Sprinkle

February 19, 2016

Anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows that the smell of my poor dogs is driving me nuts right now. Although pregnancy hormones are heightening my sense of smell, I am convinced other people can walk into my living room and smell Piper and Hamish too. We try to wash the dogs as often as makes sense, but unfortunately over-washing can lead to dry skin and irritation in our pets- so there is only so much we can do. I’ve tried carpet sprinkle found in the pet aisle of the grocery store, but I find that smell kind of overwhelming and sickening. Plus- have you checked out the list of ingredients? I don’t want to inadvertently poison the dogs or humans in my house! Then, I remembered that a friend of mine mentioned that she made her own carpet sprinkle from a mixture of baking soda and essential oils.

I made some to use as a carpet and upholstery sprinkle last week- and I must say- I am pretty pleased with the results! It soaked up some of that gross puppy smell and, and left a relaxing smell of lavender and lemon that lingered throughout the room. It vacuumed up easily from the carpet and couch. I’m going to be sprinkling this a few times a week to keep my living room smelling fresh during these cooped up winter months.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Carpet Sprinkle

1/2 Cup Baking Soda

10-15 drops of your choice of essential oils (I made two batches, one with lemon, and the other with lavender and dried rosemary- be sure to research your essential oils before use! Ilana has some info about them here.)

1 Tablespoon Rosemary (optional)

Add the baking soda to a mason jar or another container with a lid. Next, add your dry herbs if you are using any and shake it all up. Remove the lid and gradually add the oil of your choice to the mixture. Its simple to make, but try not to put all of your oil drops in one area, because then you will end up with more wet clumps- which isn’t great for your vacuum. You only want to be vacuuming up dry baking soda! Put the lid on and shake up the mixture!

I let my mixtures sit covered over night, and then used them the next day. I sprinkled my couch and carpet, and let the sprinkle sit for 20 minutes before vacuuming it up. Unless the area you are vacuuming is huge- you will definitely have some mixture left over for later use! You may have to run your vacuum over certain areas a few times, but it all will come up!

Has anyone else tried making their own cleaning products? I’d love more suggestions!

Life

Out of the darkness and into the light and life in general

February 10, 2016

Today is Ash Wednesday. Following the church calendar is something I have only begun doing the last couple of years. It is not something that I grew up doing, but I have found order and meaning in these practices as an adult.  Throughout the year, these seasons keep me aware of my place in God’s story. Instead of Easter sneaking up on me, and getting so caught up in the materialism and busyness of the holiday that the true meaning is lost, lent gives me the reminder to prepare my heart and really ponder the greatness of what God has done for this sad, sorry world. I can remember that even though life can be full of sorrow, it is also full of joy and that death is not the end. I find this thought to be just what I need to pull me out of the darkness of winter and the sadness of losing someone very important in our family last week. Although there is a time for mourning, and that is where we are right now, it won’t be forever. Spring and Easter will come, God is moving in the world , even when times seem the most desperate, and one day, we will be reuinited with those we lost. I am looking forward to Ash Wednesday service tonight and the beginning of the lenten season. I feel that these seasons help keep me awake throughout the year.

At our house, we are weary and a little under the weather, so only the simplest, most comforting foods will do as we catch up from being away and recover. I made a variation of this breakfast frittata, topped with some creamy avocado so that breakfast is taken care of for a few days. We also baked a bunch of sweet potatoes and white potatoes and chopped up some toppings for easy lunches and dinners. We can eat those, along with a salad for a few days. My husband will be working overtime pretty often this week in preparation for a few presentations he needs to give, and I’ll continue my organization of each room.

I’ve been doing some interesting reading this week. Me Before You will keep me busy during my wait at the doctor’s office for my one hour glucose test. Ilana recently loaned me Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, and while it is intimidating, I’m letting it sink in slowly. It’s so important to be prepared for what will happen to your body during the labor process. Knowing what to expect is crucial to staying calm. I am trying to be as open and as prepared as I can, with the knowledge that anything can change at any time when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. I am also hoping to order The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle on amazon soon. I have been hearing good things about this book of prayers for several years now.

That’s all for now. It has not been a week for big projects or baking. It’s just been a week for getting through, clearing away a little snow, and trying to be kind. If that makes any sense.