Kids · Motherhood · Traditions

Happy First Birthday, Jonas!

Well, it happened. This handsome baby boy of mine turned ONE this week!

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Honestly, it was a little bittersweet! With our first I was always looking forward to the next milestone — in part probably because her newborn phase was really, really hard. But with our sweet Jojo every moment (well, almost) has been so delightful and he’s been such an easy baby that I just don’t want to let go of these moments! We’ve started night-weaning (yeah… I’m a sucker on that and have a track record of letting these kiddos have their nursing as long as they want… how can I refuse them?! But I am so ready to get more sleep at night!) and surprisingly that hasn’t been too emotional, but him growing up and turning a whole year old on me? Not OK!

But we do love to look back on the beautiful times — and the challenges, too. I’m grateful our boy has such a sweet disposition because he’s been through a lot with clubfoot already. He needed to be a zen baby because he’s had other challenges in life. Bless him and the sweet spirit he brought into our home ❤

I know, I can be a little overly sentimental. I just can’t help it!

Anyway, his actual birthday went well: I knew this time around to have zero expectations ha ha! Plus we were snowed in (gotta love beautiful, wild Wyoming!) so we took it easy. Adelina helped me pick out a special snack to share with brother (goldfish, obviously — and he LOVED them) and cake “design” and a special candle. We had two balloons (because this whole someone-else-is-getting-attention thing was hard on our toddler…) ready in the morning and those provided plenty of fun, then during Jonas’ first nap Adelina helped me make his cake!

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When Andrew came home that evening we had a perfect wintry day dinner (soup + grilled cheese + salad) and poor Adelina was way too excited about opening the presents she had helped me wrap so we let her help. There were some tears about the presents being for someone else than herself… but we got through it, poor thing! That is definitely a challenge, I know she’s at a “selfish age” but teaching her unselfishness is a new challenge entirely, and it feels daunting!

Anyway. Cake time!

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Jonas eyed the candle with a great deal of curiosity… touched the cake — it was too hard for him to really grab at it so we decided to cut it up… and then… he dug right in!

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And this time around, our kid was definitely interested in his cake!

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Happy Birthday sweet Jonas!

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Holidays

Our Little Red Riding Hood and Supporting Cast — Happy Halloween!

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Adelina has been in love with Little Red Riding Hood lately — last week we were reading it every night — so I asked her if she wanted to be le Petit Chaperon Rouge for Halloween and of course, she thought it was the best idea ever!

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We made a trip to our local Ace Hardware for some fabric (love our small-town Ace!) and voilà — we had a costume! I loved this especially because it’ll serve for years to come, she definitely has room to grow with it, and I took special care with details so it’ll be a great dress-up piece too. Here is the tutorial I based my design off of, with some modifications 🙂

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We were going for a more classic French vintage vibe and I think it turned out so perfect. (Those are technically foxes on her dress, but they were gray and I think they totally worked as wolves!)

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And then we have our little hunter. I had grand ideas of getting him a traditional French hunting cap, a cute jacket, maybe a horn or something, but really… he’s a baby and doesn’t care. So we just handed him an old-fashioned wooden pop gun and called it good! (side note: those things are super fun, they make a very satisfying pop noise, which I may have driven my husband insane with… ha!) He wasn’t feeling so hot lately so he’s just in some cute monster jammies and a cap. Done.

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He still had the energy to be adorable and mischievous, of course.

And here’s the whole crew!

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Andrew may have terrified a few little girls… oops! We reused an old werewolf mask from a dance show several years ago (Thriller-themed, obviously!) and that was that. And I figured if I had to be an old lady, I could at least be a classy Mamie. Ha!

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We just did the downtown businesses trick or treat, it’s earlier in the day so it’s easier for little people, plus they have some pretty good stuff. Our bank serves up amazing hot apple cider… mmm… and the movie theater was handing out fresh buttery popcorn!

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After making the rounds, we came home and had dinner, then handed out candy to trick-or-treaters (probably Adelina’s favorite activity of the day) under this gorgeous fall sunset.

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And then we wrapped it all up with a monster green glow stick bath! Just throw some glow sticks in the tub and turn out the lights — so entertaining.

Side note: how do you handle the candy overload? We got some non-candy treats and little toys, but there’s still SO MUCH candy. I had her choose five pieces of candy to keep when we got home and put away the rest for later (AKA mom & dad tonight… ha!) but I’ve heard of kids turning in what’s left of their candy to the Halloween fairy in exchange for a toy or book. Kind of a cool idea, I think. How do you do it?

I have dreams of being the cool house someday that serves chili and soup and cider out of their garage for the parents to stop and hang out while the kids play. We had some friends that did that back in Casper and it was so awesome. Maybe next year!

Anyway, there you have it. Happy Halloween!

10-30

 

 

Home Decor · Organization

How we Converted a Closet into an Office!

We did it: we finally have a home office space! And yes, it’s in a closet. We affectionately dubbed it the “cloffice.”

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I’ll be honest: I’m really proud of how this turned out. This little project has solved SO many problems for us! My quality of life and efficiency has gone up so much since we finally solved this years-long no-office dilemma!

Yes, it’s a bit claustrophobic I suppose, but it works beautifully for us. This was SO worth it, it was actually really easy to put together and it has such a massive impact on our quality of life and effective use of space! This home has quite a few closets, and we’ve always had an ugly office desk sitting in our living room the last several years. We couldn’t figure out a better way though since we’ve never had enough rooms for an office — our son’s room already doubles as a guest room! And then I had a stroke of genius while scrolling through Pinterest late one night while Andrew was out of town (ha). It only took some paint, a few shelves, and some stick-on battery-powered click lamps, plus a trip to IKEA and the hand-me-down-store-of-mom-and-dad for some organizational items. And voilà! 

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I just LOVE how it turned out. It would be fun to do some removable wall paper or something to pretty it up, but already it is so convenient and neat. Everything is in one spot and we have so much more space in our living room to just breathe and enjoy family time. Work is contained to this tidy little space.

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A few notes on what we did:

  • There were already brackets for four shelves, so we just re-purposed one of them for the desktop and added an extra one for the smaller shelf. I measured the width and had boards cut, then painted the shelf ones. Boom, done. (Of course I first had to empty the closet and repaint it too, since we’ve been repainting the whole house… but it was a quick enough fix.)
  • We took the door off. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it if you’re going to have a computer in there and other electronics, they need room to breathe. We could put a tension rod and curtain to close it off if we wanted, but this space is pretty well-organized so looking at when I’m coming down the hallway doesn’t really bug me. 
  • We picked up the filing slots and bar with cups for pens from IKEA, as well as the white and gray floral bins above. The click lights are a battery-powered Walmart find. The batteries don’t last terribly long though so don’t forget to turn them off when not in use!
  • I used this cord protector kit (which I’ve also used in our daughter’s room in the past — it’s awesome for baby-proofing wires) to route the cord up to the printer on the first shelf, and I drilled a hole through that shelf for it.
  • Right now the computer is plugged in to an outlet just on the other side of the wall but we’re getting an outlet put in directly there so we don’t have to worry about Jonas deciding to unplug our computer!

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Someday if we have a dedicated guest room, I’d love to do this in a full-width double closet for a craft room/office type of space like this or this… once again, Pinterest sure has me dreaming!

Anyway, there you have it: our new closet office!

Food

Fall Flavor Favorites

Say that three times fast!

I know, it’s not officially fall, but in Wyoming it gets cool pretty early so it absolutely feels like fall — we turned on the heater this week! There are little hints of fall cropping up around the house even as I toil away at all our renovation projects… (sigh. That is a post for another day. It’s totally worth it though. And now I’m realizing there’s a lot I need to update here.)

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There’s going to be a mantel there soon! Anyway. I wanted to share a few favorite fall/cool weather recipes that we’ve been enjoying, and please share yours in the comments, I’m always looking for something good!

This Creamy Chicken and Corn Chowder is a big favorite around here, especially if you go to the effort of cooking and crumbling bacon and having green onions on hand.

Mmmm… I probably make it a little too often though.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

There are millions of versions out there, I just sort of invented my own after having some at a friend’s house and loving it. This one always brings back memories of Sunday night dinners with Mark and Danielle when we were all newlyweds in our tiny apartments at BYU… eating dinner off of trays or their coffee table because none of us even had a proper dining room table ha ha.

So here’s my version, it’s pretty easy too because it’s a crock pot recipe (yay!) and mostly uses cans — I know, super healthy.

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Ingredients:
2-3 chicken breasts
2 cans petite diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1 small can diced green chiles, drained (Don’t just do Rotel because rotel is in water, whereas the tomatoes come in tomato juice (ish) — I learned this the hard way)
2 cans of beans (I like to use kidney and chilli beans, but any type of reddish beans works)
2 cups chicken broth
Taco seasoning (one packet)
Frozen corn (about 1 cup — you can do a can but it tastes so much better frozen)
Fresh cilantro, chopped finely
Optional: Top with grated cheddar/fiesta cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, sliced avocado, and tortilla chips.

Instructions:
Put chicken in crockpot with the chicken broth and some taco seasoning on low for about two hours or until cooked (or high for faster cooking — I always use frozen but if it’s just raw then it’ll obviously take less time. You know your crockpot.)

Once the chicken is cooked, shred it or tear it into small pieces, then dump in all the cans and the rest of the broth, as well as any additional taco seasoning (I just do this to taste). Cook on high for about two hours, and in the last 15 minutes or so add in the frozen corn and cilantro.

Serve with grated cheddar/fiesta cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, sliced avocado, and tortilla chips.

Zuppa Toscana is another one we love, and honestly I like it better homemade than at Olive Garden (which is a good thing because we don’t have an Olive Garden anymore anyway!). I just use an online copycat recipe like this one, but I’ll add this: use HOT Italian sausage. Mild is weak sauce and also won’t give you very much flavor. You have to use hot!

My mother-in-law has a delicious Pasta e Fagiole recipe that we really like too, but that’s a family recipe so I’m not sure if I’m allowed to share… 😉 But there are plenty of copycats online, I’ll just share a few helpful tips: again, it’s better with HOT Italian sausage (you can do half ground beef, half Italian sausage, that’s my favorite way to do it), and cook and serve the pasta separately — meaning don’t let it sit in the soup and get all soggy, let people add their pasta in separately when they are served the soup and store it separately as well if there are leftovers. Also, in the Hispanic section of the grocery store, you’ll find these little mini bags of pasta that are the perfect size and portion for this soup — we usually use the small shell pasta.

I do make other things than soup in the fall… How about a fabulous dessert? We discovered this Pumpkin Praline Bread Pudding last fall and it was pretty fabulous.

It’s the sauce/syrup that really makes it though. We had extra so I’ve been using it on pancakes, ice cream… it would be delicious on an apple crisp too!

Speaking of which… Apple Crumble. I learned to make this by watching my teenage BFF’s mother (she’s French-Italian and is an amazing cook) make it off the cuff in her kitchen. It’s so simple, but soooo good! Essentially: dice up a whole lotta apples, pack them into a baking dish (don’t skimp on the apples, it cooks down so pack them in there!) and pour a little bit of water over, and sprinkle in some brown sugar and cinnamon (easy on the cinnamon). For the crumble part, use your fingers to work salted butter into flour and a little brown sugar then crumble it on top as you go (this is essentially pâte brisée — 2:1 ratio of flour to butter). Bake until the apples are a bubbly, sticky mess and the crumble is slightly golden (probably about 45 minutes). Voilà!

And my friend Laurin makes an incredible Hot Apple Cider that I’m probably not at liberty to disclose, but the key is topping it with fresh, homemade whipped cream with a little cinnamon in it… This copycat recipe might help you out though!

Okay I think that’s enough recipes for now… What are your fall favorites?

Travel

France: Going Home 2017

There is so much to say about our trip to France this year, I hardly know where to start. Our visit to Switzerland (Incredible. I want to move there.), the beach (not nearly enough of it), family, the Paris temple, more family, friends, Adelina playing with other kids in French, a beautiful wedding, some crazy days traveling with two kids under the age of three… oh, the food. The food. It was all very hard to leave behind, but as my wise uncle once said, we stored up buckets of sunshine for the long winter months ahead.

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Plenty more to come.

Holidays

Independence Day 2017

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We headed down to sunny St George to visit family for the fourth of July, and it was blazing hot, but the trip didn’t disappoint! We spent as much time getting wet as we possibly could, because that’s how you cope with the heat in my book.

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(Ha ha. I love cousin photos) Water play, and eating snow cones on the patio or relaxing inside my in-laws’ beautifully air-conditioned home! (she was a lot happier about this than she looks)

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Ahhhhh. How I miss air-conditioning (there are very few homes in our area that have it, people just go without since the winters are so long).

I’m sure many of you can relate to this next photo… This is what happens when you try to get a picture with your child: the only one where you’re smiling is the one where you have crazy eyes because you’re trying to get them to look at the camera. Oh boy!

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Jonas loved exploring (he was fascinated by that vacuum cleaner hose!) and of course getting kisses and cuddles from everybody. And yogurt.

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I love having all this attention around them too — Andrew and I actually managed to sneak out on a date night! We saw Wonder Woman, and it was awesome. I loved it! I think what I loved most was that she was a mind-blowingly powerful fighter (all those slow-mo action scenes were sooooo cool, and watching her bring justice upon bad guys is incredibly cathartic!) but she is also vulnerable, sensitive, innocent in the best of ways (her reaction to the first baby she’s ever seen just melted me!), and compassionate. The much-discussed no-man’s-land scene is perfect ❤️ She brings the best of femininity to an awesome superhero, and that’s why I loved her the most. She embraces her AND without embarrassment or complication: “well what do mortal women wear when they go into combat then?!” I loved her relationship with Chris Pine’s character! I could also go on about spiritual analogies — they were abundant — but I’m turning into my dad ha ha so I’ll just stop at how much I love how she comes to her decision that humanity is worthy of love and of her saving. And I loved the movie.

Anyway! Adelina loved running wild and playing with her cousins. Sophia sure is patient with this girl!

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Of course, we ate our share of appropriately-themed patriotic foods (below, a jello-raspberry-angel food cake trifle) and wore red white and blue…

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Because what are holidays for if not dressing up your kids in cute clothes? Ha! I look forward to getting more into the history and meaning of holidays as our kids grow older — with Adelina I think it was limited to “yay hot dogs” this year (ha) but really, how do you explain abstract concepts like “freedom from tyranny” and “the pursuit of happiness” to a 2-year-old? We’ll keep working on that one, to be honest, with packing and traveling, I kind of dropped the ball and was just looking forward to relaxing.

It all ended with some good ol’ fashioned at-home fireworks. We let Adelina stay up late with the cousins and I think it went pretty well! I have some great memories of fireworks with my dad when we lived in Virginia, and trying so hard to stay awake even though we were exhausted and couldn’t keep our eyes open! I think she’s on the right track to making those memories herself 😉

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The next morning, the 4th, we packed up and headed home, full of Fiiz soda and jello trifle and hot dogs and chips and everything else that goes with Independence Day picnics. We skated into town with enough time to put the kids to bed and enjoy our small town’s INSANE fireworks display — and this is before the actual fireworks show started!

(This doesn’t really do it justice but it’s a taste — everyone was lighting up the sky with these crazy aerial fireworks! And yes, our kids seriously slept through the entire thing.) Next year is going to be a blast.

 

Life

Jonas’ First Haircut

Snip snip… and just like that, Jonas had his first haircut this week!

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Not really much of a difference, but he was getting some serious wisps around the edges. My mother-in-law was brave enough to hold him as he squirmed and tried to grab the scissors, and I had to make it brief so I wouldn’t poke out an eye! It’s not exactly perfect, but I at least managed to trim it and clean it up a bit around the ears.

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And there you have it! Love those teeny baby hairs! Our boy is growing so fast… 7 1/2 months old already!