Fairy Garden 2015

The kids have been saving their allowance and gift money for awhile. Each purchased a new fairy (Markus’s is hiding inside the house) and they pooled their money to buy a fairy house today for their fairy garden. This is our third (and largest) fairy garden…it’s just so much fun! Other than the fairies, the house, and the fountains (which they bought last year), we shopped around our yard and house for all the other items.

The gazing ball is made of a marble, an acorn top, and a drinking straw. We had already planted the flowers (kids’ choices) earlier in the season. I dug moss out of our grass on the north side of the house (it needed to go away anyway!). The birch tree out front gave us a bridge. Anja already had the blue stones that make up the river, and we took all the other rocks from our landscaping and the kids’ collections. Tiny animals we already owned, and some of the “trees” and “bushes” were just weeds I dug out of our yard. I couldn’t see paying $6 per tiny plant when I knew they’d be happy with weeds. :)

They are currently out there telling each other stories about their fairies. Adorable.

Have you ever made a fairy garden? Did you go all out or shop your yard?

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Crave West End Breakfast

We had the opportunity to try breakfast at CRAVE West End last weekend.* They just started offering it this month, and let me tell you, we weren’t disappointed!

Currently Markus and I are doing a gluten-free trial, and I asked at the host desk for a gluten-free breakfast menu. They said they didn’t have one, but I had been told that they would have options for me, so I asked my server. He was SO helpful and even went back to talk to the chefs to see which options on the breakfast menu could be made gluten-free (which was quite a few of them). This happened at another restaurant that day, too, so my one hopefully helpful tip to restaurants: Make sure your hosts/hostesses know that even if you don’t have a specific gluten-free menu available, your chefs are able and willing to meet those needs. Otherwise you’ll lose customers simply because of miscommunication! :)

Anja got the S’mores waffles. Um, ice cream and marshmallow for breakfast? Kid heaven! I got the Eggs Benedict without the English muffin. The eggs were perfectly poached, and the hash browns are cheesy and amazing. Markus got the Mashed Potato omelet, which he loved. I was surprised how much of it he ate (but we all took bites to try it). Husband got the Steak and Eggs. He was shocked by the amount of steak he got and the tenderness of it, especially for the price. A success!

Other points: The location is clean, the bathrooms are clean (I’m sometimes surprised at how awful upscale restaurants let their bathrooms get…not the case here), and there are lots of other shops to peruse at West End. You could definitely make a Ladies’ Morning Out of it or do brunch with friends. We will definitely be back, and I see they have a special Mother’s Day brunch coming up, too, so make your reservations now! More “official” info below the pictures.

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Kaskaid Hospitality Announces Breakfast At Twin Cities Restaurants

CRAVE West End, UNION Rooftop and Salsa A La Salsa Uptown Feature New Offering

 

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., (April 1, 2015) – Kaskaid Hospitality is launching a new breakfast and brunch program at select restaurants in the Twin Cities. The breakfast and brunch offerings will be available at CRAVE West End, UNION Rooftopand Salsa A La Salsa Uptown starting in spring 2015.

The CRAVE West End breakfast and brunch will launch on Saturday, April 11 with dining available on Saturdays and Sundays between 8am-2pm. CRAVE’s team of five executive chefs created the all-new menu offerings. Signature items include Crab & Shrimp Cake Benedict, Braised Short Rib Hash, and the CRAVE Stack of buttermilk pancakes layered with brandied peaches and apples, and S’mores Waffles. Prior to the CRAVE West End breakfast and brunch program launch, all CRAVE locations in Minnesota will offer an Easter Brunch Buffet on Easter Sunday, April 5 from 9am-3pm.

UNION Rooftop has offered brunch on Sundays from 11am-2pm for just over a year, and recently began offering breakfast starting at 8am. UNION breakfast and brunch menu highlights include bottomless mimosas available on Sundays until 2pm, Portobello Benedict, Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast and UNION’s signature hash browns.

Brunch is now available at the Salsa A La Salsa Uptown location. Breakfast is served Saturdays and Sundays between10am-3pm. Authentic Mexican menu offerings include Chilaquiles, Southwestern Omelet, tortilla casserole, Huevos con Chorizo with home made chorizo, and the Bloody Maria which is a Mexican take on the Bloody Mary.

“We are thrilled to introduce breakfast and brunch to CRAVE West End, UNION Rooftop and Salsa A La Salsa Uptown. Saturday and Sunday mornings are in high demand for great breakfast and brunch options in the Twin Cities, and our restaurants are well-equipped to enter the weekend morning scene,” said Kam Talebi, CEO of Kaskaid Hospitality. “Our teams of chefs have created exceptional breakfast and brunch dishes that we’re really excited to share.”

The breakfast and brunch menus for CRAVE West End, UNION Rooftop and Salsa A La Salsa Uptown are available online through each restaurant’s website. For more information on the CRAVE Easter Brunch, visitcraveamerica.com/grand-easter-brunch-buffet.

*We received a gift card to pay for our meal at CRAVE, but all opinions are my own.

YOXO

A couple weeks ago, I was offered a chance to let my kids purchase a YOXO toy.

YOXO® (yock-so) is the sustainable, recyclable, made-in-the-USA, invent-everything-you-can-imagine toy company that’s now available at your local Target and specialty toy retailers. YOXO creative construction kits use interchangeable chipboard connectors in Y, O, and X shapes to construct infinite creations, including the YOXO Heroes.

Possibly the most uncommon element of YOXO is the fact they are manufactured in the USA, something less than four percent of toys sold in the United States can claim. This fact, along with the sustainable manufacturing process, use of recycled materials, and recyclability of the connectors themselves makes YOXO undeniably eco-awesome.

YOXO is the start of a creative revolution and maker movement that is powered by brains, not batteries. Those seeking to support the revolution can find YOXO at 389 Target stores, 27 Barnes & Noble locations, select specialty toy retailers across the country and online at YOXO.com.

We were planning to buy the Original YOXO, but he was sold out at the Target we visited, so we settled on Doon.

Last week my kids could no longer stand waiting for me to help them, so they dumped out the box and went to work themselves.

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As you can see, they had a lot of fun. Some of the pieces fit tightly enough that they needed my help getting them all the way together. Anja lifted weights. The extra eye stickers have been used on their stuffed animals at times…haha! And Markus couldn’t even wait for me to finish taking the pictures before he started his car sound effects.

The thing I love about YOXO products is that even if they tire of Doon, all his parts can be used with other scrap cardboard, tubes, etc., to build new creations. Stay tuned! :)

*We received a gift card to purchase YOXO product, but the opinions expressed above are my own.

Markus, 5 years

Oh, little buddy, I think this is the most overdue milestone post I’ve had. You’ve been 5 for almost 3 months now, so I’ll try to remember back to when you just turned….

Markus, at five years old, you:

  • Are a force. Your intensity is one of the first things people see in you, that and the fact that you…
  • Never stop talking. For Christmas you received a book trying to teach you that others might have something important to say as well, but now you have started to realize that when I want to read it to you I’m trying to send you a “message,” so you don’t want to hear it anymore. You have a loud, low voice.
  • Like macaroni and cheese, fruit, sweets. You eat salad readily but it cannot have a single drop of dressing on or near it. You hate tomatoes.
  • Are still very fickle in your interests. One week it’s Transformers, one week it’s Ninjago Legos, one week it’s blocks, one week it’s cars, one week it’s Lincoln Logs. Whatever you’re currently into, you’re VERY into, and all your other toys can just go take a hike.
  • Are finally sleeping in a big boy bed. You got one for your birthday, and you fell out of it a few times, but now you just snuggle in and go to sleep better than you ever have.
  • Like to fight with Daddy (or any other man or boy who will fight you).
  • Love to hug and kiss. I usually get five kisses when I put you to bed. And I love that you always want to be touching whoever you’re nearest to. Other kids…well, they don’t always like it as much as Mom.
  • Listen to stories well, despite your inability to sit still and not interrupt. The Sunday School teachers and leaders at my moms’ group often tell me that you have many answers for their questions. I’m glad you’re paying attention, even if it doesn’t look like it. :)
  • Make awesome sound effects. I’m pretty sure it’s a boy thing. I’ve never seen Anja do any of those, and you can without practice.
  • Have a very active imagination. I love that you made an army of men out of TP tubes. You’re fine with almost anything as a toy, as long as you can project your wishes onto it. We’ve found you bore quickly of toys that have limited purpose.
  • Are gluten-free. We tried an elimination for both you and Sis in 2014 and still aren’t sure about gluten, so we’re giving you another trial.
  • Are starting to read. I saved Anja’s kindergarten phonics books, and you’ve been reading through all of those and sound out other words when you see them. You also write us notes and refuse to let us spell anything for you. “Don’t tell me, Mama.”
  • Have a large vocabulary for your age. Most of the time you know what you’re saying, but it’s awfully cute when you misuse a big word.
  • Love your big sister. You guys don’t always get along, but you can play together for hours. You’re starting to exert a little more of your ideas into your co-play, which isn’t always received well, but I’m glad you’re not letting her run over you.
  • Speak with sub-context, using a different voice for your parenthetical statements. “This is an island where the overlord (which is a pink ball) is, and he told…”
  • Are motivated by material things. You don’t get much satisfaction from cleaning your room or helping Mama, but if you are promised a treat or a toy pulled out of storage, you’ll be much more enthusiastic. I don’t like bribery, but sometimes….
  • Have a couple good friends and are quick to make new ones. You love your old small group buddies and are quickly getting to know your new small group friends. At co-op you seem to gravitate toward kids Anja’s age, and she gravitates toward kids your age. Funny.
  • Have an amazing memory. You still run circles around your sister with your CC memory work, which is frustrating for her. But we would love to see God use this gift He’s given you as a means to something great.
  • Love to draw. But your coloring sheet requests (when we print them from the internet) are so specific that you’re impossible to please. “Mama, I want a Ninjago skeleton army up on a ledge with no bodies touching each other.” I tell you almost daily that you have to pick from what ol’ Google has to offer, but you are not satisfied with that.
  • Have the best giggle. You love to wrestle, so when I have the energy to, I get you pinned and then tickle you just to hear your laugh. You make US laugh a lot, too, with your witty comebacks and funny personality.
  • Are in size 4T for most things. You have a couple 5T shirts that you swim in…hopefully they’ll fit next year.

Markus, you are a marvelous little creation. We are blessed to parent you and see what God has in store!

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Thankful Tree 2014

We had our usual Thankful Tree up this year, but it was a little bigger than before. The kids were great at initiating and writing down their own leaves. We did a paper version on the wall. It took a while for me to cut it out, so I’m re-purposing it as a place to hang our Christmas cards during December. Here’s what we had to be thankful for in 2014:

Husband:

  • Anja
  • Heat
  • Space
  • That my migraine pill worked
  • Beef stew
  • Supper
  • Heidi’s teaching (the kids)
  • Warm house
  • Markus
  • Heidi
  • A car

Me:

  • Anja’s storytelling
  • Caring friends post-miscarriage
  • Snuggles with Markus
  • God’s financial provision
  • An evening with a good friend
  • Markus’s enthusiasm for Alaska
  • Halloween candy
  • The library (twice!)
  • Husband’s diligent work on the toilet handle
  • Jan Karon
  • Time playing basketball at the gym
  • Family nights
  • Worshiping with my 3rd/4th grade small group
  • Glitter snow
  • Free mittens
  • Laughter
  • Sunshine on a long day
  • Considerate friends
  • Homeschool
  • Hot soup on a cold day
  • Markus doing T25

Anja:

  • Markus!
  • MOMS group
  • TV
  • Mom!
  • Snow
  • Light and darkness
  • Dad
  • The fun time I had with Malia and Nolan
  • Supper
  • Grandma and Grandpa
  • Swimming
  • Grandma and Grandpa’s arrival
  • That we got to set up the tent
  • Jungle Book
  • Happy times
  • Jesus
  • Fun, new Kindle game
  • Day and night
  • Jesus. Without him the whole world wouldn’t be here.
  • Mama
  • Christmas
  • Warmer weather

Markus:

  • The Avengers
  • Candy in my Halloween bag
  • Beautiful trees outside
  • That the snow has dried up
  • Pot pie
  • Earth, because otherwise our house would be floating in space
  • Snowmen
  • Snow
  • The number 6
  • Being taken care of when I’m sick
  • Our house
  • Eating this food
  • Jelly and peanut butter
  • School
  • Fun with friends on Halloween
  • Ninja Turtles
  • Swimming
  • My new shirt
  • Building a house with blocks

Yummy, Chewy, Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mom has had Celiac for years. I try out the occasional dessert hoping to please her palate, but I haven’t made these for her yet. My kids are currently GF, DF in an attempt to see if it helps some rashes and behaviors. We’ll see how that goes. :)

Since they’re kids, I still want them to have the occasional treat, so I played with a few GF recipes and made it dairy-free myself. If you are dairy-free but can’t handle ghee/clarified butter, you might try lard or shortening as a substitute.

Also, I personally like cookies best out of the freezer, but these were decent as dough, fresh and out of the freezer. Bonus!

GF DF chocolate chip cookies

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup ghee/clarified butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cane sugar (or you can use regular granulated)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups Namaste gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream ghee and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add 2 cups GF flour, salt, and baking soda, beat again until smooth. Add remaining flour and beat or mix by hand until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake for 9-11 minutes at 350. Don’t bake too long; you want them a little lighter so they’re chewy out of the freezer. Enjoy!

Bellies to Babies MN

Guest post by Dan Canfield, owner of Bellies to Babies

Winter is upon us and that means it is time to bring out all of the warm clothes, or better yet, go shopping for new ones! For most women, this is a fun time to get some new style going and buy the latest fashions, but for moms/moms-to-be whoare expecting, this upcoming season can be financially exhausting.

Luckily, pregnant women have another option this winter, previously loved maternity clothing. Instead of spending $30 for a long sleeve shirt, a previously loved, or “slightly used” long sleeve shirt can go for as low as $6.99. Bellies to Babies (located in Richfield and St. Paul) is the largest maternity resale company in the Twin Cities, offering hundreds of styles of clothing for prices that won’t break the bank.

For example, the breakdown below shows a whole outfit from Bellies to Babies in Richfield (6634 Penn Ave. S) that includes a name brand sweater, jeans, and an accent necklace for only $24.99, where this outfit at a department store would run $64.97, saving almost $43!

What really puts the cherry on top of this deal is once a woman has her child, she can go back and sell this clothing to the resale shop from which she bought it, making this a sweet deal this season.

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Anja, 7 years

Anja, at seven years old, you:

  • Are attached to your guys just as much as when you were a toddler. Sherman and Malia remain your top picks, followed by Coco and Elsa (a dolly I made for you last fall). You rarely go anywhere without at least one of them with.
  • Are very emotional. We’re back to tantrums again, only now they aren’t just loud screams, they are vitriol and threats against your family. Yikes. Hoping and praying this will be overcome.
  • Are, on the other hand, very nurturing at times. Especially with other little kids (besides your brother). You are patient and kind with them, always trying to help entertain and lead.
  • Continue to be a self-proclaimed “artist.” :) I am glad that you enjoy your artistic abilities…we’re working on humility.
  • Have new favorites. Color: pink, snack: cheese and crackers, cereal: Chocolate Chex, book: Bobbsey Twins series, holiday: Halloween, food: cookies, game: hide and seek.
  • Are silly and happy most of the time. You dance like your mama with a bit of your daddy thrown in. You are always making awful jokes and trying to get others to laugh along with you.
  • Are generous. You would give the clothes off your back if someone else needed them.
  • Are in 2nd grade.
  • Have grown so much at your reading and writing! Your cursive is rather pretty, and you will sit and read chapter books in your room now. You still hate math with a fiery passion, but we’re plugging away.
  • Can pose like nobody’s business. I took you out for your 7-year photo shoot, and every time you heard the shutter click, you struck a different pose. It was amusing, yet concerning, if that makes sense. :)
  • Are on the charts again for height! 93rd percentile. Yet you continue to grow out of pants at a rate that makes me consider taking out a loan…
  • Are a poet (and you know it…*groan*). You write songs and poetry in your spare time and will often perform them without any entreaty to do so.
  • Have no fear of speaking in public. I’m thankful that you started CC last year, because each week includes an oral presentation, and you could go on and on…you’ve come a long way since being scared of other kids when you were three!
  • Are playing better and better with Markus. As you two age, you seem better able to come up with things to play together, though you still take the role of “boss” while Markus is often the “underling.” Thankfully his strong personality doesn’t stand for too much of it.
  • Seem to be having lots of moments of “hearing” God. I don’t put too much stock in them yet, because often they aren’t very biblical, but I’m thankful you’re interested in reading His word and learning to listen to what He says.
  • Have lost two teeth and have one more on top that is wiggling.
  • Want to be a ballerina and a photographer when you grow up. Well, then.

We love you lots, little lady, and we are partners with you in prayer that you will continue to grow in maturity and in love for Christ.

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Good Reads for Kids – September 2014

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Back to school! This month’s focus will be on non-fiction books we used for school so far in 2014. Perfect for book reports or to add more dimension to something they are currently studying.

1. The Butterfly – A child’s view of Nazism in France.

2. What Is the World Made of? – A short and sweet look at solids, liquids, and gases.

3. Lily’s Victory Garden – An inspiring tale of what one girl did to help aid with efforts in World War II.

4. Lazily, Crazily, Just a Bit Nasally – We think all of Brian Cleary’s language and math books are fabulous fun.

5. The Wall – I may or may not have cried through this book. About the Vietnam War memorial.

6. The Boy Who Loved Math – All about mathematician Paul Erdos.

Good Reads for Grown-ups – August 2014 – Fiction

I should probably do this more often, but since I don’t, I will only post about the books I can remember reading. And if they weren’t memorable, they probably weren’t worth writing about anyway, right? Some of these were read so long ago that I don’t have a lot to say about them, so I’ll leave you to your own research.

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Ten books I’ve enjoyed over the past couple years are:

The Thornbirds – Not something I would usually pick by its cover, but it was well-written and haunting.

The Shoemaker’s Wife – Heart-wrenchingly beautiful tale that follows a pair of kids from the Italian Alps to New York to Minnesota.

The Forgotten Garden – I remember enjoying this volume by Kate Morton a couple years ago; she seems to like writing about folks who have little memory of their past and go on expeditions to find out more.

The Secret Keeper – Another Kate Morton novel. They’re long, but I do find them captivating. This one is based in the present (2011) and in 1941 bomb-ridden London. Surprise twists.

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym (Robert Galbraith), this mystery kept me guessing. It’s been a while since I’ve read a true mystery novel, and I found myself enjoying it again!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Compelling, well-written. I had consumed quite a bit of summer “fluff​” before I read this and it seemed great by comparison.

The School of Essential Ingredients – I want to eat all of Bauermeister’s books, but this one is the most edible. A feast for the senses.

A Week in Winter – I really enjoyed the character development in this one. For Chicky to have gotten away with her lie, it’s a bit much to believe, but the story that came after that was delightful. Maeve Binchy is the author. I’ve read a couple of her other novels, and I always enjoy the Irish setting.

The Rosie Project – A man who doesn’t know he has Asperger’s attracts an unlikely lady friend. Quirky and charming.

The Book Thief – Heartwrenching look at WW II from inside Nazi Germany. Character development is wonderful, the players captivating.