OTG Update

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hey ya'll! Well, I'm a bit behind in my writing lately, but I've taken a bit of a break since my first OTGS. I was inspired and have definitely given my computer the back seat. We have lots of catching up to do.

First, OTGS was awesome. At the beginning of the day it was a bit strange, but when bed time rolled around I realized that I didn't miss the computer/internet too much. I find myself needing to use it less and "worrying" about it less too, actually. Today I've even been thinking that I don't need these online social media accounts at all! Keeping up is just getting to be a bit much. Wow. Did you ever think I'd say type those words?

The inaugural OTGS was also St. Paddy's Day, and my six year anniversary with Chicago. We spent the day indoors mostly. We relaxed, caught up on some tv, and tried some delicious new beers at home while our corned beef and cabbage cooked in the slow cooker. (Recipe to follow soon. SO easy!)

Since then we've managed to stay busy with a few visitors. First, with Aunt Erica in from New York. She was here on business and was nice to get the opportunity to visit with her. Then over the weekend we spent time with Dave's parents who were in town from Las Vegas. We had a lot of good meals, including our usual, and favorite, corned beef sandwiches. Noelle got lots of love during Nene and Da's time here. No doubt though not enough to last until their next visit in July.

This week I also started crocheting! I'm still very much a beginner, but it's a good outlet for my creative side, really relaxing, and enjoyable. I managed to whip up two headbands for Noelle in about a day.

Finally, I've started reading Lean In, and am so inspired. Seriously, you should probably read this. Man or woman, it doesn't really matter. I'm only part way through the book and it really has some interesting facts and observations that are beneficial to all of us in workforce today. Great food for thought!

So, that's that, really. Did any of you participate in the OTGS challenge? How did it go?

Noelle's Fifth Month

Monday, March 18, 2013

It seems as though time just goes by faster and faster every day! Noelle turned five months old on Friday. It was a pretty low key month with only one major change - the addition of food!

Food is still very new, and not 100% necessary in Noelle's diet yet, so we give it a go here and there. Every time she wants more and more. Her favorite so far is sweet potato.

Noelle went on more adventures with me this month. She's such a Chicago girl, and loves riding on the L.

We started preparing for Easter.

Noelle still loves her giraffes. She even got a new giraffe friend this month - Marcy!

"Mom, stop taking pictures. I'm not going to smile for you."
Noelle loves to stand.

And, finally, we had a little five month photo shoot. I love this one! Noelle looks so happy and you can see how much her hair is growing. Yes, daddy put it in a mohawk. 

We're so excited for all of the new adventures that are in store this month. Noelle has some visitors coming into town, her first Easter, and much more!

Six Years of Chicago

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy six year anniversary, Chicago! Yes, I moved to Chicago on St. Patrick's Day. Thank you dad for helping me, and for navigating the Uhaul through the tiny streets and drunks that day with a cat underneath your foot!

I seriously cannot believe that I've lived here for over half a decade. The years have absolutely flown by. In my six years here I've grown so much, and accomplished more than I ever would have imagined.

Within my first year here I made new friends, met the man who would become my husband, ended my retail career, partied (probably) too much, ate at a lot of great Chicago restaurants, and began my real estate career.

March 2007
March 2008
During the next two years I moved in with my boyfriend, got engaged, and did a lot of traveling for friends' weddings. In these two years we slowed down a lot. (You notice the change from 'I' to 'we'? Love it!) We started cooking more at home - Dave bbq'ing and me baking.

March 2009
July 2009
Next we we got married, traveled to Greece (my first overseas trip), and adopted a dog - Halas.

March 2010
July 2010
Since then we've cooked a lot, made many trips to the dog park, traveled, moved twice, and our biggest accomplishment, gave birth to our daughter Noelle.

It's been a whirlwind six years, wouldn't you agree? What's next, Chicago?

Off The Grid

Friday, March 15, 2013

This morning I had to live in the life pre 2000 when I got my first cell phone. You see, I plugged my cell in on my nightstand before bed, and awoke in the morning to hubby's alarm. "Strange" I thought to myself, rolled over and clicked my phone to see what time it was. Nothing. Just a black screen staring back at me. Well, it was long after I should have been awake, so I raced to get ready, and plugged my phone into a different charger and outlet. An hour and a half later, still nothing. So, off the grid I went for the commute to work.

No Facebook. No Instagram. No Gmail. What is one to do on a train for 30 minutes without a smartphone? Read. I pulled out my Nook and opened up my new purchase 'Lean In.' The time went by just as quickly, and I may have gotten a bit smarter by not clicking through social media all morning.

Eventually I made it to Verizon where they jump started my phone, the clouds parted, the sun shined through, and I was back in business. While I called off the carrier pigeons, I thought about what it would do for our lives if we were to go off the grid more often.

As anxious as I was having no phone, it was a kind of nice. Could people still reach me? Yes. Could I still Facebook? Yes. Could I still Google things to my heart's desire? Yes. Do we really need constant access to media? Probably not. What is really all that bad? No.

Going forward, on Sundays, I'm going to try to be off the grid. I will still carry my phone, but only use it as a phone (or to text. I mean, who calls people anymore?) No email. No social media. The hope of "Off the Grid Sunday" is to connect more with my family, and have quality time to do whatever I choose without the distraction that cell phones have become. I can only imagine all of things I can accomplish with the extra time I'll have by not using my cell phone constantly.

Do you think you can join me in OTGS? If so, leave a comment and re-post. Let's see how many of us can do it, and regain all of those hours in our lives that we've been missing.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Update 3.26.2013

Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On my way to work today, there was a girl who was on my train, then in front of me when we both arrived at Starbucks. The path she took, and the path that I took however, were very different. When we exited the train she was in front of me on the escalator.  She tried rushing to pass a woman into the turnstile, and ran into her instead getting an annoyed "say excuse me, please." She was quickly out of my sight after she, for the second time, ran into another woman turning the corner on the street. I arrived at Starbucks, and there she was, in front of me in line.

It got me to thinking, why is she in such a hurry to wait in line? Whatever the reason, it gave me inspiration for Wednesday wisdom.

"If you're always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you're in?"

And, because I have such an awesome nanny, some great pictures of Noelle to help you get through the middle of the week!

Etsy Shop Spotlight: Little Hip Squeaks

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Time for another Etsy shop spotlight! Little Hip Squeaks is one of my favorites. Their colors and patters are adorable! I'm constantly browsing for new things, and need to narrow my list down before I can make another purchase. In the mean time though, I'm just eating up the babe in these little leg warmers and hat!

A couple months ago I had her in them but her scrawny little legs just didn't have a chance of holding up the warmer. So, I laid her in the crib and just got some cute photos of the set - leg warmers and hat.

And, of course we've been wearing the hat on it's own, living in the tundra that is Chicago.

Now that Noelle's little thighs have beefed up a bit, and the weather is feeling a bit more spring like, I thought it was time to give her leg warmers another shot. Yesterday I did, and they finally fit! Hooray! It was a short lived outfit - daddy put her in pants when he woke up and I wasn't looking - but boy oh boy are they adorable.

Next on the purchase list from Little Hip Squeaks are probably some headbands, or maybe a personalized blanket when she's older. Too many choices. Maybe if Noelle is really good she'll get both :)

Being a Working Mom

Monday, March 11, 2013

While doing my daily news reading I came across this article about Elizabeth Vargas' interview with Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl is the COO at Facebook, a director at the Walt Disney Company, and  author of the book 'Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.' I haven't read it yet, but might will be buying it on my Nook tonight!

It got me to thinking about the best advice I've received over the years about career, and life. While it may not have been advice received, actions speak louder than words, and I was very observant!

My mom was a working mom, my grandma was a working mom, and they both set a great example for me. When my mom was a girl, and my grandma worked they lived with family. There was always someone to help watch and tote mom to and from activities and school while grandma was at work. When I was little, we went to a sitter, and our Great Aunt pitched in during the week when mom and dad had to work too. I learned a lot from both of them (and still do) about being a working mom. It takes a village. Really. Being a working mom is not easy, and all I want to do is be home, but right now it can't be that way. Maybe one day it will.

This taught me that it's ok to lean on others. It's ok to ask people for help. We have been lucky enough to find a nanny for Noelle that we are so happy and comfortable with as our caregiver while we are working.

When my sister and I were little my mom said we would say "we love Linda" (our sitter), and they would then say something along the lines of "doesn't that bother you?" My mom would reply with "No, I'm glad they love her. I leave them with her every day." I'm sure it was hard for my mom to hear us say that, and be away from us every day, but she's very strong, did what she had to, and made it work. Being a kid with working parents I learned to be independent, and I'm very happy for this experience. My mom set a great example for me, and I admire her very much for it.

My favorite piece of advice in this article comes from Elizabeth Vargas. "Slow and steady wins the race." In today's world, it is very hard to not want more, and wish that you had what your colleagues and peers have. It's very easy to get caught up in the race, but her story is one that I'm going to try to remember. And, you can ask David, sometimes I do not have much patience, I get "excited" easily, but I'm working on it.

To get more information on the Lean In movement you can check out their blog or follow them on Facebook.

Skillet Chicken Parmasean

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Continuing my quest to cook most of our meals during the week I found another recipe in my Food Network magazine that I will definitely be using in the future. This Skillet Chicken Parmesan is amazing.

It is very rare that I cook something and Dave and I think it's just right the first time. This one was a huge success, and I'll definitely be making it again soon. The sauce was simple and delicious. The chicken cooked perfectly in the cast iron skillet, and with a quick shot under the broiler we had a crispy melty top!

*apologies for the crummy cell phone pic!
I did make a couple changes to the recipe. I did not use baguette to make the breadcrumb topping. Instead I used panko breadcrumbs. This was much simpler. I just mixed some shredded parmesan (instead of mozzarella because I already had that in my fridge) with the panko before putting it under the broiler. Dave doesn't like so much cheese, so I only put it on half when it went into the oven.

If you're interested in how I prepared the broccoli, here's the run down.

Broccoli (trimmed into manageable pieces if you buy if fresh, we get ours frozen in portions from Costco) - enough for the family
Olive Oil - enough to coat your pan
Red pepper flakes - to taste
Garlic powder (you could probably use fresh if you prefer, 1 or 2 cloves smashed) - to taste
S & P

Sorry that my "recipe" doesn't really have exact measurements, but it's more about how you like it. If you don't like things so spicy go easy on (or eliminate) the red pepper. I saute my broccoli until it starts getting a bit brown (the color adds flavor, promise). This usually only takes about 15 to 20 minutes if your working from frozen (I throw it in the pan frozen), fresh will be much faster.

Ta-da! A 30-minute dinner is served!

Baby Girl's Summer Wardrobe

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ok, hand has been slapped ...

I made the mistake of going on Baby Gap's website yesterday. I almost died. gah. Thankfully I got out of there without any damage being done, but oh.my.gosh was that hard. There is just too much cute baby girl summer clothes on there right now. Here are a couple of the outfits I just about snatched off of the "shelf."

All the neon, the adorable aquarium line ... I mean, come on! "Turtle-y Adorable." I almost died again! However, their new sugar rush line is my favorite by far.

While I looked out my window at the snow swirling in the air I dreamed of the spring and summer when Noelle will be able to wear this type of clothing. It makes me miss Florida, and how great it was to not have to bundle her up so much. No sleeves, no socks, no problem!

Mom's Must Haves: Second Edition

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I thought it was about time for a second edition of mom's must haves. It's been almost five months of learning what works and what doesn't, and I'd have to say, we're getting pretty good at our new roles! It gets easier every day to figure out Noelle's quirks, which is good because she changes just about every day!

In the first edition I talked about my love for our Graco 2-in-1 swing/bouncer, and my Ergobaby carrier. I still fully love these items but, Noelle doesn't use the swing as much anymore, but I detach it all the time to bring her into the kitchen or bathroom with me. We're at a bit of an awkward stage in the carrier currently. She's almost too big to sit with her legs underneath herself, but isn't quite big enough for them to be comfortable around my waist. None the less, I would still highly recommend both of these items.

Noelle has some teeth under her gums starting to make an appearance. While this doesn't seem to bother her too much, she puts almost anything in her mouth. Funny though, she prefers anything cloth over something more firm - besides our fingers and her hand. Noelle loves chewing on knitted, stuffed animals. I'm not talking furry things here, only things that are knit. She will chew on them all day! I recently had to remove plush Sophie because she's getting a hole in her neck, and I need to fix her up with some stitches. She also loves burp cloths, to play with and chew on. I've tried giving her teething rings, teething "keys" and even Sophie, but they don't seem to keep her interest as much as something knit. So strange!

Our other favorite item right now is her walker/dj booth. We love this thing, and Noelle goes crazy for it too! Our favorite feature of this is the keyboard, no doubt. Noelle loves to stand, so the fact that she can be upright by herself if fantastic, but the keyboard is awesome! It gives her some stimulation besides her rattles or squeaky toys, and she gets very excited over the music. To top it off, the keyboard is removable so she can play with it when she's not in the "booth" too. This girl is going to be a music lover just like her dad.

The Boppy has also recently become a favorite of mine. I didn't use it too much for nursing/feeding, but we use it all of the time now. We do tummy time, and sit in the Boppy frequently.
Finally, I'd have to say my last favorite item are her stuffed animal blankets. She has three, and we kinda rotate all of them. We always give her one in the car seat. She also loves chewing on them (duh), and napping with them. Two of them are fleece on one side, and silky on the other. I  think she likes the different textures, because she's always putting them on her face.

Hopefully you can use some of these tips one day, and if not I hope you enjoyed the video of Noelle jamming out in her dj booth!

Updated 5.1.2013

Chicken Tenders

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Who doesn't love chicken tenders? Well, we love chicken, and in the tender form was definitely the way to go with this recipe.

I had this chicken for the first time while visiting my parents in Florida. My mom prepared it so quickly, and it was delicious, so I had to have the recipe. Come to find out, she got it out of the Food Network magazine that we both got subscriptions to from Grandma & Grandpa for Christmas. When I got home I pulled out that issue, and lo and behold, I had bookmarked the recipe!

I made some green beans (though definitely not enough), and roasted potatoes to go with it.

For the green beans, I sauteed them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. They almost took on a sort of fried texture in the approx. 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. The seasonings are to your taste. When I cook veggies, I like them on the simpler side with very little seasoning so you can actually taste what you're eating.

My roasted potatoes can be one with any potato you prefer. These were a golden potato, but we often will use red skin potatoes, too. I cubed them, and coated them with olive oil before seasoning them with a rustic italian blend.

The potatoes went into the oven for about 30 minutes at 375 before putting the chicken in with it. When the chicken went in the oven, the temperature goes up to 450 (per Ted's recipe), and cooks for 15-20 minutes.

This was a really easy weeknight meal. We don't like to spend too much time cooking during the week, and I think this meal will definitely be added into our rotation.