Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas 2013 in Review

So I figured I should document that yes, Christmas happened in our house.  I struggle with the holidays, not b/c I don't enjoy the magic of the holidays with small children, because I do.  I struggle with the amount of extra work/stress it generates in my life making that magic hard to appreciate at times. Because Johnny and I both work for ourselves we don't really get a vacation, which just means along with all the shopping/decorating etc I just have to keep up with my normal workload.  Thank goodness for Amazon-I purchased 100% of Christmas gifts online this year! 

 I made an effort this year to be selective in the holiday activities we participate in as we often find that "attraction" type events are just not worth the trouble/money/frustrations they tend to create with young children.  These sorts of bad experiences a la sitting in an hour of traffic, walking a mile from the parking lot, freezing cold temps, shoulder to shoulder crowds all leading to crabby screaming children and crabby screaming adults.  All we are  trying to do is look at some darn Christmas lights that we spent $30 a ticket on.  Can you tell we've been down this road more than once?  We are so fortunate to live in the neighborhood that we do.  The kids get to visit Santa for free, with no lines, and free pictures-because seriously I would NEVER in a million years go to the mall and stand in line for 3 hours with 3 children to pay $30 for a picture of my child screaming on santa's lap.  Along with Santa, our neighborhood has a Candlelight Tour of Homes every year where 10 homes are showcased-Johnny and I were able to go this year and really enjoyed the night out.  Honestly, with making an effort to be selective in our holiday activities, and getting organized about my holiday chores-I made a calendar after Thanksgiving giving myself deadlines to get shopping done, gifts mailed, gingerbread house assembled etc, and it did make things a little less daunting.  

Christmas was certainly magical with two little ones participating in the excitement this year-I cannot even imagine next year when there will be a third hanging out waiting for Santa too.  So here's the photo tour of our holiday season, and as usual while it was fun, I'm so glad that I have a full 12 months before I have to do it again!
Santa visits were a hit with June and Hank.  Lucy wanted absolutely nothing to do with the man.

Probably my favorite new tradition-we cut our own tree this year and it was a perfect activity for our family.  We went toKinsey Family Farm and you get to ride a tractor out to cut your tree down, roast marshmallows over a fire, and they even have a petting zoo which is always a hit in toddler world. 

Another first for us this year, and will be added to the annual tradition list-the holiday Christmas parade.  Perfect for our crew, plus we take Marta to get there which is an event in itself.  

I let the kids put the ornaments on the tree this year-they were highly clustered in groups around the bottom, but at least I didn't have to do any of the work!

Oh yeah, Monkey the elf caused all sorts of hilarity in our house this December.  Many nights I would be up feeding June at 3am and realize I didn't move Monkey! Thank goodness for late night feedings, otherwise Hank would have been very angry as he woke every morning in December immediately on a mission to find the elf. 

 I just love Christmas babies-especially ones with huge cheeks

 Baking cookies for Santa

Again, I gave Hank and Lucy the chore of decorating the cookies this year.  This sort of activity is right up Hank's alley, and he spent a good 3 hours meticulously decorating each cookie.  The rest of the season was spent saying "Hank, next year we should go easier on the red hots"

The stockings-all 5 of them!-hung by the chimney with care

Christmas before....

and after...

I have to say the best moment of the whole season for me was on Christmas morning I heard Hank come out of his room run into the tree and then rush into our room screaming "he came! Santa really came!" I guess he wasn't convinced that the whole Santa thing would happen??  Then he took off into Lucy's room to wake her up and tell her that Santa came.  They were both super pumped, which as a parent really makes the extra effort worthwhile.  

The aftermath

Junebug spent this year observing from a distance, and let her brother and sister do her opening for her.  Next year, I suspect she'll be right in the middle of the action.

 My favorite part of christmas? Peppermint bark.

Lots of adorable Christmas jammies

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Recipe Roundup-The Chicken Cranberry Ring

In my efforts to spend a little more quality time in the ole bloggy world this year, I decided to start adding some new features to the mix-up first is the recipe roundup.  So many of my recipes come from other people's blogs, and let's face it I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  Luckily, I do love cooking and baking and trying new recipes so figured I should give something back to the interwebs.  I'll be posting something that is part of our weekly meal plan-and for those interested, I do meal plan weekly.  I grocery shop once a week on Sundays and plan typically 5 meals for a week.  Thursday night is always leftover night, and we have one pizza/out night that we can substitute in when we need to.  Also, 3 nights a week I work until about 6:00 and since Johnny serves as nanny while I'm working and hasn't quite mastered the whole making dinner while wrangling 3 children thing--I have to work ahead-usually one night is crock pot, one is something that is easily made ahead and he just has to throw in the oven, and Thursday is always leftovers.

So moving onto tonight's dinner--the chicken cranberry ring, this is a recipe I've been making for years and is a huge hit.  It is an old pampered chef recipe I think, but I see it everywhere now in the world of pinterest etc.  The idea is that you use leftover turkey/chicken which is actually what I've done tonight since I did a whole chicken in the crock pot yesterday.  Sometimes though, I just crave this and end up cooking a few chicken breasts just so I can make this one or a rotisserie chicken works great too. This is def one of my winter recipes, and is very much a winter chicken salad.  

A disclaimer for my readers-recipes are merely suggestions in my kitchen, I rarely make the same dish exactly the same way twice.  Maybe I've watched too much Rachael Ray, but spices are more of a dash or pinch and often I add what's in the fridge or leave out what was pitched from the cart unknowingly by some disgruntled toddler in my shopping cart.  Onward....

As my blog/recipe hero The Pioneer Woman would say-the cast of characters...

Here's that yummy 2ish cups of leftover chicken, shredded.  Bonus that this is a budget friendly/uses leftover meal-major husband points on the "meat ring" as J calls it. 
 And here it is with all the other yummies-1/2 cup-3 stalks of celery, 1/2 cup craisins, 1 cup shredded swiss (only ever found this at Kroger), 1/2 cup mayo, 2 Tbsp dijon mustard, spices to taste-s&p, garlic salt, and onion salt today oh and I had some fresh dill leftover in the fridge that I chopped up and threw in.
 Onward to the ring.  I remember the first time I made this recipe I didn't have visuals and was reading my way through this and had no clue what I was trying to achieve.

2 cups chicken  shredded
1-1/4 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbl. Dijon style mustard
salt & pepper to taste
2 tubes crescent rolls
1 egg white, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a bowl combine the chicken, 1 cup of the cheese, celery, cranberries, mayo, mustard, salt & pepper.  Mix well and set aside.

Arrange triangles of crescent dough in a circle with the wide ends of the triangles overlapping in the center and the tips pointing outward.  Smush together the inside pieces of the crescents where they are overlapping.  There should be a 6" circle in the center of the baking stone.

Scoop the filling evenly in a circle closest to the inside edge and bring point of crescent up and over the filling and tuck under to seal. 

Brush with egg white and sprinkle with remaining cheese. 

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked all the way through.  I usually serve with fruit salad

Getting real: 
How easy is this actually? I hate when I"m reading recipe blogs or asking someone for a recipe and you see/hear "oh its soooo easy" when in reality its 800 steps with no less than 34 random ingredients that no one has on hand and requires dirtying 8 bowls, 3 pots, and chopping 1/2 a cup of 9 different ingredients.

The leftover "meat ring" is in the moderate category for me-I judge a recipe based on above listed requirements and how easily I can get something made with 3 children crawling around underfoot asking me to wipe various things and get them snacks etc.  This is a keeper for me #1 b/c its delicious, #2 budget friendly, #3 uses leftover ingredients and I usually have what I need on hand (with the exception of crescent rolls), #4 can be made ahead, #5 minimal clean up required, which in my mind makes up for slightly more work in the prep.  

What were the kids doing while I made this? well I usually try to cook when at least one child is sleeping (june this time) and Hank was entertained with the ipad, and Lucy was contained at least part of the time. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

June Bug-4 months

As expected, time seems to move exponentially faster with each subsequent child.  4 months (okay 4 1/2 let's be real) of your little life are already over,  and I am trying to make sure I savor these precious early months/days.  As the 3rd child, you are certainly along for the ride much of the time and I cherish any one-on-one moments I can get with this sweet happy little nugget.  Happy is certainly the best word to describe June-I'd say she's my happiest baby, she smiles at the sight of anyone in the family-giggles easily and loves to coo and chatter at anyone who will listen.  At the sight of either sibling or mom/dad her face just lights up into the biggest smile imaginable.  She also super snuggly, and will sit happily in my lap for long stretches of time generally being cute and doing baby coos etc.  She's all cheeks, certainly the chubbiest baby of the 3-she's really starting to show interest in our food when we are eating.  She's also our only brown eyed babe-still with dark hair but hair color has really yet to be determined.  

At 4 months, she is starting to play and grasp toys.  She spends a lot of time on her playmat and just started hanging out in the johnny jump up which is a huge hit with the other kids who love to swing her.  Hank and Lucy have fully accepted her as a member of the family at this point.  Hank loves to hang out with June, and can be trusted to "watch her" on the couch where he will read to her, tell her jokes, or teach her about angry birds.  Lucy was slower to accept "baby sister" but has really come around and has taken a mothering interest in her.  She will exclaim "uh oh baby sister crying" and run to her rescue-usually throwing stuffed animals at her.  She pats her on the head like an animal and thinks its hysterical.  She also likes to point out all of baby sisters body parts, and seems to like her more based on what animal is on her clothing on any given day.  

Sleep? well as usual we've had some regression in this department.  I imagine some of this might be due to the fact that she's more than ready to move into her own room in a real crib; however this is not available yet so we push forward.  She takes 2-3 naps a day and one typically coincides with Lucy's nap.  She goes down easily, but generally wakes about twice at night to eat.  I pull her into bed to nurse and generally wake up an hour or two later and we are both completely passed out-she's just so warm and snuggly, but I do put her back in her pack n play only to be woken a few hours later to her grunts requesting to be back in the big, warm bed.  I can't say I blame her-the pack-n-play has been heavily used and is really not that comfortable for her.  We'll likely be dealing with undoing bad sleep habits for months, but honestly I'm so used to being sleep deprived that it just doesn't phase me anymore-and how can you say no to this face?

Onward my littlest one!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Progress Report-Mechanicals & Inspectors-2 months

Greetings from 2 months into our home renovation!  I cannot lie, my patience is wearing paper thin-almost daily I have to close my eyes and take a breath over some frustration caused by the absolute state of chaos in my home.  We lost Johnny's huge walk in closet to build the staircase which now means I share my closet with him and June.  We have holes in ceilings and walls in every single room of the house from plumbing, wiring, and support beams that have been installed.  I have a hot water heater so close to my bed, I can touch it.

When I last reported we were finishing up the plumbing and mid-way through the framing.  Framing is now finished (with the exception of a few built-in decorative requests we've made-including exposing the brick fireplace on the landing of the staircase and adding built in book shelves to the window seats in both of the bedrooms).  Our framing inspection is (fingers crossed) tomorrow, and double fingers crossed that #1 the city inspector actually shows up and #2 that we actually pass on the first go around b/c if not we must fix issues and reschedule (see #1).  We passed our plumbing inspection on the first try, granted it took 3 days of no shows before the inspector actually showed up.  He took 2 minutes to pop his head upstairs and say "looks good, where do I sign?".  Electrical also went smoothly, and we passed on the first go-around, and he showed up when scheduled.  A word on inspection days-When you have an inspection scheduled, the subcontractor must be present, there is no guaranteed time that said inspector will show up, so the subcontractor must sit at your house and wait.  Curtis, our wonderful electrician, is now like the 6th member of our family.  On the morning of his inspection he showed up at our house about 7:30 and sat at our kitchen table and chatted with me until about noon when the inspector finally showed up.  I mean, as much as I enjoy sharing my coffee and breakfast with someone, sometimes you just aren't in the mood to hang out with your electrician in your pjs!  I gave up long ago on actually being up and dressed before people start showing up.  We failed HVAC on the first go around, but managed to get that one fixed quickly and have now passed.

The framing inspection is all that stands between us and sheetrock.  The windows were delivered today, and are currently sitting on our front porch b/c the window delivery men are "not allowed to do stairs"-riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.   So, we were all excited to get the windows installed since it is forecasted to be the coldest night that Atlanta has seen in decades tonight, but silly us, apparently you can't install windows if it is below freezing.  So the windows will continue to sit.  Sheetrock was delivered on christmas eve by the likes of Beavis and Butthead who actually told me we might not be able to sheetrock our space b/c there was no way to get all the sheetrock upstairs-riiiiiiiiiiight, so I'll call the builder and tell him the remodel is off b/c the sheetrock is too heavy? And really, by no way, they actually mean no way other than carrying all 80+sheets one at a time up the driveway, in the back door and up two flights of stairs.  7 hours later, the sheetrock was off the truck and upstairs where it continues to sit until we pass the framing inspection.

We've ordered flooring (all hardwoods upstairs), decided on architectural shingles for the roof, and opted to save money somewhere and decline the spray foam insulation in the attic.  From here we must pass framing inspection, then windows get installed, insulation gets installed, sheetrock, floors installed, and then we are onto finishings from there-light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, trim packages, paint colors etc.  Last week el hefe estimated we'd be done by the end of January early February-I'm not holding my breath on that one, but it sure is a nice thought!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 In Review

Thanks to Susie for this nice little year in review/annual reflection activity...

1. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?

  • been a mother to 3 kids
  • lived through a major home renovation including giving a presentation to the city( at 7 months pregnant) explaining why they should allow us to add onto our home
  • Visited my Dad in the hospital after he suffered a pulmonary embolism 5 days before I was admitted to have a baby.  Talk about a stressful week.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't exactly recall my goals for 2013-I know I set a goal to read a  book a month which I met! I imagine growing my business was up there last year too, and now I have a full schedule with a waiting list and an average of 15-20 inquiries a week--go me!
For 2014: 

  • The year of the house.  With our renovation scheduled to complete late January/early February we will be putting lots of time into organizing and designing our new space.  We will finish out outdoor patio project, paint the entire house inside and out, reconfigure a guest bedroom and home office, design the kid's new rooms, re-paint kitchen cabinets, and some furniture refinishing projects are all on tap.  
  • Johnny and I have set a joint goal to live more intentionally in all that we do.  Along the lines of thriving not just surviving-more quality time with our party of 5, less screen time during family time etc
  • Read 15 books-I met my goal of one a month for the past 2 years, so it's time to up the ante!
  • Run a half marathon-this is lofty, but been hanging out on my goal list for a long time and I'd really like to cross it off this year.  
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? geez..who didn't give birth this year?  Closest to home is my sis-in-law who had another girl 8 weeks before June was born.  Also, my childhood bff, Dorothy, had a baby girl about 10 days before June was born which was fun to live through the pregnancy with someone so close (also for those who knew us growing up, is it any wonder that we also had babies together?)
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. Whose behavior merited celebration? um? mine for enduring a pregnancy, life with 3 kids, a major home renovation all while running my business from my kichen table? okay, other than me?  I can't really say my son as I found age 3 to be terribly difficult and am so glad to say good-riddance to that.  How about my wonderful husband who puts up with me during above stated stressors?
6. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?  at times my 3 year old :) and also at times, the way I lost my patience with him too quickly.  alas, parenting is so hard....
7. Who did you miss? extended family that we just don't get to see enough of...
8. Who was the best new person you met? Our June Bug 
9. Where did you travel? not much time/money/patience for this....but we did manage a few mountain get-aways with the crew that were a nice break from reality and tagged along on a business trip to Fripp Island for spring break.  
10. What would you like to have in the new year that you lacked this year? an extra 5 hours a day 
11. What dates from the year will remain etched upon your memory, and why? August 23 the day my littlest one was born
12. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 Growing our 3rd perfect, healthy little one sounds like a pretty good achievement to me.  Also, I'm pretty darn proud of how my business has grown in the past year and my growing reputation in the community.
13. What was your biggest failure? my inability to figure out how to set aside time for all my responsibilities so that my kids aren't always being pushed aside for work etc
14. Did you suffer illness or injury?  I sprained my ankle recently when I fell off a curb, but no time for mama to be laid up so I pushed on through that one and it still hurts months later.  I also have developed Mommy's thumb if that's any surprise.  I don't get sick thanks to an immune system of steel so I just wipe snotty noses nonstop and somehow remain unscathed-good thing b/c Johnny is completely lacking an immune system and is typically down with the kids.  
15. What was the best thing you bought? A new car!  Also, I guess we can count the money for the home renovation eventhough it's still ongoing
16. Where did most of your discretionary income go? discretionary income? whats that?
17. What did you get really excited about? June's arrival and becoming a family of 5
18. Compared to this time last year, are you:
 exponentially busier in all aspects of life which I never imagined could be possible
19. What do you wish you’d done more of?
 taken more time for myself
20. What do you wish you’d done less of?
 yelling at Hank
21. What did you want and get? an upstairs!
22. What did you want and not get? a vacation
23. How did you spend Christmas? in our home exactly how it should be
24. What was your favorite TV program? hmmm...we had a few favorites this year--Breaking Bad, Homeland, Downton Abby, Sons of Anarcy...Downton Abby seems strange in that list, doesn't it?
25. What were your favorite books of the year?  The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks-one of the most thought provoking books I've ever read.
26. What was your favorite music from this year?
  hmmm...Blurred Lines was a favorite for everyone :)
27. What song will always remind you of this year?  Gangnam Style and that darn What Does the Fox say song that Hank plays repeatedly on youtube.  
28. What were your favorite films of the year? can't say that I made it to the movies this year, and honestly can't remember the last movie I saw that was worth remembering.  I've been after Johnny to take me to see Walter  Mitty on a datenight
29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?  uhhhh...well certainly no government officials impressed me this year...
30. What political issue stirred you the most?  As a healthcare provider and insurance biller--def Obamacare
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? Well about a month before my birthday I was talking to a friend and told him that I was about to turn 31, and he responded with "I didn't realize you were a year younger than me" then I thought twice an realized I was actually turning 32-I lost a year in there somewhere!  My birthday was only 6 weeks ago, but honestly I have no recollection of the day-I think there were donuts involved though
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? more free time, more money, more space in the house
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?  maternity, stretchy, comfortable-my fashion gig is that I throw a scarf on top of any outfit and it automatically makes it look like you tried
34. What kept you sane? wine, coffee, book club

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned this year.
 Learning to let go of small things, prioritizing what's actually important vs. what I used to think was important, and the classic "it is what it is". 

Bring it on 2014! We added new family members in 2012 and 2013 and in 2014 we're adding 800 sq feet--hard to say what's more exciting :)