Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Curl

I can't tell you how much I love this little curl. No haircuts for awhile.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Birds and Words

Want to check out some other projects I have been working on?

Read about how to turn your little one into a bird watcher in the April issue of Chicago Parent.

Or visit Parenting Squad for a laugh about my efforts to translate for my toddler!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Good Morning Sunshine!

For the past few weeks, Eleanor has climbed into our bed almost every night around 1:00 a.m.

The bad news: I wake up every morning with a sore back and neck because I get squished into the middle of the bed and can't move.

The good news: I wake up to her sweet face and her daily greeting, "Time to rise and shine, Mommy! What are we doing today?"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why "Pump It Up" is Kind of a Nightmare and Other Things I Learned Yesterday

Yesterday morning in the midst of a lovely spring snow storm, I took my kids to Pump It Up for "open play."

We met up with a new friend and her sweet little guy -- who I think has a tiny crush on my daughter. :) Plus, I got to meet some of said new friend's other cute and nice friends. And we had a chance to talk about the latest mommy blog controversies, and whether or not to attend BlogHer this summer. Good times.

Oh, and it was fun to play with the kids. The kids, right, the kids.

Have you been to Pump It Up? I can't really say that I recommend going. It styles itself as "an inflatable fun zone" - which is true, I suppose. But it is also a "way-too-crowded zone." And a "so-loud-you-can-barely-hear-yourself-think-zone." And the lawyer in me (she still resides deep, deep within) found Pump It Up to be a "Good-God-why-did-I-sign-that-release-form-as-I-watch-my-child-bang-heads-with-several-other-kids-zone." Forty-five minutes was plenty of time at Pump It Up for me . . . for a lifetime.

We then headed over to the California Pizza Kitchen at North and Sheffield. For some reason, I haven't eaten here before -- which I think makes me the only Mom on the northside of Chicago who doesn't hang out here because the place was swarmed with kids and Moms -- in a good way. And the BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad (with avocado please) was so delicious (definitely only order the half size). The kids had fun and behaved beautifully. More good times.

Once home, the kiddos napped for about six hours (the biggest upside to the frenzied visit to Pump It Up). We made challah in the afternoon (so fun). Then Daddy came home and made us risotto. It was while eating this risotto that I realized that I think I loathe asparagus. Until a few days ago, I thought I liked asparagus just fine. And it being spring and all, I thought we should be eating asparagus. So we had it roasted on Thursday night. And in risotto last night. And on both occasions, I found myself pushing it to the side of my plate -- which is unlike me. So no more asparagus, I've decided. I sound like Eleanor.

Finally, the team I picked to win the NCAA Championship game got eliminated in the first round -- thereby eliminating any interest I have in any of the hundreds of games to be played in the next few weeks. Sorry, honey.

Making Bread: Challah

With the help to two very able and hard-working assistants, I made traditional challah bread for the first time yesterday. (Many thanks to Rachel for the recipe!).

Here is the finished product. I wish I had made the braids tighter so the bread had better shape. But oh, does it taste good. I have been sneaking toasted and buttered slices all day. At this rate, it is unlikely to make it until brunch tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Good Read

Check this out if you have a few minutes (and imagine Brendan chanting "Mamack Mamama, Mamack Mamama" in the background).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mommy Guilt

Today, I am at the Chicago Moms Blog, spilling my guts about my own mommy guilt.

Check out my post (and lots of other really moving, thoughtful posts) and leave a comment.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Forgive Me: A Review

Two months ago, I was offered the opportunity to review Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward. Ever since then, I have been reading a few pages here. A few more there. Maybe five or six pages before bed. Partly because of my mommy exhaustion and partly because I just didn't love the protagonist in the story, my progress on this project has been slooooow. I finally finished the last chapter a few days ago.

A review in the back of the book said that when you finish Forgive Me, you want to go back and start all over again. So true. Ward's novel is ambitious in topic, scope and theme. And in the end, it didn't all quite hang together for me. But that being said -- there were lots of highlights.

The story follows Nadine - journalist, bad girl, independent spirit and damaged goods wrapped into one. Desperate to escape a painful past and the present, Nadine (twice) escapes provincial Cape Cod to pursue her career as a journalist. Her work takes her to South Africa, where the heart of the book takes place.

Through Nadine's experiences in South Africa, Amanda Eyre Ward tackles the difficult and fascinating topic of the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings that took place in South Africa following apartheid. Truth and reconciliation hearings are a process now used widely across the world (sometimes successfully and other times unsuccessfully) following unrest in a country. Truth and Reconciliation Hearings have occurred in countries ranging from Peru to Sierre Leone.

Here is basically how the process works (in extremely oversimplified terms): the wrongdoer (and often the wrong is the killing of a person or entire family) stands up and admits what he did, often including the details of how a person was killed and where his remains are). The family of the deceased then has a chance to address the wrongdoer, often accepting the apology and asking that the wrongdoer not be punished any further. The intent is to help people who have been through periods of tragedy and unrest to move on with their lives.

There is something to this, I think. What a fascinating alternative model for "justice" (whatever that means). Can you even imagine something like that taking place in the United States? If the concept of truth and reconciliation hearings interest you, read Forgive Me for a moving account of what families on both sides experience. Also check out the Artemis Project at Yale, which is attempting to chronicle all of the transcripts from all of the truth and reconciliation hearings that have taken place across the world -- a ambitious and noble objective.

More Felted Eggs

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Our Nest

I saw a great nest and eggs here a few days ago. I thought we could probably figure out how to do something like that. And although I haven't done our taxes yet and freelance deadlines loom, I spent the whole day yesterday working on this project with my assistant Ellie.
We made the nest by weaving together vines from our backyard. To make the felted eggs, I generally followed the directions here. The craft store didn't have any wool roving in robin's egg blue, so we used this very pretty blue instead. We loved the wet felting process and now have big plans for felted eggs for Easter.

A sweet little project, don't you think?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Today I Saw My Future. And It Is Bright!

The sun came out in Chicago today. The temperature went over 50 degrees. My kids spent the morning happily playing outside in the yard. They ran and ran. And then they ran some more. We hunted around the yard for bulbs poking their heads out of the ground to say hello. I dug the bikes out of the garage for a little spin around the block. We ate lunch out on the deck (with our coats on). I made a pitcher of lemonade. Then both of my little ones fell fast asleep because they were exhausted from their much-needed morning romp outdoors.

Those of you reading this in California or other warm, sunny locales can go ahead and have a little giggle if you want to, but for us Chicagoans -- summer is here!

Now, don't get me wrong -- I know that it is going to snow a few more times. Any experienced Midwesterner knows that by the time March gets here, the worst of the bad weather is over. But it isn't quite over, over.

But every March I can remember, a day comes along when the sun shines and the temperature is unseasonably warm. People feel good. We are reminded that Chicago actually has more than one season. The bold wear shorts (even though that is never a good idea for legs that haven't seen the sun since September). We leave our stuffy, stale houses and venture outside. The streets are full of people walking dogs and babies. Some of the bars open up their outdoor patios. Neighbors who haven't seen each other since the Christmas decorations went up get reacquainted.

A day like today keeps us going. We can endure a little bit more snow, right? Spring really is coming, and so is summer. For now, I am off to sit in my yard and soak in as much sun and warmth as I can while I dream of my summer plans (parks . . . pools . . . picnics).

Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog.

Hello Again, Friend

You know when you make a recipe a bunch of times, then sort of get sick of it, and forget about it -- only to then rediscover it and wonder how you could have been foolish enough to callously toss it aside? So it is with me and the Barefoot Contessa's Orzo with Roasted Vegetables. There was a time when I made this recipe with regularity. Then I stopped making it for oh, three years or so.

A few weeks ago I had to good fortune to have my sister-in-law whip up her yummy, yummy variation for lunch. So good. Like running into an old friend on the street and picking up where you left off.

I made a batch for a quick and easy dinner last night (with a few substitutions -- yellow onion instead of red; summer squash and zucchini instead of eggplant, only one, tiny chopped scallion, and one garlic clove). I made it around noon and let it sit in the refrigerator to get better and better. The best part was that my kids actually ate it up and declared the meal "delicious."

I am putting this guy back in my repertoire. Can't wait for the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I am even adding orzo with roasted vegetables to the menu for the garden party I am hosting at the end of May.

Hello again, friend. And I couldn't be happier to introduce the two of you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Humble (But Hopeful) Beginnings of my Garden

Organic red and green peppers, two varieties of tomatoes, rosemary, and a mix of cosmos (a favorite of Ellie's). Right now , I am feeling skeptical about my ability to get these little guys going. But you never know.

Monday, March 10, 2008


My kid loves polar bears. She sleeps with her furry mama polar bear and two cubs tucked into her bed with her each night. We read Three Snow Bears, over and over. She likes to watch shows about polar bears on Animal Planet (although you have to be careful about those because it is only a matter of time before the star of the show kills something).

Given all of the polar bear-lovin' at our house, I certainly couldn't pass up the opportunity to review Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World by Juliana, Isabella and Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Gerald R. Uhlich. After our first read, I have to say that we were not disappointed -- this is a great children's book.

In case you aren't familiar with Knut (the most famous polar bear on the planet), here is his bio: Knut was born at the Berlin Zoo in December 2006 and rejected by his mother. He has been hand-raised by the Zoo's chief bear keeper (Thomas) and veterinarian (Andre). Under the care of his foster father Thomas, Knut has thrived and become world-famous.

In addition to chronicling the first year of Knut's life, the authors also provide some basic information about polar bears, their food, and habitat. The book wraps up by focusing on the threat that global warming poses to polar bears and what steps we can take to curb the warming trend.

What's not to like here? You enjoy a sweet story about a cuddly bear, along with some educational information about polar bears in general. Plus, you get a perfect platform to start talking to your kids about global warming and what they can do to be responsible inhabitants of our planet. All that in a before-bedtime read!

From a Mommy perspective, I also adore that this book was authored by a dad working with his two, young daughters (along with the CEO of the Berlin Zoo). What a fabulous family project (it frankly gives me lots of ideas!).

One little postscript for you: Turns out, Knut is no longer the cute, cuddly, baby bear you see pictured above. At one-years-old, Knut now weights over 300 pounds, complete with fangs and claws. Check out a what Knut looks like now (and don't say I didn't warn you -- Knut is not a baby anymore!).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tea Party

As part of a larger effort to create some quiet space and embrace a sloooower pace, I have been trying to sit with a cup of tea for a few minutes in the afternoon.

My current tea of choice is so thoroughly enjoyable that I thought it was worth mentioning -- Revolution Sweet Ginger Peach Tea. A full-flavored, black tea, packaged in individual little mesh bags. Smells good. Tastes good. Feels good. So tell me, what tea do you drink?
A quick p.s. to those of you who actually know me in "real life" -- yes, despite the twenty or so inches of snow, I did successfully escape from Buffalo (also known as the Seventh Circle of Hell). Good to be home.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Heading to Buffalo in the morning to say goodbye to my Grandma. A massive snow storm is expected there - it is Buffalo after all. Back in a few days.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's Coming

I swear. Really, it is. Can't be long now. Look at the hyacinth bulb coming up in my yard. He thinks it is almost spring (please, don't let him be wrong).

Happy Housewife

I woke up today to the news that Barack lost in Texas (How? How?). I was seriously sad for about an hour or so.

But things are looking up now. Here are a few reasons why:
(1) The sun is out. The temperature is in the high thirties -- downright balmy for these parts. I thought it was going to snow yesterday. But it didn't. A reprieve for now.

(2) Turns out my ranting about eating the last grapefruit yesterday was all for naught. Shortly after that post, the doorbell rang and a nice delivery man brought our Harry and David fruit of the month (a great gift, by the way). Guess what was in the box? Grapefruits. It is as if the Grapefruit God himself heard my pleas. So I am set in the grapefruit department for a few more days.

(3) I have been cleaning like a crazy person. This is unlike me. I usually neglect all my housewife responsibilities because I get distracted with other things like . . . blogging. But today, I am making progress. Vacuuming. Waxing my kitchen table. Cleaning out the fireplace. Repairing the rocking chair. Dusting. Laundering. Organizing my shoes. Productive.

(4) Brendan and I sat by the back door looking for planes and birds for about forty-five minutes. Lucky for him, we seem to be right under an O'Hare flight pattern. "Nane in iyyyyy" over and over.

(5) After we pick up Ellie from school, we are going to try out a new gelato place as "research" for a story I am working on. Research. Can you beat that?

Another good day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


When I was in Florida two weeks ago, I grabbed some grapefruit from a tree in the backyard and brought them back to Chicago with me. (Can you imagine having grapefruit growing in your backyard? Amazing.) These grapefruit are particularly delicious -- just the right combination of sweet and tart.

Since returning to cold and snowy Chicago, I have been eating a grapefruit for breakfast in an attempt to mentally and emotionally transport myself back to beautiful and warm Florida.
Today, I ate the last grapefruit. That's it right there. And several inches of snow are expected this evening. Nothing to transport me in the morning. Not good.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My March

Here is what I have in mind for the next 31 days or so . . . .

On the Food Front:

Baking Bread. I have always wanted to be able to make my own bread. Actually, I would really love to be able to competently make at least three kinds of bread (baguette, brioche or challah, and a whole grain). Kneading is one of my all-time favorite activities (I could happily make homemade pasta for hours). So moving on to breads seem like a natural next step. The folks at Gourmet Magazine were kind enough to feature a recipe for a brioche-like bread in this month's issue (ideal timing!). But I am looking for recommendations for other tried-and-true recipes from seasoned bakers out there. Anyone? Anyone?

Easter. I am hosting an Easter celebration for a few family members who will be in town. Probably brunch. Now, I just need to plan the menu and decide on the table settings, etc. Hosting a holiday seems so adult-like (and a little intimidating).

More Vegetables. For ALL of us. I regret to say that I have become a little bit lazy on the nutrition front. We have been fattening up on braised meats and hearty soups. Periodically, I have to rededicate myself to pushing the veggies on my little guys (after the second or third, "Yuck, I am not trying that," I tend to fatigue). We could all stand to incorporate a few more fresh veggies into the menu. For myself, I am trying to have a few raw vegetables with dip for lunch. Homemade veggie cream cheese ("confetti cream cheese") on bagels for the kids for snacks. And my old standby -- sneaking all sorts of cut up veggies into quesadillas.

On the Home Front:

Our First Ever Easter Egg Hunt. I don't care how cold it is on March 23rd. We have a yard, so we are having an Easter Egg Hunt -- even if the eggs are hidden in snow.

Planning Our Garden. Possibilities. Possibilities. Thinking about what to plant where is keeping me awake at night. I hurry to the mailbox each day, hoping to find seed catalogs I have ordered.

Clutter Control. I am determined to venture into my complete disaster of a closet this month. Donate. Throw away. Repeat.

On the Work Front:

Expanding My Horizons. I published my first piece in Chicago Parent this month -- and more to come in the April and May issues. I also hope to have a few small articles in the next issue of Going Places Magazine. Next is getting up the courage to pitch some ideas to national parenting magazines. Gulp. We'll see how it goes.

How are you spending your time this March?