m4s0n501

You guys, I never read anymore. It’s sad and pathetic, but true.

Last week, however, I was heading to Las Vegas for work—and my work commitments once I was out there were scheduled to be minimal—so I figured I would take advantage and READ something that wasn’t work related for once. Before I went, I happened to see a movie trailer for Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck. It was a pretty intriguing movie trailer, and I immediately recognized the title as a book title. Something I had heard about but never got around to reading myself (surprise, surprise). And so I thought, “Hmm. That looks pretty good. Maybe I’ll go back and read that now.”

Well, I ended up being busier than I anticipated in Vegas, so I didn’t get any poolside-with-a-book time. But I did remember to download a book to my iPad before embarking on my travels home—and Gone Girl was the one. Thank goodness, too, because I ended up being delayed six hours, many of which were spent sitting in airplanes that weren’t moving and waiting in airports. You can only check Facebook so many times. :) So I started reading, and I READ THE ENTIRE DAY. (Side note: What a rare luxury that is for a mom, huh?) I read during my flights, I read during my wait in line for boarding, I read during my layover and while I ate my dinner.

The book definitely captured my attention. Despite my many hours of reading, though, I didn’t quite finish it in one day—I had maybe 80 pages remaining. I got home late Friday night and managed to finish it over the weekend. Go me!

Anyway, if you haven’t read it, Gone Girl is the story of a married woman who suddenly goes missing under very odd circumstances. What follows is a woven web of suspicion and speculation, lies and revelations. What happened to Amy? What does Nick know?

The story is told through a combination of Nick’s first-person account, with much of the couple’s history chronicled through Amy’s past diary entries. It’s an interesting approach, which allows readers to see it all through both characters’ eyes.

Through the whole thing, I definitely wasn’t sure how it would end, and when I finally did get to to that last page? I felt like, “Wait. THAT’S it?” It wasn’t what I was expected. With this book, even when you feel a twist coming—the twist is probably not what you were thinking it might be. In that regard, I give the author some props. Overall, though, the ending wasn’t quite… satisfying. I have heard, however, that the movie ends differently, so I’m curious to see how it’s adapted—especially since it’s my understanding that the author, Gillian Flynn, adapted her own book as the writer of the screenplay.

Here’s the extended movie trailer, if you’re interested:

I like to open up the comments for people to speak freely about the entire plot (including the ending!), so if you haven’t read the book and think you might want to, or even if you want to remain largely in the dark about the movie plot… proceed to the comments with caution. :)

So those who have read it… what did you think? Did you like or dislike the ending? Are you curious about the movie? I’ve seen a few discussions in which people are actually talking about the movie being BETTER than the book—that never happens!

 

With as busy as we are these days, it’s easy to fall into ruts of cooking the same meals for dinner all of the time. Before babies, I used to seek out and try new recipes all of the time, and post about them here, too! Now? Not so much.

Well, I’m breaking the rut here, at least momentarily, to share this one with you. It was a meal that just seemed so different that I wanted to give it a shot. Turkey meatballs… with barbecue sauce… served over a quinoa salad with corn, red onion, and cheddar cheese. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

The meatballs got a big thumbs up, and I love quinoa. My only two constructive comments about this meal were that I would definitely err on the side of less onions next time. Since they’re raw (and RED onions, which have a very strong flavor to begin with), I felt that they overpowered the dish. Judging what qualifies as a “medium” onion is always a little challenging. Lesson learned. :) Also, I couldn’t really taste the cheddar in the quinoa—but that could’ve been the result of the onion issue. In any case, next time I make it, I might experiment by leaving the cheddar out, too, simply because if I’m going to eat cheese, I want to taste it. Otherwise? Wasted calories and fat, if you ask me!

I made this on a Friday night. The other thing I will do next time is more prep work in advance, particularly if I’m making it on a weeknight again. The meatballs could easily be made up in advance, and the corn, onion, etc. could be prepped for the quinoa as well. That way, when you get home, all you need to do is throw the meatballs in the oven and cook the quinoa. Done and done.

BBQ Turkey Meatballs
(Source: Pink Parsley)

Ingredients:
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 scallion, minced
- 1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- pinch cayenne
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 5 Tbs BBQ sauce, divided

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and spray lightly with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, panko, scallion, cilantro, paprika, garlic, mustard, salt, cayenne, brown sugar,  and 2 tablespoons of the BBQ sauce.  Lightly but thoroughly mix with your hands to incorporate all the ingredients.  Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup, form the mixture into balls, and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

3. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of BBQ sauce to a small bowl.

4. Bake the meatballs 11 to 12 minutes, then brush with the reserved BBQ sauce.  Return to the oven and bake an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are cooked through (160 degrees in the center).


Cheddar-Corn Quinoa

(Source: Pink Parsley)

Ingredients:
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 ears of corn, grilled, roasted, or boiled, kernels cut from cobs
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced into thin rings and rinsed under cold water
- 3 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 scallion, minced
- 3/4 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar

Directions:
1. Bring the quinoa, broth, and a big pinch of salt to a boil in medium saucepan.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through.

2. Remove the quinoa from heat, and add to a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the corn, onion, cilantro, scallion, and cheese.

3. In small bowl, whisk together the oil, pepper flakes, garlic, and vinegar.  Pour over the quinoa and gently mix to combine.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

4. Serve the meatballs over the quinoa.

 

I was so busy late last week with Nora’s birthday, work, and prep for Nora’s party that I didn’t even have a chance to share with all of you a guest post I wrote for Julia over at My Life in Transition as part of her “Moms Make It Work” series.https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3911/14481562494_c527118420_m.jpg

Truthfully, I wrote this post a few months back, so if you’re a regular reader, you might notice that a few things are out of date—mainly all of our ages (we’ve had a bunch of birthdays since then), and the photos! But in the post, I discuss a bit about my background, career, and how I handle being a working mom. The biggest factor for making it work? Michael, of course. The post is about more than that, though. :)

Anyway, hop on over there to check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. And check out other posts in the series as well. It’s fun to read all about moms and their life situations, and how we all “make it work.”

 

Nora Grace is 4 years old. She’s a KID.

In some ways, it feels like yesterday that I was lying in a hospital bed, staring at her tiny features and getting to know her. On the other hand, that time feels so far away, such a blur, and like that baby couldn’t possibly be the girl I know today. How does it happen so fast? How do they grow right in front of our eyes, but without us even realizing just how much they’re changing?

It’s incredible. And she is awesome.

Nora at 4 is smart, inquisitive, and has the memory of an elephant. She’s a sponge. She is a snuggler, and seems to crave physical affection. She’ll grab my hand at the breakfast table just to hold the back of it against her cheek. She’ll squeeze our legs randomly, still asks to be held, and won’t go to sleep without a series of bedtime kisses.

Nora is a better big sister to Vivienne than I could’ve ever imagined she would be. She’s patient, kind, gentle, and loving. Her expressions of affection for her baby sister are so genuine that I often find myself in awe of the love. She shares, and she wants Vivienne included when she does things.

Oh, she’s a people pleaser. If we correct her behavior, even gently, her facial expression crumbles and she asks, “Are you mad at me forever?” or declares “You don’t love me when I naughty.” Neither is true, of course, and we’ve told her a million times, but it never changes what she says.

My eldest daughter—the girl who made me a mom—makes me proud every single day. She has her moments, of course, because she’s a child, but overall, I think she’s a well-behaved, polite, sweet little girl. I’ve loved watching her personality evolve, and I know that this next year is likely to be one during which she changes by leaps and bounds. I’ll hold on for the ride.

Last night, I took out her baby book to show her the pictures. Maternity photos, ultrasound images, and pictures from our first hours together. It’s seriously surreal to be looking at them with her and having her ask me questions about them. Again, what happened to the last four years?!

This morning, we greeted the birthday girl in her bed, as she sat up waiting for her day to begin. Per our tradition, we took her out for giant pancakes, making sure to bring candles.

This year, it’s different. She was acutely aware all day that it was her birthday and it was meant to be special. She kept saying, “But it’s my birthday…” with this sly smile on her face. Like, I’d say, “Nora, sit in your seat politely” and she would climb back up but look at me and go, “But Mommy, it’s my birthday.” I guess she doesn’t think rules should apply. :) However, as we were nearing the end of breakfast, she looked at me and said, “Thank you, Mommy, for taking me out to breakfast,” and then turned to Michael and said, “And thank you, Daddy, for taking me to breakfast.” HEART MELTED.

Afterward, we spent a few low-key hours at home, pretty much letting her do whatever she wanted to do (which involved watching Frozen). At one point, she apparently got a little bored, because she was like, “Why aren’t we having fun on my birthday?” Oh hahahahaha. We didn’t have the jam-packed day planned that we did last year, so… oops. But in the afternoon, Michael stayed at home with Vivienne while she napped, and I took Nora to the mall for a much-anticipated birthday treat: Getting her ears pierced.

I mentioned a while back that we were thinking about doing this, and well, we did.

I am fairly certain I freaked out about it way more than she did. I was really nervous about the placement of the earrings on her ear lobes, whether they were even, etc. The ladies at Piercing Pagoda left it up to ME to judge and give the final OK and it was way more pressure than I was prepared for. Haha! But it’s done, and I *think* they look like they’re supposed to. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a couple of minor panic attacks afterward, while I repeatedly studied her lobes as we wandered back through the mall. I eventually concluded that I surely had to be over-thinking it. Type A mom, reporting for duty. YIKES.

Anyway, the actual piercing? She didn’t even flinch. I had heard (and told Nora) that they would give her a teddy bear to hold, but that didn’t happen, so I offered up an app on my phone. They counted down, they pierced both ears simultaneously, and it was literally like nothing happened. Nora had this look on her face like, “OK, now what?”

She was definitely proud of herself, though. She couldn’t wait to get home to show her daddy. On the way home, she randomly asked me, “Mommy, how do you sleep with earrings?” God, she’s so cute.

At home, we whipped up some cupcakes to bring in for her preschool class tomorrow, then we went out to dinner as a family, where she had her favorite—macaroni and cheese. Again, in the middle of dinner, she thanked us for taking her out, no prompting necessary. Just another sign of how she’s maturing. I can’t take it.

This photo of Nora and Vivienne is ridiculous. Funniest thing ever. What a bunch of goofballs. They were clearly very excited about the cupcakes.

It was a good day. I love this kid so much it hurts, and it just keeps getting better and better. How blessed we are to have her in our lives every day, and to celebrate on 9/11 every year.

Happy 4th Birthday, Nora! I couldn’t be more proud of you, and feel more fortunate to be your mommy. Thank you for being you.

 

For a year now, Nora has been asking me when she can go to school.

“When you’re four,” I’d tell her. “You’ll go to preschool. And then when you’re five, you’ll go to kindergarten.”

This morning, the day finally came. Michael got her out of bed and she popped into our bedroom to see me. “MOMMY,” she said. “I’m SO EXCITED for school!”

Last weekend, we were hyping up school more than ever, and Nora finally confessed, “I’m scared to go to preschool.” Thankfully, the school had an open house on Monday morning during which we could take her to check it out, play with some of the toys, and meet her teachers. After an hour there, Nora was back on Cloud 9 about preschool. She was already singing its praises.

“I LOVE MY SCHOOL!”
“I want to go to school EVERY DAY!”

Michael asked her what her favorite part (of the open house) was, and she exclaimed, “EVERYTHING!”

So, yeah, she was psyched as soon as she got up this morning. The poor thing had to wait until NINE O’CLOCK and she was not happy about that. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her so anxious to go somewhere. She was asking me every five minutes if it was time to go.

Good thing I distracted her for a good half an hour by torturing her with my camera. ;)

I spent a good chunk of time in the last week designing this sign in Photoshop. Much inspiration from Pinterest, of course. I finally got it printed up at Kinkos yesterday, and I’m so happy with how it turned out.

She came up with “apple picker” all on her own, by the way. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked her. “What do you mean?” she replied. “What do you want to do for your job? You know, when you go to work. Some people are doctors, or lawyers, or teachers…” I explained. Immediately, she goes, “Apple picker.” Alrighty then. Haha! It cracks me up. I can’t wait to see how her answer changes from year to year. And I’ll always remind her of when she was 4 and wanted to be an apple picker. :) I shouldn’t laugh, actually… maybe she’ll run an orchard some day! It’s just too darn cute.

{This pose was all her. She kills me.}

Finally, it was time to get going. On the way out to the car, we made one more stop in the front yard for a photo of her with her backpack on. Because it just made her look that much bigger.

Michael called us when we were on our way to the school (he was already at work), and got to hear how excited she was for the ride. When we pulled up and parked, she goes, “That was easy!” because apparently it didn’t take as long to get there as she thought it would.

I got her out and she started walking. I took a moment to breathe and take it in. My baby. Walking into preschool for the very first time. I just can’t believe she is this big already. How?

A second after I snapped this photo of her walking all big and independently ahead of me, she turned and held out her hand to me. “Mommy. Hold my hand,” she asked.

My baby is still in there after all. :)

We got inside, she found her own cubby, and hung her own backpack. She responded to the teacher’s greeting, then I watched her beeline straight to the toys to play.

“Mommy,” she said. “Are you going to leave now?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“YAY!” she cheered.

She wants me to let go. She wants to fly.

It’s “only” preschool, but I’m nudging her out of the nest a little. Three mornings a week, she’s testing out those wings.

I hope she maintains this level of enthusiasm through high school.

 
m4s0n501