Thursday, April 17, 2014

Asian Chicken

Right now, our family is in the midst of a very busy season. Honestly, I think the stretch between Spring Break and the last day of school is almost busier than Christmastime, and nearly as expensive for us! Our three girls are involved in the performing arts in one way or another, and this is the time of all the year-end performances. There are also some year-end events at school, Easter, Hannah and Rachel's birthdays, Hannah's Gotcha Day, and Al's and my anniversary. And this year, we have a Kindergarten and and eighth grade graduation. Not to mention the fact that we're entering a new season (finally, Spring!) and everyone needs new clothes and shoes and appropriate special-occasion outfits!

And I haven't even included doctor, dentist, ophthalmologist, orthodontist, haircut, vet and grooming appointments yet...

In the midst of trying to get everyone where they need to be at the time they need to be there and dressed appropriately, we still have to eat! I've spent some time perusing Pinterest to see if there are any new ideas (particularly for the crock pot), I've done a little freezer cooking, and a bit too much last-minute takeout. And always the question: Will they all like it?

This is one recipe I come back to again and again. Ridiculously easy, really yummy, and there is a collective cheer when this is seen on the week's menu plan...

Asian Chicken

Chicken (Use what you like, frozen or fresh, bone-in or boneless, breasts, thighs, leg quarters. I use a bag of frozen thighs - they turn out nice and moist.)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbs minced garlic

Dump the chicken in your crock pot. Mix the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the chicken. Cook. That's it.
(If you don't happen to have sesame oil in your pantry, you can make this without it, but it does add a nice flavor. A small bottle is pretty cheap at Woodman's and lasts a long time.)

I serve this with brown rice (drizzle some of the chicken sauce over the rice!) and a veggie or salad. Super-quick, super-easy, super-tasty. You're welcome.

(I'm sorry I don't have a lovely photo to accompany this recipe. It's all I can do to get dinner on the table. Please don't ask me to stage and photograph it, too...)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Simple Woman's Day Book - April 14

Outside my window... After several beautiful Spring-like days, a cold, cloudy, windy, wet, looks-like-snow day.

I am thinking... good thing I didn't pack away the warm jackets just yet!

I am thankful for... taking a moment last night to have David try on his outfit for tomorrow's Kindergarten presentation. For some reason, the shirt is ENORMOUS on him, and at least we have time to run out this morning and get him something that fits better.

In the kitchen... not much. It's grocery day. Again. 

I am wearing... old jeans, sweatshirt I don't mind getting dirty in the kitchen, warm slippers. Comfort is key...

I am creating... some sort of order out of chaos.

I am going... to stay home alone this afternoon and get caught up around here!

I am wondering... if I shouldn't just take a nap instead...

I am currently reading... Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine. Learning about goal-setting and time management.

I am hoping... to be able to squeeze some knitting and guitar in this week.

I am looking forward to... the trip to Washington, DC that Hannah and I are taking in June. We booked our flights this morning, and it's time to really start thinking about what we'd like to see and do while we're there.

I am learning... "The House of the Rising Sun" on guitar. Right-hand arpeggios. Tricky stuff, but I'm loving it...

I am hearing... some real guitarists on Pandora. Good inspiration...

Around the house... laundry piles, dishes, new Easter clothes and shoes, outgrown clothes and toys we're gathering to pass on, both flip flops and boots cluttering the mudroom floor (a sure sign of Spring in these parts)...

I am pondering... that I don't want to just "survive" the next several busy weeks, but to savor and enjoy them, even if just a moment at a time. Our family will never be in this "place" again, and I don't want to miss it just because I was too preoccupied with schedules and meals and laundry...

A favorite quote for today... 


One of my favorite things... Open House at the elementary school. I love seeing what the kids have been doing during the school year, and they are so proud to show off their accomplishments.

A few plans for the rest of the week... David's Kindergarten program on Tuesday, Abbie's 4th Grade recorder presentation on Wednesday, Hannah's 14-year Gotcha Day on Wednesday, elementary school Open House on Thursday, Hannah's 15th birthday on Friday, Al's and my 17-year anniversary on Saturday, and Easter on Sunday. Deep breath...

A peek into my day... Rushing out to Children's Place to get David a dress shirt. Afternoon at home getting caught up around the house. Grocery shopping this evening. Trying to stay warm.

A picture I'd like to share...
We celebrated Hannah's 14-year Gotcha Day with our travel group this weekend...

Monday, April 07, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook - April 7, 2014

Outside my window... Spring is finally beginning to make its presence known! Grey skies, chilly and damp, but a definite feel of Spring...

I am thinking... through our schedule/calendar for the next two months. Spring Break is over and this is the final big push to Summer. Lots of birthdays, performances and events on the calendar...
I am thankful for... an enjoyable Spring Break. We didn't do anything particularly special, but there was lots of fun time with friends for all four kids, and a good amount of "down time" for me...

In the kitchen... not much. I did a lot of improvising for meals during Break, and now it's time to re-stock at the grocery store and get back to the meal plan.

I am wearing... old black yoga pants, Al's Bears tee shirt, old brown fleece cardigan, my LL Bean Wicked Good Slippers (because Monday mornings should be comfy, don't you think?).

I am creating... a cabled afghan for Al and me in a soft light blue. I made one for my mom and one for Al's mom, but now it's time for one for us!

I am going... to meet my friend Jacquie for coffee today while all the kids are in school. I don't get much "grownup time" with friends these days, and I'm really looking forward to it!
I am wondering... how I'm ever going to get everything done these next two months...

I am currently reading... Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, about letting go of some of the "busy" in our lives to really enjoy what matters, namely our families. I can't decide if it's an inspiring or guilt-inducing read. Probably both.

I am hoping... to make some progress on my decluttering around here. I see tiny glimpses of progress, but there's a loooooong way to go...

I am looking forward to... the trip to Washington, DC that Hannah and I will take as soon as school gets out (her 8th Grade graduation gift). Can't wait to share our love of history!

I am learning... how to play the guitar! Al gave me a guitar for my big 50th birthday last summer. I've wanted to get one and learn to play for over 20 years! I started lessons in February and am making some good progress. Now if I could only find some quiet time to practice every day...

I am hearing... "Curious George" on TV (David's favorite), with intermittent chuckles from my boy...

Around the house... typical Monday morning mess. Time to get back on track with the tidying routine...

A favorite quote for today... 

(This little dog reminds me of our Angel)

One of my favorite things... My "Edgar Meyer Radio" station on Pandora. Great guitar inspiration...

A few plans for the rest of the week... Easter shopping (stuff for the kids' baskets and outfits for me and the kids), coffee with a friend, guitar lesson, juggling kids' rehearsal schedules, Hannah's Gotcha Day party on Saturday (not here!), the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival on Sunday (Abbie's string group is playing).
A peek into my day... laundry, paperwork, groceries, and general running around (beautifully interrupted by aforementioned coffee with a friend).

A picture I'd like to share...

David enjoying a Spring-like day last week!

Friday, May 31, 2013

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. (Hosted by Soulemama)
Celebrating the last day of school with my teenager...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

First Day/Last Day 2012-13 Edition

Once again, I am taken aback at just how quickly the school year has passed. You'd think by now I'd be used to it. I took our traditional Last Day of School pictures to present to you here for comparison. All I have to say is... oh, my!

Hannah, 7th Grade...

(Note the new braces!)

Hannah, you completed 7th Grade with a lot of style! Things started out rough when none of your friends were in any of your classes, you'd had enough of playing oboe, and you just couldn't quite put your finger on what kinds of activities you wanted to participate in. By Spring Break, however, you had really come into your own. You let the oboe go (sniff-sniff), but you worked on the stage crew for the spring musical, had a blast, and have found your niche backstage in the theater. You make new friends wherever you go, while still remaining true to your old besties. You have joyfully helped kids in the special needs Sunday School classroom. And your art and music have flourished: your painting was on display at the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival, and lately you've been composing some really great music on Garageband.

Rachel, 5th Grade...

Rachel, you totally rocked your last year of Elementary School! You took on Challenge Reading and gave it your all, many nights staying up later than I did to give your best to your projects. You placed second in the school spelling bee, and your art was awarded First Place (again!) in the school district's art purchase program. Through it all, you would always "just keep swimming", but you decided to step away from the swim team goal because you didn't want to lose the joy and fun of just being in the water. You are so very ready for Middle School, ready to continue with Challenge Language Arts and excited to begin trumpet lessons so you can learn to play jazz like Dizzy Gillespie!

Rachel's prize-winning art work
Abbie, 3rd Grade...

You really came into your own this year, Abbie, with confidence and determination. You decided you wanted to learn to play the violin and have been taking your lessons seriously, practicing cheerfully, making great strides and looking forward to playing in the string ensemble next year. You turned out some great projects in school, most notably your Laura Ingalls Wilder biography and your presentation on the White House (great opportunities to exhibit your crafting skills as well as your knowledge). You are loving and loyal to your family, friends and teachers, and you managed to navigate some icky schoolyard drama while learning about (and most likely teaching others) what it means to be a real friend.

More "then-and-now" photos...

And finally, Rachel says goodbye to Kaneland John Shields Elementary...
Rachel's 5th Grade Clap-Out

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Angel and Friends

One of the big events in our family this past year was the addition of a dog to our household! Angel is an adult female Bichon Frise, and she was most definitely meant to be a Cormier! She joined our family last August - this is how we found her...

We had been promising the kids a dog for years, but there were some things that needed to happen first before we could bring a pet into our home. First, the girls needed to be a little older to handle some of the responsibility (or rather, for me to nag them about the responsibility). Then, we needed to bring David home, then get him settled, then David needed to have his surgery and recover, then we needed warm weather, then we needed to go on our summer vacation...

At the end of July last year, Al mentioned that we should really honor our commitment to the kids and start looking for a dog. It was a Friday evening and we were getting ready to head to Chili's for dinner. I took a few minutes before we left to log into and entered our requirements. Because Hannah and I have animal allergies, we needed a "hypoallergenic" breed, and Al's extended family recommended a Bichon Frise as they were not high-energy but were good with children. We wanted an adult dog that was already housetrained, and one that would be comfortable with children in the house. Once I hit "enter", a list appeared of Bichons in our area. The first dog on the list, a female named Halo, was between 3 and 5 years old, and living with a foster family in Sandwich (about 20 minutes from us). I shot a quick email off to the contact, then turned off my computer and went to dinner. While waiting for our chips and queso dip, I checked my email and read the reply from Kristine, the woman caring for this dog. She wanted to know more about our family. I sent her a brief email with basic information, and suggested she check out our blog to learn more about us. Her reply was very enthusiastic - she felt our family would be a great fit for Halo. Kristine had one other couple scheduled the next day to meet Halo, but she was not optimistic as this couple were empty nesters and both worked all day. Halo needed more companionship than they could provide.

While I was hopeful that Halo would be the pet for us, I also needed to be realistic and keep our options open. That night, I inquired about a few other Bichons via email. All responses were lukewarm at best - they needed applications and background checks and were concerned about the number of kids in our home, blah blah blah... None were as enthusiastic as Kristine's.

By Sunday evening, we had learned that the other couple was not going to be the right family for Halo and that it was up to us. It was hard not to get too excited - things were going well and moving quickly! We set a time to meet Halo that Friday evening. We all headed to Sandwich to meet this little dog. This is the sweet pup we met...

We fell in love with her immediately! She was sweet and lovable and patient with the many little hands that were petting and poking her. Since we were going to be out of town for the next two weekends, we made arrangements to bring her home with us the following Sunday. We spent the next week gathering all the things we'd need for her - crate, food, treats, leash, special shampoo, treats, dental care, toys, and more treats (this was going to be one spoiled pup!).

I admit I was nervous. I have never had a "real" pet (fish and hamsters didn't really count). I didn't know how to properly care for a dog. But she and I were patient with each other and she's trained me well!

We decided to change her name. Kristine had given her the name Halo because the round puff of fur on the top of her head looked a bit like a halo. I wasn't really fond of the name, particularly since there's a violent video game out there called Halo and I didn't like the association! We did some brainstorming and came up with the name Angel. It fits.

I read through the paperwork we received, and learned some more about Angel's life before she joined us. Angel was rescued from a puppy mill by an animal rescue organization in Tennessee called A Place to Bark. She was given medical attention and groomed, and then transported to The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago. From there, she went to her foster family in Sandwich, and finally, to our home. Since bringing Angel home, I've been learning more about puppy mills and the organizations that work to rescue these animals. Our pup probably had a pretty tough life prior to joining our family, but we have been helping her make up for lost time by spoiling her shamelessly!

Angel is most definitely an "indoor girl"! She is really good at relaxing, lounging, snoozing and generally taking it easy. She finds all the good sunny spots in the house and makes herself comfortable.

She loves napping near (and with) the kids...

Some of my sweetest times with her are early in the morning, before anyone else in the house is up. I sip my coffee and try to wake up, and she snuggles with her head in my lap...

But she's a lot of fun, too. She is patient with the kids, and even plays dress-up once in a while!

We added two other little friends to our household this year. David really wanted a hamster of his very own, so on his birthday in November, the whole family took him to PetCo to choose his new pet.

"I want that one! Right there!"

All summer, David had been talking about the pet he wanted and what he would name it. "Salty!" he declared. "Salty? Why Salty?" I asked. He gave no reason, but instead, improved on the name. "Salty Pepper! That's what I'll call my hamster!" I still have no idea where he came up with that name, but it's a really good one, don't you think? I don't suppose there is another hamster anywhere with that name!

Salty Pepper at home.

 This spring, we moved bedrooms around and Abbie found herself with her very own room (more on that in another post). She set right to work making it hers, and wanted to add some life to it. So she spent some of her birthday money on a lovely Beta fish she named Luna (it's a Moon Beta, hence, the name).

Abbie's room is all purples and blues with a little lime and hot pink thrown in (I call them the Justice colors). Very tween. So lovely Luna fits right into the color scheme.

And so now our family consists of two adults, four children, a dog, a hamster and a fish. I am begging them all to stop the insanity right there.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Simple Woman's Daybook - May 28th

(Hosted by Simple Woman's Daybook)

Outside my is just beginning to get light outside. The clouds are thick and we are expecting rain. The birds are awake and singing.

I am thinking... about summer vacation. About doing fun things with the family, yet balancing with quiet, rest, time for reflection. Giving the kids space to be "bored" and to figure out what to do about it themselves.

I am thankful for... the last two days of rest I have enjoyed after a very busy and stressful spring season. All good stuff, but still stressful.

In the kitchen... serving pieces from the party we had with Rachel's group on Saturday. All clean and stacked and waiting to be put away. And two new counter stools we bought yesterday. And ingredients for a couple of homemade treats (granola bars, puppy chow) - I'm looking forward to more cooking/baking from scratch again.

I am wearing... my warm brown Lands' End fleece cardigan, found at Goodwill for $5 and worn daily around the house this winter and spring.

I am creating... a plan for our summer. A rough outline for each day to make sure chores, summer reading, and instrument practice get done. Plugging items from our Summer Bucket List into the calendar so we "do" them instead of just think about doing them.

I am going... to Rhode Island for a few days in August (I hope). To visit with my mom and Larry and Mimi and to attend a big 50th birthday bash with my high school classmates.
I am wondering... how many times I will have to say, "I don't care about 'the other kids', I'm talking about you!"

I am currently reading... The Knitter's Life List, sort of a bucket list for knitters.

I am hoping... that our little garden produces some good food this summer. So far we've had plenty of good rain, and the little sprouts are looking healthy. 

I am looking forward to... my Mom's visit in a few weeks. We're going to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair in Grayslake while she's here.

I am learning... about knitting with lace-weight yarn. It's tricky and slow-moving, but the results are very pretty.

I am hearing... the birds outside the window, the hum of the refrigerator, the gurgle of the coffee pot.

Around the house...  lots of little projects getting done. New pictures being hung on the walls, closets and drawers and boxes being purged of unnecessary stuff, cleared surfaces I hope to keep cleared.

I am pondering... what's next for me (rapidly approaching "big" birthdays will do that).

A favorite quote for today... 

One of my favorite things... the promise of summer vacation after a long, busy school year. The potential, the possibilities, the Bucket List, the "down time".

A few plans for the rest of the week... the last three days of school for the girls; grocery shopping with David for the first time in months; getting him some much-needed summer clothes and shoes; taking the kids swimming on the last day of school.

A peek into my day... Aldi, Target, Abbie's violin lesson, ham casserole for dinner. That's enough.

A picture I'd like to share...
David and Angel sharing a quiet moment yesterday morning...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our Family's 2:37 Minutes of Fame!

Last October, Karen Meyer, a deaf reporter who does stories about people with disabilities for ABC7 Chicago, came to our home, accompanied by her assistant and a cameraman. She was doing a story about the China Waiting Child adoption program. She interviewed Al and me, as well as Jessica Augsburger, the Waiting Child program coordinator at Sunny Ridge. A lot of footage was taken of our children.The following report aired on a Sunday morning in December...

It was a fun experience for all of us. We enjoyed seeing how a human interest story was put together. And Karen was warm and encouraging throughout the interview process. I nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to get the house cleaned up - let's just say that our home looked very "child-centered", shall we?
With Karen Meyer after the interview

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Last Day of Preschool. Ever.

Yesterday was David's last day of preschool. And the last day I will ever have a preschooler. It was a tough day for this Mama...

But it was a good day for David, to end a good year of school. At the end of last year, he was released from the Early Childhood program at our school, because his speech had improved so much! Al and I were happy about his progress and, at the same time, sad that he'd be leaving the wonderful EC program. And we wondered what we'd do about school this year.

After checking out different programs and talking with other parents, we chose the Pre-K program at Lord of Life Christian Preschool in LaFox. We know several families who enrolled their children there and were very happy with the program and teachers. They had a Pre-K class that met four afternoons per week, just what he had be doing in EC. (This year, David continued walk-in speech sessions one hour per week and improved so much that he was released from speech altogether in April!)

David had a good year at Lord of Life. He enjoyed his time there, made new friends, learned new things. There were plenty of days when he would have rather stayed at home with me, but it was good to keep him in the classroom environment as he prepares for Kindergarten next year.

As has become my tradition, here are his First Day/Last Day pictures. You can see that he's grown a lot (especially when you compare the two pictures of him signing in on the white board). What you can't see in pictures is how articulate he is, how much he's learned, and how he's really matured.

First Day...
Last Day!

First Day...
Last Day!

First Day...
Last Day!

First Day...
Last Day!
David with his teacher, Mrs. Rickel
David graduates from Speech (with Mrs. Baldridge)!