Tag Archives: family

NPR in everyday life

Iowa Public Radio is the first preset in my car (don’t worry, I’m a sustaining member!) and so shows like All Things Considered and segments like StoryCorps are part of my everyday life.

I went a step further this week: In pursuit of headway on my 30 before 30 list (less than a month to go! totally not going to cross off the majority!), I convinced my dear friend Arin to stay up late after our kiddos had gone to bed and bake a multi-layer cake. I’m not a confident baker, but I do love All Cakes Considered, by NPR producer Melissa Gray. We set out to make Aunt Di’s Bittersweet Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake.

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Once upon a time, in the beginning of my Des Moines life, Arin and Karen (co-owner of the stationery store Ephemera) were the cake queens. They used to bake a weekly cake from scratch and a big group of us used to come over to eat it. Those are some of my favorite memories.

So Monday night, I poured some fake, pregnant lady wine and unpacked armloads of supplies in Arin’s kitchen.  Her children slept through the sounds of our giggling and the amazing aroma. It was lovely. The cake, well, let’s just say it wasn’t going to win any beauty contests. (We frosted it while it was still hot.) But with two cups of freshly whipped cream (a delightful chore on a mint KitchenAid Mixer) in the batter and the frosting calling for enough confectioner’s sugar to swim in, it tasted delish. My coworkers graciously overlooked its ugliness and helped devour it at our Tuesday staff meeting.

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Nailed it. Maybe I should set my sights on the Iowa State Fair ugliest cake contest. I really can’t take myself too seriously.

And over the weekend, when I was home for a wedding, I downloaded the StoryCorps app to my phone.

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I love doing videos and interviews with my grandpa (he just turned 93 last week!) and this is a really great format. We talked about his mom, or at least tried to, in honor of Mother’s Day. The app gives you question prompts and it’s easy to upload the finished interview. Plus, any reason to get these two hangout time:

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We have a family reunion in June and I hope to record a longer StoryCorps about his experience in the Navy during WWII. It takes him a bit to get warmed up, but once he gets going, the stories start to flow. I think it would be fun for us to interview aunts and uncles, too! We don’t get together as much as I would like.

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Meeting the manatees

I have a long list of “I’ve always wanted to…”

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And with that marvelous milestone of 3-0 looming, I did what lots of let’s-do-this-oriented bloggy ladies do and came up with some fun activities that I hoped to satisfyingly cross off on my way to the big birthday. Of course, it included one of my longest held dreams: Seeing manatees in the wild.

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My manatee obsession spans 20+ years; it’s become a part of my identity and one of the random facts most people who know me even a little bit will remember. Hence, I’m tagged weekly with articles about the beloved creatures and have been gifted three of these.

So this winter, or as some like to call it – Manatee Season – I was determined to finally make it happen. I booked our family a direct flight between Des Moines and St. Petersburg for a long weekend manatee-centric getaway.We stayed in Crystal River, which is a couple hours north of St. Pete. (Zip up the toll road and do not mistakenly think Hwy 19 will be a “scenic route.” It was a stop-and-go, strip-mall-infested nightmare.)

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Manatees are at home in both fresh and salt water, but in the colder months they like to come inland and hang out in the warmer springs. Two best-known Florida manatee havens are Homosassa Springs/Crystal River and Blue Springs State Park/Orange City. I’ve mostly heard about these magical spots through my membership with the Save the Manatee Club. Even Emmett got to “adopt” a manatee for his first birthday. He and “Squeaky” were both born June 13!

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Our Crystal River manatee adventure included a kayak trip with Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Co, Inc., which is a sponsor of the Save the Manatee Club and takes one of the most eco-minded approaches in all manatee tourism. We got a sweet Save the Manatee treat bag, and a private family kayak tour in the chilly Florida morning.

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Our guide is a board member for the club and was extremely knowledgeable, sharing information about the preservation initiatives and conservation challenges of the area. I’ll admit that most people who asked about the trip assumed I was going to be swimming with the manatees and when I saw the sweet creatures gliding below the surface, it took every ounce of willpower not to just jump into the water. But when you see how disruptive the boats full of scuba divers and snorkelers are in the habitat — some don’t even use propeller guards! — it’s easier to hold back and let the manatees be.

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Emmett did, however, jump/fall face first into the bay in the .25 seconds we had our heads turned while taking a break on the beach. Toddler adventures!

We also made two different trips to Homosassa Springs, a wildlife park that is way bigger than I had ever envisioned. You can take a little ferry boat from the main parking lot out to the park, and hear about the trees and wildlife along the way. A beautiful boardwalk features a number of different manatee and fish observation points over the springs, and another “Wildlife Walk” loop takes you through a kind of wildlife rehabilitation zoo.  If I were to do it again, I would have kayaked in the afternoon and gone to Homosassa in the morning. The afternoon was crowded and the manatees had all swum out to deeper waters. We were the first people in the park the second day, and got the practically private manatees-as-far-as-I-can-see fix I was hoping for!

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We didn’t do as much dining out as we typically do on vacation — eating our way through a city. Considering Emmett’s allergies, we enjoyed a few picnics at the King’s Bay park, which the little boy loved, and had a nice dinner out at the Fat Cat Grill, which is fancier than it sounds, but also had high chairs. (Lamb chops, ftw!) Back in St. Pete on Sunday, we went to the Dali Museum and drove down for sunset at Clearwater Beach.

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It was crazy to think we were on our first full family vacation (one lap child, one in utero), and it’s a memory I’ll always cherish.

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Christmas memories

I hope you had a lovely holiday season! We were lucky enough to spend this Christmas break making memories with both Joe’s family in Council Bluffs and my family outside Chicago. I love days when you can stay in your pajamas as late as you like. (Because sleeping in isn’t really an option these days, with a toddler who wakes up before dawn.)

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Here are a few favorites from 2015: 

Seeing the stocking I finally sewed for Emmett hanging from the fireplace. I bought the Christmas fabric forever ago (October 2011?) at a shop in Dubuque but didn’t have my DIY act together together in time for his first Christmas. I pieced and quilted it over Thanksgiving with my mom, and used this free pattern and tutorial to base the shape.

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Cooking a Polish family favorite with my father-in-law. Joe’s family feasts typically feature golumpki, a dish of ground beef and pork and onions and rice rolled in a steamed cabbage leaf. This year, Joe’s mom had to work and Joe was hung over resting all morning, so it was up to me and Stevo to fire up the stove. I really enjoyed making these! I didn’t take photos because, well, my hands were covered in raw meat, but you can watch Martha Stewart make them with her mom in this video.

Playing  Suspend at both family parties. My niece Mia got Suspend for Christmas and brought it over in the morning. Such a fun multi-generational family game! You have to figure out how to hang and dangle the metal pieces without them falling. Kind of like Jenga.
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Reading for pleasure. There are few things more relaxing for me than getting lost in a good book. I downloaded Station Eleven, my next book club book on the Kindle app this time, so I could read in the car during the nighttime drives. The interwoven story lines are gripping.
Handmaking gifts is always a favorite, although unfortunately I didn’t do very much this year. (I did sew new pillowcases for my mom using the APQ sewathon roll-up pattern.) Emmett got lucky in this department, though. My brother made him the IKEA-hack learning tower so he can be a kitchen helper. And my mom and aunt made a way-awesome “quiet book” together! I can appreciate the hours and hours they spent on it:

I have a few days off and a to-do list a mile long, so blogging is the perfect procrastination. I’m hoping to put down words about motherhood at 18 months, because everything feels different as we’ve hit new developmental milestones.

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Filed under At home, Baby, Books, Cooking, Getting crafty

Midwest family adventure: Columbia, MO

A few weeks ago I had this daydream: A fall weekend in Columbia, MO – the crunchy college town that still possesses a piece of my heart.

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image via painted post

We’d load up the bikes and hit the trail right away to do the 30-mile round trip to the blufftop winery overlooking the Missouri River. Then we’d get up the next morning and explore the Mizzou campus before heading to the Roots N Blues N BBQ music festival. Then we’d drive another two hours to meet one of my very best friend’s babies and hang until dinner time. Back in DSM late Sunday night. Crazy? Maybe. I started to think of it as a kind of parenting triathlon – a test of endurance.

Thankfully, the forecast for the weekend was gorgeous. But as anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with a toddler knows, their emotions are harder to predict than the weather in the Midwest. One minute, E can be happily flipping through a book and then you offer him a banana and the kid flips out.

Ultimately, the weekend turned out to be a lot of fun (despite a few scattered meltdowns), and I’m glad we pushed ourselves to make a little mini adventure happen. Here’s how it went down.

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Motherhood: One year in

I celebrated my first anniversary as a mom last weekend, chasing my freshly minted 1-year-old boy. These days he is bursting with energy, curiosity, things to say. Pausing every now and again for a few cuddles before his next expedition.

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I think back to the days and nights of last June, when new motherhood was an overwhelming tidal wave of emotion and exhaustion. I remember what everyone told me: The days are long, but the years go by so fast. And it’s true. Here we are, heading into a second summer, older, and maybe a little wiser.

I’m by no means a perfect mother, but I am a happy one.

There isn’t much room for selfishness in motherhood. The million little chores and acts — the diaper changes, meal preparations, bathtime and bedtime routines, up rocking in the middle of the night — involve choices that put your child’s interests before your own. The weight of this responsibility is enormous and sometimes, if I’m honest, it can drag a mama down.

It’s in the midst of these days that we parents need to – proverbially – do what flight attendants direct in every safety spiel: Put your oxygen mask on first. You won’t be able to help the kid next to you if you can’t breathe.

Do all those little thankless tasks. And do something for yourself. Don’t feel guilty. Take a shortcut, if you can, call a sitter, lean on your spouse and give yourself permission to focus for a little bit on something just for you. The book club with your girlfriends. A long run. A pedicure. A getaway.

 I’ve learned that if I can’t recognize the person I want be when I look at the mirror (or, more often, my calendar) — how can I expect my child to see that in me? 

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My earlier posts on motherhood are here.

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Filed under At home, Baby, Life lessons

Grandpa’s Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I celebrated a bit early because Emmett and I were lucky enough to go to Chicago this past week and revel in our Irish heritage. It was great to spend time at home and with my grandpa, who is recovering from pneumonia. Luckily, he was well enough to bake his famous Irish Soda Bread with me and ham it up for the camera.

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He starred in our second cooking video as a duo, walking me (and Emmett) through his Irish Soda Bread recipe. Making the video together is a memory (and taste) I’ll treasure forever. 

I’m so excited to share the recipe – which is written in my grandpa’s handwriting and was part of a book my family put together for me for my wedding.

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Soda Bread 1

Soda Bread 2

We had the fam over to my mom’s for corned beef and cabbage (which I cooked using this recipe), lots of dessert and all-you-can-eat soda bread (of course). I got to meet my cousin’s new baby, Caitlin, and my childhood friend’s new baby, Hazel, too! The tiny babies made Emmett seem like a giganotosaurus. I can’t believe his 9-month checkup is tomorrow.

 

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I feel you, Thoreau

This Thoreau quote seems perfect for this week. I’m cleaning off my memory card and came across images from Labor Day weekend at the farm.

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Here’s to remembering…

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P.S. My post from last year on ways to warm up in Des Moines is getting quite a few clicks these days.

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