Keeping it Clean

For me, the hardest part of staying home with our kids is the lack of structure.  A while back, Tim and I took a two-pronged approach to the constant disaster area that we call home.  First, we got rid of things we weren’t using.  Then, we read this article from The Inspired Room about how to keep your house “clean enough” and it really helped!  Here’s the gist of what she does and what we do and how it works:

1.  Have a morning routine.  For us, Tim is the one who gets up consistently early and has quiet time to meditate, do Piyo, unload the dishwasher and tidy the house if it needs it (which it usually does).  By the time I get up with the babies between 6:30 and 7, the house is clean, espresso made, and the day is ready to start on a happy note.  It makes an enormous difference for our day when it starts this way compared to the days when the babies wake early and we start out with a mess.  No comparison.

We’ve found that trying to do all of the tidying and kitchen and laundry stuff in the evening is really challenging since the kids are usually a mess from 5 to bedtime.  Tim also has lesson planning, grading and graduate coursework in the evenings and has after school staff meetings twice a week, so the afternoon hours are just not our friends when it comes to keeping things picked up.  We’re lucky to make it through dinner and get two babies asleep without losing our minds.

2.  Clean sinks.  Always.  This is the bit of advice we picked up from the article mentioned above that really changed how we work.  Habits are hard to shift, but this one did it for us.  The kitchen sink is almost always empty now.  Tim loads and runs the dishwasher at night, empties it in the morning, and I load it during the day as we use things.  The bathrooms are the same.  If they look messy/cluttered, I take care of it the moment I notice it and it’s really magical how the bathroom always feels clean!  I highly recommend this if it’s not already part of your routine.

3.  Ten minute tidies/Cleaning frenzies.  We had ten minute tidies my entire childhood, and the article above calls them cleaning frenzies, but the concept is the same.  The afternoon hours are increasingly hectic as they pass and before you know it, I’m throwing things Si’s way to try to keep him occupied while he’s already emptied every toy container we own in the rest of the house, all in the name of trying to make the fastest dinner possible.  Sigh.

In ten minutes (yes, we literally set the timer since Tim works well with a challenge) I tackle the dining and living rooms and organize the laundry while Tim completely overhauls the kitchen.  Boom.  Done.  Our house feels clean, the surfaces are cleared, and no one is tripping over Duplo blocks or choo choos.

This works for us because it’s short and doesn’t take a ton of energy, which is essential, and also because Silas can help us now.  We sing pick up put away songs and he knows how to put his toys away.  It’s a very kid friendly practice!

4.   Clean the kitchen after dinner.  Thank goodness for Tim.  He loves a clean kitchen and rarely goes to bed without one.  I make dinner, he does the kitchen while I do the rest of the house almost every night.  By the time we sit down, the house is mostly tidied and the dishwasher is running.  It makes the mornings so much easier to face when the kitchen isn’t a disaster.

We have been doing these four things for several months now, but I’m finding it hard to keep up with the laundry and mopping.  I don’t mind either task, but I don’t have a system mastered by any means.  I’m considering doing one big cleaning maintenance item per day of the week (like laundry Mondays and Wednesdays, mopping on Tuesdays, scouring on Fridays, et cetera).  I’m curious what other people do to stay on top of the chaos.  Any tips?

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Our Weekend in Photos

Our weekend was jam packed, productive, and fun.  Tim had class out of town all day on Saturday, so Rog and Mary Kay came over to occupy babies so I could get a ton of painting projects done.  I tackled the laundry room, kitchen island, patched walls, upstairs bathroom, and vanity while MK did the downstairs bathroom and Kenzi did the woodwork touch ups.  YOWZA.   I hate finishing work, but I can’t believe how much better it looks with all of that done.

This week I am packing up miscellany in all of the rooms to make it easier to live here and keep it tidy for staging.  Next weekend is our final project weekend and will entail floor painting (yuck), trimming out kitchen and laundry floors, sprucing up flower beds, and a handful of small projects we are dreading.  We will list the house after next weekend!  We’re really excited even though we’re really not getting any support at the moment.

Sara and puppy Rex came Sunday for the day to see the babies.  Silas loved all the surprises, especially the spider book and spooky jammies.  Si got in several park trips this weekend.  Lucky dude!   He was exhausted last night and had a rough evening but we are back in business this morning with a happy camper.

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The Bears game was disappointing and my soup adventure with a new recipe wasn’t totally impressive, so Sunday was sort of frustrating.  We squeezed in a few pictures of all of us at the end of the weekend, but it’s pretty obvious we were super tired at that point.  It was a long weekend!

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It’s Monday and I’m already tired.  That’s what happens after busy weekends.  Oh, well.

Four/Twenty-Two

We’ve got all sorts of gross things going on, from snotty noses to wicked chest congestion to ear infections.  Steer clear.  I’m still hoping to snap some darling pictures for this month, but since we’re already a week late, I am throwing a few pictures up just in case.

First off, get a load of Silas at four months, Maren at four months, and me at four months.  Genes are so funny.  I wish I had a picture of Tim at four months.  It probably looks exactly like Silas.  I will say that Si and Maren have identical hairlines, right down to the widow’s peak and cowlick, and they seem to both be blonde curly headed babies.  M’s hair is curly after her bath just like his was.

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Our babies are changing by the minute and find each other increasingly hilarious and enjoyable.  Sibling love is the sweetest thing I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

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Maren…

  • weighs 16 pounds, 5 ounces (a pound more than Si did at this age!)
  • loves Sophie, brother, anybody singing, Chris Isaak holiday tunes, her thumb
  • does not love the car, bath time, bed time, or belly time
  • is giggling every now and then and smiling constantly

Silas…

  • weighs 27 pounds, 5 ounces
  • loves his sister, crickets and spiders, daddy’s shoes, books, elephants (still), choo choos
  • does not love the Sleep Sheep, the car, or trying new foods all of a sudden
  • is saying three word phrases and sentences, climbing, singing the song from (the 1977) Winnie the Pooh “hooray, a pooh, hooray, a pooh, bum ba dum”, is the sweetest little dude with super manners and gentle hands with his sister for the most part

We love these little bugs and are so excited to see them growing and changing so much.  It just gets better and better!

Minimalism

So, I guess people think minimalism is sort of like nothingism.  I’ve gotten a lot of questions about paring down, getting rid of stuff, what we do with presents, and the like.  Well, let’s debunk the mystery.

We didn’t throw away all of our belongings.   We didn’t throw away anything, actually, unless it was hopeless and broken or something.  We donated, gave to friends or family, or found some other way to downsize in a way that gave our “stuff” another more useful life since we were not using it.

I still feel like our house is full of things we don’t really use, even after ousting about 1500 articles since the beginning of this year. I have this dichotomous goal of a home that feels warm and homey and meaningful without being cluttered and tchotchke.  When you think of minimalism, you probably envision white, modern, clean lined spaces, which is so not my game.  Just one more way I’m a little batty, I suppose.  Lucky Tim.

We like things that meet two of three criteria:  pretty, practical, personal.  If it doesn’t meet two, it’s probably not going to last at our house.  We’ve gotten rid of so much stuff, but everyday I see things while I’m tidying, organizing, pondering life during my five minute nap time overlap and I think “we don’t need those four things”.  I haven’t started another pile yet, but I will soon.  We will downsize again at least once before winter holidays creep up on us since they always come with a plethora of presents.

Speaking of presents, we love gift giving.  I think some minimalists don’t–I know a family that literally donates all gifts.  She chose the toys she wanted for her kids intentionally and anything else that comes in goes right back out.  We’re not that rigid, although we did request a no-gift first birthday party for Silas.  It was largely ignored, which I think was mostly out of the weird, guilty-ish feeling it gave people to come to a party without a present.  Interesting, right?

We have a 529 college fund, which is a nice alternative if you’re looking for one for your kiddo(s).  We also keep a running Amazon wishlist for things we need (like winter fleeces for both babies, a metal sippy for Maren, a few more cloth diaper covers, things like that).  My family always got a lot of joy out of buying gifts for each other because we really couldn’t swing it any other time of year, so I don’t like to completely rob them of that sort of enjoyment by being all “529 or bust”.  I love it, too.

We do go through all of our belongings after the holidays and donate things we aren’t using, but that usually does not include presents.  We don’t buy things for ourselves regularly, so it’s nice to have new things after the holiday.  Our families have gotten really considerate about getting us practical, lovely things  or choosing experiences or subscriptions for us instead.  It rocks!

I suppose minimalism has several meanings, but to us it means having enough (“enoughism”?) without having so much stuff that the crap lying around our house takes up more time than the time we have with each other as a family.  Anyone with young kids knows that free time is scarce and messes are not.  It’s hard to strike a balance with the way we spend our very precious waking, enjoyable, everyone’s-in-a-good-mood hours.

Do you get rid of as much as you bring home after the holidays or just hope there’s enough room in the closets?  I think it’s so interesting how we tend to look at gifts as acquisitions instead of rotations.  I think at the end of the day, minimalism means being aware of your belongings and what they cost you in terms of time, space, maintenance and meaning, and choosing to keep the things that serve you well while letting the rest of it go.

Our Weekend in Photos

We headed to Alexandria for the weekend and had perfect end of summer weather.  Saturday we headed to Frankton Heritage Days to catch the longest parade in the history of humankind Madison County.  It was Si’s first experience with rescue vehicles in a parade and I think it’s safe to say his mind was blown.  So darling.  Maren conked out on my arm right before the parade started, so that was nice timing.  All the Garner sibs were in one spot, which is rare and fun!  Si and Oliver were so glad Uncle Logie was there.

I headed up a Schleeter gathering for later that afternoon hoping we’d get to see everyone while we were already in town and it was a lovely turn out!  Thanks so much, cousins, for making the trip to visit.  Mom and Dad’s new back yard was the perfect spot for the afternoon.  The kids roamed and the grown ups visited and, as usual, it was a laid back awesome time with some super healthy food options.  Yay!

We got back home late this morning and have been scrambling to get ready for the week.  Our afternoon involved Tim heading to his new classroom to lesson plan, a trip to the MedExpress for a Silas earache, and a wicked messy house from unloading the car into the kitchen.  Bummer.  We finally got babies to bed, yard mowed, and house tidied.  Methinks bedtime is around the corner.

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We are finally in the homestretch of home improvement projects.  We are hoping to wrap up before the end of the month so we can list the house in October.  Know anyone who wants an open floor planned, beautiful woodworked, updated Victorian in Lafayette?  Send ’em over here.

Tim’s got a seminar all day Saturday and Sara comes Sunday.  Most of October is already spoken for and ALL of November is booked.  Life feels so busy right now, but it’s full of good things.  So I suppose busy is good.

Fall One-Pot Roundup (or, as I like to say, “Kill it with your skillet” meals)

Cool mornings, busy days, and what the heck is for dinner?

Yeah, that’s us.  Everyday.  You’d think I would be on my home cooked dinner A-game since I stay home.  Or at least I thought I would.  It’s a good day when I can get more than one load of laundry done before Tim is home (and by done I do not mean folded).  “Get up earlier” my head says.  “Stay in bed” the same head says after the wee hour parties with my little Sweet Pea.  Sigh.

Enter the quickest, easiest, one-potist dishes you will want to make this Fall.  Here are some we’re going to try out or already love, every single one ready in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

I’m on the hunt for non-pasta quick meals if you’ve got one.  Share them in the comments!


One Pan Mexican Quinoa (our new favorite–try it!)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 lime (don’t skip this!)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and jalapeno, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in avocado, lime juice and cilantro.  Serve!

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion


Adapted from Quinoa Skillet with Pesto and Spinach

 Total time:  15 mins
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups dry quinoa
  • 4-6 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 4 tablespoons basil pesto or spinach pesto (spinach+walnuts+bleu cheese+evoo=spinach pesto)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup Parmesan or Romano, grated
Instructions:
  1. Cook quinoa in broth or water, your choice.  (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, simmer for 20 minutes).  Use a large enough pot to accomodate all the ingredients since you’ll be adding them to the quinoa pot.
  2. Once the quinoa is done, turn the heat up a bit and add in the rest of the ingredients.
  3. After spinach is wilted and cheese has melted, serve!

Mushroom Red Wine Ravioli (this is our FAVORITE pasta dish)

Ingredients

 8 ounces mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, white button, or portobello)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons cold butter, separated
Olive Oil
8 ounces pasta (farfalle, linguine, campanelle)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine
fresh parsley, Parmesan for garnish
salt
1/2-1 cup reserved pasta water

Preparation

Cut or quarter your mushrooms into chunks about half an inch in size.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the packaging directions.  We use frozen or fresh ravioli, but we also used whole wheat linguine last time and loved it.

Begin to make the sauce when you drop the pasta in the boiling water by placing a large pan over high heat. Coat the pan with about one tablespoon of butter (or olive oil), and when it’s good and hot, add your mushrooms and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. The high heat will allow the mushrooms to cook quickly so that the moisture they release is instantly evaporated, and they stay in a more substantial form, rather than become too soft.

After the mushrooms have released most of their moisture (about 4-5 minutes), turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic. Add a little extra oil, if needed, so that the garlic doesn’t burn, and cook for 2 minutes.

Push the mushrooms and garlic off to the side and add the tomato paste, stirring it for about 20-30 seconds – you want it to slightly cook, but not burn.

Next, mix together the mushrooms and the tomato paste, then stir in the red wine.

After the alcohol has evaporated and the liquid has reduced by at least one-half, turn the heat to low.

Add four tablespoons of cold butter in small amounts, one pat at a time, and simply swirl the pan to combine.

After the butter has melted, add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the sauce to thin it out, and remove it from the heat. Toss the sauce with the pasta, adding more pasta water, if needed, so that the pasta is coated, but not dry.

Salt to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley and freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano.


Spinach & Artichoke Wonderpot

Total time
25 mins
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. mushrooms $1.99
  • 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts $2.50
  • 4 cloves garlic $0.32
  • 1 medium yellow onion $0.34
  • 5 cups vegetable broth $0.65
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 12 oz. whole wheat fettuccine $1.33
  • 1 tsp dried oregano $0.10
  • ½ tsp dried thyme $0.05
  • freshly cracked pepper (15-20 cranks) $0.05
  • 4 oz. frozen cut spinach $0.40
Instructions
  1. Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt or debris. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Drain the can of artichoke hearts and roughly chop them into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the onion and garlic (you can mince the garlic if you don’t want large slices).
  2. Place the vegetable broth, olive oil, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, and garlic in a large pot. Break the fettuccine in half and add it to the pot along with the oregano, thyme, and some freshly cracked pepper. Push the ingredients down under the broth as much as possible. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a rolling boil over high heat.
  3. As soon as it reaches a boil, stir the pot to evenly distribute the ingredients and prevent the pasta from sticking. Turn the heat down to low so that the pot is just simmering. Allow the pot to simmer, with the lid on, for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Give the pot a stir every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked through, add the frozen spinach. Allow the heat from the pasta to thaw the spinach. Stir the pot to help break up the clumps of spinach as they melt. Serve hot.
Note:
If you use low sodium vegetable broth, you may want to season with a little salt at the end. Sometimes just a pinch of salt will help pronounce the flavors and prevent a bland finish.
 Total Cost: $8.05
Cost Per Serving: $1.34

*Salt is your friend in this dish, don’t skimp! You need a big skillet, big enough for the linguine to lie flat across the bottom.

One-Pan Pasta (adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Living) The editors of MSL discovered the recipe while traveling in Puglia, so we have Italy to thank for another great pasta recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces linguine (whole wheat, if you ask me)
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2- 3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • Lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.

 


One-Pot Pasta Primavera

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces linguine, uncooked
  • 1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 pound broccoli crowns, cut into large florets (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, ends snapped off and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces sliced white button mushrooms (about 1 cup)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (less for milder heat; more to increase heat)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped (about 1/2 cup chopped)
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (or sub light cream cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Instructions

  1. Add the broth, linguine, onion, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to a large pot set over high heat. Drizzle the olive oil over the top.
  2. As soon as it comes to a boil, set the timer for 7 minutes and start tossing constantly with long-handled tongs.
  3. Continue boiling and tossing. As soon as the 7 minutes is up, add the peas, parsley, heavy whipping cream, Parmesan, and lemon zest and continue cooking, tossing constantly, for 1-2 more minutes, until the pasta and veggies appear tender. Remove from heat.
  4. Note that much of the liquid will have evaporated, but not all. And that’s okay! Let the pasta sit for a couple of minutes to cool; the sauce will continue to thicken during that time. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, & Brie

Serves 2-4

12 ounces linguine, broken in half
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3-4 large garlic cloves, pressed
4 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes (or regular olive oil)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces brie cheese, rind removed and torn into pieces
Grated parmesan, for serving
Good quality olive oil, for serving

Combine linguine, basil, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic in a 3-quart straight-sided skillet.

Add the water, olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of black pepper and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. Using tongs, stir and turn the pasta frequently to prevent sticking.

Cook until al dente, approximately 9 to 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. (If there is still a little bit of cooking water pour some, but not all, into a separate bowl.)

Add the brie and toss with tongs until creamy and melted. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. The sauce will naturally thicken up after a couple of minutes.

Serve with grated Parmesan and a swirl of good olive oil. (If the pasta does seem to need liquid, add back a few splashes of reserved cooking liquid.)


Adapted from Pumpkin Leek Soup

1 28oz Can (or 2lbs fresh) Pumpkin Puree
2 Leeks Washed, Trimmed and Thinly Sliced
1 Clove Garlic Crushed
2 T Olive Oil
3 C Chicken Broth
1 t Ginger
1 t Cumin
Sea Salt
Ground Pepper
Crush one clove of garlic and put in a hot pan with olive oil and sliced leeks. Cook gently on medium/medium high until softened but not browned.
Season the leeks and garlic to taste with ginger and cumin. Cook one more minute, then add in pumpkin and and pour broth over the top. Add Sea salt and Pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Puree, reheat, and serve.
Note:  Some reviewers said to add a teaspoon of thyme before serving.  We love thyme, so when we try it I will report back.

Red Lentil Tacos

  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 c. minced onion
  • ½ c. minced celery (I subbed peppers once.  It wasn’t awful, but stick with the celery if you can)
  • 2-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 c. dry red lentils (Amazon or healthfood store sells them)
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup salsa
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Fresh spinach, plain Greek yogurt, chopped tomatoes, salsa and shredded cheddar for topping
  1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Saute onions, celery and garlic for 5 minutes or so.
  2. Stir in lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano.  Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the stock.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  4. Remove the lid and cook, stirring often, until thickened – usually about 5 more minutes.  Stir salsa into the lentils.
  5. Serve as you would traditional tacos.

Creamy Black Bean and Corn Chili

We made this crockpot version once, and ever after I omitted the chicken and made it a vegetarian stove top rendition of the same thing.  Quick, super flavorful, not a legit clean recipe, but pretty good in a hurry, if you ask me.  Ridiculously delicious for the time it takes to throw on the table.

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 cans corn, undrained
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
  • 1 package ranch dressing mix
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 4oz cream cheese, softened
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place corn, diced tomatoes with green chiles, and black beans in a pot.  Top with seasonings and ranch dressing mix. Stir together.
  2. Heat through and simmer for 15 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  3. Set aside a cup of soup and stir the cream cheese into the cup of hot soup.  Add the mixture back into the pot of soup.  Stir and serve.

 


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced and quartered
  • 2/3 cup peas
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or light cream cheese)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, combine spaghetti, mushrooms, zucchini, peas, garlic, thyme and 4 1/2 cups water; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is cooked through and liquid has reduced, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and heavy cream or cream cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

 

If you have time, share a favorite go-to recipe for busy nights in the comments.  We’d love to expand the collection.

Four Years

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Today is our fourth wedding anniversary.

Our last anniversary involved one baby, Lafayette newbies, a commuting grad student husband, and an unknown bun in the oven.  It’s been a long year!

This anniversary feels more homey than the last.  I don’t mean in a cozy, fireplace in winter kind of way, but in a comfortable, familiar, I-know-what-to-expect way.  Marriage is a strange beast sometimes.  I feel like my perception of love and marriage have really expanded in the last year, as they must.

I had this great (lame?) flower pot analogy when I was talking to my brother.  It’s sort of like in the beginning of our relationship, we were intentional and careful about putting loving intentions and positive energy and joyful experiences into it and that carried us well.

But the funks eventually come, some of them on replay each year, and it gets messy.  All the things that go into the flower pot (energy, angry words, feelings of disappointment, whathaveyou) all stay there.   And you can put good things on top of them, like babies and gifts and thoughtfulness, but the hard, not so loving stuff is still there and it affects the way we grow and the way we define our marriage and relationship as we move forward.

And so this year, my definition of love is a little broader.  It expanded in the form of bringing Maren into our family and in the way I see Tim.  It made me realize we see the things we look for in our spouses, and that is no joke.  When I focus on the ways he drives me crazy, that’s all I see.  When I focus on the things he does for our family, that’s what I see instead.

Now I realize that Love is looking for the good in my partner (and he truly is a partner) and finding ways to enjoy each other in the midst of all the busy.

Happy Anniversary, Timothy.  I love you and I am ready to find fun in our next year together.

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Our Weekend in Photos

Our weekend was pretty unplanned, which was convenient since Silas had croup and Maren was terribly snotty.  We had our first ER trip on Wednesday morning at 3am when Si woke up hacking like an asthmatic smoking seal.  Poor dude.

He’s on the mend, thankfully.  We borrowed a nebulizer (thanks, Abbi!) but never had to use it.  We did homeopathy and put essential oils in the humidifiers and he never really had any symptoms as long as we kept them up.

Saturday, Logan came to visit.  We hit up the farmers market on a long walk, which was great for some fresh air for those tiny colds.  I am loving the chilly weather!  In the afternoon, Tim made a jaunt to ReStore and Menards for some reno supplies.  We worked in the yard (I weeded the front beds, Tim mowed) during nap times.  Alas, I went to bed at 8 and we didn’t do any projects on Saturday.  It was one of those days that was confusing because all of a sudden it was time to make dinner and we couldn’t figure out what we did all day long.

We made up for it today.  We totally overhauled the upstairs bathroom.  Tim took out the sink and toilet and replaced the sink with a new white one (I can’t begin to tell you what the last one looked like).  The toilet we bought to replace the existing one was wonky in the tank, and we decided, in the end, that we wanted the toilet to match the tub, so we ended up reinstalling the toilet that was already there.  Lame!  But not before I laid new flooring.  Booyah!  It’s pretty magical how different it looks in there from this morning.  We still have some finishing work, but it’s a massive improvement.

Maren hit four months on Saturday and Si hits 22 months this coming Saturday, so sometime this week I will get it together and post about their happenings.

We still need to touch up paint, commit to a paint color for the vanity upstairs, and trim out the window downstairs, but the bathrooms are coming along.  Yeah, there’s still a border in the upstairs bathroom.  It’s on the list.

We’re also still working on touching up paint throughout the downstairs where we had to patch the plaster, but I swear a house tour is coming soon.  I decorated a little for Fall this weekend.  That picture of the vase/dining room=keeping it real.  Our house totally looked like that this afternoon.

Am I the only one who is so happy summer is over?

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The Inspired Life

The thing about inspiration is you have to wait on it.  The waiting really sucks, because A. we live in a culture where you can avoid waiting altogether, pretty much (I’m not supporting that approach, merely admitting its possibility) and B. I’m a can-do girl who makes things happen once I realize what I want.  But the waiting to realize what I want? Downright painful.

In my mind’s eye, there are three parts of our lives that culminate to create our senses of self:  fashion sense, living space,and your life’s work.  I think it’s very safe to say that I’ve officially been devoid of a confident sense of self in any of these arenas for far too long.

I haven’t felt comfortable in my own body/living space/occupation in a handful of years (although I do have a strong sense of identity from motherhood until about 3pm when I lose my mind from a lack of adult interaction).  I think part of the disconnect comes with getting married and having to share a home, part of it comes with the total body image disconnect of being pregnant and then recovering from it.  Twice.  In a row.  Because I’m nuts.  Not to mention trying to dress a curvy body in clothes made for straight (literally, not orientationally) people.

Part of it comes from not liking what other people like, which has always be a curse/blessing sort of thing for the women in my family.  But the biggest thing for me in not feeling like I can pinpoint what I like?  The unavoidable reality that I don’t know what parts I like about myself.  Hmmm.  Weighty, right?

So I had a revelation.  I realized, while heating my first cup of coffee for the third time this morning, that we all fight a battle of identity crisis about some part of ourselves.  Namely, I recognized that as much as Tim’s identity/career/purpose crisis has driven me crazy for several years now, I must be honest with myself and recognize that I have spent an equal amount of time bathing in indecision and dare I say poor awareness of my own identity in the sense of fashion and decorating style.

Now you may be saying “big deal–worrying about what style you really identify with is so first world” and you are right about that.  But as a creative, transient but structured mess of a soul, I am very intentional about my living space because I’ve found it is a kindred spirit to my mental space.  Anyone who knew me in undergrad knows how critical it is for me to feel like my space represents me accurately while also feeling like a cathartic, productive area.  No small task.  But good news–you get really good at setting up a fantastic space when you move 15+ times in ten years.

The thing about all the other things we’ve done, been, or liked is that they are like a big, brightly (ok, not that brightly) lit arrow pointing toward the essence of what we want.  In Tim’s case, he spent a decade on and off working in schools, mentoring and tutoring positions, and working with people with disabilities.  It wasn’t a huge surprise to me, then, that he ended up pursuing education.  To him, though, his jobs all felt unrelated and awkward, which left him feeling perplexed about which avenue to pursue.  Perception is so funny that way.  I’m no exception.

So here I sit, having the same “aha!” moment about myself and what I like and what I want our next home to look like.  I have had a huge revelation in my sense of style which translates to my sense of self (thank god) and it makes me feel creative and inspired and like I have the potential to be hip someday again.  And you know what did it?  Pinterest.  Don’t knock it ’til you try it, people.  I still maintain that it’s like free therapy.

I’m anxious to drop a few more pounds and fit into some of my old clothes now that I finally figured out what I want to wear (and what to get rid of, which you know is the real motivation behind all this soul closet searching).  Don’t even get me started on all the ideas I have for our next house.  I can’t wait to move!  Yeah, I know, I’m crazy.

In other news, I forgot to take photos for a house tour (maybe this weekend) and I regret cutting my hair because I actually have to fix it now.  Hmph.  Stay tuned for a potential pixie cut.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has a fashion/identity crisis on a semi regular basis.  How do you snap out of it?

Our Weekend in Photos

For this weekend at least, I’m on my A game with a post of the happenings.  Well, at least half of the happenings.

We had a phenomenally productive weekend.  It was not planned, so it’s a happy surprise all around.  We can’t even seem to muster much gusto when it’s on the calendar, truthfully.  Check it out.

We played while Maren watched adoringly.

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We did lots of thumb exploring, and a tiny bit of thumb sucking.  So cute!photo 1 (5)

We were pretty stoked about the ND game.  All four of us sported our gear and headed to Target and the health food store first thing Saturday morning.  Rest assured two stores was at least one too many and both children were miserable by the time we got home.

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I got my birthday Birks!  Shipped from Germany, so they took a while.  Thanks Mary Kay and Roger!  Not pictured:  Rog and MK were actually here when they arrived since they made a last minute trip to see the babies.  photo 3 (4)

Maren is so awake and happy these days with her crinkly toys.

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I got out my Fall wreath today!  Thanks, Momma.  Great birthday present!

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Watching her brother, as usual.  He’s oblivious, as usual.

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Sunday was the day I just couldn’t take my hair anymore.  It’s falling out constantly (I didn’t have that after I had Si, which was apparently lucky), it was hitting M in the face when I nursed, and I felt like I was being attacked all night long when it escaped hair ties.  Goodbye 12 inches of hair!  Hello, bob and bangs.  I feel naked.

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While Rog and MK were here, Tim and I made an impromptu visit to Menards.  That word seems like it should have an apostrophe, but it doesn’t.  I’m annoyed all of a sudden.

Anyway, we went for a paint exchange (they replace bad color matches for free) and came home with three rooms’ worth of flooring, a new tub surround, wallpaper and lots of Barkeeper’s Friend, which Tim and I both adore.  In about two hours, we had finished the kitchen and laundry room floors.  Ta da!

We got a huge remnant, so it was marked down already but they were having an extra 20% off remnants sale, so both rooms ran us about $160.  It accidentally looks amazing with our cabinet colors, countertops, and bone colored trim.  Happy accidents.photo 3 (3)

Rog and MK left early this morning, but Tim held steady and patched plaster walls all day so that we can finish out all the painting and touch ups from the shelf removal that happened in…January.  Don’t judge.  It’s been a long year.

This afternoon, friends came over to play while the moms had a lady date.  Then I decided I needed to get rid of my hair, so off I went.  After dinner and baby bedtimes (thank god Maren goes to sleep at a normal hour these days), Tim and I got a small burst of energy and attempted our very first wallpapering expedition.  It was easier than expected, messier than expected, and good to have finished.

The small bathroom facelift will be complete after we paint and trim out the window and paint one small wall behind the toilet.  The wallpaper roll (it just took one) was on clearance at Menards for $6 instead of $30-something, so I’d say it’s the most bang for our buck in this house yet.  It also accidentally looks amazing with the flooring and kitchen.  Huzzah, folks.photo 5

It’s almost 10pm.  Tim’s doing homework, babies are snoozing, life is good.