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8.31.2015

Crush List - August

I can't believe it is the last day in August already. Do you know that I have been sick for this entire month! It's crazy. I caught a head cold while on vacation, that turned into a cough mid-month, that is still not gone yet. I'm hoping September will be a much more productive month for me. Before we welcome in September though, let's take a look at a few items I'm really digging lately.
1 - Puffin Classics Set of 10 from Juniper Books
2 - Pave Chunky Chainlink Bracelet from J. Crew
3 - Knox Box from Cb2
4 - Bermuda Tortoise Campaign Frame from Jonathan Adler
5 - Hello Cursive Doormat from Target

8.28.2015

My New Jam - Downtown

I'm loving Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' new song Downtown, and the video is pretty awesome too. I love the West Side Story vibe to it. So much fun!!

Have a great weekend everybody!

8.26.2015

Vegetable of the Month - Carrots

This month I decided to take on a vegetable that is relatively well liked in our house...carrots! We usually just eat them raw for a snack. Madeleine really loves them, and I can usually count on Seamus eating a few bites at least. I decided to see what else I could do with them though. Here's both carrot recipes we tried this month.

Vegetable - Carrots
I had Madeleine help me make these cookies from start to finish. The entire time she told me how good they looked, how good they smelled, etc. I thought this would be a winner for sure. But alas, no takers. Seamus wouldn't touch them, and Madeleine took one bite and declared them "not so good." I admit they were lacking a bit on sweetness, but I didn't think they were horrible! Bill decided some frosting might help and whipped up some from scratch (powdered sugar and a little water) to drizzle over them. (How cool is it that I have a husband who can whip up frosting from scratch!?!) They were much improved with the addition of the frosting, however, the kids still wouldn't eat them. So, Bill and I happily ate the rest.

If I ever make these again (and that's a big if), besides adding the frosting, I would flatten the cookie more on the baking sheet. I just plopped the cookie dough down on the pan and thought they would flatten out while baking, but they don't. They hold their shape. I kind of think the kids would have been more open to them if they had looked more like traditional cookies. Who knows though?

Next up, I decided to make a more traditional side dish with the carrots.

Vegetable - Carrots
Recipe - Easy Ranch Baby Carrots
This one was pretty disappointing too. I thought they would have a nice tangy ranch flavor, but they were super bland. No one liked these either, including Bill and I (although we did at least eat ours).

So, carrots were a bit of a bust. Like I said though, we all like to eat them raw, so at least there's that. If you have any yummy carrot recipes, please send them my way. I'd really like to find a good side dish recipe for them still.

8.24.2015

Book Report - Dragonfly in Amber and Secret Daughter

I'm going to be doubling up on my book reviews, or I'm never going to get through them all! This 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge is fun, but it's hardcore. The next two I checked off the list were "A book with more than 500 pages" and "A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit" with Diana Gabaldon's Dragonfly in Amber and Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter respectively.

First off, a re-read for me of Dragonfly in Amber (aka Outlander Book 2) by one of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon. I figured if I had to read a 500 page book, it should be one that I enjoyed and was fast paced. So, instead of taking my chances on something new, I opted for an old favorite. It has been a few years since I read Dragonfly in Amber, and now I'll be all refreshed for when Season 2 of Outlander starts back up. Oh, and just for the record, this book was 743 pages!!
It's been many years since Claire Randall was in Scotland, but she's finally returned with the intent of sharing with her now grown daughter, Brianna, the incredible circumstances that surrounded her last visit there. As Claire struggles with how to tell Brianna about the mysterious standing stones and how they transported her through time and into the arms of 18th century Highlander, Jamie Fraser, she reminisces of her and Jamie's time in France just prior to the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Louix XV is King of France, and Bonnie Prince Charlie is in Paris gearing up to take back the English crown. Knowing he is doomed to fail, Claire and Jamie are doing everything they can to stop the uprising in an attempt to save the lives of their friends, family, and their beloved Scotland.

I've read my fair share of "series" novels, and there are many that start out really, really strong, but can't keep the momentum going into the second book. Dragonfly in Amber is not one of them. I had forgotten how very good this book is. With all the set-up and falling in love stuff already established in book number one, Dragonfly in Amber is a pure adventure story; and a good one at that. There's Kings and courts, street gangs and witches, duels and battles; all of that, plus, you'll be turning the pages as fast as you can to find out how and why Claire ends up back in her present time. It's just as much fun as the first book (maybe even more) and trust me, those 743 pages will just fly by!

Next up was Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.
In a small Indian village that favors sons over daughters, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. Knowing it is the only way to save her, Kavita gives away her daughter to an orphanage hoping she will have a good life. She never forgets her little girl, and wonders about her daily; even after she finally gives birth to the son her husband always wanted.

On the other side of the world, Somer, a white American doctor married to an Indian man decides to adopt a child after discovering she can never have children. Initially excited by the idea, Somer travels to India with her husband to pick up their new daughter, the same daughter Kavita had to give away. Now, in a foreign place, surrounded by her husband's foreign family, Somer soon realizes she will always be the outsider in their little family of three. Determined to do her best though, they return to America. Somer continually struggles over the years as she raises a daughter who does not resemble her at all, and attempts to balance the world she is comfortable in with the one that continually calls out to her daughter.

I found Secret Daughter to be a really moving story. I'm continually amazed that there are still places in this world that treat women and girls so terribly; where they can so easily kill a newborn child just because it is female. It's insane. I thought Kavita was a really complex character. She was extremely brave to risk everything in getting her daughter to the orphanage, the only way to save her life; yet not brave enough to ever leave her husband and attempt a better life for herself. She knows her place in her world, and does what is necessary to survive. I'm glad the story continued to follow her over the years. It was interesting to see the aftermath of her decision and what her life ends up being like after she finally gives birth to the cherished son.

Somer, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointing character. Having married an Indian man, I was a little confused how she could have so much contempt for that culture. She came off as a little selfish and childish. Yet, at the same time, it irked me that her daughter and husband gave her such a hard time about everything all the time. I mean, despite her shortcomings, she did put her all into raising her daughter and sacrificed a lot. It wasn't until Somer realizes that the things she was sacrificing were in fact the things she needed to make her a complete and happy person, that things eventually fall into place for her and her family. They didn't fall into place in a way that I was expecting though, so I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. Not bad, just not the direction I would have gone.

All in all, I liked Secret Daughter. It wasn't a perfectly told story, but it was a story that needs to be told.

8.21.2015

First Day of School

Madeleine started Kindergarten last week!
Yes, it was a big day in the Lundie household, and she was really excited. Bill and I took her to school together. We walked her into her classroom, got a hug, an "Adios," and she was basically off. I didn't cry, but I will confess I was a little sad on the drive home. I definitely had an awh, my baby girl is not a baby anymore moment. Mostly though, I was just so happy for and proud of her.

8.19.2015

Yes or Kimono

I can't decide if I want to jump on the whole kimono bandwagon or not. On one hand, they're super cute, flattering, lightweight, and a great way to add a splash of color and drama to an otherwise plain outfit. Yet, they're just so very bohemian, and I really don't feel like that is my style at all.

I rounded up a few possible contenders though. What to do?
Top Row - LuLu's | Target | Target | Anthropologie
Bottom Row - Express | ASOS | ASOS | Express

My favorite of the bunch is the first one on the bottom row. I like the square cut of it, and the colors and pattern are working for me.

What do you think of the trend? Should I go for it?

8.17.2015

Flying With Toddlers

Ahhh, flying with little ones. On the scale of things you want to do is right up there with say, having dental work done or being stuck on a long flight next to a stranger's screaming child.

If you're a parent though, it eventually has to be done. At least it does if you actually want to go anywhere before your child is like five. Having just survived it myself, I put together a list of a few little items that helped make our plane trip bearable.

1. A device that plays videos.
Whether it be your Kindle Fire, iPad, smart phone, etc., you'll want your kids favorite cartoon ready at a moment's notice. I highly recommend downloading them onto the device as well. You can pay for internet on most flights now, but don't expect that to work with video streaming apps. Best to just load the device up before you even take off. Remember, they'll need to be kept occupied while waiting at the gate too.  I'm not afraid to admit that I was fully prepared to just let Madeleine and Seamus watch videos for the entire 3.5 hour flight. Other than them falling asleep, that easily would have been my ideal scenario.

2. Headphones.
Obviously if the kids are going to be watching videos, then headphones are a must. Nobody wants to listen to a screaming kid on a flight, but they also don't want to listen to 3.5 hours of Team Umizoomi either. We like these Kidz Gear Wired Headphones. They limit how high the volume goes to protect little ears and come in fun, bright colors. We also have a splitter that allows the kids to watch the same device together, or Bill and I can watch with one of them as well.

3. Something to color.
Coloring is also a great way for kids to pass the time on long flights, but it can get complicated with crayons or markers rolling all over the place. We picked up a few of these Melissa & Doug ColorBlast! kits for each of the kids. It's just one marker, but all the colors magically appear on the special paper. This was Madeleine's top choice. She amazingly just colored almost the entire flight.

4. Something to play.
If you have an older toddler, than games are great too. Madeleine is really into Memory lately, so we picked up Melissa and Doug's Flip-to-Win Memory Game as well. On her rare breaks from coloring, we played this with her. At one point Bill, who sat between the kids on the flight out, was using one hand to play this with Madeleine and holding his iPad for Seamus with his other.

5. Lollipops.
You're obviously going to have an array of snacks available for the flight (almost my entire carry on was snacks), but lollipops are a definite must. They're great to relieve ear pressure in kids too young to chew gum or pop their ears themselves. We brought Dum Dums, and neither kid complained about their ears at all.

All-in-all we had no full on tantrums from Seamus, so we considered it a successful flight. That's not to say it was easy or enjoyable by any means. Let's see, first we forgot diapers and wipes. Thankfully Seamus didn't poop, but he still went the entire morning without being changed (parenting win!). Madeleine was very good, but still needed bathroom breaks and her fair share of attention. I was so worried about making sure neither of the kids spilled their drinks that I, of course, spilled my own. Seamus didn't want to wear his headphones, so watched his shows with no sound. He also did not want to hold any devices himself. Between Bill and myself, we had 2 iPhones, an iPad, and a Kindle, but weren't able to access the only show Seamus wanted to watch, Team Umizoomi, for the reason I noted above (we purchased and downloaded a season for the flight home). Seamus was constantly trying to get out of his seat belt. He seemed to lose interest in anything after about 15 minutes, so we were always switching things out for him. Thank goodness for the lollipops though. They kept him quiet and engaged for a good 10 minutes a pop. He seriously had about 6 of them on each flight. Oh, and of course, Seamus actually did fall asleep on the flight home...about 20 minutes before we were about to land. Geesh!

You do what you gotta do to survive though, and that's all you really can do...survive. You hope for the best, but even if it's bad, it won't last forever. Do your best, but don't worry too much about bothering other people. You and your toddler have as much a right to be on the flight as anyone else. Plus, I think for the most part, people are genuinely nice and understanding.

What you really need more than anything listed here is patience, patience, patience!

P.S. My niece once screamed for 18 hours straight on a flight to South Korea. It was so bad the flight attendants handed out free headphones to everybody on the flight. My poor sister-in-law!!

P.P.S. Check out this funny article Vacation or Trip? A Helpful Guide for Parents. Now I realize why we were so tired the entire time we were away. We weren't on vacation, we just took a trip!!

Just for the record, this was not a paid for or sponsored post (I wish).  I think these are all good products, so I just wanted to share.

8.14.2015

Midwest Vacation / Milwaukee, 8.5-10

We headed back up to Milwaukee for the last few days of our vacation. Thursday night we had Bill's mom and brother over for dinner. Then, Bill and I went out to see Trainwreck (see my review here).

On Saturday, we headed to downtown Milwaukee and took the kids to Discovery World. It's a fun little museum/aquarium along with great views of Lake Michigan.
The museum portion was a little advanced for the kids, but I think they really enjoyed the aquarium portion.
There's also a pretty cool ship inside that the kids enjoyed running around and playing on.
After the museum, we had lunch at one of our favorite local jaunts, Botanas. They have the best Enchilada Soup I've ever had. Seriously, we compare every Enchilada Soup to this one, and have yet to find its equal.

We headed back to the condo to rest and start packing up. Then, it was back to my mother-in-law's for one last dinner. On Saturday morning, my brother-in-law drove us to the airport and we headed back home.

It was a really fun trip. We had a great time seeing everybody, had a few little date nights, and took in a few sights too. It was also absolutely exhausting, and I feel like I need another vacation just Bill and I to actually get some rest now. Good times!

8.12.2015

Midwest Vacation / Chicago, Days 5-8.5

The next day of our vacation, Sunday, we drove to my parent's house in Illinois. They had a barbecue, and my three sisters and their families all came over to visit. It has been over a year since we were all together in one place, and it was great to see every one.
It was also very hot and humid, so Grandma and Grandpa set up the Slip-N-Slide for all the kids. Seamus and Madeleine were not great at it (despite what it looks like in these pictures). They had fun, but quit early complaining they were cold (typical Arizona kids).
On Monday morning we had some family photos taken. I've yet to find a good and reasonably priced photographer in Arizona, so I took advantage of us being in Illinois and had my sister's good friend, Christina Marie take them. She had taken great newborn photos of Seamus for us previously, so I knew she was good. She's also really fun to work with.

After that we hung out at my sister's house for a bit. We visited, the kids played, and then we ordered in from the super yummy, Frank's for the Memories. We headed back to my parent's after that, and Seamus took a nice long nap, essentially his first since we left Arizona. Yay! It was so nice to just finally relax for a little bit. I love the boy, but he's exhausting. We hung out at my parent's through dinner, and then Bill and I topped off the evening by seeing Ant-Man (see my review here).

The next day, Tuesday, was our big day in Chicago. We went to the Field Museum. See us there right in front? My little sister wanted to get the whole museum in the shot with us.
The Field Museum is one of my favorite museums ever. The building is beautiful, and they have such great exhibits inside.
We checked out Sue the T-Rex, as well as an array of other different dinosaur skeletons. Despite what it looks like below, Seamus loved the dinosaurs. We let him loose at the end of the Evolving Planet exhibit, which was basically a room full of dinosaur skeletans, and he was in heaven.
My favorite exhibit is still the Grainger Hall of Gems. What can I say? I'm a sucker for anything that sparkles.
We capped off the museum with their limited engagement Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit. I think the kids had a really good time there.
Then, after the museum, we headed to my little sister's. Her condo has a great swimming pool. We swam a bit, and then her and her boyfriend made us lunch. After that, we headed back to my parent's, and just hung out and relaxed the rest of the day.

On our final full day in Illinois, we spent the morning with my parents. Then, after Seamus napped, we headed to my oldest sister's house this time. It was really nice and low key. We talked and the kids all played. Bill actually headed back to Wisconsin, as he was working the next day. Then, eventually, I left Madeleine at my sister's for the epic cousin's sleepover!! They were all so excited. My little sister, Seamus, and I all went back to my parent's house. We had Chicago style deep dish pizza for dinner, watched a movie, and called it a night.

Thursday, Seamus and I enjoyed the morning with my parents and little sister. Then, we headed to my oldest sister's to collect Madeleine. We said our good-byes, and my dad drove us back to Milwaukee.

It was so nice to be with my family. I miss them all so much more than I thought I would.

8.10.2015

Midwest Vacation / Milwaukee, Days 1 - 4

The last week of July we headed back to the midwest to visit family and take in some sights. It was so nice to be back in Milwaukee, the city I called home for 11 years.
We headed to the airport on Wednesday morning. We were a worried about how Seamus would be on the plane, but he did pretty good. He was a little whiny here and there, but no full on tantrums. Madeleine was really good. All in all, we considered it a success.

We arrived in Milwaukee around 1:30pm, and Bill's mom picked us up from the airport. We headed to her house for lunch and stayed to visit with Bill's brother and Stepdad too. My two sisters-in-law and a few nieces and nephews then came by for dinner later. It was so nice to see everyone and just relax a bit after the long day of traveling. Bill's dad, who lives in California, has a condo in Waukesha for when he visits. He was not there, so we were able to make that our home base while we were in Milwaukee. So, after a fun night of good food and conversation we headed back to the condo for the night.

Thursday (and Friday too) Bill and I worked. He headed downtown to his actual office (he works remotely while in Arizona) and I worked from the condo. The kids spent the day with their Grandma and Bill's brother. Then, we all had dinner with Bill's mom, brother, and Stepdad again.

Friday was a repeat of Thursday during the day, but after work we headed downtown and met some friends at German Fest!
Milwaukee in the summer has so many festivals that I knew we would catch one during our trip. I was so glad it was German Fest because I love the food!! I had my favorite potato pancakes with apples, a sausage sampler, and a pretzel. Yum!

It was fun to be out doing something and be with old friends, but Seamus was a handful. He would scream when he was in his stroller or run around like crazy when he was out of it. Eventually he did settle down and chill in his stroller, but, man was it exhausting.

The next day, Saturday, we went to the Milwaukee County Zoo with my brother-in-law and his family. This was one of our favorite places to take Madeleine when we lived in Milwaukee, so it was nice to be back. They had a fun dinosaur exhibit going on, and we knew the kids would like it - especially Seamus.
He loved it! So much so that I could never get him to turn around and pose for any pictures. He was really excited, pointing like crazy, and roaring at them.
It was a pretty cool exhibit. If you're near Milwaukee this summer; definitely check it out.
After the dinosaurs, we had lunch and explored the rest of the zoo. Then, we headed back to the condo to relax for a bit. In the evening we walked over to my sister-in-law's for dinner. It was another really fun and really exhausting day.   

8.07.2015

It's A Miracle!

They say you shouldn't cry over spilled milk, but apparently you do cry over milk in the wrong sippy cup. Yes, we've been having quite a few tears and tantrums lately over sippy cups of all things. Invariably, whatever color cup I pour for Madeleine is the one that Seamus ends up wanting and vice versa. Or if Madeleine is using a regular cup then Seamus wants one too, and he will indubitably spill it.

I decided to make the whole ordeal easier and get them new cups. I heard about the Miracle® 360° Cup by Munchkin and decided to give it a try. I picked up two (in the same color to eliminate the color wars) and brought them home.

Let me tell you, they were a big hit! It did take us a few minutes to figure out exactly how they worked. Basically, you just drink it like you do a normal cup and the liquid seeps out from between the silicone lid and the hard plastic rim. If you're not sipping, the silicone lid seals shut preventing any spills if it topples overs (not sure what happens if you drop it yet though). Since it's just a regular drinking motion, it's a great way for toddlers to learn to handle a "real" cup. They're easy to wash too. No more dealing with annoying straws and valves.

We were so impressed with these cups we have plans to buy another two, and recycle a bunch of our old sippy cups.

Are there any cool kids' products out there that are making your life easier lately? I'd love to hear.

8.05.2015

Book Report - Animal Farm

I'm plugging away at the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge and decided to next check off "A book with nonhuman characters" from the list. I realized it had been far too long since I read George Orwell's, Animal Farm, and decided to rectify that immediately.
Tired of serving man as their master, a group of farm animals revolt against their farmer and establish a new society of their own - one where "all animals are equal." It doesn't take long though, before the rules start to change and the pigs are claiming that yes, "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Soon their idyllic community starts to seem strangely similar to the oppressive farm they had worked so hard to escape. Animal Farm is a riveting political satire detailing the Russian Revolution and the rise of Joseph Stalin and the socialist/communist Soviet Union.

There are some books that I can read over and over again, never tiring of. Each read still feels as fresh and exciting as it did the first time around. Animal Farm is one of those books. The warning of the book, that age old adage - absolute power corrupts absolutely, still feels relevant today. This is a book that sparks discussions, which hopefully then sparks action, which hopefully then makes the world a little better place. This is a book I plan on reading aloud with my kids someday. It's an easy read yes, but more importantly a smart read. An absolutely great way to introduce kids to classic literature.  

8.03.2015

Let's Go To The Movies - Trainwreck

Sometimes it seems like I go weeks and weeks without seeing any new movies, and then BAM...I'll see a couple within days of each other. Such was the case again, when Bill and I saw first Ant-Man (see review here) and then Trainwreck in the same week.

Amy (Amy Schumer) has been living her life by the credo "monogamy isn't realistic" all her dating life. For the most part, it's working for her too. She has a great career as a writer at a men's magazine and has an active and fun social life. Assigned to do a story on a successful sports doctor, Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), Amy is unprepared when she discovers she has actual feelings for him. Could it be she's been wrong about love all these years?

It's been a long time since I've seen a good romantic comedy, and Trainwreck wasn't a good romantic comedy; it was a fantastic romantic comedy. I was so impressed with this movie. It's clever, fresh, and funny as hell...seriously, it's hilarious. Amy Schumer, who wrote as well as starred in the film, was amazing, and Bill Hader...who knew he could pull off a romantic lead? They were the perfect every woman and man...totally relatable and so cute. It wasn't just the leads that brought their A-games though. There were so many good performances and fun cameos from all sorts of athletes and actors. In particular, LeBron James was a riot, an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton was perfect, and Colin Quinn gave a surprisingly poignant performance too. Which brings up another reason I enjoyed the film so much. I knew I would laugh at Trainwreck, but I didn't think I would cry too. There were moments that were sweet, sad, and also quite touching. My only complaint, and it's a small one, was that film was maybe 15-20 minutes too long. Other than that though, it was damn near perfect.

I have to include a clip of one of my favorite scenes in the film too. I haven't been single for a long time, but when I was I would have loved someone to say this to me. No games, just saying what you want. Oh, and this was also the moment, for me at least, that Bill Hader went from "crazy SNL character guy" to "cute guy." Again, who knew?

Are you an Amy Schumer fan? We've been watching her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer on HULU over the past few weeks. It's a little raunchy, but so, so funny.