Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spinach smoothie

Energy is a tricky thing.  Like "spare time", there's never enough of it no matter what stage of life you're in.  Right now, I'm in a work full-time, still get in all my domesticity, continue to start and/or finish projects on the house, and have significant play time with the family kind of stage.  Oh, and try super hard to establish a successful blog kind of stage too.  So, I'm tired. Who knew I'd find a golden energy source in a silly little green smoothie.
Green smoothies have become very trendy lately.  Any time I scroll through Pinterest, there's another version to try.  As with most food trends, I find it easy to stop clicking on the pins altogether and disengage. Especially something like smoothies.  Almost every single recipe has some banana in it.  If you know me at all, you know that to say I have an aversion to bananas is an understatement.  Blech--I can't stand those things!  I'm really glad I didn't skip over the green smoothie though.  No banana required!  (Continue to support your favorite banana farm though if you can stomach those buggers.  I hear they're a great source of potassium!)
At first the thought of drinking spinach made me very wary.  I love spinach--cooked, raw, wilted--I love all of it.  Sipping it through a straw made me very uneasy though.  Turns out it's delicious!  Addicting even.

Here's what's addicting about it.  Yeah, it's a healthy snack.  But most healthy snacks honestly leave me still starving and unfulfilled in general.  This smoothie, especially as an addition to your morning routine, will give you an amazing boost.  I'm used to powering through the first half of the day jacked up on caffeine.  But the jittery feeling that comes along with energy is so unnerving.  The spinach smoothie just gives you complete energy.  To the point of watching how late in the day you drink one.  Past a certain point, your second wind may turn into a third wind.  You may never get to sleep!  
But boy, were you productive!! ;)

Here's what you'll need:
Fresh spinach (I use baby spinach leaves)
1 apple.  Any apple.
1 stalk of fresh pineapple
frozen berries

I have a rather stout Cuisinart blender, so I let it do most of the work.  Cut the apple from the core in chunks, cut the pineapple into large pieces, throw in a generous handful of spinach leaves, then a smattering of frozen berries.

Add just a bit of water, just enough to help it blend.

Then blend!  I use the "ice crush" setting on my blender.  It takes a few goes to get the mixture whirling.  If fact, I often have to shake the pitcher a few times to help it along.  Once it gets going though, you've got an amazingly healthy beverage. 

It's really thick; reminds me of applesauce, with a definite berry flavor.  The pineapple really only lends a bit of sweetness, and the spinach gives it an earthy wonderfulness.  All three of us have really gotten hooked.

Of course there are a myriad of smoothie concoctions out there, all of which are probably healthier than most go-to drinks or snacks.  Check out this list of recipes by A Beautiful Mess for more ideas:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Homey's Adventures in Wonderland

You can see the planning process and back story here and here

As previously mentioned in the other posts, it's a priority of mine to make magic out of a birthday.  That's doesn't have to be expensive!  You can use things you already have or buy ahead.  Can this sweet little dress from Target be an Easter dress?  Can she also use it during her Alice party if we add a little white apron?  Can she be Alice again for Halloween and "storybook character" day at school.  Yes.  It's done.

 Buy real clothes that lend a nod to the theme you have in mind.  It will serve you well!  Then delve into the story.

Wonderland is an intriguing, exciting, and magical place to be.  So let's pick apart a few elements and make them work to create a bit of magic for the children. 

In this particular case, there are clocks, mirrors, decks of cards, hats, roses, and many beautiful quotes.  When you get past the gimmicky silliness of most "theme" parties, you can make a more in depth personal magic for the children.  Just got to get started a little bit earlier.

Here are the details for Alice:

There has to be a tea party (also known as: the children have to eat).  For the menu, we did a simple little spread: 
Sandwiches cut to look like cards in a deck (shapes cut out of fruit roll-ups)
Heart pastries (palmiers from Trader Joe's)
Lemonade for "tea"
Assorted fruit to round out the lovely snack

For decor on the kids tea table, I pulled from what I had with a few small additions.  A vintage table cloth, in Alice blue, worked perfectly.  I added some cake plates in varying heights to hold the food.  We made color copies of a vintage Alice in Wonderland book (text pages and illustrated pages), cut with shears and tied together with ribbon to make a table runner.  A Mice on Main figure as the dormouse sleeping in a teacup round out the decorations. 

Like a lot of children's parties, there was a significant adult presence, so we had a separate food table for us grown ups.

Setting up the other food table up inside, is another chance to bring the "world" we've created to life.  Along with showcasing the birthday cake (away from bugs, heat, and little adorable grimy icing-hungry fingers), the indoor table is perfect for more quotes, decorations, and nods to Wonderland.  It spreads the magic and gives the adults a chance to take advantage of the air conditioning and grown-up conversation.  At a 6 year old's birthday party, those are both huge.  Speaking of grown-ups...
I had a brilliant idea right before this party.  Literally the day before the party.  I went to the local beer and wine store to find a lovely beverage to tie into the theme.  Even asked the guy working there if they might have a label that featured a caterpillar with a hookah.  Maybe I went a little to far on that one.  But look what he did find...are you kidding me??  Who knew there was Mad Hatter IPA?!  We'll take it.

In true "we're all mad here!" style, I tend to get a little, um...specific for my cake orders at the bakery. For our party in Wonderland, I really wanted a cake similar to the Disney version. 

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It's a time honored family tradition to get a cake from Strossners, a local bakery that tickles your senses the second you walk in the door.  The smell of sugar and the artfully done cakes and pastries provide a magical place to spend time taking home special treats or ordering the annual birthday cake.  I think they may dread seeing me walk in the door during birthday season, as there's a tendency to turn the order sheet over and draw what I want the cake to look like.  I really need to let go sometimes.  They did a great job putting my scattered ideas together for this!

I find that it's easy to get caught up in the pretties of the party, creating the landscape, perfecting the menu (simple as it was).  For a child's birthday party, I suppose the children will want, well, activities.  Games and shenanigans to burn off the excitement and sugar.  Keeping in mind that this and that most of our parties are equally split between little girls and little boys, I couldn' expect a tea party to tide them over for long.  So let's play!

One of the main parts of the Alice story is croquet.  Not everyone has croquet handy.  Honestly, I wouldn't have if we hadn't acquired a vintage set from a family member.  Since I like to take it to the next level, I figured I could mimic the card figure wickets by adhering inexpensive cards to our wire wickets.  Cute, no?

There was also the chance to play dress up, Mad Hatter style.  I collected various hat and headbands...flower headbands for the talking flowers, Tweedle Dee/Dum whirly-gig hats for the fellas, and various other fun hats in a hatbox I usually store scarves and purses in.  With a little mirror and the fun quote from the Caterpillar "Who Aaaare You?", it created a fun pretend play area for the littles.  Plus, these little adornments were part of the take home favor.  Kill two birds with one stone?  Yes, please!

Lastly, and most proudly, is our pinata.  I think the pinata idea is a great idea for most parties.  Plus, I've decided that these days they can be adapted to most themes.  There was an epiphany moment while deep in the Wonderland of brainstorming that I decided that we should Slay the Jabberwocky.  Fantastic!  It lends a slightly darker, less girly angle to the party.  And for the kids, it's really just a great reason to beat the dickens out of this papier mache dragon.  Great fun!

 Finally, it's time for favors. 

 They've picked their hats to take home, but a few more trinkets never hurt anyone.  Since it was everyone else's "un-birthday", I chose that quote for the favor bag label.  The bags included silly straws, pocket mirrors for girls, decks of cards for boys, and Pepperidge Farm chess cookies.

We may all be mad here, but this was a fun and magical party.  Full of Wonder like it was intended to be. 

*Special thanks to Grammy for lending her backyard and house since we had some unfortunate house repairs come up right before Go Time*

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Her point of view

Her point of view.  Her take on life.  I hear it all the time, and I don't listen enough.  But every day I try to be more in tune to what she's seeing through her little eyes.  She'll never be this age again, so I'm trying to soak up her 8 year old soul.

She knows things that I'm not immediately cognizant of. Her thoughts are a reminder of what daily life is all about.

She woke up at JMom's after a spend-over (also known as a sleep over crossed with a spend the night party) just this past weekend and said "I love the smell of morning".  She knows that the day has just started and anything is possible.  Nothing's gone wrong or haywire.  It's going to be a great day full of fun, good food, and family. I want to love the smell of morning like she does.

Once she was back home, we resumed the normal weekend routine. Sunday morning, we went to church.  Any kiddo can get a little restless in a church service, so we usually have a little something for her to do during the service.  If for no other reason than to save the offering envelopes that the church paid for.  (I drew on those a LOT!)

As long as she stops to pray, participate in the readings, and stand to sing the hymns.  For the second time in as many weeks, I've noticed that she literally pumps her fists (hissing "Yessss!") when we get to the Gloria Patri.  As a long time fan of traditional hymns, I think fist pumping is completely appropriate.  I have no doubt that Heaven is full of such excited shenanigans!

But it took an 8 year old to remind me of these things.

For tomorrow, I think I'll try to see what morning smells like while humming the Gloria Patri.  That cannot be a bad start to my day. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Show your work!

There's something about a chalkboard.  As a child, I remember both the fear and trepidation of working out a math problem or diagramming a sentence and the triumphant success of doing it correctly.  All in front of the whole class.
There are also memories of banging erasers after school or washing the chalkboard.  I liked being helpful!

As of late, I've developed a new affinity for chalkboards.  I've even told my inner circle to watch for overuse of chalk surfaces since I'm so enamored by the flexibility of the chalkboard.  I'd hate for half of my house to be a chalkboard surface.  I'd never sleep at night thinking about all the things I could write, draw, and erase.  It would be a problem

I can start an idea, mess up, and erase it.  I can start again.  I can do it again and again until I get it the way I like it.  This constant reinvention makes it the perfect project for a home that's a constant reinvention for us. 

There are so many ways to use a chalkboard finish (I've been using them in a lot of different ways lately!).  The first one is the pantry door.  The interior doors in this house are not all that pretty.  Some we'll replace, and some we'll, well, reinvent.  The pantry door was a perfect candidate.

Depending on the project you have in mind, there is a chalkboard paint that will work.  For the door, I got a quart of chalkboard paint and a little roller.  A couple of coats does the trick.  Once it's good and dry, the chalkboard needs to be primed.  Just take a piece of chalk sideways over the whole surface then erase.

A touch of whimsy never hurt anybody either...

As a new feature, kiddos are automatically attracted to it and want their own go at some creativity. So as a word to the wise, give 'em the bottom of the door for a little bit of fun.

Especially when the first thing on the board is "The best people are Mommy and Daddy YAY!"

A chalkboard door is the perfect way to start a countdown to a birthday or any event or holiday.
I find myself wondering what to write on the door next.  There are so many things I could draw, so many words to celebrate and showcase.  I have ideas for my next chalk-scape, but let me know if there's something you think would be awesome on this door!  Between song lyrics, iconic quotes, and limitless graphics it's so hard to nail down the next pantry door feature...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hello, there!

 Time to come out of hibernation!

On a lot of levels.  Ready to see what we've been up to? 

 A quick catch-up--
Still in the same enchanted house on the same enchanted street.  I wouldn't have it any other way! I've said it before, and I stand by it.  This house, as wonky and hard-headed as it continues to be, is more than our project. It's our home.  And I love hearing the house speak up every now and then, letting me know what it needs. 

 The more I love this place, the more it loves us. 

Being back at work full-time has taken a lot of time and energy away from our little abode.  But that will never be a reason to not press on.  This darling is still talking to me and evolving as we change how we live in it. 

I really look forward to writing again about how we do things in our circle...henceforth known as The Vortex (this lovely little corner of our town, because of such great neighbors, friends and family, is understandably hard to leave because the fun and love take over immediately).  More to come!!