Friday, March 30, 2012

meatless friday meal: veggie stir fry

since we're almost done with fridays during lent, i thought i better post on this dish.
we actually eat a lot of meatless meals, this is one of my favorite ones.
so, easy and fresh and crunchy....i can't get enough of the crunchy celery!
just chop up whatever veggies you like.
the green stuff in the photo is bok choy.
last time i also added broccoli, mushrooms, and bean sprouts.

saute all in a pan/wok with sesame oil and soy sauce.
i do the carrots and celery first  -
(they take longer to cook, but don't overcook if you want the crunch)
and then slowly add more of the veggies and sauce.
cook for about 10-15 minutes (add broccoli last for just a couple minutes)
stir frequently and serve over rice or noodles.
happy (meatless) friday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

st. patty's day

st. patrick's day is always filled with so much fun for the kids and our family.
their school was founded by an order of nuns from ireland, the loreto sisters.
although they are all aging, they are all very lively- full of such positive and loving energy.
cake walk put on by kindergarden room each year
every year the school transforms into a carnival for the last few hours of the day.
each class runs a booth (food or game),
parents of the younger grades run them, in the older grades the kids run their booths.
john john at the 'fishing' booth
ella's class was in charge of bingo this year, one of the only indoor activities.
she won and got a full size candy bar which she saved until sunday (gave up candy: lent)
andrew's class was in charge of the jail - he got to run around capturing students.
and christopher's was in charge of the hair spray booth:
all of the proceeds go to support the loreto sisters all over the world.
this year they were sending the money to a school in africa.
i love that they can feel a connection to helping others not only locally but world wide.
the kids look forward to this fun event every year.
they have so much fun running around with their friends and celebrating their school.
the day ends with a big irish dance show that is now held in the new gymatorium.
the building is so great because not only is it a gym but also has an amazing stage built in.
the principal welcomes all and talks a bit about the irish heritage of the nuns.
then they call off the winners of the raffle prizes, and then the show begins.
they have an irish dancing class the kids can take after school.
ella was a part of the group in kindergarten.
it is so fun to watch these kids perform.
i get choked up every year.
what is so great is to see the peers in the audience cheering these kids on like crazy.
this girl is in the 7th grade.
she is going to compete in the world championship in belfast, ireland.
when she was announced as she came on stage her classmates went wild cheering for her.
i love the community feeling of the school,
and how the kids come together to support each other's talents.
it's a super fun day and everyone,
kids and parents alike enjoy it so much.
hope everyone had a great st. patrick's day-
i didn't get any pictures of the actual day but we had a great time at a family block party.
actually i got one picture, at ella's baseball game that morning...
her team is the white sox - 
they haven't gotten their shirts yet but she had these great leg warmers to wear.
all the parents in the stands were asking where we got them,
so i called my mom to ask (she had given them to ella for her birthday)
and she said they were the only pair at the dollar store - too funny...
you can find some great stuff there!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

feliz cumpleanos, esposo

monday was chris' birthday.
we had two baseball games and a dance class, two at the same time and one overlapping.
so, it was a good thing we celebrated the night before.
(we still were able to squeeze in a great meal at smashburger after the games w/chris' parents.)

happy birthday to a wonderful husband and father.
you have been working so hard and such long hours.
and you still make time to help with homework,
and play baseball in the yard with the kids, oh and basketball too.
we appreciate all you do for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

a visit from the aunts

my aunts (dad's sisters) came to visit for a couple weeks from illinois.
we hadn't seen them for almost 5 years - since the summer my dad died.
i was pregnant with john that summer, so they had never met him.

the weather was just perfect the entire time they were here.
we were outside for like 8 hours the first day they were here and all day most days.
they were amazing with the kids and are in great shape themselves.
this is my 78 year old aunt, nancy, pitching to john...
she plays tennis three times a age 78...amazing!
it is so wonderful to see them doing so well, they haven't aged in like 20 years!!

the kids were so excited they were coming, ella had talked about it for months.
she would get teary eyed out of anticipation.
she left them little notes on their pillows.

since she was only three the last time she saw them,
she couldn't remember who was who (before they came).
so, i kept telling her what each of their hair color was to describe them.
i came up with some nicknames:  nancy brown and joan white...
here they are hang'n out with ella after school the first day they were here.
they had arrived late the night before and hadn't seen the kids before they left for school that morning.

the next night was the all star game for andrew's basketball league.
it was so fun to have them there cheering him on.
it was such a close game.
andrew's team won by one point.
they are major sports fans,
we were all cheering our hearts out during the close end of the game.
the next day (friday) i took the kids out of school early.
we went to the first opening spring training game.

it had been cool and very windy that morning so i was worried it would be too gusty.
but, the weather was perfect and we had such a wonderful time there relaxing together.
as i said, they were so good with the interactive with them, just like my dad was.
here they are playing games with them saturday morning after our pancake breakfast.
that night we all went out to dinner and then went bowling.
it was my brothers' idea to go bowling, and man was it a good one.
we had the best time...i haven't bowled probably since i was in junior high -
when i was the leading scorer for the girls on our 7th & 8th gr. field trip...i'm just say'n.
this is my 80 year old aunt, joan, bowling!!
just look at that form for crying out loud...she is truly amazing!!
john john had a lot of fun with it too.
he was the ball police...just loved watching those things come up and who chose what ball.
 and he and daddy did some bowling together too...
i know my dad was looking down smiling at these things we all did together.
it was from his example that we learned to go out and spend time together this way.
family trips with the aunts and cousins were always centered around doing things like this together which in turn brought us all so close.

whenever we all traveled together he insisted we rent a car that we would all fit in-
that was a big part of being together - we all had to be in the car together-
and there were usually at least 10 of us, that was a tight squeeze but it did make it fun!

another important part of our family trips (we did some amazing traveling together) was
eating at wonderful restaurants - the food and atmosphere had to be equally rewarding.
on sunday we went to his favorite local brunch spot (adobe @ the biltmore) after mass...
this had been a ritual of ours that we did with him and our young family for years.
sunday mass at st. gregory's, then brunch at the biltmore and putting after we ate.
so, it was the obvious place to have the reception there after his funeral - it was lovely.
we all went to the cemetery after brunch (when the aunts were here).
we all miss him so much, and we all shed tears talking about him throughout their visit.

it was so great to have them here, it had been too long since we had gotten together.
my dad made a point of us all getting together several times each year for weeks at a time.
we will be doing a better job of that now.
the 'aunts' stayed with us, in the boys room.
we took down their bunk beds,
and since their room has it's own bathroom it worked out perfectly.
they had their own mini hotel room in our house and were so appreciative of the accommodations.

i feel so blessed that we were able to spend this time them.
and that they were able to really get to know the kids.

and i loved that i learned more of our family history...
my great-grandmother (dad's mother's mother) was the youngest of 14 children.
her mother was 16 when she married her husband 30 years older,
leaving ireland (because of the potato famine).
they came to the u.s. and had 14 children together -
now that is some interesting family history!

although we grew up very far from all of our family, we are all very close.
we are so close because of my father.
he made sure we all got together, he made it a priority.
and as i said, for weeks at a time - so that we could really get to know each other.

we would all rent a house somewhere together: hawaii, the hamptons, the carribean, colorado, washington, long island, the san juan islands...
we would go on adventures together (water skiing, snow mobiling, river rafting, mopeding)
we have some great stories of these travels we took together.
and we would eat amazing meals together.
we were so fortunate to be able to do these things together.

it is thanks to him that i have such a strong connection with these lovely ladies,
and feel such a deep love and respect for them and the entire family.
i know that my kids have now caught a glimpse of that and that makes me so happy.
i'm sure my dad is smiling down on us because of it too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

when she turned seven

since i haven't posted since ella's birthday, i will just stay on the subject.
last year she was dying to have a sleepover,
so i allowed her to have a few of her close friends stay the night.
her best friend got a fever the day of her party and was not able to make it :(
i had bought these build a bear kits at costco long before her birthday.
you make a smaller size bear yourself!!...i thought that would be so fun to do with the girls.
and each kit came with four different animals, so each of the girls made a different one.
we started out by turning the animals inside out and hand stitching them.
there were pre-poked holes, so the girls used a plastic needle to make the stitches.
my mom just happened to stop by as we were doing our sewing.
what a blessing, she was able to help some of the girls (i was helping them too).
although it was pretty easy, sometimes something would get tangled -
and it was just great to have an extra pair of hands there to help work out the kinks.
why didn't i think of that before?  
well, God sent her my way to help me out...
next was the fun part...stuffing the bears!
we turned them right side out and stuffed them and of course the kits came with the little
hearts to make a wish and put inside the bear.
the playdoh was to keep john john entertained!
i finished up sewing the bottom of the bears while the girls had a little dance party.
to some taylor swift...
i allowed just a bit of the on the couch moves, not too much...
they were having so much fun singing and dancing.
after dinner they were so excited to run and get their pj's on together.
here they are with their finished bears...
i believe they watched high school musical.
i'll have to double check that one with ella.
then it was time for singing and dessert...
they loved taking those bears with them everywhere.
the bears came an with an outfit &shoes, & a little birth certificate that we typed up the next morn.
oh and stickers, a crown and a button - a complete package they all got to take home.
next, they did some sparklers-
they had a lot of fun with them...
and before bed, ella was dying for them to try some seaweed.
some of them liked it, some of them didn't...but they all tried it!
my brothers had introduced the kids to seaweed a few months before ella's birthday.
she loved it so much, so they gave her several packages for her birthday.
and, they were super excited to brush their teeth together.
only when you're seven!
they had set their sleeping bags up earlier that afternoon, again so excited for the sleepover.
they slept on john's floor where there was enough room for them all.
breakfast the next morning, on her actual birthday...
uncle kevin (her godfather) called and asked if he could bring some donuts over. bet!
i love those heart ones they do in february...

i just had to include this picture since lady posed for it...she is too funny!
and so, it was a great birthday
and a very fun sleepover, with very sweet and giggly girls...
so maybe the fun memory will last for awhile and we will be good for some time.
because you know, once they get older then the fun becomes to stay up late -
didn't have that issue at this party, thank goodness!