DC Cherry Blossom Festival and an Easter Eggstravaganza

I’ve lived in Washington DC nearly 5 years. And I’ve never gone to see the Cherry Blossoms in the Spring. I’ve seen plenty of gorgeous pictures, but I figured… I might as well go see them this year since I’m a stay-at-home mom and can avoid the weekend crowd.

I went with Alexander (duh) and my neighbor Sarah.

We took the Blue line to Smithsonian (oh, the crowds… and it wasn’t even the weekend…). We walked about 10 minutes toward the Tidal Basin where you can see the trees and the water and the Jefferson Memorial.

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Where it wasn’t so crowded, I decided to get a few pictures under the blossoms. OF COURSE, Alexander fell asleep right before we got there. (Granted, he would not have known what was going on anyway!)

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We walked a little further toward the water. As we were walking, Sarah kept reaching up to touch the blossoms.

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Okay, you can only take so many pictures of the same kind of tree before they just start looking the same.

Afterward, we decided to WALK home. From the mall, we live about 2.5 miles away. On that route, we passed the Washington Monument and the White House.

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That means I get to cross something off my “30 Before 30″ list!

It was a GREAT day for the weather. Not too hot, super sunny, and breezy.

That was on Thursday. Then, Saturday, our church hosted an annual Easter Eggstravaganza in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC. An egg hunt, cotton candy, balloon animals, live music, and more. It was a lot of fun for the kiddos, but of course, Alexander can’t really enjoy any of it because he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on.

We took a picture with the Easter Bunny, and then we got a balloon hat made for him. The volunteers didn’t know how to make hats though. :)

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It was another nice day.

Big Al was a great sport as we walked A LOT around DC this past week.

Next stop will hopefully be one of the Smithsonian museums!

Hello Dollies (recipe)

This is the last post in my mini series about ways to use sweetened condensed milk!

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This is a recipe from my mama, so you know it’s good. It has shredded coconut, which I typically HATE, but I can actually enjoy it in this dessert!

(The recipe without pictures is at the end.)

Start with your ingredients: vanilla wafers, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, butter, nuts, and sweetened condensed milk.

1 ingredients

First melt your butter. We don’t have a microwave, so I put the butter straight into the dish I was using. It is the bottom “layer” anyway. (It helps create a crust.)

2 melt butter

Next, you want to crush (or pulverize!) a cup of vanilla wafers. It took about half the box for me.

3 nilla wafers

Pour that on top of your butter. Those two ingredients make a yummy, buttery crust at the end.

Next, you want to measure out a cup of chocolate chips.

4 choc chips

Next you will layer chocolate chips, 1 cup of shredded coconut, and some crushed nuts. I don’t like nuts, so I put nuts on just half of the dish.

5 toppings

Finally, pour the sweetened condensed milk over the entire thing.

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You will bake this at 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes (until the top is golden). I used an 8×8 pan, and it took 35 minutes.

Err on the side of LESS golden. If you think it’s starting to get golden brown, go ahead and take it out. It isn’t like there’s anything that needs to COOK, you know?

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You can eat it right away, but I prefer it to get to room temperature. That way, the crust becomes more crust-like, and you can eat it with your hand instead of a fork. Mmmmm.

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Word of caution: It’s VERY sweet! I cut the 8×8 pan into 16 pieces, and one little piece was enough to satisfy me!

The Recipe, in words:

HELLO DOLLIES

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup crushed mixed nuts
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Directions

1. Melt the butter and put it at the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 dish.

2. Layer the rest of the ingredients, in the order listed above.

3. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until golden on top.

Alexander’s First Steps

On Saturday, Alexander turned 10 months.

On Sunday, he took his first steps (plural). He’d taken one step here and there, but does that really count?

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He took 2 steps a few times, took 3 steps once, and we caught a little of that on camera.

 

 

He stayed up very late Sunday night because he was in a great mood. He kept wanting to stand up then walk to Cameron. Over and over. We weren’t complaining; it was fun for all of us.

Since then we have been practicing. That is the best I’ve been able to catch on camera so far. Pretty cool, though. :) I don’t know if that makes him an “early” walker.

We aren’t rushing anything. He will figure it out in his own time!

How to Treat Your Cast Iron Skillet

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Cast iron can be intimidating, but it’s awesome! We have a skillet, griddle, and Dutch oven that are cast iron. Cast iron can be used on the stove top then immediately transferred to the oven. We use it to make our spinach frittata every week. We use it to make bacon and eggs, pancakes, salmon, chicken, pork, you name it.

Once you get used to cleaning and treating it, it gets better and better over time. If you take good care of it, it should last forever.

What I did for you today is show you how WE treat ours. Along the way I’ll give you a few of the rules you should know so you don’t damage your cast iron!

I’m starting with a dirty greasy pan.

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Next, I’m going to quickly clean it. The nice thing about cast iron is that cleaning is a BREEZE because, treated correctly, it’s essentially stick-free.

You only need a dish sponge and water.

  • Do NOT use soap.
  • Do NOT use steel wool.
  • Do NOT let water just sit and soak in your cast iron.

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Because you don’t want water to hang out in there, you need to dry it. You could use multiple paper towels or a dish towel to do this, if you wanted. Some folks stick their pans in the oven at this point, to dry the water. We use the stove top. You want the pan to be hot later for when you treat it, so using heat to dry it just makes sense!

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Here it is, perfectly dry.

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You can see there’s some damage on ours. That’s because I didn’t know one of the rules….

  • Do NOT use metal utensils in the cast iron! (You see those fork marks? Oops…)

Now, while the pan is still hot you want to pour just a little oil in it. I tend to use a little more than my husband. You just need enough to cover the entire inside of the pan. Oh, we use olive oil, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter.

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Spread that oil around while the pan is still hot. I used a burp cloth since we were out of paper towels. It worked better than paper towels!

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And that’s it. You’re done.

Now, we do this every time we use the cast iron. That’s just about once a day, honestly. It takes less than 5 minutes, and it means that our skillet will last us for a very very long time.

So if you were intimidated about getting a cast iron skillet, I highly recommend taking the plunge. Over the next 10 years, we won’t need to buy another skillet! Great investment!

NOTE: Cast iron is really heavy. So if you go to buy one, just expect that. :)

My Favorite Hot Tea “Recipe”

Last Monday, I said I was going to share 4 ways that I use sweetened condensed milk. So far, I’ve shared two ways.

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Today, I want to share the way that I like to enjoy hot tea! It’s SWEET, so if you prefer your tea to taste more like tea (!), I’d suggest cutting the add-ins in half!

First, you’ll need a pretty mug, some hot water (duh), a tea bag (I just go with Lipton… I’m not really a tea snob), sweetened condensed milk, and brown sugar.

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Boil some water and pour it into your mug.

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Next, pour a spoonful of brown sugar into your mug (my spoon here is about 2 teaspoons).

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Finally, add the same amount of condensed milk…

condensed milk.jpg.jpgAnd stir!

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Here’s a quick tip: I bought this little brown clay (?) bear from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and it’s MAGIC at keeping your brown sugar from clumping. You soak it in warm water for 20 minutes, then just drop it into your brown sugar container!

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Alexander: 10 Month Update

Just for Us

ALEXANDER IS 10 MONTHS TODAY!

He ENJOYS

  • putting everything in his mouth, especially paper
  • standing, then sitting, then standing, then sitting,…
  • finding new noises and then using them excessively
  • bath time
  • being with his mama (very clingy this past month!)
  • grapes, gluten-free toast, apples, ground beef, celery
  • when his daddy comes home from work
  • “The Wheels on the Bus”
  • hearing his mama count out loud
  • seeing his own image
  • the sound of clapping, snapping, clicking
  • chewing on pacifiers and bottle nipples

He is ABLE TO

  • crawl quickly
  • bear crawl for a split second
  • stand assisted for a long time
  • cruise (walk around while holding onto various objects)
  • walk while pushing a rolling chair
  • stand UNassisted for about 5 seconds
  • sit back down gracefully (without bopping his head!)

STATS

  • He weighs around 20 pounds.
  • He has two bottom teeth now.
  • His eyes are still a pretty blue.
  • His hair is growing out.
  • He wears mostly 12-month sized clothes (although his 9 month stuff still fits, if I’m out of clean stuff!).
  • He wears mostly cloth diapers.
  • He nurses on demand, which is about 12 times a day, on average.
  • He naps 2-3 times a day for a total of 2-3 hours.
  • He goes to bed anywhere from 7:30 to 9:00 (usually earlier).
  • He wakes up 2-6 times a night (and we’re okay with that).
  • He’s up for the day around 7:00, give or take a little.

Some PICTURES 

//eating a date//

 

 

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//family picture//

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//sleeping on daddy//

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//prim and proper, putting off bedtime//

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//my new woven wrap//

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//eating at the table because the tray for his booster seat was in the dishwasher//

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My Favorite Iced Coffee at Home (A Sweet Treat)

I mentioned on Monday that I’m going to post 4 ways I like to use sweetened condensed milk. The first post was a Banana Caramel Pie. This is the second post in that little series!

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This is my go-to for iced coffee.

To make it, you have to start with a great batch of iced coffee. Now, you could do that by brewing a cup of coffee, then sticking it in the fridge. I’m not a coffee expert, but apparently, that isn’t as good as this other method*.

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*DISCLAIMER: The info here is basically exactly what The Pioneer Woman does! You can see her nicer pictures if you want. The difference: in her post, she mostly demos how to make the big batch of iced coffee. Here, I demo how to make the single serving, delicious glass.

 

Quick Description: Pour a 1-lb bag of coffee grounds into a huge container. Pour 2 gallons of water over that. (If your bag is less than 16 ounces, just do the math!) Set it up overnight. The next morning, you want to strain out the grounds. This takes a little while. We use a strainer and 2 layers of cheese cloth. Then stick it in the fridge!

 

Now, here’s how I prepare an iced coffee!

Ingredients/Supplies:

  • Mason jar (it’s easy because you can close it and shake, which works better than stirring!)
  • Iced coffee
  • Ice
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Half and half

(I forgot to put the half and half in the picture…)

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Put some ice in your glass. I fill it up about 2/3 of the way so I get more coffee. (The way PW does it is much less coffee, much more sugar, and it’s too sweet, even for me!)

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Add your coffee.

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Pour about a tablespoon of half and half into your glass.

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(Now, a trick: If you run hot water over your spoon, it helps the condensed milk to slide off the spoon much easier!)

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I use a table spoon (note: I didn’t say “tablespoon”), and I scoop up one big spoonful of the condensed milk and pour it into my glass.

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You must lick the spoon at this point. This is my “just woke up and had about 5 hours of sleep and I’m not wearing any makeup because I’m a stay-at-home mom” face.

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Then… SHAKE!

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And there you have it! It takes a good bit of shaking. The condensed milk tends to settle and resettle at the bottom, so it helps to shake it REALLY well.

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Enjoy!

New Hairstyles and a “Frozen” Lip Sync Duet

This post is part of a series hosted by Samantha over at Elah Tree. Today’s challenge? Try out a new hairstyle!

Elah Tree

I wanted to have some fun with this one.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been itching to do a lip syncing video of “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen. I’ve practiced and practiced because those speaking parts are so hard for me to get exactly right.

I knew I was going to do a half screen kind of thing: HER part on one side, HIS part on the other. Then I’d use Final Cut Pro (FCP) to mash them together so it looks like I’m talking to myself.

But I remembered this hairstyle challenge. I figured, hey if I’m going to pretend to be a guy with my voice, might as well try to look like Hans, too. So here were my inspiration photos for the two hairstyles I’d try out this week!

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Doing Anna’s hairstyle wouldn’t be THAT difficult (right?) because I know how to braid and can do something with my bangs. I don’t have nearly as much hair as she does, but I knew I could do hers decently.

Doing Hans’ hairstyle? NO IDEA. I scoured the Internet. “How to style short hair to look like a man” and “How to create an androgynous hairstyle” and “Hans hair Frozen”. Finally, I came across this article. It had some helpful tips for creating an androgynous hairstyle. While it didn’t have the same one Hans is sporting, it definitely helped me get going!

Here are MY versions of Anna and Hans. Don’t laugh!!

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And now, without further ado, my lip syncing of “Love is an Open Door” from the movie Frozen.

Happy Birthday Mo! Friend, Teacher, Mama to TWINS!

Just a quick shout-out to my good friend Maureen (a.k.a. Mo) on her birthday today!

This is her first birthday as a MOM. Cool!

Mo and I go way back to 2006 when I started teaching in NYC. We weren’t really close that school year because I thought she was the “cool girl”, and I was not. (Lame, I know.) But then I found out she was cool but not TOO cool to be my friend! So we started hanging out!

We used to go shopping in Manhattan all the time after work, starting at Union Square and walking down Broadway until we hit the shops in SoHo.

One weekend, she and I and my friend Sophia went out to Fire Island to the beaches. SUCH a fun day and a really fun place to visit!

fire island

 

Mo is one of those people who has endless confidence. But it isn’t like she’s got confidence, so you feel overshadowed. You feel pretty great, too. She’s an “attic” friend: that means that after you hang out with her, you feel BETTER about yourself.

Another time, she and I did an Urban Race in NYC (you know, one of those scavenger hunt type things?). We dressed as Mario and Luigi, but it was seriously sweaty wearing suspenders and mustaches in the middle of the summer.

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She can pull off ANYTHING. Pigtails? Yep. Overalls? Yep. A friggin’ mustache? Somehow, yep.

When I moved to DC, she came for a visit. Here’s a picture of her with Cameron. They look SO YOUNG.

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She was in my wedding party!

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She did my hair for my wedding! She can work a curling iron, straightener, whatever. So lucky to have her there!

And NOW she has 6-month-old twins and BLOGS ABOUT IT! If you love pictures of babies, you will doubly love her blog because it’s a bunch of pictures of her awesome twins.

Here’s a picture of her with her baby girl. SOOOO sweet.

with sawyer

Happy Birthday, Mo! Love you :)

Getting Sexy in 2014: How to Be Accountability Partners

A friend of mine from church has joined me in a weight loss, “Getting Sexy” challenge. She has a son (her third child), and he was born just 12 hours before Alexander!

Regarding weight loss, we are in different places but have VERY similar goals. So we decided to be accountability buddies for diet and exercise! (By “diet”, I NEVER mean restriction or temporary change! I’ll explain more below…)

First, here are the things YOU can do with an accountability partner. Second, under each general idea, I’ve put my personal ones.

1. Create a few reasonable, CONCRETE goals for yourself. Saying, “Eat less.” or “Workout more.” are NOT concrete! Be specific.

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 12.10.10 PMNOTE: The home workout I do is from this app called Quickfit.

2. Create a few “if…then” statements for yourself. This is a weird one, so let me explain: You know yourself better than anyone. For example, I know that if I’m wanting something sweet, I really don’t need it. So “if” I want something sweet, “then” I need to wait 30 minutes before eating it. Chances are, in 30 minutes, I won’t want something sweet anymore. You see? (More examples below)

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3. Create a reward system for each other. For every 5 pounds you lose, you get “something” from your buddy, that sort of thing.

  • My reward system is, for every 10 times I GO to the gym, I get a Starbucks card for a few bucks. Here’s a picture of my rewards card that I made!

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The other thing we came up with is a daily “to do”. Each day, we have something to do for each other just to stay in touch and maintain accountability.

I made a phone background for my phone and her phone! Feel free to steal it!

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Here are the explanations for the above ideas:

  • SUNDAY// Send a “fitspiration” picture to the other person. It can be something you found online or a picture of that person when they were a different size.
  • MONDAY// Send an encouraging email for the week!
  • TUESDAY// Take progress photos to share.
  • WEDNESDAY// This may not be a big deal for everyone, but for ME, drinking only water for a day is a big deal! I do have coffee in the morning, but instead of soda or milk or juice at meals, I just drink water.
  • THURSDAY// Send an email with plusses and minuses for the week (or, from the previous Thursday). Here’s an example:
    • + I went to the gym 3 times but
    • - I had ice cream 3 times, too.
    • + I lost a pound.
    • - I ordered pizza.
    • - I didn’t push hard enough at the gym yesterday.
  • FRIDAY// The update email is weigh-in day for us! We both weigh ourselves Friday morning and send out the numbers!
  • SATURDAY// Food talk. Basically, if you have ideas for healthy snacks, come across a great new recipe, send them to each other!

 

So far, I have lost about 1.5 pounds in 2 weeks, and my buddy has lost 1.5 pounds as well. We email or text every single day, and it helps to know someone is out there rooting for me (and vice versa).

If you’re interested in joining the challenge, let me know!

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