Friday, December 30, 2011

Seasons of Love

It feels as though the last few weeks have flown by in a blur of wrapping paper, visits with family, and trips back and forth to Kalamazoo and Detroit. We've celebrated Christmas (several times over), my grandmother's 90th birthday, my mother-in-law's retirement, and Anna's 2nd birthday. I have lots of pictures and videos to share, but right now I'm too exhausted to try to go through them all so it will have to wait until another day.

Although I had to include this one, since it pretty much sums up how partied-out we're all feeling.

I had the thought this morning that I had probably reached my one-year "blogiversary" - and I was right. I wrote my very first post on December 29th of last year. And then I got to thinking about this past year, because isn't that kind of what you do when it's time to pull out a new calendar? One of my favorite songs (really - you should hear me bust it out when it pops up on one of my Pandora stations) is from the musical "Rent".

But maybe instead of 525,600 minutes, I could measure my year in the 65 or so blog posts I've written.
Since I have such a nice way to look back over the last twelve months, I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite memories.

Mike and I were talking about how this, the second year of our daughter's life, has gone much faster than the first. And it's probably because we have been sleeping a lot more.

I faced the harsh, cold reality that I no longer look like a college student, even if I can kick really high. I also learned that I'm falling behind on the times.

I struggled with my new identity as a mother, but I also ran my first half marathon and finished my Master's degree. Woot woot!

I discovered some delicious new recipes: fronanas, zucchini chicken salad, and the life-changing cake balls.

My sister came to stay for awhile, and she convinced me to get organized.

My brother-in-law came to stay for awhile, and he reminded me to be grateful for what I have.

And I learned some important lessons about motherhood, like how you should remove dead birds from a toddler's view, how nursing Anna has been awesome, and how time moves way too fast.

I am so thankful to all of you for reading my words and for your encouragement and thoughtful comments - on here and on my Facebook page.

I wish all of you a happy 2012 and hope that the last year has been as good to you as it has been to me and my little family.

How do you measure a year? Any resolutions?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Runaway Bunny

"If you become a bird and fly away from me," said his mother, "I will be a tree that you come home to." From The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

A few weeks back, as Anna gleefully paraded around the basement completely naked, Mike turned to me and said, "You know, I'm going to be really sad when I can't just squeeze her little butt whenever I want."

And I laughed and agreed, and then quickly became distracted. (Most likely by something along the lines of "Please, Anna, do NOT pee on couch". My life is very glamorous, you know.) But his words have been sticking with me.

Here we are, on the anniversary of the day Anna came into our lives, and I can't help but feel sentimental. Because he's right. How many times in a day do I tell her I love her? How often do I smoosh my lips against her cheek and inhale her smell? How much do I love tickling her tummy and hearing her squeal with delight? And how soon until she wants nothing to do with any of those things?

When you become a parent, the learning curve is steep and you grow and change in ways you never expected. One of the biggest realizations, I think for both Mike and myself, though, has been the fact that we are to our parents what Anna is to us.

I understand now why my mom insists I call her when I arrive safely home. And why my dad showed up to every softball game I ever played in. I get it.

At some point in time, they laughed at all the silly things I did and marveled at my cute little butt as I pranced around free of clothing.

In one of my favorite blogs, the author shared a trick she uses for when her babies are waking her up in the middle of the night or driving her up a wall. She says she imagines it is twenty or thirty years in the future, and her little ones are all grown up and living their own lives, and for one night she is allowed to travel back in time to hug them and snuggle them and rock them again as babies.

Mike thinks I'm crazy, but I sometimes start feeling sad when I think too hard about the fact that someday Anna will be spreading her wings to head off to college or start her own family. I know that she is only two. But I also know that these past two years have gone by in a quick blur, and from what I hear, it only starts to fly by faster. Right now, she is our everything, and I have a hard time imagining it any other way.

Anna, let me say this: No matter where your life takes you, no matter who you become, your dad and I will always be the tree you can fly home to.

As long as you let me pinch that cute little butt of yours.

Happy Birthday, Anna!

And Mom and Dad, in case you were wondering, my butt, while not quite as little as it once was, is still pretty darn cute. At least that's what Mike tells me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pass the Wine, Please

This mama is hittin' the road in a few hours. It seems a little self-indulgent to be leaving Anna and Mike for the weekend, what with Christmas and Anna's birthday right around the corner, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right? And this girl couldn't be more excited for a few bottles glasses of wine, some Christmas shopping, and bonding time with my sister. I also get to dress up and wear a mask to help celebrate a friend entering into her third decade. If you hear someone shouting "I'm free! I'm free!" around four this afternoon, it's probably me as we pull out of the driveway. Don't judge.

And just so I have some pictures to look at when I start to miss my little family, probably right around five o'clock, here are some from the past few weeks that I've been meaning to share...

Our first big snowstorm of the year. All these outdoor shots were taken by Mike.

Nose kisses!

Taking a walk with Oma and Opa.

Our pin-head snowman. I got lazy. Anna was not pulling her weight.

I also want to share a few pics of my bathroom.

Remember when it looked like this?

Well, my amazing mother-in-law Winnie came to the rescue last week. And if I felt stupid before for waiting so long to scrape that damn wallpaper off, I can't begin to tell you how moronic I felt after our work was done. Because the bathroom looks amazing. Like, I walk in there and I'm all "Ahhhhhh." And we had a ton of fun sanding and taping and painting. So, lesson learned: don't look at something ugly for almost two years when it takes like three enjoyable hours to change it.

I just noticed the empty paper towel roll on the floor. Sigh. Some things never change, right?

Winnie painted this cabinet - how awesome is it?

That's all I've got for now.

Enjoy your weekend - I know I will!

Happy Friday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Franks and Beans! Franks and Beans!

When it comes to this time of the year, I really struggle with all the ordinary, boring, every day stuff. Why would I want to be folding laundry when I could be perusing the Interwebs for more Christmas goodies for Anna? How in the world can I be expected to sweep or mop my floors when there is holiday music to listen to while I get my craft on? And, really, how can I be expected to grocery shop and cook wholesome meals when all of my magazines and Pinterest pins are filled with peppermint-y, sugary, fatty, amazing sounding treats? I honestly think I could spend the entire month of December baking cookies, drinking peppermint mochas, watching Love Actually, and clicking the "add to my cart" button on Zulily.

Alas, I do not have the life of Buddy the Elf, and I have a family to feed and take care of. So in between all the fun stuff, I try to squeeze in a few loads of laundry and at least a couple servings of vegetables. Even better if I can do it with minimum mess and cost, right?

I found this recipe about a year ago in Everyday Food magazine, and I would say it's been in our two-week rotation pretty consistently since then. It's super easy to make, pretty healthy, and it all comes together in one pot, which makes this dishwasher oh-so-happy. It's also cheap. I guess I've never officially done the math, but I would bet all the ingredients together cost less than ten bucks.

For the longest time, we just called it "Turkey Sausage and Beans", because that's pretty much what it is. And then I passed the recipe along to Kristin and Drew, who made it and promptly named it "Mike's Franks and Beans". Which is kind of perfect, and also makes me think of There's Something About Mary every time I say it.

On second thought, though, maybe you don't really want to think about Ted's unfortunate zipper incident while you're eating this...

Anyways, here is the recipe for Mike's Franks and Beans. Enjoy!

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound kielbasa or other smoked sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces (I use turkey kielbasa - I find in recipes like this you can't really tell the difference and it's a little healthier!)
3 medium carrots, diced small
2 shallots, diced small (I've used red onions if I didn't have shallots)
salt & pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (basically one can)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I usually skip this. I know lots of cooks say it adds so much flavor, but I'm lazy and always seem to end up throwing most of it away.)
sour cream or plain yogurt, for serving

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

2. Add carrots and shallots to skillet and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add black beans and broth and bring mixture to a boil. Add sausage, reduce heat to a rapid simmer, and cook until carrots are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

Somewhere out there, Fievel is actually hung on a Christmas tree, instead of being dragged around by a toddler.

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What do you love the most about the holidays? How do you keep from spending all your time consuming Peanut Butter Blossoms and bedazzling your house?