Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31: Healthier Apple Crisp Recipe

Isla is 10 months old today, but I forgot to take her picture with Raggedy Ann. So check back tomorrow for her 10 month update and pictures and my thoughts on how she is growing up way too fast!

Right now, I am enjoying some delicious, leftover apple crisp, so I think I will share that recipe tonight so you can enjoy some too!I have already written about how we have been trying to cut out processed foods and eat a more natural diet. We are not super strict about it, and we still eat some processed stuff, but I am making an effort to only prepare our food using real foods.

I suppose apple crisp is more of a fall dessert, but we like to enjoy it year round. My normal recipe is from my grandma, and it calls for 1 stick of margarine, 1 cup of white flour, and 1 cup of white sugar! I thought I would try to make her recipe with some healthier substitutes, and it turned out so good! Seriously, I don't see any reason to go back to the old recipe when this healthier version tastes just as good (maybe better??). A great treat to enjoy and not feel too guilty about it!

(Healthier) Apple Crisp

4-5 cups chopped, peeled apples (but if you left the skin on, this would be even better for you)
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sucanat
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup apple juice

Combine the apples, water and cinnamon in the baking dish.

In a separate bowl, cut the butter in with the sugars, flour and oats until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the apple juice. Spoon this mixture on top of the apples.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until apples are cooked through and the topping is crispy.

I served this with some vanilla frozen yogurt...which is not a real food product, but it was delicious! (I tell myself that frozen yogurt has to be better for you than ice cream, right? Though I have a feeling that the sugar and amount of processed ingredients in both is probably about the same).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29: True Love

Elliot came over for a little bit this afternoon to hang out with us. We popped popcorn and watched Tangled, though the kids only watched a few minutes of the movie before they wanted to get up and play with each other.

Elliot has been saying lately that he wants to marry Audrey. I asked him about it today, and he said, "But first I have to do one thing. I have to give her a diamond ring."
I don't think Audrey has any idea what marriage is, but she quickly agreed to marry Elliot as well.

These two have been buddies since they were born. I have a lot of pictures of the two of them together, and I just couldn't resist putting together a quick collage. Who knows, this could come in handy for the future wedding slide show!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28: Pantry Pictures (After)

I finally got my pantry organized! I was not able to purchase as much Tupperware as I would have liked, but I am happy with the few pieces that I did get.

Here is a reminder of the before picture:

And after:I have never actually organized my cabinets before. I clean them out occasionally, but I have never arranged them so that everything has a place of its own. I always just threw things in wherever I could find room. In this cabinet, I didn't actually throw away too much food. I just arranged everything in a more orderly fashion, and it was amazing how much more room we had.

Why didn't I do this sooner?? I actually finished this cabinet over a month ago, and it has looked exactly the same for the past month. Everything has a place, and when it is time to put something away, I know exactly where to put it.

This is especially handy with spices. With mine, I just arranged them by brand/size with the labels facing out. It is super easy to find what I want and put it back where it belongs. Except for one time recently when I forgot to put the thyme back in its place. It was missing for several days before I finally found it hiding behind the salt.
And here is the other cabinet before:

And after:In this one, I did throw away quite a few things. Plus it is nearing the end of our grocery week, so it is looking a little bare now. And we really just don't keep a lot of food in our house. I probably should have a bigger stockpile in case of emergencies, but it seems like we don't have much room for food storage. Now that our cabinets are nice and organized, I guess we have room for quite a bit more!

Up next...the refrigerator and freezer!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27: Scheels

The girls and I went to Scheels today. I'm sure the store hates people like us...who just come to their store to play with all their stuff and never spend any money. We do sometimes buy ice cream, but today we just looked around. And took pictures.

Audrey first wanted pictures with everyone (her, Isla and Belle). Then pictures of just Audrey. Then pictures of just Isla. And finally, pictures of just Belle. With all the photos I have taken in her lifetime, I am afraid I might have created a modeling monster in Audrey!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24: The Hunger Games

Everyone is talking about The Hunger Games these days as the first movie was released yesterday.

I have been a fan of the Hunger Games books since before it was cool to be a fan of Hunger Games! After reading the series, I made it my goal to get everyone I know to read the books, because I loved them so much. I did convince a lot of people to read them, so I guess I am partly to blame for the Hunger Games mania going on right now.

Last night, a big group of us headed to the theater to see the movie on opening night. We first met at Steak n Shake to hang out and play a little Hunger Games trivia. Between all of us, we have 15 kids. That means we all had to arrange babysitters for our kids for a late night movie....that's a lot of childcare! You know we are dedicated fans when we were willing to go to all that trouble to find babysitters. Daniel's parents drove all the way here (a three hour trip) just to watch our girls for this night.
Then it was movie time. We went to a 10:10 showing, and it was not full at all. I was really surprised at how few people were there. I guess all of the diehard fans went to the midnight showings the night before.

Before I talk about my thoughts on the movie, allow me a little tangent about movies based on books. It seems to be the thing to do right now to make movies based on popular books. I read a lot of books, and I like to watch movies, so I have watched many movies based on books that I have read. Here is my advice for watching these kinds of movies:

1. Remember that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie. I read a review of the Hunger Games movie in Entertainment Weekly today that explained it this way, "The movie shows how, but the book shows why." In a book, the author is able to communicate so much more about what is going in inside the character's head. A movie just can't do that, therefore the book is always going to be better at giving you a full picture of the story.

2. The movie will leave out parts of the book. Unless you are willing to sit in the theater for 12 hours to watch the movie, you really can't expect the movie to cover every single detail of the book.

3. The movie will change parts of the book. Some ideas are too complex or too difficult to translate to screen, and changes must be made.

4. The movie will never look exactly as you imagined while reading the book. Which is another reason why the book is always better--it leaves so much more to the imagination. Movies do not have that luxury.

So when you see a movie based on a book you have read, don't let these things upset you. It's just the way it is with movies and books. I always love to watch the movie after reading the book, but I also go into the movie with pretty low expectations.

Okay...back to the topic at hand: I really liked The Hunger Games movie. It has to be really hard to make a movie like that, knowing how many fans of the book will be critiquing every single thing and expecting so much. I thought they did a good job. It followed closely to the book, and I liked the couple things that they added or changed for the sake of the movie. I enjoyed it. I'm curious to know if people who did not read the books also found it enjoyable.

If you have never read the books, go read them. Then go see the movie. It is a fairly universally appealing story and a super easy read. You won't regret it! =)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22: Bathroom Before Pictures

Our downstairs bathroom has been in need of a makeover since we moved into this house... seven years ago! (Seven years! I can't believe we have lived in this house that long!)

The bathroom had this lovely dark purple wallpaper on the walls. And for some reason, when we first moved in, I thought the room needed more purple so I bought a light purple shower curtain, rug and towels. is purple overload in this room, and I have been ready to change it for a long, long time!
The problem is that the whole bathroom just needs to be gutted and made over: new walls, floors, sink, toilet, bathtub...the works. Our thought has been that we won't change anything until we are ready to change everything.
The reality is that we probably won't be ready to change everything for several more years. Our kitchen also needs a remodel, and it is higher on our priority list. Which means...we are stuck with this bathroom for now.

But look at that wallpaper! Not only do we hate the color, but the wallpaper was not applied well at all, and it has been peeling since we moved in to this years ago! After seven years of looking at this purple, peeling wallpaper, I finally decided that we had to get rid of it!
So, our bathroom is currently undergoing a mini-makeover, courtesy of Daniel. The wallpaper is going away, and it is being repainted. I picked out a new shower curtain and towels and a few accessories. I cannot wait until the project is finished and I can show you the after pictures! It is a definite improvement. For now, here are a few more before pictures:This black box is going away too, and I couldn't be more excited! The black box was a bit of a mystery to us for a while. We are pretty sure that it was once used to hold toilet paper. When we moved in, we bought a toilet paper holder to fit in place of the black box. Then we realized that the hole was too big for the holder. We think that they intended to insert a TP holder into the wall, but accidentally cut the hole too big. So instead, they built a box to hold the toilet paper.For the record, we have never used the box to hold toilet paper. Just look at it...yuck! I tried to clean it, but there was just no hope for it. It's gone forever now!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21: My Girls

My computer is back and working again. Here are some pictures of the girls from the past few days!

Audrey is all about the dress up clothes these days.

The weather has been in the 80s this week. And it is only March! I am bracing myself because I just know a cold spell is going to hit us soon. But really I am hoping that the warm weather is here to stay. It is so nice!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20: New Curtains

I am just about finished with my list of projects in our basement playroom. One of which was making some curtains for the windows.

They are basement windows, so it is hard to find store-bought curtains to fit them. I was going to just buy a valance to cover them, but I wanted a print and I couldn't find anything that I liked. So I decided to try to make my own instead!
I don't really know how to sew, so I opted for a no-sew curtain. All I needed was some fabric and a little bit of Stitch Witchery. They are not perfect; look closely and you can definitely tell they are homemade. But I'm happy with them, and I think they are better than any of the store-bought options I could afford.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17: St. Patrick's Day parade

Today we decided to check out the local St. Patrick's Day parade for the first time. And maybe the last time! It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't too exciting either. They probably could have renamed it the Political Campaign parade. With an election just a few days away, all the candidates were taking the chance to pass out candy and flyers to potential voters. One advertisement that we read for the parade said they would have lots of bands and lots of floats. The parade was over an hour and a half long (we left at the 1 1/2 hour mark, so I don't know how long it actually was). We saw two bands and maybe one float. And we saw A LOT of people dressed in green walking. I would say at least 3/4 of the parade was made up of people just walking. I don't know how there were any people left to watch the parade; it seemed like the entire town was walking in the parade!

We kind of stuck out in the crowd, as the girls and I were not wearing green. We wore our only green clothes to Sprouts on Thursday, so we didn't have them clean today. At least our stroller is green.Poor Isla didn't get to see much of the parade. It was 80 degrees and really sunny, and there was no shade where we were standing. I was worried about Isla getting sunburned (her skin has enough trouble as is). So we put her in the stroller and had to face it away from the parade to keep her in the shade. She just chilled there for pretty much the whole parade, playing with Sophie the Giraffe.Audrey was in serious mode for all of the parade. She wasn't too sure about the crowds of people or the loud noises, and she wanted someone to hold her the entire time. I managed to snag a sucker for her, which I thought would help her perk up a little bit. But serious mode continued.
Then she got a Twizzler, and that did improve her mood quite a bit!
Finally, we got Audrey to smile as we were leaving. She knew I was taking a picture, so she purposely started picking her nose.And she thought that was hilarious!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16: Be Back Soon (Again!)

Ugh. I have been MIA this week because my computer is broken. It is currently in the shop getting repaired. I don't have good luck with computers. Hopefully I will get it back soon. I feel a little lost without it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13: Book Review

Tonight our book club met to discuss Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It is a nonfiction book about a slum in Mumbai, India. Here is my review of the book:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is deceptive because it reads like fiction, so you often feel like you are reading a novel. If this book was a novel, then I would probably only give it three stars. There are a lot of characters, and the story jumps around between them, causing it to feel slow and disjointed at times. It is a bit hard to pinpoint what the main conflict of the story is, and there is little resolution at the end. If the purpose of this book was to tell us an entertaining story, then it was just okay.

However, the purpose of this nonfiction narrative is far greater than just telling a good story. While reading, I felt like there was a camera circling through the slum of Annawadi, giving us glimpses into the homes and lives of these characters, who are not merely characters in the story, but real people with real lives. The conflicts weren't included to add drama to the story; they really happened. There is not much resolution at the end, because these characters are still living and their stories still continue today.

I feel like Katherine Boo more than succeeded at giving us an extremely well-documented, readable look at the lives of these Indian people. For that, I give this book 5 stars.
I think it would be worthwhile for everyone to read.

I am still haunted by a few things after finishing this book:
1. The fact that these people are real and are still alive (hopefully) today. The book ends in 2011, and I just can't stop thinking about where these people are now. What happened to Annawadi? What are these people doing right now on the other side of the world? Has anything improved for them? Is it even possible that things could be worse for them now?
2. The hopelessness of the whole situation. There seems to be nothing that can be done to improve the lives of the people in this book. Foreign aid does not make it into the right hands. The Indian government is corrupt and controlled by the wealthy. Police can't be trusted. Even the hospitals are corrupt! I finished the book wanting to help but feeling completely helpless and hopeless.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12: Better Days

Isla was looking and acting SO much better today. It is a huge relief to see her get back to normal! Her skin has also mostly cleared up. It's pretty normal for her skin to break out and then clear up randomly, so I don't really think it's because of the new formula we are trying. We found out today that her blood work showed she does not have a milk allergy. I really never thought that she did. I think her skin looked so bad last week because she was not well. When she is tired or not feeling well, she tends to rub and scratch her face and head, causing it to break out (even more than normal).

It was also super warm today...high of 79! I am just a happier person when the weather is warm. Why can't it be 79 degrees every day?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11: Playroom Wall Art

Back in January, I set out to get my house completely organized and planned to blog about it as I did. I did get a few things organized, but there are still a lot of projects left on my list! It is also almost spring, which puts me in the mood for spring cleaning and redecorating.

Last March, I had a big list of projects to complete in our living room. We did complete a few things on that list: got a new entertainment center, mounted the TV on the wall, and took out the door. I never posted an after picture though, because I still haven't finished the rest of the decor in the room. So those things are back on the list for this spring, along with a mini bathroom makeover.

I have also been slowly working on rearranging and organizing the basement. We redid the basement in 2009, but three years later I am ready to change some things up. I already posted about the new book nook we created. I am working on some new decor as well, including a new piece of wall art.

I already had a 14 x 14 blank canvas. It used to have some vinyl flowers on it (like those on the walls), but they never adhered to the canvas very well and were falling off.

So I wanted to take advantage of this canvas (because it was available and free!), but I was drawing a blank on what to do with it. Finally, I just decided to give Audrey some paint and let her paint it however she wanted. This was her creation:

I like it!! It is something personal and unique, and and it's a good fit for a playroom. We might even be able to pass it off as abstract art and sell it for big bucks someday! =)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10: Shopping with Audrey

Things are beginning to look up around here. I am still well. Daniel is slowly getting better. After a few doses of antibiotic, Audrey seems much better. At least she was much more pleasant to be around today.

Isla is still struggling. She was better today. She had some moments when she was talking and smiling and playing, which we didn't really see at all yesterday. But she is still so congested with a painful sounding cough. And she is not eating much at all and still not sleeping well. Surely, the end is in sight for her soon...poor baby girl!!

Since Audrey was feeling good, I decided to take her shopping with me. It was really fun! It was kind of nice to just have one kid with me, and I took advantage by running lots of errands with her.

One of our stops was Old Navy. I am looking for an Easter dress. I haven't bought a new dressy dress for myself in a really long time. I always buy new Easter dresses for the girls, and this year I decided it was time to buy a pretty dress for myself as well.

Trying on dresses with Audrey was a lot of fun. Each time I put a dress on, she said, "You look beautiful, Mom. Just like a princess!" With the last dress, she stood next to me, looked in the mirror, gave me a hug and said, "You will be the princess, and I will be your prince!"

The only problem with shopping with Audrey is that I can't rely on her for "real" advice about what looks best! I asked her to pick a favorite, and she picked my least favorite of the three I tried on.

There was one dress I really liked, but it was a bit out of my regular comfort zone of style. I came home and described it to Daniel like this: "It's floor length. It's hot pink. And it has lots of flowers and ruffles." He was not impressed with my description. However, I really did like it. I like that it is a maxi dress, because I don't own any long dresses. I like that it is bright and cheerful and flowy and frilly.

Here's the dress. What do you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 9: A Long Post about a Long Day

This sickness is just not leaving my family alone. Today was a tough day. Bear with me as I vent my frustrations for a few moments. And mixed in with all of today's events, Isla also had her 9 month doctor read on for more news about that below.

Daniel is getting better. He is up and about and able to help out, but he is not close to being back to normal. He still has a lot of congestion and a bad cough and barely any voice at all. It makes communicating with him kind of frustrating!

I thought Audrey was better, but then she started complaining that her ears hurt yesterday. She also started acting out and throwing lots of fits. I think she was in time out more times yesterday than the past three months combined. We took her with us to Isla's doctor's appointment, and the doctor looked in her ears. Sure enough, a bad infection in both ears!!

Isla is just a mess. No fever, but she is congested and coughing and looks miserable. She is not eating well, and she is really not sleeping well. Last night, she slept with us (first with me, then with Daniel) propped up on our chests for pretty much the whole night. But she didn't sleep well at all and fussed through much of the night. She didn't get a good nap in today, and tonight she was just inconsolable. The doctor did look at her ears today as well, but said they were not infected...yet. She thought there was a good chance they could become infected in the future with all the loose mucous that is filling Isla's head right now.

At the check up today, Isla weighed in at 18 lbs, 8 oz (46%, which is exactly what Audrey weighed at this age. That really surprised me, as I predicted a weight between 19-20 pounds! Maybe she has lost a little weight this week since she has been sick. She was 27 1/2 inches long (57%).

The doctor was not too concerned about her not rolling over or liking her tummy. She said that since Isla sits and stands so well, she appears to have the core strength that she needs. She will roll over and move on her tummy when she is ready. Just give her more time. (This is also what her physical therapist told us in January). Our doctor is normally really proactive when concerns arise, so the fact that she was not concerned about Isla's development made me feel better. I'm going to try to be patient and let Isla do things on her timetable not mine.

The other concern that I wanted to talk to the doctor about was Isla's skin. Since she was a newborn, Isla has had skin issues, with breakouts and rashes in various places. Audrey also has some eczema problems, as does Daniel. The doctor had previously prescribed a steroid cream and the use of sensitive skin soaps and lotions, which we have been using since she was born. I haven't been too worried about it, but lately it seems that it is getting worse. Today, actually, her skin looked the worst that I have ever seen it, as she has a rash all over her tummy and chest and up onto her face and head.

It was convenient that her eczema decided to flare up on the day we were scheduled to see the doctor, so the doctor got to see how bad it can get. She thinks it could be caused by a milk allergy and wants us to switch formulas. Up til this point, we have been using the Target brand of Enfamil Gentlease. Now, she wants us to use Similac Alimentum. (Holy cow! That stuff is expensive, I just looked it up and it is like 3 times what we pay now). She also had some bloodwork done today (more on that later) to get a a definite diagnosis on whether Isla has a milk allergy or not. If she does have an allergy, I feel bad that she has made it until 9 months without us doing something about it.

So, about that bloodwork. At 9 month baby visits, they do a lead test and hemoglobin check. This used to happen at 12 month visits, which is when this was done to Audrey (a horrible experience!). I was NOT expecting it today, otherwise I would have brought Daniel along as back up. To make things worse, they normally have a lab tech who comes into the exam room and draws the blood right there. But of course, today the tech was not in, so we had to go down to the Urgent Care lab instead.

Going downstairs to the Urgent Care lab wouldn't have been a big deal, except that I had to carry Isla, drag Audrey by the hand (who was crying at this point), and carry my diaper bag which was stuffed to overflowing with the huge box of formula samples the doctor had given me. I'm glad she was so generous in giving us the free formula, but how did she expect me to carry it all?

We made it to the lab only slightly out of breath and extremely disheveled. Isla screamed while they pinned her down and tried to find a vein. Audrey clung tightly to my leg and covered her eyes, unsure about why her sister was screaming and no one was helping her. But we survived! I managed to get the girls and all of our stuff to the car and back home all in one piece.

Then we got home and Isla refused to sleep. and she cried and fussed most of the rest of the day, while Audrey threw temper tantrums every time she was not touching one of us.

Now, I am listening to Isla cough in her crib and prepping myself for yet another long night with a fussy baby. Get well SOON everyone! This sickness has long overstayed its welcome.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6: Be Back Soon!

So I've kind of been a blogging slacker lately. It's just been a little crazy here after vacation. I was trying to catch up on all my vacation posts for a while, and I haven't quite gotten back into a regular blogging routine yet.

Then Audrey got sick this past weekend, and now Daniel is sick. Isla is starting to get a cough, but she is hanging in there and doesn't seem to be too bothered by it yet. I'm still well and so far (fingers crossed!) I have managed to avoid the germs that the rest of my family has. BUT...I haven't slept much the past three nights, as both girls have had some hard times sleeping with their coughs and congestion. Plus, being a single parent is a lot of work! So I am really, really, really tired right now.

Once everyone is well and life is back to normal and I no longer feel like a zombie, I will be back blogging on a regular basis.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March 3: Girls Day

Daniel was busy for a while today, so we decided to make it a Girls Day. Audrey loves doing things with "just the girls" (although she loves doing things with her daddy too). We didn't do anything too special...just a stop at Arbys for lunch and then a trip to Target.
The girls were looking cute in their matching shirts, and they were cracking up laughing at each other all through lunch. (Audrey is blurry in all the pictures because she refused to be still, and my camera phone can't handle any movement).
I was a bit frustrated when I ordered food for Audrey, and then all she wanted to eat was Isla's puffs! That girl loved puffs as a baby, and now that Isla is eating them, Audrey has rediscovered her love of puffs.