Long Weekend Ahead

>> Friday, May 22, 2015

Stephen and I kicked off the long weekend with a date night at our favorite restaurant downtown. My in-laws are visiting, so we take advantage of any and all babysitting. I had this awesome quinoa burger with gouda and sweet potato fries and a vegan peanut butter pie for dessert. I’ve been into wine lately, so I had a glass of Cupcake. Stephen enjoyed his tuna and a local IPA with some of their famous mac and cheese on the side.

I got a $15 haircut yesterday, too:


This morning we did a track workout. My first in eons. We jogged 1 mile together to the track. He did 4 x 1,000 at 5K pace. I did 3 x 1 mile as fast as I could comfortably manage. I didn’t time myself, but Stephen ran the last half mile with me at 7:27/mile pace. Not too shabby. Pretty sure the rest were around 7:50 or less. Then we cooled down with another 2 miles, so 6 total for me. I’m feeling more and more like myself physically, which is great.

Speaking of physical stuff, enough time has passed that my body is returning to normal in more ways than just running. In fact, this morning I was able to go in and get my CD3 blood work for my fertility testing. Though we still have another cycle to wait until we can try again, it feels good to be making some motion in the direction we want to head. One day at a time. I’m really hoping the blood work reveals something.

In the meantime, this girl. She’s SO big. She’s currently running around the house with a magnifying glass looking at all the ants. (Most of them are gone -- score!)


Oh, this weekend always gets me looking forward to summer.


I have a lot of projects and pieces I’m working on right now, but we’re definitely daydreaming about some down time in the next several months. We just booked a vacation house in Cape May for July (I’ve been pinning like crazy). We planned it so that trip will hit the week before we spend time with Stephen’s whole family down at the Jersey shore in Wildwood Crest. Two weeks at the ocean sounds absolutely wild right now. I’m pinching myself -- we rarely travel, so this is much-needed.

Otherwise, we’re still working away at our upstairs bathroom project. We replaced the flooring with some vinyl plank wood. We’re painting the dark green a soft white. I have spray painted all the fixtures oil-rubbed bronze, and I have some plans for other finishing touches. We’ve decided after we finish this project to cool it on the house work for a while and just enjoy all the work we’ve already done. I can’t wait to share an updated house tour.

Random question: Do any of you guys shop through Ebates?

I just signed up today, and I can’t figure out how it works. I guess you just shop through the site and earn a small percentage of purchase price back. I’m kicking myself because today you can get, for example, 8 percent back on purchases at Overstock.com. I have spent SO much money there in the last couple months getting a few rugs, a new bed, etc. Sigh!

Stephen’s off with his dad in Cooperstown today to see the Pixies at Ommegang Brewery. His mom and I are hanging out with Ada in this nice spring weather. I think we’ll hit up a new playground, do a little shopping, and then grab some dinner tonight. Low-key Friday -- just how I like ‘em. Otherwise, we are going to my good friend’s baby shower tomorrow, a cookout on Sunday, and planning a nice day in on Monday (definitely grilling!).

Happy Memorial Day weekend, friends.

What are you up to?

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Summer Learning Toys

>> Thursday, May 21, 2015

School is almost out for summer! We have a little less than a month of classes left. I can’t believe how much Ada has learned in the 3s, as she heads off to Pre-K next year, I definitely don’t want to totally drop the ball on her learning. At the same time, it can be FUN. So, here are a few of our favorite toys -- we own + have tested them all -- that encourage learning without it feeling like a chore.



Foam Letters


I once read an article about how to encourage letter-learning with tots and preschoolers, and I discovered this cool Foam Letter trick. Take two or three letters and plop them in the bath

Fridge Phonics


We got our Fridge Phonics when Ada was younger. She has suddenly shown an interest in it again as we chat more about letters and sounds as we prepare for beginning reading. I also came across this amazing video of a 2-year-old sounding out words (reading) using the letters on the fridge. Very cool.

Magna-Blocks


Ada was given a 30-piece set of Magformers for a gift a couple years ago. We finally dug them out of storage again, and she’s hooked. I searched around and found that a lot of people really like Magna-Tiles. I bought a set from Target and wasn’t terribly impressed (though my friends tell me I may have just received a bad set). Anyway, I went out and bought a larger set of Magformers to add to the collection. Hours (and HOURS!) of entertainment, shape learning, and reasoning going on.

Wooden Beads


We used to use these Wooden Beads to develop Ada’s fine motor skills. You can also use them to identify colors and do simple counting, addition, and subtraction. It’s a very hands-on approach that works particularly well with younger learners.

Bug Kit


Ada and I recently went on a nature walk, and she’s obsessed with catching bugs and watching them crawl around. We got her a simple Bug Net and a little Bug House. (It might even be fun to combine this activity with this Fine Motor Tools set.) The rules are just that she needs to be gentle, tell us before she picks something up, and then we always release. Apparently we have 5,000 slugs in our backyard.

Responsibility Chart


Learning encompasses more than just ABCs and 123s. This Responsibility Chart hangs in Ada’s room at the entry. There are all sorts of different magnetic tasks from getting ready for bed to setting the dinner table. Ada puffs up with pride when she gets her stars for a job well done.

Map Puzzle


Geography was one of my favorite subjects in school. I’m still sort of a map nerd. I could look at them for hours. So, we picked up a simple Melissa + Doug USA Puzzle to start a bit of that with Ada. It’s fun to point out where our friends and family live across the country. There’s also this cool jumbo World Floor Puzzle that looks like fun.

Workbooks


I remember browsing the aisles at Barnes + Noble when Ada was a baby, and these workbooks by Shinobu Akaishi and Eno Sarris caught my eye. We have all the age-appropriate ones for Ada, including the Tracing, Cutting, Mazes, and more. They’ve been particularly helpful when preschool has been closed or canceled. And as we head into summer, it’ll be fun to have some structured learning.

Magnetic Boards


We’ll be traveling a good amount this summer, and now that Ada’s well beyond the everything-goes-in-my-mouth phase, we’re loving magnetic boards for play. I picked up this exact Farm Board at a country store in my hometown last week. They also make a Zoo Board, Beach Board, and a few others. I’d love to get another one before we head to the shore this summer. It’ll give the iPad a break, I think.

PS: The links above are affiliates. They’re also the best prices I can find on all toys = Amazon. (True of most of what I buy online.) However, many stores price-match if you show them a lower price. It’s at least worth a try if you’d rather not order online.

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Basil Hummus

>> Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Now that we have some plants growing in our garden, I’m coming up with ways to incorporate them into our meals. Of course, it will be a while until we see our first tomatoes or cucumbers, but the herbs are already out and proud. Here’s a delicious (and fast) hummus recipe I whipped up for lunch yesterday.

The story with hummus is this: It’s super expensive at the store. Even with the Wegmans family pack or Aldi big tubs, the price is much cheaper when you make it at home. So, this recipe is for a double batch that should last a hungry family all week. The cost was around $2.00 total versus the $6.00 or more you might spend to purchase a similar amount. You could save even more money if you soak and cook chickpeas at home versus buying canned.

(Also: Sorry for the iPhone photo. When I made this, I didn’t have my camera around.)


GARDEN BASIL HUMMUS


What you’ll need . . .

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained + rinsed
  • 1-2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • dash cayenne (optional)
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • Water


Method . . .

  1. Toss everything in your food processor except the water.
  2. Pulse and slowly pour water into the processor to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Turn the speed to high and blend until smooth.
  4. Feel free to try this with cilantro, chives, or other herbs in your garden.

Note: I don’t provide exact measurements of some ingredients because you want to tinker with the flavors until you reach exactly what you like. I prefer more tahini and garlic powder, while others might like a less intense blend.

Enjoy!

RELATED RECIPES:


Stephen’s Garden Hummus
Spinach + Pea Hummus
Hu-mousse Dessert Hummus
Hummus Melts
Simple Hummus Wrap w/ Arugula

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