Friday, February 28, 2014


Papa K picked the girls up from school the other day so that I could take Eli to violin, and was bombarded with the following notes.  Persuasive writing at its finest.

Talia's note was slightly more subtle.  I like how she changed "You are the best grampa ever" to "You are one of the best grampas ever!"  She's definitely got the butter-em-up-first strategy down since her request is hidden in the P.S. at the bottom.

As you probably guessed, their writing was effective.  Papa K was ambushed, and spent the evening watching his granddaughters waste his hard-earned money on tokens and cheap trinkets, all while devouring the worst pizza imaginable.  In other words, it was perfect.  

Thanks, Papa K.  Whether near or far, we really do have the best grandparents ever. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

RSBC Week 3: Zucchini Brownies

The challenge: cocoa and squash. I had dreams of something fantastically innovative, like Mexican Red Mole served over butternut squash--yum!

Instead, life happened. Here's a quick run-through of the day.

8:40 am - Drop big girls off at school.
9:00 am - Squeeze in a quick bike ride at the YMCA.
10:00 am - Show up for Music Makers playgroup all hot and sweaty, despite the fact that it is blizzarding outside.
11:30 am - Come home for lunch, naps, and chores. Shovel the driveway.
1:00 pm - Authorize the realtor to verify the new house is empty instead of doing it myself since driving conditions are poor.
2:00 pm - Close on the new house.
3:00 pm - Take Jason to the optometrist.
3:30 pm - Pick up my newly repaired wedding ring.
4:00 pm - Pick up the big girls from school and drive them to their new home.
4:30 pm - Shovel the new driveway and start cleaning the rather disgusting kitchen.
6:00 pm - Bring a dessert to the International Dinner at Crestridge Elementary
7:30 pm - Come home, nurse the baby, and kiss the rest of the munchkins good night.
8:30 pm - Choir Practice for the Heartland Women's Chamber Chorus. Lots of Moms with young kids in the group, so late evenings is the only rehearsal time that works.

Whew!  With this schedule in mind, I swapped fancy for effective when it came to culinary choices.  Two forgotten zucchini in the back of the fridge were transformed into Zucchini Brownies for the international dinner, thanks to a little help from

Judging by the impressive rate at which these little gems disappeared, I'm guessing they were rather tasty.  I might have to make some more: they seem the perfect house warming gift.  :)

RSBC Totals:

Biking: 84 miles
Running: 19 miles
Swimming: 1.9 miles

Sunday, February 16, 2014

RSBC Week 2: Susie's Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup, plus a Visit from Cupid

We all know that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery.  So when carrots and ginger were highlighted as this week's Run Swim Bike Cook challenge, I immediately knew what I wanted to make:  Grandma Susie's Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup.  It may not be an original recipe for balancefoods guru Chef Christy who has savored this soup often around her mother's kitchen table.   Even so, it's a recipe I've always wanted to make, and as always, RSBC was the perfect excuse to get it done.

So without any further delay: the recipe.
Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 lb parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 large onion, sliced
3 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 tbsp butter
3 tbsp packed dark-brown sugar
8 cups chicken broth
Salt to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup creme fraiche
Snipped fresh chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine carrots, parsnips, onion and ginger in a shallow roasting pan to fit.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Pour 2 cups of broth into the pan, cover well with foil and bake until vegetables are very tender, about 2 hours.

Transfer the vegetables and broth to a large pot; add the remaining 6 cups of broth, salt and cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in blender or food processor, adding more broth if necessary.  (We use a stick hand blender.)  Return the soup to the pot; adjust the seasonings and heat through.  Serve each portion dolloped with a teaspoon of creme fraiche (plain yogurt works, or sour cream diluted with some whipping cream) and sprinkled with chives.

Serves: 10 people
I followed the recipe closely, with the exception of the fresh chives, which I omitted since I couldn't go snip them from Susie's garden.  After sampling, the family declared the heirloom recipe worthy of its heritage.

The kids decided that such a special meal deserved its very own menu and name cards.

Ideally, Susie's carrot ginger soup was meant to be accompanied by Chou's carrot ginger tea scones.  In the end, I accidentally omitted the ginger, a brilliant mistake since now I'm just itching to make them again.

This wasn't the only special meal of the week.  On Valentine's Day, the entire family was treated to a meal at Cupid's Crazy Cafe.  

The kids helped us get into the Valentine spirit with lots of decorations.

 The Cafe is open and dinner is served!

Everyone received their own menu and chose between some unusual dishes: Huggin', Cuddlin', Snugglin', Squeezin', Smoochin', Kissin', and Lovin'.

In the end, everyone was served chicken cordon bleu over rice,strawberry-pecan spinach salad, cranberry focaccia, raspberry-cranberry jello, heart-shaped carrots, cran-raspberry drink, chocolate covered strawberries, and a straw, albeit in very unusual sequences.

 In the end, Cupid's Crazy Cafe was a fabulously fun and fantastically fatiguing.  It will certainly need a year to recover before I am crazy enough to consider it again. 

Last but not least, we made these adorable twist heart  hairstyles, courtesy of  Our styles may not look quite as perfect as the demo, but hey, they'd already survived a day of school, plus we managed to actually style the baby.
Hope everyone had a delightful Valentine's Day!

Oh, and before I forget, here are my Triathlon totals:

Running: 16.5 miles
Swimming: 1.3 miles
Biking: 70.5 miles

I'm definitely more than halfway there, but we'll see what next week brings.  If everything stays according to plan, we're supposed to close on a house and move most of our belongings, so life will certainly be busy!  Wish us luck...  We'll need it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Treat Yourself to an Invisible Dum Dum. (Otherwise known as, Happy Valentine's.)

Isn't photo shop amazing?  (Almost as amazing as the Peanut Butter who puts it to good use.)  And yes, Talia is missing yet another tooth. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Bring it On! Run Swim Bike Cook 2014

February is here!  And thank goodness.  January was a tough month for our family.  Without getting into too many details, the month was filled with tremendous house-hunting drama, ultimately resulting in our sticking with this house, not so much because we wanted to, but because we had no other ethical options.  In the end, I pray that even though this home may not have been our first choice, it will be a happy one.

So even though the weather may be lousy, I am delighted to put January behind us.  Sub-zero weather, freezing rain, and blowing snow--bring it on.  I'm so tired of listening to myself whine that I've committed to buck up and deal with it.  February is not for wimps, I am stronger than I think, and so are you!  Welcome to Run Swim Bike Cook 2014, the seventh annual Ironman meets Ironchef.  I am thrilled that Christy and Lizzie are hosting RSBC again, where each week you cook a super food while completing a full (or half) Ironman.

This month's challenge:  Beet Greens and eggs.  Yesterday morning I made a beet green frittata and actually felt great about sending my kids off to school with something more nutritious than cold cereal in their bellies.

We sauteed beet greens with onion, garlic, and olive oil...

...added eggs beaten with a touch of buttermilk, covered the pan with a lid and let it simmer on low.  Feta cheese was sprinkled on right towards the end.  (Well, at least it was sprinkled on half.  My kids aren't feta lovers, but for me the salty cheese totally made the meal.)

Talia selected and prepared all of the sides for our breakfast, including ants on a log.  She couldn't find craisins for her ants and had to use raisins instead, but decided it was okay since she likes black ants better than the biting red ones.

Once Annika figured out how to actually put food on her fork, she thought the frittata was quite yummy.

Definitely tastier than baby food!

 So in Christy's RSBC post, she talked about focusing less on the foods we shouldn't eat and more on the foods we should.  And she's totally onto something.  Just saying.  Once I bought the beet greens, I needed to use up the beets.  So I cooked up some vegetable soup--an unusual combination of minestrone and borscht, by the time you blend the orzo and zucchini with cabbage and beets.  Of course, now I needed to make some salad with my leftover cabbage, plus I want to try some actual borscht, which means I need to buy more beets.  If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll crave more and more sugar.  But give a mouse a beet, and she just might learn to love veggies!

Fueled with all of the extra healthy energy from my beet green  frittata, I headed to the gym to tackle a goal that I've had for two years: a sprint triathlon.  I dropped the kids off at childcare, jumped into my swimsuit, swam 750m, biked 20K, ran 5K, and sprinted back up the stairs to pick up my kids before the workers thought they'd been abandoned.  It was tough, but I did it, and that feels great.

Other news: as part of my complete February makeover, I chopped my hair.  Here's me trying to pull off a selfie.  (With arms as short as mine, it really doesn't work.)

A little better.  This picture was taken first thing in the morning before I even brushed my hair, but it gives the basic idea.  Ten inches gone, and I love it.  Totally liberating.

Jason has a new look too.  (And yes, this picture was taken straight out of the shower with my hubby wearing nothing but a purple towel.  Scandalous!)

Of course, this man can do no wrong.  Ever.  He is the love of my life and the hero who will forever hold my undying gratitude.  (You can add in your own romantic mush here and I will emphatically nod and nod again.)  You see, yesterday tragedy struck.  While dropping the girls off for a Chinese dance rehearsal at a local middle school, I noticed the solitaire from my wedding ring was missing.  GONE!  Not only was this diamond valuable in the way all precious stones are valuable, it was the diamond purchased with the solitaire from my grandmother's wedding ring.  As the only grandchild who can really remember my Grandma Helen, this gem is a family heirloom with tremendous sentimental value. 

Needless to say, I was devastated.  Throughout the day, I'd traveled the entire city.  It was hard to know where to even begin looking. 
With the photo as a clue, this story obviously has a happy ending.  Jason found the diamond while sweeping the kitchen floor.  I am so grateful.   Our family has offered an awful lot of prayers over the last month; most of the answers have come slowly, even a bit painfully.  When I discovered my diamond was gone, I once again started praying--hard.  I told Jason that if we ever found the stone at all, it would be a miracle.  How lovely that a miracle not only happened, but that this time our prayers were answered both quickly and easily.

Life is Good, and February is Great!

Weekly RSBC Totals:
Run:  5.3 miles
Swim:  750 meters
Bike:  48.5 miles

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Things you don't want to hear:
Mommy, Annie just dropped her pretzel in the toilet.

Things you really don't want to hear:
Mom, she fished it out and is trying to eat it!


Happy Birthday, Annika Mae!

After a great deal of anticipation, Annika Mae turned one last week.  Talia Lily started decorating weeks in advance, setting the stage all the way back in the beginning of January before the Christmas decorations were taken down.

We've enjoyed construction paper streamers filling the dining room... well as festive loops demarcating the banister.  (Yes, I used the word "demarcating."  Can you tell I"m married to an architect?)

At some point Talia must have run out of steam since "Annika" was shortened to "Ani."  (I actually kind of like it.  It feels a bit more exotic with an Asian or African feel.  Any votes on Ani Mae versus Annie Mae?  )

Annika, of course, didn't care a bit about the spelling.  She was mesmerized by all the colorful presents.

With so many siblings, she certainly had plenty of help tearing into her gifts.  (Brooklyn, by the way, is on her third cast--the original white, followed by glow-in-the-dark, and now purple.  We're hoping that tomorrow she'll be cast free.)

Talia is still fairly toothless, although we decided that if we added Annika's six teeth to Talia's gaping smile, we'd pretty much have a full set.

For her birthday, Annika received some adorable clothes from her grandparents, a fun Little People airplane, board books, play food, and this hat Mom picked up at a resale shop.

She may already have some winter hats, but this one was just a hoot.

Up next, lemon raspberry cupcakes.  The kids found my raspberry toppers to be too bland for our birthday girl and cooked up something extra special with the help of some gummy bears.

We also made these super-simple fruit carousels.

The very first bite of cupcake--a happy moment in a gal's life.

Annie absolutely loves to smash foods between her fingers, savoring the texture in a way most adults miss.

Mmm, raspberry filling!  Jason claims I filled the cupcakes just so I'd have better (aka messier) birthday photos.  He may or may not have been right...

Our happy one year-old!  It's hard to believe it's been an entire year since we welcomed her into our home.

Last but not least, the crumbly aftermath.  If it hadn't been seven degrees outside, we would have shaken her off on the deck.  I must say, keeping up with the toys, mess, and laundry of an extra little one can be pretty daunting at times.  Anybody who claims that it's not that different adding one more has either never been there or else suffers from that selective amnesia that entices folks to add "just one more."

Aw, but when babies are this cute, can you blame them?

Happy Birthday, Annika Mae!  You have brought so much joy and so many smiles to our family since the day you were born.  You'd think the excitement would have worn off after an entire year, but we still squabble over who gets to hold you and soak in those cuddles.  You are inquisitive, perceptive, and oh-so-very cute.  I hope to post an update soon about everything you love (like emptying out all the CDs) and a few of the things you don't (like sleeping through the night.)  With a little bit of luck (and a lot of courage), I might even post your birth story.

In the meantime, here's one last present I forgot.  Jason and I conferred and decided that a box of tissues is the perfect gift for a one-year old.  We wrapped up your very own box, but it was quickly forgotten amidst all the other packages.  Early the next morning, however, you rediscovered the present all on your own.

I guess we were right after all.  When you're twelve months old, nothing says fun like Kleenex.