Saturday, July 30, 2016

Everyday Life 7.29.16: sailing etc.

Friday, 7.29.16

I'm by myself this evening--for another little while at least.  Joe's not home yet from the gathering of the brothers and brothers-in-law for Man Time and I'm enjoying some quiet now that the kids are in bed and the house is tidy.  Emily settles down wonderfully well at night.  James not so much; he just doesn't fall asleep for a while.  I've already changed two stinky diapers this evening (same child, abovementioned).  I have been working on getting to know Windows 10, particularly the photo app.  Any new technology is frustrating to me; I knew the old Picasa interface quite well and it's taking me some time to figure out how to get this newfangled thing to do my bidding.  Anyway...

Yesterday we finally got Joe's little sailboat, Alberta, out to the lake!  It's been quite a process getting ready; she hasn't been out for two years.  It was a lovely and refreshing evening.  We spent a lot of time at this lake the few summers before we started dating so we have lots of memories there, many of them centered around the boat.  (I didn't know at the time that Joe was very intentionally on the boat every time I was.  And neither of us will soon forget a certain moon-lit night sail.)



James and Emily loved the sand!  Kept them happy and busy for a long time.  We're going to have a wonderful time on the beaches of Michigan this fall.  We've started planning our annual getaway and the countdown has begun!  Can't wait.  



Saturday, 7.30.16

(Didn't manage to finish this yesterday but didn't want to completely re-write what I wrote.  Hence the journal format.)  Life these days: Busy.  Crazy.  Joe's still working a lot.  It's a blessing but it's also been taxing for him (and for me, because he's gone more than usual).  Grateful, though, that the busy part of his job is seasonal and that we have a vacation coming up!  We've been working on ways to make the most of our family time.  Some days I feed the kids dinner before Joe gets home and we go to the park in the evening.  It's fun and refreshing for all of us.  James loves being chased or carried by Joe and Emily has decided that laying in the grass, though a ticklish endeavor, is quite fun.  It's hilarious to watch her intentionally tip herself over backwards and then giggle and cringe from the grass on her neck.  



Funny anecdote of the week: yesterday I after dinner I put Emily in her walker and gave James, still in his high chair, some ice cream.  A minute or two later I heard a wail from James and looked up from the dishes: Emily had swiped his dish of ice cream from his tray and was cruising off with it.  I restored the dessert to its rightful owner but a minute later Emily grabbed it again, this time making off (fast) in another direction.  That was the end of walker time for Emily...and James finished his ice cream in peace.  :)  

Anyway...we're off to some friends for dinner and I had best get us ready, since getting out the door always takes quite a while these days.  All for now!



We like the grass too.  :)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Amazing Super-Dark Chocolate Sauce

Lately I have been on an ice-cream making kick.  (My culinary inspirations go in phases.  It was biscotti a few months ago; now it’s ice cream.  I just ride them while they last.)  My favorite recipes have been those of Jeni Britton Baur (of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home); they’re a little more involved and labor-intensive, but they make some of the most amazing ice creams I’ve ever had (including Coldstone’s).  The basic ice cream base is amazing with berries and chocolate; it’s like Coldston’es Sweet Cream.  Lemon is one of our favorites and it’s even better made with limes.  And I love anything salted caramel; I’ve been putting this in my cold brew coffee lately.

Interestingly, though I love dark chocolate, I wasn’t super crazy about dark chocolate ice cream; I prefer other ice creams (especially sweet cream, lemon or lime) served with a really, really dark chocolate sauce.  We love this recipe; it’s fast, super-dark and rich and goes really well with most ice creams.   Leftovers harden beautifully in the fridge to a fudgy consistency and I eat it by the spoonful with a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt.  It rarely lasts more than a day...I just whip up another batch next time we eat ice cream.  

The quality of cocoa used here makes a big difference.  I’ve been completely converted to Canadian cocoa (the no-name brand in the big yellow canister).  It’s much darker and richer than Hershey’s or other inexpensive American brands and it’s super affordable.  If you’re traveling to Canada, have friends traveling to Canada, or have Canadian family who don’t mind running international errands for you (thanks, family!), pick some up and give it a try.  With this recipe, I’m plowing through the cocoa.  Good thing Joe’s family travels hither and yon on a regular basis.  :)  

~ ~ ~

Super-Dark Chocolate Sauce
(adapted from the chocolate syrup portion of Jeni’s dark chocolate ice cream recipe)

½  c. sugar
½ c. cocoa powder
½ c. coffee plus a little extra;  I use decaf just in case.
1.5 oz dark chocolate--I usually use good quality chocolate chips or chunks of dark Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe’s.
½ t. Vanilla
Sprinkle of salt

Mix the sugar, cocoa, and coffee in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and stir until you think it’s cooked enough--maybe a minute or two.  Add some dark chocolate--I’m very approximate with amounts.  Stir till it’s all melted in.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Thin with extra coffee if it’s too thick for your liking.  Serve over ice cream.  Store leftovers in the fridge.  I’ve had success re-heating it on the stovetop.  Or you can just serve glops of it chilled with your ice cream.  Enjoy!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Everyday Life 7.15.16: having company, growing kiddos

Well hello.  Last week my easy post idea turned out to be quite challenging (how hard can it be to write up a day in my life, thought I?  Much more time-consuming and clunky than I expected) and I just didn't take the time to finish it.  It was surprisingly hard to let myself off the hook of writing every week, but I'm back today...

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Yesterday Mum, my sweet Canadian mother-in-law (she's "Mum" and my mom is "Mom") and Christy and her four littles came over to swim and have lunch.  I fully expected it to be crazy but it worked out well and we had so much fun!  We had a wonderful time out by the water together and the kids did great in our little place.  I've resisted the idea of having families with small children over because I thought it just wouldn't work in our two-bedroom condo.  Well, my nephews and niece proved me happily wrong.  Ginny even organized James' room before leaving.


Sometimes I don't want to do new things with the kids because I think they'll be hard, or stressful, or it just won't work out, or it conflicts with so-and-so's sleep schedule.  But each time we've done it anyway, I have been favorably impressed at how well it's gone (and that life doesn't end when naps are disrupted).  Our road trips to MI are prime examples.  Also things like driving the kids up the Mt. Evans road and being out till nearly 4...not optimal, perhaps, but we had fun and we didn't implode, explode, or otherwise die (though poor James did get carsick).  Or taking the kids to the pool by myself, or having people over...things easier done than over-thought, perhaps?


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Emily is mobile!  She's puttered a bit but hadn't moved around the house much on her own until just a couple of days ago.  I set her down in James' room to play with toys and have a little quiet time and when I went back to check on her she was playing with the diapers in the bathroom.  Well then.  She still doesn't crawl--either scoots on her seat or pulls herself around on her tummy.  It's pretty cute.  She is so grown up; really getting to be a little girl and not a baby.  Her sleep schedule's all crazy right now.  Some days she doesn't quite need two naps a day but one isn't enough either.  There have been a few times where she's missed a nap or has a really short one...which can be tiring all around.  But we've had some fun times together too.  She especially loves stories involving animal sounds.  :)


It has been a bit of a game-changer to have my baby start moving.  It makes me realize how grown-up James is.  He's getting so obedient and helps me with carrying and getting things.  He's quite a singer.  He'll take a book and use it as a guitar while he sings songs of his own making.  He also "reads" (recites) stories to himself when he's napping or narrates them through the day ("up da ladders go da firemen!" "busy police car, things to do!")  and he's learning Psalm 23 just from our repeating it so many times.


Last night I was putting Emily to bed and James came in to say goodnight.  I told him to give her a hug and she reciprocated...a little funny since both of them seem to think that hugs involve putting your head down on someone else's shoulder.  It was pretty adorable.  He also likes to help get Emily up from her nap.  Working on only doing that at the end of naptime...


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Yesterday James ate a coffee bean when I was making the cold brew and I wasn't successful in getting all of it out of his mouth before he swallowed it.  Fortunately it didn't have a terrible impact on his ability to wind down.  :)

~ ~ ~

Joe and I are both reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.  Well, he's listening and I'm reading, in accordance with our (strong) preferences as to learning styles.  We have both really liked it.  The idea of trade-offs has been good for me so far; realizing that I can't do it all and that to take one opportunity means turning down another.  It's helping me to think more realistically about my time.  I tend to hope that I can do it all if I just work quickly enough and am organized enough, but I usually end up vaguely stressed and disappointed with my actual productivity compared to my aspirations.  Choosing what not do to is a novel concept but it makes so much sense.

Also, there's just the paradigm shift of motherhood.  The important things don't always look like checked-off items on a list.  Unless you put sitting and playing or stories or evening walks to the park on your list...which may not be a bad idea.

I'm off now to read stories to my little boy and eventually to dinner prep.  I've been vacillating between making spicy Thai noodles or Cajun chicken pasta all afternoon.  Currently leaning towards Cajun...



a couple of favorite shots from our evening at the park

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Happy 1st Birthday Emily!

Emily Grace,

Happy 1st birthday, little princess!  One year ago, just five minutes after midnight, you were born after a fast and slightly crazy labor.  Before I even really saw you, I heard Daddy saying “Look, sweetie, it’s a girl!”  You had my dark hair (which you’ve kept) and your Daddy’s nose and you were such a beautiful little girl.  We were both so excited and blessed.  We named you Emily Grace because it was the most special name we could think of, and we’ve called you Princess since before we even left the birth center that morning.  

You bring us so much joy.  Since you were tiny, people have commented on how happy you are; a common saying among your aunts, uncles and grandparents is “Emily is always happy!”  or “Emily is just so happy!”  While I can’t say you are always happy (particularly if you don’t want to go to bed), you are a happy girl.  You love to be around people and you really love your family.  Your brother makes you smile and you’ve already learned how to make him laugh hysterically...buzzing your lips sure does the trick.   And James loves you; if you’re in bed crying he wants me to go take care of you.  

You’re already starting to talk and you have the most adorable little high-pitched voice.  I have to listen carefully but sometimes what I think I hear surprises me.  You try to repeat what you hear, and I almost think I heard “Wow!  Pretty!” when we were talking about fireworks this morning.  (You did experience your first fireworks last night, but I don’t think you even noticed. We let you play with my phone to keep you from crying from sheer exhaustion while James was enthralled by his first fireworks show.)  Last night you said “James” and you say “Wheee!” when you’re on the swings or slide at the park.  


You are a Daddy’s girl.  You’re so happy to see him when he gets home from work and you’ll almost always go to him from me.  Especially at bedtime, since I’m the one who usually puts you to bed.  When I’m feeding you at night and Daddy moves in bed, you perk up, get excited and start trying to talk to him.  And Daddy loves you so much, little one.  He regularly talks about how cute you are and how much he loves you.  One of my favorite things is watching him dance with you.

Sometimes I wonder what you’ll be like when you get a little older.  Outdoorsy?  A reader?  What instruments will call to you?  Between Daddy and me I don’t think you’re going to be able to escape having quite the imagination.  I'm excited to get to know the girl you're growing into. I’m also looking forward to the day when I can share all my favorite stories with you.  But at the same time I love my baby girl and don’t want her to grow up too fast.  

I can’t believe that I have a daughter.  I prayed for a little girl, Emily, before you were even conceived.  Now I pray that you will seek Jesus, not out of fear or duty but out of love.  That you will grow to be a strong, confident, gracious woman.  I want you to know that we love you.   We’re so glad we got you and we will always, always love you.  You’re our special girl.  

Love you forever, Emmy-Bear.  



Photo credit for photos 1, 2 and 4 to Sarah Morgan Photography