May 13, 2019

travel :: santa monica

A week ago, Lane and I went on a little kid-free vacation to Santa Monica, CA. We love short getaways to explore an area we have never been before, and three nights was the perfect amount of time to do just that with out missing the babies too much!

I arrived on Thursday and Lane taxied up from Long Beach where he had been at a conference. We checked into our airbnb, ate some tacos, and explored the area.

The area we stayed in was known as "the canyon" in Santa Monica, with tiered neighborhoods rising steeply on the North and South side. We immediately fell in love with the area to the South, specifically the neighborhoods of beautiful old houses and one street in particular, Montana Ave, that was so quaint and had the best restaurants and coffee that we experienced.

The next day, at the recommendation of some locals, we rented bikes and rode along the beach south to Venice beach. We explored the beautiful canals and then walked over to Abbot-Kinney Blvd, which we were told was rated "the most fun street in the US". We truly don't understand that status. However, we had a yummy lunch at Neighbor, and then returned back to the canyon and spent the rest of the day on Montana once again.

On Saturday we biked to the farmer's market in downtown Santa Monica, which was not much to speak of, and then explored around downtown. Again, it could not compare with the charming area of the canyon/Montana Ave.

Saturday afternoon we grabbed an Uber ride up to the hills of Pacific Palisades and hiked the Los Leones trail, which was a nice easy (and very popular) walk with beautiful views.
That night we ate at Art's Table (on our beloved Montana Ave.). I am still dreaming about the vegan bowl of rice and roasted veggies I had along with a glass of JuneShine hard kombucha- SO good! After dinner, we went next door to check out the impressive tap selection at Father's Office. Lane had a couple tasty beers, and we turned in early (yet again. nerds.).

Before we flew out on Sunday we had coffee for a second time at the best coffee shop we had found in the area- Primo Passo, then strolled the neighborhoods one last time.

I would have loved to go up to Malibu for a day, but aside from that, I think our quick getaway was the perfect amount of time to spend in the little area that we fell in love with in Santa Monica. As always, though, it was just so sweet to come home!

April 04, 2019

the toothless wonder

Oh, hey there!

Right about now I should be sweeping/scrubbing/wiping/folding/sorting/prepping/ etc, but here I am blogging (equally as important, right?) because the baby (almost two but still a baby and pretty please don't try to tell me otherwise) is napping, the other three are all playing Minecraft (which, side note, plays bizarrely serene music), I am sipping some iced coffee despite the gray outside, and THIS girl lost her two front teeth*:

She is seriously rockin' the Toothless Wonder look, which is what we are all calling her after Junie B. Jones, one of our favorite book characters.

In other news, our week so far has looked like this: co-op and baseball Monday, gymnastics and karate Tuesday, OMSI yesterday, karate and baseball today (Thursday)- all while slipping school work, neighbor play dates, and chores in when we can!* Needless to say, you can see why I am drinking a big ol' mason jar of coffee right now.

Well, that's all for now since mopping is long overdue and I keep stepping on honey drips from Nat grabbing a pb and h off the counter and munching on it while walking all around the house this morning.
Have a great Thursday friends!

*my apologies if you have an aversion to run-on sentences!

March 06, 2019

so, how's home school going? + granola revamp

Big, fat disclaimer before I begin: I realize that home schooling is not for everyone. It is not for every kid, every parent, or every family. I am also aware that some parents may wish to home school, and are not able. I realize that this is a special blessing for our family, and I am so grateful. I also believe there are seasons for everything, and this may not last for every child in our family through their entire education. We are taking it year by year and kid by kid.

Since September, friends have been asking me how home school is going. Which is a very reasonable question. I just never really know how to answer.

There is all the logistical information- curriculum, schedule (spoiler alert: we don't have one), co-ops, etc.
And then there is the academic: how are the kids doing with their studies? Which I think the answer would be: just great!

But what I believe people are actually asking is: are you surviving? Are you going crazy? Do you wish you had not made the decision to home school, or are you seriously happy about it?

And the honest answer is this: I truly love it. I love being home with my kids, I love teaching them, I love having a flexible schedule, I love watching the relationships between them deepening, I love getting to choose what they learn and learning along with them- I love it all.

Of course, we have difficulties. They are not perfect kids, and I am a looooooong way off from perfection as well. It can be hard to stay on task, or to even convince them to begin their work, and I have second-guessed myself quite a bit (am I really qualified to do this? am I out of my mind?); they become frustrated with me, and I with them. Consequently, so much of this year has been working on character- theirs and mine. And it has been so, so good.

But anyway, here is a granola recipe I posted originally almost eight years ago. It has been adjusted to serve our family for two meals, plus maybe a snack for a couple kids, and also I have made the baking instructions slightly less finicky.

Feelin' the Love Granola
Makes a lot. But only enough for about 2 or 3 servings for our family of 6.

8 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 tbsp whole ground flaxseed meal
2 tbsp hemp seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon*
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground is best, of course)
pinch of sea salt
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup pecans
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I like avocado best, olive oil and canola work here too)
3/4 cup real maple syrup
cooking spray
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut shavings (I prefer the large shavings over the small shreds)
1/2 cup craisins (or chopped dates, or raisins), optional

Preheat oven to 300. Combine oats, seeds, spices, salt, and nuts in a bowl and sir. Drizzle in oil and syrup, stir to coat. Spread mixture evenly over two non-stick rimmed baking sheets (if you do not have non-stick, just coat the pans with cooking spray beforehand). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and stir, making sure the edges that are getting crisp are mixed in, and the raw oats in the middle are getting their chance to bake. Bake another 15 minutes, stir. Add coconut. Bake 7 minutes. At this point, you can remove the granola if it is done to your liking, or stir and bake in 5 minute increments, so that it doesn't brown too much or dry out, but also gets crisp enough.
Remove from the oven and add dried fruit.
Sprinkle over fruit and yogurt, eat with milk, or just plain. Enjoy!

* pretty sure I use way more than this, I never measure my spices (really helpful side note, huh?)


February 19, 2019

that one blog i dumped + why i blog

Well, I've successfully done another long awkward blog silence. I would blame it on the four kids, or homeschooling, or any other such thing... but really, I just haven't made it a priority.

Which is just silly because my kids LOVE to read old blog posts about themselves, so I really should write posts more consistently, because heaven knows I could Never keep up with a baby book!

 *hold on, I have to go change a messy diaper*

Okay, I'm back.
*Nope. Have to go do a history lesson.*

Anywho, as I was saying... Wait. What was I saying?
Oh yeah, the blog.
So, I used to read this one very popular blog that was a mom blogging about her beautiful life.
Her winsome photos were filled with natural light, flowers, her gorgeous children and perfect hair, and a house decorated in all manner of boho neutrals that looked straight out of a magazine (surely she must have something offensively colorful and plastic somewhere in her home, right?)
I'm not sure why I read it when I did (I think I was up nursing someone a lot at night, and I realized that if I read things on my glowing phone it would keep me from nodding off), but I did enjoy all the pretty pictures for a while.

Until one day, when I read a post in which she explained how "the letting go" in parenting is difficult, and everything else is easy.

Then I dropped that blog like a hot potato.
*'Scuse me. The baby just woke up from some people (ahem, her siblings) yelling outside her bedroom door.*

Aaaaaand, I'm back.
Anyway, as a result, I ceased to read the blog because I was so disappointed with the dishonesty. Parenting is not ALL easy, and I didn't feel like I could really trust her words after reading that statement. I also feel like it put a wall between her and all her readers who are most likely normal people (like me) who, in fact, know how difficult parenting can be.
But it made me think about this blog. It is most definitely not a blog to air all my dirty laundry, but I also feel that honesty is important, mostly because the people who will be reading these posts in the future will be my children.

I ran into a gal the other day who I don't know too well, and she mentioned that she had been reading my blog. (Whaaaaa? Other people read my blog beside my mother-in-law and myself?) Therefore, I hope that if anyone stumbles upon my silly little rambles they will find some humor, a good recipe to try, or, better yet, some encouragement.

I am resolving now: I will make time to blog at least once a week!

(Despite homeschooling, caring for four little kiddos, hosting community group, being involved in a business networking group, Monday school, karate, gymnastics, baseball coming up.... *gulp*)

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading friends!!!

PS apparently this happened to me around this time six years ago

September 01, 2018

the absolute best bruschetta ever. seriously.

Confession: I do not love fresh tomatoes.
I realize that might make me a bad person, but it's the cold, hard truth.

Why I did not take that into consideration when planting four tomato plants in our planter boxes this past spring, I do not claim to know. So, of course, it's September first and I have an absurd amount of fresh tomatoes to use up before the fruit flies get 'em all.

Good thing I have the absolute best bruschetta recipe ever.

My sweet friend Elissa used to make it for my birthday, and we would eat copious amount of the stuff on toasted crusty bread. She kindly shared the recipe with me several years ago, and there is usually bowl of it sitting in our fridge around this time of year.

The bruschetta has a high liquid content, which only increases as it sits. But this makes it perfect spooned over grilled chicken breast, soaked up with crusty bread, or stirred into some angel hair pasta and dusted with parmesan.
It would be the perfect addition to any labor day snack table.

the world's best bruschetta. for real.
(adapted from a recipe I was given by a friend)

3 cups tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped if necessary
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp course salt
12 turns on the pepper grinder

Directions: Put it all together. Eat it. Enjoy.

August 30, 2018

friends camping 2018

We took our final family hurrah of the summer last weekend: the annual "friends camping trip" at Champoeg State Park.

There was something like eight families and more than twenty kids in our group. It was wildness and wonderful.
Also, no one slept.

Eleanor had a panic moment the week before camping when she realized all her friends would be biking like crazy and she still had training wheels!
So, we took them off and she conquered the two-wheeler a couple days before we left.

(I should also mention that we have since upgraded Elle to a larger bike.)

I love the memories we make with our friends each year, and we stay plenty busy with all those kids, but Champoeg park is not the most exciting camp spot. However, they put a neat park in a couple years ago, and our kids really enjoy climbing, sliding, and playing in the sand area (I can't... escape.... the sand..... Seriously, though, I feel like there is sand everywhere we go. Why can it not just be contained to the beach, it's natural habitat?)

I have really simplified meals over our years of camping. 
I used to be the (insane) mom who pre-made every single meal, and even baked my own graham crackers.
Well, no longer, my friends.

This year, our beloved Kodiak cakes or cereal and fruit was breakfast, sandwiches or hot dogs for lunch, and taco bowls, burgers, or chili for dinner. 

After everyone packed up we all made the usual stop at the Butteville Store for ice cream.

In other news, we are getting all geared up for our "soft start" of home school. September is getting crazy so we won't be officially starting until the third week or so... I know that a schedule and routine will be good for us, but summer is my favorite!

August 23, 2018

a hazy day breakfast and activity

Over here in the greater Portland area, we have been experiencing some nasty smoke blowing up from California and down from BC.

It breaks my heart thinking of how bad it has been in the areas affected by the dreadful fires and all the people who have lost their homes.

Sorry, not such a cheery start to a post...

Anyway, we have not been taking the warnings about unhealthy air conditions too seriously, but after a park play date yesterday morning that left me with a sore throat and headache, I figured its time to quarantine us inside the house for a day.

Perhaps it was similar ailments (or perhaps just the two bottom molars that have been cutting through her gums for the past few weeks) which plagued Natalie last night, and woke us up for good around five this morning.

Lane finally got out of bed to shower and head to work at 5:30, and I rolled out when I was sure Nat had fallen back asleep for good around six.
Thankfully, this gave me time to myself to make breakfast, listen to the Bible, drink my (first) cup of coffee, and prepare a little activity for the kids.

And by "prepare" I just mean that I unfolded a big cardboard box, took out our bin of small toy cars, and set out some crayons, markers, and colored pencils. When the kids woke up we made a town, complete with roads, a coffee shop, BurgerVille, gas station, police office, houses, etc. (Judah contributed "dino statues" around the town)

The best part is that it starts out as an art project that takes imagination and creativity, and then turns into a big game of cars (usually involving "bad guy cars" and all the emergency vehicles).

Also, there was breakfast.
I usually start my day with a protein shake, and the kids have oatmeal or pancakes, or half shakes and toast. But this morning I had extra time, and I needed to use up the bread heels that had been accumulating in our fridge.

The great thing about French toast casserole is that it is super forgiving- you just throw in some ingredients, bake it, and it usually turns out great! It is also really filling. Like, really filling. Almost uncomfortably-full kind of filling (clearly, I ate too much of it)...
Here is the version I made this morning:

10 or 11 slices of bread (I used almost all whole wheat heels, plus a half hamburger bun thrown in for good measure)
1/4 cup butter + a couple more tablespoons for dotting the top
1 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
6 eggs
generous sprinkle cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup milk (maybe another 1/4 cup, depending on the heartiness of the bread you use)
2/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a 9x13 casserole dish and stick it in the oven to melt. While it melts, cut bread into cubes. Take the dish out of the oven and swirl the butter to coat sides. Then place bread and remaining ingredients in the dish, mixing to coat everything well with wet ingredients.
Dot with remaining butter and bake until the egg is cooked through in the middle, but bread is not burning, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Update: the haze has lifted! Now, I have to pack for camping this weekend!

PS seven years ago
Also, if you want an outdoor car activity.