Tuesday, October 26, 2010


November is National Novel Writing Month wherein you're supposed to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And squeeze in Thanksgiving preperations and holiday shopping. I've never finished, but I keep trying. But I'm not sure about this year. With the speed in which October has flown by, I don't know where I'll find the time...

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this month? How do find time for it?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Favorite Things About Fall: Food

We're lucky enough to live in a part of the country where there are a lot of apple orchards. I knew fall had truly arrived when the crisp, cool breeze carried the faint sent of ripe apples. There is something so comforting about fall. The apple cider, knit scarves, hearty vegetables, snuggling under cozy blankets, sunny days and cool nights.

Even though we've actually had a major warm-up this week, I'm deep into my fall recipe file. I've already cooked a big batch of vegetable chili and had several bowls of butternut squash soup. And this week I created what I think is going to become a new fall favorite: creamy pumpkin ravioli.

We had ours with roasted Brussels sprouts. If you've never had them, do yourself a favorite and make a batch tonight. They are so good. Even my almost-4-year-old loves them. In fact, while I was cutting up Brussels sprouts for dinner she insisted on munching on a few raw.

Creamy Pumpkin Ravioli
1 pkg. pumpkin (or butternut squash, or plain cheese in a pinch) ravioli
1 pkg. (8 oz.) neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 cup canned pumpkin (make sure you get 100% pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling)
Chopped walnuts (I didn't measure these, just added in what looked good)
Dash of pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of red pepper

Saute the onions and red pepper on medium until the onions start to get brown and caramelized.

Turn heat to low and add walnuts.

Once pan has had some time to cool, add the cheese, milk, and butter. Stir frequently until the cheese and butter has completely melted. Add pumpkin and spices, then cook until completely heated, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook the ravioli per package directions.

Devour immediately.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts
Olive oil

This really couldn't be easier, but the result is so delicious. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts, pull of any leaves that look yellow or brown, then cut in half. Toss the sprouts in olive oil, then spread out on a pan and salt. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly roast.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's a Girl!

We're getting more sugar and spice and everything nice!

When the ultrasound technician said it was a girl, Ava leaned in close to me and whispered, "We're going to be best friends, Mommy." I hope so. She's already offered to share all her toys.

Image from Amy Atlas

Thursday, September 9, 2010


My little girl is growing up. Ava started preschool this week.

Cute sign from Blonde Designs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What up, Suckas?

Anyone still out there?

David and I were in the living room a few days ago and Ava walked in from her room and said, "What up, Suckas?" I don't know where she gets these things, but she always keeps us laughing.

I've been missing from this blog for several months now, but for good reason. We're having a baby!

I'm just now starting to feel human again after many long weeks of intense morning sickness. I don't even like to call it morning sickness because I think some people (especially male people) tend to think of morning sickness as no big deal and even kind of cute really. But this was like the most intense stomach flu I've ever had. I lost 14 pounds in three weeks and nothing was helping until my doctor put me on a medication normally used for people undergoing chemo. And now, well into my second trimester, it's still the only thing keeping me from throwing up every day (although I am feeling much better than I was). But, it's all for a very good reason.

Ava is very excited about the possibility of a sister, but NOT a brother. We'll find out on Sept. 21...

Friday, May 28, 2010


High Street Market was having a vintage baby sale, including these:

I wanted to buy a few of these goose hooks to hold dress-up clothes in Ava's room because I've been calling her Goose lately (as in Silly, which she is all the time). But, I wasn't quick enough and they sold out before I could buy any.

Now, I'm on the look-out for something similar. Let me know if you spot anything!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

30th Birthday Carnival

For David's 30th birthday, we dropped Ava off at the Grandparents' house and went to the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. I had booked spa appointments for each of us and we had plans to go to dinner.

Little did he know that all his friends would be at the restaurant when we arrived.

And once there, everyone got a fun gift bag.
(There was also a fun package of animal crackers in each one, but those didn't last long.)

So, that was two years ago. This year, David's birthday falls smack dab in the middle of a four-day weekend and I have absolutely nothing planned. Any suggestions?

I almost forgot. My lovely photography assistant:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Teacher Gifts

This Friday the parents' at Ava's school are organizing a teacher appreciation pot-luck and we're all supposed to bring a homemade gift. Knowing that I love Ava's artwork, but a non-relative who would be getting art from all the other kids as well might want something that would be useful as well as decorative. And it needed to be something quick and easy that Ava and I could do together.
  We picked up a few supplies from the store and got to work.
I sprayed each pot with chalkboard paint we already had, then Ava filled each one 2/3 full with potting soil.

Then we added the flowers and Ava used chalk to draw a special picture on each one. (In hindsight, this would have been a lot easier if we'd drawn the pictures before we potted the flowers.)
Then we added a message on an apple-shaped post-it note (it says: "Thanks for helping me learn and GROW!") and Ava drew on another set of post-its, then we sandwiched an extra-large pencil between the two notes and stuck them in the pots.
Done! The whole project was less than $20 for all three and, while homemade, her teachers can re-write and re-use the pots to their hearts content (and think of Ava every time they do). Now to decide what to make for the pot-luck...

Tulip Festival

This past weekend Ava's cousin brothers came to visit and we drove to Holland for the annual Tulip Festival. After getting lost (twice) we finally made it to Windmill Island, where they have an antique windmill, Dutch trading post, reenactments and tulips!
These people were camping out old-school for the entire two weeks of the festival (I love the socks with bows).
Ava tushie in the background.
Ava after we told her she wasn't allowed to pick the flowers.
We had so much fun! And Ava can't wait for her cousin brothers to come visit again.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Short Cut

I've been thinking about doing this for a while now. Ava has very fine hair and hates having it brushed. She also pulls out ponytails, bows, or anything else I put in her hair to keep it out of her face almost immediately. So, on Friday I took the plunge and took her to the salon.

It was really hard for me to watch, because her hair grows soooo slowly and it took so long to get as long as it was. But it's grown on me and now I think it's pretty cute.

This weekend, we went up to David's parents' house on the lake and Ava could not wait to go fishing. Despite the cold and rain, she convinced Grandpa to take her out. At first she tried throwing the worms directly into the lake, but she did end up catching a couple.

On the way up, we stopped so David could buy a fishing license and Ava and I waited in the car. After about 20 minutes, this is the conversation we had:
Me: What is taking him so long?
Ava: He should get his ask out here.
Me: That's not nice, we shouldn't say that.
Ava: You can say that.
Me: I can?
Ava: Yes, because you speak Spanish.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The C-word

I had this mole that looked a little funny. In fact, it met all the ABCD requirements for "looks funny." But, like a lot of moms, I put worrying about myself on the back burner. I'm ashamed to say that years passed before I finally had it looked at by a dermatologist. When I went a few weeks ago she said she wanted to remove it "as soon as possible." So, last week I went in for out-patient surgery and 30 minutes and 10 external stitches (plus some internal) later my mole was on its way to the lab. To say I was worried about it is an understatment. But, good news, the doctor's office called yesterday and said it was perfectly normal (other than being funny looking).

Then, that same day, I learned that brain tumors had just been discovered in the 13-year-old brother of a friend. He underwent a 10-hour surgery yesterday to remove the tumors and determine if they are malignant.

The C-word is scary and I think all families have been affected by cancer in some way or another. The good news is we can do something about it. It's Relay season. I used to work for the America Cancer Society and I can attest to what a great organization it is and how carefully they spend donor dollars. So, whether you join a Relay team, make a donation, or just drop by the local Relay to show your support (and maybe buy some of the baked goods or auction items the teams sell to raise money) please considered getting involved.

One of my favorite programs that Relay helps support is Camp Catch-A-Rainbow. It is a camp just like any other, with the expection that it has doctors and nurses who volunteer their time to ensure that the campers get their needed cancer treatments. It's also for kids who have or have had cancer, which is great because those currently battling can see those who have come out on the other side. I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the camp years ago and, like a lot of things at ACS, it was both heartbreaking and uplifting. Kids as young as four with their cheeks swollen from chemo, but having a blast making craft projects or singing silly songs around the campfire.

That's all. Things are crazy at work right now, which is another reason posting has been light over here. I do have lots to share, so hopefully I'll get caught up over the weekend.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Recipe: Vegetable Chili

When it's cold outside, nothing hits the spot like a big bowl of chili. We're big chili eaters, even Ava who requests chili for dinner all the time. But I'm not a big meat lover, so I've been on the search for a chili recipe that uses less, leaner, or no meat.

Imagine my delight when a stop in at the local bookstore revealed their cafe was serving vegetarian chili. I ordered a bowl and loved everything about it on the first bite. It had a variety of beans, colorful vegetables, no meat!, but still retained that essential chilli flavor. I asked for the recipe, but sadly they wouldn't share so I decided to try to recreate my own.

I wasn't sure if this would turn out, so I only have one photo.

Be warned, this recipe makes a lot of chili so you may want to freeze some or invite over the neighbors.

2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can tomato paste
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained
3 cups vegetable broth
1 28 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1/3 cup chili powder
4 tsps taco seasoning
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, then add onion, peppers, and garlic. After about five minutes, add the vegetable broth, tomato paste, and beans. Stir well, then add the stewed tomatoes, corn, chili powder, taco seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer until it gets all chilli-y (about 45 minutes). Add water if it starts to look dry. Enjoy!

I think next time I might roast my peppers before I add them to the chili for a deeper flavor.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thank you Wee Wonderfuls!

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to win a giveaway of snack bags from Wee Wonderfuls! When Hillary emailed me for our address, I asked her to send them under Ava's name and she was kind enough to oblige. She may only be three, but the kid LOVES getting mail. When the package arrived, she was so excited and so was I, look at how beautiful they are.
 Thank you so much, Hillary! We love them. As soon as she pulled them out of the package, Ava was filling each pouch with little treats and treasures. And she adores her special kitty.

Happy Easter!

We had a fabulous Easter!
 We spent a couple days with David's parents, grandparents, and brothers, then went a bit further up north to visit my grandmother. Ava could not have had more fun, she had a perma-grin all weekend. The baskets full of candy and gifts were the icing on the cake (notice in the photo she wouldn't even stop eating candy long enough to smile). She got a darbie in her basket, which she named Jessica Heightens and always refers to her with both names.

One of her favorite parts of visiting my Grandma is getting to see cousin Kory and her black lab Zoe. This is the dog that Ava tells everyone is her's. I tried to get a photo of Ava and Zoe together, but they were both moving too fast.

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter as well!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Counting my blessings

I've been trying to have this attitude lately.

I love this song (and this movie).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Easter Nests

The first time I remember eating one of these was on a visit to my Great Grandmother's house. I must have been about eight and I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. This is the first time I've made them myself, but if I had realized how easy it was I would have tried it a long time ago.
Just a few simple ingredients: Fiber One bran cereal (or similar branch-like shaped cereal), butter, marshmallows, non-stick spray and Cadbury Mini-Eggs.

Melt 3 TBS butter over low heat, then add 5 cups mini-marshmallows and stir until completely melted. You could also add some chocolate chips at this point if you the kids might be put off by the bran flavor.

Remove the pan from heat and slowly add 6 cups cereal. Stir until well coated. Spray your muffin pan with non-stick spray, then fill each cup with the mixture (it may help to spray your hands as well.

Next, use your fingers to push out the middle and create the nest shape (it's a little hard to see in this photo).

Then, just add a couple eggs to each one and you're done!

My taste-tester says these are delicious. We're taking them to her friends tomorrow, so we'll see what the others think.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Girl's Day

David was still filling pretty under the weather Saturday, so Ava and I decided to have a Girl's Day and do all our favorite things. But when we went outside we had a bit of a surprise. After a week of 60 degree, sunny days, this is what greeted us Saturday morning.

We braved the snow anyway and made our way to our first stop. A library book sale (of course). The books were a little more than usual ($2 for a hardcover, $1 for a paperback), but the selection was really good.
 Then we grabbed lunch and headed to our next stop.
Our first ballet! A performance of Cinderella by the West Michigan Youth Ballet. It was incredible, especially since the performers were all between the ages of 6 and 18.

Ava loved it. Obviously.
After the ballet, we stopped in at our favorite toy store (this stop was all Ava's idea, but it was girls' day so we went for it), where we found a couple new books.
The Color Kittens was one of my favorites when I was little, but I had completely forgotten about it until I spotted it on the shelf. Note that Golden Books now labels it "classic" -- ouch. What I didn't know was that it was written by Margaret Wise Brown, who also wrote Goodnight Moon.

Then, to make a good day even better, when we got home these were waiting for us.

Then, we did manicures before bed (with a sparkle polish top coat).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a box of Thin Mints waiting for me in the freezer.