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8.31.2016

A (Lack Of) Sleep Story

I should probably preface this post by saying I am not qualified to give medical advice in any way, shape, or form. This is just my own story of what has helped me get some much needed sleep.

Here we go...

Over the past few years I have been operating under the totally normal lack of sleep that all parents of small children experience. However, as the kids have gotten older and are (for the most part) sleeping through the night fine, I noticed I was having a really hard time falling asleep. It wasn't just one thing that was causing me to toss and turn for hours after going to bed, but a multitude of little things culminating in a serious sleep problem that was really starting to effect my every day life. I was always tired and my energy levels have just been so low for so long.

Normally, I head to bed around 9:30 and usually read for a half hour or so. Then, when the lights would go off, my brain would turn on. I would just lay there and think about everything and anything - work, daydreaming, redecorating my entire house in my head. That sort of stuff. I wasn't actually falling asleep until sometime between 11 and midnight.

But, that's not all. If I stayed awake long enough I would get bad cases of Restless Leg Syndrome in my arms and legs. Yes, that was a fun little byproduct of my pregnancy with Seamus that has never gone away. So, if that set in too, then I could pretty much just forget about sleep.

I wanted to find something out there that would help me fall asleep quicker, but I was hesitant to use a sleep drug. I only needed help falling asleep, as once I eventually do fall asleep I have no trouble staying asleep. The few times I have taken Advil PM or ZzzQuil, they work, but I always end up feeling super groggy most of the morning.

The first thing I started doing was wearing my mouth guard again at night. I'm a serious teeth clencher, especially at night. After experience some bad jaw pain a while back, I had one made for me, but had gotten out of the habit of wearing it nightly. Wearing that again helped a little bit, but it was still taking me much too long to fall asleep.

A conversation with a colleague about my problem brought up Melatonin supplements, and By George, I found a winner!
I've been taking these Melatonin gummies right before bed for the last month, and am falling asleep so quickly now! Sometimes even before Bill, and he seriously falls asleep within 10-15 minutes of laying down. It's insane.

Humans naturally produce melatonin near bedtime. It's our body's natural way of telling us it's time to go to sleep. These gummies give you a little extra dose of it, and for me, it has been working great. The best part is they don't make me groggy at all. I'm getting a lot more sleep and wake up actually feeling refreshed.

This mama is feeling more rested than I've felt in ages, which in turn is making me a happier and more productive member of society again.

Nothing like better living through chemistry, right?

8.29.2016

Color Therapy

Adult coloring books seem to have gone from fad to mainstay, and I'm so glad! I've always really enjoyed coloring with my kids. It's fun, creative, and totally therapeutic. Usually, I would end up still coloring long after they had moved on to another activity. So, I was so excited when my awesome niece gave me my first adult coloring book and a set of colored pencils for Christmas last year!
The designs in this thing are so intricate, and it actually takes me a really long time to color just one page. Case in point, I've only completed two pictures so far!!
I don't mind the slow pace though. It totally calms and clears my brain, which is something I sorely need now and then.
I'm sure to be working on this one for a long while yet, but here are a couple more books I've had my eye on.

Do you like to color? Do you use colored pencils or pens? I'm thinking of upgrading to a nice pen set. Oh, and if coloring is not your thing, we have this Extreme Dot to Dot book, and it's very relaxing as well. Madeleine loves it and can easily do pictures that have over 1,000 dots!

8.26.2016

Let's Go To The Movies - A Tale Of Love And Darkness

Last night I saw a sneak peak of the movie, A Tale of Love and Darkness, which is officially in theaters today.

Natalie Portman's directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, follows a Jewish family living in 1940's Jerusalem. A young boy, Amos (Amir Tessler), his troubled mother, Fania (Natalie Portman), and his failed academic father, Arieh (Gilad Kahana) live their lives against the ever changing backdrop of Palestine through World War II, the U.N. vote to create a separate Jewish state, and Israel's war of independence thereafter.

A Tale of Love and Darkness is a hauntingly quiet film. What was obviously a passion project for Natalie Portman (she wrote the screenplay, directed, and starred in the film) shown threw in her touching performance as the young and imaginative mother of the renowned Israeli author, Frank Oz (the movie is based on his best-selling memoir of the same name). Newcomer, Amir Tessler, gives an impressive first performance, as it's through his young eyes that the viewer witnesses the Palestinian conflict during a particularly tumultuous time in history unfold, as well as the ongoing internal struggle of his mother battling a crippling depression.

The film is visually stunning as well. The soft shades of blue and green depict their real world and are juxtaposed against the bright, sweeping scenes of Fania's imagination. The effect really highlights the characters struggles and need for escape. The film is in Hebrew too (with English subtitles), and really adds that extra air of authenticity to the story. It's a beautiful language and only enhances what is already a beautifully tragic and true story.

For me, this was a heavy film and quite emotionally draining too, but I'm glad I took the time to see it. I'm always amazed when children come out of situations like this and go on to create beauty in the world instead of falling victim to their circumstances. Stories like these aren't easy. They're hard to get made, and they're difficult to watch; but they're important too. It's not the type of movie that drives the crowds to the theaters, but I'd highly recommend paying the ticket price to see this one. It's not a "feel good" movie by any means, but you'll definitely feel good supporting a small and worthy film such as this.

8.24.2016

Book Report - The Light of the Fireflies

As part of my Amazon Prime membership, I get a free book for my Kindle each month. They pick 5 or 6 new titles, and I get my choice out of those picks. I only recently started taking advantage of this perk, and The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen was my first free read.
The boy has lived his entire life in the darkness of an underground basement along with his parents, sister, brother, and grandmother. They were all horribly disfigured in a fire before he was born; his sister so much so that she wears a white mask to cover her face always. It's the only life the boy has ever known, and he's happy in this little world; especially when the fireflies start coming to visit him at night. It's not until his sister has a baby, that he begins to wonder about things. Who is the father? What happened to his family before he was born? Why are they cut off from the outside world? Who is the Cricket Man? The more he discovers, the more he now wants to escape, but how to do it when all the doors are locked?

I wasn't expecting much from this book. I figured if it was being offered for free, then it probably wasn't that great. I'm glad I gave it a chance though, because I really enjoyed The Light of the Fireflies. The reader experiences the same eerie journey as the boy throughout; never knowing more about his family than he himself does. I was just dying to find out why they were in the basement, how they got burned, and who the father was; and I'm happy to say the novel provided satisfactory answers to all those questions, plus an interesting ending as well. If you're in the mood for an uber-creepy read, then definitely check out The Light of the Fireflies.    

8.22.2016

Yum! - Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary

It's been a little while since I posted any new recipes I've tried (remember my Vegetable of the Month series from last year?). I was waiting until I had something really good to share with you. When Bill mentioned making a favorite of ours again, I knew it was the one. It's not really new to us, but we don't make it very often as it's a bit labor intensive. It's so good though, that it is definitely worth the effort.

First though, let me give you a little back story. Coquette Cafe is one of our favorite restaurants in Milwaukee. Bill and I went on quite a few dates there during our courtship, and we actually had our rehearsal dinner there before our wedding too. They even offer cooking classes, which is where we got this recipe from. They were a lot of fun, and a really great date night idea if you live in or around Milwaukee. I actually wasn't sure if I should post the recipe or not in case it was some sort of restaurant trade secret, but a quick internet search confirmed the chefs have already put it out there for all to enjoy.

And enjoy you will, so without further adieu, I present to you...


Although Bill and I usually just call it "Goat Cheese Macaroni and Cheese" or just "Fancy Mac".

Check out the link above for the full recipe, but I'll give you our few taste and time saving tips to make this more of an easy weekday meal for your family.

1. Make the Rosemary Oil ahead of time. Making this the night before really saves time.
2. Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store or just cook up a few chicken breasts instead of roasting an entire chicken. Bill marinated a few pieces of chicken in the Rosemary Oil ahead of time to add the extra bit of flavor you would get if you actually roasted the chicken according to the recipe.
3. Half the recipe. This recipe makes a ton. Half works great for our family of four.
4. Double the goat cheese. Seriously, we use 4 oz. of goat cheese in the dish, and then reserve another 4 oz. to sprinkle on top when we it's time to eat.

There you have it! Seriously, you'll be thanking me later for this one.

Have you tried any good new recipes lately? I'd love to hear about them. Let's talk food.

8.19.2016

First Day Of School - Preschool

Seamus moved up to Preschool! He's technically at the same building as before, but he's officially in the "big boy" room as he calls it now.

I asked him to smile for me, and without missing a beat, he did this...
 Then this...
 Finally, I got a smile out of him, complete with classic Seamus head-tilt.
I'm so proud of this little guy. He's silly and mischievous, but so much fun too. Don't get me wrong, he's still a handful, but it's just so enjoyable watching him grow up now, that I've learned to just accept it as my cross to bear for getting to have him as my little boy. Totally worth it.  Yay, Seamus! 

8.17.2016

Coming Soon - War Dogs

I was able to see an advanced screening of the new movie War Dogs the other day. It opens in theaters this Friday, August 19th. Check it out!
Inspired by true events, War Dogs tells the story of twenty-somethings, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and David Packouz (Miles Teller), a two-man arms dealing operation, that surprisingly wins a $300 million defense contract from the government.

First, let me start off by saying, this is not the type of film that draws me out of my house to a theater. Honestly, if I didn't get to see it for free, I probably would have skipped it, or at the very least, caught it on HBO or something down the road. I'm not the target audience for a film like this, as War Dogs is most definitely a "guys" movie; even more particularly a "young guys" movie. It's all guns, money, and war.

That being said, War Dogs was a lot of fun. It's an interesting story, well acted, and humorous too. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and it's a better movie because of that. However, the film also felt quite stale. It utilized the same story-telling trend you've seen before in movies like The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street, which incidentally also starred Jonah Hill in an equally gross and awful character. (He's scary good at playing these creeps, right?) Anyway, you know what I'm talking about. These movies start with some crazy intense scene, pauses, and the character voice-over comes on saying something to the effect of "How did I end up here?" The story then flashes back to the character's modest beginnings. The voice-over continues throughout telling the unbelievable story of how a bunch of white guys end up manipulating the system (sometimes even blatantly breaking the law) and end up getting crazy rich, crazy fast. I'll admit, they're entertaining, and they suck you in as you anxiously wonder whether or not they'll get away with it.

But, let me stand on my soapbox here for one second and ask the question...

Why do we celebrate guys like this?

They're reckless, immoral, selfish, and only out to make a buck. It says a lot about our country that these are the type of stories we've decided to memorialize on film lately. Hopefully, a movie like this starts discussions and makes you really question how your government and Wall Street operate; especially during the business of war. I hope it does, because I would hate for anyone to come out of the theater after seeing a film like this and be putting these guys on a pedestal of any sort. Believe me, they don't deserve it.

P.S. I mentioned The Big Short utilizes this same voice-over story-telling technique, but at least it's about basically good, smart guys. I highly recommend seeing it over War Dogs. It's currently on Netflix and definitely worth checking out. 

8.15.2016

Easy Summer Activities - Frozen Bananas

Today I'm bringing you a fun frozen treat courtesy of Bill! Inspired by his trip to Balboa Island with the kids a few weeks back, Bill has been making his very own frozen bananas! The treat is said to originate on the island, although there's a long standing debate as to which restaurant invented it: "Dad's Donut & Bakery Shop" or "Sugar 'N Spice". I couldn't tell you whose is better, but I do know that whenever I think of frozen bananas, I think of this...
Gotta love the Bluths, am I right?

Anyway, back to Bill and his bananas. Here's what you'll need to make your own: a couple of bananas, popsicle sticks, chocolate chips, and toppings such as chopped nuts or sprinkles. I don't know about you guys, but whenever we buy a bunch of bananas we always end up with a couple that don't get eaten, so this is a great way to use up those stragglers before they go bad.
First, you'll want to insert the popsicle sticks into each of the bananas. Bill has been cutting them in half, but you can make them any size you want. Lay the banana sticks on a parchment or wax paper covered plate and put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
Once the bananas are nice and cold, it's time to melt down those chocolate chips. You can do this either on the stove top or in the microwave (Bill's been using the microwave). When the chocolate is melted, you'll want to dip or roll the banana in the melted chocolate. The already cold banana should make the chocolate start to harden quickly, so you'll need to work fast.
Immediately following dipping the banana in the chocolate, roll it in the topping of your choice. This is where you can get really creative. We used sprinkles and peanuts because we had them on hand, but the toppings at the stands on Balboa Island include crushed oreos, chocolate chips, crushed candy bars, etc. Basically, whatever you might top your ice cream with works for this recipe too.
Finally, you can either enjoy immediately, or put back in the freezer to eat later; they'll last a few days in the freezer no problem. Bill prefers to eat them sooner rather than later, as he says they taste best when the banana is cold, but not frozen all the way through.
Full disclosure, I don't really care for these, but I have a weird thing about bananas. I think the majority of you out there will totally like them though. They're a great summer treat, but the real fun is in making them. It's definitely an activity that the entire family can make together. Enjoy!

P.S.
Mini Vacation Day 2 - Half Marathon & Balboa Island
Easy Summer Activities - Ice Cream Pizzas!

8.12.2016

My New Jam - Kiss The Sky

The other day I caught Jason Derulo performing his new song Kiss the Sky on The Tonight Show, and I was immediately hooked. It's so fun, and absolutely perfect when you need to just dance it out.

What are you listening to these days? My sister just turned me on to Twenty One Pilots too, and I'm digging them. Meanwhile, Madeleine's love of Bon Jovi is going strong; but she's getting into this new band *NSYNC - she loves Bye Bye Bye. Too funny!

8.10.2016

First Day of School - 1st Grade

We officially have a First Grader! That's right, Monday was Madeleine's first day of school. She requested three things before school started - 1) a rolling backpack (it's this one), 2) knee socks, and 3) a short, spiky haircut!
She's actually been asking for a short, spiky haircut for a ages now, but I kept resisting. She just looked so cute and pretty with her little bob. When I mentioned getting a haircut before school started ...well, her mind still hadn't changed.

I know she wanted a straight up spiky haircut like all her little boy friends have, but I decided to interpret short and spiky as a choppy pixie cut. I took her to my hair stylist too, as I wanted it done right. 
Needless to say she was pleased with the result. It looks super cute on her, but it's definitely a big change. I'm constantly doing a double-take or just sitting and staring at her as I try and get used to the change.

Have your kids started school yet? Does it make you sad or excited? I'm definitely always excited. It's so much fun to see them grow and experience new things! 

P.S.

8.08.2016

Picking a Paint Color

We're in the final stages of our kitchen refresh. Time to pick a paint color! We really had no idea what color we wanted - didn't even know what color family to focus on. Some days we were all about yellow, some days blue and so on. Finally, though, we decided to go somewhere in the pink/purple family.

We chose a number of samples, all Benjamin Moore colors. From top to bottom we looked at:

This picture doesn't quite show the true colors, but it's pretty close. We ultimately decided on...

BEACH PLUM!!
It works well with the grey of the cabinets (Stone Harbor), but is still bright and fun. Truth be told though, I'm not sure if this is the forever color or not, but sometimes you just have to make a decision and hope for the best. It's such a small area we're painting - just around the big window and above the cabinets, so I'm not too worried about. It's just paint, right?

You can catch up on the entire kitchen refresh by checking out any of the links below. Enjoy!

8.05.2016

The Perfect Dress

I have a serious crush on this dress from Banana Republic. It ticks all my boxes for what currently works best with my shape: fit and flare silhouette, v-neck, and sleeves! The diagonal stripes and ruching at the waist make for a great slimming effect; plus the colors are right up my alley. It reminds me of a men's necktie. I love it!
Of course, they don't have my size online (sigh), but I'll be checking out the couple of stores in my area to hopefully scoop this baby up. I'll keep you posted.

8.03.2016

Home Alone

For Mother's Day, back in May, Bill said he would take the kids to go visit his dad for a weekend soon, so I could have some alone time at home. It was more than enough that he offered up the gesture, so needless to say, I was super excited when it actually came to fruition. Seamus' daycare was closed Thursday and Friday last week, so Bill packed up the kiddos and headed to California leaving me almost four full days to myself!

When they were all packing up to leave Thursday morning I was sweetly saying to everybody, "Mommy's going to miss you", but on the inside I was feelin' all...
Oh, and I took Thursday and Friday off from work too. There was no way I was going to waste this precious gift working. Uh-huh, no way!

Here's how I spent my time...

Thursday
Cleaning - That's right, I started the weekend off by doing a crazy deep clean of my bedroom and bathroom. We do okay keeping the house tidy, but these two rooms always get neglected. It was driving me crazy how bad they had gotten, so I blasted my music and spent about 3 hours cleaning them up. I love a good cleaning frenzy, but even more, I love getting to enjoy the freshly cleaned space for a bit before it gets messed all up again.

Swimming - After cleaning, I was so hot and sweaty I headed straight to our pool. It was so relaxing to go for a swim alone and not have to watch or play with anyone. I just swam, floated, and basked in the sun.

Blogging - I then spent a bit of time working on this here blog.

Mani/Pedi - After lunch, I headed to my local nail salon for a manicure and pedicure. I'm pretty sure I got this color on my fingernails and this one on my toes, but don't quote me on that.

Movies - By this time I was good to veg out for a while, so I spent the rest of the night watching movies. I watched Suffragette first, and then after dinner followed it up with Philomena before finally heading to bed.

Friday
Sleep - Since I had no one to get up for and no place to be, I slept in big time Friday morning. When I finally did get up, I lounged around in my pajamas most of the day.

Movie/TV - I watched another movie, Promised Land, and then started watching Season 1 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (so fun!)


Friend Time - I headed over to my friend's house in the late afternoon and spent some time with her and her adorable little twin babies. Then, the two of us headed out to the movies and saw The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (check out my review here). We followed that up with a great dinner at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill (so good).

TV - When I got back home, I watched a few more episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I was totally into it by this point and was in full-on binge mode. I stayed up way too late watching it.

Saturday
Hair - I couldn't sleep in quite as late Saturday morning, as I had an early hair appointment for a cut and color. By this point, I was feeling pretty good with my newly manicured nails, blow-out, and you know, not being completely sleep deprived for once.

Errands - I stopped by ACE Hardware to pick up a few paint samples for the kitchen, and then went to Sprouts for a few specialty groceries. How cute is this little single serving cheesecake!?! It was so small, but so rich that I still had to spread out eating it over two days.
TV - More binging of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! I'm officially obsessed.

Shopping - I headed to our local shopping area to hit up a few stores I've been meaning to go to for ages - Target, Barnes & Noble, and Charming Charlie's. I picked up this book for myself and a couple of new books for the kiddos too.

TV - You guessed it, more Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Binge watching a TV show is the ultimate time wasting luxury.

Sunday
Sleep - My last day to sleep in. You better believe I didn't waste this final opportunity.

Workout - By this point I was feeling I had been a little lazy, so I did a full hour of Tracy Anderson's Metamorphosis. I'm hoping to get back into my daily workouts, you know, now that I'm feeling all refreshed and motivated after my time alone.

Errands - I wanted to make sure we had food in the house before everyone got back, so I took a leisurely stroll through the aisles of Fry's as I did our weekly grocery shopping.

TV - The family was due back in only a few hours now, so I just relaxed and watched a few more episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend before the crazy started at home again.

Around 2 o'clock, Seamus strolled through the door and gave me the biggest hug I think I've ever gotten from him. It actually made me tear up. My biggest fear was that I wouldn't miss them, but as nice as it was to be alone, it was so nice to have everybody back too. Bill was exhausted, but I let him know how much I appreciated it. For an introvert like me, there is no greater gift then time spent home alone. I told Bill it was both more than enough time, but also not nearly enough. I wonder if we can make this an annual thing?  Just kidding, but you know, also not.

Do you like to be alone? If you have a family, do you get enough of alone time, or do you want more? What would you do with 4 days alone? Tell me about it.

8.01.2016

Let's Go To The Movies - Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Today, I'm really excited to tell you all about a new little film out of New Zealand, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Foster kid, Ricky Baker, has been passed around from family to family as far back as he can remember.  He might actually have found a forever home though, when he is taken in by a sweet country woman, Bella, and her gruff and wild husband, Hec (Sam Neill). When tragedy strikes the farm, Ricky runs away into the dangerous New Zealand bush. Hec follows, and rather than letting Ricky get taken back into the system, the two decide to evade the law in a manhunt that soon captivates the entire nation.

I had no idea what this film was about going in - hadn't even seen the preview. My movie buddy said it looked really good though, and that it had a 99% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes (which is practically unheard of), so I went for it. I'm so glad I did because this was, by far, the best movie I have seen in some time. It was a wickedly clever and delightful film; full of heart and really action-packed too. Young Julian Dennison is a treat, while Sam Neill gives one of his finest performances. If you're looking for one last film to check out this summer, the highly entertaining, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, is it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.