Sunday, January 11, 2015

That Was Awesome! Weekending.

Weekends around here are purposely slow and uncommitted. With Noah's long school weeks and Jon's busy work days, I've found that we all seem happier, more relaxed and more well-rested when the weekends don't include too much. The recharging of batteries on Saturday and Sunday is such a gift. It's a time to do things as a family that the hectic weekdays don't provide, and it's a great opportunity to work together with Jon playing catch-up on little projects and "to dos" here and there. It's essential and rewarding! 

This weekend was just one of those times. I love nothing more than seeing blank spaces on my calendar for a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in a row. Something that hasn't happened for a little while due to the holidays.

Here's a little bit from our weekend........

Friday was such a nice day. I did a lot of this and that while Noah was at school. My favorite part was shoveling! Have I ever told you how much I enjoy shoveling snow? I know it sounds a little odd, but I just LOVE shoveling new fallen snow! Especially in the quiet of the morning, it's just BEAUTIFUL!!!!

Over night, from Thursday into Friday morning, we finally had some snow. We woke up early as usual, and I excitedly volunteered to shovel so our cars could get out of the driveway. Jon always wants to help me shovel, and he usually does, but I TRY to convince him of how much I love and don't mind doing the shoveling on my own. Its just fun AND it's exercise, so any chance I can get to move and have fun at the same time is a win-win for me! But even more so, I think the snow is so pretty and the morning time still and beautiful. It's meditative for me to go out and shovel. I truly enjoy that solitude and stillness. I could shovel every single day! And guess what? More snow coming tonight! I'll be up at 6:00am! :)

** Just a disclaimer: I know sometimes I write about very mundane minutia, but Jon and I were talking tonight, and we agree that it's worth writing about because one day, we can look back when Noah is grown, and see what life was like. It's like having an online scrapbook with words and pictures. Anyway, thanks for bearing with some of the more boring stuff. ** 

On Friday morning Josie went for a quick trip to the vet. She was having a pre-op blood draw as she's being spayed in about a week. :( 
I feel nervous about her spay and sorry that she has to go through it, but it's just something we have to do. Thankfully, I know and love her veterinarian who is going to preform her operation, and she called to say that everything looks good. So, if you remember, please say a prayer for Josie a week from Monday. It won't be easy, but I'll be glad for her when it's all a said and done. And, after that, we're going to sign-up for our local fenced in dog park and start puppy classes! So, fun things for Josie to come.

In addition to those things, I also did a bunch of laundry and folding and putting away of laundry. A bit of cleaning around the house and some blogging. I took a short dog walk or two (it was just so cold!) and I even found time before school pick-up to bake a............

Blueberry and Peach Cobbler!

It was from my "Cooking With Trader Joe's" cookbook.

Friday was a day that the animals amused me. They do everyday, but on this day they were extra cute and I took an extra amount of photos. This is Josie resting on a towel and trying to dry off from her walk and Hector laying near by. They're still good friends, but Josie just gets too enthusiastic with her play. She's always grabbing Hector and licking him. It's pretty cute. He tolerates it for a while and then walks away.

And Willow. Willow is just so sweet. I feel badly for her because since Josie arrived, she's spent more time upstairs where Josie can't go. Willow does comes downstairs several times a day, she isn't afraid to, but she now seems to just prefer our bedroom upstairs. Although, it could be because our room is by far the sunniest and warmest room in the house, and she loves sleeping on the wicker laundry basket in our bathroom, so maybe the cold weather months are nicer in the sunny, warm part of the house. Maybe I'm over-thinking it. I try to go upstairs throughout the day and give Willow a "Hello" and a pet.

When Jon came home from work we had dinner. A veggie and harvest soup, an arugula, Parmesan and pine nut salad with lemon juice and olive oil, and truffled brie grilled cheese sandwiches! I was kind of tired from cooking all week. Then I served the blueberry and peach cobbler, but right when I did, Josie barked and crawled up onto Jon's lap and started to go to sleep! She loves Jon and gets so excited when he comes home from work. We all do.

She was moving around, trying to get comfortable, and eventually started sleeping like this! :)

After dinner we made a fire in the fireplace and the three of us sat around watching " Outrageous Acts of Science" on the Science Channel. It's a pretty entertaining show. I wish I could say more about it, but I feel asleep after ten minutes. I know it's pretty dorky to basically go to sleep at 7:30 on a Friday night, but it your wake up at 6:00am and shovel and run around all day, maybe it's ok? Maybe? Well, maybe at the end of the week. 

Saturday was nice too! We had a slow morning where Noah just played. Jon and I both exercised a little at home and got some cleaning done upstairs while Noah sat with Josie. I took Josie for a walk, we made lunch, and then we ran to my parents house so Josie could play with their dogs.

Because it was brutally cold this past week (the windchill got to -20!) Josie really had a case of cabin fever. I would take her out often, but it was so cold, I think the longest that she wanted to stay out was ten minutes. So, when Saturday was a bit warmer and sunny, we brought her to my Mom's to play with her dogs Lucy and Buddy inside the house, and outside in their large yard. Noah decided to stay there with Josie while Jon and I ran to Target for some toiletries and home goods that we needed. It sounds kind of silly, but even just getting out with Jon alone to go buy paper towel, it's nice. We don't get alone time often.

After that we picked up Noah and Josie and then went home. She was very tired from playing, so we took the opportunity to put her in her playpen (which is where she stays when we run out now) and we decided to go for a coffee and snack at the delicious Pinwheel Bakery and Red Hook Coffee Shop in Ferndale!

(Ferndale is a wonderfully creative, friendly, FUN little city that is just about ten minutes south of us. It's between our city and Detroit. I really like Ferndale so much. There are a lot of independently owned shops and eateries and everything feels progressive, liberal and artistic. It's a great place to be!)

Jon and I ordered ourselves each a house coffee, and Noah a hot chocolate.


And this is the part that I'm embarrassed to tell you about, but then we proceeded to order three desserts so that we could have a taste-test. I know it might seem like a lot of dessert, but it's not often that we find ourselves down at Pinwheel, and besides, how could you choose just one treat from their many!?

So, we tried a Sea-Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie, which was Noah and my favorite. We also had an Oatmeal Cookie Whoopie Pie. That was great. And, there was a truly amazing Sticky Toffee Pudding, that was Jon's favorite and my close second. Everything was perfect!

I kind of felt badly eating all of this, but for the record, I did extra exercise this day. The truth is, we're foodies, and I just couldn't imagine not trying new and delicious things sometimes. It's a real treat and a joy experiencing local, artisan bakes goods or trying out new, little restaurants. I'm thankful.

After the coffee shop-bakery trip, Jon, Noah and I headed home. We played with Josie, took her on a mini-walk and then later on, speaking of food, got ready for dinner. (But not before making Josie a scrambled egg to top her kibble!)

We were going to one of my new FAVORITE restaurants. I am OBSESSED with Da Nang Restaurant in Clawson. Obsessed I tell you! It is a Vietnamese restaurant, and the reasons that I love it is because the food is so so so super fresh and amazing, and the entire staff is just the nicest. I can not get the flavors out of my head!

Jon and Noah usually go for a the very traditional Vietnamese soup and noodle dish, Pho. I on the other hand, greatly appreciate their extensive vegetarian menu, and often can not resist their tofu spring rolls for dinner. Do you even KNOW how great these spring rolls are!? They take cold vermicelli rice noodles, add in some veggies, a bit of herbs like refreshing MINT, then twist a long, piece of tofu in a spiral around it. Next they take a very thin rice paper wrapper and wrap that around everything. The rolls are served with a sweet and slightly spicy house made Hoisin sauce. We usually share an appetizer of Crispy Garlic Tofu. Those are small cubes of fried garlic tofu that you sprinkle with soy source. It's so good that even Noah loves them!

After dinner we came home, and like most nights, just hung out with Josie and relaxed until bedtime. Nothing too major. It was just a great day! 

Sunday followed mostly the same. A leisurely morning. Noah played, Jon and I each exercised, we cleaned around the house, I watered my plants. 

Today I counted. I have 15 plants now. A Bonsai Tree (thanks Mom and Dad S.!), Bamboo that I've had for over three years, a housewarming gift from my mother and father-in-law, two Orchids, one is at least five years old, a cactus, a palm tree, you know, Dustin Hoffman the palm tree? The one we found laying in the garbage? A tiny evergreen tree and four different succulent plants. I love my plants!

Mid-day we decided to try something new. It's true what they say about dog ownership, it really gets you out there! Dogs make you active, make you try new things! We decided, since it was a balmy 30 degrees out today, to try for the first time a little nature tail walk with Josie! There is a nearby 18 acre nature preserve that I've heard was great for dogs. There's a trail that runs through the woods and along a stream. It was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!!!!

First though, we all geared up in snow pants and coats and hats and gloves. Even Josie put on the winter hat that I crochet for her. (Well, she only wore it for the picture, but still.)

She did wear her winter coat on the trail though.

The hike was just beautiful and the nature preserve is literally a five minute drive from our house. I can't believe we haven't gone before! Now I want to go everyday!

The scenery was perfect. The stream, the trees, the peacefulness. Josie loved it too. So did Noah!

We took a Noah and Mom selfie.

After our hike we went home and defrosted. Josie had some snowballs in her fur, but they were pretty easy to melt and take off. Noah wasn't thrilled but we still needed to run to the grocery store for dinner supplies and a few staples for the week. Luckily it was a quick trip and Noah ended up with his new favorite, fried chicken from the new prepared food counter in our newly re-designed market. They have this big, fancy, chicken counter and Mac N' Cheese counter. It's kind of crazy. Looks good! I've still yet to try.

Then we came home and made dinner and now I'm blogging and guess what...... IT'S SNOWING!!!!!
WOO HOO!!!!! \(^-^)/

What do you guys think? Should I go out and start shoveling now??? I don't know if I can wait until tomorrow morning! LOL.

And that's the scoop! Until next time, stay warm and have a fantastic week!!!!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Playing Catch Up! What We Did Over the Holidays

Helloooooooo blog friends. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! \(^-^)/
I know that I'm really late in saying that, but better late than never, right?
I hope that all of you are having really nice starts to the year, and that your holiday season was bright and happy.

I don't even know where to begin or how to catch up. I was lagging behind on posting mostly because we were just so busy with holiday prep and Chanukah and Christmas and New Year. Also though, I was surprised to find that I came down with the flu! It was right between Chanukah and Christmas. I couldn't believe it. I haven't had the flu or anything like it in over ten years! Actually, the most surprising thing was that even after my fever and aches subsided, I was completely worn out and weak for over a week! I've never had that feeling. The flu really does take it out of you. The good news is, I'm feeling better now. It took a while, but I'm back!

Here is just a bit of what we've been up to recently in pictures..........

I have Chanukah decorations and Christmas decorations. I grew up celebrating Christmas when I was a baby, then Chanukah until I was about five or six, and then Christmas. Don't ask. I don't even know. My parents are both half Jewish, half Catholic and Protestant, but have never been religious. So I think we were just trying it all out. Some people will feel that it is wrong that I decorate for a holiday that I don't religiously celebrate, but I still love Christmas time and the peacefulness and stillness and beautiful lights, so I put my decorations up. Mostly to celebrate  a time of joy and unity.

And I also make things fun and festive for Chanukah with dreidels and gelt and menorahs and other decorations.  But, in a nutshell, I'm bummed because I mostly forgot to take photos of my decorations this year! I'm so sad. I take pictures every year! I've been far removed from my regular rhythm and schedule these days. I'll blog about it soon. 

Willow enjoyed the warm glow of this small topiary/tree. My Mom gave me two matching topiaries from her front door years ago. I turned one into an indoor "holiday" tree with fun ornaments that Noah and I chose, and the other I decorated with simple bulbs and lights for sitting outdoors on our back deck!

And sleepy Josie, resting by the twinkling lights. :)

I just can't even believe that I forgot to take outdoor photos of our decorations this year. This is the only picture that I could find. Jon and I put A LOT of work into getting the fresh garland, wrapping lights and stringing bulbs and putting it all up. I wish I had remembered. And this year, the most fun part...... I found a vintage looking, plastic Santa 1/2-off at a garden shop, that we weighted down with bricks and perched on our front porch roof! :)

So, it looked like a 3-foot Santa was waving from our roof! Lots of people told me they liked him. The reason that I decorate all of the time, for the holidays and even for the different seasons, is because I just want to spread smiles and happy feelings. I know that my house is in a very visible place. More so than homes in a neighborhood. During rush hour, our street is quite busy, it is a cut-through loop around town, so we get a lot of traffic, and I just want to make commuters smile, especially if they've had a hard day. Also, the children at the nursery school right down the street seem to love the ever-changing decorations, and the church goers right across the street always tell me they enjoy them too. And people who regularly walk by. my own, little, tiny way, this is how I do my part to spread some cheer. :)

Also, look how big Josie is! She was 16.5lbs. at the vet today!

I am stressed about what is the safest and best way to drive Josie in the car when I have to. I'd like to find a good set-up so I can take her with me to pick up Noah and on other small errands where she can accompany me. The only thing is, she becomes carsick and often....well.....throws up! Poor Josie. The vet said she might out grow it. Here is a car seat and harness combo that I tried. At first she liked it. After a few rides she was trying to climb out, and then she was carsick again. I still think it's a nice product though! It's the Solvit Tagalong Pet Booster Seat in size XL. It was very easy to set up and install. I paired the booster with their Deluxe Car Safety Harness that clips into the booster seat with two clips.

But, maybe the point is moot now because last week I got a new car! \(^-^)/
My lease is up on the Mini and it was time to try something new. I'm not sure how much I want to risk puppy vomit on the new seats at the moment. I don't think Josie wants to take the risk either. ;)
This is a convertible. Although I'm thoroughly enjoying our new, gorgeous snow, Noah and I are also super excited to one day, hopefully soon, put the top down!

Noah was off from school for over two weeks. A lot of hanging out with puppies went on.

Hanging out with tired from playing puppies.

Tired out from playing kids and puppies.

Apparently REALLY tired kids and puppies.

I feel like I've mentioned this before on the blog, but I found THIS free, cute crochet pattern for a Santa drink coaster. He was quick to make and lots of fun! I just made a loop for it, made two, and hung them in my front windows downstairs! :)

When I wasn't sick from the flu, Josie and I did a lot of walking. 
Like mother, like daughter.........

Here is Chanukah! Oh I am painfully guilty of not taking enough pictures of Chanukah this year. I'm really upset at myself for this. It's just that I started feeling sick around the third night and spent the rest of Chanukah on the couch or in bed. Noah loved when we lit the candles. He enjoyed singing, opening his gifts and playing with the dreidels and gelt. We even had a latke with applesauce night and blintzes too. Yum! Yum!

Last year we made cookies for Santa. Noah really wanted to do it again. I wish so much that I wasn't sick on this day. Instead of helping, I just watched and.....then laid on the couch`. It was still fun though.

And since it was Christmas Eve, I was able to finally give Noah his Christmas Eve box! This year it included some fleece, penguin footie pajamas, a stuffed animal, a Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, popcorn, movie candy and hot chocolate to make. It was great.

Oh, and on top of everything, my Mom's dog Lucy, who is Josie's best friend, she came over to play for an hour or so on this day. But, Lucy was scared to be away from her home, so she mostly just panted the whole time and ran around. We have dubbed Josie and Lucy and their friendship as = "Jucy."

Noah wanted to make Santa an ornament and letter, which I thought was sweet.

And here are his finished cookies! 

And everything, new penguin pajamas included, on Christmas Eve. Ready for Santa!

Here's after Santa came. Because we celebrate Chanukah, we only give Noah a few smallish gifts from Santa and one from us. Then, we go to my parents' house where Noah receives more Christmas gifts. Jon snuck downstairs late on Christmas Eve and ate the cookies that Noah left, drank the milk and left a letter in pencil on brown packaging paper. I was sure to wrap the "Santa" gifts in the same, nondescript packaging paper and then I added on scraps of ribbon and accessories that Noah has never seen and look magic! Like the silver stars below!

Noah gave Jon and I, what I think is the best gift ever! A poem that he wrote about our family. I 
 teared up when he read it to us.

This was him opening the box from our gift. It was a Hot Wheels Street Hawk. You guys, this toy is actually REALLY cool! It goes from being an RC car, to driving very fast and then......taking off into the sky! It becomes an airplane! Watch below:

After Christmas things were calmer. Between Christmas and New Years I just tried to get better. One evening we took a short walk. The lights were pretty and the weather was unbelievably mild!

When I was feeling good enough to really venture back into the world, we went for bunch at a delicious place called "Imperial." They make the best artisan, fresh, veggie tacos I have ever tasted. The menu is really unique. If you're in Detroit, you should check it out!

Oh my gosh, I just realized that I don't have pictures from New Years either! Oh geez. Well, for New Years we were invited to dinner with my parents and my 92 year old Grandmother. We went to a lovely restaurant called "The Stand."  I had a very refreshing beet salad and the best truffled risotto.

Then we took Josie to my parents' house to run with their dogs for a while, and after that I headed home. I fell asleep around 9:30, but luckily, Jon woke me up to see the ball drop. Then, somebody was setting off huge fireworks in the neighborhood down the hill, so it was pretty to watch those from our window. 

This week I spent a few days making some front window decorations for the month of January. I just went with a snowman theme, as I already have a door decoration that's a snowman holding a sign that says: "Let It Snow!" Which, I agree with. Let's have some snow now! Christmas was too green and warm outside. I need at least a LITTLE wintry weather before spring. Then I will appreciate spring more!

Here is Josie the other night. She is such a sweet girl. Over the holiday, one night after she awoke around 1:00am and 3:00am crying in her cage, we decided to just let her sleep on the end of Noah's bed and see if that helped. And Josie almost always sleeps through the night AND she has stopped getting up at 5:45am!!!! HOORAY!!!! This is a HUGE difference. We are all getting more sleep now. :)

My Mom was suggesting for a while that it was time to take Josie to the groomer, just so she can start getting used to it. We give her baths at home often, she's very good about them. But, I don't know how to trim her hair. So, I agreed to take Josie to the groomer. My Mom set an appointment for Josie and her dogs Buddy and Lucy, so they could all go together and keep each other company. I was a really nervous for Josie. I worried she would be scared. I even nearly cried at the thought of leaving her. But of course, it was TOTALLY fine, and she had no problems and I was fine too. 

And, from the looks of it, with that smile on her face, she had a good time! 
Josie's hair is so soft now and the short length is good for the snow. They did a great job! It's just personal preference, but I love the longer, shaggy "Benji" look that she had before, but I'm sure we'll visit the "Pet Parlor" again sometime soon.

So, for Christmas my Mom gave me a great cookbook. It's a Cooking With Trader Joe's cookbook, the vegetarian version. Sometimes I have to go to three different grocery stores to find everything on my list, but my goal is to only have to shop one! Trader Joe's is my favorite, so this cookbook was super exciting to me.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying this cookbook and just wanted to share. So far I've made some Roasted Red Pepper and Mozzarella sandwiches which were easy and great. We also had the simplest but most flavorful pasta with sun dried tomatoes, olives and pesto! The picture below is the Spicy Szechuan Tofu. Think of it as veggie Ma Po Tofu. This was DELICIOUS and even Noah ate it! I served this dish with some white rice, a veggie stir--fry and some Asian inspired broccoli slaw.

Oh and........Chocolate Truffle Pie! This pie was sooooo good and super quick to make. The crust was made from Joe Joe's which are the Trader Joe's version of Oreos. The filling is just melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and coconut milk cream. It's amazing. 

Next I tried making an Eggplant Parmesan and a warm goat cheese salad. Everything was great! :)

Tonight will be a simple harvest grains veggie soup, some arugula with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan salad, and little grilled cheeses. We have a Trader Joe's truffled Brie to use up. Also, I've made the cookbook's blueberry and peach cobbler for desert!

THEN.....I go on a diet for the rest of my life. 

Speaking of. Ok, here is my exercise update. I'm really getting into something fun and wanted to tell you about it. Here is a very deceptive picture taken post-exercise the other night. My arm is much more fluffy than thist in real life, but look at that definition! Actually, it's just a line, but I pretend it's definition.

But any who, I have been exercising almost every single day since August. And before that, I was trying to at least exercise a little most days for the year prior. My theory is, if I just try to get at least 15-20 minutes a day of weight resistance/cardio exercise, plus a walk in, I'm good to go and I won't give up. I have 15 minutes to spare and time to walk. This amount is something that I can stick with.

I wrote earlier in the year about the pilates DVD that I purchased and have really enjoyed. It's called "Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners." I like the 20 minutes "Cardio Pilates" workout. It's a lot of core work.  Usually these days though, I have been doing a mixture of POP Pilates videos which are FREE on YouTube! Have you seen them? I LOVE the creator and instructor Cassey Ho. She's the best! So sweet and super motivating. I just mix and match her different videos, and there are a ton of them. Many are just five minutes long, working a specific areas of the body. Other video are much longer and offer a full body workout. Here are the two that I did last night. I can DEFINITELY feel it in my abs and legs today.


Sometimes I'll add in additional exercises of my choice or pair POP Pilates with my DVD. I just try to mix it up and keep things fun!

Ok, but here is the semi-frustrating/confusing part. Anybody know what's going on?
So, I have been exercising for a year and a half and trying not to eat once dinner is over. I don't weigh myself at home because honestly, I realized that I scrutinized that number on the scale too much. If I gained a pound, I felt defeated and would feel like giving up. I decided to go by how my clothes fit instead, what my energy and strength is like.

I went to the doctor's this week for my yearly physical. On the way out, they hand you a checkout sheet/receipt and I saw my weight. I can't believe that I've only lost about 10lbs. because I'm now fitting back into jeans that I bought quite a few years ago when I weighed 10lbs. lighter than I do now. 

So, how am I fitting into these jeans? I bought them when I lost 20lbs. on Weight Watchers. My only guess is, is that I lost some body fat, but gained muscle. Can that be right? That I just toned up and gained muscle? I suppose so...... I've been doing ab exercises and leg exercises almost every single day for five months. I've never felt this strong in my life, it's pretty cool!

So, I guess the number on the scale doesn't matter. I'm just glad that I can wear my old jeans again, and more so, that I can plank easily and feel strong and have fun while doing it! \(^-^)/

And that my friends is the scoop!

Love you lots. Back soon!
Lauren :)