Friday, February 24, 2017

The Friday Five!!

I'm not exactly sure what it was about this week that made it feel so nuts. I actually wrapped up a bunch of freelance work and was planning to spend some real time on this space. But instead I think I just did the 8,349 loads of laundry I'd let pile up? Who knows. In between trying to match up the gazillion pairs of unmatched socks in our house, we also ....

Cooking -- this Slow Cooker Brisket is insanely easy and SO flavorful.

Wanting -- we went to the member preview of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirors at the Hirshhorn on Wednesday night and I WANT TO GO BACK NOW. It was so crowded that we didn't get to see all of the installations. And you only get a little bit of time even once you're in there. I think I'll go one more time by myself to figure out a game plan to take the kids.

Making -- our beloved family dog died a few years ago and I just haven't been able to bring myself around to the idea of getting another dog. I kept worrying that he'd think we were replacing him. Or forgetting about him. But the kids have been all over me about it and I think I'm finally there. Cam spent most of her after school time this week taking her dogs, Cupcake and Sprinkles, for a walk on the leashes she knit. Then feeding them and giving them water in the bowls she made for them. She's been working on sewing them pillows to sleep on now. She's going to be an excellent big dog sister!

Playing -- I'm sure Kane would take issue with my characterization of this as "playing," but he won third place in a local wrestling tournament last weekend and is headed to regionals this weekend! So there's been a lot of reviewing wrestling videos and what sounds like body slams going on in his room. I don't care whether he wins or loses--he has come so far with working through a very physically and mentally difficult sport!

Reading -- we just finished up the second Masterminds book and it was even better than the first. The kids are in a war over who gets to pick the next audiobook, so stay tuned there. I read Luckiest Girl Alive in a day and a half. It was both unbelievable and terrifyingly realistic. I am really not excited for our kids to go to high school. In a completely different direction, I am finding so many similarities between myself and the main character in Today Will Be Different. Yet also horrified at some of her thoughts and decisions. Both are excellent reads.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Northern Lights Landscape Art Project


It might have been almost 80 degrees in D.C. tomorrow, but we're still pretending it's winter a wee bit longer with our Northern Lights Landscape Art Project over on the OOLY blog. It's a great project that incorporates science and art together. Go check it out -- it's the most snow we've seen all season!

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Friday Five!!

This week has kind of sucked. So let's just get right to what sucked the least about it.



Reading -- We finished the first Masterminds book and all loved it so much that we started with the second book Masterminds: Criminal Destiny. I'm also almost done with Prep. I mentioned a few Friday Fives ago how much I was enjoying Eligible, so I thought I'd check out one of Sittenfeld's debut novel. The main character is so painfully anxious, self-conscious, and unable to get out of her own head. But I can't stop reading it.

Making -- You might have noticed that Cam is starting to become a prolific maker. She is constantly designing and sewing clothes, toys, games, gifts. Her projects can be involved and often stretch over several days, which means it ends up in kitchen for several days and drives me insane. So I started making her a maker area of her own in her room and she wasted no time putting it to use. We purchased fabric and supplies this week for several projects she picked out in her I Can Make Dolls' Clothes book. She has. not. stopped.

Playing -- The 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count kicks off today and runs through Monday, February 20th. I am not a fan of birds. But the kids convinced me to get a bird feeder this year and we are now all kind of obsessed with it. I'm more focused on outsmarting the squirrels, but the kids love identifying all manner of winged death creatures that show up to eat. SO, I said we could do the Bird Count this year.

Cooking -- I make brinner at least once a week. Usually it's a thrown together omelet of whatever we have in the fridge, but I made this Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole last night and it was delicious.

Wanting -- I started running again a few weeks ago. And between the time off, our never-ending cold, and the crazy weather we've had, I am SLOW. And it's fine. Because slow runners make fast runners look good. You're welcome. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

5 Tips to Tackle Winter Allergies

As soon as the weather starts to turn cold, our entire family breathes a collective sigh of relief that fall allergies are on the way out. Then, a few weeks into winter, we all start developing what I think is the first wave of winter colds. We usually experience sneezing, runny noses, and watery eyes. But these symptoms just don't go away.

Then I remember. We've been spending much more time indoors, and we all suffer from winter allergies, too. Yes, those are a thing! Not only do we have to deal with spring's pollen and fall's leaves, but we're all somewhat allergic to mold and dust mites. If you're allergic to pet dander, then spending more time indoors during the winter can make those allergy symptoms more difficult to manage, too.

Moreover, the furnace that keeps you all nice and toasty during the winter might also spread all of those allergens throughout your home. So that means spending lots of time inside during the winter can cause more than just cabin fever around your house. But I've got a few tricks up my sleeve for tackling winter allergies.

Use a Dehumidifier

 Image via Flickr by laszlo-photo

Dehumidifiers help keep the moisture levels in your home down, which decreases mold growth and prevents dust mites from thriving. On the flip side, if you're using a humidifier to help with dry air and winter colds, make sure to change the filters to prevent mold growth.

Try Homeopathic Remedies
Try some homeopathic remedies like a warm cup of tea with honey and lemon or a drop of peppermint oil in the shower. I loathe giving our kids over-the-counter medicines for persistent problems like allergies, so I always try to use a few homeopathic remedies to help them feel better.

Have Your Ductwork Cleaned
Did you remember to have your HVAC system serviced before the cold weather hit? Annual maintenance and regular duct cleaning both go a long way toward improving indoor air quality and decreasing the effects of allergies.

Wash Bedding Frequently
I try to wash our bedding in hot water at least once a week during the winter season. Don't forget your kids' stuffed animals either. If your kiddos are anything like mine, they sleep under a whole pile of them! Wash their stuffed animals in hot water or place them in a plastic bag and freeze overnight.

Install an Air Purifier
Whole-home air purifiers can help reduce the spread of mold spores, dust mites, and pet dander. An air purifier alone might not do the trick, but it can help when combined with other allergen-reducing tactics.

Given the drastic temperature shifts many of us have had this winter, I'm having a hard time just telling which end is up. But at the very least, it seems winter isn't done with us yet. So it's not too late to tackle those winter allergies!


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Wood Air Conditioning, Inc. Thanks for helping to support the sponsors who support us!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Staying Active Indoors



We've had such erratic weather this season that playing outside almost always happens spur of the moment. I'll think, oh it's 70 degrees out now? Get out there! Then the next day it's freezing and threatening snow. So I've loaded up on indoor back up plans, including several new fun games from The Land of Nod. Head over to Honest to Nod to see what our kids thought and get my tips for keeping everyone moving, even when you're stuck inside! 


Friday, February 10, 2017

The Friday Five!!

Despite the fact that we continue to be plagued by all manner of illnesses, I am determined to stay positive! In fact, I'm ignoring the fact that snow flurries are falling as I write this because it was 70 degrees earlier this week (70 DEGREES!!!). Also, I'm sort of choosing to ignore that we have many, many weeks until spring break. I'm just pretending it's happening imminently. In between all the usual business, here's what else we had going on this week .....



Cooking -- I doubled this Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops with Potatoes and Shallots and the fam still housed almost all of it. It was so easy, but really delicious.

Wanting -- I really need these studded sandals for spring break, right?! RIGHT!? Because I don't want my cover up from last week to be lonely.

Reading -- The kids are still on a spy/crime kick, so we started Masterminds this week. I love that the audiobook is narrated by multiple people, so it feels like you're listening to a play. Cam checked out one of the Babysitters Club books from the library and I'm loving reliving my youth!

Making -- the kids made valentine after valentine after valentine this week. You can see which printable Cam used in our roundup from earlier this week!

Playing -- we got the chance to check out some of the Land of Nod's super fun game this week and the Tic-Tac-Toe and Checkers set (which is on super sale!) was a huge hit. The kids had never played checkers and loved it! Plus the oversized soft set was just fun.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Slow Cooker Paleo Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili



As I mentioned in our last Friday Five, we just finished up our January Whole30 and I feel a gazillion times better than I did coming out of the holidays. So much so that I decided to extend it through February for a Whole60. I did one about a year and a half ago and loved it. And at this point, it's easier for me to keep plowing along.

This month's favorite recipe was definitely Slow Cooker Paleo Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili. We all loved the spice (just enough to help us keep our sinuses clear without turning off the kiddies) and I liked the mix of chicken and beef. Plus it just could not be easier to make -- you literally just throw it all in the slow cooker and let it go. I made it once with sweet potatoes and the second time with yellow potatoes and both were delicious. Try either!

All recipes below are Whole30 or easily adapted. I tried to note where I made changes, but if I didn't, assume I always sub olive oil for cooking oil and leave out any dairy, legumes, grain, alcohol, or sugar. I often make a super easy vegetable to go with our main dish and I often forget to write that down. But rest assured, we didn't just eat plates of protein for dinner.

Slow Cooker Paleo Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili
(slightly adapted from Julie Bauer's recipe on SkinnyTaste

Ingredients
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 jalapeños, seeds removed and diced
- 1 large sweet potato or 3 small gold potatoes, diced
- 1 lb 93% lean ground chicken
- 1 lb 95% lean ground beef
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1, 14 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
- chopped scallions, for garnish
- sliced avocado, for garnish

Directions 
Place all ingredients up to scallions and avocado in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 6 hours). When done, break up the ground meat with a spoon. Serve garnished with scallions and avocado on top. 

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30 Days of Dinner

Day 1 (M) -- Grilled Chilean Beef Skewers with Smokey Chimichurri; spaghetti squash 
Day 2 (T) -- Lemony Chicken Stir Fry; cauliflower rice 
Day 3 (W) -- Garlic Lover's Crockpot Beef Stew with Olives, Capers, and Tomatoes; mashed potatoes; green beans 
Day 4 (Th) -- Brinner: eggs, hash browns, sausage, and salad. 
Day 5 (F) -- Paleo Taco Skillet; spaghetti squash (kids had brown rice)
Day 6 (Sat) -- dinner out 
Day 7 (Sun) -- dinner out 

Day 8 (M) -- Greek Lamb Burgers (I used 1/2 lamb, 1/2 ground beef and left off all dairy and no bun); Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potatoes 
Day 9 (T) -- Slow Cooker Paleo Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili; salad 
Day 10 (W) -- Rosemary Balsamic Sheet Pan Chicken with Bacon and Apples
Day 11 (Th) -- Burgers, green beans, My Favorite Roasted Potatoes 
Day 12 (F) -- Cranberry Pot Roast; mashed potatoes; carrots 
Day 13 (Sat) -- dinner out 
Day 14 (Sun) -- Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad; Greek Roasted Potatoes 

Day 15 (M) -- Grilled Flank Steak with Cilantro Chimichurri
Day 16 (T) -- Chicken Skillet with Sweet Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, and Sautéed Apples
Day 17 (W) -- leftovers/brinner 
Day 18 (Th) -- Slow Cooker Paleo Turkey Meatballs; Zoodles (and noodles for kids)
Day 19 (F) -- Roast Chicken with Kimchi Smashed Potatoes; green beans 
Day 20 (Sat) -- Weeknight Porchetta; brussels sprouts
Day 21 (Sun) -- Paleo Beef Barbacoa (everyone LOVED this and I doubled it so that I got a ton of leftovers from it); cauliflower rice (brown rice for kiddos)

Day 22 (M) -- Lamb Sliders; Paleo Broccoli Salad with Bacon (I am kind of obsessed with this salad, but the second time I made it, I ate half of the bowl. So I might need to lay off that one for a while!) 
Day 23 (T) -- Brinner: eggs, Breakfast Potatoes, sausage, and fruit (kids also had pancakes) 
Day 24 (W) -- Charred Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Oranges (this was a BIG family fav! I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and it was still incredibly juicy)
Day 25 (Th) -- Paleo Taco Salad 
Day 26 (F) -- Slow Cooker Fajita Salsa Chicken; cauliflower rice (kids had brown rice)
Day 27 (Sat) -- dinner out 
Day 28 (Sun) -- Grilled Steak Salad with Beets and Scallions (I used cooked beets in this and it was yummy); green beans; kids also had past

Day 29 (M) -- Paleo Roasted Chicken with Figs and Olives; potatoes; salad 
Day 30 (T) -- Crock Pot Picadillo; we had ours over spaghetti squash; kids had brown rice and corn