Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Oh who would have EVER thought we'd be busier once Baby M arrived? Not ME!

Lots is happening around these parts...but I should probably make some time for updating - for out-of-state friends & family, & for my own sake, since these days things are going by so fast I barely have time to appreciate them.

More on the goodness later...but we love the baby, we love the new house, we STILL love the puppies (& treat them like royalty even with a new addition) & we love each other. Per usual, the goodness is extra good.

Hope it's all good for you too!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

4 Bean Chili

I don't usually do this because I totally owe my cooking skills to my ability to read & follow directions. I'm not a "maker of recipes"...except the Latch Morgan Surprise (which hardly counts) & my "famous" cream sauce (a recipe for which you can find here). BUT My girl Meghan introduced us to the Plant Based on a Budget blog which features grocery lists & recipes for whatever size family you have for a whole week. As we get close to welcoming Baby M to our family & continue to look forward to buying a house for all of us to live in, I committed to cutting our grocery budget IN HALF. YIIIIIKES! This blog has been SUPER helpful toward achieving that goal, but the REAL bonus here is that the food. is. delish. Even my carnivorous Mister says so. I just made the 4 bean chili (recipe below) for the second week in a row...froze half last time for post-baby dining, but THIS time I made us a batch to eat right up, on Greg's request. One side note...lots of sodium & seasoning involved here. But you can totally tailor that to fit your tastes & nutritional standards. Enjoy!

Here's the recipe:

4 Bean Chilli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3  celery stalks, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1 1/2 tblsp cumin
2 tblsp chile powder
1.5 tsp garlic powder
1.5 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook about 3 minutes.  Add carrots and celery Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
2. Stir in diced tomatoes, beans, and water. Season chili with cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder salt, and pepper. Stir and let chili simmer for 30 minutes. Stir chili frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Baby M's Nursery

My crazy desk pre-move
It feels like we have been ever so slowly working on transforming what was formerly my office into a near-nursery for Baby M forever. I say "near-nursery" because it doesn't have a crib in it for a variety of reasons. First, I scored a pretty sweet bassinet from the local kids & maternity consignment shop that I'm guessing is a more likely sleep spot for the little mister in the early weeks/months. Second, although the house hunt is on pause till after the first of the year, it's still on going. Although assembling the sweet little vintage-esque crib my parents gave us would be super fun, it'll also definitely result in us having to disassemble said sweet crib to move into whatever house we finally settle on...and probably with very little use by a very young little mister. Finally, not having a crib in the room means we get to have a twin bed in there in case (when) a middle-of-the-night-marathon-session ends in total exhaustion that really only one of us needs to endure.
Post-move office space

We also live in the smallest little Florida bungalow that we love but doesn't have much in the way of space. Since I work from home my office used to be in what is now the nursery, so we had to figure out where to relocate me. In an abundance of creativity we've moved my office into an area of our house that used to be the dining room. Despite the fact that my desk is now in a much less secluded space in our house I actually prefer it. I got a view upgrade with a big window & my crazy desk is still virtually out of sight from the rest of the house, so it's all good.

It took some work to even start with a clean slate in the nursery...we were totally overwhelmed with the generosity of our friends & family at Baby M's shower and I of course totally procrastinated moving my office. Once we finally got our (my) act together things came together pretty quick. From the beginning we knew we wanted a pretty neutral set up in there with some gender neutral colors & less baby-centric look. We settled on mint green, mustard yellow & coral. That way we can keep the same set up from baby to baby & actually like what we see in there. Also, I'm a lady that likes to beat a I know from the beginning we were in for a pretty creative experience. Here's what we came up with. I'm sharing because A.) It was a lot of work and I'm proud of what we did and B.) because browsing other posts like these is the only way I even knew where to start with this whole nursery thing. Here goes...

The twin bed was mine from many moons ago but of course I didn't have any linens for it. I picked up the duvet cover from the North Tampa Just Between Friends sale for under $20, a huge improvement from the duvet options I'd been browsing online. Then I got stuck trying to find a set of twin sheets, but luckily Mom had a fitted white sheet handy & I spotted this little cutey on Etsy for like $7. It just so happened the Etsy seller lived in Orlando & I had a trip planned over there anyway so I didn't even have to pay shipping. I love that it's vintage and the orangey-coral & mustard yellow are perfect. We already had the bolster pillow & added the two coral & mustard pillows thanks to TJ Maxx. Those were surprisingly expensive (comparatively) but totally worth it.

We'd decided we didn't want any baby-specific furniture like a changing table so we opted for a re-purposed dresser.  We looked & looked for the longest & finally remembered that my mom had a pretty rockin' mid-century dresser in my old bedroom which she so kindly gave us. After a sand, removing the doors & a few coats of mint green paint it was lookin' sharp for sure. The dresser was free (thanks Mom) & we didn't even need a quart of paint. We organized all of the stuff that apparently babies need with some Ikea boxes & a couple of gold buckets from my FAVORITE section in Target...the ONE SPOT! Some of the other baskets & such we were given at the shower, so we re-purposed those too. The sweet little scalloped changing pad cover was a gift from Aunt Meghan & it's one of my favorite parts.

Since there's no crib I decided to add a little visual interest for the noodle by hanging a homemade mobile over the dresser. I spotted this little how-to on Pinterest & adapted it a little to fit what I wanted. The embroidery hoop is quite a bit smaller on ours, we painted it gold, & used paint samples instead of scrapbook paper to cut medallions instead of hearts out of. It took me a while to get it finished, but I really like it. I bet all things considered, including supplies, that was a $10 project.

We were also given a second hand glider by some sweet friends but the
cushions needed a face lift. Initially I reached out to an upholstery shop my Dad recommended to see about new cushions...but that was going to cost me TWICE what the free glider would've cost had I bought it myself. So that was a no. Then I thought perhaps we could order new pads from Etsy, but that proved to be pretty difficult and also pretty expensive. My theory here is a free glider isn't really free if you have to pay almost what you would've paid for it in order to re-purpose/upgrade it. I knew we needed a DIY solution & my threshold was $50. After many weeks of whining to Greg about how unsure I was that we could even handle this project, we finally ventured out to buy fabric.
Helper (Supervisor) #1
This many not be news to the 2 of you that are even still reading this post but JoAnn's Fabrics ALWAYS has good coupons, and while I always lie when they ask me if I get their promotional emails & mailings, I DO know that they keep said awesome coupons IN THE STORE. So when we went to check out with our 5 yards of coral geometric fabric & our wonder under I nabbed a 25% off coupon that made our $50 worth of fabric more like
Helper (Supervisor) #2
$30 worth of fabric even though technically the coupon could only be used before noon & it was 3 when we got there. GO JOANNS! We loosely followed this Pinterest tutorial & ended up with a free glider with an affordable, fresh, color coordinated outfit on. All the credit here goes to Greg. I'm officially too pregnant to stand for long & wasn't much help after the first hour or so. He's the best!

There are a variety of other things in the nursery that we love, some of which I don't have pictured because that'd spoil the old baby name surprise. Some of my personal favorites include an inexpensive hanging organizer for cloth diapers, a #hashtag (of course), a bed for the pups and a gallery wall that features handmade puppy silhouettes, the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto & the Jordan Standard. Greg was also kind enough to hang up some sturdy hooks in a lesser used corner of the room for getting baby slings & wraps put up & out of the way. Even if it doesn't stay that way, I love an organized nursery & that's exactly what we've got. In a color scheme that doesn't
SCREAM baby. Under budget!

Now that the glider is finally finished we are officially done (with the exception of a missing photo or two) with Baby M's nursery & ready to meet him. I hope he appreciates his new digs.


Florida Fall

Hey y'all! I guess it's probably a bad sign for my ability to do the updating after Baby M gets here if I can't get it together pre-baby. Maybe more exciting things will happen once he  joins the circus & that'll prompt me to post MORE? Here's hoping.

We are sliding into our second season back in the sunshine state. Some of us {me} are missing fall weather more than others but we still love our little house & being so close to so many friends & family. Speaking of our little house Greg has been up to his old tricks again growing grass in the yard of another house we're renting. But he loves it & it's looking real good. If only Sadie would stop with the hole digging I bet the project would be a resounding success. We've also been up to a little gardening...lemon grass, citronella, sunflowers {unsuccessfully}, basil, poppies, daisies and some other varieties of plant. We're just practicing for home-ownership.

Speaking of ownership we finally bought Greg a new {to him} car. After months and months of searching and strategizing we finally settled on a used BMW. Even though we're not its first owners we think it's pretty sharp and it was the right price which means our house hunt won't be delayed as a result of our little German addition.

And of course on the topic of little additions Baby M is still being super nice to me and growing right on track. It's hard to believe we only have 10-ish weeks to go. We finally settled on some colors for Baby M's room. Although we're not painting we are going to work these hues into his room through fabrics and furniture. Our sweet friends the Rhodins gave us a gently used glider rocking chair which we're having recovered and I've got a few DIY projects ahead of me for the crib & some decor. If any of them turn out especially well I'll share the details here. Our most recent trip to visit the midwives was uneventful and we got news shortly after that visit that I passed my glucose test which was excellent news. Some of y'all know how good this news is better than others but it's good news either way and we were excited. We've started baby classes at the birth center & those have been fun, especially with all of the different personalities in our class. I don't have any bizarre pregnant experiences or cravings to report although I think french toast has finally registered on the list of things I love, along with watermelon, peaches and peanut butter sandwiches. I also love dessert. I don't have it even half as much as I think about it...but I think about it a lot. Now I'm thinking about dessert...

Let's see more about fall happenings..USF Football  should only be discussed in hushed tones & that's all we can say about that. We're participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer's on Saturday in honor of Grandma. I'm going over to Orlando to meet a dear friend's new little baby mister & visit with Ash Mat later this week. The Halloween decorations are up and we've already worked through our fist bag of candy corn {speaking of dessert}. We're also getting ready for Baby M's baby shower next weekend and the arrival of Mary Grace & Charlene. I can't wait to see what Lauren, Ash Mat & Coop have cooked up for the shower & spend some time with some of my favorite ladies!

Fall just started & we're already having the best time. Hope life is grand wherever you're reading this!

Happy Fall y'all,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Greetings from Paradise

Let's see...what's new since March? Well, everything of course. The abbreviated version is Greg graduated from Loyola, got a job at USF Athletics, we moved to Florida & we're expecting a baby boy in December. Totally normal. No big deal. Right? 

The move feels like it was pretty easy. Luckily USF paid for movers so all we had to do was get packed and get ourselves to the sunshine state. Thanks to Ash Mat our drive down was easy. It was just us girls - Lilah, Sadie, me & Ash Mat on the open road with a one way ticket to Florida. The new house is super cute, a little green bungalow with some awesome tropical landscaping. Naturally we've done a little gardening ourselves and the girls are LOVING the backyard. Lilah would play fetch during all of the daylight hours if we'd let her. Sadie's content to dig holes. Of course. 

Greg's loving his new job at USF developing a mentorship program for student athletes. Of course I still love my job. We're both so lucky. 

We learned that we were officially a "plus one" in early April but of course couldn't share the news until we were through the first 12 weeks. But the news is out & we recently found out baby Morgan is a boy! We're thrilled & can hardly wait for our little Christmas elf to get here. 

Obviously in months & months many other exciting happenings have made life fun, but the reader's digest version is we love Florida, we love our house, the puppies are in heaven, work is amazing & baby Morgan is in the works! Hope life has been grand for you all & we'll try to keep up with our little bloggy now that we're finally settled.

All good things,

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Kind of Town

I just had to.
I have been B-A-D about keeping up with this blog. I recognize that there aren't a ton of people who are waiting to get the scoop on our silly lives. But still...I've been posting so infrequently that at this point it's totally pointless to even try to catch up on what's happened since Valentine's day. Spoiler alert: We never went to Hearty Boys. We caved & went to our favorite sushi place. I don't know why we even pretend to be interested in other restaurants. It's silly. But we did celebrate Valentine's day, we also celebrated Sadie's 2nd birthday (since which we've noticed a marked improvement in her little puppy ways. She's growing up so fast!), and we've traveled a TON, which isn't really a contrast to the usual around here. One of the highlights of the last 8 weeks was visiting Tampa Bay for Ella Mae's 1st birthday. We're so smitten with that baby. Greg's job search has been heating up so we're both cautiously optimistic about how that'll turn out. I hope I never have to job search again because I love my job. So much. And we're officially 7 weeks from "the end" (for me) in Chicago. Which brings me to the purpose of this post. Since Nothing really new or different is happening around here (besides the usual inconsistency, nonstop travel, busy work weeks & general goodness) I thought I'd start a list (YAY!) about all the things I'll miss about Chicago. Chicago & I have had a 3 1/2 year long relationship at this point & I feel like I need to give some credit & space to the goodbye process with this place. 7 weeks isn't nearly enough, but it'll have to do as I'm only just beginning to feel nostalgic. I've seen those posts about people "from" Chicago (You know who you are. You moved here too. Just like everyone else. This is not a cool competition) and how they only care about things nobody knows about, and don't even bother asking them to take you to see "the bean". This'll be different. This is just what I like to do, places I've been and moments I've had that inspired me to say "I can't believe I live here." So, here goes (in no particular order) & I'll update as they come to me...

    Hartland Cafe in Rogers Park. Yes, Rogers Park. Truth is Rogers Park has more character than (I would argue) the overwhelming majority of the city, including the bougie bouge neighborhoods everybody wants to live in. Those are cool, but the charm is manufactured. Rogers Park is what it is & nobody's faking it. Just like Heartland. No matching outfits for the servers, sometimes some inappropriate live entertainment during dinner, and a bar where on one side you can order a craft beer and on the other you can buy some granola lit that'll change your worldview. This was one of my first favorites. I had many meals here, one I'll never forget in honor of a Joey, a sweet puppy we still miss.

     The Glenwood Sunday Market & Evanston Farmers' Market because although I've heard that St. Petersburg has recently taken up the charge of community marketing again, when I visited these two markets it was a new experience for me. I'd never walked to a place I could buy produce, sample cheese, sign up to volunteer, and pet strangers' dogs until this. Even though we moved to Chicago in December, and I had to wait a while to enjoy this, it was a big deal to me.

    Festivals. All of them. But mostly Custer's Last Stand,  Maifest in Lincoln Square, & St. Alphonsus Oktoberfest. Any city that encourages & publicizes neighborhood festivals where people can dance and drink beer in public is alright by me. ESPECIALLY if they encourage & publicize it the ENTIRE summer (not just a few times a year). I'll miss the festivals.

    Block Parties. If people aren't already doing this where we're moving they're about to because I'm going to petition city hall to close whatever my block ends up being down for the first annual block party. Invitations to follow. My favorite Block Party in Chicagoland was on the street where 2 of the families I worked for early in my Chicago life live. That neighborhood is one of my favorite places in this whole town, and that block party will always be one of my favorite experiences in Chicagoland.

    Watching the Air Show from
    Montrose Harbor
    Montrose Harbor, which is the site of virtually ever celebration we've had/hosted since moving to Buena Park. As soon as it's warm enough everybody in Chicago practically packs a cooler & RUNS to whatever the greenest most accessible space is they can find. Our spot has been Montrose Harbor. We've celebrated a number of holidays out there & watched the Chicago Air & Water show from the park. That's another favorite.

    (Most of) the people of Chicago. Speaking of how everybody gets right outside when its nice, I just love that about the people of Chicago. I was walking recently with my mom in Florida (in January or February) and there were like 20 people in the park. 20. If it was that nice in Chicago as often as its that nice in Florida they'd have to start selling tickets for a place to lay your blanket. I love about the people of Chicago that whatever they were planning to do just gets done outside once it reaches a certain temperature. I'll miss that quality about the people here.

    The Buena Pumpkins Trick or Treat event. Buena Park is one of those rare, charming, close knit communities where (most) people care about each other, we donate resources to support our community, and the neighborhood association creates a tradition where the children of the neighborhood have a safe place to trick or treat. Rich, Charlene, Greg, Lilah, Sadie & I have been so spoiled by this tradition. We'll miss it for sure.

    The Drawing Room, which is where we had dinner the night we got engaged. I will miss that place for that reason but also because it's underground. I mean that both literally and figuratively. I feel like it's little known (perhaps I'm wrong) but it's also quite literally underground. The bar tenders fix you a drink based solely on what you usually order. And it's always right on.

    The Halsted Whole Foods, or the Boystown Whole Foods as I call it. I make it a point to spend as much time in Boystown as possible. I love this place because #1 it has the best hot bar of any whole foods I've ever visited, INCLUDING the Whole Foods on North Ave. It also happens to be connected to the Center on Halsted, which is a community center that serves Chicago's LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community. Grabbing some lunch, and sitting in the window of a place that works so hard to build, empower and cultivate is just the kind of goodness that makes me feel especially nostalgic about Chicago & the perspective of many of the people who live here.

    Roost in Andersonville. A retail shop that does the collecting of random knick knacks that you say you'll do at a second hand store but you never do. It's either a good place to spend more than you'd like on things you love, or a good place to brainstorm about what you're looking for in the way of things to love. There's a coffee shop near by (that isn't a Starbucks...or at least it wasn't) that you should go to first, then walk down to Roost. Makes for a great Saturday.

    Dollop which is just the most normal coffee shop you'll ever want to go to. It's across the street from our place and I love to go there. I always think whatever season I'm currently in is my favorite season to go there (Oh it's so nice to come here and work/read/drink coffee while it's snowing/the leaves are falling/the sun is coming back out) but this place is just awesome no matter what time of the year it is. My favorite parts of this place are the mismatched coffee cups which look like they've been acquired from a variety of second hand shops (which I love) and the funny wireless passwords. The drawing to the right will absolutely live in the bedroom of a child of mine. Hopefully the creativity & charm of Dollop will rub off on my little one(s).

    Lincoln Square Lanes, a good time that's hiding next to a McDonalds and above a hardware store. It's the perfect blend of old & new. We just visited a few weeks ago & that place is the kind that'll make you say "Wow, I never would have known this place was here & I can't believe everybody in Chicago isn't trying to get in".

    Cousins Incredible Vitality Raw Vegan Restaurant where the food is terrible. I love this place though for two reasons. One is because Coop & I had a SERIOUS laugh after trying to "eat" here one evening while Greg was travelling. Two is because Chicago is a place where a restaurant like this one can actually get legs and thrive. I just love that about Chicago.

    Millennium Park. YES! Millennium Park. Know why? Because you just have to appreciate what a rare and special opportunity it is to have that much green space, with that much culture and a city that invites you to get right in the middle of it for FREE. Tourists love it, but even I sometimes remark to myself how often I've taken the entirety of downtown for granted. I often have a meeting downtown on the fifth floor of a building right on Michigan avenue that over looks Millennium Park. When I'm up there I feel so privileged that Chicago's been my home for 3 years.

    The Grant Park Music Festival particularly the performance on "Independence Eve". That performance features all of the songs I love to hear on the 4th of July. I once saw a woman run across the length of the Jay Pritzker Pavillion (dodging picnic blankets & open bottles of wine) to join another woman in doing the can can. I know everybody's city has things like this...but nobody else's city is Chicago. This experience is high on my list of things I'll never forget.

    The Chicago Fire Department

    104.3 and 94.7

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    January Juice

    We're 10 days into February already? Dang. January was so fun, which you probably know from reading the Holiday Recap. We did in fact have a super fun time celebrating Sadie & Greg with Mary Grace & our awesome neighbors. We ALSO had a super fun time celebrating Greg's birthday at the Sigma Chi Hockey Tournament in Canada (Brampton, Ontario to be exact). This was Greg's 3rd trip and my 2nd. There was some confusion over whether or not I'd be able to go since I haven't officially changed my name on my passport yet, but thanks to Greg's excellent information gathering skills we were able to establish that I could go & just bring some supporting documents. Which of course NOBODY ever asked for.

    Anyway, last time we flew into Detroit (where we got stuck on our return trip because it's Detroit & January & of course that would happen) but this time we flew to Buffalo & drove over. We flew INTO a snow storm this time (because it's Buffalo & it's January & of course that would happen) so what should have taken us an hour to drive took us more like three. But we arrived in time to go to the Pre-Tourney social where we reconnected with some favorite brothers, one in particular, Ken who hosted Greg on his first trip for this tournament. He wasn't playing this year, so it was good to at least catch up for a little.

    The next day some of my tournament girlfriends & I had to run out for a few necessities (bathing suits in Canada in January. Obviously) so I missed Greg's first game, but I caught the next two. There were some stand out guys on that team, but unfortunately they weren't able to secure a win. SPEAKING OF advance of this year's tournament we made an offer to the tournament planner(s) couldn't refuse: cheese grits (which I affectionately call Dixie Magic) in exchange for being put on the same team as Don, who is the husband of my best tournament girlfriend. This way us girls would have the same games to watch, and it doesn't hurt that Don plays pick up hockey 4 days a week and is really, really good. WELL...The Dixie Magic made the trip to Canada, but we WERE NOT put on the same team as Don. Oh...and Don's team won the championship game. I don't have anymore to say about that. Except I've told Greg we better start wheeling in dealing EARLIER this year. Obviously these people don't know who's boss. Yet. Just kidding. Kind of.

    On our way back to Buffalo we stopped on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to take a look. I was excited at the prospect of being able to do this, but as we rounded the corner to park so that we could walk around I caught a glimpse of the falls and gasped. It is truly one of the most breath taking things I've ever seen, and I'm not usually that easily impressed. This was very impressive. Also, the little town that's built up around the falls is super cute. Except Hard Rock cafe really needs to get a grip on the $12 hamburgers. Hard Rock burgers aren't that impressive. We took a million pictures, bought a couple little postcards & souvenirs & we headed over the Rainbow Bridge back to the US. The Canada trip is always SO much fun & ever time we go we always say we're going a day earlier next time so that we can do something else. Next year we want to go a day early so we can stay at the Fallsview Marriott for a night. impressive.

    Birthday Girl
    Since then Greg's made a couple quick trips to Seattle & Houston & I'm gearing up for Jacksonville & Orlando next weekend, St. Pete the following week, then the booming metropolis of Itasca, Illinois then back to my favorite second (or third or fourth) home, Oxford, OH to round out the month of February. I was supposed to be in New Jersey this past weekend for one of my favorite Beta leadership programs, Keystone, but that nasty storm Nemo (who names a bad storm after a cartoon fish?) cancelled our NE Keystone, which was a bummer, but Greg & I got a bonus weekend together in an otherwise travel heavy month. We're looking forward to Valentine's day this Thursday before I head to Florida. We're so lucky in Chicago to have so many cool little spots to dine, including the place we're trying this Thursday, called The Hearty Boys. So we'll walk there for dinner. I love being able to walk anywhere for dinner. THEN we'll be celebrating Lilah's 4th little puppy birthday on the 23rd. Actually...we'll probably celebrate early, since we'll be in the aforementioned BOOMING metropolis, Itasca on her actual birthday.
    She's never getting married. But still.

    That's all for now. Hope your January was a blast!

    Happy Sunday,