Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Summer & Book Bingo


The last bell of the school year will be ringing here in just two more days.

Even though this is not a Facebook post, I’m sending you to Buzzfeed. Their comparison of Parents at the Beginning of the School Year vs. the End sums up how I’m feeling.

I can’t wait for summer, even if it does mean the end of time alone. Olaf and I have our own delusions about summer.

I don’t like the desert heat, I really dislike the unpredictable timing of solo-parenting during fire season, and I’ll miss time alone to get some work done.

Still, I love summer! My boys are home, and we can plan our days around Sean’s baseball games and trips to the library and swim lessons. We are keeping this summer purposefully simple. Here are the three things we’re trying:

1. I won’t be scheduling any more photography sessions this summer. Check back in September for a fun kick-off to a new season.

2. We detest book logs! Having to record something every time you read can turn one of our favorite activities into a chore. But the boys have always been intrigued by my Book BINGO (hat tip to my friend Lara Smith!) and have come up with their own version for the summer.

If you have an independent reader (maybe ages 8 to 14?), they are welcome to download our Book Bingo sheet here or sign up at the website Aidan and I have been working on: Summer Book Bingo

The site will likely go private on June 1st so kids have until then to sign up there.

3. Block-scheduling. We like structure (okay, I like structure), even if only to have a plan that we deviate from daily. We’re still working on putting together our summer bucket list and some parameters, like no screen time in the mornings.

In a few weeks I’ll update on how or whether we’ve found our groove. Meanwhile I’d love to hear your plans or outlines for summer with kids!

2013 06 11_1371 reading at the pool

Here’s to lots of books and popsicle sticks!

Friday, May 16, 2014

letters to our sons | may 2014

One of the reasons I created a blog was to capture this time when my sons are young. So I’m excited to join a group of friends, moms, and fellow photographers as we share about the boys in our lives on the third Friday of each month. You can follow our blog circle to Chantell Sim of Chasing Tydes Photography for the next letter to our sons, and continue all the way through the blog circle.

All of these photos were taken on our iPad, because that’s just how we roll these days…I love them not for the quality of light or composition, but for the bit of our story they capture.

web cheers on mothersday breakfast

Dear Aidan, Sean, and Nolan,

Thank you for the best Mother’s Day ever. Sean, you told me I already said that last year---but every year it feels like the best one yet.

I decided a long time ago I was going to LOVE Mother’s Day. It might shock you to hear this, but a lot of moms don’t. Some people don’t like celebrating just because a certain day on the calendar tells them to, which I can understand---but I’ll take any holiday the calendar turns up!

Some are reminded of babies they are missing terribly, and some of us are missing our own moms. I think of those mamas on this day too.

Some moms end up having to do all their normal work on this day---plus making the day special, so it feels like more work.

As awesome as you three boys are, I think we all know who really makes Mother’s Day a success in our house: DAD!

I think there are three keys to a great Mother’s Day and so I’m going to capture them here for you to read *someday* in the future.  Because, if you’re the dad, the ball really is in your court on Mother’s Day.

Key #1: Dad has to train his sons (and daughters) before he can expect them to carry Mother’s Day on their own.

As eager as all three of you are to please, everyone needs leadership. Or someone to just say, “Have you made your mom a card yet?”

webfrench toast

Knowing how much you boys like waffles and pancakes, it meant even more to me to have French Toast, my favorite, for breakfast. Which brings me to the second key to joy on Mother’s Day

Key #2: Moms have to say what they want---out loud. Possibly more than once.

When asked what I wanted on Mother’s Day, I used to say, “I just don’t want to make any decisions.” It was true but not really fair. Your dad found a brilliant workaround---ask me the day BEFORE Mother’s Day! So on Friday, he sent Aidan upstairs, and ever so nonchalantly, without even mentioning the next day, Aidan asked me what my favorite breakfast was, my favorite lunch, and my favorite dinner. Aidan, I hope you made a mental note of this in your head. Ask people what they would like---and ask them early enough. No one wants to be asked what she would like for Mother’s Day dinner…at 5PM on Mother’s Day.

Afterwards, taking my own advice, I told Brian I didn’t really want my favorite lunch since we’d be having a big breakfast. Smoothies and popcorn sounded much more doable, and I was even happy to make them. As much as you boys like the idea of serving me breakfast in bed, I’m honest and tell you that I really can’t stand eating in my bed. Not a big deal, but so much better than starting the day out of sorts.

the middle

Key #3: Remember that it’s not your birthday, it’s Mother’s Day. It’s celebrating a relationship.

My mom loved that episode of “The Middle” about Mother’s Day. Patricia Heaton’s character is having a horrible day, and envies her husband who is getting to spend the day alone. She doesn’t realize that her own mother wants the very same thing---a day alone.

I crave alone time too, insatiably it sometimes seems. But we all also crave good times together, and I love that we’ve happened upon a few Mother’s Day traditions that guarantee a good time for all.

web Mother's Day art by Sean

Sean, you created the above drawing when your teacher asked you to illustrate a tradition in our family. Due to all the rain this Saturday, we weren’t able to hike to Morning Glory Bridge…but we did get to visit Back of Beyond Bookstore together.


aok reading

I hope none of you forget our neighbor Carol, and how she always thought of you on your birthdays with a gift card to Back of Beyond. Your spring birthdays work out perfectly so that we are all able to browse and BUY on Mother’s Day. I love that you all love bookstores as much as I do!

photo 5e_edited-2

We played Uno, Movie Lines, Charades, and Apples to Apples. We snuggled up to watch “Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone” (in celebration of Nolan finishing the book the night before!) with our popcorn and smoothies. And Dad made a feast for us all---with my favorite dinner: steak salad with jicama & bell pepper. Oh so good!

webmy favorite salad

And I got another Mother’s Day wish come true---a photo with the three of you!

web mothers day

Thanks for yet another best Mother’s Day ever! I hope your future wives are as lucky as I am, and you train your sons to treat her to a great day too!

And to forgive her if she takes the Mother’s Day leeway a bit too far with her tween!

Processed with VSCOcam with s1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

More than all the stars,



You can follow our blog circle to Chantell Sim of Chasing Tydes Photography for the next letter to our sons, and continue all the way through the blog circle.

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Our Kitchen: Balsamic Mustard Chicken


webfood no noise chickenbalsamic

In this July 2011 post, I linked to my favorite freezer recipe for chicken.

And then that link died. Instead of finding the recipe I relied on as a go-to for the grill and for camping, you’ll now find an offer to buy an abandoned domain. I was thrilled to find an old print out in my over-flowing recipe file. Consider yourself forewarned: print your favorite recipes, don’t just pin them!

Balsamic-Mustard Chicken

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breast but then see the note at the end)
4 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 olive oil
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
handful of fresh rosemary

Mix everything except for the chicken in a bowl to create the marinade. Then add the marinade and the chicken to a ziplock gallon bag. Seal and rub the chicken to make sure all of it is well-coated.

2014 03 31_ipad_parsley window basil rosemary

This happens to be the time of year when I actually have rosemary and parsley in our kitchen window pots. Most of the year I end up using dried herbs and they work just fine.

Let the chicken marinade all day or overnight and then throw them on the grill or in a 450 preheated oven for 40 minutes. * If you’re using chicken breasts, change it to 350 and for a little less time. Unlike thighs, white meat can dry out and be overcooked quickly.

Super easy and delish! Mustard is the perfect emulsifier for the vinegar and oil, and all that time with the garlic and rosemary makes for some tasty chicken.

web 2014 05 12_chicken balsamic food_3219_edited-1

I’m usually rushed and slightly crazed just as dinner goes to the table, so I rarely remember to take a photo when I want to. The above are leftovers from our weekend feast, with foil packets of potatoes, carrots and bell peppers, and, my all-time favorite: grilled asparagus.

I plan to print these kitchen posts for my boys someday so I’m going to include tips that might seem beyond basic to you.

Basic Tips:

  • Freeze the whole bag of marinade and chicken for another day (perfect for the 2nd night of a river/camping trip). Just be sure they’ve had time to thaw before you cook.
  • When baking instead of grilling, line a cookie sheet with foil first and clean up with be easy. I actually like these in the oven even more so than the grill, as they cook in the marinade and soak up more of the flavor.
  • A pair of dishwasher-safe scissors or shears are a kitchen must. It’s much easier to snip off the fat from thighs before you cook than trying to trim them with a knife.

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