Tuesday, October 21, 2014

chicago

I wrote this post a few years ago, but I go back to it every once in a while when I am missing Chicago and family.  I am headed there with kenz today, and I am feeling all the feelings exactly the way I wrote them a while ago. 

An Open Letter to Chicago


There is a water tower near the O’Hare Airport in Chicago that is painted to look like a rose. Because my middle name is Rose, I somehow, in my childhood mind, understood that water tower to be for me. Every time I rode past it, I pictured it recording that snapshot of my life, and keeping that record along with all the other snapshots it had gathered. I rode past that tower driving to vacations, flying overseas, during arguments, holding the hand of a boy who would end up hurting me, laughing with girlfriends, and driving to our new home in Pennsylvania. Even now, when I happen to ride past that rose water tower, I watch it out of the car window for as long as I can and think about all the times I have rode past it before; all that that represents in my life. It may seem weird, and my family jokes with me about it. Once, we even stopped so I could take a picture by it. But I can’t even remember when it first started, and there is something nostalgically wonderful about it.

In many ways, I love our home in Pennsylvania so much more than Chicago. I could make a list of 100 reasons why Pennsylvania is better than Chicago. And I could probably convince you to move right into our guest room. Don’t think I’m kidding; I have a certain sister living in our guest room right now because of our great luring skills. David and I have been intentional to dig our roots deep here; to pour into relationships, our church, our jobs, and not be afraid to make a home here. Sure, it would hurt like hell to leave. But this is our home right now, and living in the present is really important to us.

But in other subtle ways, Chicago has stolen small pieces of my heart. It only takes small bits at a time, so I don’t fully realize what’s happening. And it’s not until I go back to visit that this strange twinge happens in my heart. It’s like without my mind even knowing it, my heart feels a little more comfortable and a little more understood. It’s not a feeling where I want to move back, or that I miss it so desperately. In fact, even though I love visiting so much, I am always ready to drive back home to Pennsylvania. And yet, it’s a feeling where I am known in a way that no other place knows me.

For a long time, I kind of hated how well Chicago knew me. I hated that Chicago knew the poor decisions I had made, the arguments I had started, the people I had hurt, and the tears I had cried. Every time I visited Chicago, I felt like I needed to prove how well I had done; how much I had overcompensated for the bad things it had seen.

However, I am now realizing what I love so much about Chicago: that it knows all of that stuff, sees the importance in it and how it has made me grow, and always welcomes me back. And Chicago doesn’t stop there, it always reminds me of all of the good things, and those good things so far outweigh the bad that Chicago and I will always end up laughing about it.

I wander through the rooms in my parents’ home, visit our church, walk the dogs around our neighborhood, walk through the woods behind our house; and I remember that time I read christmas stories in that chair by the fireplace, or that time we went to that diner at 1am for milkshakes, or that time we took homecoming pictures in the backyard…and those emotions flood back in the best of ways.

And so, dear Chicago, I have come to visit you again, and this time in the fall. I haven’t been to Chicago during the fall for quite a few years, and I already know it’s going to feel fresh and new; yet familiar and comforting all at the same time.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

black bean avocado brownies


You like that fall styling I did there??

So I've heard of these brownies from different people around the internet and my first reaction was like, what the what?  what is wrong with a sugar-filled normal fudge brownie?  And there is nothing wrong with that, my dear friends.  But these were just too intriguing and I had to try them out.  However, the recipe calls for a food processor, and we didn't have a food processor.  And it seemed like a necessary step because you didn't want to bite into a brownie and find whole black beans inside.

Anyways, this story isn't even that interesting...I'll get to the recipe in a minute.  So I told david, "I kind of want a food processor, you know, for those recipes that come your way twice a year that require one."  The very next day the food processing gods (they really do exist) smiled down on me and I got an email from my grandparents with a list of things they were getting rid of from their second home.  FOOD PROCESSOR.  I snatched it up and the day it arrived I made these super weird brownies.

So here is my honest opinion on whether these are worth the hype.  They are very good...very fudgy and chocolatey and moist (sorry, I hate that word too).  It did take me a hot minute to get over the fact that an entire can of black beans went into them, and sometimes I felt like there was a slight black bean aftertaste...HOWEVER, I really think it was all mental.  and I pushed through and actually really enjoyed the entire batch.  I think I will be making them again, especially during those times where I am trying to cut back on sugary junk.  These are a great compromise.

Good Lord, could I write any more about these stupid brownies?  Onward! The recipe!

 adapted from HERE

Ingredients:
1 - 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 egg
 1/2 of a large extra ripe avocado
1 teaspoon olive oil
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chocolate chips of choice, plus 2 tablespoons for topping

 Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8x8 inch baking pan.  Place all ingredients besides chocolate chips into a food processor. Process or puree until ingredients form a smooth batter. If the batter is WAY too thick and won't process then add in a teaspoon or two of water. This batter needs to be very thick in order to produce fudgy brownies. Add in 1/3 cup chocolate chips and fold into batter.  Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of remaining chocolate chips.
 Bake for 25-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out somewhat clean and top of the brownies begin to crack.  Cool pan completely on wire rack then cut into squares.  These are meant to be served cold, which makes a big difference in taste.  I tried them warm and cold, and cold is much tastier!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

twenty-seven


today is my twenty-seventh birthday! 

my day is actually full of non-birthday related things to do and places to be, but that is okay!...it is just sort of this thing you carry around inside all day that makes you extra happy and extra grateful for life.  David and I will go out to dinner tomorrow night to celebrate, and then next week kenz and I are heading to Chicago for a few days...a very generous birthday gift from my parents!

people talk about getting stuck at a certain age; where no matter how old they are they always internally feel that age.  For me, I think that might be twenty-seven.  I have felt very much twenty-six, and do feel like I am turning one year older, but I think I'll get stuck at this next age forever.  I hope it's because I'll like it so much.

I always get really reflective around my birthday and around new years, so last night I wrote down in my journal all the truths of me at age twenty-seven.  It is something I started to do a while back, and it is so fun and interesting to look back on and see how things may have changed.  I also love looking ahead and setting goals for myself, but just thinking about who I am as a person in this moment is really interesting to me. 

This past year was a big year of change for me personally and for our family.  I love change and so I have loved this past year, but as I get older I appreciate consistency and finding joy in the mundane much more than I did in my early twenties. 

I've become more confident in myself...my personality, my gifts, and what I have to offer others.  I've wasted less time trying to be something or someone I am not, and simply appreciating the uniqueness of others rather than trying to be like them.  It makes people a lot more likeable!  This area is always going to be a journey for me, but I've felt a lot of growth in the past year.

I've also decided not to let my age determine too much in my life.  I'd prefer listening to Bang Bang by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj over a lot of other music, and I'm going to stop pretending that isn't true.  I also don't like wearing heels.  and so I'm not going to, even though that seems like a very twenty-seven-year-old thing to do.  I'll almost always order a java chip frappachino at starbucks even though that's a very sixteen-year-old thing to do.  Extra whip!

I've never been a super introspective person naturally, but I think it is important to know yourself and, every once in a while, celebrate yourself.  I've got a lot going on that I could complain about or feel insecure about, but I'm realizing that is a waste of time and energy.  And positive vibes are contagious.  Especially now that I have a daughter who quite literally looks up to me, that is becoming more and more important.

Anyways, a few birthday thoughts I thought I would share.  It's a great day to be alive.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

a weekend with the sibs


This past weekend we drove to Western Pennsylvania to meet up with david's two brothers, their wives, and our one year old nephew.  If ever I was doubting the beauty of Pennsylvania (I wasn't), this trip confirmed that we live in THEE most beautiful state.  The fall colors were at their finest, the river sparkled, the crisp air pinked our cheeks...it was everything we could have asked for in a weekend away. 

We stayed in the same cabin we used last winter, which is quickly becoming one of our favorite places to retreat.  There is no cell service on the property, which is rare in our world and a welcomed break.  We filled our time with hiking, canoeing and kayaking, long walks, warm fires and smores, and lots of catching up. 

I came away feeling so filled up with family love...I love david's brothers and their wives, one of which is my older sister, so, duh.  We had great conversation, lots of laughs, tons of baby snuggles, and fun adventures...this trip is something we hope to turn into an annual tradition.

and now, an extreme amount of photos...readysetgo!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

our walk to the park

because when you are a SAHM, you start to blog about these things.  hold onto your seats.

Three days a week kenzie's little buddy Claire comes over.  Each morning, after Kenz wakes up from her nap, we have about a two hour gap before its time to eat lunch.  And for the sake of everyone's sanity (but most importantly my own), we must get out of the apartment.  Or else, I don't know what will happen, I've never waited around to see.  But it wouldn't be good.
So diapers are changed and snacks are distributed and shoes are put on and taken off and put on again, and then we have about thirty minutes left until lunch!  Just kidding.  But some days, its awfully close.

So off we go!


I carry both girls on my hips down the stairs, across the street, and up another set of stairs.  Then I set them both down so I can catch my breath, and we just sit and stare at each other for a minute.  Also, Kenz has been really into carrying chapstick with her wherever she goes.  I don't know, I don't ask questions.


Then off goes Claire, because you can vaguely make out the playground from where we sit, and this girl is serious about getting her turn on the swing first. 

 
  And Kenzie is all, "you think me and my chapstick are gunna walk over there all by ourselves? Carry me, ya lazy woman!"


We stop and visit our favorite mum.  We visit all the mums on all the porches along the way.  That might be trespassing or something?  


by the time kenz and I reach the park, Claire has already hoisted herself into the swing and is going for a wild ride.  Well, I may help her a bit.  This park only has one baby swing, so the girls take turns and are so patient about it.  "no no, you go first, I went first yesterday, I'll wait over here and I won't cry about it" and on and on.   If only their were two baby swings!  I would give both girls a good push and go grab a coffee. or something.


 Meanwhile, Kenz has discovered dirt, and is trying to decide if she can fit both the chapstick and the fist full of dirt in her mouth.  Spoiler alert: she did it!


 Claire always desperately wants to swing on the adult swings, but once I can convince her to try the baby swing, she loves her life.  


Okay! Kenzie's turn!  I don't know what it is about this photo, but it makes me want to eat her between two hamburger buns for lunch.  Why did we produce such an adorable child. WHY GOD.

moving on.


After much swinging and sliding and climbing, we move on to part two (of three!) of our walk.  
THE LARGE GRASSY FIELD.


There we are.  Los tres amigos. amigas? muchachas?  
This photo was enthusiastically requested by Kenzie, clearly. 


For our grand finale, we stop by the gazebo and chase each other around the tables.  Okay, so Claire and I chase each other around the tables, and kenz is like, "lunch time, yet?" 


Work it.


and then we wander back home, stopping at each porch and picking your flowers and petting your mums.  You're welcome.  And thus concludes the daily walk to the park.  Its quite the journey we embark upon, and I'm sure I could think of some sort of life lesson to pull from all of this.  But I'll spare you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

kenzie's first birthday party!


We had some friends over for brunch on Saturday morning to celebrate kenzie's first birthday!  We had a yogurt bar, donuts, and a few egg casseroles...and just sort of hung out talking and eating for a few hours.  It was fun and casual and felt like the perfect way to celebrate a year of life with kenz.  Kenzie didn't really know what was going on, but she did get to eat a sprinkle-covered donut, so the party was a success in her book!  We were sad our families couldn't be here to celebrate (Chicago...must you be so far away?), but we are so thankful for the friends who have become like family to us, and the ways they love our little girl.  We feel super blessed.  

And now we have a one-year-old!  I was telling Dave after the party...I feel like all of my thoughts and energy have gone into each milestone up until the first year, and now I am like, wait, what now? So any one-year-old advice or secrets are welcome!