Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On Our Plates: Tom's Crockpot Chili

Uncle Tom and Aunt Annette are expecting a baby any day now...a new cousin for our girls! So we'll share one of our favorite freezer/crockpot meals that Tom made for us back when he and Annette were engaged

It goes quickly every time we fix it here. Mommy made a double batch for a Super Bowl party a couple years members were literally scraping the sides of the crock trying to get the last bites out. It's a simple recipe, but apparently the flavors really satisfy. Enjoy!

And we can't wait to meet you, Baby Hrywna! Neither can your parents.
Tom's Chili
Seasoning Mix
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 - 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 - 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 - 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed 

Label a gallon freezer bag with the date, recipe name, and cooking instructions. Mix together seasoning mix - you only need a little so store the rest in an airtight container for next time. In a skillet, cook ground beef until no longer pink. Mix 5 tsp of seasoning mix into the cooked ground beef.  Add all ingredients except one can of kidney beans to the gallon freezer bag. Mash the second can of beans up in a blender or food processor or with a potato masher and add them to the bag, too. Seal the bag, letting out as much air as you can, and lay in the freezer. When I'm ready to cook this, I cut the bag open, dump it into the crockpot completely frozen, and cook on low for about 8 hours.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pet Ownership

We have a praying mantis! It's our pet...perfect for us. Low maintenance. Outdoors. Doesn't shed (except it does). Awesome.

It's been living on the front porch for a few nights. We check for it in the evenings. Tonight, we found an exoskeleton and we were a little sad that it might have moved on...
Minutes later, Miriam let out a shriek from the playroom. Our pet was still hanging out! And definitely bigger.
He's a little shy, but we don't mind. Maybe we'll name him if he sticks around for another day.

Other news: We "found" an empty kitchen cupboard. Mom didn't actually realize it was up we have some room to grow!
Miriam had her first sick day. Basically, got some kind of infection which made her run a fever which meant she got on an antibiotic but had to be fever free for 24 hours to go to school. So a not-so-sick sick day. But the girls really seemed to appreciate the bonus time together.
Mommy liked getting to do activities with all three girls again!
And today Mommy went to the zoo with just two kids. Two happy, wild, fun girls. It was different, but still good.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

When it rains, it pours

And when we're on a roll blogging, we just can't stop! on each girl for SCHOOL: DAY 2. DUHN DUHN DUHHHHHNNNNN.

Yesterday, Miriam's principal sent this email to Mommy.

Miriam is doing so well!

I've spent the first hour of the day in the Kdg classroom observing and I am excited to share what a joy that was!

The group is so attentive and Miriam was one of the first to help when the teacher asked for assistance with
crayon pick up!  She has been an amazing listener, kind, and was following directions well.

Her smile is so bright!

This is going to be a wonderful year!

Three things can be surmised from this email: the principal is very kind, Miriam is a great kid, and it's super obvious to the entire world that sending a child to school was on the top of Mommy's "DREADFUL THINGS I MUST DO" list.

Has asked about seventy times, "How many days until I start school?" and "Why doesn't sister have a rest time at school?" and "What do you think Miriam is doing right now?" Clearly she does NOT miss Miriam. If she does, she will deny it with her dying breath.

Also, she read Mommy this book today:

Topic is very appropriate for her right now and ALL Mo Willems books are beyond fantastic. Lots of it she had memorized, but some of it she actually had to read and did a pretty stinkin' good job! Not having Miriam around will be good for Vivian to get more undivided attention from her Mommy and show off her own skills.

Ya know, there's not enough change in our house right now...let's potty train. Perfect. So she had her first no-diaper outing this morning. No accidents in public = success.
Since we've returned home, she's had three accidents. Patience is the word of the day on this one.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

First of the First Days

Miriam had her first day of kindergarten today. And it went beautifully. No one broke down crying. No one refused to leave their parents. All was just as it should be.
But before all of that...we had some pre-school moments together doing our favorite family things to wrap up our last days before school starts and we all get shoved into a new routine and lifestyle called family-with-school-aged-children. Uncharted waters. New horizons. Earlier bedtimes!

Anyways...favorite family things...Saturday we took a walk through downtown Auburn, enjoyed our pretty town, laughed at our goofy children, had pizza for lunch. 
Sunday was normal...Mass, brunch with Tim's family, pool party with church friends, family way to enjoy a summer day. Monday, Mommy took the girls to the zoo. It was practically empty and everyone was in a great mood. If you only look at this blog twice a year, it's evident Mommy and the girls LOVE the zoo and max out the value of our zoo membership. Needless to say, all parties were thrilled that we got in one more visit before s-c-h-o-o-l...
But we've made it through one day. All of us. The world didn't actually stop rotating because our family changed the very slightest bit (though Mommy did, in the most dramatic recesses of her mind, expect it to).  Vivian claims she didn't miss Miriam. Daddy didn't cry when he had to leave her at the door with the super kind principal and big-kid helpers. Felicity claims she is going to school "toomawwoah". Miriam loved pretty much every moment and recited the run-down of how her day went several times. And then asked, "How many hours until school starts again?"

Monday, August 3, 2015

Toes in the Water

We did Summer Vacation with Sarah's Family last week. The week of vacation always goes so fast...time flies in a way that it can't during any other time of the year. Yet, looking back at the pictures, we manage to squeeze so much into those minutes that blink by. This year was the Wisconsin Dells...Aunt Annette and Uncle Tom weren't able to come with us because Annette is due in less than a month, and understandably, she wanted to stay close to home! We missed their presence! 
We stayed in this mammoth house with plenty of bedrooms and no (zero!) hotpads or cupcake trays. Weird, right?!?! It was a struggle, but we managed. We were the first to arrive and check out the place...and we resisted claiming rooms until we checked with the rest of the family (patting-self-on-back).
That night, Grandma read the girls their bedtime story. It's these moments that are the reason we vacation with this huge, restless, loud, crazy, fun group. Sometimes coordinating calendars and splitting costs and keeping our cool with so many personalities in the house is (just a touch) tough. But that bit is entirely worth it because these girls get to have real moments when they connect with and make memories with their aunts, uncles, grandparents, and (someday soon) cousins. So to the family members who tolerated our crazy with a smile plastered on their faces last week, sincerely, thank you. We love being with you, even when we can't behave that way. To the rest of you, who had to cope with us by drinking...see ya next year. ;-)
The next morning, we jumped right into vacation with some SHOPPING...
...followed by a picnic, a nap, and hours on the beach splashing in the Wisconsin River.
Also, solved a mystery last week. Our girls LOVE to jump around in the water and then roll in the sand. WHY? WHY? WHY? They are completely covered in sunscreen-glue/sand every time we leave any beach. WHY? Duh. Because the water makes them cold and the sand is hot. So they stay in the water until they're shivering and then roll in the hot sand to warm back up. Kinda genius. (We can't help it if we're raising the most intuitive children in the hemisphere.)
More happy memories...tea parties on the deck, 
 pile-ups in the kitchen,
brewery visits with those "of age",
and sticky smores.
The whole family went to Noah's Ark Water Park and had a BLAST on the slides, log ride, lazy river, wave pools, zip lines, and even learning to surf.
Felicity actually fell asleep on Mommy's lap which NEVER happens. It was a fun-til-you-can't-fun-anymore kind of day.  
We were also able to go hiking at Mirror Lake State Park. Kudos to the Wisconsin DNR for their awesome trail markings. We did not get lost or even wonder where we were! And there were no ticks...we'll give the DNR credit for that, too. The girls did pretty well on the hike. Felicity ate a lot of dried mango and insisted that only her mother could carry her when she was tired. But it was a beautiful day and a very pretty hike!
Not done yet! See, we do get a lot into these days! There was mini-golf. We split into three teams. Team Blond People (Ignore Felicity's facial expression, she was amazed at the phone's selfie function.)
Team Wellman Dudes + Vivian
And Team Miriam (named because she got three hole-in-ones!)
Everyone had fun...except Nichole because Joe kept confusing her head with the golf ball. He's getting his vision checked.
High fives and congratulations to the winners: Joe, Dad, and Maria. Mini-golf champions! (Wait if Joe could see the ball well enough to win his round...what was up with golfing Nichole's head?!?!?)
More...yes, more. We boated, skied (well, watched Uncle John ski), and tubed. SO MUCH FUN. We loved seeing the girls bouncing around on the lake with their parents, aunts and uncles, "driving" the boat with Grandpa, and singing songs with Grandma.
Aunt Nichole turned 25 on our trip. Quarter of a century. Another reason for dessert! Happy Birthday, Aunt Nichole!!
And suddenly the week is over. We feel like we'll always have a layer of sunscreen on our skin, we'll never bother to really do our hair again, there's constantly someone nearby to play a game with or take silly pictures with, and we should start the commune. 
Anyone else in?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

In the middle

After Aunt Bridget and Uncle Ryan got married, but before last week's super Wisconsin Dells vacation, we did some stuff that didn't make it on the blog. But it all needs to get notated here for posterity.

Favorite Indiana Summer Activity: Day at the Dunes. Aunt Annette, Uncle Tom, Aunt Bridget, Uncle Ryan, and Aunt Maria all came with us! We leave right after breakfast, pack a picnic lunch and play play play in the sand until it's time for a quick trip to the outlet mall in Michigan City and supper at Shoreline Brewery - the food is awesome every time but this year they didn't have a dark beer on tap! How's a body supposed to relax without dark beer!?!
We did our school supply shopping - including three pairs of new (SUPER BRIGHT) shoes! Miriam begins Kindergarten in just three days.
We went to Amishville with Sarah's extended family and did all our traditional activities. Visiting the farm, dancing on the stage, swimming, and eating.
Then Viv got sick. Ran a fever for six days, took a strep test which came back negative but put her on an antibiotic anyways and viola! Fever gone. 
Just in time for Felicity to start the fever, get the medicine, and get better for vacation.
Strep test might have been negative...but with high fevers, sore throats, and Popsicle addictions, Mommy feels very (over)confident saying, "IT WAS STREP THROAT."
And finally, we have the rules for being in Miriam's fort. Kudos to all who can read them.
As they say, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen high-standards fort.