Things to Do - Grateful List (April 2015)

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* Listening to Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell
* Listening to Borns' Candy album
* Listening to Family of the Year's Loma Vista album
* Listening to the Augustines' self-titled album
* Reading Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"
* Reading The Girl on the Train
* Reading River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

* Chickpea and kale shakshouka
* Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table
* Rainbow chip cake, lamb chops, and spring risotto from Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship
* Dan's dinner party feast - braised short ribs, chickpea salad, and rasberry trifle
* Chipotle salsa from IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great
* Strawberry thyme lemonade

* The playground after school - soccer and "diamond mining"
* P scoring the first goal of the season
* Walking 15.5 miles with Janeese to the National Mall and back (even though we found ourselves lost/trapped in Arlington Cemetery)
* Date night with T - Guapos and Shane, the movie

* P coining the phrase "I sister love you". Basically I love you because you're my brother.
* Drinks with the Ruizes after a miserable Friday
* Team Tay vs. Team K and the endless 2nd and 3rd grade debates between Katie Perry & Taylor Swift
* Happy hour on our porch
* The girls' dog walking business
* T and F always playing football after dinner
* Straight As for F and great report cards for T and P
* "Mom, do you know what's crazy, the bad guys think we're the bad guys?" - T

VACATION (the drive back from spring break in Chicago)
* Homewood Suites Toledo (for helping me take care of a sick F)
* The Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History (Pittsburgh, PA)
* "Have courage and be kind" (the best of Cinderella's cheese)


F - sweets, dog walks, books, my teacher, my friends, The Babysitters' Club Comics, poetry, writing, Jacqueline Woodson, my family, a nice house to live in and food to eat

P - Our sleepover at Estee's house, Target, soccer, school, my friends, our new room, my family, our dog walking business

T - watching Gortimer Gibbons, Easter at my cousins' house, going to the park with daddy, my new shoes, watching the storm, the Natural History museum field trip, watching Westerns with daddy, rainbow chip cake


Things to Watch - Netflixing (May 2015)

Now that we're knee deep in spring, I haven't watched much TV this month. So instead of sharing my reviews, I'll tell you what's on my "must see" list. As for the kids, they always have some new show they adore.


1. Force Majure - Several critics listed this as one of 2014's top movies. I've wanted to watch it for awhile now, but I haven't felt like reading subtitles.

2. Wet Hot American Summer - This movie looks awful, but how bad can a movie staring Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Poehler be?

Also, Nightcrawler and Rosewater are coming on to Netflix on June 10 (I'm really excited for both)!


The BBC Earth Shows - Tiger: Spy in the Jungle; Bears: Spy in the Woods; and Elephants: Spy in the Herd. And Planet Earth.


Our World War - "It's like the Band of Brothers for England. A terrific presentation based on the letters and diaries of the soldiers that were there, it brings home how unprepared they were for the technology of war at that time."



F's Netflixing:

Jessie - "Is is an entertaining story about a nanny and her four wacko kids. And they go on crazy adventures. Sort of." (P' interupts - "And they're really rich and their parents are snobs. Well, the mom is a snob, the dad's really nice.")


P's Netflixing:

Liv and Maddie P - "It's like real life, sisters who keep fighting. But the unrealistic part is that one's a movie star."

The Haunting Hour - "I like it because it's scary. The episodes aren't related, but they are all randomly scary. I really like the Pool Shark and The Red Dress, which is about a poor girl trying to steal a red dress and the mean shop-owner who makes her go blind. It doesn't end happy. None of them end happy and I like it that way."


T's Netflixing:

Max Steel - "There's a army. A cool army. They have a lot of big tanks. And the guns don't shoot bullets, they shoot lasers. Oh, and I like the Turbo Star, a huge gun that shoots turbo energy."

Lab Rats - "I like Adam, he has laser eyes and super strength. And I like that they go on missions."



Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! Don't forget to check out this week's wonderful images on Cherish This Day.


* Feminists' favorite Mad Men moments.

* YES!! "Most of us will still have a family portrait taken from time to time. There is a place for those pictures. But even if you use your phone, I encourage you to give your children the gift of remembering who you really are. Messy house, love handles, tantrums, snotty noses, double chins, tears, all of it is your life. The life you chose. The life that makes you happy even though it is sometimes tedious and frustrating. The life that is not perfect like that family portrait. The only life you get. It may not be perfect, but it is beautiful." So excited to announce that this fabulous photographer is planning on taking our family photos this fall!

* I just started watching Empire and I have no idea why it took me so long. So so good.

* A webcomic about motherhood. funny.

* 21 books from the last five years that every female should read. I've read about half of these and liked most of them (esp. Beyond the Beautiful Forevers), I can't wait to check out the rest.


Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (May 2015)

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Lots of great reads lately. My favorites are starred.

1. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales - This is a really quirky selection Margaret Atwood's recent short stories. She calls them "tales about tales" and very few of the stories seemed to have much in common. Though almost all the characters are old and reflecting on life in some way or another. Not a bad read, but definitely not Atwood's best.

***2. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" - I spent 2 months on the library waiting list to finally read this book. I love HBO's Girls. I love Lena Dunham. And, like Dunham, I'm a sharer. In conversations, I often receive a look like "whoah, too much information." I have a hard time with the line between appropriate and over the top. And civility. But, wow, some of the stuff Dunham shares made me uncomfortable. All I could think is "her mom read this? How awkward." No subject is off limits. I'm still not sure how I feel about all of this information, should some things remain private? I don't know. But for a Dunham fan, it's still almost impossible to not to enjoy this book, even while you cringe.

*** 3. The Girl on the Train - I can't say this is deep literature or anything close. But I could not put it down. Not for a second. The suspense, oh the suspense. And the end was worth it. A really fun book to read.

4. The Bees - I love the concept of a book about bees told through the perspective of a bee. And the author uses beautiful details to describe how Flora, the main character, sees/smells the world around her. But there didn't seem to be much of a plot, rather Flora stumbles from one situation to another. After awhile reading The Bees began to feel like a chore and I never made it past page 123.

**** 5. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze - READ THIS BOOK. Peter Hessler's memoir of the time he spent in the Chinese "river town" of Fuling during the 1990s made me feel like I was there with him. I love when a book has the power to transport you somewhere else, with people so real that you expect to meet them one day. This is that book.

**** 6. Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship - This is my favorite new cookbook. It's fancy, but doable. After Dan spent a weekend away for work, the kids and I made him the rainbow chip cake as a welcome home surprise. It was by far my best baked good ever. Amazing.


Things to Do - 12 in 12 (May 2015)

Is May always this hot? Seriously, it is just so so hot.

Don't forget to hop over to Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelons Grow to see how they spent Tuesday, May 12.

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7:45 pm - Wake up to T chilling on the couch looking at our newest photo album, which makes me happy all morning.

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8:15 am - T and Coco hang in the backyard after breakfast. BFFs as always.

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8:35 am - The kids play hide and seek/frisbee before we walk to school.

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11:00 am - Spend the morning editing a photoshoot of the cutest baby ever. Then head to Sterling to take real estate photos. I forget to bring the I-Pass and have no cash, which means I have to drive out the way to avoid tolls. Crankiness.

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3:45 pm - Pick T up from school.

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4:00 pm - Walk home from school. Our neighbor's peonies are in full bloom, so we decide to borrow one (she's a friend, so she won't mind).

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4:50 pm - Pick F and her bestie up from music class.

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5:00 pm - Pick P up from her playdate. She refuses to leave the swing.

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5:45 pm - Eat the quickest dinner ever and head to school for wax museum night. Babe Ruth makes everyone laugh.

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6:00 pm - P as Sacagawea, I kept pushing her button over and over, forcing P to repeat her speech numerous times. Truthfully, it was a parenting high. Everyone kept laughing as she rolled her eyes, glared at me, and then stated, again and again. "I am Sacagawea. I was born in . . . "

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7:30 pm - Our before-bed dog walk.

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7:45 pm - Happy (which is our puppy's newest nickname) tries to control her jealousy as P plays with every (and I mean EVERY) other dog in the neighborhood.


Things to Eat - Vignarola (a Roman Stew for Spring) & Our 4 Week Meal Plan

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A spring stew sounded amazing to me this month, but then I couldn't find fresh fava beans or artichokes, so I'm not sure spring had much to do with this recipe. Luckily, it still came together pretty well.

Vignarola (a Roman Stew for Spring) - based on this recipe.


* 2 cans of artichoke hearts
* 1 pound of frozen fava beans, defrosted (you can buy these at Trader Joe's)
* 1/2 package of prosciutto
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 head Romaine lettuce, shredded
* 1 handful of torn mint
* salt and pepper to taste

1. In a skillet large enough to hold all the vegetables, cook the prosciutto in olive oil over medium-low heat. After about 5 minutes, remove it from the pan. Add the canned artichokes and the fava beans. Cook for about 5 minutes

2. Add the lettuce to the pan. If there isn't much liquid in the pan (from the canned artichokes), add about 1/2 a cup of water and stir for 2-4 minutes, until the lettuce has wilted.

3. Remove from heat. Add the prosciutto back to the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the mint.


Monday - Seared flank steak with tomato and blue cheese salad (via Cooking Light). This was fantastic with kids. They ignored the tomatoes and blue cheese (i.e. my favorite part) and ate lots of steak. Lots.

Tuesday - Taco Tuesday (just ground beef tacos and refried beans). F could live on refried beans.

Wednesday - Tomato and lentil salad (via IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great); the kids have spaghetti.

Thursday - Sausage, cannellini bean, and tomato ragout with polenta (via Cooking Light). This was really good. Even the kids liked it.


Monday - Arugula/tomato quinoa salad (my recipe, click here for similar formula, just substitute the cucumbers for arugula). The kids ate hot dogs and kale chips.

Tuesday - Arroz con pollo (Dinner: A Love Story cookbook). Everyone loves this; it has become one of our regular dishes.

Wednesday - Grilled polenta with tomatoes and white beans (via Cooking Light) with chicken sausage on the side. F keeps asking for polenta almost every night, so I'm trying to find variations. This looked perfect for spring. The kids didn't eat much of the tomato mixture, but loved the sausage and polenta.

Thursday - Chickpea and kale shakshouka (via Clean Eating magazine). I'm making this a lot lately. The kids don't love it, so I made them a pizza.


Monday - Leftovers from Sunday night (lamb chops and risotto from Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship, my newest cookbook obsession.)

Tuesday - Taco Tuesday (Goop's zucchini tacos for me; ground beef and refried beans for Dan and the kids).

Wednesday - Arugula/tomato/quinoa salad (based loosely on this recipe) with hamburgers/hotdogs on the grill (Dan's home early!! Yay!!!)

Thursday - Leftovers again (Dan barbequed A LOT of meat on Wednesday)


Monday - Frozen pizza because I felt super lazy.

Tuesday - Chicken tinga tacos for Cinquo De Mayo (via The Splendid Table). Personally, I thought these were a little overrated considering the recipe was somewhat complicated, but Dan thought the tacos tasted great. And the kids liked them well enough.

Wednesday - Vignarola (a Roman Stew for Spring) (via Food 52). So this was SO YUMMY!! I could almost live on it. But the kids called the dish "bitter" and just picked at their plates (I blame the artichokes). Luckily, I defrosted plenty of edamame and bread as an "appetizer", which seemed to fill them up.

Thursday - Chicken with bacon and brussels sprouts (via Dinner: A Love Story). Dan loves this. The girls love this. Even T ate most of his chicken. A sure thing.


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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Happy Friday everyone!! Don't forget to check out this week's awesomeness over at Cherish This Day.


* Cards to give to people with cancer. I love these.

* DIY flower seed bombs. The kids would have so much fun making these.

* Take at least one shitty photograph everyday. Great advice. Now I need to follow it.

* This looks like a wonderful graphic novel (for adults). And after months on the library waiting list, I can finally read this book. Now I just need to actually do what the author says to do.


Things to Read - Interesting Articles from Around the Web (on THAT family, Redundancy, A Finnish Town that Went on a Diet, On Demand Everything, and Sally Mann)

1. (THAT family) - The New York Times asks (and tries to answer), "Where Would the Kardashians Be Without Kris Jenner?"

"There are still people who dismiss Kris Jenner, 59, and her family — Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian, all in their 30s; her son, Rob Kardashian, 28; and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, 19 and 17 — as “famous for being famous,” a silly reality-show family creating a contrived spectacle. But we have reached the point at which the Jenners and the Kardashians are not famous for being famous: They are famous for the industry that they’ve created, the Kardashian/Jenner megacomplex, which has not just invaded the culture but metastasized into it, with the family members emerging as legitimate businesspeople and Kris the mother-leader of them all."
2. (Redundancy) - Do you sometimes feel like everything looks the same?

"Ok, I’m exaggerating a little, but let me explain for a second. I was walking down the street with my friend Alexandra recently, and we passed by a new home decor store, and I asked her if she liked it. I loved her response:

“Yeah, it’s ok. I mean, it’s basically the ambient taste right now.”

Me: “What do you mean, ambient taste?”

“Oh, you know – it’s kind of what everyone likes these days, you see it everywhere, and you like it too without even really thinking about it.”

3. (Unintentionally Dieting Finns) - The Finnish Town that Went on a Diet

"Puska and his team approached the Martha Organization, a powerful women’s organization with several local clubs, to help spread the word. Together, Puska and the clubs hatched the idea of holding afternoon “longevity parties,” where a member of Puska’s team would give a short talk encouraging them to replace butter with oil, meat with vegetables, cut salt, and stop smoking. They gave the women a recipe book that added vegetables to traditional North Karelian dishes and cooked and served them. North Karelian stew, for instance, typically had only three main ingredients—water, fatty pork, and salt—but the team replaced some of the pork with rutabagas, potatoes, and carrots. The women liked the new version of the dish, which they named “Puska’s stew.” By showing these women how to cook plant-based meals that tasted good, Puska had found a way to disseminate the health message better than any leaflet could.

Inspired by a former professor, Everett Rogers, who came up with the idea of “opinion leaders,” Puska next went from village to village recruiting “lay ambassadors.” Believing that the best way to spark cultural change was from the bottom up, he recruited some 1,500 people, usually women who were already involved in other civic organizations. He gave each ambassador an identification card, taught them simple messages about reducing salt and animal products, and encouraged them to talk to their friends."
4. (On Demand Everything) - Lauren Smiley documents The Shut in Economy.

"Five months ago I moved into a spartan apartment a few blocks away, where dozens of startups and thousands of tech workers live. Outside my building there’s always a phalanx of befuddled delivery guys who seem relieved when you walk out, so they can get in. Inside, the place is stuffed with the goodies they bring: Amazon Prime boxes sitting outside doors, evidence of the tangible, quotidian needs that are being serviced by the web. The humans who live there, though, I mostly never see. And even when I do, there seems to be a tacit agreement among residents to not talk to one another. I floated a few “hi’s” in the elevator when I first moved in, but in return I got the monosyllabic, no-eye-contact mumble. It was clear: Lady, this is not that kind of building.

Back in the elevator in the 37-story tower, the messengers do talk, one tells me. They end up asking each other which apps they work for: Postmates. Seamless. EAT24. GrubHub. Safeway.com. A woman hauling two Whole Foods sacks reads the concierge an apartment number off her smartphone, along with the resident’s directions: “Please deliver to my door.”
5. (Sally Mann) - What an artist captures, what a mother knows and what the public sees can be dangerously different things.

"For all the righteous concern people expressed about the welfare of my children, what most of them failed to understand was that taking those pictures was an act separate from mothering. When I stepped behind the camera and my kids stepped in front of it, I was a photographer and they were actors, and we were making a photograph together. And in a similar vein, many people mistook the photographs for reality or attributed qualities to my children (one letter-­writer called them “mean”) based on the way they looked in the pictures. The fact is that these are not my children; they are figures on silvery paper slivered out of time. They represent my children at a fraction of a second on one particular afternoon with infinite variables of light, expression, posture, muscle tension, mood, wind and shade. These are not my children at all; these are children in a photograph.

Even the children understood this distinction. Once, Jessie, who was 9 or 10 at the time, was trying on dresses to wear to a gallery opening of the family pictures in New York. It was spring, and one dress was sleeveless. When Jessie raised her arms, she realized that her chest was visible through the oversize armholes. She tossed that dress aside, and a friend remarked with some perplexity: “Jessie, I don’t get it. Why on earth would you care if someone can see your chest through the armholes when you are going to be in a room with a bunch of pictures that show that same bare chest?”

Jessie was equally perplexed at the friend’s reaction: “Yes, but that is not my chest. Those are photographs.”



Things to Eat - Easy, Healthy Snacks

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I'm not always the best at healthy snacks, often I just throw out a box of cookies and call it a day. But my goal is to try harder. Either way, healthy is such a slippery concept and I'm not sure these snacks will fit everyone's definition. But at least, they're all better for you than potato chips.

So please help, we could use some new ideas. Any suggestions?? Trail mix and other things with peanut butter are always out for us . .


* Smoothies

* Parfaits with fresh fruit, granola, and yogurt

* Baked apples

* Popcorn

* Cinnamon maple caramel popcorn

* Homemade popsicles - We love everything in People's Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn's Coolest Pop Shop (though "healthy" might be somewhat of a misnomer).

* Apples with almond butter

* A big bowl of grapes on the counter (if I leave these out all afternoon, I'll find the grapes gone by dinner)

* Banana "soft serve"

* Fruit salad

* Mangoes (which deserve their own category because they really are so so yummy)


* Kale chips (I've found these work best if I buy bags of prewashed kale).

* Edamame

* Peppers, cucumbers, and carrots

* Crackers and cheese


* Raisins

* target="new"Somersault snacks

* Z Bars

* Pistachios

* Prepackaged bags of popcorn

* Bags of apple slices


Places to Go (Vacation) - A Bicyle Built for Fifteen, Peach Sangria, and Drag Queens During Moms' Weekend in Savannah, GA

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In case I haven't mentioned this enough already - I love our neighborhood, it's like a party that never stops. Well, until the party moves. A good friend/neighbor/soccer coach/ awesome female was turning 40 - the perfect excuse for a celebratory weekend getaway.

Savannah is a slow town, not a lot of museums or organized activities. No open container laws (i.e. you can walk and drink). Streets full of little shops and boutiques and yummy food. Perfect for relaxation. And friends.

And drag queens.

And 15 person bicyle-like contraptions.

And sangria. PEACH SANGRIA. got to love the south.

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I thought the slow ride pub crawl would be part drinking and part history tour. But it was 100% drinking. On a bike built for 15. With cup holders. Which we probably needed more than the history part.

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Light like this doesn't exist in Arlington. So I made my friends jump around for an impromptu photoshoot. I still don't really know how to photograph Savannah's crazy intense sunset, but it was fun to experience.

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We spent a lot of time wandering around. Well, some of us used maps. And I followed the people with maps.

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The hat stayed on for one hot second. Not that I blame Dori for taking it off.

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There is something rather awesome about strolling around with a rum and coke in hand. My eyes are courtesy of Janet, who is a genius at makeup stuff. On the upside, I loved it. On the downside, I now need to learn how to make myself up. How is there always so much more to learn in life?

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Janeese found an online list of the top 25 things to do in Savannah. Number 16 was a drag show with Lady Chablis. When in Rome . . .

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Lady Chablis had a missing front tooth, a bad attitude, and kept talking about her pussy juice (ick). In other words, Lady Chablis was sort of a bust. But her friends kept us entertained.

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After numerous failed weight loss attempts (I still blame my extra 10 pounds on December's broken foot), this is my new diet plan - find a drag queen to accompany me everywhere. All of a sudden I'm tiny. As in TINY!!

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On our last night we ate dinner at Billy's Place, which was pretty much perfect. Amazing food (as in AMAZING!!!), great service, and a female "piano" man who takes requests (yes, I did cry during "In My Life", wouldn't you?), but was quiet enough that we could still talk and bond and drink. and drink. and drink. Seriously, five stars all the way.

So that was last weekend. This weekend involves a return to "real life" (i.e. back to back soccer games, sleepovers, and cocktails on the porch). Whatever you're up to, I hope it's fantastic!! Happy Friday!!


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