Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why Method and I Are Now BEST Friends

So it turns out that being one of Chicago's Method Mavens is a completely fabulous experience. Last night, Method hosted a cocktail party for about twenty-two of my girlfriends at their pop-up retail shop at 2034 N. Halsted. And we had so much fun -- serious fun -- more fun that I have had on a Monday night in a long time.
I could go on and on about the evening but for the sake of clarity and brevity, I have forced myself to limit my thoughts to my eight favorite aspects of the whole delightful experience. Read on . . . . (and be warned that you may experience some feelings of jealousy).

(1) The Venue. The Method pop-up shop, located at 2034 N. Halsted is pretty darn cute all by itself (they even have a photo booth for taking goofy pictures). It is the kind of bright, welcoming space that draws you inside. The front of the store is retail and the back is reserved for parties (so you get to feel a wee bit special when you get to step behind the curtain). The party space is decorated like your most fashionable friend's living room -- it is a chic, relaxed place to hang out. It felt like we were just a bunch of girls drinking wine at some one's house (except for the lovely servers who kindly came around conscientiously keeping our wine and champagne glasses filled at all times).

(2) The Delicious Food. We munched on hummus, pita, olives, stuffed grape leaves, marinated feta, roasted red peppers, veggies and dip, assorted canapes, chicken skewers, and roll-up sandwiches. And then we came back for cookies and decadent brownies. Yum. Yum. Yum. All of this was thanks to Whole Foods catering, which I am definitely going to keep in mind for future events (so good!).

(3) The Cute Celebrity Guest. After gorging ourselves on canapes, we gathered around a table with Sophie Uliano, author of Gorgeously Green, to learn more about making our own beauty products at home. In addition to being cute as a button, Sophie is also totally approachable and knowledgeable. Sophie explained that there is no reason to go to Barneys or Saks to buy expensive beauty products when you can make your own superior stuff at home for a fraction of the cost (isn't that great news?). She answered all of our questions about skin care routines, which chemicals to avoid, and the best way to treat cradle cap. And she totally convinced all of us to drink aloe vera juice every morning (I am trying it tomorrow). Sophie blogged about her meet up with us over at her website today and answered some questions we had about facial moisturizers with SPF. We loved her.

(4) Our Natural Beauty Products. Sophie led the group in making our own facial oils and body scrubs using all-natural, organic ingredients. Each of us got to create our own products to use at home. I slathered my new face oil all over before going to bed and I think I look better already. :) Tomorrow morning, I intend to put my scrub to good use in the shower.

(5) The Girls. I wanted to invite people from all different areas of my life to this little soiree and I only had one qualification in mind -- I wanted fun people only. We ended up with a group of people who were open-minded, curious, and most importantly -- tons of fun. I wish we could get together every week as an alternative to Monday night football (with Sophie included to teach us something new each week, of course).

(6) The Goodie Bag. After the instructional component of the night, the Method girls handed out cute t-shirts and goodie bags - and not just any old goodie bag. Each guest got a cute reusable tote filled with a Method hand soap, all-purpose cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, and dish soap, plus tons of coupons for $1 off future Method purchases. Good deal, right?

(7) The Method Philosophy. In addition to being spectacular party hosts, the Method people have a very common sense message about cleaning. At a time when we are all trying to live healthier, greener lives, choosing Method cleaning products over the stinky, toxic stuff is just an easy decision to make. The Method products are as effective as the toxic concoctions, plus they are comparable in cost. Why not make a choice that is better for the health of your family and the planet? Is it just plain sensible, right? They certainly have me convinced.

(8) The Giveaway. The (very, very) generous folks at Method were kind enough to give my an extra goodie bag . . . and it could be yours. Check back here tomorrow to enter to win your own cute reusable tote filled with Method cleaning products. If you are local, stop by the Method pop-up shop before October 12th to check it out. Bring in a toxic household cleaner to be safely disposed of and Method will give you a brand new hand soap for free.

So as you can see, I can't rave enough about the night. Here are a few of my pictures of the event just to further taunt you.
The Method pop-up shop at 2034 N. Halsted

The delicious spread (of course I had to photograph the food like a hungry pregnant lady).

Sophie Uliano (the cute blond in the white shirt) showing us how to make our own natural, organic beauty products.

The girls taking copious notes on the process (ten drops of lavender essential oil, five drops of geranium oil . . . must remember this for making homemade Christmas gifts.).

Me, hard at work creating the "luxurious facial oil" that I so badly need.

The girls admiring their creations.

The retail section of the store (so bright and shiny and . . . clean).

If you want to see more pictures of women totally enthralled with their homemade beauty products, check out these great pictures of the event on Flickr. Don't forget to come back tomorrow to enter the Method Goodie Bag giveaway!

Can You Feel It?

You noticed too, didn't you? Summer managed to hold on through most of September (and wasn't it beautiful?). But now, changes are afoot. I can feel it. I can see it.

We adore this sweet book about a leaf holding on tight to his branch because he isn't quite ready to let go. I can relate.

Cute book courtesy of Grandma :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thump, Thump Goes My Baby

I forgot that one of the most strange and magical parts of pregnancy is the thump, thumping from the little person who lives inside of you. My baby is a busy, busy boy (as were his brother and sister before him).

He gives me big kicks that make my belly jump and jiggle. Other times, he gives me more of a squiggly, rolling, stretching-my-leg-out kind of kick. Sometimes David or the kiddos can feel this thumping on my belly. But most of the time, the movement is more of an internal thing that only I can really feel.

I love this private communication that only I get to experience. And I remember now that strange lonely feeling after the baby is born and no one is giving you those "hey there, I'm, right here" kicks.

Note to self: enjoy this while you can because it will be over before you know it.

Peapod: It's a Mama's Friend (Keep Reading . . . There Is Something in This For You)

Until recently, we lived in a third floor, walk up apartment. Three flights of stairs + two kids who want to be carried = one exhausted Mama. When I was dealing with this logistical nightmare on a daily basis, I started using Peapod to deliver my groceries from time to time.

Now that I am fortunate to have a garage, a kitchen on the ground floor, and a child who occasionally goes to preschool, a trip to the grocery store isn't quite the ordeal that it once was. The truth is that I much prefer to do my grocery shopping live and in person (there's just no substitute for choosing items yourself -- especially produce). But I am also not too proud to admit that grocery shopping with my two little ones has turned me into a frazzled mom and reduced me to tears on occasion. And that is where Peapod comes into my life.

Peapod recently contacted me to see if I would be willing to give their service a try again. And I was happy to do that because I imagine that I will become a regular customer come January when I have a newborn baby and two feet of snow in the backyard. Grocery delivery service is just one of those things that makes being a mom a wee bit easier when you have a sick child, a sore back, terrible weather, or just too many damn kids to bring to the grocery store with you.

Here are my thoughts on my most recent shopping experience with Peapod: You can't beat the convenience of the two-hour delivery window. Shopping online is really easy and Peapod offers a good (but not great) selection of many basic organic products (i.e. dairy, produce, etc.). The delivery charges seem to be higher than they were a few years ago (doesn't that seem to be true of everything?). Prices seem pretty comparable to chain grocery stores (but definitely not as cheap as Trader Joe's). I do wonder if the company couldn't come up with a better alternative to the ten million little plastic bags that they deliver your groceries in (one delivery seems to totally undue all of your diligent use of your reusable tote to cut down on plastic bag consumption). But when all is said and done, you have a fridge stocked with food and you didn't leave your house.

Does Peapod sound like a service that you might find helpful? Go ahead and try it out. I have a special code for you get $20 off your next order. No entries necessary. Each of you gets this discount. Enter BLOGPOST10 into the discount code section to redeem your $20.

So basically, that means you get free delivery, tax and a free grocery item or two. Which also means that it won't cost you any more than your average trip to the grocery store. Use the discount code, see for yourself, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Filling Up the Freezer

Our very own tomato sauce -- made from start to finish (including the beautiful label)by my little helpers. I can't wait to reach into my freezer one chilly November day to retrieve our creation.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Do You See What I See?

I was looking through my pictures from September and this one made me stop and take a second look.

This isn't my baby. This is unmistakably the face of a little boy (an incredibly handsome little boy, if I do say so myself). There is nothing "baby" about him.

Oh, life is going much, much too fast.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Delicious Transformation

I took a big bowl of roma grape tomatoes from my garden (aren't they just the prettiest little things you ever did see?)

And I transformed them into the simplest tomato sauce ever.

Then we devoured nearly every single bite. So good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Diaper Free!

It's over. He is potty trained. Hallelujah.

It was actually incredibly easy. He basically trained himself.

I certainly recognize that some rocky days lie ahead. But he gets the gist of it. No more diapers. No accidents for ten days now. Yippee!

And that means that we are a diaper-free household -- at least, for the next ninety days or so (and then I will be buying teeny tiny newborn diapers for my new friend!).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall-Weathered Friends

It is about that time to make a trip to the pumpkin farm! If you are looking for a different way to decorate your pumpkins this year, check out my craft column in the October issue of Chicago Parent.

(We made this little guy with supplies from the craft store -- also a fun idea.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Meet My New Friend Method

A few months ago, Method (you know, the eco-friendly cleaning product people) contacted me to see if I would be interested in becoming one of Chicago's "Method Mavens."

Those of you who know me know that I am certainly no "maven" of anything, but when I learned that being a "Method Maven" meant hosting a cocktail party for my friends where everyone gets free Method products, plus I get to try out new products as they become available throughout the year -- I was more than happy to try my hand at being a "Maven." Plus, I already use (and really like) some Method products around my house anyway (the Lil' Bowl Blu Toilet Bowl Cleaner is strangely delightful - try it).

So in late September, Method is hosting a party for my friends at their new pop up shop at 2034 N. Halsted. We will be sipping sustainable wine and snacking on organic goodies. Guests can bring in toxic household cleaners from their house to be disposed of safely and get a reusable tote bag full of Method products in exchange. We are also going to learn how to make our own natural body scrub with Sophie Uliano, author of Gorgeously Green. (Apparently she and Julia Roberts are good friends and it is going to take all of my restraint to not be a huge dork and ask her about that.)

Sounds fun, right? Well, I couldn't invite everyone I know to the party. So Method is going to give me some goodies to give away here. Check back in about ten days to find out how the party went and to enter to win some Method freebies to try out.

A Hat for Him

A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to make a hat and sweater for my baby boy to wear home from the hospital.

My sister-in-law was kind enough to give me a knitting lesson. Now, I have been transformed into an old lady who sits on the couch every night knitting while feigning minimal interest in whichever sporting event my husband is watching.

This little blue hat is my first real attempt. It isn't perfect -- but I am getting there. I am currently working on a slightly improved version.

I stopped by the local knitting store yesterday and couldn't resist buying this book full of hat ideas. . . . and some pink, brown, and green yarn.

Hats, hats for everyone (maybe even David).

I will get back to the sweater project at some point, but for now I am going to be making hats to cover all of the lovely little heads in my life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September Eats

My finds from the Green City Market.

My latest CSA box.

Looks like it is going to be a delicious weekend around here.

What Ails Him

Brendan is having a rough week.

First, he has to deal with me constantly harassing him with, "Do you have to pee? Let's try. You can have a baseball sticker if you try." (All to great success, I might add).

Sunday night, he was awake for several hours with a puking session of unknown origin, but thankfully short duration.

Monday night brought a bizarre, trip-over-a-ball incident in the backyard which left him hobbling around with a twisted ankle (or some other foot injury) for two full days now. He can put weight on it, but the foot is swollen and he is quite limpy. I have been carrying his forty-pound body around like a sherpa (which has brought on my pregnancy lower back pain).

We are quite the hobbly pair.

Oh, the poor B. Hopefully, sunnier days lie ahead for the remainder of the week.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Big Day for a Big Boy

He stayed dry for the whole day. The. Whole. Day.

Other mommies out there know what I mean when I say that it is hard to express the pride (and relief) you feel when it seems like your little one finally "gets it" in the potty training department.

For the past few weeks, I would say that we have been "dabbling" in potty training - with occasional successes but no sustained interest in the project. (Basically, if I was standing right next to him and was able to sense what was about to occur, I could usually coax him into the bathroom in time).

I have been waiting for some "sign" that he was ready for the real deal.

I am taking his all-day long dryness as that sign. This week is officially potty training week. We are wearing underwear to our Parent/Toddler class today. Wish us luck.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I cut back my lavender plants last week and it all smells . . . . just lovely. I want to dry this lavender and do something with it . . . the question is . . . what exactly should I do with it?

My thought is to dry it out and use it in aromatic eye pillows. Eleanor took a yoga class last year and they had similar soft eye pillows to cover their little eyes during Shavasana (feeling calm, feeling very calm).

So my plan is to sew up two little rectangular eye pillows out of some fabric I have lying around and fill them with flax seed and dried lavender. I thought that my crazy little monkeys could use these when we are having some "quiet time."

Anybody else have a good idea on how to best use dried lavender?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

One Big, Fat Pregnant Lady's Plea

If any of you have ever had to endure comments from strangers about your size and weight when you were pregnant, come on over to the Chicago Mom's Blog to commiserate with me.

(I just found out that this post was selected as part of a syndication agreement with the McClatchy Tribune Company so that people all over the country could possibly be reading about my enormous belly! Exciting! Embarrassing!)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I have been running around my garden, preparing for the less lovely weather that is coming (or has already arrived? Gosh, that was fast).

Everything seems so bountiful and green now, but I know that will not be the case in a few weeks. Work to do. Work to do.

I have invested so much time and energy into my garden that and I want to make the most of it before it withers away.

Here is my rough plan:

I simply cannot keep up with my tomatoes, so I have begun oven-drying them for later use in salads, crostinis, etc. (So easy . . . .slice tomatoes into rings, season with salt and pepper, and bake for about six hours at 200 degrees on a cookies sheet rubbed with a little olive oil).

My basil is beautiful -- but not for long (temperatures are expected to drop into the forties one night this week). So I am plucking leaf after leaf and making pesto to freeze for a "summer" treat in the depths of winter. This process takes about five minutes. Toss two cups of basil leaves, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons or pine nuts, two small garlic cloves (chopped small) and a big pinch of salt into the food processor and mash it all up. Store each batch in a freezer bag. After I defrost it to use, I will add in about 3/4 cups of grated parmigiano-reggiano and 3 tablespoons on softened butter before serving.

I cut back my lavender and am in the process of drying it to create aromatic eye pillows for Ellie and Brendan (feeling calm, very calm).

I think my carrots have done what they are going to do so we have begun to pull them up as well. And my Swiss chard has about two servings left before it bids us farewell.

When a decent amount of my big boy tomatoes come ripe in a week or two (stay away cold!), I am going to make some simple tomato sauce to freeze.

And I am looking for tips on how to best preserve my other herbs (Italian parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary). Any advice for me? I suppose I could always transplant them into pots to bring indoors for a few weeks longer.

I am not sure that you can really take summer with you -- but I am trying.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Lesson Learned From A Trout

Last night in a selfish parenting move, we fed the kiddos macaroni and cheese, plums, and turkey and cheese roll ups for dinner around 6:15.

Then, around 7:30, Mom and Dad feasted on grilled whole trout with a salsa verde and sauteed peppers and squash. Delicious.

On weekends, we generally try to prepare meals that we can eat together, but this lovely fish really called out to me at the fish monger. I had to take him home to try. And neither of my kids have been willing to try even a nibble of fish -- ever.

Eleanor was predictably skeptical about the entire fish situation. My future vegetarian asked, "Doesn't that hurt the fish to go on the grill?"

But Brendan was very interested in the whole project. When dinner was being served, he grabbed his own plate and declared, "I need some of that trout." He proceeded to eat heartily (salsa verde and veggies included).

Those little buggers do surprise you when you least expect it, don't they?

Friday, September 5, 2008

There She Goes Again

My big girl headed off to conquer her second year of preschool today. The house is kind of lonely without her.
Brendan finds me positively boring and has asked three times, "When Yiyee get home, Mommy?"
Time goes by too fast. This day doesn't seem so far away at all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Green Lunches (and a Giveaway!)

Back-to-school means back to packing those school lunches!

Check out my post on Being Savvy: Chicago about packing a "greener" lunch and enter to win a Wrap-n-Mat (and ditch those plastic baggies for good!).
Seriously, go ahead and enter. Who knows? You might even win and then you can feel smug about it everytime you pack up those sandwiches!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Holding on Tight

I cannot stop buying summer produce (no doubt because I am trying to stave off the inevitable end of summer). I have gotten myself in such an "over buy" situation that I can't even figure out how we are going to eat all of this good stuff.

I still have yukon gold potatoes, zucchini and summer squash left over from my trip to the Wicker Park Farmer's Market last Sunday. Today, I bought eight peaches at the Green City Market (why eight -- what am I going to do with all of these?). We couldn't pass up the golden raspberries for snacking (those shouldn't be around for long). We helped harvest tomatoes at the Edible Garden and we ended up taking some of those home with us. We added them to the already overflowing bowl of tomatoes from our backyard. I am not going to even get into the blueberry situation.

Tonight, we pick up our CSA box which will bring melons, apples, broccoli, celery, herbs, patty pan squash, plums, and onions.

The bottom line is we have some serious eating to do. I am going to make zucchini bread while it rains this afternoon. Then roast chicken, sauteed squash and caprese salad for dinner. Maybe followed by a peach cobbler of some sort? Yikes.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fall Lettuce

It has been weeks since we had backyard lettuce. I think lettuce is a near-perfect crop to grow with kids because they can do it all from start to finish -- from spreading seeds to picking tiny leaves for salad.

Now that the temperatures are going to start cooling off, we thought we would make a second planting. Ellie and Brendan each planted a pot. Hopefully, we will be eating these leaves by the end of September.