Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Foodie Resolution: Blueberry Biscuits & Red Lentil Tacos

We had a small amount of blueberries in the fridge and I wanted to be creative with breakfast one morning. And ironically, my boys just kept sleeping and sleeping. To the point where I woke them up!

I saw a recipe recently using up blueberries and biscuits. Two things I love. Confession: I could gobble up KFC biscuits and I don't miss the gravy one bit.

Apparently in the south, there is a restaurant called Bojangles. I think I've seen these in airports, but otherwise I'm unfamiliar. Pretty sure it's chicken... right? Either way, that is what inspired the recipe from its creator.

We thought they were nom nom, 5-stars delicious. {Recipe here} With or without the glaze, but I personally like any excuse to slather something with a sugary glaze. These would also work just fine using frozen blueberries. Or chocolate chips. Or...

This next one is totally an inspiration from a friend. She posted a photo of her lentil tacos on instagram and I immediately went to Pinterest to find a recipe. I pinned it and weeks later, we were eating some delicious tacos. Lentils are a great alternative to beans, refried beans, or meat. They're high in protein and iron and hearty.

I cooked them just as the recipe called, but left them just a little runnier than hers appear on the recipe. I used the tomato sauce, onion, garlic, cilantro... all things the recipe called for and they were quite tasty. If you cook red lentils longer, they'll break down and become smooth like mashed potatoes. If you cook them with less time, they will resemble lentils, but will still be soft and smooth. Red lentils are unique in this way and other lentil varieties keep their form.

This recipe makes enough for two meals, easily. My friend topped hers with roasted veggies, but I went the traditional taco route and used taco toppers. You can also add in your favorite meat and just used these as a bean substitute with a little in your tacos for a new flavor.

Another nom nom, 5-star recipe. {Recipe here}

Monday, July 29, 2013

Right Where I Am: 2 years, 7 months, 24 days

I planned to write this a long time ago. But somehow I never got around to it and while my thoughts are constant, my writing is not.

We're closer to 3 years without Andrew than we are two. Or one. Though, my memories of the day I met my firstborn are still quite vivid in my mind. I'll admit, I have to look at his photos to perfectly remember his cute nose and beautiful lashes sometimes, but the memories of what it felt like to hold him for that short time are still so vivid. The rush of sadness and love is still so memorable.

We were at Costco yesterday and Benjamin managed to find a little girl and her two brothers. They were eating at the food court and the 4-year old boys got up to walk somewhere. The dad called their names to get their attention and it caused Ray and I to look at one another with our jaws dropped. The twins boys were Andrew and Benjamin. So that's what it's like to have siblings that are both alive and with the same names you carefully chose for your own children.

It still makes me infinitely sad that I cannot introduce my Andrew in person (or let him introduce himself!). And it makes me sad that Benjamin will never know his "big" brother, who ironically is and will always be much smaller than he. The sting of losing Andrew is still sharp and I'm still angry about it. My friend commented recently to me that although Benjamin never met his brother, the firstborn, he acts as a second-child. He's more cautious, curious, subdued and observant.

At this stage, I boldly proclaim that I birthed two beautiful boys when other moms at the park ask about how many children I've had. I'm far past the stage of caring about making others sad or disappointing them with news. I am proud to be a mother of two boys and will stop at nothing less than to honestly share our story. It helps me honor Andrew and it forces others to face the reality of loss and that it's perfectly normal to be transparent about sadness in our society.

It still opens up doors. I still meet other moms who lost children and go on to share about their losses when I open up about my own. My mentality stands that if my reality of loss is uncomfortable for them, we don't need to carry on as friends.

One of our new friends we met at storytime has been dealt a rough road of multiple miscarriages and complications related. We were at the zoo recently and she asked if I'd ever attended a grief group, because she recently attended one and found it helpful. I talked through all the reasons I never did, and then explained how blogging and our recent BLM meetup is daily therapy for me. That in the earliest days, I had support from all over the globe at my fingertips and not just on the last Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. It made me wish she and all of the other loss moms out there had the same support I feel so lucky to have.

I am so grateful for the support. While I don't blog about grief daily based on lack of time (surely not lack of thoughts!), I'm still living and tearfully remembering all we've come through over these last 2 years, 7 months, and 24 bloody days.

Right Where I Am at 6 months
Right Where I Am at 1.5 years

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Best Day of My Life

Today, we celebrate five years married.

The days my children were born were not the best days of my life. Au contraire. The best day was marrying the best person I'd ever met in my life. The person who knows me better than anyone, supports me, and stands with me when the days seem unbearable. The one that cried on the couch with me day after day month and still loves me in that brokenness.

We usually celebrate specific days with the meals we ate on those days in real life, but we're switching things up a bit and going hibachi tonight. For our first date anniversary on May 28, we go out for Asian food. On June 15, our engagement day, we stay in and make burritos, just like we had the night we got engaged in Ray's Manhattan Beach apartment.

On our wedding day, we had a Mexican buffet complete with beans, steak and chicken fajitas, tortillas, salsas, guacamole, tortillas, and more. When we went to taste and select the menu from our required caterer for our reception location, we kindly asked if we could decline all of the package options and go with Mexican instead. Without hesitation, they were on board and the food was exceptional! I've never had Mexican food at a wedding, before or after our wedding, but it still remains my favorite food ever. And just to be even more cultured, all 100+ of our guests were eating their Mexican feasts at a Japanese garden! If you remember, my mom and I took B back to that garden to feed the Koi fish earlier this year during a visit to the motherland.

To celebrate our 5th anniversary (other than being traditional and actually buying something made of wood for my husband!), I wanted to share five of our favorite wedding photos. There are so many, but here are five...

The doors on the left were open and the breeze from the Pacific was amazing.
Photos after on the side of the church.
Back inside the church for more photos-- it was an Italian-inspired mansion before being sold and converted to a church.
Not sure what the conversation was here, but it made for a pretty fun photo.
Japanese garden reception. Our table was on the dance floor and was removed for lots of dancing later!
Just like losing Andrew, I'm all too aware that these years we have together are precious. I'm so thankful to have them and continue to cherish every moment we spend together. Hoping for many, many, many more.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Windy City Smokeout

I was listening to the radio a few weeks back while driving around somewhere and heard an announcement that Pat Green (Texas country) would be coming to Chicago. Now, he's a lesser-known country star, but he does get played on the radio from time to time.

For us, however, his music is wrapped up in all kinds of amazing memories.

That's the thing about music. It really brings memories (the only things we really get to keep in life) to the surface and reminds us of how great we've had it. I can name quite a few bands that are wrapped up in the other half of my sadness (Dashboard Confessional and pretty much anything by The Band Perry), but music really does offer a great release of emotion and love. As an aside, I recently heard the 20-something (omg, that dates me BAD) library guy talking to other people about Jimmy Eat World. They had no idea who the band was, and I felt pretty proud and young in that moment. Though now that I type, I'm feeling pretty pathetically old.

While we were dating, my cute East Coast boyfriend introduced me to the music of Pat Green and we went to a few shows back in LA. Most notably, I remember seeing him at the House of Blues, Hollywood. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about dating the most wonderful man I can now call my husband of almost 5 years (Friday)!

Back to that car ride. I called Ray immediately and told him Pat Green was coming. Without hesitation, he said we were going and he'd be buying tickets. A couple weeks later and we found ourselves downtown at a BBQ and music fest with a few friends. It was a day of music, BBQ, and exploring downtown with our little boys. 

When we arrived, we headed to the fest and everyone but me (and B of course...who thinks food is for suckers) ate BBQ lunch. There were Chicago BBQ joints and some from other parts of the country, including Austin-- which I appreciated because they had the single item I could eat at the entire joint-- coleslaw. Benjamin and his friend both received their first ever hand stamps of a pig with a frying pan. Also, it's hard to see, but Benjamin and I are standing next to a WHOLE PIG in the picture below. They even tried to hand me a piece of pig from the belly after the photo was taken. And one questionably inebriated lady kept walking up to Benjamin with her little dog whom Benjamin was not too sure about. He loves animals, but she was making the dog dance and it was just plain weird. His face says it all.
The heat was close to unbearable, and after lunch we headed for a walk to Millennium Park. No swim gear, but it didn't seem to bother Benjamin who was owning the Crown Fountain. He was loving every minute of his freedom and befriended people of all ages, including three teenagers (bottom left).
We attempted to dry off a bit wearing Dad's polo (and looking overall adorable in it) by visiting the Cloud Gate, aka "bean". It was Benjamin's first trip to the bean and he seemed to enjoy it as well. He was running all over stalking other children and attempting to climb in their strollers. We passed by more art on the way back to the fest. But first, we stopped at the Protein Bar for an early dinner for the vegetarian of the group.
More BBQ was eaten and more music. Benjamin quite possibly loves my friend Liz over me, and if she is around, he is sitting with her instead. Group shot before heading back to the 'burbs after a fun night of food, exploration and fun! And, Benjamin (and his friend) can check their first concert off the list!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Foodie Something or Other: Coconut Milk & Strawberry Banana Popsicles

I can't pretend to be following a resolution anymore. It's embarrassing to even say, but I have only made one loaf of bread in the past few months. And my freezer is jam-packed. It's been that kind of season, I guess. At least there's a lot of frozen fruit and veggies in there.

I wanted to capitalize on the amazing deal I got on organic strawberries at Whole Foods the other day and make popsicles for us to enjoy in the intense heat we've been having here in the Midwest. And I have 3 cans of coconut milk that are practically begging to be used. Pair that with always having bananas in the house means I had myself quite the combo! I won't pretend this was my idea, and instead found the recipe here.

We have adult-sized pop holders that will run you around $12 on Amazon and kiddo ones that are about $7. And you guys... B loves these popsicles and I love that they're easy for him to hold. And, they have a built-in drip tray. He pulls them out of the freezer himself and about loses his you-know-what if we take too long getting one to him after they're in sight. I feel pretty good about them being healthy for him and adding a little extra fat from the full-fat coconut milk, too. It makes the bars more creamy than icy, though coconut milk does have coconut water content in it, which makes the adult pops slightly icy if you prefer to bite the popsicle. If you wanted them really creamy, you could pour out the coconut water in the can and just use the creamy content. Make sure you're using a powerful blender and few to no frozen ingredients though, as blenders do need some liquid to help the process along.

Here's my method for cutting strawberries... it wastes the least amount and leaves them looking quite pretty! 1. Remove leaves. 2. Using a paring knife, cut out the core. That end waste was from 24 strawberries!

1 can coconut milk (or equivalent amount)
12 ounces of strawberries
1 fully ripe banana
1-2 TBSP honey (I used agave)
1 TSP vanilla (optional)

Of course, like all recipes, you can use what you have and go with your own flavor pallet. Blended, this will make about 4 cups. I made 6 full-sized pops and 8 kid-sized pops out of that amount. The kid pops only come in a 4-pack, so I left the mix in the fridge and just refilled when the first batch was eaten.

Super tasty and the little guy can't get enough!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Would You Moo, Too?

Totally sounds like a kid's book, right?

You can see where my head is at most days. The level of sophistication I used to have has been reduced to books with fewer than 30 words-- many of those words being repetitious.

We didn't really moo, but we did dress like cows for free food. We went to chikc-fill-ay (spelled incorrectly as not to be among Google's search results on the topic) for their dress-like-a-cow-and-get-free-food event. It happens once a year in the summer and a friend of ours went with her family last year and scored full meals (with the delicious lemonade!) for zero bucks. No tax, nada. Just a good time and free food.

So logically, I scored B and I some used clothes and went to town on coloring spots. It took probably 1/2 hour, but something that required no real effort otherwise. I stuck some felt spots on my hat and shoes, taped other spots to our pants and B's shoes and we were on our way!

You might ask... what did you eat, you crazy vegetarian? They actually have a wrap on the menu that I asked to have chicken on the side. They also have salads that are delicious. Their fries are vegan and their lemonade is seriously so yummy. Benjamin had a kiddo meal and was happy to say hello to the dressed up cow character walking around the restaurant. And after lunch? A little fun in the play-place for the kiddos while us adults chatted away over lemonades on a hot summer day. Kind of fun for a free adventure! It gave us something different to do, and I knew B would be totally interested in the other kids and big cow. I also knew the food would be hit or miss as he apparently detests food (still. though he eats at least one great meal a day and 2 crappy ones... I'm just less stressed about it as he seems to be normal in size and ehm...diapers), but it was worth a shot. One nugget, 1 fry, and 1 whole container of chocolate milk. He has a love affair with milk. And chocolate milk? Basically perfection.

So would you {dress like a} moo cow for free food? Perhaps putting aside any political issues you might have with the chain?

Here are some photos to help you decide. I mean, we look ridiculously awesome.

Group photo (minus Jim who already left). We all ate free food! Some of the spots/outfits were already off as we were headed out after the play-place fun... until next year!
p.s. Thank you all so much for your thoughts on B's night terrors. While they haven't stopped, they've been temporarily replaced by the screaming in the middle of the night due to a stuffy nose. The sickies can probably be traced back to the children's museum we just joined. After two visits and a mom who was probably not diligent enough in washing hands right after (I have a thumb-sucker... argh!), we had ourselves a snotty baby. I will be buying stock in hand sanitizer. It's always something... kind of feels like having a newborn all over again. Le sigh.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Night Terrors

Benjamin has been waking up multiple times a night screaming. Not just crying, but sobbing and shreaking like something terrible is happening. Sometimes it scares him so much, that he stands and paces his crib, breathing heavily and panicking.

I think he's sleeping while this occurs (except the pacing ones which are more rare). We usually wait and see if it stops suddenly, which happens at least half the time, and then enter his room if he's still sobbing after a bit. We rub his back and tell him he is safe and okay. Sometimes he wakes at this point and we pick him up and hug him until he is calm and/or asleep. This whole intervention lasts less than 3 minutes each time.

Then it's back to the crib and all is well. Until the next time.

Some nights there are none. Last night there were two, but only one that required intervention. One day last week, he had a series of five between the hours of 1:30 and 4:30 a.m.

It's baffling.

Anyone else experience this?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Celebrating the Fourth

Our town has a cool festival every year and we were so excited to take Benjamin for the second year in a row! {That's luck and we're thankful a million times over.} We parked at a nearby parking lot and were shuttled in by a school bus. First school bus experience for the kiddo. He loved it, despite his serious look in the photo below.
Loving the bounce house (2nd time in one, and he was definitely standing a bunch!) and characters he saw.
We took a break in the middle of the festival to visit our water park that was located across the street. We go about 4-5 times a week and this was Benjamin's first time in the sand pit. He loved it, of course.
The festival is unique because it has about 15-20 hot air balloons that you can actually ride, depending on the weather. A month before we were engaged, in May of 2007, we took a hot air balloon ride over Temecula, CA, dropping us down into orange groves to pick oranges... and then had champagne afterwards. That same champagne (Wilson Creek Winery) was served at our wedding for the toast. It also helps we're Wilsons... the namesake didn't hurt the choice.

While we don't care to go inside the hot air balloon again (you're stuffed like sardines!), it was a cool experience and being around hot air balloons takes us back to that special weekend. And did I mention the guy who was to propose with a fancy engagement ring the following month gifted me with diamond earrings, also princess cut? Said he was testing out the shape to make sure I liked it. And I've been rocking the same on my hand ever since June 15, 2007. And I wear those earrings every single day.

Let's take a trip down memory lane... shall we?
We look 17. But really, 24. Proof that grief ages you FAST. Any Californians know the band sweatshirt I'm wearing?
Helping the balloon process & packed in like sardines (see?). How romantic. Hah!
Orange groves they dropped us into (we picked 3 oranges!), halo above the clouds...happy couple (still happy).
Wearing my new sparkly diamonds, but a bit hard to see with the hair...
So needless to say, we kind of like hot air balloons. And it's kind of cool that they're like 2 miles from our house at this festival every year for a little nostalgia and exploring. We hope Benjamin is just as adventurous.
We're definitely those parents to keep our kids up late to watch fireworks. Life's too short to worry about missing sleep. And, he slept in until 10:15 the next morning. Which means, so did we. They probably would've kept him awake anyway...
A little flashback from last year. That balloon is called the "Andy" balloon, and obviously that's really special to us. Benjamin was just 4 months last year in front of the Andy balloon and this year he's 16 crazy toddler months and in front of the same balloon. I asked the owners about the Andy character, as I was sad to see it gone. They told us it had a long life and over time, the balloon must be replaced. The majority of the bottom half was replaced, and the Andy character went along with it. While sad to see it go, they still call it the Andy balloon and announce it as such. I hope they come every year so I can take a balloon picture of my boys in front of it to honor and remember our very own Andy.
Impressive that the husband still has (and wears) that hat, right? I've told you before, but he loses hats like they're disposable! (Wrote that post 6 months to the day before Andrew died. I hate the 5th. Of every month.)

But the 4th? It's all good.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Crazy Midwest Weekends: Cardboard Boat Regatta

I recently received an email from my husband filled with random Midwest festivals that were taking place over a few weekends. We didn't have plans for the last two weekends, so it made sense to find something to explore in our local area.

That, and with this whole nap transition thing, we've found that it's much easier to occupy Benjamin for the entire morning so he's not falling over for a nap by 10 a.m.

Of course the thing we found to do was both absolutely bizarre and interesting. So much that we needed to see it in person.

You see, people get creative when there are only 6 good months of outside exploring to do in a calendar year. They make large cardboard boats, cover them with duct tape, and set a team of people on them to paddle across a lake in the middle of a suburb. The commentator was the best. They obviously don't take this whole thing too seriously, but there were dozens of boats lined up for their race opportunity.

We'd hear various entertaining phrases like...

"Oh, that's not good."
"Well folks, we've just seen our first collision of the day!"
"And, they're down!" {about 1/3 of the boats did sink and were rescued by the boats you see in the background}

Only in the Midwest, I swear.

No more than 5 minutes into this adventure, Ray declares that he and Benjamin will be making one of these in the future for them to race. And probably his boy scout troop or something.

So who's jealous? Anyone want to come visit? In case you want to plan your trip, this is likely to be an annual day for the Wilsons. Plan accordingly. Weekend before July 4th. Book your travel plans now. This opportunity will fill up.


Monday, July 1, 2013

The End of Google Reader...

...and the beginning of Bloglovin'?

Here's to new beginnings. Maybe now I can finally delete old blogs that Google Reader wouldn't let me delete.

Follow on Bloglovin

Since blogging has sort of gone to the wayside lately due to summer of outside adventure, I thought I'd throw out a list of 10 things happening lately with the Wilsons...

1. Lots of waterpark action. At least 4-5 times a week. We've even sat in the car and waited for a thunderstorm to pass so we could go in.

2. Fresh fruit and grilling. We've only grilled once (last night), but this will hopefully be the beginning of my husband making dinner the deliciousness. In case you're curious, I buy Sunshine burgers which are both vegan, and dairy-free. I think even gluten free! Their main component is sunflower seeds.

3. Short road trips to the beach. We were up at South Haven, MI last week for a day at the beach and it was lovely. Benjamin went from hating the sand in October to absolutely loving it this time. He was eating it and throwing it like it were sprinkles! Not quite as tasty, little lad.

4. Growing boy. My goodness is he growing! He's not the best communicator yet, but I am pretty sure he has at least 5 solid words down. Either that, or he has me totally fooled.

5. The end of good napping. He was showing signs of needing to drop that morning nap (signs being not sleeping during the afternoon one at all), so we've been attempting the transition. What a rough one. No one tells you about how long it takes to get things in order. We're still working on it and no nap has been as good as the ol' 2x 2-hour naps we used to revel in... he must know it's summer.

6. The last couple days have felt like Southern California weather here. It even feels like an ocean breeze... and MAN does that make me happy. Humidity low. No thunderstorms. Cool breeze and temps cool enough to open the windows for fresh air. You Southern Californians cannot take for granted that weather!

7. Outside working. We've been in a constant state of trimming/weeding/making sure our house doesn't get overgrown with plant life and weeds. It's helpful that all B wants is to be outside... so when outside, we take the opportunity to get rid of the excess.

8. No trips! We have no plane tickets booked and only have a short road trip to NY in August on our radar at all this summer. Abnormal behavior for the Wilsons, for sure.

9. Boredom in the kitchen. I still blame things on my toddler. I just cannot get my act together. I'm still cooking, but nothing really new and just the same menu I lean on for easy/regular/solid meals. Nothing to share. Apologies to my fellow foodie friends.

10. Looking forward to the upcoming 4-day weekend! Our town has the coolest festival on the 4th and it rivals any other local festival...we're certain. We took B last year as a very wee little nugget and we're excited to share fireworks with him again this year.