February 22, 2013

A Tuesday in Cleveland.

So!  I had this post written literally about a month ago.  I just had to go back and add in the pictures... and then a whole lot of Life happened.  I figured better late than never, right?

So.  Anytime I hear the whole kids of stay at home mom's aren't well socialized and aren't exposed to the world or germs or any of it schtick I roll my eyes.  Because that description bears absolutely no resemblance to my life.  I'm sure some people live that way but we?  Are out and about all the time.  We only stay home when the realities of laundry or weather force us to.  And I'm not just talking about errand running. I really make a point to get my kids out there to experience this amazing city we live in.

To put it another way - I didn't stay home with my kids to stay home with my kids.

But for whatever reason Tuesdays have become the REALLY fun day lately.  The day when it works out that we're doing something especially awesome.  Such as:

Great Lakes Science Center
That would be my kids playing with friends in the ball pit at the Great Lakes Science Center.  The whole Polymer Funhouse is pretty amazing but well...

Great Lakes Science Center
The ball pit is my jam.
Great Lakes Science Center
So much fun.
Then we checked out the Bubble Show.  Which is always a good time:

Great Lakes Science Center
After that we had a little bit of time to kill before lunch and the weather was somewhat decent.  So we stopped off at Edgewater Park to check out frozen Lake Erie:

Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park

 I also wanted to get a picture of them with the city to send to my dad for his birthday.

Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park
It would have been such a good picture without my daughter's "bitch, please" look.
  Plus the lake is so, so cool half frozen:
Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park

Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park

Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park
The kids discovered that there's this awesome steps up / ramp down situation going on with the fishing pier.  So they did that over, and over, and over again....
Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park

While I tried to get a picture of my Frozen Great Lake hat with the actual Frozen Great Lake:

Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park

But more on that later.

By this point the kids were frozen, exhausted, hungry, and done so we headed for home.  Yay for random Tuesdays in Cleveland!
Frozen Lake Erie from Edgewater Park

February 13, 2013

Preschool Valentines in a Post Pintrest World.

So.  Valentines Day is tomorrow!  And it's our first one with a school aged kid.  Super fun.  Except that we live in a post-pintrest world now.  The simple box 'o cards from my childhood aren't going to cut it anymore.  At least if the things being sent home on each kid's birthday are any indication.  Super cute treat bags galore!  So I knew we needed to do something...

But!  I also am not going to do it for her.  I'm sorry but no.  The whole culture of parents doing amazing, crafty things for their kids is just not one I want to participate in.  It sortof feels like I would be doing my kid's homework for her.  However I am all about doing amazing, crafty things with my kid.  So I wanted to come up with something that she could do / help with that would also not be crappy compared with what the rest of the group was doing.

Also it needed to be cheap.  Because seriously, -yo.

I decided on chocolate covered pretzels. Cheap, easy, adorable, and possible for a 3 year old to master pretty quickly:

Valentines for preschool.

She helped me both dip the pretzels and cover them with sprinkles.

Valentines for preschool.
This one was less helpful and more DIP PLEASE DIP PLEASE YUM MMMMMM
 Yeah they aren't perfect.  But participation trumps perfection so we're going with it.

Valentines for preschool. Valentines for preschool.

Then she put them all in bags:

Valentines for preschool.

 And I tied ribbons on with basic supermarket Valentines:

Valentines for preschool.
Yes.  The ribbons on Valentines are blue.  I suggested red or pink but my child was not having any of that nonsense.  Her artistic vision was BLUE!
She wrote her name on some of them. But then got bored / frustrated and needed to be done with the project so I finished them up:
Valentines for preschool.
She's super proud of them and can't wait to give them to her class tomorrow! 

In other news we're ripping out our entire basement starting this week.  I... yeah.... it's... I don't even know.  It is nice to know that my AutoCAD skills aren't completely defunct:

Trying to make a full bath fit into my basement. Haven't done this in awhile. #architecture #autocad #architect
But I kindof forgot how much work organizing a project like this is.  We're doing it the same way we did our kitchen - hired someone to do most of the work while coordinating and General Contracting it ourselves, acquiring all of the materials ourselves, and even doing some of the work ourselves.  So... Yeah.  Next time we rip out walls I need to not be pregnant. I"m pretty sure I said that the last time....

February 8, 2013

Crockpot Love and the Witching Hour.

So.  The crockpot.  Dude!  I might be in love.  Ok wait.  Let me start at the beginning....

Matt usually gets home around 6:30.  Which means we need to eat AS SOON AS HE WALKS IN THE DOOR OMFG.  And the time between 5 and whenever that is is awful.  The Witching Hour.  The time when my kids go from tame and nice and trustworthy to hellions intent on destroying both the house and each other.

WHY. Why do they need to take out ALL OF THE BOOKS?!?!? #igiveup #sellthemtogypsies
This is tame.  Usually it's much, MUCH worse than this.
I get it.  They are hungry and tired and ready for daddy, I am at the outer limits of my patience for the day. The results being a loud, meltdown-y, mess.  That I need to supervise to prevent injury. Which is perfect considering that's exactly when I need to be cooking in order to time dinner right. 


I could probably just feed the kids earlier but all of us eating together as a family is not something I'm willing to give up.  I think it's so, SO important to have that time together.  And to establish that as a non-negotiable way of life from the beginning. 

I also could plug them in.  I have cooked with Elmo's aid many times before. But I"m just not willing to go there every single day.  I want it to be the exception not the rule.

Really the only solution is to hire a personal chef. 

Or... barring a ridiculous influx of disposable income.... throw a bunch of crap into the crockpot while the kids are eating lunch and hope it comes out ok.  Guess which one I've been doing alot of lately?

Some of it has been awesome. 
Cilantro lime chicken. One in the crockpot for now, two to freeze for later. #yum #crockpot #dinner #cilantro #picstitch
Cilantro Lime Chicken.  I made 3 batches.  One to eat then, one to freeze for later, and one to take to my Brother and Sister in Law who just had a baby.  Freezer meals are a whole other rabbit hole I've fallen down lately.  Cooking is hard now but grocery shopping with THREE KIDS?  I can't even... how... it's...my brain implodes.  So I'm planning ahead.
Some of it not as much:

Attempting potato soup in the crock pot. We shall see. #dinner #crockpot
The crockpot potato soup turned out quite delicious. #dinner #yum #crockpot
Crockpot Baked Potato Soup.  I changed some things from the recipe - used frozen hashbrowns for half of the potatoes and added in cheddar cheese with the cream cheese.  The flavor was outstanding but the texture was... not quite right.  Overall it was ok but I'm not sure it will make it into my regular meals list.
And some of it completely, totally random.  I've gotten to the point where I basically just wander through the house looking for stuff to put in the crockpot:

Crock Pot Meals
How about this?  Would this work?
So far I've had amazingly decent results.  The picture above turned into a recipe I came up with on the fly using nonsense I found in my basement pantry.  I told my husband it was "Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore."  Yup.  It was so good that we threw down over who got the leftovers for lunch the next day (he did.) I served it over Polenta made with cornmeal from our summer CSA.  So, so, so good.  Crazy good considering the complete lack of effort involved.  So I thought I would share:

Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore:

Can of Stewed Tomatoes - I used traditional recipe w/ green peppers and onions
Can of Cannelinni Beans drained and rinsed
Small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
Chicken Stock - I used about half of a 32 oz box
Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenderloins (breasts or thighs would work, too)
Italian Seasonings - alot
Red Pepper Flakes - a little
Green Pepper chopped? (I didn't have one of these but I bet it would be delicious in this recipe)
Mushrooms chopped? (I didn't have these either but adding them in would also be good.  It would give the whole thing a more traditional cacciatore flavor)

Dump some frozen chicken into the crockpot.  I didn't even bother to dethaw.  Then put some Italian seasonings and a little bit of red pepper flakes on top.

Crock Pot Meals
Add in the onion and garlic, add some more Italian seasonings:

Crock Pot Meals
Dump the beans and tomatoes on top.  Add some more Italian seasoning.  Then pour in enough chicken stock to make the whole thing wet.  You don't want to make soup but it needs some liquid to cook.

Crock Pot Meals

Cover and cook on low for somewhere around 6 hours (or high for... less time?)  Right before you serve this shred the chicken a bit with two forks.
Crock Pot Meals

Serve over Polenta or rice with good, crusty bread:

Crock Pot Meals Act like you are the world's best chef and your husband should be super impressed with your culinary prowess.  AHEM.

So what about you guys?  What amazing and easy crockpot recipes do you have up your sleeve?  I'd love to hear some more good ones!  The simpler the better...

February 6, 2013

Florida Recap.

So a couple weekends ago (yes.  I'm very behind on the blogging.  Better late than never!) I took the kids on our annual trip to visit my grandparents in Florida.  Flying with 2 actual kids was less bad than I thought it would be.  They are pretty game for anything:

C'mon mom!  I want to get on the PLANE!!
The dude even got to pretend to fly the plane.  He walked into the cockpit and said WOOOOOOW in such an impressed and adorable way that the Pilot laughed and let him sit in his chair.  Seriously.  

So adorable.  And such a guy moment.
Once we got there I"m not really sure who was more excited.  The kids or their great-grandparents:

It's blurry but that flash of red hair is my kid running to her Nonni as fast as her little legs would carry her.

Followed quickly behind by her brother.  Who was So. Excited.  I don't think he realized what was going to happen when we landed!


Usually when we go it's pretty chilly there.  Like 60's.  Nothing to complain about but not really warm enough to swim or whatever.  So when this year it was in the low 80's we immediately did this:

It was snowing in Cleveland when we left. #vacation #florida
Matt texted me to see if we had arrived safely since it was "very wintery" in Cleveland when we left.  I texted him back this picture.  I'd think it was mean if I didn't realize how awesome his kid-free weekend was even with the snow.
The next day my friend Lori Beth came up from Orlando.  We had planned on going to Gaspirilla to see the flotilla but considering the insanely good weather and the fact that ALL of the information websites were down we decided that was a bad idea.  Two kids in a record breaking crowd of drunks does not sound like a fun time.  So instead we took them to Honeymoon Island:

Where the water and the sky are the same color.  Beautiful:

And while it was still too cold to swim it was perfectly warm enough to have a picnic on the beach:


 Collect some shells:

And throw rocks into the water - the dude's favorite thing EVER.


 Of course on the way home we stopped at an orange grove for some ice cream:

That night we all watched figure skating with my grandma who is into it.  Like knows the people and has followed for years into it.  The commentary between her and my fashion-opinionated daughter was pretty great.

The next day was alot more low key.  Breakfast with their friends, church, nothing too big.  The girl and her
Nonni spent a lovely afternoon together baking:


That night the kids were a bit wired so we took them to Lake Tarpon to run around:


I forgot how immediately and completely dirty they get in the summer.


All in all it was a pretty great trip.  Nothing fancy or crazy exciting.  Just a nice time with their Nonni and Papa Nonni.

Life is good.
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