Archive for Holiday

I do this “survey” every year. I almost didn’t do it this year, but decided to go ahead and do it at the last minute! So here it is….

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? Lots of things! Took 2 small children to Europe for 17 days, got chickens, and ran my first 5k
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I actually did do many of them and will be writing resolutions again for 2015
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No
4. Did anyone close to you die? My aunt’s mom died just a few days ago:( Plus, several people I visited in the nursing home.
5. What countries did you visit? Spain, Portugal, and Morocco
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
More time for myself
7. What date(s) from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? I don’t have exact dates, but these were important events this year:

Felix’s first birthday (April 3), Felix’s first birthday party, our amazing 17-day trip to Europe and Morocco in May, Anya’s 4th birthday (June 4), Anya’s surprise fairytale birthday party, our weekend trip to St. Louis with the kids, our weekend away by ourselves in Bloomington, getting chickens, my first 5k in September, being able to run a 10k, the day we got our first egg from our chickens, and my 33rd birthday (Dec. 12)
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Taking 2 kids to Europe:) And being able to save enough money that we now have the same amount in our travel fund that we had last year, despite spending some of it on Europe; we also are really close to having the amount we had in our savings before we bought my husband’s new vehicle last November.
9. What was your biggest failure? I don’t think I can really say I had a failure because even though I may not have done everything I intended to do, I have improved my life in lots of ways over the past year. Life is a journey and not a destination. I never expect to have a perfect year or to ever be a perfect person. It is always a work-in-progress, and it always will be!
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Mastitis sucks!!
11. What was the best thing you bought? Our plane tickets to Europe
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Open-minded people who like to learn new things
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? People who pretend that their lives are perfect, and in the process, making others feel bad about theirs, especially when, in the end, you find out they have the same problems or issues you are having trouble dealing with
14. Where did most of your money go? Europe
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Our European vacation

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2014Let It Go
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter? The same
iii. richer or poorer? Richer
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Being present in the moment
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worrying
20. How did you spend Christmas? We had lots of Christmas get-togethers but they were actually spread out so that we had a chance to enjoy our gifts in between each of them.
21. Did you fall in love in 2014? Always:)
23. What was your favorite TV program? The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No
25. What was the best book you read? The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
26. What was your greatest musical discovery? This is kind of a rediscovery, but I started listening to more Ani DiFranco in November; I also got some great intervention ideas at the music therapy conference I attended in the same month.
27. What did you want and get? A European vacation
28. What did you want and not get? A vacation for just the two of us, time to play the piano for myself
29. What was your favorite film of this year? I saw very few movies, but Mockingjay was really good
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? It started out with my daughter’s Christmas program at school. I donated 92 ounces of breastmilk and then was stressed out by an unexpected work thing I had to resolve quickly before going to lunch with family. We went out for dinner that evening and then my husband got sick. Parts of it were good, but it wasn’t the day I had hoped for. I guess next year, I will have to make sure that I get some time to myself to read, take a bubble bath, play the piano, or something I want to do. I turned 33.

31.How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? Comfortable
32. What kept you sane? My Starbucks nights
33.Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I really didn’t have time to mess with anything like that.
34. What political issue stirred you the most? Birth rights, intactivism
35. Who did you miss? A friend I don’t see often enough:(
36. Who was the best new person you met? That’s a tough one!
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014: No one else is going to take care of you, so you might as well take care of you.

What to Get the Mom in Your Life

Do you need to buy a gift for a mom of little kids? Don’t know what to get her? You are in the right place! Keep in mind that these suggestions may not work for every mom, but this list is meant to give you some ideas to consider.

 

1. Gift cards

Everyone I know seems to hate getting gift cards for people, but sometimes they are really the best gift. No, they may not be exciting to the person giving the gift, but I LOVE getting gift cards, because it means I can go and get something or do something I want to do. That being said, if you are going to give a gift card, just be sure to know where she shops or eats.

2. Massages, manicures, etc.

I also love getting these kind of gifts. I very rarely spend money for this kind of thing, but if someone gifts it to me, I definitely won’t let it expire!

3. Bubble bath, lotions, and other pampering items

Not every mom will agree with me on this one, but I do enjoy getting things like this because I’m really bad about buying such “self-indulgent” things for myself. Again, make sure to find out if she has any allergies or aversions to certain scents.

4. Books about being a mom

Not all moms like to read, but if she does, you might consider getting her a humorous book about being a mother. There are a lot of them out there, and one of the best things about them is that most of them are set up like a collection of essays and stories so you don’t necessarily have to remember everything from the previous chapter before starting a new one. That means if she only gets to read once a month, it’s ok to pick up where she left off.

5. Time

That’s right. I said “time.” It sounds ridiculous, but chances are, she doesn’t have a lot of time to use any of the gift cards, massages, or bubble bath she gets if she doesn’t get any time to herself. Offer to take the kids for a bit so she can shop, get a massage, or have lunch with a friend, or better yet, so she can have the house to herself! This is probably the best gift you can give a mom!

 

 What else would be good to give a mom for Christmas?

Recycling Christmas Cards

Every year, we get some really great Christmas cards. Some of them are photo cards and some are traditional cards, but I always enjoy getting them. Then, after Christmas is over, I end up throwing them all away and thinking that there has to be something better to do with them that isn’t so wasteful. This year, I came up with another way to use them.

I am sure I am not the first person to do this with their Christmas cards, so I am by no means claiming to be the first one to have this idea. I started with a pile of Christmas cards.

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These are just a few of the cards I had…there were lots more when I started!

 

Then, I just cut out pictures, words, and/or patterns that I thought were cute. After about only 10 minutes, I had over 40 gift tags for next year’s Christmas presents.

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These are just some of them!

I put them in a plastic bag to store them with our Christmas wrapping stuff, so we will have them for next year!

I would love to hear what you do with your Christmas cards!

What I Learned in 2013

This year has been a tough one, and I have learned some very valuable lessons. Because the year is ending tomorrow, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve learned this year.

1. I need to do things that I enjoy even if it means that my husband has to take care of the kids on his own or make dinner on his own or do whatever on his own.

2. I need more music in my life, but I haven’t figured out a way to actually play my piano (or my guitar or my violin or my ukulele) when the kids are in the house.

3. I miss writing music, but I haven’t figured out a way to do that with the kids in the house, either.

4. I am going to start saying no to things I don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. It’s going to make some people mad, but that’s for them to deal with.

5. I am allowed to have my own opinions, thoughts, and feelings, even if other people disagree with what those things are.

6. I love working as a music therapist, but after being one for almost 8 years, I am pretty sure I am hitting the burn-out stage. I need to work on fixing this.

7. Some things are better left alone.

8. Modern medicine is necessary in many situations and for those times, I am thankful, but there are a lot of times when it is not and we are made to think that it is. It pays to get second opinions and to do a little bit of research on my own.

9. I still love wine, but lately it just makes me tired and gives me a headache. I think my new vice might be coffee.

10. There is much to be learned from the principles of yoga. It is a true practice in physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. That being said, if you think yoga is just some weird, new-age practice that is easy to do, you are sorely mistaken!

11. I have come to the conclusion that everything I say will offend someone in some way. However, it is still a free country and I can say what I want/need to say. I try my best not to say things in a way that will purposely hurt someone else, but it’s not my fault if others take it personally. Honestly, it bugs me when people ONLY write about happy things, because that just isn’t real. All that does is make other people feel like there is something wrong with their lives because they don’t have the same thought or feeling. I was actually recently told by a friend that writing about some of the negative things can minister to other people going through the same thing and those people will see that they aren’t alone.

So what have you learned in 2013?

Christmas!

Wow! Christmas just kind of snuck up on me and now the day has come and gone. However, I would like to remind you that the 12 days of Christmas officially start on December 25, so we are still in the Christmas season for another week or so. I will be leaving the decorations up for a little longer for this reason.

We had a great Christmas at our house and both of our children were spoiled rotten. We celebrated our Christmas on Christmas Eve morning since we had fewer places to be that day than Christmas Day. Santa brought us a ton of gifts, including coffee for us adults.

christmas - Santa Came

So we enjoyed coffee and Anya had hot chocolate as we sat in our pajamas and opened our gifts while listening to Christmas music.

Christmas - Opening Gifts Christmas - Felix Christmas - Eric and Felix Christmas - Family Activities Christmas - Anya and Walking Baby

Then, we had breakfast, which consisted of a homemade breakfast casserole and fruit salad. We didn’t have anywhere to be until Christmas Eve Mass at 4 so we hung around the house and played with our new “toys.” It was a great day!

We’re currently in the process of trying to find a home for everything and have come to the conclusion that we will have to put up (or find a new home for) some of the “older” toys our children have. Right now, we don’t even have room to play with anything!

Apparently, I was on the “nice” list this year, as I got a lot of great gifts including some much-needed clothing, a pillow to use in the bath (if I ever get the bathroom to myself!), Scrivener (writing software for those who don’t know), some funny e-books about being a mom, an aromatherapy starter kit, a new Yiruma piano songbook, some new black boots, Skechers, some Christmas decor, a desk calendar, and gift cards for Starbucks and places to eat, just to name a few things. I feel guilty about spending money on myself to go out to lunch or to have coffee, so now I don’t have to! I also have some cash to go shopping for some things I need.

What did you get for Christmas?

Merry Christmas!

Every year I try to write a quick letter letting everyone know what’s been going on in our home over the past year. Here’s this year’s letter:

 

2013 was definitely an eventful year! We began the year as a family of three (plus the cat) and will end it as a family of four. Anya is 3 and a half years old now and has lots to say! Most days she doesn’t stop talking. We have been trying to write some of it down so that we don’t forget it, but some days, things just come too fast! Anya is still taking Suzuki violin lessons and is actually playing a few short pieces on her violin. She started preschool in the fall and loves it. She is such a big girl now!

The three of us welcomed Baby Felix in early April. He was a little stubborn and chose to make a fashionably late appearance a full week after his due date. Thanks to our amazing OB and doula, we were able to have the all natural, intervention-free birth for which we had hoped. It was certainly intense but I would do it that way again in a heartbeat! Felix is growing fast and already thinks he is a big boy, mostly because he has to keep up with his big sister. His personality is showing more and more each day. He likes to make us laugh and he thinks he’s absolutely hilarious most of the time. Watching Anya and Felix interact is priceless – the two of them together are sure to be trouble!

Work has kept both Eric and I busy this year. I continued to work as a Music Therapist two or three days a week and have nine students (soon to be ten) in my piano studio. I also gave a couple of presentations this year, including a parenting course that was taped and has been aired on WNIN at least a few times. I have some leads on some new projects this coming year and I hope to add a few other contracts once I get a chance to do more marketing. I try to get to Starbucks occasionally just to get an hour or two away from the chaos that is two kids (and feed my growing caffeine addiction), but it just doesn’t happen often enough. When there is time, I have been writing and publishing more posts on my blog. Eric is still with Keller Schroeder and has been working on mobile apps for several companies. He even published his first app to the App Store for a local energy company. He trained for most of the summer and completed a Tough Mudder in St. Louis in September. A few weeks later, he finished his first half-marathon.

This past summer, we joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) and tried more new vegetables than we ever thought existed. We split a partial share with another family and received fresh organic fruits and veggies every week from the end of May through the middle of November. Needless to say, our cooking skills have greatly expanded!

Home improvement projects have been at a minimum this year, though we did have the laundry room tiled to match the rest of the first floor, and Eric (along with his dad) built a gate to the pool so that no children can get to it. We also had a new roof installed in the fall, as we were told it was about that time. Then, in November, we opted to sell Eric’s Saturn Vue and purchased a new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe that we both love.

Travelling was also at a minimum this year (for us!), though we did manage to do a few things. In May, while I was still on maternity leave, we took the kids to Chattanooga for five nights and enjoyed a mini-vacation. I got a little stir-crazy over the summer, so we took an impromptu week-long trip to Okaloosa Island in Florida in September, which just happens to be the best time of year to visit the beach! Both kids did pretty well on the long drive. Instead of going out of town for our anniversary, we opted to stay at a hotel in town (we got a free night due to a great deal we saw on a daily deal website) and saw Les Miserables at the local theater. We are planning to take a bigger trip next fall when the kids are a little older. We are hoping that we might be able to pull off another European adventure with two little ones!

Have a great holiday and a Happy New Year!! 

Rachel, Eric, Anya, Felix, and Peanut Butter

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Christmas Recipes: Cheese Ball

Still needing something really easy to make in a matter of minutes that’s not a cookie or something sweet? Here’s a really easy cheeseball made out of things many people would already have. It’s nothing fancy, but I make one every year around Christmas.

Put 8 ounces of cream cheese (I use the light version), some chopped onion (whatever amount you prefer; I think I use about 1/3 cup or so), and a small package of chopped ham. I never buy lunchmeat in those packages except for this recipe, just because I’m usually out of time by this point.

Cheeseball - Cream Cheese, Ham, and Onion  Add a bag of shredded cheddar cheese. (I use the reduced fat version.)

Cheeseball - Add cheese

Mix it all up.

Cheeseball - Mixed UpThen, I roll it in a ball and wrap it in saran wrap. I typically serve it with crackers. It’s easy to transport and doesn’t take long to make. It’s perfect if you’re feeling especially lazy or are just plain out of time!

Cheeseball

Puppy Chow

Need another easy recipe? I’m back with another quick and easy (lazy, really) recipe that takes no time at all.

First, start out with 1/2 cup of peanut butter, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 cup of chocolate chips and put it all in a microwaveable bowl.

Puppy Chow - Ingredients

Put these ingredients in the microwave for 1 minute and then stir until everything is mixed well. Then, add 1/2 tsp. of vanilla.

Puppy Chow - Melted

The next step is to put 9 cups of any kind of chex cereal in a large bowl. Yes, I said 9 cups. After you taste the finished product, you’ll wish there were more cups of this! Then, you pour the chocolate mixture in with the cereal and mix it up.

Puppy Chow - Mixed with Cereal

The next part gets a little messy, but if you have a cute assistant like I do, it is much easier!

Puppy Chow - Assistant

Put 3 cups of powdered sugar in a gallon-sized bag and add the cereal. Shake the bag to coat the cereal with the sugar, but be sure to shut the bag before you do that! I usually do this in two parts, so I put 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and about half of the cereal mixture in and then pour it into another bowl before doing the other half.

Puppy Chow - Powdered Sugar

The finished product makes a great homemade gift or a snack!

Puppy Chow