Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I'm thankful for so much, but especially thankful for my wonderful husband, two sweet girls and a day relaxing at home, just the four of us!  Wishing everyone else a fabulous day too!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Twosday Six: Little J

Fun Birthday Events

  1. Minnie Mouse birthday party with family and friends on Saturday.
  2. Trip to MOA for rides and birthday dinner.

Favorite Foods
  1. This girl absolutely loves cheese.  She will stand in front of the refrigerator yelling, "Cheese! Cheese!"  It reminds me an awful lot of my grandpa.  
  2. For the longest time, Little J has also had a fondness for broccoli.  It's very strange to me.  When we get broccoli at the store, or she sees me getting it ready for dinner, she'll do a little stomping broccoli cheer.  (On the other hand she refused to eat any of her cupcake at her birthday party.)
Favorite Books
  1. Where is Tico?  One of our many Dora books, Little J has been very attached to this book in recent weeks.  
  2. Goodnight Moon.  Little J likes to find the kitties on each page when we read this book.  Our copy is currently being held together with masking tape, so we may need a replacement soon.
Favorite Phrases
  1. "I ok!"  Little J is, well, still little, so there are lots of falls around our house.  Most times she falls, but lets us know, "I ok!" before trying it again.
  2. "I do it!"  Our little 2 year old is becoming quite independent.  She wants to do things herself, and will let you know about it.  Occasionally I forget to let he shut the refrigerator door, and it leads to a serious meltdown.  Other things she most wants to do herself include climb in and buckle her chair and buckle her seat belt.  
Favorite Shows
  1. Sofia the First: This was Miss A's favorite for awhile, so Little J jumped on the princess bandwagon.  Now Miss A has moved on to Doc McStuffins, but Little J still loves "bia."  This is the only show that she will sit and watch the whole 20 minutes by herself.
  2. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse:  This used to be her favorite, but has been taken over by Sofia.  She does love the hot dog dance at the end of each episode, and her hot dog dance is super cute!
Favorite Animals
  1. Kitties
  2. Puppies
Bedtime Must Haves
  1. Brown and pink blankie.  I had to take blankie away for a couple days last week when pink eye hit our house, and it was no good.  I let her pick out some other blankets to use, but she was not happy about it.
  2. Puppy.  E picked up a couple of stuffed puppies at a work conference a couple years ago.  Little J has latched on to those puppies.  I'm thankful we have two, and Miss A doesn't seem to mind that Little J gets to have both of them!
Mommy's Favorites
  1. Post nap time snuggles.  Little J still takes awesome afternoon naps, and gives the biggest, best hugs right after I get her out of her crib.  She usually likes to snuggle for a big after she wakes up, and I'm more than happy to steal that time.
  2. Little J has a sneaky smile that comes out when she's doing something a little bit sassy.  I kind of love it, even if it generally means she's doing something she shouldn't be doing.  She's a little more adventurous that Miss A was at her age, so I think she'll be keeping us very busy this year (and probably for many years after).
Daddy's Favorites
  1. One of Little J's other favorite phrases, "Watch this, Daddy, watch this!"  She will keep saying it over and over until someone acknowledges her.  Sometimes she has something she's planning to do, like jump or spin, but sometimes after Daddy says ok, she has to come up with something to do.  
  2. Little J the copy cat.  Whatever Miss A does, Little J will copy.  If Miss A runs in the other room, Little J follows.  If Miss A jumps and falls on her butt, Little J jumps and falls on her butt too.  It's really sweet to see how much she wants to be just like her big sister.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Favorites: Children's Books

  1. Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
    • This is one of the first paper books Miss A would ask to read.  The illustrations are basic, but perfect for little people to follow the story of Harold's adventure.
  2. The Very Best Daddy of All, Marion Dane Bauer
    • We've gotten E a few Daddy books for Father's Day.  I add a picture of Daddy with his girls on the last page.  It makes the books extra fun!
  3. Josie the Giraffe, Nicola Baxter
    • This will be a new addition to our collection (for Little J's birthday next week).  She loves giraffes and the paper seems pretty tough, always good with two year old.
  4. A is for Annabelle, Tasha Tudor
    • I think books with the child's name in them are extra special, so I search names on Amazon, and see what I can find.  We currently have 3 books with Miss A's name and 3 with Little J's name.  Miss A especially loves to read the books with her name in them.  She was "helping" me get a photo, and asked if we could say one of the giraffes was A too.  
  5. A Book of Sleep, Il Sung Na
    • I love the illustrations in this book. The owl visits a bunch of animals while they're sleeping at night.  It's fun to see how the animals sleep and try to find the owl on each page.
  6. My Garden, Kevin Henkes
    • I actually like all of the Kevin Henkes books we've read, but this one is my favorite.  The little girl in this story talks about helping her mom in the garden, and imagines her own amazing garden.
  7. The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Suess
    • It's a classic for a reason.  I had this one basically memorized for awhile, as did Miss A.
  8. Barnyard Dance, Susan Boynton
    • Another author that I love, especially for the really little ones.  These were some of the first books we read with the girls.  They're really fun, and have a great rhythm. 
  9. Miss Spider's Tea Party, David Kirk
    • This is one of Nana's favorite books, because it has great, bright illustrations.  We also have the iPad app, which is great and free!
  10. Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle
    • Such a fun little trip with the little blue truck and all his animal friends.  Little J loves all of the animal noises throughout the book.
  11. Give Me Grace
    • This is a sweet prayer book, with one prayer for each day of the week.  We read the daily prayer with the girls after we finish their stories, just before bed.  The illustrations are nice and bright too!
  12. The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
    • Another classic children's book, and while I love the story, I also love the size of this book.  The one we have is about 9x12 and still a board book.  Perfect for reading as a family.  
  13. Baby Giggles
    • Both girls have pretty much outgrown this book, but still read it occasionally.  It's perfect for babies, who seem to love looking at other babies.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ninja Ultima Review

*Full disclosure: I was given this blender by Ninja to try and review, but the opinions are completely my own.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an extremely picky eater.  I mean a seriously, super picky eater.  For many, many years the only veggie I was willing to eat was carrots.  Since finding out I was pregnant with Miss A, I have made pretty big steps in improving my eating habits.  I have expanded the veggies I eat to include spinach, broccoli, asparagus and a few others.  I know I still have a long way to go, but I'm working on it. 

When I attended HLS13 in September, I had the opportunity to talk to the people with Ninja and try a few of their smoothies.  When they offered to send me a Ninja Ultima Dual Stage Blender to try out and review.  Of course, I jumped at the chance!

For a long time I've been seeing posts about smoothies on Pinterest and Instagram.  I thought that smoothies might be a great way to increase the number of servings of freggies my family consumes during the day, but my normal kitchen blender just wasn't cutting it.  I've had my Ninja Ultima for over a month now, and I can honestly say I'm LOVING it!

With the Ninja Ultima Blender, I'm able to toss a bunch of ingredients together and know that I will end up with a silky smooth drink.  When I first told E that I was going to put spinach in our smoothies, he was a little skeptical (and I have to admit I was too).  As we made our first green smoothies, I was very happy to see the spinach all but disappeared!  Some smoothies keep a little bit of a green color, but for the most part you wouldn't even know it was there.    

Now that I have my Ninja Ultima, I take a smoothie to work nearly every day.  In order to make my busy weekday mornings easier, I make big batches of smoothies on the weekend days, and freeze smoothies for the rest of the week.  I grab one in the morning, and keep it in my lunch bag until I need a snack.  The smoothie is usually thawed out by 10am, which is exactly when I need a little something at work.  These smoothies have been an excellent way to boost my servings of fruits, and especially veggies!

The smoothies pictured here have spinach, bananas, raspberries (frozen from our garden) and vanilla yogurt.  They are so yummy... probably my favorite combo so far, which is good because we have a freezer full of raspberries to use this winter.

I initially thought the girls didn't like the smoothies...
turns out I just needed to make sure they were pink!
While smoothies have been my major use of the Ninja Ultima, there is so much else you can make.  The Inspiration Guide that came with the Ninja Ultima has recipes for salsa, soups, sauces and even dessert.  I'm excited to try some other things with my Ninja Ultima soon, including this salsa from Kelly!  Another thing I love about the Ninja Ultima is that it comes with 2 single serving cups that can screw right on to the blender, mix and be ready to go.  I haven't actually had a chance to try these yet, but I'm really excited to use them this summer when I'm home more.

The only thing that has been bugging me about the Ninja Ultima is the size.  The blender base and pitcher are both large, which is great for making large batches, but a little tough for storage.  I've mentioned before that our house is starting to feel a little small, and our kitchen space is especially tight.  Ideally, I'd have the Ninja Ultima out all the time, but for now I bring it out on the weekends (and other times I need it), make my big batches of smoothies, then store it in the basement.  A little bit of a hassle for me, but still well worth it to have have a blender that makes such amazing smoothies.

A big thank you to everyone at Ninja for sharing this amazing product with me!

Friday, November 15, 2013

World Kindness Day (Week)

Last weekend, Heather wrote a great post with ideas for celebrating World Kindness Day.  I normally love Heather anyway, but I especially loved this post!  It was just the inspiration I needed to plan some ways to spread kindness this week.

I shared a couple of things I was hoping to do for World Kindness Day in my Twosday post earlier this week.  On Tuesday afternoon the girls and I made cookies to share with friends and coworkers.  I thought I was setting myself up for a kindness filled day on Wednesday.  Then I didn't sleep well Tuesday night and on Wednesday I was so tired.  After reading Miss A some books before her rest, I curled up on the couch with some blankets.  Miss A normally doesn't nap, so I figured I would rest for a bit until she needed something.  That didn't happen.  Somehow Miss A and I both fell asleep, and Little J took an extra long nap.  I ended up sleeping for 3 hours.  Not what I had planned to do with my afternoon.

I normally resist naps because I wake up still feeling tired, and often cranky.  Plus nap time is my work time.  So I wasn't happy with myself when I realized I had slept for 3 hours when I had so many other things to do.  I had kind things I wanted to do.  Then I decided that as a part of World Kindness Day I would be kind to myself, and not beat myself up for taking that nap.  I needed the sleep, and taking a nap probably helped me show more kindness to my little ones on Wednesday night.  (Also, after I was feeling guilty about not getting things done on Wednesday, this post from Diana helped me get rid of that guilt!)

So I didn't get everything on my list done on Wednesday.  It took me most of the week to accomplish my World Kindness Day projects.  But I completed many kind acts this week.  They made me happy, and hopefully spread some happiness to others too. 

Here's what I did...
  • Shared Heather's post on Facebook and Twitter (and inspired at least one other person to participate in World Kindness Day too!)
  • Brought cookies to work to share with coworkers
  • Shared a cookies with a student who was celebrating his birthday
  • Packed snacks for 3 amazing coworkers/friends who are currently taking Saturday classes 
  • Sent 2 long overdue notes, 2 (interesting looking) owl projects and 1 early birthday card to friends
  • Shared extra owl craft materials with 2 sets of sisters
  • Sent 13 postcards to families of students who showed big improvements in meeting the learning goals for my class over the past week
  • Wrote a positive chalk message on the sidewalk in front of our house (I wrote, "Have a great day! Miss A told me she wrote, "Have an even better day!" A perfect example of how sweet yet sassy she can be.  Also, we left the chalk out while we were taking a break, and one of our neighbors added, "You too!"  adding extra kindness to the block!)
And I don't plan to stop with this.  I've been working to make sharing kindness a part of my daily/weekly routine, and it has been a great addition to my days!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Twosday Five

I love Heather's Twosdays, and I've also been enjoying Becky's (and Katie's) Treat Yourself Tuesdays, so I thought I would do a mix of the two today.  With a few pictures from our family date night thrown in, because I love them.

Ways I Treated Myself Last Weekend
  1. Shopping at Primp.  I love that the store is what the tagline says, cheap chic boutique.  I have some events to go to for E's work, and I love being able to find cute things at reasonable prices. 
  2. Girls' night with friends from work
Items Purchased at Primp
  1. Navy Henry Martin sweater dress
  2. Sparkly champagne colored necklace
Stops during Saturday Night's Girls' Night
  1. Bonfire for appetizers and drinks.
  2. Cafe Latte for dessert.  I had the chocolate chocolate cake.  It was SO good!
Other Ways I've Treated Myself Recently
  1. Painted my nails with my current favorite, Essie Parka Perfect.  I get compliments every time I use it.
  2. Archer Farms Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa served at a "tea party" with Miss A, Baby E and Baby E's Mommy.
Recent Stops on Our Family Date Night- Still a Treat for Me :)
  1. Cossetta.  This is a great place for dinner with the kids because you pick out your food cafeteria style (no waiting), it's noisy (kids aren't disruptive), they serve pizza (kids will eat) and there's a lot of space (again, no waiting).  Plus the food is super tasty!
  2. Minnesota Children's Museum.  The White Room was seriously awesome (see pictures above!).  The girls loved painting the walls, and painting/playing the piano!  It maybe be my favorite exhibit I've been to at the MCM, and I love most things at the MCM!
Ways I Plan to Celebrate World Kindness Day (Tomorrow!)
  1. Treats for coworkers.
  2. Positive notes home to parents.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The C Sisters

As most of my family and friends (and some long time readers) may know, in addition to teaching, I also do some family photography.  This fall I have been lucky to have many wonderful families let me take their photos.  It has been busy, but really fun, and I'm excited to share the photos with you here over the coming weeks.
This picture really makes me want another little girl!  Aren't they sweet?!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


It's rare that I can convince Miss A and Little J to sit together and smile for a picture.  This is about as close as it gets.  So I like this picture.  I like seeing my sweet girls play together nicely. 

And they do play together well... most of the time.  Over the past month, though, there has been one argument that I've heard almost daily, sometimes even more frequently.  It is an argument most often started on our car ride home.  Here's how the argument goes,

Little J: "Boy."

Miss A:  "I'm not a boy."

Little J:  "Boy."

Miss A:  "I AM NOT A BOY!"

Little J: "Boy."  (by this point she is usually smiling and/or laughing)

Miss A:  "I am not a boy, I'm a girl!"

And it continues.

I used to try to step in, explain to Miss A that Little J is just saying boy, not calling her a boy.  Or tell Miss A to ignore Little J and Little J will stop.  My reasoning changed nothing.  So now I just sit back and laugh while my (almost) 2 year old picks on her big sister (but seriously, how does she understand how to push her big sister's buttons so young?!).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Little Ones and Little Things

One of the things I planned to do this fall was some sort of thankful project with the girls.  I thought about a few different project to do, but hadn't gotten anything ready yet.  Then Miss A came home from Sunday School last week with a November project, and I saw Savvy Julie's 30 Days of the Little Things Challenge, so I decided we'll do those this month.  One for Miss A and one for me.

Miss A's Sunday School teacher sent home a big November Calendar (it takes up most of the top of our refrigerator) and some guidelines for what the kids should do.  Each day, the kids pick one person, pet or thing to pray for.  Miss A tells me what she wants to pray for that day, and I write it in the box on the calendar.  Then Miss A colors around the name in the box.  She also decided her boxes need some stickers.  The instruction sheet gives Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth (there's an edition for adults and another for kids) as a good source for other ideas.

And I have to share a quick, sweet story about Miss A.  As E was getting to Sunday School to pick Miss A up last week, all the kids were meeting together in a big group.  E could hear what was going on, but Miss A couldn't see him.  The teacher asked everyone to say one thing they were thankful for, and of course Miss A said her Daddy.  You can see Daddy was her first choice on her calendar too.  She is a Daddy's girl, no doubt about it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

About a month ago, Miss A informed me that she was going to be a bad witch for Halloween.  I wasn't fully prepared for her to start choosing her own costume so soon.  And it really surprised me when she said witch (I would have guessed princess, though there was an episode of Sofia with a witch).  Miss A already had a black tutu, shirt and sweatshirt, and we bought tights, a hat and a broom to go with it.  I wanted to make some part of her costume, so we picked out some cute Halloween fabric together and I made her a cape.   

As I've mentioned before, I have no sewing skills.  Learning to sew is consistently on my to do list, but it seems like every time I get the sewing machine out, it ends in a fight that the sewing machine wins.  But I do like to make the girls their Halloween costumes.  So I've gotten really good at figuring out no-sew versions.  For Miss A's cape I used the sewing tape that you iron.  I folded the fabric over a few inches at the top, and put a ribbon in so I would have a way to tie it.  She loved her costume.  She was happy to fly around on her broom and put hexes on people.  

I still got to pick Little J's costume, and when I saw this cute lion costume on Pinterest, I decided that would be a fun costume for her.  I loved the idea even more after we taught Little J to roar.  So cute!  For the lion mane, I tied pieces of yarn around a headband and for the arm and leg bands I used hair bands.  I picked 3 colors of thick yarn and tied pieces on two at a time so it would be a thicker mane.  I intended for Little J to wear the headband up on her head, like in the top pictures, but around her neck worked too (and she left it on that way).  Little J thought trick-or-treating was awesome this year, and ran from house to house.  At the door she would say, "or treat" and then "thank you" when she got her candy.  As soon as we got home she dumped out her bag, picked out a sucker, unwrapped it and stuck it in her mouth.  She really is getting big!

Also, thought I'm not normally a fan of the scary side of Halloween (I'm really a baby) some of these attractions look pretty interesting!