happy weekend

If you are doing some Easter entertaining this weekend (or not), I read a great tip in this blog post about arranging flowers and tried it. I bought a small bundle of daffodils from Traders Joe's for a $1.29. Then I added a little greenery from bushes in our front yard. I was so happy with the outcome. It looks like a springy, full bouquet.

It was one of those weeks in which nothing was planned, but we have been strangely busy. Lots of hanging out with friends and last minute park trips due to unexpected- but much needed- sunshine. Naps and
sleeping schedules have been all off, and James has been sleeping in some unconventional places...

Also, I was up at four in the morning one day taking pictures of the moon behind some cool cloud formations.

Maybe we will be better scheduled next week. Maybe.

Anyway, have a happy and blessed Easter weekend.


baby shower gift guide

Does everyone else have about sixty five pregnant friends who are all due in the next four months? Well, I do, so I have been thinking about gifts lately. Here is my opinionated opinion of which gifts to give to the Mama-to-be. I hope it is helpful.

Here is my first rule about baby shower gifts: throw out the registry. (Better yet, save a tree and never print it out... Is it just me or do they take up an unnecessary amount of paper?)

I totally understand why people use them, but I don't like them. I went to a shower a couple weeks ago for a friend who is having a boy and already has a girl. I told myself I had to use the registry. After all, the mother knows what she needs much better than I do, duh. So I went to Target, printed out the thing, and then attempted to decode what was on it. I couldn't seem to match the numbers up with any of the actual items on the shelves and, although I am well aware that there are aisle numbers listed, nothing seemed to be where it should have been. I could have called over a "sales associate" (what does that term mean, anyway?) to interpret the encoded labels and numbers, but I knew that would take longer than it was worth and I had both kids with me.
I ended up buying some stuff that seemed similar to what was on the list. But I was not happy with my purchase at all. I wish I had just gone my usual route, which is this: buy something for the mother. I mean, the kid is getting enough anyway. The baby will be fine without one more onsie or pair of socks. The mother, however, really could use a massage. Which brings me to number one on my list:

1. a massage gift certificate. Preferably at some place you know and trust, and not one of those chain places. If you are not sure if the gal likes massages (some completely insane people do not) you can always get a gift card for a spa that also does facials and pedicures.

2. yummy oils or lotions. I am not talking about those generic gift packs found at Ross. I mean the good stuff. I love Burt's Bees Mama Bee line.

3. a night/day/hour out. This is for the gal who is already a mom. She could use a break. Give her the gift of your time via babysitting for a date night, day to herself, or even a couple hours (so she can go get that massage).

4. this book. She could use a good laugh after that baby comes and her emotions go haywire.

If you must get something for the baby, I suggest purchasing something that the mom may not buy, so it still feels like a splurge. Like Burt's Bees Baby Bee line, or Sophie.

As for the gifts that are actually on the registry (you know, the practical ones), I say let the other shower guests worry about those.


coconut encrusted french toast + cowboy hat easter baskets

Today it was supposed to be rainy and nasty. We had no plans, nothing to do, no where to go. But excitement must be made, right?

So we started the day with coconut encrusted french toast. I didn't even google it because I am sure there are a million recipes, but here's how I made ours:
Make the usual mixture of eggs and milk (or buttermilk, which is what I used).  Two eggs and a large sploosh of milk seems to be the right amount for three pieces of bread (I used ciabatta for James' toast and whole wheat for mine... guess whose was way better). Add vanilla, cinnamon, whatever you usually like. Heat your skillet to about medium. Melt some butter over it, then sprinkle it with coconut. Dunk the bread in the egg mixture, then lay it over the coconut. Sprinkle the up-facing side with coconut also. Cook as usual, making sure the egg gets fully cooked and the coconut gets nice and crusty. Serve with a light drizzle of real maple syrup and, if you're like our family, a pile of peanut butter for dipping. Enjoy!

After breakfast I decided I should spice up the day by giving James the Easter basket my mom (his Ya-ya) had left at our house for him. This was not your average Easter basket, however. My mom loves traditions, but can never, ever do them traditionally (she brought a lime-lemon grass rice dish to my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws). So the kid's Easter baskets were in cowboy hats.

 I set up a scavenger hunt for James with little clues all around the house. I was actually surprised how much he enjoyed it, and I think he was almost a little disappointed when it was over.

But he soon was tearing apart the "basket", playing with the toys and eating Easter egg gummies.

Eleanor received one as well with a little music box in it.

As for the day, well, it turned out exciting and sunny. Win-win.

Hats and toys from Finnegans, gummy treats from Trader Joe's


eleanor's style

I know this post is about Eleanor, but I have to begin it with my own confession: I haven't bought her any clothes.

Okay, that's not entirely true. I did buy her some plain white onsies and a couple pairs of pj's (all of which she has already outgrown), and some clothes from a friend of mine (although she doesn't fit in most of those yet). But, for the most part, she has only worn clothes that people have given to me or hand-me-downs that I have received. I hold the same philosophy for her clothing that I do for James and my own: I would rather do a lot of laundry than have a lot of clothes. Especially since she grows out of everything about five minutes after I put her in it.

We have also shopped James' closet a little. The onsie in the picture above was found in James closet, but I don't remember him ever wearing it. (What a coincidence, she is wearing an "I heart NY" onsie and playing with brothers' wooden taxi cab. What are the odds?)

The adorable outfit above was one that I bought from a friend. It is a little big for her, but is so sweet and girly that I will have to take better pictures of her in it when it fits perfectly.

This dress is a hand-me-down. It probably doesn't fit anymore, so I had to document the one time I put her in it. Also, the over-sized bow just kills me.

Light pink cords on those chubby little legs... Does it get any cuter?

The above sweatshirt was Lane's when he was a baby. She wore it to the aquarium because it has a little whale on it (themed clothing: cool or completely nerdy?). I had to pair it with offensively pink leggings because I am trying to avoid at all costs ever hearing "Oh, what a sweet baby! How old is he?"
That was the first and last time she will ever wear the sweatshirt as it barely buttoned over her adorable barrel of a belly.

This sweatshirt also belonged to Lane when he was a baby. I love that it shows off those gorgeous blue eyes. (Can you tell that this is the only photo in this post that I took with my nice camera?)

Last, but certainly not least: Elle rockin' the bandanna bib. These are great because a. they can capture drool regardless of which direction the head is turned b. no dealing with rough velcro c. they are stinkin' cute. I must purchase more of these...

So there you have it. A quick run-through of Eleanor's style. Most days, however, she dresses just like her mom: casual top and comfy leggings.

If you are a mom of a girl: How do you dress your daughter?
If you aren't: How do you think you would dress her?

This time, a year ago: a trip to the art museum and morning glory muffins


happy weekend

This week we had a big delivery: a couch for our living room. Finally.

We have been living here the better part of a year and, up until now, just had a few chairs in our main living space. People would come over and often ask "So... where do you, like, sit?"
The truth is, we just sat on the ground most of the time. It makes the most sense with small children. But now that we have a couch I am starting to convince myself that life was miserable without one (much like the hot tub, actually).

I tried to explain to James ahead of time about the couch and all the space it would take up. He was concerned (and rightfully so) about where we would hold our elaborate dance parties and how would we still play hide-and-go-seek-chase-tag. I assured him we could always go downstairs to do these things, but I think he was a bit dubious.

We spent Monday and Tuesday taking full advantage of our large open space. This picture is of James and his little people who have just flown to India, gotten on a bus, and gone on safari.

They saw all your typical Indian safari animals: tigers, elephants, monkeys, camels. Then they got so tired from all the picture taking and oohing and aahing that they went to Costco for some frozen yogurt. Then they went to the aquarium which, apparently, is right next to India. 

Yes, it was hard to imagine a large sectional taking up most of the room, but once it was delivered it only took about five minutes to remove every cushion and build a huge crash pile and then use the frame of the couch as a jungle gym. (A good thing there is a life time warranty on the structure. We also bought the extended upholstery warranty since our oldest is only two and a half and I love to spill full mugs of coffee.)

James also learned to relax a little on the couch. We have been reading library books up there and one night he read his Little Kid National Geographic while Lane read his Portland Monthly. Pretty dang cute.

I hope to enjoy a little relax time on our couch this weekend.
And I hope you have a relaxing weekend as well.

This time, a year ago: Snow!


the new portland aquarium

Last Thursday James and I met up with our friends Katilin and Paisley at the Portland Aquarium, which is actually in Milwaukie. (Poor picture quality due to bad lighting and small child in the Ergo getting in the way of my arms.)

The aquarium consists of a series of large rooms with tanks set up in the walls and on the ground. You can reach inside the tanks on the ground and touch whatever is swimming around in them or clinging to the sides for dear life, so that's pretty awesome.

Overall it was a great experience, but there are a  few thing I feel I should mention.

First of all, the aquarium is designed so that you enter and exit through the gift shop, which is plentifully stocked with glass figurines, candy, and over-priced toys all at the kids' grabbing level. This was not my favorite thing.

It is certainly geared toward small kids (which was perfect for our little group). I would say James' age (two and a half) to about eight years old would probably be ideal. All the tanks have stone steps around them so that little people can stand up to reach or see in. Also, there is a discovery-zone-ish structure for kids to climb. I didn't get a good look at it as I was attempting to usher James past before he climbed up into it and got stuck.

Aside from the temptations of the gift shop and possibly hazardous play structure, it was really fun. James and Paisley loved looking at all the creatures and reaching their hands into the pools of water. James said that his "bestest" (translation: favorite) were the sting rays. He also really liked the sharks (which sounds exactly like "socks" when he told me, so I had to ask a few times). I knew he liked sting rays, so I bought a "feeding" for he and Paisley to give to the sharks and rays. Let me warn you right now, they will present you with a little plastic cup of cut-up dead fish. Have your hand sanitizer at the ready.

The other nice thing about this aquarium is that it isn't nearly as expensive as the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and it isn't as big, so you can actually see everything with little kids. I probably wouldn't buy a membership unless I already had access (i.e. membership or good friends with memberships) to the Children's Museum, OMSI, and the Zoo. But I would definitely recommend making a trip over there if you are in the Portland area and need a fun activity on a rainy day, which seem to be plentiful lately.

...oh, there is also a large caged-in area that you can enter and let birds land on you. Pretty cool until they start using their beak to climb up you, as they did to James. "Get him off, Mama! I want to go out!"

Also, this is what James did while I wrote this post:


happy weekend

Here's a quick glimpse of last week in pictures:

Grandpa James and Great Grandma Rose came to visit (they are reading "Three Bears of the Pacific Northwest")

"Fim Yessons!"

What studs!

Bubbles on the back deck 

This girl is now awake most of the day... constantly smiling and laughing. I love all her funny little faces

Have a fabulous weekend!

Coming up: my review of the new Portland Aquarium


roasted brussels sprouts and bacon pizza

Saturday night was my first time in our hot tub. Ever.
We moved here in June when my pregnancy was already in full-swing. I had Eleanor in November, and no one has time to go hot-tubing when they have a newborn. Around the first of the year if the opportunity arose I would weighed my options: hot tub or sleep? Guess what won. But my amazing husband said to me Saturday "Why don't you go in the hot tub tonight? I'll hold the baby." (Que music: "What a man, what a man, what a mighty fine man...")
So, I waited until James was asleep and the baby was fed and it was dark enough that no neighbor would catch a glimpse of me in my bikini, and I did it.
It was indescribably blissful. The stars were out. Frogs croaking all around (Have I mentioned the frogs around here yet? Loud!). It was so incredibly peaceful.

Rewind to about eleven months ago. I was so annoyed that this house had a hot tub. It was a waste of water, of energy, of money, of time. I suggested that the sellers take it with them. They didn't. I suggested we drain it and fill it with cold water for a kids' pool in the summer and then leave it empty in the winter. We didn't. I complained every time Lane went out to check the tub and balance the ba-jillion chemicals. I rolled my eyes each time we got a package in the mail containing said chemicals. I was not happy about the tub.
Guess what I was thinking Saturday night? "Why haven't we always had a hot tub? Why am I not in the hot tub every night? Why can't I live in a hot tub?"

I wish I were the hot-tub loving type of person from the beginning. Why can't I just appreciate luxury and comfort and enjoyment for enjoyments' sake? (Yes, I recognize the irony of this statement when considering the title of my blog.) I am agenda -driven. Everything has to serve a functional purpose in my opinion, or its not worth the energy, the time, the money.
I wish I could be less practical. More okay with the hot tub, the expensive exotic ingredient, the cute dress that I have no current occasion for, the seven thirty dinner time because I started the dish too late but just had to have it.
Maybe this should be my late New Year's resolution. I'll start with loving the hot tub. And the seven thirty dinner time... because I had to have this pizza.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza
warning: not a very amount-specific recipe

1/2 lb brussels sprouts, cut into fourths lengthwise
olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1/2 sweet onion, cut up length-wise into
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
5 cloves garlic, minced or pushed through a garlic press
5 slices bacon
1 1/2 lb pizza dough
shredded mozzarella
shredded parmesan

Toss sprouts in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast brussels sprouts at 425 for about 12 minutes (until just beginning to brown).

Carmalize onions. Heat a couple tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and brown sugar if you want a little added sweetness. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook about a half hour, until translucent. Remove onions and set aside. Without wiping pan, cook bacon until crispy. Cool and crumble it.

Roll out dough. Combine garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Spread evenly all over the dough. Sprinkle with a good amount of mozzarella. Spread sprouts, onions, and crumbled bacon over the pizza and top with parmesan.

Bake 12-15 minutes at 425, or until crust is done in the middle and cheese is beginning to brown in some spots. Serve hot. Enjoy.

Serving suggestion: crisp salad with balsamic vinaigrette

(This photo taken by Lane.)

This time, a year ago. Still makes me laugh that I wrote that silly post.
PS Thank you for all your sweet comments about my being back in action.


house tour: James' room

We begin the official house tour with a post of the little man's room (pictured here in his "monsta" feetsie jammies).

We painted his room a bright sky blue (pictures don't do it justice), to help balance the bright red accents. His big boy bed and colorful animal print bedding are from Ikea. Next to his bed is a large basket stuffed to the brim with stuffed animals and puppets. On the wall above is an original painting by our good friend, Mallory, given to James long before he was even born.

On the other side of the room is his Ikea book shelf filled with books (duh), toys, puzzels, and musical instruments. On top of the shelves are his Ikea moon light and three woolly animals. The elephant and giraffe were made in the Himalayas and the zebra was made by a small Mexican woman in Yelapa.
Hanging above on the wall is a picture of James with his first birthday cupcake and notes from all the family members who were at the party.

His rocking chair might be my favorite thing in his room. I bought it for five dollars at a church rummage sale. It's kind of falling apart, but it adds a little vintage-y touch to the room.

The window seat cushion and the curtains were made by my mom. Unfortunately, Sadie is under the illusion we put the window seat there as her guard post station. She lays there about fifteen hours of the day and growls at threatening things in the street, like squirrels and leaves. Thus it is almost always covered in her fur. We kick her out on garbage pick-up days when James and I eat breakfast up there so we can watch the trucks go by. Ah, the life of a toddler.

Coming soon: my first recipe since this one... and a little Eleanor style.


happy weekend

I wish I was technologically savvy enough to have "Here Comes the Sun" play as you open this post. But since I'm not, just hum it to yourself as you view this picture of Elle basking in the sun light: 

I hope you Northwesterners enjoy this gorgeous weather...

...and break out your "sunnies"