Wednesday, December 17, 2008

there's just never one around when you need one...

We were out running errands on Saturday and it was a relatively clear day, so we could see the Charlotte skyline in the distance. Jack loves this and almost always points it out, "Look, there's Charlotte!" But, we weren't actually headed uptown, so after a moment, the buildings disappeared from view. Then Jack asked, "Where do beavers live?" "Usually by rivers, I guess." I said, and Doug nodded, both of us looking at each other, knowing better than to think this is just a random question. We didn't have to wait long for Jack to connect the dots. "Urgh! Well, we need to get some beavers here to chop down these trees so we can see the buildings again!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the only santa ainsley was interested in seeing...

...was the one in the display window of the Apple Store. We stood there so long, I thought the employees would call security and have us taken away for loitering...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

november pictures

Here are November's pictures. There are some from Kate's wedding shower, at which Ryan, Emily and I made a surprise appearance. I wish I had more from Thanksgiving, but other than the ones I have already posted, I only have the one of Ainsley in Gommie's apron. Emily took some great shots, but we seem to have misplaced the cable that connects her camera to the computer, so for now, it's just not meant to be.

December's pictures will no doubt have lots of Christmas-y things and maybe even a few pictures of Ryan's (finally) finished room with his new loft and desk. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 5, 2008

in case you missed it...

A performance by Ryan's future wife and father-in-law.

on my mind today

We don't need to make this decision for several more months, but today I'm thinking about whether or not to put Ainsley in preschool next year.

12 hours a week of "kid-free" time versus never again having an excuse not to get things done.

also, why i will probably have to wear my yoga pants until january

Thursday, December 4, 2008

why i've had to wear my yoga pants every day this week

Does this ever happen to you?

It's lunch time and you've been eating the ridiculously fattening Thanksgiving leftovers every day for lunch and you've really had enough now, so you think, whatever...I'll just have a bowl of cereal. You know, because you really just can't be bothered to fix anything for just you. Which is why you've been reheating leftovers all week. So you're just going to have a bowl of cereal when you remember the leftovers from taco night last night. And so you look and see that there is probably a little more than you really need, but not really enough for two servings. And so you go ahead and heat it all up and end up making the world's largest taco and by the time you finish, you're incredibly full and you've made a giant mess and you're wishing you had just had a bowl of cereal.

No? Hmm...just me then.

thanksgiving postmortem

How is it even remotely possible that Thanksgiving was already an entire week ago?? They say time flies when you're having fun. Well, I'm going to tell you that it flies even when you're not. Okay, to be fair, it's not that I'm not having fun. I mean, it's Christmastime! The music is fun! And the planning is fun! And the shopping has even been a little enjoyable! But some of us have been sick. And some of us have been tired. And, quite frankly, I'm a little sick and tired of being sick and tired. And my ears are stuffy and not being able to hear well is making me a bit cranky and forgetful. Wait, what am I supposed to be writing about today? Oh, right...Thanksgiving!

So, here is what I made: Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter (as an appetizer, mid-afternoon) Roast Turkey, Stuffing/Dressing (Is there a difference? I never know what to call it!), Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Butternut Squash Puree, Spinach Gratin, Roasted Asparagus, Cranberry Conserve, Homemade Bread, Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Key Lime Pie (with whipped cream). For 10 people. 4 of them children. 2 of the children didn't eat anything but bread. I know, I went a little nuts. But I have to say that at the time, I didn't feel like I was going nuts. I actually felt less stressed than I ever have preparing any other holiday meal and I think that's because I was really able to do a lot ahead. Preparation is key.

Here's what worked:

1.) Brining the turkey. I used this brining blend from Williams Sonoma. And these brining bags. They both worked wonderfully. In fact, the only problem I think you could possibly have is if the person helping you fill the brining bag happens to let go of the side of the bag for a second, causing the bag to collapse and brine to spill out all over your kitchen cabinets and floor and even run under the refrigerator and then you have to pull out your refrigerator (which most likely has not been done for years! Gross!!) and clean and disinfect your kitchen (AGAIN!). But really, the odds of that happening are, like, slim to none, right?

Now, I suppose I could have made my own brine but I really liked all of the ingredients in this one and it was incredibly easy to do. Here is what the brine looked like:

By the time I bought all of those fabulous spices and such, I probably would have spent the same as I did on the mix at Williams Sonoma and the gas to drive there. And did I mention how easy it was? I'll definitely do this again.

2.) The Spinach Gratin. I think this was my favorite dish. Yes, it's a Barefoot Contessa recipe and I was able to put it all together the night before and then bake it after I took the turkey out to rest. I was very sad on Tuesday night when I finished off the last of the leftovers of this dish.

And speaking of dishes I made in advance...

3.) Mashed Potatoes. Now, I read about this potato recipe on and I have to admit I was a little skeptical. I wasn't really sure how these potatoes would taste made in advance and then warmed in the oven (I put them in at the same time as the spinach). But, since my least favorite part of making Thanksgiving dinner is making the mashed potatoes right at the end so they stay warm while you're trying to get everything else on the table, I thought I would take a chance. So glad I did. I will make them this way from now on...

4.) Butternut Squash/Butternut Squash Ravioli. I went with Holly's suggestion and looked for a recipe for Butternut Squash Ravioli and found this one, which I used as a guide. Earlier in the week, I roasted the butternut squash, pureed it in the food processor and then froze the puree. I took it out Thursday morning to defrost, made the filling and then assembled the ravioli using wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta. I think I let the sage brown butter go just a bit too long, but sometimes that happens when you're trying to cook and show your mother pictures of people you went to high school with on Facebook at the same time. (Note to Santa: Need a laptop to use in the kitchen.) Here is what the dish looked like:

Since I only needed part of the butternut squash for this recipe, I ended up warming up the rest and adding cream and pure maple syrup to serve as another last minute side dish. I'm not sure anyone ended up eating it, but it did look pretty on the table.

Here's what didn't work:

1.) Having sick kids the week leading up to and including Thanksgiving Day. Not that there is anything I could have done about this, but it really kind of puts a damper on the holiday. Not to mention the fact that it's incredibly hard to get things done when your baby looks at you like this:

I'm quite sure my house didn't pass the "White Glove Test," and so a special thank you goes out to my guests for pretending not to notice!

2.) The Gravy. I didn't take into account how the large amount of salt in the turkey brine would make the pan drippings really salty. When I made the gravy, I used some of the pan drippings and some chicken broth, and then I added some half and half at the end, but I think it was still a little too salty. Of course, Williams Sonoma does make a Turkey Gravy base...

3.) The pie crusts. I just don't know what it is with me and pie crust, but I can't seem to get it right. I've tried many different recipes...from pies that I have really enjoyed...but I just don't have the touch. So, I thought I would just get my old standby Pillsbury crusts that you just unroll and put in the pan. Only when I went to the store, they were out of Pillsbury pie crusts (which really ticked me off because I even had a coupon!), so I ended up buying the Harris Teeter brand pie crusts, and they sucked. Really, they were awful. And I didn't realize just how awful until Tuesday night when we were having our Turkey Pot Pie for dinner made with the Pillsbury crusts that Doug bought over the weekend. So, so much better.

So, I guess I'm just going to have to get over it and make pie after pie until I get the stupid crust right. (Right now, Doug is high-fiving everyone around him as he reads this...)

And so there you have it. I truly had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you all did too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

she's got spirit

Deep down, she knows they will most likely lose. But she puts on the uniform anyway.

Never give up. Never give up.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Had some fun, and a lot of work, raking leaves in the backyard!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

you heard it here first

If there is one thing that Jackson despises, it's any way shape or form. I can't even put peanut butter on toast in the morning without him coming in from the other room saying, "That smells that peanut butter??" Oh, and you've never seen such drama as Jack unknowingly eating a small piece of a nut (like when he tried to sneak M&Ms on Halloween but didn't realize they were Peanut M&Ms!) or something with peanut butter in it (like a seemingly benign looking peanut butter chocolate chip cookie). With the awful faces and the spitting out the food and the rinsing his mouth out 10 times...seriously...give that boy an Oscar! So imagine my surprise when after winning a game of Wii Mario Kart last night, he pointed at the TV and shouted, "Yeah...that's AWESOME!! With peanuts in it!!" As if peanuts, the thing he despises more than anything, actually made winning more awesome. Huh.

Anyway, it's the new phrase sweeping the nation. Awesome! With peanuts in it! Go ahead, try it out. But don't forget where you heard it!

Monday, November 10, 2008

reader participation...please!!

I absolutely love making Thanksgiving dinner. It is my favorite of all dinners. And I just found out this weekend that Mom and Dean are coming in addition to Holly and Justin! (Open Invitation - anyone else planning on being in the area?? Please come to dinner!)

Now, here's the thing. I haven't quite nailed down the menu and this is where I need your help. Think about these questions and when you have a minute, leave your comment in the comments section. (I know this didn't work so well when I asked you to vote for your favorite October picture - 0 comments!! Don't be intimidated! It's really easy to leave a comment!!)

Here are the questions (feel free to answer one or both...well, or neither, if you really want to be a party-pooper!):

What is the dish that makes your Thanksgiving? (I mean, your Thanksgiving just would not be Thanksgiving without this.)


Is there a dish (appetizer/side/dessert) that you have thought about adding to your Thanksgiving menu, but haven't?

I usually try to add at least one new side dish with the hope that eventually, I'll hit upon the one that makes everyone say, "This is my new favorite Thanksgiving dish!" But that hasn't happened yet! I have a few ideas, but I'm really interested to hear what you all have to say! I'm going to make my final choices and post my menu here next week.

I will be so thankful for your comments!

when she decides to use yogurt as a styling product

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

hmmm...something's different


In the spirit of this Election Day, I urge you all to not only vote in today's general election, but also for your favorite October photo!

You can click on the slideshow to navigate through the pictures faster and then comment away!!

on the street where i live

This photo doesn't really do it justice, but the colors are just beautiful right now. Just one of the 104 things I love about living here!

Monday, November 3, 2008

happy halloween

Our brave knight...

Our sweet Piglet...

Our dazzling performers...

Our crash from a sugar high...

Monday, October 27, 2008

probably more information than you need on a monday

"What's wrong? What are you doing?"

"If I tell you, you'll think I'm weird and neurotic."

"I already think you're weird and neurotic."

"Fine. The sheets down by my feet are all bunched up and wrinkled and so I'm straightening them because it's really bothering me and I can't concentrate on my book."

"You're right. You shouldn't have told me."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

just one more year before the tween becomes a teen

Wow...where did the last 12 years go? In honor of Ryan's birthday, I thought I'd pick out some of my favorite photos to post. Not all of my favorites are on the computer, but these are pretty good...

I love this sweet little munchkin face!

Ah, back in the good old days...before braces!

Ryan at preschool graduation with his best friend Katie.

And who can forget Ryan's "movie-star smile" ...his way of getting me back for making him wear a shirt with buttons!!
One of several Disney birthdays!

Another Disney birthday!

Happy #12 my sweet firstborn.



Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Jack, on the way to school this morning:

"Mom, how do cows lay their eggs?"

Friday, October 17, 2008

my little diplomat

Me: So, what happened at school today?

Jack: Well, Henry got all up in my face!

Me: What did you do?

Jack: Um, I said, "Henry, don't get up in my face!"

big girl

Disclaimer: I will only let her do this in the kitchen. She's good, but she's not that good!

i seriously have no idea...

Anybody? Lifting up her shirt and pressing her naked belly up against the oven door? This is a new one for me. She even tried to do it again yesterday. Except she was wearing a onesie.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

mmmm, pie

Jack's preschool class had a field trip to a farm yesterday. The kids had such a blast seeing the animals, playing on the "hay bale playground" (no jungle gyms on the farm!!) and going on a very bumpy hay ride. One of the best parts for me was going to the market and picking up some fresh tomatoes, apples and a nice, big pumpkin. I was most excited about the apples, though, because it was kind of a chilly, rainy day and I thought an apple pie would be just the thing to warm up our evening.

I am not normally a pie baker. I've been known to make one or two for the holidays, but baking pies is a little out of my comfort zone. In fact, the last apple pie I made was last Thanksgiving and although I found it to be delightful (as I do all Barefoot Contessa recipes), Doug and Ryan thought it was way too tart to actually be considered a dessert. So, I started with Jean's recipe for Flaky Pastry Dough and tweaked it just a tad (to accommodate the sweet tooth) and then changed a few things in the filling from my Barefoot Contessa recipe. It looked beautiful out of the oven and I had every intention of taking a picture of it, but as I've mentioned, I don't bake pies very often, so when I do, they don't sit whole on the counter for too long. Ryan and Doug couldn't wait to cut into it and the finished product was a very sweet, very tasty, yet very soupy pie.


So, I am now on a mission to perfect my apple pie recipe. Hopefully it won't take too many tries. I don't think my waistline can handle it! I'll keep you posted.

soccer pics...sort of

Emily's team had a soccer tournament last weekend. We did remember to take the camera and here are the photos I took:

Now, I could give you some lame excuse, like how I just couldn't get good enough pictures without the awesome telephoto lens that I do not yet own, but the truth is that I was just too involved in the games to even think about taking pictures! The girls played so well...they only won 1 of their 3 games, but you wouldn't have thought that watching them play. Emily even took a goal shot (just missed, but still, first shot she's taken in a game!). I do have some pretty good shots of both of the soccer stars, and they can be found here along with the rest of September's photos!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

i'm glad i went into the garage when i did

If I had waited just a few more minutes, I wouldn't have heard this conversation Jack was having...with himself.

Where is the other one? They are called flip-flops. Not flip-flop. That means two. Not one. Oh, there it is!

a game she hasn't been able to play for 7 weeks!

Where's Ainsley??
Peek - A - Boo!

And, of course, Jack has to get in on the action:

Monday, September 29, 2008

a conversation i never imagined having with my 9 year old daughter

"Who sings this?"

"Chris Brown. I think he's dating Rhianna."

"No, they broke up. He's with someone else now."


"Um, maybe Beyonce?"

"No, Beyonce is married to Jay-Z."

"Oh, well then not Beyonce, but someone else."

Friday, September 26, 2008


I believe I have finally found the one thing that could stop me from eating ice cream.

While I believe PETA does some good work, I think this crosses the line just a bit, don't you?

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Ryan got home from school the other day and put this up on the refrigerator. His birthday wish list, in no particular order. He says he only had about 5 minutes to write it. Doug and I have already decided we are getting him #7.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

an extra serving of jackson

I've been known to post amusing (to me anyway) things that Jackson says on here from time to time. But you have to believe me when I tell you that I don't post the half of it! That kid has me laughing so hard sometimes my cheeks hurt! So I've decided to serve up a some of my favorites from the past couple of days.

Sometimes what cracks me up is the way he views the world. It's very amusing, in a very sweet way. Like this morning, we had just dropped Emily off at school and were on our way to his school. It was a little breezy and he was just leaning back in his seat gazing out the window and then all of a sudden, "Oh look! The trees are dancing!"

And before that happened, we were at home eating breakfast. Emily had asked me to make pancakes and Jack decided that's what he would like too. So I fixed his plate - the pancakes cut up with syrup drizzled over them and some more syrup on the side of the plate. See, each of my kids eats pancakes differently. Jack eats them cut up. Ryan leaves his whole and dips each bite in syrup and Emily leaves them whole, slathers them with butter but no syrup. Anyway, he started to eat and I asked how everything was and he said:

"Fine. It's good that my pancakes aren't annoying me."
"Um, how do pancakes annoy you?" I asked. To which he replied, very matter-of-factly, "When the bottom falls off."

It took me a second to realize what he meant, and then it came to me as I watched him stab a piece of pancake with his fork, dip it into the pool of syrup on his plate, and then look to see if the bottom layer was still on his bite and not floating in the syrup before he put it in his mouth. I guess if half of my bite never made it to my mouth, I'd be pretty annoyed too!

I also love it when he channels me. Out of the blue the other day:

"Mom, allegro means fast. And adagio means slow. Seriously."

Of course some of the best ones come when he doesn't understand my meaning. Like this great one from Sunday afternoon. It was mid afternoon and he asked if he could have a snack. I asked what kind of a snack and he said he would like some toast. So then I tried to think of everything he had eaten that day and the only thing I could think of was toast! Toast for breakfast and toast for lunch. So I said, "Gee Jack, have you had anything but toast today?" And he looked at me with eyebrows raised and said, "Uh...I didn't say I wanted butt toast!" Which Ryan thought was h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s!** And so for the next couple of minutes he was all "butt toast" this and "butt toast" that. I was half tempted to ask him what he thought "butt toast" was, but then I realized I didn't really want to know.

**Ryan is all about the middle school humor these days. He couldn't wait to come home and tell me about how his math teacher was explaining the associative property and so he drew the parentheses and made them look like a butt. Get it? Associative property?? I guess those are the kind of jokes you can get away with telling when there aren't any girls in the class. I'm certainly not going to complain, though. Ryan's never been interested or excited about math before, so whatever works!!

I only wish I could be a fly on the wall in his classroom at school!

Friday, September 19, 2008

a list of some of the stuff that's junking up my brain and making it impossible for me to create a cohesive, non-rambling post

1.) Thank goodness the weather is starting to cool off a bit. Heat sucks all the fun out of soccer games and makes us all melting pools of grouchiness. And also, we are not even close to the equator...I should not have to apply SPF 70 in SEPTEMBER!!

2.) Things I am ready for (in no particular order):

a. The okay from the surgeon to remove Ainsley's arm immobilizers. I cannot tell you how many times I've been asked if both of her arms are broken. Or burned. And how many people look like they are just 2 seconds away from calling Child Protective Services to report me for breaking/burning my child's arms.

b. The okay from the surgeon to let Ainsley go back to eating anything she wants. Baby food is expensive...especially the amount of food she's plowing through! I think it's costing us as much as it was to buy formula! Yes, I could probably make my own cheaper, and I'm totally going to start doing that as soon as someone figures out a way to add a few more hours to a day!

c. Ainsley to grow some hair. So people will stop referring to her as "he" or "what a cute guy!" She does look a lot like Ryan did when he was a baby, but even then I had people who called him a girl. And this is what she was wearing at the post office yesterday when she was called a "sweet little boy." With these shoes! Does anything about that ensemble say boy to you? I didn't think so!

3.) Our beloved toaster oven bit the dust last week. We've had it almost 13 years, so I guess it was bound to happen, especially given that we use it for everything! So I've been making toast in the oven. Which I hate doing because it heats up the house. But toast is one of the three foods Jack is eating right now, so I make toast in the oven. And here's a tip for you. When you can smell the toast, it's too late. We seem to be going through a lot of bread these days.

4.) Overheard this morning:

Jackson: Ainsley! Why are you hitting me? That is not a good choice!

5.) Overheard yesterday:

Jackson: I opened this car...ALL. BY. MYSELF. I cannot believe I am such a big boy!

6.) I will never, ever discuss the sleeping habits of my youngest child again. You see, she started sleeping through the night about 2 weeks ago. And I didn't say anything because in the past, every time I've mentioned to someone that she slept through the night, that would be the end of it. So I finally decided that after 10 days of sleeping through the night, it would be okay to mention it. So I did and that night, she still slept through the night. She woke up a little earlier than usual, but I was already awake when she woke up, so it was okay. I got cocky. And I mentioned to someone yesterday that she was sleeping through the night and last night she woke up twice. So that's the end of that.

7.) The very reason that video cameras were invented and I didn't get it on tape:

After all the kids went to school yesterday, I was doing some things in the office and Ainsley was playing with her shape-sorting blocks. She stood up and walked to the bottom of the stairs and started calling for Ryan. Which sounds like "Ay-uh," but we know it's Ryan because she points to him and his pictures and that's what she says. So, she calls for Ryan 4 times and it finally becomes apparent to her that he's not going to answer or come down the stairs, so she turns around to face me and with her best scowl, she stomps her foot and says, "Hmpf!"

8.) I got a box in the mail today and Jack and Ainsley were interested in the box itself and the packing peanuts, so I let them play so I could write this post and now my office looks like this:

Friday, September 5, 2008

score another for the mother

The first week and a half of middle school was pretty much horrifying for Ryan. Now, I've been really excited for him to go to this school. I know it will be a challenge for him, but I think it's exactly what he needs. He's never really been pushed, academically speaking, and so I knew he would have some adjustments just going to middle school where he would have more responsibilities and more would be expected of him. And then an IB magnet where even more would be expected of him. And then some long bus rides on top of all that. Yes, I knew there would be some adjustment issues, but I wasn't really prepared for all the gloom and doom.

The bus ride is too long.
I have to carry my books and they are too heavy.
They have a great, big library, but we don't ever go!
I have to change my clothes for gym.
My planner is too big.
Did you know I have to do volunteer work?

Oh, you name it. Every day it was something new...some new reason to dislike this new school. I tried to explain to him that some of these complaints were not a product of this particular school, but middle school in general and that maybe he'd better just give the school a chance. I was sure he would find something to like. And then came Wednesday. When he finally got to go to the library! And he got to check out 3 books! Oh, and there is a book fair next week! Oh, and his volunteer work can be done at the animal shelter!

And then he said, "This is seriously the best school I've ever been to!"

Ah, sweet music.

when i tried to feed her something other than pudding

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

how i spent my summer vacation

I haven't written about our 3 week trip to the Midwest yet because quite frankly, I don't really know how to. I try to be a glass-half-full kind of girl and most of the time I am able to succeed, but this trip? Well, this trip knew how to push all of my buttons. Now, there were parts that were extremely fun and enjoyable. But the parts that were not fun were really, really not fun and I don't have enough distance from it all yet to talk about it and be able to spin it in a positive light. I will say this...other than the obscene amount of time in the car, the overnight hospital stay that turned into 4 overnights, and each of the kids being sick for days at a time (all at different times), it was good to get away for a bit and see our families and have some unseasonably cooler weather. That being said, man, it is so good to be home!!

Click here to see some of our fun adventures! The kids had many other great adventures that I wasn't able to take pictures of...Go carts with Grandma Mary & Grandpa Dennis, the State Fair with Uncle David, the Children's Museum with Grandma, the weekend with Grandpa Rick & Grandma Kay and more. Okay, fine, it was a fun trip. Hopefully by next summer we'll be ready to do it again!!

my new favorite wall in the house

I've been wanting to finish this project for months and months and finally, everything started to fall into place. I had the pictures, we finished painting the office, I found the frames I wanted and they were on sale! So I finally hung them up on Friday and I have spent so much time since then sitting in here. The blue on the walls is peaceful and I just love looking at these pictures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

first day, part 2

Today was Jack's first day of school, and let me tell you how excited he was! He could finally wear his new shoes!! And take his new, orange backpack!! Dad took him this morning and I picked him up and he said he had a good time.

Me: Jack, what was the best part about your day?
Jack: Um, playing!