Friday, December 20, 2013

Snapshots from this Week

Abbey is going in for a goodnight kiss with daddy.

The kiss has landed.
It's a Drew ornament!

One of my friends asked me to take some "2 year old" photos of her son, Adam.  It was such a privilege to hang out with him and his momma and snap some moments of precious, Adam.  But, it made me realize something.  Adam is only two days younger than Abbey.  That means Abbey has a second birthday coming up too...and in only 15 days.  Oops, we haven't even thought about that with Christmas being so close to Thanksgiving this year.  It also means that she is growing up faster than I want her to!

Isn't he handsome?  

Drew is on vacation until the beginning of the year.  He has been working super hard, both at work, and even when he is home (on work stuff).   So, this vacation is extra appreciated by all of us.  Now, for some quality family time!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Meatless Monday: A New Take on Salad (Sweet Potato, Apple and Greens Quinoa Salad)

Do you want to incorporate more veggies and greens into your diet but are bored with the typical salad?  If so, I have a wonderful recipe to share with you!

I made this for our family a few nights ago and we devoured it!  This would function as a meal by itself, even without meat (which is why I titled this a "Meatless Monday" recipe.) But, we had just bought a rotisserie chicken the previous day and I needed to use it up.  So, we tossed some of that in as well.  If you are worried about this meal having enough protein, don't be too concerned about that.   Quinoa alone is a great source of protein:  one cup of it, cooked, has 8.14 grams of protein.  Here are some other nutrients in one cup of cooked quinoa:

  • 39.41 mg carbohydrates
  • 31 mg calcium
  • 2.76 mg iron
  • 318 mg potassium
  • 13 mg sodium
  • 2.02 mg zinc

Part of the reason this meal was SO DELICIOUS can be attributed to the dressing.  I love a good maple balsamic dressing, and this recipe I am sharing below is just perfect.  Why buy a bottle of salad dressing that likely has a ton of ingredients, many that you would never keep in a normal kitchen when you can easily make a tastier dressing?  I can't think of a good reason.

  • 2/3-1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 large sweet potatoes cut into small cubes or slices
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • 2 large apples – i prefer honeycrisp in my salad! sweet and mixes well with the other flavors
  • 7-8 cups of greens – I used the a “power greens” salad mix from central market organics since we had some, but you could use any variety of greens: kale, spinach, romaine, arugula, etc.
  • (optional) rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-sized pizza
Maple Balsamic Dressing:
Place the following ingredients in your salad dressing container and shake or mix well.
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Begin cooking the quinoa. I usually put one cup of rinsed, uncooked quinoa with 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Once it begins boiling, I reduce the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, place the cubed or sliced sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over top and sea salt to season—stir well.
3. Bake in one of the top racks of the oven for 22-23 minutes until crispy
4. Mix the quinoa, potatoes, apples, greens, and the dressing in a large mixing bowl. I used a container with a lid, and simply shook the container to mix the ingredients and thoroughly coat them in the yummy dressing.

I admit, perhaps it doesn't look as appetizing as it tastes.  But believe me--you have to try this if you have a sweet tooth like I do!  SO tasty!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our Little Model

Our little girl lets me take her photo....and this photographer mama loves it!  A couple of days ago I was showing the kids photos from every Christmas since Drew and I have been married.  They enjoyed seeing themselves grow up, and Abbey got a kick out of seeing that she was in my belly a couple of Christmases ago.

I had just begun setting up a photo booth wall for a tacky sweater white elephant Christmas party we are hosting at our house on Sunday.  So, I asked the kids if they wanted to be my models to pose for a couple of pictures to test out our little booth.  Abbey eagerly shouted, "Yeah!".  Then, I asked her if I could put a pretty Christmas dress on her.  Again, she eagerly shouted, "Yeah!!!!", as she ran to her closet.  We selected a beautiful dress that is a hand-me-down from my sister's girls.

As soon as it was on Abbey, she put a great big grin on her face and then began twirling, in true girly-girl fashion.  Then, I asked her if she wanted a bow in her hair and some pretty shoes.  Again, she exclaimed, "Yeahhhhhhh!"  So, we completed the outfit and then headed downstairs to our make-shift photo booth.

Right away, she began posing and, unfortunately, began saying, "cheese!"  I'm not sure where she got that (okay, I admit I say it anytime someone takes a photo of me).  You can tell she is saying, "Chhhhheeeese!" in this picture:

Our little girly-girl!
Sweet little feet.  I know I am going to miss these little feet some day.  May as well get a photo of them while I can.
I can't wait to get pictures of our guests and their Tacky Christmas Sweaters on Sunday.  Drew and I have some doozies (tacky sweaters) ready!

Okay---a couple more photos to share.  Here is another guy, the youngest little one in our community group right now) that modeled for me this past Saturday.  He is a natural and I know he has two very proud parents!  Capturing little snapshots in time like this makes me so happy! They grow up too quickly!

He is already flirting with the camera!

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's beginning to FEEL a lot like Christmas

Where we live right now, it could literally be 80 degrees on Christmas day.   It's a very rare occasion that we get snow.  Today, I'm seeing fun pictures on Facebook of friends and family playing in the snow where I grew up.  I long to play in the snow with them.  Today, we got some freezing rain and icy roads, which really provide no fun. But, I did get to turn the heater on and get all snuggly with the kids.

Watching the freezing rain with Abbey this in my leg warmers and her in princess slippers.   
And although we received no snow, we are going to have some winter weather fun indoors today--I'm thinking homemade hot cocoa and some homemade lentil soup tonight--yum!   The only thing we are missing right now is wood for our fireplace.

It's also beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.

I'm loving how google+ made my lights twinkle (you can probably only see this action if viewing my blog on the website here--you probably won't see it in the email you receive if you subscribe to my blog.)

One more just because I think that is really cool!
Some other signs it's Christmas season--garland with Mommy's awful attempts at homemade bows decorate our stairway.  :-)
And baby Jesus gets to see our whole house, thanks to Abbey carrying him around all day.  :-)

The fisher price little people manger is one of those decorations that we pull out each year that gets played with all season long.  It's pretty entertaining to listen to Luke's story-lines for each of the figures.  As you can see here, that's Joseph on top of the stable (where the angel goes).  Mary is face down, kings are randomly placed (one is hanging out in the trough).  I think some of the other animals from the set are playing with some dinosaurs.  And, of course, baby Jesus is in Abbey's sweet little hand.

There are many sounds of Christmas season around here.  Of course, we have the wonderful sounds of Christmas carols playing that speak of Jesus birth, which is what we celebrate around here.  I absolutely love Christmas carols!  Other sounds come from some of the things we pull from the Christmas boxes (thankfully they get out once annually and for a short period of time).  These sounds include "Ice Ice Baby" (yes, the Vanilla Ice song) which is played (VERY LOUDLY) by a dancing, rapping, snowman.   Another lovely song is the song from Charlie Brown playing over and over from another wonderful Christmas toy/decoration.  Neither of these toys have volume buttons.   Both kids LOVE these toys.  Both of these toys are now hidden for a little while.  :-)  That's ok--they will enjoy them even more when we pull them back out of hiding.

But, all silliness aside, I absolutely love watching our kids experience the magic of Christmas.  We are hoping to take them to a live nativity and re-creation of Bethlehem village tomorrow so they can experience more of the Christmas magic.  So, be expecting lots of fun pictures of all of these new experiences for them.  Abbey is at such a fun age right now--actually both kids are.  Abbey is in this "oooooo" and "ahhhh" phase right now, where everything she experiences for the first time is so new and exciting.  She is having a blast taking the Christmas ornaments off of the tree.   Luke helped us decorate the tree this year while Abbey napped.  So, he is having a blast "re-decorating" every time Abbey removes the ornaments.  I think secretly he kind of hopes she goes over to the tree and begins removing ornaments.  :-)  Luke is at the fun age of asking "why" and trying to understand how everything works.  I am just really enjoying being home with them every day.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Getting Chores Done...thanks to surprise toys

The last two days of bed rest while watching two kids actually went better than I hoped it would.  I managed to get a great day of rest on Tuesday.  Bed rest really didn't happen on Wednesday, but I did manage to refrain from doing too many household chores.  But, that means that today I have a great big pile of chores to complete.  So, to distract the kids while I attempted to get some work done, I brought out a toy from Abbey's closet that Abbey has actually never played with yet.  You see, Abbey's birthday and Christmas are about a week apart.  So, since she got so many toys last year at once, I put a lot of them away and have been pulling them out one at a time (sporadically) over the past year.  She loves that, as it feels like she is getting new toys all year round. 

Today we pulled out the last toy that was stored away in her closet:  her baby doll bath tub.  It was a huge hit!  And, getting that thing out allowed me to get several chores done upstairs.  But, the kids were being super-cute while playing with it, so, of course, I had to snap some pictures.

It is so much fun to watch Abbey be so nurturing with her baby dolls. 

As you can see in the background there, Luke enjoys pulling Abbey's new toys out all year long also.  He had a get a baby and give her a bath as well.

Here he is asking very nicely if his baby can join Abbey's in the tub.  Unfortunately, she wasn't having any of that.  So, they took turns playing with the tub. 
Luke's "nurturing" looked a little different than Abbey's.  He thought his baby needed some bath toys.  This included a a whole tub full of jenga blocks, trains and other objects.

Now that Abbey is napping, it's time to go do some more chores with my little helper, Luke.  Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Meatless Monday: Acorn Squash Stuffed with Brown Rice and Apples

Doesn't the recipe title sound like a yummy plate of autumn?   Oh my goodness--we tried this new recipe tonight and it was so delicious that I am typing up a blog post about it at 9:30p in the evening.

Today was day one of two of my 6-8 hours of bed rest.  Thus, I tried to keep dinner as simple as possible since I knew Drew wouldn't be home until dinner time and I wouldn't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.   The recipe did not disappoint in the ease factor.  I threw an acorn squash in the oven to roast for 40 minutes and also put the rice (I used brown jasmine rice) on the stovetop at the same time, since it took 45 minutes to cook.  Then, putting it all together was pretty simple when Drew got home.  I let him chop the veggies.  :-)

I got the recipe from the "" blog, which I love for recipes. I modified it though, so the recipe I am posting below is our modified version:

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Wild Rice and Apples
1 acorn squash (I would recommend halving it for roasting)
2-3 cups cooked brown rice
3 celery stalks chopped
2 large carrots chopped
1 small onion chopped
1 apple diced (tonight, we used a gala, which was delicious)
1 garlic clove minced
1 tablespoon oil (I used EVOO tonight)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 and roast the squash for 40 minutes or until it’s done.  (We didn't do this, but I would recommend halving it, scooping out the seeds, rubbing with olive oil and then roast).  You can tell it’s done when you are able to stick a fork through the skin easily.  Also cook enough wild rice to make 2-3 cups of cooked rice. 
As the squash is roasting, chop the carrots, onion, and celery as well as mince the garlic. Add all of it to a pan under medium high heat and saute for 7-10 minutes. After the onions begin to become translucent, lower the heat to medium and add the rice and spices, including the salt. Stir well for a couple of minutes and remove from the heat. Let this mixture cool down significantly.
Once the rice mixture has cooled off and is more of a lukewarm temperature, add the diced apples. You want these apples to retain their crispiness, so it is important to not add them too early or they will soften. Stir the apples in the mixture so they get coated in some of the oil from the pan. This will keep them from browning.
When the squash is fully roasted, remove it from the oven. Once it has begun to cool, you can scoop out the seeds and add the rice to the inside of the dish as shown below and serve.  This recipe makes about 4 servings.  Enjoy!
I'm including's photo because I wasn't able to take photos of ours tonight.
Honestly though, we didn't even put the rice into the acorn squash.  I get the feeling that the acorn squash is primarily for presentation.  The rice was SO good by itself with the other veggies, and we ate the roasted acorn squash as a side.  In the future, I would make the rice part by itself as a side dish to go along with any other meal (sort of like a fried rice).  Also, the recipe didn't indicate it, but to me it is apparent from the photo that Melissa of "" cut the squash in half before roasting it.  That would probably taste much better than how we prepared it tonight, as we roasted it whole and then scooped out the seeds.  It would have so much more flavor if it were cut in half, rubbed down with olive oil, and then sprinkled lightly with sea salt--yum!  You seriously must try this dish though!  As Drew was chopping the celery, he was really leery of putting it into the recipe.  He is not a fan of celery at all.  But, we tried it anyway and it was so good!   The rice had a perfect combination of savory, sweetness, and warmth (with the fall flavors of cinnamon and ginger).   
You may wonder if that is all we ate tonight.  I also whipped up some quick, super easy, delicious whole wheat biscuits (recipe from  We were out of bread (we need to go to the store, but I couldn't get out today), but we keep certain staples around for moments like these.  The recipe takes only about 15 minutes from start to coming out of the oven, so it is great in a pinch.  My idea was to use the recipe to make thinner wider biscuits that I could slice in half and use for mini grilled cheese sandwiches (we always have cheese in the fridge).  The combo was amazing and a hit!  I think I heard Luke say, "This is SO good, mommy" five times.  And then he asked for three more.      Here is that recipe--enjoy:
Super Easy Whole Wheat Biscuits
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur’s white whole wheat organic flour)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk (any kind)
  1. In a medium sized bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well with whisk or fork.
  2. Cut the ½ stick butter into little pea sized pieces and then mix the pieces into the flour mixture.
  3. Using a fork, try to mash the butter pieces as you mix it together with the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. It is okay if the outcome just looks like the same pea sized pieces of butter covered with flour.
  4. Then pour in the milk and mix it all together. Knead the dough with your hands 8 to 10 times and then turn out onto a counter or cutting board.
  5. Pat it out flat with your hands until the dough is a somewhat even ¾-inch thickness (sprinkle with a little flour if necessary).
  6. Turn a drinking glass upside down and cut out biscuit rounds. I have also used shaped cookie cutters (like a heart or star) if you have little ones helping you!
  7. Then put them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Sorry for the lack of photos in this post.  I didn't pick up the camera today and once that food was cooked, it barely spent time on our plates--it went straight into our mouths. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thankful for So Much!

Going into my fourth surgery in nine months a week and a half ago, I was thinking about how truly blessed I am.   I am feeling thankful for so much.  I am thankful that my dad was able to fly down to help out while I was in surgery and for the few days after while I was recovering.  I was thankful to be able to spend some quality time with him (and teach him how to change diapers).  I was thankful to be beyond cancer treatment, cancer free and into the recovery stage, even if it did include a new surgery.   I was feeling thankful for excellent physicians and medical staff.   (It meant so much going into surgery to hear literally all of the staff at the hospital tell me I was in the hands of one of the best).  When you feel that thankful there is really no room for worry.  When you feel that thankful, you find yourself saying more prayers of thanksgiving than prayers seeking help.  But, I am thankful that I have family and friends to lift me up in times of need.

My surgery went very well--thanks again for your prayers.  I came home from the hospital that Thursday before Thanksgiving to kids who were being well cared for by my dad.  This surgery was not foreseen but was necessary and critical, as the need for it arose due to another reconstruction complication.   I elected to have it on Thursday and asked beforehand if I could leave a few days later for our planned trip to Oklahoma (for Thanksgiving).  Thankfully, Drew had already scheduled the few days before Thanksgiving off as vacation, so the timing actually wasn't too bad.  But, it meant traveling with a surgical drain tube.  The doctor said it would be alright to do this (not his preference though) and he made me promise I would rest during the trip.  But, I realized today that my definition of rest is different than the doctor's office definition.

Today, I was finally able to have the annoying drain tube removed.  Since we were out of town all of last week, it was my first post-operative appointment.  The nurse asked me how many hours per day I have been resting.  My reply--"hours per day?  And, how do you define 'rest'"?  I wanted to make sure I answered her correctly.   Apparently, when she said, "rest" she meant laying down flat on the couch.  Oops.  I hadn't done any of that.  Maybe a little at night before bed.    My "rest" definition would be to "take a break by sitting down for a few minutes every 30 minutes or so."  When we were at my parents' house though, I had done a LOT more sitting though than I would have at home since the kids were very entertained with all of the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.  But, then we came back home, we put up Christmas decorations, unloaded luggage, etc.  Yeah....not so much rest.   I mean, how much rest can anyone truly get anyway when your primary job is to watch an almost 2-year old and a 4 year old?  Since I had the drain tube removed today, the nurse told me I had strict guidelines to go home this afternoon and get two full days of rest (defined as 6-8 hours per day in 1-2 hour increments of laying down flat).  And, I have lifting restrictions for another week and a half.  Drew can't work from home because he has to work in the office this next couple of weeks, so it may be a little interesting over here.  But, I've devised a plan and it's going to work and the kids and I are going to enjoy it.  It's just such a small piece of time of difficulty in the big picture of things.

And, I am thankful for so much.  It was a bit of a feat to make it to my parents' house for Thanksgiving this year with the surgery. But, I wanted to go so very badly.  Plus, we had to return my dad to my mom (he had a one-way flight here).  :-)  The last time we were there for Thanksgiving was 2009!  We were at Drew's parents' house in 2010, and then I was REALLY pregnant and advised not to travel for 2011 and then I was undergoing chemotherapy in 2012.   We were GOING to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving this year, by golly!  And, we had such a wonderful time with family.  I took way too many pictures, had some wonderful time of fellowship with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, nieces, nephews and even family I hadn't seen in many years.   I ate ridiculously delicious food and just had a blissful time.    Oh--and I may have even played a few games of laser tag (don't tell my doctor).  You know I am going to share some of the photos I took!  I want my blog readers to see just some of the special people I got to spend quality time with last week.

My sis, Holly, and her family (Lilly, Linnea and Ryan)

My lovely niece, Lilly.

My brother, Jeremy, and his family (Brandy, and silly Traber, who is only a month younger than our Luke)

My cousin, Whitney, and uncle, Ronnie

My brother, Jason, and his family (Emily, with Natalie, Brody and Kaylee)

Playing a little chicken on a log during our traditional Thanksgiving sunset walk.

My niece Kaylee--doesn't she look like a little princess from a fairy tale?
Our youngest niece, Natalie.

My cutie-pie niece, Linnea, leading the way through the woods for her mom and sister during the traditional Thanksgiving walk in the woods at my parents'.

Kaylee and Brody

Luke and Grandpa--always leading the way for all of us through the woods.

The guys created a new Thanksgiving tradition--laser tag in the woods.

Watch out for these guys!

Our sweet Abbey-girl!  She's singing a song here.

I hope all of you had a fabulous Thanksgiving as well!