Sunday, July 26, 2009



The sister of one of my knitting friends was looking for a new home for this sweet little hamster. We had a hamster a few years ago, but she only lived about two months. Al and I discussed it, and decided it was time to try having a pet again. So Ida joined our family.

We are all enjoying her very much! She sleeps pretty much throughout the day, but she perks up in the evenings. And her rattling around in her wheel keeps me company at night and in the early morning while the girls are sleeping.
We love you, Ida! Welcome to our crazy family!

Summer fun can sure wear a girl out!

(She fell asleep mid-snack!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad

I love making this tasty, easy recipe for luncheons. I serve it with croissants and fruit...

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
1 (6 oz) package Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. milk
2 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder

Cook chicken in covered sauce pan. Cook rice according to directions. Combine chicken, rice, grapes and celery. Mix dressing ingredients and fold into mixture. Refrigerate 2-3 hours; add cashews before serving.

Notes: I use 2-3 large cans of chicken breast instead - much quicker and easier! I also use the 5-minute quick-cook Uncle Ben's wild rice - again, quicker and easier.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Artist in the Family!

Yesterday, Abbie picked up our copy of "I Can Draw Animals" from Usborne Books and turned to this page:

Here are her results. She's 5. Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Pictures... So Far!

In early June, we spent a weekend with Hannah's China group visiting one of the families in the Quad Cities - this is the fifth year of our tradition. We stayed at a hotel with a pool, and the girls had lots of fun swimming and splashing.

Our Hannah, cruising around on a pool noodle!

Abbie, relaxing on a fish...

...and of course, Rachel, having a blast in the water!

We visited a small, but excellent zoo in the area that weekend.

Abbie and Rachel feed an impatient goat...

...while Hannah and her friend Abbie feed two more docile critters.

Abbie got to feed a bird.

Our family loves to visit historical museums, and there are two right in our area. First, we visited Blackberry Pioneer Village in Aurora.

Hannah and a turkey check each other out.

Rachel grinds some coffee the old-fashioned way.

The girls enjoyed the old one room schoolhouse.

We also spent a beautiful afternoon at Garfield Historic Farm in LaFox.

Rachel and Abbie play checkers with slices of dried corn cobs.

Hannah talks history with one of the guides.

This wonderful lady taught me a lot about spinning. It's a hobby/craft I'd love to enjoy someday!

Rachel was great at the hoop game.

Hannah learned about dipping candles in tallow.
Abbie wrung out a clean shirt.

Laundry isn't nearly this fun at home!

Enjoying my favorite animals, the sheep!

We had some friends in for a barbecue the day before the Fourth of July. I have always wanted to make one of those American flag cakes like in the magazines. Not especially pretty, but the spirit was there!

It's always more fun to eat outside, especially with good friends!

Every holiday, Al goes running with some friends in Wheaton. On the Fourth of July, Hannah joined him for the first time. She's becoming quite a runner, just like her Daddy!

I took the girls on a firefly walk at a forest preserve in St. Charles. They loved watching the fireflies twinkle over the high prairie grasses, and they even caught some. And it was a real treat to stay up so late!

We met some friends from Abbie's China group at a Kane County Cougars game. Here, the girls are hanging out at the fence (actually, on the fence), watching the catcher warm up.
Rachel, Abbie, and the girls!

There was a fireworks show to enjoy after the game was over.

Lots more to come - stay tuned...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

This fabulous macaroni and cheese recipe is from The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet by Nanci Slagle. Low fat it's not, but our girls absolutely love it. The recipe makes enough for dinner one night with enough leftovers for several lunches and dinners or sides. It's a big hit at parties with children.

Crock Pot Mac 'n Cheese

16 oz dry macaroni (I prefer rotini, but you can use pretty much any shape you like)
10 oz can condensed cheddar cheese soup
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup milk

Cook macaroni according to package directions. While macaroni is cooking, add soup, grated cheeses, evaporated milk, and milk to crock pot on low. Stir to combine. When macaroni is cooked, drain and add to crock pot. Stir to mix. Cook on low 3 hours.

See? I told you it was rich. But I also told you how easy it was! This can be frozen to be eaten later, but we've never gotten that far! You can also double or triple the recipe and freeze some. Also, I usually use a full 16 oz of extra-sharp cheddar instead of 8 sharp and 8 extra-sharp - more flavor!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Making Memories, Part 1

Sometime last week, I realized that June was over, July had begun, and we'd hardly done anything on our "Fun Things To Do This Summer" list! Then I went back through my calendar and noticed that, yes, we had already done a lot. Maybe not "big stuff" like water parks or a vacation, but certainly lots of things that would make for some great memories for the girls (and Al and me, too). And since I want to actually remember some of this stuff this fall, I'm making a list here...
  • My BFF Linda visited for 10 days
  • Linda and I painted my laundry room
  • She and I took the girls to Chicago by train, rode the water taxi to Michigan Avenue, ate lunch at the Walnut Room in Marshall Field's (I refuse to call it Macy's), and went to the Art Institute where the girls drew in their sketch books
  • Went to a free movie at the library
  • Signed up for Summer Reading at Barnes and Noble and our library
  • Spent a weekend with Hannah's China group at our friends' Greg and Betty's (an annual tradition)
  • Swimming lessons for Rachel and Abbie
  • Basketball camp for Hannah
  • My mom visited us for a week
  • Had the girls portraits taken
  • We've eaten a lot of ice cream
  • Abbie had her first eye exam for Kindergarten, and I got new bifocal contacts
  • Saw a movie outdoors at the Purple Store (Hill's General Store) in Kaneville
  • Went to the huge annual Wilton tent sale
  • Planning for, purchasing for, and beginning several projects for Christmas gifts, both knitting and sewing
  • Lots of visits to the library
  • Took my mom and the girls to Blackberry Farm
  • Completed another round of Immigration paperwork for Sarah's adoption
  • Discovered what a wonderful movie "Singing in the Rain" is and watched it several times
  • Planted a little garden (tomatoes and green beans) - watching it grow like crazy
  • Visited Garfield Historic Farm where we dipped candles, spun wool and chased chickens
  • Made some yummy jams with my friend, Jackie
  • Had a BBQ with friends
  • Saw Ice Age 3 in 3D
  • Spent an afternoon at Lake Geneva
  • Sang and played at church on several Sundays
  • Had play time and lunch at a new park we learned about
  • Had a play date with Rachel's China friend, Jasmine
  • Took the girls on a "firefly walk" one evening at a local forest preserve
  • Ate more ice cream

And that's just through the first week of July! Our calendar is quite full already for the rest of the summer until the girls go back to school on August 26th. And while we won't be taking any big trips or vacations this summer, I think it's the little outings and activities that will make lots of great memories for the girls!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Old Family Photos

I was organizing a bookcase this morning and found a little photo album I had filled with copies of old family photos. I thought I'd share them with you...

This is my great grandfather, Michael Lambrese, with my grandmother, Lucia. I wish I had known Grandpa. He was a musician, as was my Grammie. He came to the U.S. from Italy when he was a young man.

This is my Grammie, Lucia, with my Grampie, Albert Skalski. They were newlyweds here, in the late 1930s. Love the car.

My Grampie served in the Army during WWII and Korea. His Army buddies called him "Skal". He was the mess sargeant, and I understand he could do wonders with basic Army food.

Grampie looked so handsome in uniform. I've been told he was a talented rifleman.

Here is my great grandmother, Nellie Lambrese, holding my mom when she was a baby. My mom and I called her Nana, which is part of the reason I wanted my girls to call my mom Nana. Nellie came to the U.S. from Italy when she was very little (3, I think), and worked in the textile mills when she was about 9 years old. She and Grandpa ran a successful little neighborhood grocery store during the Depression.

Here are my Grammie and my mom, Cynthia. Judging by my mom's age, I'd say this photo was taken in the late 1940s.

This photo was taken in my great aunt Esther and great uncle Johnny's basement at a family Christmas party. Grammie is seated on the far right, Grampie is standing behind her, and Mom is standing on the very end. Notice my mom's lovely "picture feet" - she knew how to place her feet properly at a young age.

My mom is a teenager here - probably the mid-1950s. Again, the attractively positioned feet. I think my mom bears a striking resemblance to the young Audrey Hepburn. My dad thought so, too. What do you think?
See? What did I tell you?

My mom and dad, Cynthia and Bruce, basking in the glow of the aluminum Christmas tree, circa 1960. I think they were engaged here.

My Nana, Nellie. She had such a pretty smile.

Mom and Dad, and a stuffed dog named Fafu that Dad had given Mom. Note the ball fringe on the lampshade!

Grammie, Mom (and Fafu), Nana, and Grampie.

I have lots more to scan and share for future posts, including Al as a little tyke! Stay tuned...