WIR: July 22-July28, 2019

Monday, July 22

I made it to the gym this morning for a cycling class and absolutely crushed it!! It’s amazing what a shift in hormones and little sleep can do! Gabriella has been doing better about sleeping at night, but I still need to work on going to sleep earlier.

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These are the padded cycling pants I use!

To be frank, I really didn’t get much done around the house today. I washed a few loads of laundry, hung them on the line to dry, folded them as I took them off the line, and put everything away. Other than that I was rather lazy (other than the 20 million little things that must be done for the children every day) and loafed around on YouTube for a substantial portion of the day.

We had sockeye salmon, mashed potatoes, and mixed-greens salad for dinner. We also tried some frozen sushi from Aldi! When I saw it at the store, I was convinced it must be awful, but I was so impressed by the sheer audacity of carrying such an item that I decided to give both options a try. They turned out really nice!!

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Gabriella is exploring the frozen packages.
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“Why do they feel like this????”

Tuesday, July 23

It’s been a really long time since I did a “Tea Party Tuesday” post on Instagram… it’s been a while since I did a tea party at all…. today is the day that’s getting fixed! I made a chocolate cake using my oldest, and most favorite recipe that just so happens to be vegan! It is from The Joy of Vegan Baking, and I have mentioned it many, many times on my Instagram. The icing was a regular non-vegan buttercream that I tinted pink, and sprinkled with nonpariels. I used the baking strips that I mentioned in my “perfect layers” post.

“The sandwiches look nice, but when can we have the CAKE??”
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Good times with good friends.
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Eating my sandwich, but eyeing that cake reeeeally hard.

Wednesday, July 24

This morning started well enough when I did get myself out of bed to go to the gym!! Things took a turn when no instructor showed up. I considered working out on my own, but I really don’t feel confident with the equipment or working out in general without someone there telling me what to do and keeping an eye on my form, and my bed was still so warm and soft and cozy… with my husband still sleeping all cuddly-like… so I decided to go home and snuggle back up and fall back asleep.

We made homemade chicken tenders for dinner! It’s a recipe I’ve been toying with for a couple weeks, and I find it rather plain and uninteresting, but it is a total smash-hit with the kids and husband so…. I guess I will keep making it..?

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My sweet little “helper”… really not helpful.

Thursday, July 25

Gabriella has an annoying habit of triumphantly stripping off every stitch of clothing, including her diaper, and hurling all articles as far away as she can.

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…….. why?

We received this playpen as a gift from relatives before she was born, and we have used and abused this thing and it’s still going strong!!

We went to the pool around noon, and brought a small picnic lunch that the girls thoroughly enjoyed: leftover homemade chicken fingers (with ketchup for dipping), chocolate pudding cups, and some Annie’s gummies.

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Not at all a flattering photo of me, but I refuse to catfish you. (You can see Gabi is enjoying the chicken!)

Friday, July 26

I’m writing this on Saturday evening, and for the life of me I can’t remember what we did on Friday…….. I vacuumed the house..?

Saturday, July 27

Today we took the girls to a local American Girl Doll club activity, and went grocery/miscellaneous shopping at Aldi and Walmart. Hubby suggested we visit the beach tomorrow, so we started preparations for that!

Sunday, July 28

We went to the beach at First Landing State Park and had an incredible time. It’s always exhausting doing this sort of things with little kids, but it was really good bonding and fun time for all of us. I’m wearing the bathing suit I mentioned in a previous blog post which is unfortunately sold out in this color but does come is several other colors, and my “Mama Bear” hat is from Amazon.

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I managed to get her to take a 30 minute nap in my arms!
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Surveying the scene with Daddy
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Gabriella wants to hog the binoculars, and she can’t even use them right!
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Endless D-R-A-M-A with this family, lol!

Kid-Approved Homemade Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders (and chicken fingers, and chicken nuggets) are ubiquitous on the plates of most American children… and the same could be said for many adults! Many rely on the convenience of fast food restaurants and frozen packages from the grocery store. There is no denying the convenience of those options, but if you have a little more time to spare, why not give these a try? They are simple, not overpowering for a young palate, and don’t use many ingredients. If you are able to eat peanuts, I strongly recommend peanut oil for superior taste and frying, but feel free to use whatever frying oil works best for you.

I have not added very specific quantities for this recipe because it varies so much from batch to batch, and personal taste. I have estimated as best as I can, but this can serve as a great base for your own experimentation. I was inspired to use self-rising flour for frying after trying some Lenten recipes from The Festive Fast, by Marigoula Kokkinou and Georgia Kofinas. I enjoyed several recipes from this book and highly recommend it!

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  • Chicken breasts, sliced no more than 1 inch thick (I used three large breasts in this photo)
  • garlic salt (or plain salt or seasoning of choice)
  • self-rising flour (several cups, but it’s hard to measure exactly so have plenty extra!)
  • water
  • peanut oil, to fry (enough to be at least 2 inches deep in your pot)

Lay out the sliced chicken in a single layer, and sprinkle liberally with garlic salt on all sides. Allow chicken to sit for about 30 minutes while the salt absorbs.

Pour frying oil into your pot and begin heating over medium high. It is very convenient to have a candy thermometer for this, especially if you are unfamiliar with how hot the oil should be. We are aiming for about 350-375°F (I believe that’s about 175°C).

Make a runny batter of about 1 cup of self-rising flour to 2 cups of water, whisked thoroughly to remove lumps.

Pour a cup or two of self-rising flour onto a large plate or bowl for dredging the chicken. You may choose to add additional seasonings here, but I refrain in order to keep the salt content down, and the flavor mild… it’s for my kids after all.

You will likely need to fry the chicken in batches, so take the first batch of sliced chicken and gently press it into the dredging flour, and leave it for a minute or so to let the flour absorb excess moisture. Lift the slices and gently shake or tap off excess flour, then quickly dunk into the batter. Lift the slices up and hold them over the bowl for a moment so excess batter can drip off, then return to the dredging plate and turn the slices gently once or twice to absorb moisture.

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Returning the chicken to the dredging plate after a quick dunk into the batter.

When the oil has reached the right temperature, gently place the slices in, being careful not to overcrowd. They should sizzle and bubble immediately. Fry until golden brown, turning gently once or twice, this should take only a few minutes if you sliced them thinly.

Remove them from the oil with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place on a rack (or plate with paper towels) to drain.

Repeat this process until all the slices are cooked.

We enjoy ours with plain old ketchup, but you can go as gourmet as you want and try just about any sauce you can think of! This recipe is almost absurdly simple, and I wouldn’t have thought to share it if it wasn’t for the fact that my children (and husband) become absolutely ecstatic when they find I am making this for dinner. Sometimes, simple is best!

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Sometimes, it really doesn’t take much to please a hungry family!

 

 

WIR: July 15-July 21

Monday, July 15

It feels weird starting this little routine up again after abandoning it for several weeks. Gabriella has fallen back into a mildly annoying routine of multiple brief wakings during the night, which (combined with my habit of going to bed at midnight… or later) is making it hard for me to rationalize waking up at 4:40 in the morning to drag myself to the gym. I really want to prioritize fitness, especially as I continue to age.. but before I can prioritize fitness, I have to be getting enough sleep. I’m going to try to get myself to bed earlier so that, even if she continues this frustrating habit, I will still get an acceptable amount of rest each night. Not great, but acceptable. We are setting the bar as low as possible without making it dangerous for me to operate heavy machinery. It’s hard because this is my only “adult time”…. I don’t socialize basically ever, we don’t use a babysitter or relatives to watch the kids… this is my only time to just hang out with my husband. And since we had kids almost immediately, I really value what little alone time we manage to wring out of our schedule.

Tonight we had pork chops for dinner. The meat is from either Cypress Grove Farm or Windhaven Farm, I can’t remember which. It is super fatty and I adore it. I used the leftover rendered pork fat in the skillet to saute some asparagus. After removing the asparagus, I sprinkled some Trader Joes garlic salt over the veg. I need to type up my pork chop recipe. It’s super easy, and we rely on it almost once a week.

sauteeing the asparagus

glistening with fat

We split the chops up between the five of us. I nobly forgo most of the meat, as long as I get a bone to gnaw on (*hint* the little bit of meat closest to the bones is literally the best ever). I also made a basic lettuce salad with my homemade dressing, sort of Greek/Italian.

Tuesday, July 16

Last night, my husband talked me into turning off my alarm and skipping the gym this morning. Neither of us have slept well for days (weeks… years?), and even though I did get to bed a little earlier last night, it was still pushing midnight. I’m frustrated about my selfish little routines very frequently getting shelved, but sleep does come first, and I’m glad I stayed home to catch up on Z’s. All the kids slept well last night.. other than the older two gabbing secretly in bed until 10:30, until I caught them and gave them a scolding… and they all woke up a full hour earlier than usual.

We did at least do some homeschool lessons. Our “school” is leisurely in session year-round, so that we can take breaks when we actually want/need them. Right now we are going through their Brain Quest activity books and making sure they are both totally complete before the school really revs up in the fall. Sophia’s book is for the Second Grade and has only nine more pages to go… today we finished out the multiplication section, and tomorrow we will move on to the introduction to division, and then I think she has a couple money activities. Barring some catastrophe, she will likely be finished with her book by the end of the week. Adriana’s Kindergarten book has more pages to catch up on, all related to phonics, and some writing and sight words. All the other subjects in her book are completed. She doesn’t work very well under pressure, so I push her less and give her more time to complete things. I’ve noticed she’s been getting a little more thick-skinned lately, though, and I think she will start advancing a little quicker once I can start drilling her a little harder without risking an emotional collapse. She has been hungering to really read on her own, so I think she’s finally motivated to tough it out during lesson-time to achieve her goal. As usual, I simply meet them where they are.

I was really hoping to pick up my old teenage routine of tanning in the back yard during Gabriella’s nap, but it started thundering right after I put her down… it is back to bright sun, so maybe I will stop typing here and head on out (with the baby monitor close by). I hope I don’t seem juvenile, but I can’t help turning back the clock a little in summer. I took advantage of post-Independence Day swimsuit price reductions and got a couple new one-pieces from American Eagle (this one for $19.98 and this one for $29.97… though I see that as of this writing, it is now $19.98!! I got both in Small Long), and I can’t wait to prance around in them. I also ordered some bikinis on insane discount from Abercrombie & Fitch, but I won’t write about them until they arrive and I’ve had a chance to try them on.

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I correctly assumed my husband would appreciate the tie feature at the bosom of the suit on the right…. as does the toddler.
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They are both snug-but-wearable, especially in the privacy of my backyard. I can’t wait to hopefully debut them soon at the local watering-hole!!

As far as housework, I haven’t done much. I washed the couch slipcover and hung it on the line to dry, but haven’t put it back on the couch yet. Sames goes for the girls’ bed sheets. I also did LOTS of weeding throughout the garden. It was blazing hot and I was dripping sweat within minutes, but something about pulling weeds is addictive.

For dinner I will be making my homemade meatballs and spaghetti. We have a lot of kale that needs to be used up, so I think I might might a kale salad to accompany the meal… there is some summer squash and zucchini that needs to be used up, so I might slice and grill those (perhaps along with some firm tofu) and eat that in lieu of pasta. I’m not trying to suggest that I have given up on pasta!!! But I think today I will abstain. I’m on a nice weight-loss streak this week, and want to gently keep it going. My goal/hope is to lose 10 pounds by August 17. If I keep on the trajectory, I will be just fine. Telling myself “it’s only a month” makes it seem more achievable. Realistically, I will probably keep going beyond that, but if I do make my August goal, then maybe I will take a break and plateau for a bit.

*Update* I did not end up going tanning, opting instead to finish this entry, enjoy an afternoon cup of coffee, and then start on dinner.

Wednesday, July 17

I woke up before my alarm (before my 4:40am alarm, how miserable is that?) from my husband’s snoring. I got myself to bed by 11pm, but had a hard time falling asleep so “early” so I ultimately didn’t get much more sleep than usual. I might have fallen back asleep if it hadn’t been for his snoring… I figured I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep with all that racket anyway, so might as well roll on out to the gym.

As soon as the class started, it was obvious I wasn’t myself. My period is expected in a few days, so I assume this must have been due to a PMS shift in hormones… #testosteronehasleftthechat

I was a wobbly, weak, emotional mess and could barely pedal with even a light resistance on the bike. I DID stay on the bike and pushed myself for the full hour, and by the end of the class I’d managed to find a small amount of my usual pep. It was nice to get that endorphin boost during a generally crummy time of the month. Hubby will be out of town for the next couple days, so I won’t be going to the gym, so this morning’s session was especially valuable to me.

Within the next couple weeks, I would really like to start getting back into weight-training. I used to do basic weights LOOONG ago, before marriage and kids, but I’ve forgotten everything, and the machines in this brave new modern era are different than the implements of torture to which I was accustomed back in the Dark Ages when I was young. It would be nice to set up an appointment with a personal trainer, at least for a few sessions to get me on track, but they cost money and not likely to want to meet me at 5am. If you have any suggestions or tips on getting back into all this, I’d love a comment here or on Instagram.

The weather is sunny and bright, and I think us girls are going to head to the pool this morning!

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The big girls are both in Ambercrombie & Fitch bathing suits that I recently purchased on sale. (Gabriella isn’t in her swimsuit yet)

After the pool, Gabi took a great nap and I cancelled all my duties and laid out in the sun in the back yard and worked on my tan. My leg tan…. I kept the rest of my body and face covered… I really felt beachy and committed to doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day, but the Mom and Homemaker in me couldn’t let that slide, and by the end of the day I did end up vacuuming downstairs, and scrubbing the downstairs bathroom. We had homemade chicken fingers for dinner and they were a raging success! I’ve been toying with recipes and it seems that today was the day I got it right! Too bad I never write down my experiments… hopefully I can replicate it, and get it typed up here to share with you.

Thursday, July 18

Today we are going to go in-person to deliver Sophia’s test results to the local school board to fulfill our requirements for homeschooling in our state. We also delivered our “Intent to Homeschool” forms for the two older girls for the upcoming academic year! I will have a First Grader and and Second Grader. It’s exciting and terrifying, and the weight of this responsibility is impossible to forget.

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My OOTD to deliver homeschool paperwork.

I wore a brown dress by The Limited that I purchsed second-hand through Clothes Mentor. Last time I posted this dress on social media, it was too tight to actually wear around, and now it’s starting to gape! Especially on the upper part of my body.

I wore my Sam Edelman “Gigi” sandals and carried my Michael Kors “Jet Set” bag (as usual).

Friday, July 19

I had a bunch of housework planned for today, but we went to the pool instead and had a great time. We are all getting brown really fast. For as pale as I am, I thankfully don’t burn easily, and it seems the girls enjoy this attribute as well. I purchased my bathing suit on Amazon (size Medium) but the company that makes it does have their own website that might be worth checking out! It came in a few colors and some floral designs as well.

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Saturday, July 20

Hubby’s parents have a BJ’s membership and recently added us to their account, so today we drove over to the Chesapeake location to check it out. We used to have a Costco membership and really loved it, but cancelled it when we moved too far away to make visiting practical. BJ’s seemed very similar and we found lots of products that we like, although the diapers weren’t quite as economical as our current options (Amazon “Mama Bear” diapers and Aldi “Little Journey” diapers), so we probably won’t purchase diapers from there. They were still well-priced and we may purchase from them if we are already there and very short on diapers. Out of the brands they carry, we prefer Pampers, and I believe the price averaged out to 27¢ per diaper, size 5.

This reminds me! I posted a while ago about our downstairs bathroom, and featured a diaper pail for our cloth diapers. So why are we purchasing disposable diapers at all, you ask? We have always used a mix… disposables for naps, night and travel. Cloth for regular at-home time. We recently ditched the cloth diapers though, because the elastic wore out of the G-Diaper pouches, and we weren’t sure we wanted to bother repurchasing if this is our “last child” and she’s close to potty training anyway.

“Last child”. Yea right. Second-Born was “definitely our last child” as well, yet here we are.

Maybe I should just order new G-Diaper pouches and stop lying to myself.

While we were already at BJ’s I visited the local branch of Plato’s Closet to see their selection. I’ve been to other locations that are dripping with second-hand clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle (my preferred casual brands), but this location had almost none, although I dug around for quite a while. Oh well, at least now I know!

We completed our weekly shopping at Aldi.

Sunday, July 21

The girls and I attended church last week, but unfortunately will not be attending today due to a combination of sheer physical distance, and my husband’s overall disapproval of Orthodoxy. I consistently try to toe a respectful line between my own religious beliefs and his, especially with regards to the children. It’s an unpleasant challenge, but it is what it is. I will do the usual Bible study and prayers on my own at home.

Other than that, I plan on making pulled pork in the Instant Pot for dinner, along with homemade dinner rolls to use as buns. I have a mountain of ironing that I need to tackle…. and who knows, maybe I will sit down at my sewing table for five minutes.

Or maybe I will put off working on my dress for another 5 weeks.

Probably the latter.

WIR: May 27-June 2, 2019

Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

We enjoyed a leisurely morning (as leisurely as can be had with three young children, one of them a toddler) at home, and at noon went to Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery. I always have mixed feelings when honoring veterans… I am grateful that many have volunteered to risk their lives in the hope that they are protecting loved ones, and serving their communities. I am grateful to those who did not volunteer, those who were drafted. I am very grateful to those who willingly ran towards danger in foreign lands, only to face abuse and discrimination upon returning home. I am also angered that their service is needed at all. I feel angry because I do not believe all wars are just, and many people suffer greatly…. only to have the same problems and tragedies repeated again and again.

Remembering veterans always pushes me in my developing understanding of Christian pacifism. Is war ever ok? Is it ever justified? If one is truly pacifist, and knowingly endanger others by refusing to take up arms… is it really pacifism? I don’t have answers, and almost certainly never will in this lifetime. But Memorial Day always makes me pause, and question. I even grieve, even though nobody in my family has fallen on a battlefield. I really hope the warriors…. all warriors, both friend and foe, lived and died for truly worthy causes.

I also remember the nameless civilians that are inevitably harmed and traumatized by war. The children that have grown in horrific wartime conditions… and struggled to survive when the war was over, but life was still far from normal. I am grateful that my children live in a peaceful place, and that my country is generally at peace… but I am forced to remember the many people that are suffering even as I type. How our lives are so different, and yet we are fundamentally such similar beings. The unfairness of it all angers me. Will it ever stop? Will another war make it stop? Is pacifism just a form of burying one’s head in the sand…. a form of willful ignorance, maybe even cowardice?

My own impotence angers me.

But I can’t be angry too long, because:

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Tuesday, May 28

Just finished my fixed hair post (the follow up to my messed up hair post), and now I need to spend the rest of the day prepping for some friends who are coming over for dinner tomorrow!! It’s a family of seven, I believe… my husband used to work with the patriarch of the crew.

I’m tentatively planning on making fresh hummus with fresh cut veggies to dip (I should really get my recipe posted on here), baked mac-and-cheese (also need to type that up), and Paula Deen’s peach cobbler, dinner rolls, and lemon meringue pie (but using my own tender pie crust recipe). I also might make a salad, but I’m not sure. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all! Hubby will be grilling steaks and doing boring manly stuff. Who knows. I will track the interesting things here. Things that do not include his boring-manly-grilling-stuff.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to dabble with YouTube but so far haven’t come up with a style that really feels authentic to me. I am really inspired by the filming styles of congcongh, sueddu, Liziqi, and might toy with something in their genre… so I’ve dusted off the camera and am gathering some footage relating to this dinner… we will see how it turns out. I have so much to learn, it is dizzying. And EVERYTHING is made harder with a toddler in tow, especially one as forceful as Gabriella is turning out to be! Whew!!

Add to that a literal mountain of ironing I need to deal with, and vacuuming the house (at least I got the upstairs and steps done this morning), general cleaning, and….. ::cough:: learning how to make bound buttonholes so I can make some progress on my current sewing project (you can track it on @the.seamy.side.of.life).

Wednesday, May 29

Yesterday, I made dinner rolls, most of the lemon meringue pie (the crust, and lemon filling), and hummus. I got tons of footage for the possible YouTube video!! It’s stressful learning a new skill, especially when I’m already under pressure getting things ready for an event. I know most people hardly consider friends coming over for dinner as an event, but Hubby and I are very excited and we love going all-out as much as we are able.

Speaking of Hubby and “Boring Manly-Stuff”, he grilled all sorts of things… pork, a couple different cuts of steak, chicken wrapped in bacon, and some sort of sausage or kielbasa. I don’t know. If it doesn’t have sugar and/or cheese (or bread) I honestly couldn’t care less.

Today I made baked macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, and whipped the egg whites to top the pie. I think I need to add more cornstarch to the recipe… I’ve made this pie twice, and both times it didn’t set very firmly. It tastes amazing, though!!

I did a marvelous job of filming… until the guests arrived! Maybe this means I’m not meant for social media stardom, but I couldn’t help but turn the camera off. I want to live my life and interact with my guests! I had every intention of stealthily filming a clip or two of the finished dishes and some of the fun the kids were having, but as soon as everyone got to chatting, I put filming out of my mind. I’m a little frustrated that, since I didn’t film any sort of ending, all of my party-prep footage is now useless. Maybe I shouldn’t say “useless”…. it’s true I probably won’t be uploading a completed video this time, but I have to admit I did learn a lot about the best places to put the camera, which angles I prefer, etc.

I did snap a quick pic of the completed peach cobbler and lemon meringue pie right before I started serving them…

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I made the meringue while the guests were present, and I think all the kids were amused when I solemnly ordered them into the kitchen….. only to had them a spoonful of “cloud” to eat. I think I caught them by surprise, and it was a nice ice-breaker. We then torched the pie, and that was also a crowd-pleaser. Sugar and fire have a way of bonding people.

There ended up not being a lot of leftovers… at least not the dishes I made. My husband basically grilled an entire farm so we do have a lot of meat leftover. I’m honestly considering storing some of it in the freezer, because there isn’t any way we can eat it all in the next few days.

Thursday, May 30

Doing NOTHING feels so good right now. This won’t last long, as I really do need to finish cleaning up from yesterday, and just housework in general. But I don’t have a hard deadline looming over me at the moment, and it feels good to work at a leisurely pace. I don’t even have a deadline for lunch or dinner, since we will be having leftovers! I will need to get back to my brisk routine tomorrow, since life with kids in the house is always busy, and we have a few exciting things coming up….. Adriana’s party, for one thing, and a possible trip to Busch Gardens.

And also a surprise guest that only Hubby and I know is coming……. 😉

The rest of my day will be spent cleaning, ironing, and I would like to wash my bedsheets. Having fresh sheets is a luxury I’m obsessed with, and I like having them freshly cleaned every three or four days. Ideally, I would have fresh sheets every day, but the water bill would be insane. The weather is bright and sunny today, which means I will also get to dry them on the line! The scent of sun-dried sheets is unbeatable. I always sleep better after putting freshly sun-dried sheets on my bed.

Sunday, June 2

I’ve taken another *surprise* social media break. I burn out way too easily… I think my frustration about the YouTube attempt mentioned earlier really got to me more than I expected it would. I just feel like all my attempts at building anything are futile. My daily life is so stuffed with laundry, SO MANY MEALS, diapers, baths, dusting, vacuuming, homeschooling… tantrums from the toddler and bajillions of questions from the older ones. I already have so much to do, why do I add other projects to it? Dreams and “goals” seem pretty pointless when I have no time to put into achieving them. To be honest, I’ve been also feeling like my dreams and goals are pretty stupid to begin with. But I won’t bore you with my moaning any more.

We just got back from grocery shopping. Our cart was full of mostly baking ingredients. I’ve probably bit off more than I can chew…. AGAIN.

Adriana has actually not picked a birthday cake! But she selected from my cookbooks many recipes of foods that look like something fairies might eat. Lemon pound cake, blueberry pie, rugelach (she said they look like woodland logs!), cookies in the shape of leaves, a cream tart with slices of poached apples arranged to look like roses, a plum galette… I can’t remember it all! But I am excited to try, as it all sounds delicious.

We will also have a visit from Teeny Tiny Farm!!! They came to her party a couple years ago and were a big hit. This year we are getting the simple Pony and Friends Package, and I have been informed that they do have a unicorn horn that the pony can wear so that it resembles the unicorn from the movie we are drawing inspiration from.

We will have a special, surprise house guest at the party….. but unfortunately we might not have many (or any) kids… we’ve had friends move away, and we live rather far away from most of our old friends anyway, and I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured to trek out to our house at 6pm. We do have a neighborhood family that we enjoy playing with, and I will invite them, but with the understanding that the timing might not be great for them either.

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing… maybe the best thing a middle child can have for her birthday is attention from family, and a party and pony that she doesn’t have to share….. Queen [Titania] for a day, indeed….

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She wants a swig of homemade Indian chai leftover from a big sister. It’s never to early too learn how to use good china!

 

Got My Hair Fixed

Shortly after my attempt at cutting my own hair resulted in failure, I called Blonde Salon, hoping they could fit me into the schedule ASAP. Thankfully, Jennifer was available just a couple days later, so I marked my calendar and impatiently waited.

After settling for basic “mom hair” for last few years, I decided that – if I’m going to pay for a haircut –  I might as well go for something with a little more pizzazz. Maybe something that included bangs… I had bangs when my husband and I met and were dating, and I look pretty good with them. However, I do have multiple cowlicks on my hairline, which make styling them really tricky. Since my DIY haircut resulted in very harsh shorter layers, the inclusion of bangs would also soften the layers.

I’ve followed @_alena_alena_ for while on Instagram and have always admired her coiffed, yet touchable mane. Somehow she manages to keep a style that is both polished and elegant, and also a bit relaxed and approachable. So before my salon visit, I trolled through her page and saved some photos to show my stylist.

Her hair is always curled….. mine is “aggressively straight” aside from the ringlets along my hairline. Oh well, I will at least do my best.

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Nervous, but ready! I made this skirt, by the way!!
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It seems a client brought a chicken in? Only in Suffolk! 😀
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It’s a “Silkie” breed.
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The big reveal!!
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The REAL question is whether or not I will be able to make the style look nice on my own, at home!
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peek-a-boo…

Verdict: I liked the pampering, and the result. I think when I go for a bang trim I will ask them to take them up a bit shorter, and see how they work on my face.

WIR: May 20-26, 2019

To be honest, I don’t really know what this post is about. I thought I experienced an epiphany, but now that I’ve started typing, I feel a little foolish. My idea was to start… journaling, I guess? Journaling publicly online? I guess that’s what blogging really is, right? So far, I have only ever posted about specific topics on this website (recipes mostly), but maybe I’m missing something. I don’t read any blogs, so I haven’t a clue how they are supposed to work…???

“WIR” is my abbreviation for “Week in Review”. Not a creative title, but that’s what I’m giving you. I have about 700 subscribers on Instagram… it isn’t a lot by most people’s standards, and the number has grown very slowly over the years. This is all perfectly fine with me, as I don’t consider myself a “real blogger”.. just a constantly frazzled wife and mother who likes all things fancy and decadent, but can’t afford it. I’m just fiddling around and having a bit of creative me-time and bonding time with like-minded people online.

Despite my humble online presence, I seem to receive a lot of positive feedback and camaraderie, so… this series (if that’s what it becomes) is for you! For those of you that enjoy my little Instagram posts, and may enjoy a bit more “meat” to it.

Sunday, May 19

Thought of many profound insights to share. My memory was immediately wiped clean as I sat down at the keyboard. C’est la vie.

Monday, May 20

Mostly spent the day trying to catch up on housework after a busy weekend… the usual Monday routine. I also researched some local traveling petting zoos. We are hoping to schedule one to come to Second-Born’s… actually, believe it or not she DOES have a real name…. let’s start that again: Adriana’s birthday. There probably won’t be a lot of people there, unfortunately, but hopefully she can at least have a pony to ride! We’ve had friends move away, and we live in a rather out-of-the-way area ourselves, any many of our friends and relations simply struggle to make the trip for this sort of thing. We do have some neighborhood friends that I hope will make it, but since I am admittedly pulling this together pretty last minute, I’m not holding my breath on their attendance. Adriana has fallen in love with the 1935 film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yes, you read that entire sentence correctly. So far I have a wig and silver dress for her to vaguely resemble Queen Titania and her fairy attendants (see below).

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It would probably be best if I reserve the bulk of my party-specific info for a separate post, just to keep things organized.

While I did manage to get the blog post up about Sophia’s Easter dress, I still need to type up one for Adriana’s.

Tuesday, May 21

Adriana and I made her favorite blueberry waffles this morning, and tried to do a cute little photoshoot. My photography skills are still abysmal, so the whole experience really only produced a tasty breakfast that First-Born (aka Sophia) inexplicably snubbed, and fodder for my middle child’s already robust ego. We used the recipe from “American Girl: Breakfast and Brunch” and it really is tasty.

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We like both American Girl AND Williams-Sonoma, so this is an excellent combination.
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I use Command Hooks to keep measuring spoons always in easy reach.

Adriana decked herself out in her Williams-Sonoma apron (logical) and an ill-fitting and unnecessary chef’s toque (illogical), also from Williams-Sonoma.

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Oops… should have thought this through a little better.

I hand-whipped some cream to dollop on top, but didn’t account for the heat emanating from the fresh waffles. As we tried to rush through some fancy “Instagrammy” food shots, the whipped cream melted and our plate was left looking more sloppy than elegant. It tasted marvelous nonetheless. Thanks to Sophia’s snobbery, the rest of us enjoyed extra portions.

While the recipe states frozen berries may be used, I personally recommend using fresh. We used frozen blueberries in the past, and the melted juices tinted the whole batter a rather sickly purplish-grey. I think that’s why Sophia was repulsed when she discovered what was on the menu. Fresh berries hold up better in the batter (yes I did that on purpose), and I think they come out looking nicer.

I’ve also filmed a YouTube video about my new Hobonichi Techo Cousin planner. It is currently uploading…. almost 3 hours for a 10 minute video? Is this normal??

Third-Born (known by the family as Gabriella) has barely slept for the past week. I think she had several large back teeth coming in all the same time!! It seems all our suffering has come to an end today, thank GOD!!!!! Her nap started a little before 12:30 and it is now 3:55 and she is still asleep! Poor thing. Hopefully the worst of that drama is finally behind us.

Wednesday, May 22

I cut my hair!!

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I used the “unicorn method”. This was my first time EVER cutting my own hair. At least not since some surreptitious snipping back in grade school…

The rest of my experience is posted here, under the “Beauty” tab, because this was such an ordeal that it does require its own post.

Thursday, May 23

Other than typing this entry, I chilled-out with social media today. I feel like I burn out very easily when it comes to social interaction, and it seems to include social media. Why am I like this? It’s a significant handicap considering I rely on other humans for my own survival, and I even want to socialize sometimes… it just kind of kills me a little inside if I do it for too long. I’ve always been like this. I was the kid that went alone to her bedroom during her own birthday parties. Ugh. Since I can’t think of a solution, I guess all I can do is keep trucking along as best as I can.

The girls did well with homeschooling today, although our lessons have been pared-down to the bare necessities since Gabriella has entered the Terrible Twos (which really started when she turned 1). Adriana is still to young to be required to undergo standardized testing to comply with our state regulations, but Sophia is gearing up to take the CAT6 through Seton Testing Services and if any of my readers have any insight they would like to share on this subject, I would appreciate the input!

I’m going to give the two oldest fresh pedicures, and I want to do my own mani/pedi tonight, but we will see how that goes. It all really depends on Gabriella… I can hardly give my nails time to dry if I am obliged to attend a screaming toddler throughout the evening. But as I mentioned on Tuesday, she seems to be over the miserable sleeping rut she was in for a few weeks.

How could I forget my most exciting news? I have a professional salon appointment set for tomorrow morning at Blonde Salon, to fix the embarrassing cut I gave myself yesterday!!! I’m really thinking about adding long, swept-away bangs….. hmm… this may also be better as a separate post.

Friday, May 24

The haircut turned out fantastic! Jennifer did a great job, and if you are in the area, I recommend her! I will save the rest of the haircut info for a separate post… you’re probably picking up on my love of compartmentalization and organization…

The most exciting event of the day, nay… MONTH… was when I looked out the window and discovered our neighbor had cut down a large tree! My first thought was for the lovely fragments of trunk that were already cut into the perfect height for chairs or tables for Adriana’s fairy party! What could be more whimsical and appropriate for our Midsummer Night’s Dream fête that real logs and stumps strewn about the garden for seating etc… with English ivy still clinging to the bark? Nevermind the fact that the sap is still flowing from the freshly cut wood, and guests may find themselves stuck to their seat at the end of the evening…

I was thrilled about the logs, and then he approached me with a nest he had found in the tree, still with two teeny blue robin’s eggs. He asked if we had any interest in them, otherwise he’d leave them out for the animals. I said the girls would love to give interspecies maternal instincts some exercise (let’s be honest, so would I), so we took them. The girls were full of high hopes, and of course I was too, but after rotating around the sun more that 30 times, I had a realistic expectation that this probably would not result in healthy adult birds. It would be a miracle if they even hatched. But I was determined to do what we could. My children are very fortunate, and have never experienced  grief…. and we haven’t had pets, so their personal understanding of the “circle of life” is limited to cold theory. It is a punch in the gut when actually experiencing it first-hand.

We have zero incubation equipment, so our Hail Mary was human body heat. Sophia cut two compartments out of an egg carton, which we further padded with tissues. We placed the eggs inside, taped the carton shut, and took turns holding it our warm laps, with sheepskins and blankets piled on top to retain heat.

I carefully slept with it in this position at night. It was like when my babies were newborns and we slept with them in bed with us: I barely moved all night…. instinctively aware that there was delicate life right next to me.

Saturday, May 25

I felt absolutely ridiculous after waking up next to a carton of robin’s eggs. I determined to try to figure out if there is any way to see if the buggers were even alive before I invested more of my time sleeping next to rotten eggs. I seemed to remember people holding eggs up to a light source to determine….. something.. what was it? Thankfully I live in the age of Google, and quickly learned this technique is called “candling”. I saw a few videos online, and this 4-minute video was one of my favorites. We used the method on both eggs, and determined that one was clearly a “late death”. This 5-minute video is utterly fantastic and also shows examples of how dead eggs will appear during candling. We took the dead egg outside, and cracked it open to study before leaving it to fate nature had intended all along….. nourishment for another living being.

The other egg actually had movement!!! I recorded it in a YouTube video of my own, but it was really hard to get the lighting right. I could even occasionally see something thin and opaque that appeared to be maybe legs moving against the shell.

A subscriber from Instagram suggested placing the egg in another nest to be adopted. A genius idea!! Only problem is, I was unable to locate another nest. I made a note to myself to keep better track of the nests in our area for this very purpose should the need ever arise again.

Back into the carton and laps it went.

When I candled it at night before I went to bed, I noticed reduced movement. I bundled up with it again at night.

Sunday, May 26

Upon coming downstairs, I candled the remaining egg, and determined it was dead.

I broke the news as gently as I could when the girls came down, but they reacted as I expected. It was a heavy blow, but important to experience and work through. They will work through it, but grief takes time… even for something as “foolish” as a common bird egg. I’m glad they have the compassion and empathy to understand and care. When they are ready, we will take it outside to reunite it with the Circle of Life, and allow it to keep life going for another hungry garden resident.

First Ever DIY Haircut!!

Not too long ago, I shared on Instagram about how I was considering trying to trim my own hair in an attempt to avoid unnecessary expenditure. I am a dutiful little housewife, indeed. I will go ahead and divulge the spoilers up front: it did not go well. But I did take lots of photos, and I will post them all below, while I wait for my salon to ANSWER THE PHONE I AM DESPERATE PLEASE JUST PICK UP!!

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The technique I opted for is commonly known as the “unicorn method”. It is a favorite among YouTubers right now, and many of my own Instagram subscribers recommended it, so it was BOUND to go wonderfully. I used the regular scissors from this kit.

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Carefully, now!!
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Here comes the chop!!
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What could go wrong?… It’s only hair, right???????
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WE’VE REACHED THE POINT OF NO RETURN!
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“Point-cutting” This allegedly makes it look better.
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Regrets…. I’m having lots of them.
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These aren’t layers, they’re…………………. shelves?
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In my defense, I did once pay a lot of money to get this same messed-up cut. The failure from that stylist is one of the reasons I fear salon visits and wanted to DIY in the first place. And…… AM I SEEING GREYS????
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Looks ok like this… guess I’m sticking with “half up” styles until this is fixed.
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Verdict: WACK. zero stars.
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Now I’m I’m just snapping photos to feed my ego. Time to go.

Stay tuned to find out if a professional stylist can save me, or if I will be left to wallow in my own folly…

Girl’s Formal (blue) Dress

For Pascha (also known as “Orthodox Easter”) 2019, I made matching dresses for my two older daughters! These projects were full of “firsts” for me, and some of those firsts were extremely frustrating. However, I powered through and got it done, much to my own surprise!!

Pattern: I used a vintage Simplicity pattern #4275 (circa 1950s), however I greatly altered the assembly method. So while I did use the pattern pieces, I made two different dresses and layered the sheer version (view 1 on the pattern envelope) on top of the opaque version (view 3), and I added a lining that was not in the directions at all.

Fabric: For the opaque base layer, I used the “Royal Blue Plain Dyed Polyester Taffeta” from Mood Fabrics at $9.99 a yard (58″ wide). For the translucent top layer, I used “Royal Iridescent Nylon Organza” at $5.99 a yard (44″ wide). The lining was made of a robin’s egg blue cotton woven that I have massive amounts of in my stash… I got it from my grandmother, and that’s all I really know about it!

Notions: All notions for this project were also from Mood. Buttons are GORGEOUS (and quite heavy!) Italian Beige Mother of Pearl Shank Back Button (13mm $1.74 each). I ended up not using buttons on the front of the dress as pictured on the pattern envelope, because the buttons were heavier than I expected. The smaller size would have been darling, but I decided there was enough going on with the dress already . Thread is 260 Primary Blue Gutermann Sew-All Thread

Extra Info: Where to begin? This was a really nightmarish project, and I won’t sugar-coat it for you. I cried real tears many times, and experienced a great deal of despair and self-loathing during the construction process. It all started with the fact that, not only had I never used/tested this pattern before, I also deliberately did not follow the directions and made life more complicated for myself by actually cutting two dresses and trying to combine them myself. This was especially tricky around the neckline because the dresses had very different necklines. The base dress (view 3 on the pattern envelope) called for seam binding to finished the edges of the arm-holes and neckline. I took the time to make my own bias tape with the blue taffeta (another nightmare, please keep reading), but I could not manage to master the technique and it kept turning out sloppy. While attempting to remove the bias tape and try again, I ripped the fabric of the bodice entirely, and ended up needing to cut a new one (thankfully I did have enough taffeta leftover). I ended up finishing the edges by using a lining… and I’m sure First-Born appreciated a cotton lining anyway, instead of having scratchy polyester all over her torso. These complaints all flow so nicely to the next subject: the fabric itself. I have never worked with taffeta (polyester or otherwise) in my life, and only used organza once (for a princess dress for our realtor’s daughter… it’s on my Instagram if you fancy a scroll), so I can’t really say if all taffetas and organzas behave this way. Let me tell you, and I cannot emphasize this enough: this taffeta frays constantly merely by looking at it. I suppose the good thing about this being polyester, is that it was relatively easy to work around this… I started keeping a lighter on my sewing table, and right after every single cut to the taffeta, I would quickly run the flame near the edge of the material and melt the edge together. Use this technique with caution, lest you send your whole project up in flames. The organza was also prone to fraying, but I did expect it, and it wasn’t half as bad as the taffeta. However, this particular organza would get snagged very easily… much like the nylon stockings I used to splurge on… is this just typical with nylon in general?? The organza I used for Second-Born was much more user-friendly.

All-in-all, this dress is riddled with mistakes and poor-workmanship… perhaps I should call it “inexperienced-workmanship”… but my daughter cried when she tried the completed dress on for the first time, and kept going on about how she felt like a real princess, like Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia (she is going through a Romanov phase)………… so I accept this a hard-won victory, and certainly a valuable learning experience.

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Two Nightgowns for Girls

Since these nightgowns were made together out of mostly the same materials, I am putting them together into one post. A thorough description of materials used (with links) is below the photos, so keep scrolling!

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Pattern: First-Born’s pattern is a vintage (circa 1950s) Simplicity pattern #1828. Second-Born’s pattern is also vintage Simplicity, pattern #4502. Neither are any longer in print, however Simplicity frequently reprints vintage patterns, so take a look!

Fabric: Mood Fabrics Pink 100% pima cotton broadcloth (as of this writing, it is out of stock, but other colors are available!). The description from the website is as follows, “Need the perfect fabric for upscale shirting applications? Here is a 100% pima cotton broadcloth with a fabulous hand and an amazing, soft and supple drape. Pima is considered one of the best grades of cotton available. Along with being a broadcloth (which is a densely woven and fine fabric normally comprised of wool or cotton), this cotton is both combed and mercerized for additional luster and richness. Laying at 44″ to 45″ in width, this fabric is crease resistant, light-weight, and just crisp enough for the creation of quality shirts and blouses. Note: This pima cotton has been yarn-dyed, is almost completely opaque, and is machine washable.” 100% cotton, 44 inches wide.

Notions: First-Born chose white buttons from Joann, and Second-Born chose a mix of pastel pink and blue! The eyelet lace used to trim both collars, and First-Born’s sleeve cuffs is also from Mood Fabrics, and is the cream ruffled eyelet trim.

Extras: As you can see, Second-Born’s collar and trimmings are not as pictured in her pattern! I intended to use that style, however I found the directions confusing, there was no pattern piece for the collar (it wasn’t lost, it simply wasn’t in the pattern piece list in the first place), and I couldn’t find the correct materials for the ribbon trim. I do love the ruffle at the bottom of her gown though! So I think she made out all right in the end.IMG_0551.JPG

Sloppy Southern Sammies – or – Not Pulled Pork (vegan) (oil free)

This recipe (part of my Orthodox Lenten fasting series) is one of those happy concoctions that is discovered accidentally, while playing with “a dash of this, a splash of that.” Based on the recipe for “Sloppy Black-Eyed Peas” from Vegan Slow Cooking, for Two or Just for You by Kathy Hester, this dish kept evolving the longer it simmered, until I found I had personalized it into something uniquely me! My mixture never got quite as red as the photo in the book, and the collard greens (and my addition of apple cider vinegar) immediately made me think of pork, as collards and vinegar are frequent accompaniments to various pork dishes down South. Culinary experiments don’t always turn out so well, but I will count this as a victory… and I will enjoy dinner tonight!


1 cup dried black-eyed peas

½ cup millet

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2 medium tomatoes

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, or more to taste

1 teaspoon cumin powder

4 collard leaves, stems removed, leaves finely chopped

¼ to ½ cup tomato paste (I recommend Cento brand)

Splash of apple cider vinegar, roughly ¼ cup, or to taste


 

**Soak black-eyed peas for at least 8 hours.**

Add black-eyes peas, millet, carrots, bell pepper, bay leaves, and salt to a medium pot.

Blend tomatoes and garlic in a blender with 2 cups of water. Pour into pot. Pour in more water if necessary to just cover the beans and vegetables.

Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer until beans and veggies are soft. Roughly 45 minutes. Stir frequently as the mixture begins to thicken, so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Add water if mixture is too dry and thick. If mixture is too watery, uncover and continue simmering while allowing some liquid to evaporate.

Once beans are becoming soft and mixture is getting thick to your preference, remove bay leaves and carefully ladle out 1-2 cups of the mixture. Allow to cool slightly, then carefully transfer to blender. Blend until smooth, then return to pot. Stir. Add Cajun seasoning, cumin powder, collards, tomato paste, vinegar, and any additional salt or pepper to taste. Stir thoroughly.

Cover and leave to sit, and cool. As it cools, it will continue to thicken, and the flavors will continue to gently infuse.

Stir again before serving.

Can be eaten from a bowl, but the idea is to treat it somewhat like a pulled pork sandwich… best served on a toasted bun!IMG_0345IMG_0352

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