Monday, August 29, 2016

How was your weekend?

Hello Monday...we meet again! I hope you all had a lovely weekend...the last one of August! Can you believe it will be September on Thursday?!?! Bring on the cooler temps! I don't want cold yet, but non-90-degree days would be nice. Maybe a steady week of mid-70s highs??? Whaddya say, Mother Nature?

We had a very busy weekend, but not so busy that we felt rushed or overwhelmed, which is just perfect. I decided Saturday morning that I wasn't going to stress myself with housework on the weekends anymore unless it was absolutely necessary. I need some semblance of a weekend, too, so aside from doing dishes and feeding the family, I won't be doing any other housework on Saturday or Sunday. I'm hoping that this new practice will help my weekends feel more weekend-y.

On Friday morning, I captured this cuteness:

These two love each other so much. It's crazy how inherent their love is. Max didn't take lessons on how to love his baby sister; he just knows. Even though he doesn't really know how to control his body around her, he never intends to hurt her. He's always checking in with her throughout the day, armed with a kiss and a squeeze for his baby sis. I'm pretty sure his grubby fingers are the reason she has an eye infection right now, but he bestowed that upon her with the greatest amount of brotherly love. And Louisa...she thinks Max is the coolest. She beams whenever he's within eyesight. It's going to be so fun when they can really play together.

Late Friday morning, I took Max and Louisa to my old school to visit my former co-workers. We dropped off some cake pops and some items for their classrooms. I didn't take any photos because I was too busy socializing, but my friend Alexis took the cutest video of Max! I need to have her send it to me so I can share it. I've watched it a million times on Instagram...he's so stinkin' cute!

Friday night, we had a pizza party at Victor's parents house, and then Louisa slept overnight in her crib for the first time! I wasn't intending to have her sleep in there all night, just until Victor and I came up to bed (she usually will snooze in the Pack 'n Play downstairs until we go to bed). However, she did so well in her crib from 10 PM until 1 AM that I just put her back in her crib after nursing her, and she slept until after 6 AM! As I was nursing her at 1 AM, I was wondering whether we were moving her into her crib too early compared to Max, but on Saturday morning, my Timehop app let me know that EXACTLY 2 years earlier, Max spent his first night in his crib, too! What are the chances?!

On Saturday morning, Victor and his dad went to a nearby car show. The kids and I stayed home and I gave Max a hair cut. This attempt turned out much better than last time, but there's definitely room for improvement. Next time I'd like to use clippers on his sides and back instead of using scissors all over, but I need to watch some tutorials first before I try that!

Here's the "blur-sula" before (Friends fans, remember when Sean Penn's character called Phoebe "Blur-sula" when he didn't have his contacts in? Everytime something is blurry I say "Blur-sula" now!):

And after. I'm pretty sure he ate some hair with those Goldfish crackers...

That afternoon we had a baptism to attend for Victor's cousin's little baby, but it was at 2:30 PM, which is smack in the middle of naptime for Max. I let Victor's cousin know that we would miss the church service but would be at the party afterward, but after thinking about it over lunch, we decided to try out skipping his nap to see how he'd do. Max is a kid who needs a nap (if he doesn't get one at his normal time, he will without a doubt fall asleep at a very inconvenient time, like at the dinner table mid-bite), so we've always kind of prioritized nap over other things. But we decided to tempt fate on Saturday. We went to church, then headed to the party at Victor's aunt's house. Max was yawning a lot on the drive from church to the party, and I think that if the drive had been even just a minute or two longer, he would've konked out in the car. However, he stayed awake to play with his cousins and eat bread, watermelon, and cake (I can never get him to eat well at these family parties). Then he fell asleep in the car about 2 minutes into our drive home at 7:15 PM. We decided to try to put him right to bed then, but he woke up as I was trying to change him into PJs (that button-down shirt was tough to get off swiftly), so he stayed up to eat a PB&J and watch some Curious George before going to bed at 8:30.

I loved Louisa's outfit that day! It was a gift from her baby shower and I couldn't wait to get her in it!

On Sunday morning, we headed to breakfast to celebrate Victor's mom's birthday with the family. I took zero pictures (except one of Louisa in her dress once we got home), but Victor's mom got some of the whole group. Then everyone came back to our house to eat cake pops and play/hang out. Everyone left once Max went down for his nap at 2, and then I watched Beaches during naptime (did you all see the recent recreation of the opening scene that's been floating around on the internet lately? That's what spurred me to watch it). This movie has been a favorite of mine since elementary school. I remember I was at my best friend, Tessi's house when her aunt brought over a bunch of movies (VHS, of course). We rifled through the collection and decided that Beaches looked good, so we popped it in the VCR and our lives were forever changed. I still love it and can recite many lines from the movie. "That's the glory of, that's the story of looooooove!" If you've never seen it, or even if you have and want to enjoy it again, you can rent it on Amazon!

Lou's sweet vintage-y dress #hearteyes

Sunday evening brought some dinner-making, meal-planning, grocery-listing, and dinner-eating before putting the kiddos to bed and snuggling up with my book. I'm currently reading Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews. I've never read one of her books before, but so far I like it! The best part is that the chapters are short so it's easy to finish one quickly before dozing off at bedtime; my OCD-ness enjoys stopping between chapters as opposed to in the middle of one.

Hope you all had a great weekend! I'm hoping to post at least one more post before the end of the week; perhaps declaring it here will make me more accountable!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A week in the heartland

The kiddos and I enjoyed a 9-day visit in Ohio at the beginning of the month. The last time I was back for such a long visit was before Victor and I were dating, nearly 8 years ago! Victor didn't join us for this trip; he was in Portugal for his brother's wedding. We were so sad to miss the wedding, but with Louisa being so young, we weren't comfortable with taking her on such a long flight, so the kids and I stayed stateside. I decided to take the kids to Ohio while Victor (and pretty much everyone else we knew in this area) was in Portugal so I could have some help with the kids and spend some quality time with my family.

My sister flew out to Maryland the morning of Thursday, August 4, and we all hit the road shortly after she arrived at around 11 AM. I've done the drive to Ohio alone with Max before, but it was before he could walk/he wasn't a flight risk. An 8-hour drive with both kids by myself made me super nervous at this point, so I'm incredibly grateful for my sister to fly out here to help me make the drive. We made the trip in about nine and a half hours with a couple of stops, one of which was to clean up Louisa's projectile vomit. Poor girl's cold decided to kick into high gear and her phlegmy cough made her throw up some feedings. On a happier note, my sister and I had lots of fun eating Froot Loops and Twizzlers (our road trip snacks from when we'd drive to visit our dad), and we talked/had the radio off the entire time. Such fun!

After arriving at my mom's house at around 8:30 PM, we enjoyed some Donatos pizza (a fave of mine) and some TV in the basement before I got the three of us settled in our room. I had fed Louisa and put her down for bed, and I was working on getting Max to sleep when all of a sudden Louisa started coughing and then vomited up her entire feeding. It was so scary to see her just lying there and throwing up. After getting her changed into different PJs and changing the bedding in her Pack 'n Play, I enjoyed a sleepless night of jumping out of bed every time she coughed. So scary when your bitty baby is sick like that. I was even more thankful that we weren't on a plane to Europe after all that. It's one thing to inherit your big brother's germs, but it's another thing entirely to potentially catch a stranger's more serious germs.

Max loves sitting in Gaga's stadium seats

On Friday morning, I was alone with the kids at my mom's while my mom was at work and my sister was in Indianapolis getting the keys to her new apartment. It was a bit challenging and nerve-racking since I was out of my routine and I wasn't feeling settled yet, but we survived!

Wearing their Grandma gear in preparation for an afternoon with Gaga

My mom took a half day off of work to watch the kids while I enjoyed a Cousins' Day with my cousins. We went canoeing on the Little Miami River and had so much fun! We had 3 canoes (my cousin Lauren and I in one; my sister Holly, and Lauren's sister, Courtney, in another; our cousins, brother and sister Isaac and Addie in another; and Isaac and Addie's brother, Grant, in a kayak). The river was pretty stagnant that day, so we had to do a lot of paddling, especially at the end when we were running the risk of being charged extra for returning late. There were some rapid-y areas, though, and the Holly/Courtney canoe had a rough go of it at one point. They got stuck on a rock and Holly got out to dislodge them, but then Courtney drifted away in the canoe with the current and Holly had to navigate the slippery rocks and fast-flowing water to get back to her. It was pretty comical and thankfully no one got hurt. We had so much fun laughing and being silly and enjoying each other's company. Can't wait to do it again!

After canoeing, we went to Courtney and Lauren's house to swim, eat dinner, and spend time with my kiddos and the aunts and uncles. Max has become obsessed with Courtney and Lauren (he calls them "Co" and "Woo Woo"), so he loved playing with them. It's definitely surreal to see the kiddos that I used to babysit (seriously, I babysat all of them) playing and interacting with my own kids.

Lovin' on Co and Woo Woo

On Saturday morning, I went to an adult hip-hop class at Lucid Dance Company (where Lauren works) with Holly, Courtney, and my Aunt Rose while my mom watched the kids. Oh my goodness, did we have fun! I started taking dance lessons shortly before my sister was born in 1988, and I took hip-hop in high school, so this was right up my alley and made me realize how much I miss dancing. I'm definitely a little rusty, but even just doing it for exercise would give me the fix I need. Lauren was on the dance team for her high school, and the studio's owner is her old dance coach. This woman comes up with the most creative routines and concepts; it's very theatrical and so amazing! Her competitive dance team is performing at the Chicago Thanksgiving Day parade this year and we got to see the group practice for their performance after our class. I can't wait to see it all come together!

After dance class, I had lunch and ran errands with Mom and the kids while Holly and her friends moved her into her new apartment. She was able to get an apartment in the same complex in Indianapolis that she was in for her first travel nursing assignment there, but she's working at a different hospital. She and her friends got her pretty much all moved in and unpacked over the weekend. While she was getting settled, we ran more errands and enjoyed the pool at my mom's house for the rest of the weekend.

Cruisin' Kroger in style
Meanwhile, in Estoi, Portugal, my brother-in-law married his perfect match, Amanda, on Saturday, August 6. We hated to miss the wedding but loved seeing all the photos Victor sent us throughout the day and ones posted by cousins on social media.

From their photographer, Pete Redel. Can't wait to see what other amazing images he captured!

Max went on an "adventure" with my sister on Monday morning and Louisa and I met them for lunch. Then I made the spinach lasagna rolls I mentioned in yesterday's post for dinner, and my Aunt Rose, Aunt Sue, and cousin Courtney joined us. My Aunt Sue made this adorable dress for Louisa (with a matching hat!), as well as this beautiful quilt.

On Tuesday, we all went to downtown Cincinnati to explore, shop, and eat lunch at Lachey's (I was a big 98 degrees fan growing up...was hoping I'd spot a Lachey brother there. Sadly, no such luck). We walked around Over the Rhine and did some shopping, and each time we entered a store it would POUR DOWN RAIN! Thankfully we never needed to go out in it!

Love the murals around the city

These cracked me up. If you need some passive-aggressive dishes, head to Elm & Iron in OTR

Wednesday, August 10 would have been our cousin, Christopher's 27th birthday (he passed away in 2004 at age 14). We cousins all vowed to do something fun in his memory that day, so the ol' dance crew headed back to Lucid Dance Company for another hip-hop class. My mom joined us this time, and Louisa slept while we boogied (Max stayed home with my sister's boyfriend, Stan; Max calls him "Man Man" and thinks he's the coolest).

Stan teaching Max about driving

On Thursday, we met my sister and her friend for breakfast, then we headed down to northern KY to visit my grandparents' gravesite. It would have been my grandma's 88th birthday that day; she passed away in September 2013. Later that day, I got my hair cut and highlighted (first time ever having highlights), met a friend for an early dinner, and grabbed some DQ with Mom, Holly, and the kids in grandma's honor.

Max gave me the first flower he's ever independently picked for me at the cemetery

On Friday evening, I took the kids to visit with two of my college besties and their families. Laura and Amanda were randomly assigned as roommates our freshman year of college, and their room was our "hangout central" that year and the following year. We lived together in a house off campus with 3 of our other college besties our junior and senior years. We've celebrated each other's weddings together (they were both bridesmaids in mine), and we finally got our families together so our FIVE kids could play together! Laura' boys are almost 4 and 2.5 years old, Max is 2.25 years old, and Amanda's little girl is 1.5 years old. It was so heartwarming to see them playing together, and it was great to catch up with my gals and their hubbies (also good friends from college) over the din of toddlers shouting and playing. Below is the only photo I took that night.

On Saturday morning, my mom, the kids and I loaded in the car and headed back to Maryland. We made record time driving with two kids; it took us only 7 hours and 45 minutes! We grabbed lunch before we even got on the road, and we only needed to stop once. Traffic was also a dream. My mom flew back to Ohio Sunday morning. Again, so grateful to my mom for making the trip back to MD with me so I could have an extra pair of hands with the kids. She unloaded the car by herself while I nursed a very hungry Louisa when we got home!

We had such a wonderful time in Ohio! I hope to spend a week there every summer so the kids can spend more time with my side of the family and get to know where I come from. It's also so fun for me to visit and explore the area as an adult since I moved away right after college. Thanks to everyone who made our visit so special! We miss you all already!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Recent recipes I've tried and loved

I am most definitely not creative when it comes to cooking. I very much prefer to have a recipe to work from, especially when I'm trying something new. When I get comfortable with a particular dish, I don't rely much on the measurements and kind of make it my own, but until I've made something several times, the perfectionist in me continually refers to the recipe for guidance.

Thankfully, there are lots of resources out there to help me with my meal planning, from cookbooks to websites and blogs. One of my favorites is the Skinnytaste website. Her recipes are all healthy and flavorful. She also has two cookbooks (which I don't have...yet. Asking for cookbooks for my birthday/Christmas), one of which is coming out in October, and it's full of new recipes that aren't on her website. I can't wait to add them to my cookbook collection!

This week, I tried her baked zucchini sticks and her Southwestern black bean salad. Both were excellent and come highly recommended by moi. Victor and I are trying to go more vegetarian for a majority of the week, so we're incorporating a lot more veggies and legumes into our meals. These two recipes fit the bill perfectly.


I followed the recipe exactly for the zucchini sticks and loved how they turned out. I tried to pass them off as French fries to Max but he called my bluff. Better luck next time! I'm a huge fan of her zucchini tots and have been making them for years, and these have a very similar flavor but are much less work. However, if I'm being completely honest, I still prefer the tots!

I decided to make the Southwestern Black Bean Salad as a main dish for dinner last night even though Gina recommends it as a starter or a side. I made a couple of changes to the recipe, though. I omitted the cilantro (not a fan) and substituted yellow onion for red onion (also not fond of red onion). I also added some chopped green pepper. This thing was delicious!!! We had a French baguette that I heated in the oven for this dinner, and I topped a few pieces topped with some mashed avocado and a spoonful of this salad and it was heavenly. Definitely make this before summer is over!

I've also been chomping at the bit to make some roasted chickpeas for a while, and I finally made these Roasted Honey-Cinnamon Chickpeas on Monday night. I was surprised by how much I loved them. It's like you're guiltless-ly indulging a fiber-and-protein-packed dessert. I would go so far as to say that I would be happy noshing on these while watching a movie in our theater room instead of popcorn. They're THAT good. It's best to eat these when they're still warm from the oven, though. I had some left over and saved them in a glass tupperware overnight. They definitely lost their crunch but were still pretty tasty.

And lastly, an oldie but a goodie, Spinach Lasagna Rolls are on the menu for Sunday night this week. I've made them a bajillion times. They're so good.

Some recipes that I haven't tried yet but can't wait to whip up are: 
Cream of Zucchini Soup from Skinnytaste
Herbed Sun-Dried Tomato Chickpea Burgers from Minimalist Baker (also want her cookbook)

Also, I'm not being paid to say or share any of this. I just love sharing what I love with you all! Let me know if you try any of these recipes! Which sounds best to you?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Oh hey, Friday! | What a week!

Happy Friday, loves! It has been quite a week here with "re-entry," crazy storms, sick kids, and no cable (I miss the Olympics). Let's get right into it, shall we?

1 |  Monday night we got a HUGE severe thunderstorm that lasted about 45 minutes. That's a long time, guys. Victor had stopped by his parents' house on the way home from work and was stuck there for the duration while the kids and I waited it out at home. It. was. I N T E N S E. I'm talkin' nonstop thunder, lightning, hail, sheets of rain, wind. Our cable went out during the storm (however our internet still works) but the power stayed on. When Victor got home, he surveyed the damage in our yard. Lots of small branches down and leaves everywhere. Then he saw the huge tree in our front yard, which had been struck by lightning! Have a look-see at these photos.

Chunks of the tree were lying all over our yard. Like long, flat shards of tree. It was crazy.

The lightning hit it in such a way that it made it likely for the huge limb (which has worried me since we moved in) to fall on our house, so Victor called a tree expert he knows Monday night, and the guy got his crew here bright and early Tuesday morning to cut off the offending limb. I can rest easy now.

Most of the tree is still standing, and if anything breaks off, it shouldn't hit our house.

2  | The kids and I both had colds when we went to Ohio two weeks ago, but we were all feeling better/had minimal symptoms when we returned home last weekend.  Then on Monday Max re-developed his wicked cough/runny nose/sneezing out of nowhere, and Louisa started in on the fun on Wednesday. Thursday was tough. We had lost power Wednesday evening during ANOTHER severe t-storm (where are all the "normal" t-storms? I feel like all we get are doozies these days), and Louisa was snotty and congested, which caused her to throw up her pre-bedtime feeding all over her Pack n' Play. Changing sheets in the dark was fun, and so was a sleepless night of worrying that she'd vomit again. Thursday morning, she threw up on me twice, and Max was whiny/clingy because he didn't feel well, either. Thankfully our power was restored overnight, so I got to work on washing all the clothes and sheets and burp cloths during the day on Thursday while I constantly kept one eye on Louisa and dropped everything each time she coughed. She seems to be feeling a bit better this morning, thank goodness.

3  | I started having Louisa take her early-afternoon nap in her crib this week, and it's going fairly well. She lasts about an hour before she starts to stir, which isn't too shabby! This morning I put her in there for her morning nap, and as I suspected, the nap didn't last as long as the ones she takes in her swing (she can snooze for 2-3 hours in there!), but she still slept for an hour before needing her binky again. I'm hoping with more practice she'll be able to take longer naps in there before too long.

Two kids napping at the same time...every SAHM's dream!

4  | I'd like it to be fall already, please and thank you. I am so over this heat and humidity. It's not even fun to be outside. Also, Victor's relatives from Portugal sent some gifts for the kids from Zara, and they need to be wearing these PRONTO! Just look how cute!

5  | We signed Max up for soccer this week. It's more of a "soccer class" as opposed to a "soccer team," but we think it'll be great for him to interact with other kids and learn to follow directions from someone other than his parents/family. Also, all the running around should make Saturday naps a sure-thing. As of September 10, I will officially be a "soccer mom." He's growing up so fast!

Hope you had a great week and an even better weekend! I'll work on our recap of our trip to Ohio over the weekend so I can tell you all about it next week!

Linking up with
Karli at September Farm

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Love your spouse challenge

I've been nominated twice for the Love Your Spouse challenge on Facebook, and I have yet to post anything. That's because I have a terrible memory, not because I don't love my hubby. You're supposed to post a photo of you and your spouse each day for a week; I can barely remember to take my vitamins in the morning so remembering to post an old photo for 7 consecutive days will likely be pretty impossible for me! So, I decided to do one big "Love Your Spouse" post for the blog instead, a one-stop "Victor and Rachel's Love Story" shop. Enjoy. :o)

^^This photo was taken in December 2008, about two months after we started dating. In fact, this might be our first official photo together. We crashed a friend's work Christmas party; this friend was Victor's friend Dottie, and I'm happy to say she is a very close friend of mine now, as well. I'm also happy to say we crashed a few more of her work Christmas parties over the following years.

^^This was taken on our first vacation together. We visited Cancun, Mexico in April 2009. This is still one of my favorite photos of us.

^^This was taken in Portugal in August 2010, at the Vilamoura Marina. This was my second visit to Portugal (the first being over Christmas 2009), and it was when I really fell in love with the Algarve. If you've never been to southern Portugal, I highly recommend you check it out! Also, I'm pretty sure I haven't been that tan since this photo was taken.

^^We stopped in Key West on our Christmas cruise in 2010. Little did we know that we would get engaged just off the coast (literally right behind us) a year and a half later!

^^This photo was from our engagement shoot in October 2012. Our friend Dottie (mentioned with the first photo) took our engagement photos for us. She's taken lots of photos of us and our family since.

^^From our wedding in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on June 22, 2013. We've done many walks on many beaches together, but this one was my favorite. I loved every second of our wedding.

^^From our reception. I'm 99% sure that we were dancing to a Portuguese song here. We always have so much fun dancing together, and I know that I want all my future dances to be with this guy.

This October, Victor and I will celebrate 8 years of being together. We've gone through so many seasons of life together during those 8 years. For the first 3 years of our relationship, we lived an hour away from each other and spent nearly every weekend together. We moved in together in the summer of 2011, got engaged in April 2012, were married in June 2013, welcomed our first baby, Max, in May 2014 and our second baby, Louisa, in May 2016. We've lived in 3 homes together; we have traveled all over the world (Mexico, Ohio, Michigan, Portugal, Ireland, North Carolina, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, England, France, Arizona...I feel like I'm forgetting some places); we've endured at least 3 major snowstorms, 2 hurricanes, and countless summer thunderstorms (the most eventful of which was last night when lightning hit our tree out front). It's amazing to look back on the past 8 years and reminisce about all we've experienced together. I can't wait to see what the next 50 years bring our way!