Sunday, December 19, 2010

The best gift I ever gave

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love giving gifts - I'm terrible at keeping secrets, so if I've actually kept a secret about a gift, I'm about bursting with joy when people open something from me.

The best gift I ever gave....well, in late February 2007, I was in a very grumpy mood. I had my suspicions, so that Wednesday, I took a test and, lo and behold, saw two lines. Rather than blab our news to Jeremy right away, I kept it to myself, and that was difficult. Really difficult. Thursday morning at work, I went online and found the perfect gift for Jeremy and had it overnighted.

It arrived, and I wrapped it. I left work early that Friday to go home, where I eagerly awaited Jeremy's arrival. I waited and waited. It turns out he had to work late, which rarely happens on a Friday. I puttered around the house; even bought some Cubs tickets for the upcoming season; and paced. Finally - at last - he entered the front door - with two of our good friends in tow. I really hope they didn't see my face fall. I wasn't about to share my news with the world yet, so cheerfully agreed to dinner out, stashing the present under our bed.

No one thought twice of me not ordering a beer with our BBQ. Once we had dropped our friends at home and were home ourselves later than evening, I set the present out on the bed. Jeremy came by, starting to get ready for bed. "What's this?" he asked as he unbuttoned his work shirt.

"A present," I replied.

He opened it and pulled out an infant-sized Jets jersey (his favorite team). "Who's this for?" he asked quietly. 

"Not the cat," I said.

There was pure joy on his face as he realized what I was telling him - we were going to have a baby. 

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taking life at my speed

We had Jeremy's holiday party at Hub 51 Thursday evening - great party, wonderfully warm people and yummy food and drink (I admit - I looked longingly as the girls sipped their sparkling wine while I held my tonic water with a slice of lime and watched trays of sushi pass me by). To get to the party, we had to go through the bustling bar area full of extremely stylish, single thirty- and forty-somethings - my current life is so, so, so far away from this world, I thought as I made my way through.

Tonight was definitely more my speed - we took Jack to see the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. My three-year-old is totally, utterly and completely in love with the holidays. He gets a magical glow when he sees Santa Claus, and we're definitely true believers. He loved the twinkling Christmas lights and pointed them out to Jeremy and me excitedly. We took a whirl on the carousel - why not? Jeremy asked me if I wanted to ride one of the animals, and I said absolutely not. If you're six and half months pregnant, and want to throw your leg up and over one of those carousel animals, be my guest. I opted to stand beside Jack to help him hold on.

As the carousel began to turn, and Jack's smile got even bigger, I couldn't help but take a snapshot of this moment in my head. We twirled as the lights twinkled through the zoo on this crisp December night. My gloved hands covered Jack's mittened ones, and he laughed and laughed.

We have a lot of change coming in the new year. I have no doubt that our little girl is going to add more richness and love to our lives. But for now, I worry a bit that I'm not going to have enough emotional resources for both. We'll get there, I'm sure. And the one thing I've learned with parenting - you don't know until you know (include that in the book of wise Jennifer adages...).

We finished off our night with dinner at RJ Grunts - the perfect place for kids but make sure you have a reservation before you go (even though it's extremely casual, it fills up ridiculously fast). It's loud, chaotic and features good, cheap eats, including a nice salad bar. We were riding the "hey-it's-the-holidays" high, so we said sure to dessert - a half chocolate chip cookie (which was quite sizable), three scoops of ice cream and chocolate sauce for $3.50. With three spoons of course.

Friday, December 17, 2010


So our home laptop crashed tonight. And when I say "crashed," I mean that literally. I foolishly left it on the arm of the couch, and a second of later, it was on the floor with a little boy standing next to it.

I had taken a bunch of pictures from breakfast with Santa at the Chicago Botanic Garden last weekend but had not had a chance to upload them to the Internet. I had uploaded this one to Facebook, and it's the only one I might have from our weekend:

Monday, December 13, 2010


I learned the term "mash-up" from my sister this weekend, a Glee fan, which basically is two songs blended together. As I was shoving Christmas cards in the mailbox at work this early afternoon before heading off to a funder meeting, I thought this was a good description of a mama's life: a total and complete mash-up - especially at this point in the year.

It's standing in line in the grocery store, mentally going through your holiday gift list in your head. It's thinking about work issues while lying on your toddler's big boy bed and he's asking you if his new sister is going to come out your belly button. It's sitting in a meeting at work while said new sister kicks routinely at your ribs.  It's wiping crumbs off of the floor at 10 p.m. after making Christmas cookies and attending a volunteer meeting in the same evening.

We all have it - it's not just me. It's a lot but I feel blessed all the same. I just wish for you and for me that all of this plays out in harmony!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adventures in parenting

My sister Dayna is sick of seeing my November 30 post, so here are some small snippets to tide her over as I try to get through this insane week:

  • Me, asking Jeremy out of the side of my mouth if I look pregnant, as I take a nip of his sparking wine sample Saturday at Whole Foods and try to hold in my 6-month pregnant belly.
  • Jeremy running Jack, who was clutching his toy airplane, to the potty last night before an accident ensued.
  • Me saying, "I love you Jack," and him whispering in reply, "I love you, Daddy and Roscoe."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jack and I might be banned from Jo-Ann's

The last time I checked, the Christmas spirit did not include my purse strewn on the floor of Jo-Ann's, a box full of ribbon rolls upended onto the floor, and me grabbing a toddler by his winter coat and sticking him in the grocery cart. A grocery cart that is filled with at least 25 things from the dollar bin that Jack has thrown in, which I will dutifully return to their rightful places.

It's Tuesday night after work and I made the unwise choice to make a quick stop at this craft store. It's pre-dinner and Jack is cranky. My "quick" stop turns into 45 minutes of hunting down craft supplies. I am totally that woman who cannot control her child. I thought 2 years old was hard but 3 seems to be a roller coaster ride so far.

But by goodness, I got all of my supplies for my homemade Advent calendar - an idea I "borrowed" from this great blog.

Toddler mittens from the dollar bin, a pretty ribbon and mini clothespins will help us count down the days until Christmas. Each mitten holds a treat for Jack and for his cousin Andrew when he visits us mid-month.

And what's the first treat for December 1? Well, a dreidel, of course, to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Must be doing something right

After a whirlwind Thanksgiving holiday in New York with Yaya and Papa, we're back  in Chicago. We did so much in the city - the circus, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Jeremy and I had time to ourselves and more. Our flight got cancelled yesterday and by some miracle, the booking attendant (perhaps sizing up my belly) rebooked us on a flight one hour later in first class. Today, Jack has Maria to himself as Nate and his family travel home from visiting their grandparents.

As Jack and I were eating breakfast, I told Jack that Maria would take him to the museum today. He answered, "which one?"

Okay, so that made me feel good - we're taking our condo off of the market soon and will probably stay put for a bit. I worry about us not getting into a house right away but we're also getting by in our condo. We have Chicago as our backyard and we can make that work for a bit longer!

(And if you're curious, they are headed to the Museum of Science and Industry.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks for Thanksgiving

This is probably one of the easiest posts I've ever written. Today and every day, I'm grateful for:

  • God for giving life.
  • My parents for creating a warm family home and giving my sisters and me the gift of empathy.
  • My sisters - we have our ups and downs but we'll always be each other's life partners - and their families who keep life full and interesting.
  • Jeremy's family for welcoming me as their daughter and sister.
  • My closest group of girlfriends who give the best hugs, share the tastiest recipes and provide the strongest support.
  • Jeremy's and my network of friends and family spread throughout the country.
  • Maria, a stay-at-home mom gone pro, who has cared for Jack as if he were her own and has helped me to find some balance as a working mom.
  • A workplace that helps the greater good and coworkers who are friends.
  • Good smells from the kitchen, all things Food Network and the celebration of the home cook.
  • Quiet moments in the early hours in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee and a sunrise as my only companions.
  • Roscoe the cat who waits by the door for our return and keeps my feet warm at night.
  • My unborn daughter, whom I pray for good health. 
  • My son, my Jack, who is smart, handsome and funny. Whose first word is "Mommy" when he's tired, hungry or sad. Who says "But I'll miss you" when I told him this morning I was going to stay home while he, Papa and Daddy headed to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  • My college sweetheart-turned-husband, who has enough patience for the both of us and whom I love more each day.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Count on your blessings

Stresses at work, runny noses and the mountain of laundry that will never go away - these are the things that can weigh me down and they admittedly aren't even the real big obstacles of life. But they clutter my mind and my day.

We had our good friends in town this weekend, and Emily told me about a workshop she attended where the teacher encouraged them to minimize the bad things to the place they belong to let the good things come through (this is me greatly paraphrasing). It made me think - how often do I dwell on the bad stuff when the good stuff of life surrounds me?

I woke up Saturday morning and even though I've been planning for this day for weeks, I was struck with the thought: I get to spend today with some of my best friends. Emily and Steve were in town from St. Louis; Amy and Mark were joining us as well. Super nanny Maria was watching all of the little darlings so we could head to the Northwestern v. Illinois game at Wrigley Field kid-free. NU may have lost the game but I had a great time catching up with my dearies. We joined up with more friends at the game; basically half of the people who were in our wedding party were seated with us in the stands. Worries melted away; my only complaint that afternoon was that the hot pretzels at the stadium were lukewarm.

My church - Fourth Presbyterian Church - sends daily devotionals and today's was Psalm 103 that basically says "don't miss a single blessing."

During this Thanksgiving, my wish for you (since I pretty much personally know my readership) is to remember what makes life meaningful. Quiet the stresses and anxieties that cloud your mind and reach out your arms. I bet you're met with someone who will hug you back.

Don't merely count your blessings. Count on your blessings. They make life worth living.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Musings in the wee hours

The clock says 4:56 a.m. and I cannot sleep. I'm thinking toys. I'm thinking I'll have to pull out Jack's old toys with this new baby and then I think about how my kids will be three years apart. Then I think about how when Jack is a high school senior, his sister will be a freshman. Then I think about how heartbroken I'll be when my son goes to college - a necessary step in his life, I admit - but I really feel like that's the real beginning of one's adulthood. Then I think about how I hope my daughter and I will get along and what will the high school years bring for us both. Then I think about Jeremy and me being empty-nesters and maybe we'll be able to do civilized things again like going to dinner on a weeknight or seeing a movie in the theater.

And then Roscoe the cat jumps on me, and I realize I shouldn't by lying on my back because I'm pregnant, so I shift to my side. I'm brought back to today - today is trains and blocks littered on the rug; looking for preschools; and ultrasound pictures on the fridge. Today is good, and I will cherish these moments - these early childhood days aren't always the easiest but today my babies are mine and not the world's just yet. And I'm selfishly going to hold onto that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Everything is different

Three years ago, life changed forever. I felt it at that moment, and I feel it today. Happy birthday to my dear boy Jack. 

How has life changed? 
  • "A Bug's Life" is played on the DVD player much more than often than "When Harry Met Sally"
  • Jeremy and I ask for tables of 3 rather than 2 when we go out to eat
  • Sippy cups have replaced wine glasses
  • I have a natural subject for all holiday cards
  • Sick days are actually taken as...sick days
  • I sing "Somewhere over the rainbow" on a nightly basis
  • I am reminded the joy of enjoying the little things in life
  • A small hand rests in mine

Jack, you've matured so much over this past year - especially in these last few weeks. I love having conversations with you and I love watching you grow and learn and play with your friends and cousins. This year is a big year - you'll become a big brother and a bonafide preschooler.  You are beloved by many and loved by me. Jeremy, thank you for being the wonderful daddy you are and for being my best friend through these new-parent years - some of the hardest and most joyous times I've experienced.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My day in two distinct acts

My morning: Jack is with Maria, and I'm at home. The cleaning lady was here yesterday, so everything is sparkling, relatively speaking. I've made an early-morning trip to Whole Foods to stock up on my over-priced, organic goodies.  I'm getting Openlands' work done and checking my email and voicemail while barreling through four loads of laundry. The TV and radio are off; the house is silent. Ingredients for tonight's dinner and brunch tomorrow are laid out on the counter in a row. Roscoe the cat is stretched out, napping in the morning sun.

My afternoon: Jack and I are just getting back from Costco. I'm hoping my purse still contains my cell phone and wallet and I haven't dropped them anywhere. My rolling cart is overflowing with things, including a box of fresh spinach that Jack has already pre-wilted for me by stepping on several times. My Costco-sized container of grapes is agape and a few grapes are rolling out of the cart. My coat pockets are full of little letters that Maria bought at Jo-Ann's to make Jack a birthday crown.  We have two birthday balloons for Jack - and yes, I never thought this would happen to me, but they got stuck in our elevator door (me holding the strings with the balloons not quite making it in). I frantically stop the elevator one floor up and we descend to retrieve them. Luckily, none of them broke. All this while, Jack is wailing like a fire engine and I'm just remembering that my newly potty trained boy is in undies. We stagger through the afternoon - Jack playing with toys while I catch up on work email. An afternoon nap finally prevails at 3:30 p.m., and now I'm sitting here contemplating when to wake him up as I eat chocolate-covered almonds. Or maybe I'll first get that fourth load of laundry out of the dryer that has been sitting there all afternoon.

Happy Friday! (And someone, please have a glass of wine for me.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I'm almost back

My husband likes to remind me, "publish or perish." The last two weeks have been blessedly busy - annual fundraiser for work; great friend and family times on the weekends; a very successful trick-or-treating trip; and preparations for a special someone's third birthday. More thoughtful prose to come shortly but I leave you with a few answers to questions I posed to Jack this week:

Q: Where's Daddy? (one night after work)
A: At church.

Q. What's your favorite vegetable?
A. Pickles.

Q. What's your favorite fruit?
A. Lemons.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our news

Yesterday I woke up and put on a blue shirt - the same blue shirt I wore three years ago when I went to my 20-week ultrasound when I was expecting Jack. I had convinced myself that I'm having a boy this time around, and this appointment was the confirmation. I asked Jack over breakfast one more time - little brother or little sister? And he answered the same as he always had - little sister.

Well, turns out Jack was right. I cannot believe it - God is blessing us a little girl. We're surprised, thrilled and excited for this next step in our family. I can't convey the joy and the weight of this discovery. With Jack, I've been primarily concerned with his health, safety and well-being. And of course his learning and growth as a little person. But with a daughter, my mind is already racing with ideas of making her strong and independent. As I carried my "Wonder Woman" coffee mug to my desk this morning, one of my (male) colleagues pointed out that my daughter can use that cup one day.  I smiled, ready for the challenge.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Get the soup pot out

It was a beautiful, crisp fall day. Inspired by the Green City Market and craving soup as the temperatures get chillier, I made leek and potato soup tonight. This recipe is adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food:

Leek and Potato Soup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds leeks
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
1 pound yellow potatoes, peeled, halved or quartered, and sliced
6 cups of water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/3 cup heavy (or light) cream

Trim the root end and the tough upper greens from the leeks.  Cut the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse well. Slice leeks.  Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add leeks, thyme, bay leaf and salt.  Cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook for 4 minutes.  Then add water or broth. Bring to a boil and turn down to summer.  Cook until vegetables are tender, about 30-35 minutes. 

Remove the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs and puree the soup (I use an immersion blender for this step). Stir in cream and enjoy with some crusty bread.

We also bought some baking apples today, so I made a small batch of homemade applesauce for our breakfast tomorrow. 

Homemade applesauce
4 medium cooking apples, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup water
2 or 3 tablespoons sugar
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat apples and water to boiling in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to low.  Simmer uncovered 10 minutes or so, until tender. You may need to pour off some of the water (depending on the consistency you like). Bust out the immersion blender again or a good old-fashioned potato masher, and mash up the apples and mix in the remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling and boil for 1 minute.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's your ultimate family vacation?

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So the current word on the street is that my parents' new house might not be done in time for Christmas. Being slightly displaced is made even worse by things only my family would worry about. To quote my dear little sister, "I don't have the freezer room to make of all the Christmas cookies that Mom usually makes!"

We briefly flirted with the idea of going away for Christmas, which would be a complete novelty for my family. In the end, we probably won't  - and it's for very good reasons - we couldn't take my brothers-in-law away from their own families during the holidays.

But with that said, a girl can dream, can't she? So in the spirit of plotting dream vacations, I present to you, my Ultimate Family Vacation:

I would head to the mountains at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Colorado. (I love that their tagline is "Not exactly roughing it.") Okay, if you know me well or even just know me just in passing, you know I'm absolutely scared to death of downhill skiing. In my late-20s, I broke down crying, sobbing, bawling on the bunny hill in Vail as 3 year olds in helmets whizzed past me. I was scarred for life. That said, I know my husband and some of members of my family would LOVE to have a skiing vacation, so I would be game. Despite my own fears, I would encourage my son to try skiing - start him early!

I love to cross country ski and I absolutely adore spa days at mountain resorts (who wouldn't?). If this is my dream vacation, there would be sumptuous meals (with no dishes to wash), lazy winter days reading books by a fire and a Christmas Eve with snow falling softly outside. We'd write Santa a note before our trip so he'd know where to find us. My parents, my sisters and their families would all be there with me and my little family, and we'd all fly first class. And there would be a lot of Christmas cookies.

Don't forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

You start to cry when I say hello

End-of-the-workday reunions between child and working parent are often fraught with emotion. When baby is young, he can have the best day ever with his caregiver, but when he sees mom or dad, it's Niagara Falls - they save their most raw emotions for their beloveds. That was certainly the case for Jack. As he's gotten older and more toddler-ish, a lot of the times when he sees me, he's defiant and does not want to leave Nate's house, which is rough when you're tired, pregnant and ready to go home.

Don't get me wrong: We have had many a good greeting. Today was a good reunion that makes up for any of the less-than-desired ones. Maria drove Jack home, and I was waiting outside for them. As her Prius rounded the corner, I saw Jack craning his neck and saw the joy on his little face as he recognized me. Yes, as soon as he got out of the car, he was running away from me down the sidewalk, but I'll remember that sweet, little moment for a long time.

The craning of his little neck reminded me of this picture, taken one day after his birth. My baby bird:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wise words

I'm thinking about renaming this blog "sleepy train confessions."

So here goes...I'm on the L last night, digging my nails in my palms, trying to stay awake. I had a meeting run late at work, so I had to skip my afternoon snack. Blood sugar's running low, and it's a little chilly out. I'm tired, tired, tired.

As I walk into my friend's house to pick up Jack, I announce to anyone who will listen, "Mama's tired, so Jack get your shoes on." The little guy listens, mostly because Maria is still there and helps to usher him out the door.

It's a beautiful fall evening - Jack runs to the car as I trail behind, the leaves crunching under my feet. Suddenly, he turns around and looks at me squarely in the eyes and says, "Focus. I am speed."

I laugh aloud - if you're a Cars fan, you'll know this is a line from the Disney movie (I can imagine my friend Amy wondering what is the deal with guys quoting movies all of the time...) but I take it to heart. Focus, focus - I'm someone's mommy and I can't drag myself along. I hoist Jack into his seat and away we go into the bake a lasagna and banana bread and maybe wash one load of laundry if I can eek it out.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A mommy feat

Sometimes I get these crazy ideas and sometimes they actually work, which is a blessing.

6 a.m. Thursday morning, this morning. I wake up to a dark house with toddler feet in my face. Jeremy's out of town; Jack was crying in the middle of the night, and I barely remember bringing him into my bed. He wakes up - soon, we're both out of bed and going through the morning routine.

Now here's where my crazy idea comes in. Jack is accompanying me to work this morning - my dentist is in the same building as my office, and my doctor, who is a young dad, asked me to bring Jack along to get used to the dentist's office and he said he would check out Jack's smile. I tote along a bag loaded with my work stuff, one diaper, three play cars and Jack's play camera.  We take the L the two stops to Mommy's office. Jack gets smiles from normally dour morning faces on the train. When we exit the train, everyone else makes a beeline for the street, but Jack insists on standing and watching the train leave the station.

Being in public with Jack often reminds me how my world has become a Mork & Mindy episode. "Oooooh, Chicago," Jack exclaims as we emerge from the underground train station into the crowds on the busy city sidewalk. "Look at that tall building." As we cross State Street, the surliest of traffic cops actually waves to Jack; I have to do a double-take. We explore the wonder of the revolving door to Mommy's work building and off we go to the 19th floor to visit the dentist.

All of my trepidation is gone as I'm in the dentist's chair. Jack is enthralled - the hygienist has given him a seat next to me, and he gets to hold the tools. She patiently explains everything she is doing; he doesn't even have time to pull anything too naughty. Jack allows the hygienist to examine his mouth as well. I couldn't have asked for a better experience - they encouraged me to bring him one more time before he gets his first real cleaning.

So all is well - next stop is Mommy's office on the 16th floor where Jack knows the location of every candy jar. What really makes this crazy idea feasible is that Maria the super-nanny has agreed to pick him up downtown, and my nannyshare friend Whitney has also signed off on the idea. We have some time before Maria arrives, and again, it works out well. I'm thankful for a workplace that embraces my child and even though we have a board meeting happening at noon, everyone is totally calm and cool with a toddler running amok. Jack settles in to some Sesame Street clips on my computer while I prep a few things for my meeting.

Maria soon arrives and whisks Jack away (thank you again, Maria). I'm back upstairs to present at our board meeting and mingle with board members.

The day's almost done and I have heels and maternity stockings, no less!

(This post is dedicated to my sister Dayna who joins the ranks of working mommys tomorrow.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

One to follow

On my blog roll, I only include blogs of people I know personally, but I may have to add this one. Wonderful, heartfelt writing and beautiful photography...check out the heading "Start here if you're new." She'll direct you to her second daughter's birth story. I read it while at work and it took me about an hour because I had to keep switching screens from fear of sobbing too loudly....

Happy rainy Friday...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I was given permission to rest today

As I try to write down these thoughts, boil a pot of water for Jack's vegetables (frozen vegetables are a beautiful invention), dry a load of sheets in the dryer, I have to tell you: I was given permission to rest today.

I went to Jack and Nate's first Kindermusik class today with Nate's baby sister June and super nanny Maria. We danced, we sang, and we kept the beat. At one point, the teacher instructed parents and caregivers to lie down on the floor to rest. She asked us how many times do our children seeing us sit down during the day, let alone, rest. So I laid there. Jack patted my face as Nate patted my back. They were both wiggleworms and didn't really get what we were doing.  Finally Jack squatted down near my face, and said, "wake up, Mommy!" The teacher implored us to take time at home to sit with our children and just be. As I stood up, I told Maria this class is also doubling as therapy for me.

(We pause for a moment as I put the vegetables into the boiling water.)

So I still have a full list of to do's for tonight but will try to take one minute to relax (and hey, I got not one but two October issues of food magazines today....yes!) steps!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jack can add this to his growing list of things to discuss with his therapist

We've had our condo on the market since April 1, and no dice so far. We still believe in our condo and finding the right buyer - this economic market is just a killer.

Jeremy and I took stock of the situation this weekend. How can a fundraiser whose job it is to sell, sell, and sell and a writer (that's what Jeremy likes to call himself these days but he also could be described as a public relations professional whose job is it to market) not sell their place?

Even if the market isn't kind to us, we can't say we didn't try. Today, we lower our price. We also are thinking about writing a letter to leave out to prospective buyers on what we love about our condo and our neighborhood. Oh, and if I have to, I'm not below setting out homemade cookies and bottles of water to sweeten the deal. And one last thing: We rented a small storage spot to store some of our things to declutter our home.

I'm just guessing but I'm betting our potential buyer of a 2 bedroom/2 bath loft condo smack in the middle of Chicago probably doesn't have children. So we have to de-kidify, which is hard. Jack is spending much of the time out of our condo because our nannyshare is currently at my friend's house (we switch off every few months), so we're hoping he won't miss the toys we've stored. Though, our little guy did have to come with us to the storage unit this morning and saw Mommy and Daddy put his toys away. We assured him that we "own" this space and that we can visit the toys any time. And someday we will have them all back. He stood there, processing it all. I'm just waiting for the questions...and hoping I have good answers (and the resistance to not buy more toys in the meantime...)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Halloween spoiler alert!

Faithful companion

Roscoe the kitty was Jeremy's and my first "child." He's taken a backseat in the past few years with the arrival of Jack (major understatement - I mean, before Jack, I used to send Kodak albums of Roscoe pictures to my family) but continues to be our faithful companion. When Jeremy goes away on business trips, I'll find Roscoe sitting by the front door, waiting for the "pack" to be united once again. Routinely, when Jack and I arrive home after the workday, Roscoe will meet us at the door as well. (In fact, if he doesn't meet us, I can safely assume he's locked himself somewhere - the bathroom or most recently, the TV cabinet...) And for about seven years straight, I've had 15 pounds of furry cat sleeping between my feet every night without fail.

This morning, I noticed Roscoe sitting by the door. The sweet thing was that it was Jack who wasn't home (Maria, the super-nanny, has picked him up early because she is awesome and extremely accommodating of Jeremy's and my crazy schedules) and here my feline son was missing his buddy. Has Roscoe finally forgiven us for the mornings of forgetting to feed him (once, I picked up his water bowl, which was bone-dry)? For his brother "holding" him by squeezing his fluffy middle? For the early days, when even my nocturnal animal would slink away from the midnight cries of my newborn? Roscoe's finally missing his Jack!

Um, now who's going to break the news to Roscoe that there's another one on the way???

Monday, September 13, 2010

Twice the fun!

Well, gentle reader, it's time. Given one of my sweet, well-meaning friends at work today told me I looked "good but tired" and tonight I realized I had my elastic-band pants on backwards all day at work, it's time to admit something:

I'm pregnant with baby #2!

Yes, it's true - double the kid stories from here on out and double the fun. Now I can tell you allllllllllllllllllll about my pregnancy highs and lows. How Jack has started imitating my morning sickness routine (throwing his hands over his mouth and saying he might "fro up") and my current quest to find the perfect constant tiredness and my moodiness (I cried so hard at the end of Forrest Gump, which I've seen a million times, that I got sick)...aren't you excited?

I know we are!

We got pregnant our first month of trying. I'm due March 7 and today marks week 15. Besides God and my husband, I'd also like to thank my "smart" phone. Yes, we have an app for that - I had a fertility tracker, which for all intents and purposes, pretty much worked to the tee!

All old wives' tales are pointing toward a girl - I'm carrying high; I've been sick as sick can be; and the fetal heartbeat is high. But we won't be sure until late-October and will be blessed either way.

So that's my news. Now go get me some mashed potatoes and a chocolate milkshake...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

May I have this dance?

Jeremy and I took Jack to his first-ever soccer class today. It was geared very much toward to the toddler set - lots of games that employed running, jumping and kicking the soccer ball. And....Jack was very much not into it when we first arrived. He refused to wear his team shirt and was generally overwhelmed by the large fieldhouse (six classes were running concurrently).  Jeremy comforted him as Jack broke down into tears - it was just too much. I intervened - probably at the wrong time - and Jack still wasn't having it.

Then the "coach" told the kids to line up on one side for a silly run. They were to run - as silly as possible - and then freeze when he said freeze. I jumped in again, giving Jeremy a break, and grabbed both of Jack's hands. He went from crying to uncontrollably giggling as we started our silly run/waltz around the field, hand-in-hand. He threw his head back and laughed with his whole body. When we had to freeze, I knelt down to him and he put his cheek next to mine and stood very still. Then we started our dance again, running and waving our arms. Later, I thought about how mortified Jack would have been of me, acting silly with him, if he was 8-10 years older, but today, I could do no wrong. After the run, something changed and he was into the class, actually listening to the coach and leaving Jeremy and me in the dust.

My son and I will do many dances in our life - literally and figuratively - as we try to figure each other out. I just hope at least a few are cheek-to-cheek.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Another new year, another apple cake

Sundown tonight marks Rosh Hashanah, or the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Since Jeremy is Jewish, we celebrate these holidays with gusto, especially the food.

Rosh Hashanah meals typically include apples and honey to symbolize a sweet new year. We have a lot of beginnings coming up this year, so we hope it's particularly sweet. Jack and I made an apple cake like last year. I love it because it's actually a recipe from my family and also fits perfectly with this holiday.

And here's a picture of my little helper; he's grown up a lot from last year:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Go here now

Here's my admission: I'm not really reviewing restaurants on this blog. Basically, I'm telling you when I find a good one. And I loved last night's place.

Jeremy and I rarely have a date night these days, so we gotta make it count. Province features New American food with South American and Spanish influences. It really feels like you're going out - a very modern, clean, white atmosphere with shocking pink accents hidden here and there. The room was bustling but it was easy to carry on a conversation.

This restaurant is a sign of the times. Its menu features local, sustainable ingredients and - in this economy - has a number of small plates and you can do a half-order on many of the entrees, making it fairly easy on the wallet.

This is serious grown-up food - melding together seasonal vegetables and spices, this restaurant did not disappoint. Our favorites were crab and fresh corn chowder with poblanos and fingerling potatoes; a 10-hour lamb with roasted eggplant, chorizo and cornbread stuffing; and an over-the-moon blueberry tart.

The wine list was varied and budget-friendly.  The staff was accommodating and street parking was plentiful. What are you waiting for???

161 N. Jefferson St., Chicago

Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday cake: Need I say more?

I think birthday cake is the best food in the entire world, and my son would agree. We had our friends over for dinner last night and made a nice Italian feast - chicken piccata, risotto, grilled vegetables and homemade focaccia. Recipes to come someday, but in the meantime, I'm focusing on dessert.

Jack was ready for cake as soon as the dinner plates were cleared. It was our friend Steve's birthday but I couldn't take my eyes off of my son. That pure joy of watching the dancing light of the candles and singing along with everyone else - I wish I could bottle that sweet moment. That's why I do what I do. Food is great and nourishing but it's really the moments around the table - the memories created that make cooking so special for me.

Jack helped me make this cake; it really is so simple you might throw your Duncan Hines away:

Chocolate birthday cake
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Now, as we know the Barefoot Contessa can be a vixen. Her complementary frosting recipe calls for one egg yolk. I wasn't going to go there so I instead used my mom's time-tested buttercream recipe that she has used for years and years on our family's birthday cakes:

Mom's buttercream frosting
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 t. almond or clear vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup half and half

Cream shortening and butter; add extract.  Gradually add powdered sugar and then half and half.  Scrape down sides of the bowl (add a few more drops of half and half, if needed). Beat on high until light and fluffy (about five minutes).

Jack and I dyed the frosting blue - I was going for manly blue, but we got Tiffany blue, which still looked very beautiful against the dark chocolate cake layers. Yummy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A civilized ending to an otherwise crazy week

It's Friday afternoon, and the temperatures are cooler out. The window and sliding glass door are wide open, and Jack is pushing his trains around the wooden tracks. He's got colorful washable marker streaks up and down his arms from a recent art project. Roscoe the cat is asleep in the sunlight, and he has one orange streak on his fur from aforementioned art project. And I'm finishing up some computer work for the week while planning our Sunday dinner menu with guests. My cookbooks are spread across the kitchen island. I'll go searching for ingredients tomorrow morning at the Green City Market, The Spice House, and, yes, Costco. Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunny post

It's 1 p.m. so I say this cautiously: I am having a good day.

I feel like I've been using this blog lately as my therapy to complain about how tired and busy I am. But today is good. Two loads of laundry done this morning before work; set out the cleaning supplies for the cleaning lady (yes, it's my dirty little secret, I have a cleaning lady AND setting out my supplies does make me feel like I've achieved something AND Jack knows her by name and knows she comes when "Gack's house is dirty"); and was able to stop by the farmers' market on my way into the office. (This is my most favorite time of year for local produce - August tomatoes and squash, coupled with the early fall offerings of apples).

Got word my friend had a baby...yea! And having a good day at the office. We learned we got a nice grant for general operations (very rare these days in the funding world), and I had a funder call to see if they could give MORE for a project they're already funding. And just heard from Maria and am getting a good-behavior report on Jack. Thank you!

Fingers crossed and thanks to above for a good day so far. And tonight's taco night...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Great weekend

Many thanks to my wonderful childhood friends - Amy, Jenny, Leigh and Rachel - for a great reunion of friends this past weekend. We met at Amy's house in Ohio (out in the country - think lots and lots of cornfields) with our husbands and children and just had the best time. Our kids got sucked into the vortex of toys and other kids, and the parents were free to visit, make meals, eat and repeat.

Corn on the cob, camp fires and lots of reminiscing - it was exactly the perfect summer weekend with dear friends.  Here's one of the only four pictures I took all weekend; Jack and his friend Max standing by their "campfire."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

You got me, karma!

So last night I was riding the L home (I feel like a lot of my posts start this way), hot, sweaty and tired. I am so ashamed to admit that I had the nerve to "tsk" a woman who had two small children with her, the youngest who just had spilled a million Fruit Loops near the exit of the train. Man, oh man, who am I to judge - here she is with two kids - one accidentally spills something and I "tsk" like I don't know what it's like???

Well, karma, you got me back. Flash-forward to 45 minutes later. Jack and I are at Whole Foods, and he's doing a great job sticking with me, even pulling the small rolling basket of groceries for his tired mama, which was very sweet. We head for the express check-out, which is located near a small massage station (this is Whole Foods, after all). Well, Jack decides to test the "relaxation factor" by pushing on the folding screens - and yes, they came crashing down on the massage chair. Luckily, no one was actually get a massage - that would be positively mortifying, but there was a very unhappy massage person who could only say, "tsk."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicken and basil stir-fry

It's August, and I'm sad to say my basil plant has gone by the wayside. It's hot...really hot...and I just couldn't coax it to go on living.

Whether you get your basil from the back porch or the grocery store, here's a great, kid-friendly weeknight meal, courtesy of my friend Emily:

Chicken and Basil Stir-Fry
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 T. cornstarch
coarse salt and ground pepper
6 t. vegetable oil
1 small onion, halved and cut into ¼-inch-thick wedges
2 bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T. rice vinegar
3 T. soy sauce
1 ½ c. basil leaves, larger leaves torn in half
cooked white rice, for serving (optional)

  1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels.  In a medium bowl, toss chicken with cornstarch, generously season with salt and pepper
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 t. oil over medium high. Cook half the chicken, turning once, until browned, but not completely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.  Repeat with another 2 t. oil and remaining chicken. Transfer chicken to a plate.  Set aside.
  3. To skillet, add remaining 2 t. oil, onion and bell peppers, cook over medium high heat, tossing often, until beginning to brown, 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add 1/3 c. water, vinegar, soy sauce and chicken to pan; cook, tossing until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Remove from heat.  Stir in basil leaves.  Serve immediately, over white rice, if desired.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mustard-baked chicken with a pretzel crust

Jack and I are in Cleveland this week, visiting my family and my yummy little niece, who is three weeks old. As a treat to my middle sister, the new mommy, I made one of her favorites - inspired by a dish from Great Lakes Brewery - tonight:

Mustard-baked chicken with a pretzel crust
Food & Wine Magazine

1/2 pound hard pretzels, coarsely crushed (4 cups)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels until coarsely ground; you should have coarse chunks and fine crumbs. Transfer to a large, shallow bowl. 2. Wipe out the food processor. Add the oil, whole-grain and Dijon mustards, water and vinegar and process until smooth. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.

Pour half of the dressing into a large shallow bowl, add the chicken breasts and turn to coat. Dredge the chicken in the pretzel crumbs and transfer to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Slice the chicken and serve warm or at room temperature with the remaining mustard dressing.

Make ahead
The baked chicken and dressing can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

For a crisp topping, it’s essential to use thick, hard pretzels, such as the sourdough or handmade versions.

Friday, July 30, 2010

One milestone not for the baby books

So my toddler has his first swear word. How cute. I'm totally blaming it on my husband's colorful language while driving. (And truth be told, I'm no princess when I'm behind the wheel either.)

Here we are, rocking in his rocking chair tonight - surrounded by furniture I've carefully researched for his safety, drawers full of clothes I've bought him and books stacked high for his learning. And he turns to me and says in his baby voice, "Mommy, you a (rhymes with sass)."

Alright then. I can't laugh, so I say, "Are you asking Mommy a question?" and he just smiles. May have to grab myself a bowl of ice cream while I ponder this one...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Out of the mouths of babes

As I was standing on the L tonight, a new toddler Aerobed resting in between my legs, I was thinking about how dead-tired I am. My days are filled with work, home and child - not much room for anything else. Did I even kiss my husband today? Not sure. Add in a layer of not feeling well and let the pity party begin!

This week is especially busy as I'm out next week. Lots of deadlines, meetings - in the grand scheme of things, this is all good news for my nonprofit - we have a lot of positive funding projects to be working on. But, man, it's a lot. And, wait, here's my train stop.

An hour later, I'm home with Jack....dinner, throw in a load of laundry, bath time, teeth time and wrestling into monkey pjs. Jeremy's working late, so I'm running through the nighttime routine on my own. Jack and I finally settle on Mommy's bed for reading. We read a few books and then we just lie there together. And then Jack says, "it's nice to slow down."

He's right. I need to figure this out - I can't spend so much of my life rushing to have single moments like this. What can I do?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The most delicious part of the week

I adore Saturday mornings. The work week is officially behind you, and the weekend is spread out before you, heavy with possibility. In the summer, the day might start off with a trip to the Green City Market, and in the fall, we're typically headed to a Northwestern football game amidst the crisp colors of autumn.

Today it is raining, and that's okay. The summer heat has been oppressive - I feel like I can barely breathe outside. My guys are both still asleep, and it's really cozy inside (cozy as it can be with the air conditioning running). Today we're off the Chinatown for some dim sum with good friends and probably some serious afternoon napping. Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm no Wonder Woman

Despite owning a pair of Wonder Woman underoos when I was 6 years old (here's a grown-up version, which are kind of awesome) and the WW mug that sits upon my desk, I am not her.

I went to work today, feeling overwhelmed. Jeremy is out of town, and Jack woke up during the night. I'm feeling a little under the weather anyways and I had a lot of work to do. Blessedly, I got through it all: a work colleague and I kicked butt at a funder meeting (she told us we have a 99.9% chance of getting the grant); another friend and I completed a presentation for tomorrow; and my realtor called to say we have a showing on our condo tomorrow night. Score. Rock and roll.

After work, I get to my friend's house tonight to pick up Jack. He looked tired and played out. He had scrapes all over his knees, which Maria had already given me the heads' up on. But, man, it broke my heart to see all of those scrapes and to know at the moment when he feel down, I wasn't there to pick him up. And that hurt.

I know I can't beat myself up, but it's just really, really hard to not be able to do it all with my superpowers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

One moment at a time

I've had a lot on mind lately; I apologize for the blogging hiatus. Today, I returned to work after a week off at the beach with lots of sunshine and rest. I was met with an avalanche of email and voicemails that I have yet to fully get through. Today, Jeremy started a new job, and we lowered the asking price on our loft - both on my mind. As I walked through the door tonight, Jack greeted me with a raspy voice (is he getting sick?) and Roscoe the cat has a limp (we have a vet appointment for tomorrow at 9 a.m.). And I made the mistake of looking at my work email at home. Is it Friday yet?

As I finished up the dishes, Billie Holiday was on the satellite radio, and I spied Jack and Jeremy sitting on the porch. Jack had shut the sliding glass door so I could only see - not hear - their conversation. Both were identically slumped in their chairs, and I could see Jack telling his daddy an animated story. It felt good to just smile at this simple moment. This is the good stuff of life. 

(Now I have to go call my middle sister back - I just realized I forgot to wish her a happy anniversary when I talked with her an hour ago.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summertime treat

It's Father's Day, and I think Jeremy's had a good weekend. A nice dinner Friday night, and a visit to Green City Market with Jack and me Saturday morning; time with a good friend Saturday afternoon and a backyard BBQ with good friends in the evening. I brought a store-bought blueberry pie (full disclosure: I still haven't conquered homemade pie crusts) and made a lemon sorbet to accompany it for our visit. Here is my own recipe, cobbled together from a few ideas I found on the Internet:

Lemonade Sorbet
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T. grated lemon zest

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat and cool in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

After squeezing lemons, strain the juice through a fine mesh sieve. Combine with the syrup and lemon zest. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions for 25-30 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container. Cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve.

Serves 8.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Adorable, seasonal and kid-friendly

Friday night, Jeremy and I had a very nice dinner at Chalkboard in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood. This is one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, and it's not just because of the fried chicken!

Adorable: The restaurant has a French bistro feel with pale-green-colored walls and fresh white brick. The staff is adorable as well - thoroughly charming and helpful. When we order the fried chicken and mac and cheese, the server proclaimed that this was his "favorite combination in the world."

Seasonal: The menu is ever-changing and is written on a large chalkboard on one wall (hence the name), and they feature the season's best ingredients.

Kid-friendly: The owners are a married couple, and their son is often at the restaurant during the early dining hours. They have a kids' New Year's Eve bash that has a countdown around 6 p.m. with sparkling apple cider.

Chalkboard also features a very delightful, reasonably priced afternoon tea service on Saturdays and Sundays, which I recently enjoyed with two good friends.

4343 N. Lincoln, Chicago
(773) 477-7144
Open: Dinner, Monday, Wednesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m.
Afternoon Tea Service, Saturday-Sunday, 2-4 p.m.
Sunday Brunch, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I have already learned to pick my battles

Even though we had a very early wake-up time this morning (5 a.m.), Jack has had a great morning. He used his potty, he ate a nice breakfast and only watched one episode of Curious George (a triumphant in my book). So when it was time to put on our shoes, I didn't argue with Jack's decision:

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Easiest weeknight dinner ever

Seriously, I'm almost embarrassed to post this super-simple recipe from The Barefoot Contessa. But I have to - it's healthy and super-fast. I roasted the chicken breasts yesterday afternoon, so they were all ready to go when I got home tonight. This soup was ready in 20 minutes, people:

Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole (2 split) chicken breast, bone in, skin on
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade Chicken Stock
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups wide egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred or dice the chicken meat. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley and heat through. Season to taste and serve.

Serves 4.

This dinner and clean-up were so fast that Jack and I had time to go to the playground.  On our way home, we waved to the kayakers on the Chicago River and we saw a Fonzie impersonator (complete with comb - I'm not making this up) walking down the street. Quite the evening!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What we did with our rainy morning

Chicago parents - if you're looking for a cheap fun activity this summer on a rainy day, check out Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds exhibit on display at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which can be accessed right off of the L's Green Line. Jack had a ball running through this interactive exhibit. (And when I say "interactive," I mean giggling uncontrollably, barreling through the silvery balloons.) Props to Jeremy for dressing him in orange today so we could actually keep track of him. If you have time afterwards, take a stroll around IIT's campus to admire the modern architecture.

Jeremy took Jack and I for lunch at Lou Mitchell's in the West Loop; in business since 1923, this establishment's one of many claims to fame is it marks the start of Route 66.

Now this is a great place to bring kids (and my brother-in-law Peter, for that matter). As you wait for a table, they offer their signature donut holes. Once seated, this diner's menu seems endless. We stuck to breakfast - fluffy French toast, rich coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and a great children's menu.  The place was loud - which we appreciated, as parents of a tot. As Jack began to serenade me at the top of his lungs, I had nary a worry nor care. And just when my little guy started the "I'm done" dance, a voice whispered in my ear, "How about some complimentary soft-serve?" The server smiled as she returned with a round of small cups of vanilla ice cream. I hear they also give Milk Duds on the way out, but not today. Lou's, we'll be back.

Just one note: They only accept cash, but they do have an ATM machine in their entryway.

Lou Mitchell's, 565 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago
Open: Monday-Saturday, 5:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The only trouble I've found with my edible garden

Thanks to a very thoughtful gift from my mom (Is using "thoughtful" and "my mom" in the same sentence an oxymoron? I mean, really, who knows you better than your mom?), my planter boxes on my 4th floor porch are filled with herbs.

Saturday night was Italian night at our house. I tore off a basil leaf for Jack to sample from the "garden." He didn't bat an eye as he bit into the leaf.  

Next day, as we were walking around the city streets, Jack on Daddy's shoulders, Jack grabs a leaf from a tree and promptly takes a bite. Not so delicious!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Light summer eats

Summer is here...this weekend was great. It was supposed to rain all weekend, but the sun complied at all of the right game Friday night; farmer's market Saturday morning; and a great birthday party outside Sunday. 

As we ready for the week ahead, I made this salad in the late afternoon. It's perfect summer food - clean, crisp taste with lots of seasonal vegetables. It will be great for our lunches this week but would also be perfect for a light dinner or served at a picnic. Many thanks to my mom for finding this winner:
Greek Chicken and Barley Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light
2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 cups cubed seeded cucumber
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cubed yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1. To prepare salad, sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Add 1 cup broth; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until done. Cool; shred chicken. Discard broth.
2. Bring 3 cups broth to a boil in a large saucepan; add barley. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Cool. Combine chicken, barley, cucumber, and next 4 ingredients (through olives) in a large bowl.
3. To prepare dressing, combine 3 tablespoons oil, rind, and remaining ingredients; stir well. Add to barley mixture; toss well. Cover and chill.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We've got spirit; yes, we do

After spending the long holiday weekend with my son, I have diagnosed him as "spirited." Which my brother-in-law has pointed out is an euphemism for "pain in the butt." And no, he didn't say "butt."

I should have known something was up when on two different occasions, our condo neighbors would see Jack and I head to the elevator and would take a step back to allow him to push the elevator call button (yes, I admit, he does holler a little when someone else pushes it). Or maybe it was at the birthday party we attended this past weekend, where while the other children were playing, my son alternated between spraying the garden hose and trying to escape through the back gate.

Being a word person, I am comforted by defining my situation with a term. It doesn't let me off of the hook, but it does give me something to research, work on and ponder.

And don't get me wrong - Jack is still my sweet boy. He will say "I love ewe, Mommy" unprompted, throwing his skinny little chicken arms around my neck, and he just requested the "rainbow song" at bedtime tonight.

Jack, here's the deal, buddy: I promise you can keep your willfulness and your stubbornness. Your headstrong personality will serve you well in your adulthood. Frankly, Mommy wishes she had half of your chutzpah. But it's my job right now to set boundaries for you. Simply put, I'm here to ensure you act like a human being in public. Add that to my "to do" list!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

No, it never gets easy

Lately, Jack really likes to wave good-bye from our fourth-floor condo window as our friends leave our building. We typically stand there and frantically wave as they either get into their cars and drive away or are on foot. It's cute and endearing, and when Roscoe the cat jumps up on the large windowsill too, sometimes chaotic.

But it hurts a little when I'm the person Jack is waving good-bye to.

This morning, he and Daddy were standing at the window as usual, and I - not caring what people think - wave both arms to Jack and blow a big kiss from the street below. He waves back; Daddy's hands around his waist. As I turn the corner - both literally and figuratively - to head to work, I'm sad to ever turn my back to him. I know full well he is certainly demanding that Daddy play trucks or cue up another "Curious George" but it's still hard. It never gets easy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My wake-up call

Having a food blog and loving to cook, I am sure you are not surprised that I could shed a few pounds. Being a full-time working mom of a tot, I have always contested that I have no time to exercise.

I'm trying to change that. Got up at 5:30 a.m. this morning and went for a walk (gotta start things slow, people). Forty-five minutes later, I quietly entered our condo but Jeremy and Jack were awake and in full-swing.

I did a few sit-ups as Roscoe the cat rubbed against my head and Jack sat on my stomach.  I got a shower; my husband left me a hot cup of coffee by the sink (which I had kiddingly asked for as I headed to the shower).  Had a chance to read the Wall Street Journal, which touted lower housing interest rates for summer, and eat breakfast with Jack. I even had five extra minutes to write this blog post for goodness sake.

Shoot. So exercise is good for you.

Won't you join me?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bittersweet ain't just a chocolate

I went home to Cleveland this weekend with Jeremy and Jack for two celebrations: my youngest sister's 30th birthday and my middle sister's baby shower. We had so much fun with my family - including Jack whooping it up with his 2-year-old cousin Andrew.

My parents move in a week or so from the house we basically grew up in - I thought my mom was slightly crazy for hosting people Saturday night for dinner after the baby shower. But it was fitting to have a last hurrah in the house. As the toddlers ran around the yard and people mingled outside, I thought this was the best memory I could have - our family house filled with people, laughter and, of course, food.

The house has been on the market for two years, so I thought I would be prepared. Yeah, I wasn't. As I said good-bye to my dad, I couldn't let go and started to cry. A lot. My mom took one look at me, and her eyes grew wet (no one cries alone with my mother). I'll be okay - I'm almost surprised at how heartbroken I feel about this transition. I've thought about it a lot - I just have to dig down deep to keep the memories - the same place I keep the other good days, my wedding, the FANTASTIC shoe deal I got last summer, etc...

And this is really good for my parents. They are moving closer to my sisters and to me (kind of). I kid that the new house they are building is my mom's dream kitchen with a house built around it (double wall ovens, people). But I'm still a little sad...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm easily won over...

The end of last week was just weird in Chicago...local news of suicides, including one quite close to my office, varying temperatures with brutal changes in air pressure, and a weird guy on the L who was surely harmless but just got my radar up. Even silly little things were getting me down, like people consistently not holding the elevator in the lobby of my building, preferring to let the doors shut as I approached them. Bleh. Friday, as the rains continued, I was ready to go home and quit city life for awhile. While I was down, I even got kicked again - receiving a ticket in the mail from the City for running a red light (with a picture of our car as evidence). Awesome.

But, Chicago, you are persistent.

I have seen your beauty this week. Yes, the rainy weather has continued, but one of my coworkers turned my perspective upside down Tuesday morning by calling his early-morning, misty walk through
Millennium Park "poetry."  The kind CTA attendant at my L station asked me Monday if I had a nice Mother's Day. This morning, as I walked to the train, I heard an extremely enthusiastic "good morning!" As I looked up, I saw a garbage man, hanging off of the back of his truck, waving to me. Kind of strange but, still, it made me smile. And as I walked across Daley Plaza toward my office, I was met with the first farmer's market of the season. 

Living in a city forces you to face all types of humanity day in and day out. I can't shield my son from all of the bad but I hope I'm giving him the tools to appreciate the good.