Tuesday, January 29, 2008

not long now

We're closing in on the end of January. How about that!

Today it is mild here - very mild - almost spring-like. The snow has melted and all the kids at school were dying to play in the mud. A preview of life in March-April...and it will be here before we know it.

I saw a woman I know at school when we were waiting to pick up the kids. Her son is in the same kindergarten class as mine. She is Irish, has lived here just a handful of years, and is going to Ireland this weekend for a family reunion. She said this weather reminds her so much of home. She said her mom said to her on the phone this morning, 'you better pack warm clothes to wear for your trip'. And we think this is balmy! We just laughed.

So anyway...enough talk about the weather.

These days I'm short on news, but everything is fine. Tonight is an open-house at school to celebrate the 100th day of the year. We are going over to see my son's artwork and look at all the festive things that the students have put together for us.

And did you see that cute tea cup and saucer up there? My youngest made this at his little kids day out program yesterday. Every week they do such creative crafts, but I think this one is my favorite. It even goes with the house!

Hope you have a great day, and that the sun comes your way soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

sarah & abraham

Have you visited this shop yet? Well, you really should. Sara is a fellow chicago-area mom, and friend. Her business is just getting going, and I just know it's going to take off.

P.S. don't forget to visit her blog!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

to fill the time

It's my usual middle-of-the-night activity over here, listening to my son toss and turn in bed. I'm unable to go back to sleep until he does, sooo...

Saw this over at Kellie's and wanted to play along.

4 jobs I have had

Hmm...a little tricky because I think I've answered a question like this before, so let's see if I can come up with something original.

Banana Republic. My timing on this job was good. I was in grad school, ready to enter the workforce but no $ for work clothes. Enter BR with their 50% off discount. hooray! I think I still have my Banana black suit in the closet upstairs. I wore it to all of my first interviews.

Waitress. A few different places in high school, and college, and grad school. This is such a tough job, and I always thought it was stressful. Waiters & waitresses certainly earn every dollar that comes their way. Tip well, folks! (that is, if the service is good.)

Receptionist. Again, at a few different places. One post was working at the alumni office back in college. There it is in the picture above. As you can see, the office is in an older historical home that's been converted into office space. Very pretty on the inside and out. All the bigwigs worked upstairs in these beautifully converted bedrooms. My space was downstairs, right inside the foyer. There was a lovely view outside the window next to my desk. I had this job when I was a senior, and I remember many mornings looking outside, wondering where I would be the following year.

Women's shelter volunteer. No pay of course, but technically still a job. This was another chapter from college. I went through a training program to be a person who answers the telephone hotline number at the shelter. Most of the time the phone would not ring, but I remember a couple of times it did. There were a lot of students who volunteered in this position. I think we would volunteer in 2-hour increments. You would bring a book and sit at a little desk and wait for the phone to ring. If it rang, you had to talk to whomever was calling and try to get as much information you could from the caller, letting her know that she would be safe to come in. Then you had to fill out a little report on the call. I must admit that most of my shifts there I would secretly pray that the phone wouldn't ring, because I was worried about saying the right thing.

4 movies I would watch over and over again
Legally Blonde
When Harry Met Sally
Chariots of Fire
Out of Africa

4 places I have lived

Athens, Ohio

Mackinac Island, Michigan

London, England
Chicago, Illinois

4 people I email daily

This is tough. How about 'people I email often'? These are the regulars.
my sister in-law
my husband
various members of my family

4 favorite things to eat

homemade chocolate chip cookies
homegrown tomatoes
fried chicken
seasonal fruit...grapes, apples, peaches, plums...yum.. oh, summer.

4 places I would rather be

up in bed
on my porch with a good book on a warm evening
at the pool with my husband and kids (the outdoor pool)
at a great summer party with my husband and our friends

4 things I look forward to this year

(only 4? Come on!)
meeting my cousin's new baby girl twins
making a decision about school for our son
Brig's wedding in February
my next trip to the hairdresser...ooh la la...highlights
a trip to the Outer Banks with my family & extended family in August
Sex and the City hitting theaters in late spring
eating with my family out on our porch again
wearing sandals and shorts
a possible trip to Charlotte in April
getting a new bathing suit
letting my hair air dry every day
seeing the plants and flowers come back
hosting a baby shower for my neighbor who is pregnant with her first child
resuming daily jogs outdoors (too much of a wimp these days)
going to the park with my kids
spending time outside with my husband
driving around with the windows down
jumping on the trampoline with my kids
watching the fireworks in the park on the 4th
college football games in the fall with my husband

4 people I will tag

How about just 1...
Preppy Rider (bring it back, PR!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

warding off winter blahs

If you've been reading along here for any length of time, then you probably know that I love summer. Love summer! And I don't like winter. Don't like it one bit!

So, living with me in January isn't the greatest. Especially when you live outside of Chicago and you get snow and ice regularly. Like, this morning. Another 5 inches! sigh. Try as I might to remain my usual happy and optimistic self, these winter days have a way of wearing me down a bit.

But if you're a real sweetheart of a guy, you'll do what you can to bring some sunshine and warmth my way. For instance, on the way home from an appointment with your son, the two of you will stop and pick up some flowers for me:

ta da!

No, winter's not my favorite, but I do have my ways of keeping the winter blahs at bay. Mostly they involve eating (good thing I now have the big pink mixer. We're calling her Big Pink for short.) I have a couple of recipes to help get through these cold days and nights. Back on New Year's Eve, my sister in-law made a very tasty white bean chili & cornbread combo for a small group of us, and it is divine. I made the same dinner this past weekend, to rave reviews inside the LC. So, although I don't have a picture, I will pass this on (trust me, you don't need the picture...these recipes are winners!)

White Bean Chili
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 C water
1 t salt
2 t ground cumin
1 bayleaf
1/2 t pepper
1-2 t oregano
5 15-oz cans great northern beans, drained & divided
1 14 1/2-oz can chicken broth
1 16-oz pkg. frozen shoepeg white corn
2 4.5-oz cans chopped green chilis
3 T lime juice
garnish with cilantro if desired and shredded monteray jack cheese for top

Saute chopped onion in hot oil in a large dutch oven over med-high heat 7 minutes; add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Stir in chicken and cook, stirring constantly until chicken is lightly browned. Stir in water and next 5 ingredients; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Place 2 cans of beans in blender; add the chicken broth and process until smooth. Stir in bean puree, remaining beans, corn and chilies into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in lime juice just before serving. Top with cilantro and shredded cheese.

* * *
Next recipe: moist and 'out of this world' (as my mother said) cornbread:

1 stick of butter, softened
2 jiffy corn bread mix
1 can cream corn
1 egg beaten
1 pint sour cream

Mix together and pour into lightly greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

* * *
Last recipe: Charlie's chocolate cake

This was my grandmother's recipe, my mom's mom. We had dinner club this past Saturday night and I had to bring a dessert, and this is what I brought. I hadn't made it in years...and was so pleasantly surprised at what a hit it was at the party. It is not too heavy and just chocolate enough. Even my husband had seconds, and you know how healthy he is. Here's what it looked like on Saturday:

And here's the recipe:
1 pkg yellow cake mix
1 pkg instant chocolate pudding
1 C sour cream
4 eggs
1 t vanilla
6 oz pkg chocolate chips
1/3 C vegetable oil
3/4 C double cream (don't whip)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips; stir in chocolate chips after beating. Pour into well-buttered bundt pan. Bake 35-40 minutes. Sprinkle cake with a little powdered sugar while still warm.

Delicious! You won't be disappointed. As you saw from the picture, we made it a birthday cake Saturday night. One of our friends was turning 30 "again". And, do you know what we also did? Why, we had our picture taken! So far my New Year's resolution is still going strong.

bon appetit!
Keep warm!
Only 10 more days of January!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

10% off at naturallycurly.com

Thank you for your nice messages on my last post. I will be getting back to those heavier issues soon. In the meantime, here's something a little lighter and more joyful. This message popped up in my inbox this morning. If you're a curlyhead, enjoy the savings!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jan. 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
-- "I Have a Dream," August 28, 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to forge the common ground on which people from all walks of life could join together to address important community issues. In honor of his goal and on this day of remembrance, we're offering our customers 10 percent off* all CurlMart purchases. Type in the promotion code "MLK08."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

fwd: five for fighting

From my inbox this morning...

I am sure some of you have seen this, but if it is true and donations are made then a reminder is always a good thing...

The band, Five for Fighting, is generously donating $0.49 to Autism Speaks each time this video is viewed. The funding goes toward research studies to help find a cure. When you have a moment, please visit the link below to watch the video and pass it along. They are aiming for 10,000 hits, but hopefully we can help them to surpass this goal.


Your smile counts. The more smiles you share, the more we donate. Join in!**

Sunday, January 13, 2008

...and even more trains

This will be my last post on trains. At least for now.

Last night my husband and I had plans to go out - dinner, movie, a little shopping - it was going to be a great night. But our youngest son just couldn't kick the bug that's been bothering him over the last few days. So instead of going out, we took the kids to my in-law's for a little while.

No matter how bad you're feeling, a little train action can perk you up. Especially when you're 3.

Here's my father in-law's home office, where he's built a train track that runs around the perimeter of the room:
He turned the trains on about 2 minutes after we arrived. Per the requests of our train guys.

Here the train is about to enter a tunnel...

...that my father in-law built. The little markers on the tunnel show the family line. The line begins in the towns where my father in-law and mother in-law grew up. The following stops show where they lived after they got married and where their children were born.

The kids love seeing the trains come through the tunnel.

I'm too short to get them up here, but their daddy can lift them up (although I think it's getting a little harder each time!)

We didn't stay here too long, and got the kids home quickly to get to bed early. But our littlest boy is still feeling sick today, so it looks like another day of rest is on the agenda. Thankfully he's the only one sick so far. And hopefully he'll be feeling better soon.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

cookie time

Word has it that our new neighbors have moved in. Remember them? I was pretty good at keeping you updated on their construction progress, then autumn came, holidays rolled around, and I got distracted. Well, to bring you up to speed, here's their house today, Saturday, January 12th:

Do you remember how things used to look? It was about a year ago that I told you the old house would be coming down. Now that it's down and the new one is up & finished, it's time to tour! Of course we'll give them a few weeks to get settled, but curious minds want to know what it looks like inside. I know I'm not alone. My husband will shake his head when he reads this, but all the women around here (including moi) have been anxiously awaiting an invitation to tour the new place. As you know, we have met the couple (v. nice) when they came to our tailgate party in the fall, and they did say something at one point about a house tour...and well, you just can't forget a casual remark like that, even if it was made after a couple of beers!

I think the reason everyone around here is so curious is that...well, this couple is just like us. In the midst of tear down craziness - big, very expensive homes with all the amenities and no backyards being built throughout our neighborhood - this new home is not crazy. The woman lived here with her family when she was in high school, than bought the older (and deteriorating - she said) home from her parents a few years ago. When she met her husband, they made the decision to stay here and build a new home, one that would be big enough for them to raise a family in and stay here for good. So - good for them! But my question is, what does that buy you in this market? What kind of construction do you get from big-time builders when you are small-time?

Like I said, curious minds want to know. Because you never know what your own situation will be some day.

Anyway, to welcome the new couple to the neighborhood (I guess I am welcoming them back to the neighborhood), I made them cookies this afternoon. We'll see how far cookies go in securing me an invite. Oh heck, you know I'm just happy they're here at last.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

more trains

Saturday we visited the Chicago Botanic Garden to check out the winter train exhibit.
Trains were running throughout mini scenes of Chicago. All the structures and buildings were built from plants, braches, twigs, moss - everything from nature. It was spectacular!

Of course my two little engineers thoroughly enjoyed being up close & personal with the many trains, trams, and trolleys that wound their way throughout the different tracks.

And it's nice to look back on a fun day like that when we are faced with today: feeling sick and staying put on the couch.

As my son said to me this morning, "maybe we should kiss and snuggle all day today". I think that's a good idea.

Monday, January 07, 2008

wearing flip flops

Today I'm wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and jeans. And flip flops. Soooo nice for January, let me tell you! I know that many of you are enjoying this (temporary) warm up right now. What a welcome way to usher in January. The snow and cold will return - and soon - but for now, let's just enjoy this balmy weather and feel the air on our skin. Hooray!

Today was my son's first day back at school. Boo hoo...you know I like having him around. But when I picked him up he was all smiles and his notebook says he had a good day, so good for him. I mentioned previously that he has been struggling in school. I will fill you in on that soon.

Saturday night my husband and I went to a party. This couple, friends from way back, has a holiday party each year. This year they were a little late because they have just finished their house renovation project. Literally just finished - days ago! They live in a split level home and they added a new half story to the top, which is now their master bedroom & bath, and they added on to their main living space by bumping the house out back a bit to add a big family room. The result was/is terrific.

One thing that caught my eye during the party was that they had all these great pictures of themselves, their kids, their friends and family flashing up on their new tv above the fireplace. Apple tv, I had never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago and now I'm seeing it in person. Very impressive! But even more impressive was the fact that there were so many pictures of just this couple: on vacation, in their backyard, out to dinner. I said to my husband, 'we don't do that any more'. It seems like every picture we have is our kids, there are no pictures of us, certainly none of us together. I told him that this is my New Year's resolution - to get us together more. Pictures, dates, you name it. It will be easy to start with pictures. We can snap pictures of the kids any time (and we do) but much more challenging to get a few of us.

We decided to start on the resolution right then and there and my husband flipped open his phone to take this:Hey, it's a start!

Saturday, January 05, 2008


So here we are on Christmas Eve. I wanted to show you my husband's parents' house, which is close to where we live. We went to dinner with them (and their friends and their friends' families) for Christmas Eve, then came back to their house for dessert. It was a lovely way to end the night.

This is their house, all decked out for Christmas. Look closely and you'll notice that they have a train track erected around the tree in front. This is just for Christmas. My father in-law loves trains. He has passed that love down to a few of his grandchildren, including my sons. The Christmas train ("Santa's Fe") runs along on the track when the decorations go up. Although it was a freezing night, my sons chose to stay out here and watch the train for as long as possible (with their daddy and grandfather.)

Here's a closer view of one train admirer, as well as the track and train.

Admirer #2. Did I mention it was a freezing night? I was too much of a wimp to stay outside for long. My husband snapped all of these pictures.

My father in-law has trains on the inside of his house as well. We didn't take a picture that night, but inside his office in the house he has built train track that runs along the perimeter of the room, suspended from the ceiling. There's even a tunnel that's a part of the scene, too. Some day I'll have to go back and snap that for you. For now, I can show you a shot of the tree that was running (where else?) under the Christmas tree. My boys were in heaven. In fact, we stayed over here until about 11 p.m. The boys are 5 and 3 years old. But as long as the trains were moving, eyes were wide open!

Let's move on from the trains to house decor. This is the dining room. A few years ago my in-laws redecorated their house, almost the entire first floor and a guest bathroom upstairs. I don't have any "before" photos. But you can probably tell that the change was beautifully done.

The area rug in this room that you see above inspired the hand painted border. Just beautiful!

More hand painting was done on the banister in the foyer. If I had my druthers, I would love to have this done on the banister that is in the upstairs of my own home. It is so, so pretty.

The same artist who painted the banner and banister also painted these lovely blooms in the foyer, which travel up the stairway. I know these pictures are nice, but you really should see them in person!

This is a picture of the living room. That's me sitting over there beyond the tree in the family room. Not one of my better poses, but you know, it's not about me. It's about this gorgeous house!

Aah, Christmastime. I told my mother in-law that I was ready to check in for the night. She did a wonderful job with her decorations. This was the first Christmas that she and my father in-law spent here, post decorating project. For the last few years they have traveled down to Charlotte to be with my sister in-law and her family. I think they both enjoyed seeing their "new" home filled with all of their old Christmas treasures. By the way, that's me again in the plaid pants. I am speaking to my son, who is standing in front of my mother in-law (far left) and her friend.
Voila! The kitchen. The most dramatic change here was that everything was gutted and the footprint of the entire room was changed. Picture dark, hanging cabinetry, small preparation space & eating area, and you get the idea. It turned out great.

This view gives you a better idea of how the kitchen now flows into the family room. There used to be a little half wall between the rooms.

That's all the photos I have from our time at my in-law's. Now we are home, and milk & cookies are waiting for Santa. We all opened our Christmas Eve gift, which was new jammies for everyone.

One more shot of the tree. Now that it's down, I miss it.

On Christmas, my husband and I each gave each other ornaments. This was a surprise to both of us. The Chicago marquee is from me to him:

And this beauty is from him to me:

I mentioned that I made pancakes Christmas morning. What I didn't mention was that I tried making them with pancake molds that I had purchased at Williams-Sonoma. I had a really hard time doing this! In my first attempt I was using them wrong, they were upside down on the griddle. The second attempt wasn't much better. By this time my sons were getting very hungry. Then it occurred to me that we still cut up all of their food for them before they begin eating...so the shapes probably would have been lost on them anyway. Oh well, A for effort and all that. If you want a set of pancake molds, let me know and they are yours.

Next post: post Christmas!

Friday, January 04, 2008

my present

I asked for and (oh so kindly) received a big pink mixer for Christmas. That Santa! He came through for me again. I loved it so much that after opening, I immediately made pancakes for everyone here on Christmas morning. The mixer will have a nice long run here in the LC, I'm sure.

And doesn't it fit in so well? As you can imagine, storage around here is rather limited. So this guy will have a permanent spot out on my counter - err, cart. Right next to the stove, where concoctions requiring mixing action will be assembled.

I took this picture with a gift my husband received this year from my parents, a new camera! We needed one so badly. We've been photographing everything since then. My husband took a lot of pictures on Christmas Eve at his parents' house...and I'm going to post those later so you can see them. I know, I know, Christmas is over. But who gets tired of pictures?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

sweater weather

Hello, and Happy 2008 from the Little Cottage!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. From the looks of your blogs, it certainly looks like you did. What a treat it has been to visit you and spy upon your trees, your tables, your mantles, your delighted childrens' faces on Christmas morning! Oh, I do love blogland, don't you?

Things are good on this end. Thank you for your nice comments in December. I am back and feeling renewed. Ready to take on the challenges and enjoy the perks of this new year. New year, new attitude, new sense of determination. And optimism!

The picture above is a little bit of a trick. It is from 2 weeks ago. Right now we actually have more snow on the ground than this, probably about 4 inches. It is very pretty around here but very--brr brrr---chilly. Those of you living in the land of sunshine and gentle warm winds, I envy you!

Well, that's it for now. I will pop back soon for more of an update. Just wanted to say hi for now. Hi!!!