Thursday, October 19, 2017

DIY Elsa Costume

I am so excited to share with you my first ever homemade Halloween costume!


I am not very crafty, and I almost always prefer to outsource rather than DIY, but once Swede decided to be Elsa from Frozen for Halloween (the other possible options being: a pink cow or a doctor) I couldn't bring myself to buy one of the cheap scratchy versions that popped up in my Google search. Apparently Halloween costumes (and baked goods) are things that I like to do myself.


I used this tutorial from A Pumpkin and a Pinecone as a guide. I'm really happy with how it turned out and so is Swede! For the skirt I alternated white and two shades of turquoise tulle knotted around elastic that I measured to Swede's waist. This is the tulle I used - It took exactly three rolls to the make the skirt. I bought a white long sleeve and a blue tank top from Primary and added iron-on glitter snowflakes. The final touch was a set with a tiara, wand, and gloves.


It would have been easier and cheaper to have bought a ready-made dress but it was a fun project, and I think we'll get more use out of the separate pieces. I imagine the tutu will make an appearance at Swede's dance class, and I'm already planning to do a big applique "4" on the white t-shirt for Swede's birthday.

Your turn! Do you prefer homemade or storebought costumes? What's your favorite costume from years past? I'm sticking with the black t-shirt and a cat ears headband for the foreseeable future, but I remember a fabulous butterfly costume my mom made when I was in elementary school, and specifically how the wings would flutter when I jumped on the trampoline a the school carnival.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

15 Favorite Vegetarian Meals

I've mentioned a few times that we've been eating mostly vegetarian at home for several months now, and I've started to accumulate a new repertoire of vegetarian meals, so I thought I'd share some of our favorites. We are firmly in the Flexitarian camp. We rarely eat meat at home now but Jonathan and I will both order it at restaurants, and I'm definitely not going to limit myself at Thanksgiving and Christmas! We decided to make the switch mostly for ethical and environmental reasons. I don't think we're that much healthier - We probably eat too much cheese for that! - But it has also lowered our exorbitant grocery bill somewhat which is a pleasant side effect.

On to the recipes! In the pasta department we have:


1) Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

2) Butternut Squash Alfredo Stuffed Shells from Gimme Some Oven

3) Spaghetti Quiche from Joy the Baker (via Delish) - This one sounds a little weird but it's really good. We had it last night with green beans on the side.

Jonathan and Swede both love Mexican food, and luckily there are plenty of vegetarian options.


4) Mexican Rice Casserole from Built Your Bite

5) I mentioned before that we love the Taco Salad from Love Real Food but we'll also use the quinoa & black bean taco "meat" in regular tacos or quesadillas.

6) Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas from Love Real Food

7) Mexican Roasted Veggie & Bean Bowls from Love Real Food

8) Cheesy White Bean Enchiladas with Sour Cream Green Chili Sauce from Lauren's Latest, with a can of white beans instead of the chicken.

Some make-ahead and super-quick options for busy nights are:


9) Broccoli & Cheddar Casserole from Budget Bytes

10) Breakfast Casserole from Gimme Some Oven - The only fake meat product I like at all is Morning Star veggie sausage which I use in this casserole.

11) A can of Amy's chili over cornbread or a baked potatoes

12) Box of Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice with roasted Brussels sprouts

A few other random favorites:

13) Roasted Veggie Queso Frittata from Seriously Delish

14) Risotto with Parmesan and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

15) Slow Cooker Buffalo Chili from How Sweet Eats with an extra can of beans instead of the chicken. This wasn't quite Buffalo-y enough for me and I'm still looking for a vegetarian recipe to satisfy my Buffalo craving - Maybe this one, or this one.

That's all! Do you have any favorite vegetarian meals you could share with me? I am always looking for new ideas!

Friday, October 13, 2017

5x5 Things About Me

I am certain that I wrote a 5x5 Things About Me post earlier this year with different categories - states I've lived in and favorite black-and-white movies are the only two I can remember - but it has mysteriously vanished from the blog. User error, I'm sure, but still very disappointing!

Anyway - Here we go again! But first a couple photos from our nature walk / leaf hunt yesterday. Abel's stuffed dog Oscar had to come along.



Movies I love starring actors I usually can't stand:
     1) Dan in Real Life (Steve Carell)
     2) The Truman Show (Jim Carey)
     3) Stranger Than Fiction (Will Ferrell)
     4) Elf (Will Farrell)
     5) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller)

Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading:

     1) The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale - To be published in December.
     2) The new illustrated version of The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.
     3) Loving my Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season by Alexandra Kuykendall.
     4) Books #10-13 in the Chief Inspector Armande Gamache series.
     5) The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker, sequel to The Half-Drowned King - To be published next summer.



Recent Purchases:
     1) Supplies to make a DIY Elsa costume for Swede - Wish me luck!
     2) My 2018 planner - Isn't it beautiful? I am switching to Plum Paper after five years using the Erin Condren Life Planner.
     3) New sneakers for the kids, although Abel still insists on wearing pink and turquoise hand-me-downs from Swede.
     4) A new pair of Toms for me.
     5) A canvas print of our new family motto.


Favorite Literary Characters:
     1) Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
     2) Swede Land from Peace Like a River by Leif Enger - This is my daugther's (nick)namesake! She is a fabulous, fun, and feisty eight-year old girl.
     3) Dagny Taggert from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
     4) Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series from J.K. Rowling
     5) Armande Gamche from the Chief Inspector Armande Gamache series by Louise Penny.


Things That Made Me Happy Lately:
     1) Coffee dates with my mom during Swede's dance class.
     2) Meeting my friend Ashley's new baby.
     3) Getting back home after a trip to Denver for work.
     4) Wearing all the scarves.
     5) Abel learning to talk.

That's all! What is something that has made YOU happy lately?


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Reading Roundup - September 2017

Book Day! As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Here's what I read in September:


1) The Address by Fiona Davis. 3/5 stars. This story goes back and forth in time between 1885 and 1985 and centers around the famous Dakota apartment building. I liked the older story better for the most part but it became a little far-fetched and ultimately I found the ending pretty unsatisfying.


2) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling. 4.5/5 stars. I am really enjoying re-reading this series in the new illustrated editions. This book is not my favorite in the series - I don't love Lockhart and seriously, poor Ginny! - But it was still very enjoyable.


3) The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. 4/5 stars. This is #8 in the Chief Inspector Armande Gamache mystery series which I love more and more with every book that I read. This one has a really interesting setting in a remote monastery but involved some difficult character developments.


5) The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley. 4/5 stars. I loved this book by the end and the characters really wormed their way into my heart, but the pace is very slow. It's set in Peru in 1860 and there is a magical (Incan, as opposed to Harry Potter style) element that was interesting and well-done.

This month I gave up on three books within the first 50 pages: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin, and Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase. I have officially (and belatedly, although I know I'm not the only one with this problem) given myself permission to DNF any book at any time. I know that I might have ended up loving these books by the end too as with The Bedlam Stacks (although I never considered abandoning that one despite the slow pace) but whenever I notice that I'm not excited to pick up my book at the end of the day I know it's time to move on.

That's all! What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Gratitude & Goals - October 2017

For a while last year I was doing a monthly Gratitude & Goals post... I don't remember why I stopped but I think it's time to start it up again! Lately I've been trying to notice and appreciate more of the everyday blessings in life.

Also - I am linking with Kristen and Gretchen for What's New With you!

Currently I am grateful...

     - For the beautiful fall colors!


     - For the opportunity to see friends in Denver on my work trip next week.

     - For extra snugs from GB as the weather gets colder.

     - That I found a weekly yoga class that I love. It's at a newer studio in town called The Sweaty Buddha, which in my opinion is an awful name, but at least it means the classes are HOT!

     - As always, for my darling kiddos, and for the health and safety of our family.



Goals for October:

     - Fall Fun:
            1) Go to the Sutherland Farms Pumpkin Festival
            2) Ride the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch Express
            3) Carve a Jack-o-Lantern
            4) Do the Trunk or Treat at church
            5) Go to the Harvest Party at preschool
            6) Bake all the pumpkin spice treats. 

We kicked it off last weekend with new Halloween pajamas and books for the kids.


     - I must start the habit of GETTING UP BEFORE THE KIDS to work out & shower OR for quiet time with coffee.

     - Keep playing the piano 3-4x / week.

     - <30 min of phone time each day - No cheating!

     - Exercise: My weekly goal is 3x running, 2x strength, and 1x yoga.

     - Focus on mindfulness and single-tasking.

That's all! What are some of the little things you're grateful for lately? What are some of your goals for October?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Lets Talk About Mugs

Yes - It's true! I am dedicating an entire post to mugs. I bet you didn't think anyone could possibly have that much to say about mugs. But don't we all have a fun and eclectic collection of mugs that we've gathered or been given over the years? So I thought I'd share some of mine.

Part I: Coffee mugs. [Yes - There are even multiple parts!] I have a vanilla latte at home most mornings and I think 12-oz mugs provide the perfect coffee to milk ratio.


1) This is a new one I picked up on a whim from the Starbucks inside my grocery store. I love the festive autumn leaves and the square handle.


2) This is my favorite mug. I bought it, also from Starbucks, in 2012, which was also the year that Jonathan gave me the espresso machine for my birthday.


3) My friend Chesleigh gave me this set of Paris mugs for my birthday some years ago. Swede likes these mugs because Anastasia is one of her favorite movies and she recognizes the Eiffel Tower from when they go to Paris.

Part II: Tea Mugs. I like to use a bigger mug for tea - At least 16-oz but I did have a nice 20-oz one that I loved until it's untimely demise.


4) I bought these two angel mugs with my employee discount when I worked at a local coffee shop in college. They are cute enough but they don't really feel like "me" anymore. I have a hard time getting rid of perfectly good mugs though. I use the Sun Angel in the summer and the Snow Angel in the winter.


5) This mug came at the height of my owl obsession. My parents bought it for me when they visited me in Denver during my first summer there and we did the Celestial Seasoning factory tour, which is really neat - I highly recommend it if you happen to be in the Denver/Boulder area. There's a different owl on each side.

Part III: Family mugs. Jonathan has his own collection of mugs and we each always only use our own. The kids aren't quite old enough for me to feel comfortable giving them breakable dishes but Swede does drink milk from her mug occasionally.


6) Jonathan and I picked up this mug for him at Disneyland in April 2013 on a celebratory (due to the end of tax season and also finding out I was pregnant with Swede) trip to California.


7) Swede and I made this one for Jonathan at a paint-your-own-pottery place for Christmas 2015. She was two years old and Abel was just born - Seems so long ago!


8) I picked out this mug for the kids many years before they were born with "someday" in mind. Whenever Swede uses it I remember myself from 10 years ago and think: "Don't worry, Younger Kelly - You did finally get to have kids, and they are fabulous."

That's all! What are some of your favorite mugs (and the stories that go with them)?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Add It To My List [Q3 2017]

Today I'm linking up with Lauren and Bre for Add It To My List. These are all the things that I've enjoyed in the past few months that I think you should check out.


First - Food! We've been eating mostly vegetarian at home the past few months and have enjoyed many recipes from Love Real Food. I have also embraced the make-ahead casserole, such as this Mexican Rice Casserole and this Broccoli & Cheddar Casserole, to mitigate after-work craziness. In terms of dessert, these Baked Buttermilk Doughnuts are the best that I've tried, and this weekend we made one last Creamy Coconut Pie before the onslaught of pumpkin spice.


Second - Books! I loved Celine by Peter Heller and The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker. I have also been enjoying my re-read of the first couple Harry Potter books in the new illustrated editions.



Next - Kids! Swede has been loving these Usborne Wipe-Clean Activity Books. Also - Cheap entertainment idea = Playing on the coin-operated toys at the mall (without any coins put in) while I pick out new fall candles from Bed Bath & Beyond - My favorite is the "Leaves" scent.


Finally - Clothes! I've been doing my usual fall shopping extravaganza after which I declare a ban until spring. Current new favorites (all from Boden, all on sale) are the Trafalgar Straight Jeans and the Serena Woven Mix Sweater for me, the Woodland Friends Dress for Swede, and Fun Applique Playset for Abel.

That's all! What have you been loving lately?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Five Memories of Summer 2017

I'm not saying I don't like autumn - You won't hear any complaints from me about pumpkin spice, fall foliage, sweaters and boots, or all the fun Halloween traditions - But summer is my favorite season, so I think it's time for a quick recap of my favorite memories and moments from the last three months. 

1) The official start to summer in my mind is Memorial Day Weekend. My BFF Laura came to visit this year and we had so much fun!


2) We took our first family vacation to Denver this year in June to visit friends. We went to the botanic garden and the zoo.


3) The week of my birthday included hiking (with my brother who was visiting from Las Vegas), a family dinner, a pedicure, and a picnic.


4) This summer I ran the Narrow Gauge 10-Mile, the Steamworks Half Marathon, and the Thirsty 13 Half Marathon. I might have enjoyed training for the Thirsty 13 better than the race itself unfortunately, but I'm planning a come-back for next year.


5) One of my goals for the summer was to have more everyday fun and I think we accomplished that. We went to the pool many times and to the playground even more times. We went to the river and to the fair. We took a day trip to Molas Lake. Swede and I went biking on the river trail several times. We ate many Popsicles and went out for ice cream and twice we made hand-crank ice cream with my parents. We read, baked, puzzled, went on nature walks, watched movies and had dance parties.



It's not all sunshine and roses, obviously - We have been struggling lately with tantrums and sibling rivalry - But I prefer to focus on the good times. Sometimes I catch myself feeling stuck in the monotony of everyday life and it's nice to remember that we did have fun, that we DO have fun.

That's all! What are you favorite memories from the summer? What are you looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reading Roundup - August 2017

Book Day! As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books. Here's what I read in August:


1) Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. 2.5/5 stars. This book takes place in Amsterdam during the "tulip fever" of the 1630s. It's about a wealthy man who commissions a self-portrait only to have his young wife fall in love with the artist. I didn't really get into this one. The point-of-view alternates back and forth through many characters - the husband, the wife, her maid, the maid's boyfriend, the artist, his servant, a tulip-grower - which is not my favorite approach.


2) Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. 2.5/5 stars. This book is centered around several suspicious drownings in a small town in northern England. I was intrigued enough to keep reading to the end but I doubt I'll read Paula Hawkins' next book. As with Tulip Fever the point-of-view switched around between many characters which makes it hard for me to feel like I've gotten to know any of them.


3) The Necklace by Claire McMillan. 3/5 stars. Nell Quincy, an outsider in her otherwise WASP-y family, is summoned to the family estate upon the death of her great-aunt to receive her inheritance: an incredibly valuable, beautiful, and mysterious necklace given to her grandmother in the 1920's. The book goes back and forth in time between the present and the 1920's. I liked it well enough although the characters could have been developed more fully.


4) A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. 4/5 stars. Another solid book in the Chief Inspector Armande Gamache mystery series. I love watching the character development in this series. My only complaint here is I think reading books about made-up art is difficult - I'd really like to be able to SEE the paintings being described.


5) The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard. 3/5 stars. This is the story of a young woman with Asperger's learning to navigate the world on her own after her mother has a stroke. It is sad and awkward at times but heartwarming overall. It was also pretty eye-opening to me about what life must be like for people with Asperger's and related conditions.


6) The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker. 5/5 stars. I loved this book! It was so refreshingly different than anything else I've read lately. Ninth century Norse mythology might not be your cup of tea but I've always been fascinated by the ancient sagas. This book vividly brings to life the tale of King Harald Fairfair, the first king of all Norway.

That's all! What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labor Day Weekend 2017

Greetings! We had a really nice long weekend to finish up the summer on a high note. 

Some things that happened, on Saturday:

Baked Blueberry Crumb Doughnuts!


A five mile run at the gym.

Puzzling with Swede.


Exploring the back yard with Abel.


A family outing to Cold Stone! Swede chose watermelon sorbet (with sprinkles, obviously) and shared it so nicely with Abel. #ProudMomMoment



Date night at Animas Brewing Company and then a walk on the river trail. This photo makes me realize how much taller Jonathan is than me! I always cut off his head when we take photos together. 


On Sunday: 

An impromptu brunch with my parents after church.

In the afternoon we went to play at the river, which is what we did Labor Day weekend in 2015 and 2016 - Go and look how little the kids were!!!


On Monday:

Drinking juice like a big kid!


Another five mile run at the gym and then we played at the pool. Pretty much all I did was go down the big water slide with Abel over and over and over - Very fun!

Watching Anastasia with "Princess Pony."


Dinner with with Jonathan's parents - I contributed this pasta salad (sans chicken).


I hope you had a great weekend as well! What are you looking forward to this fall?