five on friday

1.  My parents had a keyboard they weren't using so my mom asked if we wanted to bring it home.  I whisked it out to my car before she could change her mind.  The only people that may not be happy with this development are our nextdoor neighbors.

2.  I always dish up the girls' plates before dinner so their food can cool off.  One night Mattie checked her plate and wasn't happy to see tilapia so she grabbed her plate and threw the whole thing in the trash then came to ask me for noodles.  This girl is giving me a run for my money.

3. A friend stopped by while we were eating dinner the other night and she said, "Oh, are you having a special Valentine's dinner?" And we said, "Oh, no, this is what it's like here all month."

4.  For Book Club we read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.  I kind of let the month get away from me and on Monday night I was on page 270 of the 547 page book.  So I spent every spare second I had this week reading and finished at 4:30 yesterday just to check my email and see that Book Club was canceled that night due to snow.  Welcome to Baltimore where I'm not sure why anyone ever bothers to plan anything in January because everything gets canceled for bad weather!

5.  Yesterday we met Bryan for lunch and ate the hugest sandwiches I've ever seen.  We were still full at dinner time so I put together these pretty little salads with the easiest honey mustard vinaigrette- 1 tablespoon each of oil, vinegar, honey, and dijon mustard, whisk together then heat for about 15 seconds in the microwave.  


a salvaged day

Tuesday morning at our house started bright and early and very, very grouchy.  It was so terribly freezing cold, and we were back home after our fun weekend adventure but not quite ready for real life again.  At 6:30 Bryan headed for work and left me to the wolves.  The only sounds I heard all morning were whining or crying or screaming and usually all three at once.  I really thought this would be the day that did me in.  I figured things couldn't get any worse so I stuffed the girls in boots and coats and headed to Walmart.  For once in its life the store (bless its heart) was fairly empty.  We whizzed through grabbing what we needed then headed to the Valentine's aisles because rumor had it there were Red Velvet M&Ms and that was something I couldn't pass up.  And there we found the most amazing sight- a whole aisle full of every size and species of stuffed animal we could think of.  The girls were in heaven as I let them climb over, kiss, and cuddle every single one.  We stayed for a solid 20 minutes and I took a few pictures then a lady passing by insisted on taking a picture of me with the girls "so you'll always remember this time."

And then we celebrated our improved moods with a trip to Ikea for free kids' lunches and free wifi.  And to hear Jilly say, "Mommy, don't you think I need this bed for Valentine's Day?!"  Nice try girlfriend.  Not even a wipes shortage during a diaper disaster or a chocolate milk fountain all down Jilly's dress (we just took the dress off and she went nakey under her coat) could bring us down.


his & hers

For Christmas we gave Bryan a trip to Utah to snowboard and visit his family there.  He went this past weekend and I realized I could stay at home by myself with the girls for five days or I could drive down to Richmond and visit my family.  No brainer.  While he was away Bryan and I sent lots of pictures across the country to keep each other updated.

His View:


Her View:

^ Mattie approved of Sugar Shack donuts

^ It's not a real trip unless someone gets sick

^ to this one Bryan responded "I'm glad she's making some new friends"

We're happy to be back under the same roof, but it was a fun weekend for all of us!


five fact friday

If I'm being honest, this week has been filled with much more whining, crying, complaining, fighting, and not-long-enough-napping than I would like (I blame January.)  But, here are five things that made me happy this week.

1. Mattie saying "otay momma!" (on the rare occasion she agreed with what I asked her to do)

2. A trip to Costco then having Jilly tell me, "Costco is my favorite store because it has everything I want" and later asking Bryan, "Daddy, do you want to play Costco with me?!"

3. This little snowman we made and Mattie's hand-me-down snowsuit that possibly outdates me.

4. Coming in from the snow to have some hot cocoa and turning my back for a few minutes just to find Mattie in the thick of some tasty trouble-making.

5.  A weekend trip down to Richmond!


homemade holidays

I love homemade gifts for the holidays; it's so fun to think of something special for family and friends and then get to work making it.  This year I had a ball making these Christmas gifts.

I made Picture Coasters for my parents.  A few years ago I made coasters with scrapbook paper and they've held up perfectly so when I saw these on pinterest I was dying to try them out.  They turned out so well that I made a set for myself also!  

To commemorate our trip to Harry Potter World I made golden snitch ornaments.  I got the idea here, but her method was way more complicated than mine.  I was going to just use glittery gold cardstock but in the paper section at Michael's I found this awesome stuff that was kind of like faux leather but it was glittery gold.  I know that makes absolutely no sense, just go to Michael's and look for it.  That paper made it easy peasy- I cut out lots of wings, glued them together so they were double-sided, then hot glued them on to the gold ornament (from the Dollar Store.)

I made a couple of Plaid Scarves for friends using Janssen's tutorial.  These actually took way longer than I expected, but mostly just because the sewing gods were not on my side that night.

My favorite of all- the Mermaid Blanket.  I saw this on Pinterest and knew my girls needed mermaid blankets.  I couldn't find a tutorial so I just figured it out on my own and they actually weren't very difficult at all.  After finishing I found this tutorial which is almost exactly how I did it (except I added some detail on the fins before attaching them to the tail and I didn't do waist fins- but those are so cute!)  I made one for Jilly and one for Mattie, and they make the cutest little mermaid I've ever seen.


9 Valentine's books

One of the things that worried me most about our move was coming from a very mild winter to a not-mild-at-all winter.  I can think of exactly one time in California when I thought it was too cold to go to the park.  And now... we haven't been to the park in weeks.  But, the frigid temperatures outside have allowed for lots and lots and lots of time for our other favorite hobby- curling up with picture books.  Lately we've been reading loads of books in preparation for my very favorite day of the year.

I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt - I discovered this book back in college when I needed a picture book for a class project.  But now it's one of our regular bedtime stories because it's perfectly silly and sweet.  Our favorite page is when the mom makes a bug sandwich for her little monster to take to school.  Jilly loves to squeal "groooooss!"

Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman - This book is just beautiful and perfectly describes how all parents feel about their children.

Ruby Valentine Saves the Day by Laurie B. Friedman - This is just a bit reminiscent of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but in a much friendlier and love-ier way.  

Fancy Nancy: Heart to Heart by Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser - We love all things Fancy Nancy, but I especially love this book because (spoiler alert!) her special valentine is her sister and we're big on sisters in this house.

Happy Valentine's Day, Curious George! - Curious George + a flap-book, we're sold.

The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton - I knew I'd love this before we even read it because Julie Andrews can do no wrong in my book, but it really was a very sweet story.  Gerry the Fairy Princess is a little Fancy Nancy-ish and she knows how to make it a perfect Valentine's Day.

How Do You Hug a Porcupine? by Laurie Isop - This one was new to us and Jilly giggled through the whole book.

Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - Do you know what happens when you plant a kiss?  It grows and grows til it fills the world with love.  I loved this sweet little story.  Also, the book is full of glitter which is exactly the way we like it.

Queen of Hearts by Mary Engelbreit - We love Queen of Christmas so I knew this would be a winner.  Ann Estelle is an extreme lover and celebrator of holidays, which always makes for a fun story.


five on friday

{one} One morning this week our girls both slept in til 7:15 which was the most glorious thing evvvvver.  Except that Bryan, who never sets an alarm because we can always count on the girls waking up early, is supposed to leave for work at 7:10.  Oops.

{two}  I committed an unpardonable offense and let us run out of hot cocoa.  Jilly made sure that it was on our grocery list and a few days later we were back in business.  And, how amazing is this mug Lisa sent me for Christmas?  She's a gem.

{three} Jilly had to get her four-year-old shots yesterday and it was quite a traumatic experience that could only be smoothed over with Chick-fil-A.  I made sure to time her appointment so we could make it to cfa before breakfast was over because Chick-n-Minis = my favorite food ever.  And when Jilly saw that the prize in her kids meal was a Franklin book she asked me, "Is it okay if I keep it this time instead of getting ice cream?"  I'm not sure how I feel about her priorities.

{four} While at the beach I realized that Mattie's hair is long enough for pigtails which is definitely one of the most exciting developments of her entire life.  Also, these girls played quietly and happily with a paper clip for 15 solid minutes.  I had to pick myself up off the floor after dying of shock.

{five}  Bryan has been especially busy at work lately, and when I told Jilly that he'd be missing dinner (again) she said, "So does he just want lots and lots of money?"  You got it girl.


Pioneer Woman

About 2.5 years ago I was newly pregnant with Mattie and I noticed and grabbed The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier at the library.  I remember so well flipping through those pages and thinking, "these recipes would be great to make if I had the capacity to make anything more than Ramen noodles right now."  I returned the book after thoroughly enjoying the pictures but never making anything.

Fast forward to this past fall.  One day at the library I looked up and there it was, a ghost from the past.  I grabbed the cookbook and vowed to actually try some recipes this time.  I did just that, and loved pretty much everything I made.  Then just a couple weeks later I noticed The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays and it was begging to join its sister on my bookshelf.  I loved this cookbook (and the recipes) just as much as the first.  I decided to keep with all things Ree and requested The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, which was fun to read.

All of her recipes I've tried have been flavorful but not too fancy or outlandish.  And, I love how Ree's personality shines through in her recipes.  I've gotten in the habit of always going to her site first when I'm making any kind of beef because I feel like living on a ranch and feeding a cowboy makes her an expert in those sorts of things.  Some of our favorite recipes have been: fried chicken tacos, ranch-style chicken (that's what she calls it in the book, but this looks like the same recipe and it is awesome), her perfect caramel apple pie, and of the manymanymany pizza dough recipes I've tried, I'm pretty sure hers is my favorite.  We're definite Pioneer Woman fans around here.


snow day

I'm a compulsive list-maker.  I'll even write something on my list after I've done it just for the satisfaction of checking it off (can you say Type A?)  One of my goals this year is to not stress so much about my to-do list or, more specifically, not stress about the things I don't check off but be happy with what I am able to accomplish.  Many nights Bryan comes home from work and asks what we did that day and I'm suddenly at a loss.  I feel busy all the time, and I promise I don't just lie around all day browsing pinterest, but we don't always have the most impressive days.  I read a lot of books, clean up many messes, push little girls on swings, make heart-shaped pb&h sandwiches, and wipe lots of tears.  This year I want to focus on quality rather than quantity of my accomplishments and cut myself a break when my list of to-dos is still a mile long at bedtime.

Last week gave me a perfect opportunity to practice my new resolution.  On Tuesday it snowed- not a ton of snow but enough to close schools for a day.  I was not interested in driving in the snow or going out in the cold so we had our own little snow day.  We cuddled on the couch and I may have had a little morning snooze while my girls watched Curious George.  We still weren't quite ready to start our day so we climbed back into my bed to read books and sing songs (they told me that Mattie doesn't like music time in nursery and I realized that I've failed as her mother- she knows all the words to Let it Go but I've never sung her Itsy Bitsy Spider or Wheels on the Bus.  Poor second child.  So Jilly has taken on the assignment to teach Mattie these songs and she takes her job very seriously.)  We finally got dressed then spent 45 minutes gathering and putting on snow clothes to go out and play for a total of 10 minutes.  But those 10 minutes were so fun!  Before we even made it off our front porch Jilly laid down to make a snow angel, then our sweet neighbor gave the girls rides on her sled until Jilly said her fingers were too cold to stay out anymore.  We came inside for hot cocoa and lunch, and I have no recollection of what we did the rest of the day but I remember feeling so relaxed and happy and enjoying the little moments with my girls.  So, here's hoping for more snow days.  


four fact friday

1. hates clothes.  First thing out of her mouth every morning is "wahn tay offf" (want to take it off.)  She'll wear a onesie, but getting any other clothes on her is a big major fight.  And since our temps haven't been above freezing all week it's been a fight we have on the regular.

2. oddly enough, loves wearing her pink beanie

3. started saying "Gee-yen" (Jillian.)  Funny because we hardly ever call Jilly "Jillian" but it's Mattie's preferred name for her sister.

4. favorite food is chicken and if she's not given enough she'll growl "chikken! chikken!" over and over and over.

1. has discovered Look and Find books and I cannot check them out of the library fast enough for her

2. loves puzzles; they're one of our favorite afternoon activities during Mattie's nap

3. is a rule follower.  She's constantly reminding me that "I already watched a show so I can't watch another one" or "I can't have chocolate milk til I finish my lunch" or "Mattie's asleep so I have to be really quiet."  Makes my life nice and easy.

4. moved up to a new class in primary and her teachers are a a cute young couple.  She told me "I like the girl but I DO NOT like the boy."  Can she not like boys forever please?


2014 Books: fourth quarter

I read six more books than last year (hooray!) but I'm still hoping for a year that I can read 50 books. Maybe someday, but I'm not holding my breath.  Also, If I'm being honest, I actually finished a couple of these books in 2015.  But I started both in 2014 so I'm counting them.  The rest of 2014 books here: first quartersecond quarterthird quarter.  Here's to lots of great reading in 2015!!

29-31.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling- In preparation for our trip to Harry Potter World (!!!!) I re-listened to as many of the books as I could fit in.  Always, always an excellent use of time.

32. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand- In December I watched a tv special on the making of Unbroken. They interviewed Laura Hillenbrand and I was reminded what an amazing person she is- she suffers from terrible illness and rarely feels well enough to leave her house yet she researches and writes beautifully.  I'd been wanting to read Seabiscuit for a long time, but this finally pushed me over the edge.  It was fantastic (though not quite as compelling as Unbroken.)  And, I discovered that listening to a horse race while running on a treadmill is quite motivating.

33. The Expats by Chris Pavone  This was a hide-in-the-bathroom-so-I-can-get-a-few-extra-minutes-to-read kind of book.  I was really, really into the story and was shocked and pleased at the end.  This made me think I should read more spy novels.

34. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie I kind of can't believe I had never read this before.  I loved it of course, and we had a really great book club discussion.

35. Wonder by R.J. Palacio- A wonderful book about a boy who has a severe face deformation entering public school for the first time.  In my opinion, this is a must-read for all middle schoolers.  It was age appropriate but had a very powerful message.

36. Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple- It actually took me a little while to get into this, but then I loved it.  It's a quirky and very funny story told through letters/emails about the events that led to Bernadette's mysterious disappearance.

37. The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond- I actually would have liked this better as a blog post, or series of posts.  It was a little wordy and redundant to be a book, but I do really like Ree and I thought her story was cute and fun.

38. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin- This was a fun, quick and fluffy book to read while at the beach.  Claudia and Ben are both thrilled to have found a spouse who also has no interest in having children.  But after a few years Ben changes his mind and Claudia is forced to re-examine her life choices.  I really liked the relevance of this book- I clearly fall into the camp of people that never ever dreamed of not having children of my own but I realize that lots of people disagree.

Linking up with Janssen
Link Round Up


Harry Potter forever

The main reason we went to Florida was to go to Harry Potter World!!!!  We are Harry Potter nerds to an extreme degree so when my parents said they wanted to take everyone for Christmas we were ecstatic.  It was kind of a wreck of a day- it rained on and off (mostly on) all day and the park was super crowded with lots of long lines but nevertheless we had a wonderful time.  It is amazing to be there; I can't even describe how happy I was just to walk around and see everything.  And the girls were so, so good.  Jilly was tall enough for a few of the smaller roller coasters which was really fun, and we also spent some time at the kids' areas in Universal.  Mattie took a long afternoon nap in her stroller, and both girls fell asleep at night and peacefully slept while we went on a couple more rides and watched the fireworks.  It was the best day.

Number 12 Grimmauld Place

the Knight Bus

Back Story- HP World was Day 4 of our trip and while driving from the coast to Orlando Bryan realized that both of the shirts (yes both, meaning he only brought 2) he had were dirty.  So he dropped us off at our hotel and went on an expedition to find a new shirt.  At 11pm he got back to the hotel proudly wearing this beaut...  I think Florida really got to him.  Also, the thing Bryan was anticipating the most was butterbeer, and it did not disappoint.  

Before and during Jilly's first roller coaster- it went pretty fast but she was brave and got braver all day long

Our ponchos played double duty- protection from the rain and helping us to always be able to find our "blue family"


Sunshine State of Mind

Sometimes you really, really anticipate a vacation and it ends up being a flop.  And sometimes an amazing vacation sneaks right up on you.  Our past trip was the latter.  We drove down to Florida the day after Christmas (16 looooooooong hours) and spent three days at my mom's cousin's beautiful home on Anna Maria Island.  I was not expecting the beach to be so warm and beautiful but it was absolutely perfect.  Our beach babes were in heaven; since coming home Jilly has asked me daily when we're going back to the beach.

^ Bryan dug these seats in the sand and Mattie didn't want to ever leave

^ our official seashell collector, and she'd recruit any helpers she could find

^ Jilly said her favorite part of the beach was riding in the "fast car" aka golf cart 

^ But my favorite part was watching Neal give Katie a ride the whole way (about 6 blocks) home from the beach.  She screamed the entire time.

Back at the house we had the gulf right in our backyard.  We enjoyed boating, paddle boarding, jet-skiing, kayaking, and lots of time in the hot tub.

^ Mattie made it a point to have a bag of cheetos in her hand at all times

^ The guys went on a very successful fishing expedition.  We grilled up their catch and it was so so so so so so delicious

^ This picture is super blurry but on my birthday we went to a Mexican restaurant and Mattie met and fell in love with queso dip. 

Because we were on the gulf side, we got to see spectacular sunsets every night

These pictures make me want to go back so badly- not just for the perfect weather but also for the excellent company.  Often vacations with kids aren't really "vacations" but my family is so, so thoughtful and helpful; they made this trip so awesome.