Things to Do - Around the House (April 2015)

I keep wanting to blog about SOMETHING, but the days seem to meander along, busy with life's little moments but nothing monumental - no new places or events. No milestones. And we all just seem to meander along with it all . . .

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Afternoons full of homework and our new couch (yes, finally, a much needed new couch. Unfortunately, fear of Coco ruining yet another expensive piece of furniture keeps me in a constant state of anxiety).

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A self portrait that really summarizes my life.

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Curious little brothers . . .

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Crazy second graders . . .

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And a little boy surrounded by awesome females.

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Backyard playdates - full of fake guns, pogo sticks . . .

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And bug hunts.

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Drinks on the porch with good friends.

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And light saber nights.

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A family photo (i.e. evidence that I really need a hair cut).

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Lazy weekends at the playground . .

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And naps on the couch with grandma . . .

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While T attempts to learn some history . . .

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And I read my book . . .

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And grandma wakes to help T learn.

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The kids started a business. And made $8 for the animal shelter, mostly donations, but two people signed up for dog walking, which (if you're 9) counts as success.

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Sometimes my children all get along, though an ipad is often involved.

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These two crack me up. They spend 90% of their time together bickering. The other 10%, however, is completely adorable.

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We're working on redecorating the girls' room (hopefully I'll have some photos soon). On the upside, they love it. On the downside, F barely comes downstairs anymore.

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And at night, we walk the dogs. Stopping along the way at the little library and the neighbor's swing.

So that's our life lately (minus the hours and hours of soccer games and practice), now what has everyone else been up to?


Things to Do - Grateful List (March 2015)

snowman (1 of 1)

* Watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix
* Watching Bloodline on Netflix (possibly the most addictive show ever). So. So. Good.
* Watching Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street as a family (on Amazon Prime)
* Reading Spoiled Brats: Stories

* F's love of her new Squord (basically a fitbit for kids), so now we walk in circles together
* Chocolate squares from Dylan's candy bar
* My new yoga bolster (yay!! for a happy back)

* Flexibility focus yoga at Journey Yoga (I love having a great yoga studio within walking distance)
* Sunny afternoons after school at the playground (and P playing soccer with all the boys)
* Family hiking at Potomac Overlook Park & Riverbend Park
* Parents Night Out on the Pike (who doesn't love a fundraiser with friends and alcohol?)

* No accidents on our way home from Richmond during the ice storm (cars were literally piling up along I-95)
* F telling her friend, "my mom doesn't really mean a minute, she means a Darcy minute, which is more like 3 hours."
* The whole neighborhood gathering for a last minute P Brennan's snow day happy hour
* The playground during a blizzard
* Making snow paint with liquid watercolors and squeeze bottles
* Huge sleepover parties where other parents take my children for the night
* Dan's excitement about playing Spades with the kids
* T watching me edit a photo shoot and asking, "mom, was it really that fun? They look like they're having a lot of fun."
* F learning all about Marie Curie; T knowing his sight words; P reading (and loving) A Long Walk to Water

VACATION (road trip to visit Grandma Troutman in Chicago for spring break)
* Disney channel in hotel rooms
* Listening to The Circle during the long drive
* Dinner at the Italian Village
* The Bean on a really warm day
* Chagall's walls
* Meeting up with an old law school friend
* The kids loving Chicago's Art Institute
* The Museum of Science and Industry's maze
* The Embassy Suite's breakfast buffet
* T walking Murphy and chasing geese at Lake Katherine
* Pepe's with my extended family
* Meeting up with an awesome high school friend at the Plush Horse


F - that Ms. C is my teacher [who also happens to be Arlington County's teacher of the year], family hiking, a nice house to live in and food to eat, Menchies, Ethiopian food, books, more books, Linda Sue Park, Grandma

P - vacations, spring break, my new earrings, the museum [the Art Institute], the pool, hotel breakfast buffets, my family

T - my family, a nice house to live in and food to eat, school, making sentences with sight words, guns, vacation, my new plane [toy] and knights, all you can eat buffets, Grandma, Murphy


Things to Watch - 6 Great Movies to Watch With Your Tween (Netflix Streaming)

In six months F will turn 10, a fact that she reminds us of constantly. And every time she says this all I hear is, "Darcy, soon you will be 40." But despite my fear of old age creeping in, I love having an almost-tween in the house. Finally, we can not only watch, but actually ENJOY movies together, especially classics from my own tween-hood.

1. Girls Just Want to Have Fun
- Helen Hunt. Sarah Jessica Parker. Shannon Doherty. And a dance competition. Everything about this movie is perfect cheese - an evil dance "villain", romance with a boy on a motorcycle (and he can dance!!!!), the chance to appear live on Dance TV, and most importantly a straight-out-of-the-1980s soundtrack.

2. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- Before turning 13 every child NEEDS (yes, this in an inappropriate use of "needs" but I'm going with it) to see Matthew Broderick sing the Beatles during a parade and learn that there's more to life than high school. "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around every once in awhile, you could miss it."

3. The Prince and Me - The Disney Channel recently made a knock-off of this movie called "Princess Protection Party", starring Demi Lovato. But I'll always vote for Julia Stiles. Plus, I love that she chooses med school over the monarchy and then, of course, finds a true "prince" who wants her to have both.

4. Legally Blond - Because girls can be smart and pretty. Or both. Or neither. It's just important to find the right dog. (FYI - this movie won't be available on Netflix streaming until May 1, so watch some of the other recommendations first). "You got into Harvard law?" "What like it's hard."

5. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - This is a stupid movie. I've always thought it was a stupid movie. But my kids can now recognize Abraham Lincoln, so they might as well hear him say "Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!"

6. Footloose (the 1984 version) - I'm going back and forth on this one. Common Sense Media recommends it for children 13 and up, but the scenes between Ariel and her dad can be somewhat painful to watch, plus the sex talk and Ariel HANGING OUT OF A CAR. But still, who doesn't love Kevin Bacon as Ren? All he wants to do is dance.



Things to Eat - Chickpea & Kale Shakshouka & 4 Week Meal Plan

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For the last few weeks I've become rather addicted to the Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook - the recipes are super easy and the kids (so far) have loved them all (even ones I would have bet money on them hating). Plus, I keep returning to Gwyneth's cookbook - IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.

CHICKPEA AND KALE SHAKSHOUKA (from Clean Eating magazine):

* 1 tsp olive oil
* 1 yellow onion
* 4 cloves garlic
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp ground coriander
* 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
* 1 can chickpeas
* 2 cups canned, jarred, or boxed tomatoes
* 1 large bunch kale
* 4 eggs
* 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat oil. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.
3. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, and 1/5 cups water and bring to a simmer.
4. Add kale, a few handfuls at a time until kale wilts. When all kale has been added, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
5. Turn off heat. With the back of a spoon, create 4 shallow indentations in a the veggie mixture. Crack the eggs and slide them into the indentations.
6. Sprinkle cheese over the eggs and veggies.
7. Transfer to the oven and cook until the eggs are set, 8 to 10 minutes



MONDAY - Arroz Con Pollo (from Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook ). New recipe and a huge hit. The whole family loved this.

TUESDAY - Taco night - Ground beef and refried beans. Not very exciting, but the kids love Taco Tuesday.

WEDNESDAY - Kale sausage and white bean stew (from Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook). This seemed like an iffy choice, but the the kids really liked this (well, except T, who rarely eats anything). So good.

THURSDAY - Our friends have us over for dinner (yum).


MONDAY - Lamb sliders with yogurt sauce (from Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook). The kids really enjoyed this meal, but Dan said, "let's stick with ground beef." Ground lamb does sort of stink up a kitchen.

TUESDAY - Fish tacos (from IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great). These were good, but I used cod, which was much trickier to cook then tilipia (my staple). I also made Gwyneth's chipotle salsa, which I can't stop eating.

WEDNESDAY - Black bean burritos (from Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook). I was too lazy to wrap the burritos so we ate them as tacos. Both the girls asked if we could eat these every night.

THURSDAY - I went out to eat with friends. The kids had mac and cheese from a box. Dan fended for himself.


MONDAY - Brown rice with corn, black beans, and canned tomatoes (with chiles). Now that soccer season has started I need something super easy on Monday night. And this was super easy. Not exactly exciting, but nobody complained.

TUESDAY - Chicken with bacon & brussels sprouts (from Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook). Huge hit. Not a bite left over.

WEDNESDAY - Tilipia "baked clam" style (from IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great). This is a family classic. Everyone likes it. The breadcrumbs make plain fish feel "special" somehow.

THURSDAY - Ethiopian restaurant for dinner (F insisted).

WEEK 4: SPRING BREAK - (i.e. eat out all the time and gain a ton of weight)


MONDAY - Tomato and lentil salad (from IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great). (with mac and cheese for the kids (from a box) and edamame). I love this salad, plus it refrigerates well for lunch the next day.

TUESDAY - Date night (Mazagan for dinner).

WEDNESDAY - Curried chicken (from Dinner: A Love Story Cookbook). The kids asked if we could have this every night, even T ate a platefull (granted, a very small plate).

THURSDAY - Chickpea and Kale Shakshouka (from Clean Eating magazine) (with edamame and chicken nuggets for the kids). So this was good. Really good. And the eggs made it easier to determine an exact serving size. I think I'll start making this dish on a regular basis, probably even ask the kids to try some next time.


Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (April 2015)

Painted in Waterlogue

Some are most definitely better than others. I think from now on I'll star my favorites.

1. The Book of Unknown Americans - I didn't love this book, the main characters were likable enough (a Mexican couple who moves to America in order to find better schooling for their recently-disabled teenage daughter), but they didn't have much depth, nor did anyone else in the book - as if the world was simply divided into "good" people and "bad" people; although the novel is marketed for adults, it read like a young adult novel.

*****2. Spoiled Brats - SO FUNNY. At times I laughed out loud. Life through the perspective of a classroom pet. A man who accidentally pickles himself in the late 1800s and thus is forced to endure modern society (i.e Rip Van Winkle meets 2014). Though beware these stories definitely have an edge to them - is the author laughing at us or with us?

3. Friendship: A Novel - I didn't finish this book, despite finding it well written. The plot centers around the friendship of two girls in their mid-twenties. And reading it made me realize how very very far I am from my mid-twenties. So I stopped reading. When I feel a need to get back in touch with the younger generation, I'll watch a few episodes of HBO's Girls and call it a day.

*****4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - READ THIS BOOK. Of all the books listed, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is BY FAR my favorite. In a Pakistani cafe, a local man decides to tell his story to an American tourist. This is the whole plot. But why is the American there? And why does the Pakistani feel a need to listen to him? As day turns to night, everything starts to seem sinister. Or does it? Or should it? I COULD NOT PUT THIS NOVEL DOWN.

5. Alias Grace - I'm a fan of Margaret Atwood, so I assumed I'd like this book. But it wasn't one of my favorites (I much prefer the Blind Assassin). Atwood based this novel on the true story of Grace Marks, a house maid in the late 1800s who killed her employer and his mistress. Atwood succeeds in making Marks a sympathetic character (Grace's backstory was my favorite part of the novel), but a lot of the story still seems unfinished somehow. As if Atwood herself couldn't decide on the guilt or innocence of the character she created.

6. Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists - Fifty artists (all very different). Fifty interviews. Lots of project ideas. I'm slowly making my way through it all, but so far, this is a great book to pick up when you're feeling "stuck".


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