Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in Chi-town

Yesterday I kicked Manicotti BUTT! A meal that is normally a huge multi-person, Christmas Eve only, entire morning production was accomplished solo in a mere hour and 15 minutes while Alexandria took her morning nap.

After the wonderfulness of our Thanksgiving dinner party, Eric and I decided to have a Chicago Family Christmas since we and our dear friends will all be gone for the holidays. We stole a Christmas tree from the apartment upstairs (think Grinch-style), piled penguin-wrapped presents underneath it, filled our apartment with tea candles, broke out the china (for the second time in 2 1/2 years), invited our friends, and served the traditional Crino Christmas Eve meal: Homemade Manicotti (complete with homemade noodles and sauce), Italian sausages, garlic bread sticks and a garden salad.

I should be on Iron Chef.

Ok, just kidding.

After an evening of good Italian food, fellowship with the best friends anyone could ever ask for, ripping open presents, gently falling snow, and outrageously delicious Christmas cookies, I've decided that Chicago is an OK place to be.

I also managed to completely surprise Eric with his Christmas present, which was a lot of fun, although I have to confess that I had to momentarily suppress my nostalgia for physical books and Lo and Behold, bought my husband a Kindle.

He loves it. And has been reading ever since!

Confession #2: I was gifted with 2 Glee soundtracks and the entire Season 1 on Blue Ray. I am very GLEEful!!!! :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Conversations with Eric

Last night.

Me: Eric, do you want to watch Pride and Prejudice with me? [the 125 minute version]

Eric: Do you want to watch me stick needles in my eyeballs and then bleed to death?

Me: No.

This morning.

Me: Eric, are we going to church this morning?

Eric: [looks out the window and sees a blowing blur of white] How about we don't go outside until at least March.

Me: Hmm, I'm gonna take that as a No.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Here's to the Gluttony of Christ-mas

The UPS man banged on the door.
Moments later, Eric walked into the living room with two boxes, one of which looked very much like it might have delicious things inside.
He cut it open and began exploring the dark interior.

Behold! Goodies for Pookie and her parents from wonderful Grandma Cheri!

Buried underneath layers of yummy chocolates and homemade cookies, Eric pulled out stuffed fabric forms of the nativity which he sewed together when he was just a little tyke. I handed them to Lexi, whose eyes were as big as dinner plates with excitement.

She looked at Mary, squished her a bit, grabbed the sheep, licked them just to see, and then squealed with delight as she grabbed baby Jesus and promptly stuffed him in her mouth.

Eric and I laughed, and then greedily over-indulged in festive treats for the next half hour.

Finally finished with my gluttony, I began picking up the house and found poor stuffed baby Jesus underneath a chair in the living room, sopping wet and just a little slobbery.

The Scriptures do say, after all, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8). Lexi just happened to find him to be exceptionally delicious.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Two things:

1) Teething. Lexi now has two little pearly whites to brag about (amidst the slobber and fussing and night waking).

2) A pumpkin bread that came out of the oven looking like Mt. Vesuvius and weighs as much as Lexi.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Life as an Artist OR How I use Turkey Soup as a Manipulation Device

There are some huge benefits to having my baby in bed for the night and sleeping peacefully at 7 pm. One of them is that I have the entire evening to do whatever I want without needing to structure it around naps and feedings and mama baby play time. And while I usually only last until 10 pm and then I-MUST-GO-TO-BED-OR-I-WILL-DIE kicks in, I generally enjoy myself greatly.

During the first several months of Alexandria's life, I put my art making aside and focused entirely on caring for my new daughter, as it should be for a brand new mom. By about 8 weeks or so after the birth, I found myself aimlessly wandering my mind and also the house (which is saying a lot, since our apartment only has 4 1/2 rooms minus the tiny bathroom - but you don't really wander around in tiny bathroom...) and in a word: bored and watching too much TV on Hulu (make that 8 words). That is precisely when one of my college art professors (who doubles as a good friend) came to visit and told me point blank that being all-consumed with the baby is good for a time, but after a while I need to still try and be myself and get back into doing the things that I love - or in other words, "KEEP MAKING ART!!!"

This summer I set some goals for myself. One of them is to have a collection of work that is worthy of a show in a local gallery (make that a local and humble gallery) or art venue by next fall. Another goal, among many, is to make work that is meaningful to me and that gets me excited (otherwise, what would the fun be in making it?). So far, I have done a horrible job at fulfilling my goals, as I never have been one to be motivated by my own self-inflicted pep talks. And then last week, in the middle of having a pity party while Eric graciously listened and inserted the appropriate comments here and there, I started surfing Etsy. (If you aren't familiar to Etsy, click HERE. Your life will be changed.) It doesn't take much to be inspired by the things you see on that site. Seriously, what pity-partying artist is not inspired by seeing the work of thousands of artists and craftsmen (who are all ordinary people, by the way) all together in one place?!? (It also makes me feel a tad lazy, but that's a post for another day)

That being said, I have found a new avenue in my art making endeavorers. I am newly inspired and have already created two new pieces which will be a part of a series of about 10 or so. The best part is that Eric has become very involved in what I am creating (and is just as excited about it!) and has been my right hand man in the creating/executing process. After all, who knows cameras and flashes better than he does?!? And while I can't reveal what I am working on just yet (I know you're dying to see) I can tell you that it involves Alexandria (the watercolor version, of course) and some rather curious animals...

Last night after Alexandria was in bed, I got so into what I was working on that I had to go ahead and just finish it. I made that decision at 9:30 pm. By 11:30 pm, I had employed two other people to help me finish (it's amazing what homemade turkey soup in a homemade bread bowl can do as a manipulation device...) and my dining room table had all but disappeared underneath the mountain of paper cutting and paints and flour dust and other stuffs that had accumulated on it.
By midnight, the piece was perfect.

Even though I only got about 6 hours of sleep last night (a baby who goes to bed at 7 pm generally doesn't sleep much past 8 am), it was a lot of fun. So here's to early mornings with a cute baby and snuggly cats after a wild night of too much creativity!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Boring Update That is Not at All Interesting

This week has been full of wonderful things.

Lexi is cutting her first tooth (ok, not so wonderful, but it is epic, after all.) And she started crawling today, which is also epic, since she has been practicing her balance on all fours for the past several days. She still has a ways to go in the speed department, but she can definitely get where she needs to go! (The craziest thing is that it literally happened overnight! She definitely could not do this yesterday!)

We celebrated a Monday night Thanksgiving with our best friends here in our apartment. Eric got assaulted by two women with a charity Thanksgiving basket the other day, so we decided to make good use of it. We cooked the turkey, made lots of yummy sides, invited our friends, decorated the apartment, and had a beautiful candlelit Thanksgiving celebration!

In preparation for tomorrow's official Thanksgiving feast (the one where we are not the ones cooking the bird), I baked the Staswick's traditional Swedish Cardamom rolls. Suffice to say, the apartment smells like heaven and while the rolls did turn out a bit too bulbous (I didn't quite know how much they would rise!!!), they are light and fluffy and delish! One of the things I love about Eric so much is that he introduced me to the lusciousness of cardamom bread and now helps me make it every year.

After a strange 65 degree day, the weather has finally turned cold. Although this isn't usually something that I look forward to, Eric surprised me with a pricey pair of gorgeous snow boots (and believe me, these are beautiful boots) a couple of weeks ago that I am dying to wear! (He truly is awesome.)

I started on a new art series that I am really getting into which is fun. I will talk more about that later, though, when I can actually show you what I have been up to.

And because this post is really boring, I will conclude by telling you that our kitchen sink is leaking again. So that's fun.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6 Months and counting...

As you can see in the above pictures, I had a little bit too much fun with Eric's cameras and flashes... Alexandria has now been entered into the Crino family hat contest.

Having a baby is a bit like watching a ticking clock. The days go by so fast! Alexandria turned 6 months yesterday, which is a little hard to believe. She is sitting up, starting to eat mushy foods like sweet potatoes and bananas and squash, finally growing hair (since it all fell out a couple of months ago) and is beginning to figure out the whole crawling thing! Lexi is a joy to be around and we are so blessed to have her as our daughter!

Monday, November 15, 2010


I am thrilled beyond words to reveal to you Alexandria's first religious baby book!
We got a package in the mail today and opened it together to discover a fun gift from our cousin Cathy!
That's right, it's Peek-a-boo Jesus!!!!
This book is not only heartwarming, but it is also educational.
Lexi will learn where Jesus's eyes are (Peek-a-boo, Jesus!) and even where his feet are (In His sandals!). And she will even learn what Jesus says: "Peek-a-boo, I love you!"

I am glad that my daughter is already interested in theological matters (such as, Did Jesus really ever say Peek-a-boo?). It makes me a little proud.

So thank you, Cathy! And though I may never be able to take playing Peek-a-boo with Jesus seriously, this book does make for some good laughs during story time! ;) And did I mention it is a lift-the-flap book?!?

Seriously, Jesus = AWESOME.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lots of baking = A sink full of dishes

Today I have been entirely 100% domestic.

This morning: I changed, fed, and played with my baby.

I played two games of Scrabble with Eric and lost both of them by over 200 points (as usual).

More playing with baby.

Nap time for baby.

Homemade chicken and bean soup for lunch.

Afternoon: I baked one loaf of whole wheat bread and one loaf of whole wheat cinnamon swirl bread so we can eat healthy.

Nap for baby.

Then I baked two loaves of pumpkin bread in celebration of autumn and so that Eric will love me just a little more (yes, I do bake with ulterior motives).

Another nap for baby.

Grilled chicken, steamed green beans, and biscuits fresh from my oven for dinner.

Play time for baby (which really, is all the time).

ALL the dishes washed and put away (and believe me, there were LOTS).

Floors swept.

Floors mopped (gotta love the smell of Murphy's oil soap!).

Baby fed and asleep for the night.

2 Episodes of The Office.

Bed time.

And to think that yesterday I was sitting around doing nothing and pretending to be bored...

(actually it was because I had just finished reading Harry Potter #7 for the third time (in preparation for the movie!!!!!!!!!!) and let's face it, it can be a little difficult adjusting back into real life when you know you can never be as cool as Harry....or Hermione......or Ron.....or........)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Im a nerd.

"Nobody can go back to the beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."
I love this quote. I also love the fact that I will never be a perfect friend, wife, parent, you-name-it. But that's the beautiful thing about sleeping 8 hours (or 2 hours and then 4 hours and then 1.5 hours in my does get better, right?). Anyway, that's the beautiful thing about sleeping in the night in general, because when you wake up in the morning, you can start fresh. I LOVE that about the morning! I actually used to be a really grumpy morning person (confession here folks).
Rephrase: I thought that I was a grumpy morning person, but then my sister moved out and I got married. And let me tell you, I love my sister, but waking up to a quiet smiling husband is loads different than waking up to the Good Morning Sunshine song sung in your face by an excessively HAPPY morning person. And this just isn't normal happiness here, folk. As soon as she opens her eyes she is happy enough to yodel. And that's just weird.

She knows I love her though. I just don't love the whole morning song thing. Ok, you get it.

Anyway, no more grumpy morning person! One look at my baby's smiling face (and yes, she is excessively happy too. She gets it from her aunt.) and I can't be mad at her for getting me up 5 times during the night. Her cuteness factor definitely saves her. Speaking of cuteness factor, can you say Baby Model???!!! You think I'm kidding. I'm not.

So this week, I have been a cool hot Mama as my day job (Eric and Lexi can confirm this), but at NIGHT, I play Star Wars. That's right. Target is clearing out their Star Wars minis, which means that Eric bought an entire basket full. Confession (yet again): we are super big Star Wars nerds over here. So if you don't like Star Wars, this could be a turning point in our relationship. Seriously.

Just kidding.

No, seriously.

So that's what we do. We play Scrabble, we play Star Wars miniatures games, we hang out with our cute kiddo, eat a lot of yummy food that I concoct, hang out with our buddies (who also benefit from the yummy food I concoct), listen to sweet tunes on Pandora Radio, and play soccer on every nice day that shows its face. It's a pretty great life, I must say. No mountains, but hey, we have the illusion of mountains, so that's cool, right?!.......(not).....

And since I have absolutely no idea what this post is even about, I will leave you with this:

Love God,
Hate Sin,
And watch out for Trucks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Life of the Party

My happy, leaf-eating daughter.

My favorite (and only) brother Michael and his sweet girlfriend Lauren.

And my best friends (Luc, Dan, Eric, Lexi) who basically make my world go 'round.

Friday, October 29, 2010

BLESARCB (Scrabble)

Eric and I have many hobbies. Some of them we even do together. Such as playing Scrabble. During our dating faze, I bought Scrabble for Eric as a birthday present so that we would have something fun and brain-worthy to do together instead of studying. Since Eric is a genius at everything, naturally I lost every game (and we're talking like by 200 points). Eric was nice to me though (I mean, he was trying to woo me into marrying him), and kept encouraging me to play and would give me helpful hints now and then. I think he even went so far as to allow me to play words that I made up sometimes (probably since I was already so behind...)!

And then it happened. Two weeks ago, Eric and I got new phones. He immediately started downloading free apps that would provide him with hours of brain bending exercises (such as the shark game, where you navigate a shark through the ocean to eat other fish and people, if you're lucky). Another app, (and not quite so gory) Wordfeud, is his new best friend. And the best part about it is that he can play online with people other than me (you will realize why this is a good thing in a minute).

So because Eric is playing with people he doesn't know and can't see, he cheats a little bit - ok a LOT a bit, and uses the Scrabble dictionary while he plays. Anyone who is an avid Scrabble player knows that this is a BIG no no. You study the dictionary in your free time. NOT while you are playing. So here is Eric, scoring massively high scoring words such as QUAT, ZA, ZERK, BRITZKA (and I could go on, but then I won't want to ever play with you either). And these poor people! Many of them resign halfway through the game because they are so far behind it's pointless to continue spelling silly words like HIT, BAT, FUN, and PIN.

Ok, I admit it. I thought is was a little funny. I did play a Wordfued game with Eric over the course of several days in which I was winning until the very end (when he spelled a 40+ point word and I could never recover afterwards). Since I am his wife, he promised to not use the dictionary while playing with me. The problem was, once he learned these crazy words existed while cheating on everyone else, they now exist in every game he plays.

So the other night, Eric suggests we play a game of real Scrabble after dinner. No dictionary allowed. Wooden tiles. All good. By the second turn, he is already to 80 points. You get the picture. I was 100+ points behind the entire game because of his newfound crazy vocabulary.

This is a problem. I still want to play Scrabble, but my husband is a genius, made even more genius by his cheating abilities. The only thing I could come up with to match his skill is to either study the scrabble dictionary (not gonna lie, sounds boring and hard) or start getting into shape so I can have stronger muscles and thereby be able to beat him up when I get angry that he just scored 75 points with two letters (just kidding).

(Not really)

Behold, Jillian Michaels, my new personal trainer!

Don't be deceived. It isn't as corny as it looks. This is a HARD CORE 20 minute workout! I mean, just look at that smirk on her face! And no, I don't have 30 lbs. to lose (I would probably die if I lost that much, but the chubby belly can go), but I CAN use a good cardio-strength-abs workout! I can do it while Lexi takes her early morning nap and then be energized (and sore) for the rest of the day. I have completed day 2 and am immensely proud of myself for stooping so low as to have purchased a workout DVD (since I am now admitting to everyone that I am in no way disciplined to do this on my own). I have almost died both times while doing this workout (trust me, it is HARD). In fact, as Eric watched me working out this morning, he became slightly intimidated, realizing that if I do, in fact, stick with this for 30 days, I will be very strong....
In conclusion, I already know I'm a dork, thank you. Also, Scrabble may or may not take on a new look in the future. Either that or maybe we should just find a new game.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Truth of Reality

That last post was never supposed to happen (which is why I deleted it mid sentence). I had started writing what was going to be a witty little story about my recent trip to the Aldi grocery store (where we bought broccoli, a Dr. Seuss book, ice cream sandwiches, and saw a bearded lady buying a frozen peach strawberry pie). But then I got a text message from my best friend from college saying that her and her husband of 3 years are getting divorced. So that kind of killed the Aldi humor.

I am having a hard time processing what is going on right now. The only thought that keeps coming to mind is how important it is as a Christian to be actively involved in a loving, growing community that loves the Lord, is striving to love and serve Him more, and holds each other accountable for how we live that out. It is impossible for a live coal to stay warm without the heat of other coals around it. If a live coal becomes isolated from the group, it will quickly grow cold, and forget the purpose of why it was created. When you take your eyes off of Jesus, as Peter did in Matthew 14, you will quickly become self consumed and ultimately drown. This is what happened to my dear friends, causing their marriage crumble and eventually to self-destruct.

This news is incredibly sobering to me and Eric as well as to our community of friends here in Chicago who are also in relationship with this couple. Our friends here are becoming cynical of marriage and discouraged in our relationships. After all, if it happened to them, it could happen to any of us, right?

Being in a marriage relationship is an incredibly beautiful, sacred, and difficult lifestyle. It is a daily choice to love, serve, and honor the person that you said your vows to. There is no place for selfishness.
So keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, we are slowly walking forward, choosing to learn from this couple's mistakes and grow in spite of it.

I am so thankful to be married to my best friend.
If you think of us, please pray that we would continue to grow in our marriage and in our love for the Lord and for each other.
And don't worry. I'm sure my humor will show up again soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Purple Starfish Meets Pumpkins

Or: The things that parents do to their children.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Behold... excuses for not blogging.

1. Lexi stopped sleeping through the night.
2. I got a purple fall fleece zip up thingy for Lexi to wear outside in the chilly air (50 cents of wonderfulness). Sometimes it's easy to forget she is a baby when she looks and feels like a big purple plushy toy.
3. I am currently reading a very interesting book. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It's been on my list for years and I finally bought it in the airport on my way home from Mexico. Interesting, to say the least, and I will not be going to an Ashram anytime in the near future.
4. Made lots of pumpkin things which all turned out not so great. And when I cook un-delicious things, my world kind of crumbles...
5. There are always people in my apartment. Not counting the three that pay rent.
6. I am constantly cleaning up after all the people in my apartment.
7. I love all the people in my apartment too much to wish they weren't here.
8. Lexi and I went to a pumpkin patch that had giraffes in the petting zoo. (And if that's not weird, I don't know what is!)
9. One dozen fresh bagels, one dozen apple cider doughnuts, fresh apple butter, pumpkin butter, and too much pumpkin pie.
10. And let's just face it: although every day is great, my life is a little too boring to write something interesting about every day. But I'm working on it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

La musica del corazon

Do you know how when you hear a piece of music that really moves you? It moves you so much that it reaches into the core of your very being and wraps its gentle tendrils around your heart. When it is over, the scent of it still lingers, filling you with its presence and certainty. It's often almost impossible to describe to anyone what that particular music sounded like or why it moved you. You know how felt, though. And you know you were changed because of it.

That's how I feel about my trip to Mexico to visit my parents and sisters. I could tell you what we did, but that would feel empty and probably boring, since we spent more time just being with each other than doing things. So I will simply say that it was beautiful. It moved me. And we are going back for more.

These pictures pretty much sum up why Lexi and I went to visit my family. They also are very telling in how the sweet hours were spent.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

And away we go...

"Whoa, look Mom!"

"We are really high up here!"

Monday, September 27, 2010

gettin' outta dodge

Yesterday I swear I saw a snowflake. I stood at the window for about five minutes afterwards just to make sure I wasn't going loony. Unfortunately, I must be going loony, because there was no snow. (Thank goodness.) But since the weather is getting just a bit too nippy for my taste, I decided that we had better get out of here and go someplace warm for a while to prolong our summer while we can.

So with passports in hand and bags (almost) packed, Lexi and I are taking a vacation.

If you need us, we'll be mostly unavailable and hanging out with the grandparents and the young aunties eating tacos and speaking espanol in the grand cement city of 30 million peeps.

Hasta la pasta! :D

Saturday, September 25, 2010

And so it begins...

We've entered a new phase of life.
I guess we can forget about the blanket-on-the-floor thing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stuck in a Box

I am currently reading The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne. If you haven't read it, it is a book that challenges the typical American Christian and calls people who love Jesus to actually start living out the gospel instead of just believing it. Following Jesus is more than a belief system. It is a way of life. And it involves more than not swearing or lying or demanding that you go to church. It is about loving Jesus so much that you are compelled to love your neighbors - the least of these - and compelled to break out of our "Christian" box and actually start living like one. It's not really all that perfect, actually. Definitely not glamorous. But it IS beautiful and FULL of joy!

As I look at my life, I think that many of us are stuck inside this box of what our culture tells us it means to be a Christian instead of really looking at Jesus's life and listening to what he has to say about it. We stay in our box and think we are doing just fine, while we are actually missing out on a whole lot of fun and joy if we would just get out and explore a little. If you want to deepen your relationship with God and truly learn to love your neighbor as yourself, it is a good read (after the Bible of course). And now that the infomercial is done, I will share some pictures that Alexandria thought would help illustrate my point. Of being stuck in the box, that is.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Thursday List

Ten things that made me happy this week:

1. Walked into Alexandria's room and found her looking at me like this.

2. If you haven't already guessed, Alexandria has become a rolling fool in the past week. She rolls everywhere. She has also discovered that she can grab her toys while on her tummy. It's amazing to me how fast she is developing! While I love how fast she is growing, sometimes I just want my little snuggly little lump of a newborn back.

3. Eric comes home from his photo shoot in Rhode Island tonight! Not only that, but we are actually going on a date (without the baby) on Friday for the first time since Alexandria was 6 weeks old. (She's 17 weeks now, so yeah, you get the picture of how long it's been.) It has nothing to do with not wanting to leave our daughter with a babysitter. Eric has just been SO busy these past two months that we haven't been able to go anywhere. (He's still just as busy as before, but I just bribed him to take me out this time.)

4. I am going to Mexico in 12 days! The baby and I are flying out to visit my family in Mexico City. It will be no fun being away from Eric, but I get to eat tacos and bask in the Mexican sun/ smog. So there.

5. Pandora Radio. Eric surprised me with some speakers for my little Netbook the other day and I have had sweet tunes filling the apartment ever since.

6. I started a new drawing. And I am really excited about it.

7. I'm baking chocolate swirl bread with some leftover homemade chocolate frosting (that Eric made). It's just butter and sugar and chocolate baked into bread dough so it can't be too bad, right?

8. A Fine Frenzy. LOVE HER VOICE!!! So does Lexi.

9. My childhood friend Lynn is now going to North Park and comes over to hang out with me twice a week. Times like these make me never want to leave Chicago.

10. Meeting Shane Claiborne in person (he spoke on campus last week) and reading The Irresistible Revolution. I am leaving Christianity to follow Jesus.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy Birthday... this little girl.
Who is celebrating her 13th birthday today.
This is "baby Katie hunk."

Our family in 1998 - the summer after Katie was born. (mom was taking the picture) Can you believe how small we all once were???

Happy birthday Katie!
We love you.
And our family wouldn't be the same without you.
Thanks for blessing us with your life.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

You will never guess what I did...

This week I did the unthinkable.

I made a casserole.

Yes. You read that correctly. I made a casserole.

I know. CRAZY. A little unbelievable and completely unlike me. Go ahead. Say it. So if you are in the dark right now, here is a little history about me. I HATE casseroles. I started cooking when I was very young simply because I didn't want my mom to make another casserole ever EVER again. She said that if I cooked the meal, I could choose not to make a casserole. So I started cooking. A lot. And I discovered I LOVE cooking, and never ever EVER cooked a casserole. I also avoided eating one whenever possible. And the best part is that my mom stopped making casseroles as well since we found much tastier concoctions to sup on.

So, how did I come to actually cook one? The infamous Betty Crocker tricked me. She tricked me! First of all, it was called Chicken Tetrazzini. Second of all, the picture looked fabulous! Third, I had all of the ingredients. And fourth, there was nothing in the recipe about sprinkling breakfast cereal on the top of it or dumping in a gelatinous mass of cream of mushroom soup.
I only started realizing I may have been tricked when the recipe told me to mix all the contents together and pour into a casserole dish for baking. And when Eric came sniffing into the kitchen, peeked in the oven and gleefully exclaimed, "YOU MADE A CASSEROLE???!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I smiled sheepishly. I thought I had given into the MAN of American cooking.

But while I ate the said casserole with Eric and our friends Dan and Eric M. (all of whom had several helpings), I realized that not all casseroles are from the devil. (Just most of them.) After all, I managed to make Chicken Tetrazzini WITHOUT a can of soup and breakfast cereal and even altered the recipe (no surprise there) to add fresh spinach, mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.
And (here's the kicker) I LIKED it!
Now realize that I am still not a fan of casseroles. (And I am also not a fan of Betty Crocker's trickiness.) But when I can make it all from scratch with fresh ingredients, the meal becomes much more than just a casserole. It becomes a baked work of art. And I'm pretty sure I can handle that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lexi loves jazz

The adventures of this past week have been numerous.
Last Saturday I took Lexi to the Jazz fest to meet up with some family and friends.
She LOVED it. To say the least.
Can't you tell by her face?

And here she is listening to the jazz vocalist who inspired her to start singing. Every time the female vocalist would start singing, Lexi would raise up her arms, stand straight up (while being held of course), and start crooning loudly along!
This picture was taken during a break in the singing.

This is the woman (on the screen) who started it all.
I will now begin building her jazz library to help her begin her future career as a jazz singer. Any contributions will be accepted. In return, I will invite you to her debut in about 18 years.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Take me out to the ball game...

I'm just going to put it out there. Unless you are playing it, or the team is playing a great game, baseball is pretty boring. Even though we know that we are setting ourselves up for nine innings of being mostly bored, going to a baseball game in Chicago has a certain childhood nostalgia to it that nothing else can compete with. I grew up going to White Sox games on the south side, an occasional Rockies game while visiting family in Colorado, and various Triple A games wherever we were living at the time. My dad is an avid White Sox fan and has done his best to raise mini-White Sox fans to follow in his footsteps of "black and white forever." Unfortunately, I like soccer. I watch soccer games, am engaged by them, play it myself and find the game fairly exciting. That being said, for me, going to a Cubs game is merely a fun summer activity. For my dad, me going to a Cubs game is the ultimate betrayal.

Facts: I live 3 miles from Wrigley Field. Tickets were $10. And our seats were right next to the President of North Park University and his lovely wife. Why wouldn't we go??!??

So we went.
On the bus, Lexi was so excited she was speechless.

When we got there, they were handing out free Cubs hats and we had to take our first family fan portrait at Wrigley Field.
Lexi's hat has room to grow.

Since we were sitting right next to President David Parkyn and his wife Linda, we thought it would be a good opportunity for Lexi to start schmoozing early.

Eric wanted a portrait with his new little Cubbie, who decided she was hungry and found the blue hat to be incredibly tasty.

In conclusion: While Lexi had a good time being cooed over by everyone who saw her, Eric and I were mostly bored watching the Cubs lose 14-7, but did have fun eating ice cream out of little plastic Cubs hats.

Also, the Cubs still suck. Just in case anyone was wondering.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Playing Favorites

Favorite game

Favorite hat

Favorite girl

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Confessions of a Sunny Saturday

A beautiful Saturday such as today is perfect for lounging on the Green Space (the area of lush green grass, trees and shrubbery on the NPU campus - which happens to be across the street from our apartment), munching on double chocolate cookies, reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, baking crusty delicious artisan bread, and hanging out with the little girl - listening to her endless stream of babble...

This day also lends itself to certain confessions which I feel compelled to disclose. Partly because this lovely cool weather may have messed with my head, and partly because I always try to be as honest with myself as possible.

So here it goes.

Confession #1: I baked Triple Threat Chocolate Chip cookies the other night, burned half of them, and then served them to my friends at our Taco night. I also only allowed each person two cookies. Much to my chagrin, Dan consumed five and Eric M. had four. Looking in the container the next morning, I noticed that all the burned cookies remained and all the non-burned ones had been eaten. I guess it serves me right for being selfish.
Also, the recipe was supposed to make 2 1/2 dozen cookies and made barely 2 dozen. This might have something to do with the fact that the batter was WAY better than the actual cookie. Maybe that should be confession #2.

Confession #3: I love pizza. That saying, I make pizza at least once a week. At least once. To give myself some credit, though, my crust is whole wheat and the pizza rarely, if ever, has meat on it. Mostly just veggies and cheese. By the way, next time you make pizza, make half of your cheese PepperJack for a nice zesty kick!

Confession #4: Sometimes when Alexandria wakes up from a nap, I leave her in her crib just a little longer so I can get something done. I'm sure I'm not the only mom out there that sees nothing wrong with letting the babe cry a bit....(I hope)

Confession #5: Speaking of Alexandria, whenever I change a poopy diaper, it magically gets all over her body, clothes, me, and anything else that's nearby. I don't have any clue as to how this happens. It is one of those phenomenons that offers no explanation but always occurs without exception. That being said, I am glad (for my laundry pile's sake) that my daughter chooses to only poop once a week.

Confession #6: You know those church services where the speaker makes everyone close their eyes and then asks people to raise their hands if you are "this-and-this" and so on?
I peek.

Confession #7: I let Alexandria watch Glee. As dumb as the show is, I simply can't get away from it.

Confession #8: I read cookbooks like they are the latest mystery novel. I love them. Especially the ones with gorgeous pictures that I can guess at the ingredients and then cook my own version.

Confession #9: Speaking of cookbooks, I just bought a new one and when it arrived in the mail I danced around like the time my parents told me I could get a puppy (That was before we knew she was a demon dog, obviously). It is all about baking glorious Artisan bread the easiest way possible by mixing up a huge batch of dough (which takes like 7 mins) and storing it in the fridge for up to two weeks! Anytime you want fresh bread, you just cut off a hunk of dough, let it rise for 40 mins on the counter, and then pop it in the oven! My first loaf, a round crusty Boule, is about to go in the oven as I type this. I bake so much homemade bread as it is that I thought I might give this a try - especially since it cuts so much time out of the preparation process.

Confession #10: In a previous post, I misspelled "faux hawk" and was reprimanded for it by an avid faux hawk wearer. As an apology and to make up for my spelling blunder, I thought that I would pay tribute to the faux hawk by putting up pictures of my favorite faux hawk wearers.

Here is Lucas, the center man, proudly showing off his faux-hawked head.

And here is Alexandria, who loves to impress Luc, proving that even girls can have faux hawks if done tastefully.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Grace of Forgiveness

One of my best friends spoke into my life last night about a major disagreement that my brother and I had recently. The whole incident has more or less caused a giant rift between us, which we are both unsuccessfully trying to ignore. As I was talking about the situation with Dan, he stated very gently that it didn't sound like I had forgiven my brother and made things right.

I read this article by one of my former Bible professors this morning and realized that Dan was speaking truth.

May the grace of forgiveness transform us today into a loving people after God's own heart.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You know your husband's from Nebraska...

....when you find this on your grill instead of hamburgers.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Giant Baby Invades the NPU Green Space!!! and other crazy tales...

It's Friday. And this week I have seen some crazy things. And had some crazy things happen to me. For one, I saw this adorable baby turn into a giant on the green space (thanks to Eric's fish-eye lens).

She's like the soft pudgy version of Baby Godzilla (if you haven't seen that film, you may be missing out).

2. I walked past a giant intimidating sunflower growing on the side of Lincoln Ave. It was taller than me (not a hard thing to do) and looked down on me smugly as I walked by. I had the eerie feeling that this flower was not just an ordinary part of vegetation. It had feelings. And with that, I sped up my walking pace and decided that flowers should not be allowed to grow past the human knee.

3. I encountered a pile of discarded clothing on the bridge that crosses the North Branch of the Chicago River. First of all, I don't actually know if anyone can physically survive a swim in the semi-toxic waters of the Chicago River. Secondly, with all the discarded clothing I see around here (and when I say clothing, I literally mean pants, shirt, socks, shoes) I am rather surprised that I have not run into more naked people casually strolling about.

4. While walking to the baby's bedroom to put Alexandria down for her nap, I stepped into something slimy. Thinking Alexandria had spit up on the floor while I was carrying her, I looked down to assess the damage. Unfortunately, there was no spit up to be seen. There was my bare foot, smack dab in the middle of a gooey brown mess of cat barf.

Alexandria's nap was temporarily delayed while I hollered for the next five minutes.

5. I caught a weird post-baby, pre-moving cleaning syndrome. In the midst of creating "keep," "give away" and "reorganize" piles, I realized halfway in that I took on a job that is slightly too big for me to handle. We have SO MUCH baby stuff! I forgot that a growing baby means more clothes.....all the time! In a one bedroom apartment with absolutely NO storage space, it is getting to be a problem navigating our back rooms. Village Discount is going to get a jackpot. And no, we're not moving. Which is why it's weird that I caught the pre-moving cleaning out bug.

6. There has been no chocolate in our house in over two weeks. There is DEFINITELY something VERY wrong with this situation. I plan to remedy that today before something terrible happens. After all, chocolate is a very serious business around here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ten Things Thursday

A college friend of mine writes a weekly "Ten things Tuesday" post on her blog that I stole this very non-original theme from. The idea is to list 10 things that made you smile in the past week and why. Of course, I missed the Tuesday deadline, so I will stick with the trendy T's and just give it a go on this sultry hot Thursday.

1. Discovering that my blog now has SIX followers! I know. I am thrilled. (as you can see, it doesn't take much to make me happy) And for those of you out there who read my blog and are not listed as followers ( parents), you can make me even happier by officially pushing the follow button on the right hand side of the screen.

2. Having my final PT appointment this morning!!!!!!! It has been a long road to recovery, but I made it! Now on to baby #2.

just kidding.

3. I baked a LUSCIOUS Rhubarb Tart which Eric and I enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days in a row. It was accompanied by my heavenly chocolate banana bread. We are very healthy over here as you can see. And yes, I have decided as of today to start taking pictures of my baking/cooking sprees so that I can make your mouths water along with mine...

4. Tickling Alexandria until she laughs! Seriously, her laugh is the most adorable sound I have ever heard. Plus, she still hasn't quite figured out what is happening when she laughs, and the sound of it startles her. Which then makes me laugh.

5. I put Alexandria in a little yellow dress that is 40 years old for the wedding that we went to this past weekend. She looked like a little doll. And got probably as much attention as the bride.

6. The Nacho Bar at Brian and Beth's wedding. Best idea EVER!!! We flew out to Nebraska this past weekend for Eric's older brother's wedding. Being a part of the Staswick family is always a joy and this last weekend was filled with plenty of it! Hooray for Brian and his wife Beth! (These Staswick boys definitely have a thing for girls named Beth. ;)

7. In the airport, as I was collecting my belongings off of the x-ray strip in security, one of the guards came up to me and said, "I like your baby's hair." And that was it. For those of you who don't know, Alexandria's hair is thick, wavy, at least an inch long and (this is the best part) sticks straight up. She pretty much has a permanent faux-hawk and I think it is hilarious. Apparently the security guard did too.

8. Jack found a "chicco" bug, swatted it off the wall, killed it, ate it, and then paced the room crying for the next hour looking for it. He also likes to swim. I have the coolest cats ever.

9. I created approximately 15 feet of a collage (18 inches tall) in two days. It is AWESOME and will soon be hanging up in my friend Luc's bedroom. Only 5 more feet or so left to collage...

10. My brother texted me at 7:30 this morning just to see how my day was going. Now, realize that at 7:30 in the morning I am usually either just waking up, or still asleep (Alexandria usually sleeps until 8). So while it is a little impractical for me to tell him how my day is going at 7:30 am, it's the fact that he cares about me enough to even ask every day how I am. I love my brother.

11. Yes, one more thing. Eric. Every time he walks into the room, Alexandria gets super excited and starts smiling and googling like crazy. I pretty much do the same thing (poor guy). We love him to death. LOVE HIM! It's been two years and two months and I still firmly believe that I am the luckiest girl in the world to have Eric as my husband. And that thought makes me smile every single day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The most perfect music

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”
J.M. Barrie

Last night Alexandria laughed for the first time. It was magical. And I finally understood what J.M. Barrie was talking about. Because if a baby's laugh wasn't the beginning of fairies, then I don't think that they would ever have come into existence.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yo soy un gray blob

I just discovered that my picture does not show up on any of the blogs that I am currently following. It makes me a little sad. Especially since some people I know don't realize that my last name has changed since getting married. Instead, my name looks like this random stranger in a gray blobby profile that even I would personally be scared to know, let alone recognize. So friends, if you read this, know that I am not going to come and steal your children. (my own child keeps me busy enough as it is!) And while I may resemble that grey blobbiferous profile on my worst days, it's not me. I promise.

On a happier note, I baked some heavenly chocolate banana bread this morning while Eric was out on a photo shoot. My apartment now smells like chocolate magnificence, which has tempted me successfully to eat half of one of the spongy loaves. I should really stop taking advice from yummy chocolate goodness. It never ends well. For the chocolate, that is. ;)

Edit: figured out the problem. go me.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Brainy madness

I want my lost brain cells back. Period.

Unfortunately, my fellow Mom friends tell me that the cells won't replenish themselves until after Alexandria is weaned. They say it's because when you're a mom to little babies, all those extra brain cells would make you crazy. It's good to forget sometimes. All the crying and poop and more crying and no sleeping and more poop. That's why moms are so amazingly resilient and can deal with some of the toughest things day after day - like having a new baby and readjusting your life constantly because of it. They just don't take it all in.

Which must be why - within a 24 hour period - I put the chips away in the refrigerator (yes, because chips need to be cold), told someone that I'm 22 (am I in denial already?), thought I must have some rare disease due to the fist fulls of hair that were falling off my head (and at this rate, I will be bald by next week - thank you, hormones, yet again) and gave my name and phone number to a Jehova's Witness. Yes. You read that correctly. I gave my name and phone number to a Jehova's Witness. And you thought the chips in the fridge thing was bad. Ha.

It wasn't even because I was hoping to evangelize them to true christianity either. It was simply because the brain cells I should have, but lost due to my recent baby-growing condition, weren't there to tell me that I was being ridiculous. So now a Jehova's Witness lady is going to call me so that we can meet in the park and she can answer all of my questions about God and why He lets bad things happen to good people and heaven and all of that. Except, let's be honest, I would DIE if I had to wear a skirt and high heels every day, so that's not going to happen. And because I would rather choose my own clothing attire, I probably will just have to let her know I'm not interested. But come to think of it, maybe I can ask her where my lost brain cells went.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beach Day!

Alexandria and my adventure today was a trip to Foster beach! We left around 9:30 am with our friend Rachael and spent the morning wading in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan and lounging in the sand. It was a perfect morning for the beach - and we are fortunate to only live 3 miles away!

Lexi stayed cool and shady in her Monet umbrella tent. She was most likely dreaming of oil painted water lilies. I will also note that I was a very good mama and had the baby in the sun for maybe a total of 10 minutes (and she was slathered in sun screen as well). I will also note that although I have had a past of avoiding sunscreen like the plague and then turning into a lobster inevitably, I made healthy choices today and applied and re-applied my sunscreen several times while at the beach. I will now give myself a pat on my NOT-burned back. [insert pats here]

Lexi stayed "high and dry" while I waded in the water.

Yes, Dad. That IS a Cubs hat on my head. (Black is just not pleasant in the hot sun - I don't know what those south-siders were thinking...)

Beautiful morning. Now nap time calls...