Monday, July 25, 2011

Theater Camp Finale...

Matching side ponies for Lauren and Cousin Annika
on the last day of CYT Theater Camp!
(with Evan pointing to sissy!)
The "official" performance day uniform!

Entering the room for the performance....
Lauren was a bit nervous.
I had to tell her two times to get her hands out of her mouth.
See the wringing of the hands???!!!!

No jazz hands here, but a little arm movement!
"Popular, you're gonna be Popular!!!!" 
(can't get that song from Wicked, sung by Kristin Chenowith, outta my head now!!!)

Lauren with her camp counselors.
All in all, a great week! 
I am proud of Lauren.
We both learned a great deal!

Me:  "So overall how do you feel?"
Lauren:  "Good.  I liked it."
Me:  "Would you want to do it again?"
Lauren:  "Yes I would."
I'd call that money well spent.

Asparagus Cheese Tarts....

Jump on over to my friend the Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen and check out Asparagus Cheese Tarts.  So easy!  I made them last minute on Friday night for some friends that were coming over for dinner.  In a nutshell:  Store-bought puff pastry, mushrooms, asparagus and sour cream and lemon zest which makes it!!So delish!  I didn't thaw my puff pastry in time and then of course over thawed it in the microwave and therefore couldn't get the lovely squares (as shown in the step-by-step instructions in the link above) so I just made a ball of dough and rolled them out like mini pizzas while still scoring the edges and leaving a one inch border.  That's how I roll now.....calm, cool and collected!  Back in the day things like this would send me over the edge.  It's good to get old(er)!!!!  I used a bit too much filling (because really what am I gonna do with those leftovers?) so next time I'll try to follow the instructions better.  (or not!)

And why aren't these called "Mushroom & Asparagus puff pastry"?  Not sure?  Why did the mushrooms get dogged out?  hahaha

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Living Picture....

While on vacation in June to Trout Lake Resort in Grand Marais, MN, one of the Trout Lake family members via friendship, Ingrid (from Shawano, WI) had arrived and set to work on her plants, plantings, flowers, etc.  Basic beautifying of the outdoor space!  I found her whittling away at a branch one morning and later saw where it went.  Ingrid calls her work "Living Art" and it later is put on an easel to welcome guests as they arrive at the Trout Lake office.
"Before" the planting!
I love this many possibilities!
Does it get any more fantastic?  I adore this idea and apparently Ingrid is right in line with all that is trendy, because in the July edition of Better Homes and Gardens this month, I found this exact technique with a step-by-step guide!  What I love most about Ingrid's (which I didn't see in BH&G, was the use of that lovely turquoise pitcher) Make a living succulent picture here.  
This is the BH&G one.
How about a wreath?  LOVE IT!
To make this beauty, go here.
These are all made using succulents.  Succulent plants, also known as succulents or fat plants, are water-retaining plants adapted to arid climates or soil conditions. Succulent plants store water in their leavesstems, and also in rootsGeophytes that survive unfavourable periods by dying back to underground storage organs such as tuberous rootscormsbulbs, and rhizomes, may be regarded as succulents.

With this heat, the only thing I could muster doing is something inside with the AC on full blast!  This might be it!!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


July 2011

As mothers I think we all walk a fine line between pushing our children too much (think Amy Chua and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) and not pushing them enough.  (do we really want a Paris Hilton?  Or is that only if you have lots of money?????)  Hell if we know the difference most of the time!!!  Certain events can really tug at your heartstrings.  Just last week my sister called to say her newly turned 5 year old, Liam, walked all the way to the end of the diving board at swimming lessons and then changed his mind.  Oddly, she wasn't emotional, she was kinda pissed.  As mothers we want our children to excel, to show up, to be the best they can be.  I also think it has a bit to do with parent competition.  My husband's philosophy is that parents don't ever want to say "my kid is going to community college in the Fall" because "Iowa State" sounds so much better.  (and the price tag attached to that is insane) Hey, we are human.  It's a natural occurrence for ourselves to have competition even if we don't really want to be that way, and then add our own flesh and blood and life to the mix with our kids!  It's a cocktail of emotion and one-up-man-ship.  (or rather, kid-up-man-ship!)  Needless to say, Liam decided to do the jump the very next swim class.  (Tracy is very proud and we never had a doubt.  Liam is a magnificently special child!  Tracy calls him her "tender heart")  
March 2010
Liam, Tanta Tracy, Lauren

Lauren started theater camp on Monday.  It's call CYT  (Christian Youth Theater) and I came across this organization when Lauren was dying to go to a play and I didn't want to drive to the city or spend a fortune on tickets.  Christian Youth Theater (CYT) is an after-school theater arts training program for students ages 4 - 18. Since its founding in 1981 in San Diego California, CYT has grown to be the largest youth theater in the nation. There are affiliates across the country training thousands of students a year. CYT is a non-profit educational organization funded primarily through its tuition, ticket sales and outside contributions.  We saw Cinderella for around $13 per person!  It was a great first play.  In the summer they have theater camps.  Lauren is in the Wizard of Oz/Wicked adaptation.  Her official line in the play is "We all know Glinda is more popular."  There you have it folks!!!!  Next stop:  Broadway!!! hahahahaha
July 2011
parking lot of Woodstock, IL Harley dealership
about to lose my second tooth!

So back to my "push or pull back" story~Lauren was kinda freaked out on Monday.  The main entry room for registration and snack table and pick up your t-shirt, etc. was hot and crowded and filled with parents and kids.  She hung mighty tight to my body and was gripping my hand.  Now, in my mind, Lauren is not this child.  My sister Tracy and I pride ourselves on prepping our children with the facts and rules and basic "Here is how it's gonna roll.  End of story."  Oh, she WAS this child.  But not anymore.  She was all "three full days per week pre-school" and "Bye mom" at Vacation Bible School.  In my mind she has matured and advanced and doesn't play this way any longer.  So I kept my cool and found some other "yellow shirts" and introduced her to her fellow classmates and shuffled her off to her line-up.  I left after a bunch of waves across the room and a few blown kisses.  (I don't blow kisses but apparently in my great attempt at making her feel better, I'll do anything!)  
March 2010
the purple glasses!

As any good mom knows, two seconds after you leave your kid is fine.  I felt less anxiety this time.  She's older now.  She starts all day Kindergarten on August 25.  It's do or die now kid.  Welcome to the world.  Meet a new friend.  Have a new adventure.  It's what makes and keeps life exciting.  I hope someday, if I do my job right, you will seek this out.  You will crave this, because it makes you feel alive.  And as my girl Jillian Michael's says, "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable."  It's a good life mantra don't you think?
July 2011

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I did have this thought....Who really likes to enter a new anything without a friend ?  Life is certainly better with a buddy.  But it doesn't always work that way.  And in my "almost 40" philosophy, when we step out of our boxes we find real growth.  When I picked her up she promptly told me, "Mom I was fine when we got in the other room~ just like you told me."
My Love.
~Life with a  Red Head~

Monday, July 18, 2011

Baby Back Rib Delight....

This kinda makes me want to sing the Chili's "I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs."  However, these are so much better!  I have tried wet and dry rub recipes galore but I found this in Better Homes and Gardens and a woman wrote in saying this is hands-down her favorite.  So I tried them.  I might agree.  So easy and so delish!  
The recipe is from The Hearty Boys. (Dan & Steve) They were the first winners of the Food Network Star a million years ago when it wasn't even called that.  That's how long I've been watching that network!  They are from Chicago and have a restaurant and catering business here in the Windy City.  I don't have to give you step-by-step instructions because they do it for me!

What I like is the grilling of these ribs to get the nice black char and flavor and then the slow cooking in the oven so they fall off the bone.  I even threw in my corn on the cob and it soaked up all that marinade while cooking.  The husband thought this recipe was reminiscent to a Korean BBQ marinade called Bulgogi.  We loved it!  Give them a try!

And to my vegetarian readers (Bern!)  I apologize for the above visual.  But it is interesting.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Every Mother Counts...

Christy Turlington (former model) and mother, married to Ed Burns (remember The Brothers McMullen?  I loved that movie!) produced and directed a movie called "No Woman, No Cry."  Her foundation entitled "Every Mother Counts" is doing amazing advocacy for women's maternal health.  I had DVRed it from the OWN channel a few weeks ago.  I watched it yesterday and highly recommend it.  The statistics that Christy uses are shocking, (A woman dies every 90 seconds of complications in pregnancy. 90% of them are preventable.) but it inspired me and I love when something moves, touches and inspires me to think about my own significance in this world.....basically, how can I help?  how do I make a difference?

I also follow a blog called Dooce.  Heather Armstong of Dooce is working with Christy Turlington and traveled to Bangladesh (formerly known as the Sudan) with her to see firsthand how Christy is blazing a trail and how we can get involved.  Heather is also documenting her travels with Christy on her blog.  Heather also takes amazing photographs. 

You can also find Every Mother Counts on Facebook.  Check it out! 

Lauren's birth was an unplanned C-Section.  Had I been living in Tanzania, Bangladesh or Guatemala, I most likely would have died or my baby would have died.  I had health insurance and I had options.  This film made me really how much I took all this for granted.  I had skilled doctors and nurses with me the entire time.  Watching this film will change the way you view your own birth story.
Evan's birth was a planned C-Section.  However, I had many fibroid tumors covering my uterus and after he was born my uterus was literally placed on my stomach so the doctor could cauterize all the tumors before placing it back in my body.  (I will spare you  the photographs!)  I have two healthy and happy children today because of my access to medical technology during their births.  With the work of Every Mother Counts, it is sometimes the simplest things that lead to better birth outcomes with these women.  How can we make a difference in contributing to woman giving birth around the world?  That's what this documentary made me think about.

Friday, July 15, 2011

DIY if you are clever....

There is a HUGE reason I've been collecting driftwood for years.  The first example is above.  For a mere $78 bones you can order this from Anthropologie.  I made a really cool picture frame with driftwood attached to a frame.  

This little guy is only $38.  And don't we all have a bunch of plain glass vases in the house from floral deliveries?  And you can't seem to pitch them because you just KNOW when you do you'll think of someway you could have re-purposed it?  
This mirror ensemble is a cool $698.  My idea is a bunch of random mirrors that I'll coat with that paint that makes it look old.  Do you understand my excitement for decorating the basement???  Also, this will be the first space in our house that really has mine and the hubs taste/style from start to finish.  The rest of the house was pretty much ready to go and we didn't pick any of the details.

I follow a blog called Young House Love and they DIY everything!  A great blog for inspiration and ideas.

Friday Inspiration.....

Have you been following any blogs lately and you suddenly think, hmmmm, all they do is pull photos from other websites and call it "inspiration"???  Well I do.  And I'm doing it today.  The air conditioning is back on in the house after days of warm (vs. HOT) breezes and my son is napping and my lovely 10-year-old niece is over today occupying every second of my daughter's time giving me complete peace and harmony.  I did however take them for ice cream (Baskin Robbin's ain't cheap!) and to the park for a quick minute.  (I'm officially mom of the year as I've been to the stinkin' park three times this week!!!  Enough!)  I told my niece that someday she will understand NOT wanting to go to the park when she has her own kids.  

We are like days away from finishing the basement project.  Carpet ordered......carpet installed soon and amen! I can start decorating.  I have a lovely little hoarders corner of my dining room filled with fantastic finds from all my garage sale days of late.  I'm just itching to pound nails in the walls and get lost in the goodness of decorating new space.  So in the spirit of a new bedroom in my basement with cheery turquoise walls, I give you some inspiration from Anthropologie.  Now, this store fills me with such happiness that I want to buy everything and redecorate everything in my home.  It makes me want to wear long peasant skirts and paint on easels in my studio space.  (because I'd have an art studio and a greenhouse and a chicken coop in this fantasy)  Anthropologie makes me want to travel to far lands and drink wine from hand blown glass cups at 3:00 in the afternoon.  (oh wait, I do drink wine at 3:00 in the afternoon......see how my fantasy world and reality intermingle??!!!!)

However, I don't like the Anthropologie prices.  I can show you a bunch of things that could be sold at Anthro and I got them for cheap, cheap, cheap!!!!  I put on my Anthro (I'm calling it that now!) brain and vision when I'm out garage saleing, resaling or thrifting.  Don't look at the junk hole you might be shopping in, but think of where you will place this object in your home.  I get this feeling in my gut and I go for it.  I do love Anthro for getting inspiration.....Here are my loves today:

Happy Friday and where do you go for inspiration?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Stinka" Tuesday...

Here it is folks.  The blog post where I give it to you straight.  Where I air my dirty laundry.  Where I tell you my 2.5 year old son is addicted to the binky they gave us in the hospital.  Please see the product description:

From the Manufacturer

Over 2,000 hospitals nationwide give newborns the Soothie pacifier. Soothie pacifiers are sized and shaped for baby's developing mouth. Made of latex-free, hospital grade silicone, the Soothie pacifier has a durable one-piece construction. From 0-3 months, (this is my favorite part....please note 0 to THREE MONTHS OF AGE!) pack of 2.

Product Description

The number-one pacifier used in over 2,000 hospitals nationwide--over half the hospitals in the coutnry! Over 2.5 million pacifiers are distributed to newborns each year--this means that more than half the babies born go home from the hospital with a Soothie Pacifier.  (Love this part!) Made from medical-grade silicone, in pink for girls. One-piece design for less germs. Soft, latex-free nipple.
Something happened to my Evan and well, see.....he just never "advanced" to those other big nippled "Nuk" brands or any other random pacifiers you can find at the grocery store or Walgreens.  Nope, he found his one true love in the Soothie brand and never looked back.  I randomly ask him who he loves more, "Stinka"(I'm getting to that nickname shortly) or Momma.  Nine out of ten times he will answer STINKA 'cuz he just loves it that STINKING much.  And please note, you can't just run into any 'ole store and find these.  That just makes this all the more difficult.
Lauren loved her pacifier too.  Around the age of 2.5 I flipped out, had a mommy breakdown and never looked back.  She had recently had a cold and was whiny and I let her have it more.  We were outside playing and I all of a sudden I realized, here is this large toddler who can talk and walk and do all these things and she's got a damn pacifier in her mouth....talking to me THROUGH the pacifier??? Um,  I snapped and never looked back.  Unfortunately this was right before our trip with our loving and devoted special friends.  They will never let me live it down that I ditched the binky right before our 11 hour or so road trip.  She cried her ASS off on the way home for hours.  So much so that I put earplugs in and turned up the radio really really loud.  The kid has some stamina!
Now, getting to STINKA.  Every family has their special word for the pacifier.  I started calling it the "stinky binky" which got shortened to "STINKA" somewhere along the line.  I'm pretty sure there is nothing cuter than hearing Evan say "stinka binka."  UNLESS it's 2:00 pm this afternoon and he's crying his ass off at the door of his bedroom when he should be napping and super tired from his 3:00 am wake up and rendezous to Mom and Dad's room for an hour.  
(please note:  we don't sleep with our kids....never have....never will.  They literally came home from the hospital and slept in a the next co-sleeper, no bassinet, no nothing.....No judging here, this is just what worked for us) Then it was not cute.  It was irritating and I was like a crack junkie crawling around on the floors looking underneath and around everything trying desparately to find a damn STINKA!  I did not find one of the three remaining stinka's in this damn house.  Needless to say, Evan did not nap today.  That makes for a mom who needs wine mainlined by 4:45pm.  
In my frustration I yelled, "Look Evan, you tell me where your damn stinka is because I can't find it and I would like you to nap NOW."  He just started looking under the bed and said "damn stinka."  Yep.  That's right Evan.  The damn stinka.
This is how bad Evan's addiction is:  He has a stinka that has a broken chewed nipple and he calls it "broken stinka" and tells me that he'll "hold it momma."  I bet you will crack head.  While on vacation in June I pretty much let him have it anytime he wanted it (as opposed to just nap and bedtime) for the good of the group.  That led to coming home and having to break him of wanting it 24/7.  On vacation he woke from a nap and did not want to give it to me.  He literally crouched down in his chair so he could "sneak a suck" and my BF Kelly that I was vacation with said, OMG!  He's sneaking a suck like a smoker sneaks a drag!"  Oh, it was so precious and funny.  THEN.
So I'm one of those mom's who goes between, "It's all good" and "Help me I'm raising Suri Cruise."  My mom likes to say "He won't go to Kindergarten with it" and my Grandmother likes to say "He's still a baby, he'll give it up when he's ready."  
I really wish I could tell you that I stayed strong and kept my wits about me.  I kept telling Evan and everyone else that "when all the stinka's are lost, that's it, will be done with stinka."  Well, for the good of the family I purchased a two-pack tonight at Target for the sweet price of $4.79. (they used to be $3.99 just a few months ago I swear)  I'm pretty sure that $4.79 will be money well spent.  Even the husband backed me up with, "Don't you think we should wait until after our camping trip?"  

All I know for sure (right now) is, he crashed out at 7:30 pm on the floor of his bedroom with the beloved stinka in his mouth.  Amen.  Goodnight, sleep tight.  Don't let the bedbugs bite.
 Early "stinka" love photos....see the "holder stinka" in his hand way back then?
 Nothing beats PJ's and stinka.....see the smile through the green soothie?
First haircut and the reward is a sucker....ah, no....stinka!
Keepin' it real at the age of 2.5 with Soothie Love...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Random Monday....

Gunflint Lodge, Grand Marais, MN

In the spirit of missing my daily Oprah dose (I'm getting by on the "Behind the Scenes" show on OWN, and for those of you living under a rock, that's Oprah's new network!)  I'd like to pull out the "What I know for sure" of today.  

What I know for sure today is:
~good neighbors make the world a better place...having a neighbor pal who takes your child for a few hours is a lifesaver when your five year claims boredom without a playmate and glazes over after too many iCarly episodes.  (It might be official that Lauren has seen every episode ten times.....I'm over it)
~having a monthly get together with gal pals makes my life better~in my case WINE CLUB.  Thank you sweet baby Jesus for this "look forward to" date on my calendar and these cool women who make me laugh and teach me things.  I am more of who I am when I get a break from the daily grind.
~Ravina is a young person's sport!  Before kids I attended this "jazz in the park" event several times each season.  Now I realize that some things in life just aren't what you thought they were.  Is it age or just wisdom?  I attended last evenings concert with Wine Club and had a fabulous time, however, the planes, trains and automobiles that are involved to schlep your own food and beverage, chair, table, and candle, along with an over priced ticket to sit on the lawn just doesn't seem worth it.  But I might follow my wine club girls anywhere! 
~I am open to the Universe.  I am open to what might be next for me in my life.  I am a seeker and I will be searching as long as I live.  In the words of my mentor (in my mind that is!) Bethenny Frankel, I am "coming from a place of YES" this summer season.  
~No "adapted from a book" movie could ever be better than the goodness of a book.  Reading a chapter book out loud to my kids helps me to relive the joy I experienced when I first learned how to read and how a  book could transport me.  Lauren and I recently burned out on the Magic Tree House book series on book #32 so I picked up my forever favorite Charlotte's Web.  I adore this book.  Every few sentences I am overwhelmed with nostalgia and a new found appreciation for this gem.

So that's where I am at today.  Just an ordinary mom living an extraordinary life if I choose to see it that way! Scrubbing the kitchen floor, changing diapers and unloading a dishwasher might not be glamorous, but Paris will still be there when I'm ready.  This is the most important job I will ever do.....raising good human beings!  And to all of you who do it too, I send you love!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Is it really JULY already?

I've been on a ridiculous hiatus involving summer vacations, stem-cell transplants, vacation Bible school, road-trips, girl's weekend, beaches, etc., but one thing remains.  Every day that I don't fuel the passion of my writing I feel a little more lost and a little more disappointed in myself.  So here I am at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Friday afternoon.  I spent the morning with the kids and a neighbor pal and her kids at the park and then segued into sprinkler time, baby pool and lemonade and snacks.  This is my job right now.  I'm a mom.  I'm bringing my A-Game.  Right now today in this second it is enough and my grateful attitude and joy right NOW in this second will contribute to the world because I am raising happy kids.  Kids that have good manners and don't complain about the bread on their PB&J's being too grainy.  (I like a good nutty, grainy, whole food bread!)  It is enough today and I am enough.  It is enough that this post is really about nothing.  Just getting back in touch with myself and all of you who read me.  It is important to me and I thank you.  Thank you for following me on my journey!  

My mom is home safe and sound and adapting to life again after her stem-cell transplant.  She's been on a roller coaster of a ride and now it's kinda like, "Now what?"  Where do we go from here?  Life is constantly moving, shaping and changing.  We gotta roll with the changes or we end up in frustration all the time.  My attitude this summer has been one of "YES."  If someone asks us to do something then we say YES!  That is what summer is all about~going and doing and being busy.  These are the best of dirty feet falling into bed at night half-asleep because the day was so FILLED to the brim with goodness.  Lauren starts Kindergarten August 25 and I just can't believe it!  6.5 weeks left of no schedules and freedom and doing what you wish.  Life is about to change!  I can't wait to experience this new journey with her.

I hope you are all having a fabulous summer!  I'm back!