Photo op fail

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I wanted to try my hand at one of those sweet pictures of the baby gazing into the camera with a slight smile on her face, looking like a little angel, with the window light playing off her face and accentuating her features--you know what I'm talking about. Here's a good example. Or here, or here, or here. That Casey sure knows how to get a good one. What I already knew was confirmed for me, however--this child doesn't do those. She doesn't lay down or lay still--ever--unless she absolutely has to. The poor thing even has the hardest time falling asleep no matter how exhausted she is--she just doesn't know how to let herself relax, so she'll roll around and moan in her crib for a good half hour every time before she finally gives in to sleep. She wanted nothing to do with this, and was off the bed quick as lightning even though I had Mila and Olivia there to help me, and all I have are these pictures to show for it. Thanks for trying, girls.


Twenty things about me

While I'm on the topic of making lists (which is one my absolute favorite things to do, by the way), I thought it'd be fun to do a 20 things about me post. I see those on Instagram, and sadly no one has asked me to do one on there (ha ha, okay, I'm not that sad), so I'm doing one here. Because I can. And because I would love for you to get to know me better. I turn 30 in a month, and it's made me contemplate lately where I'm at and where I'm going in my life. It also feels like I should document some things about myself at this stage in my life before I officially leave my 20s behind and enter the brave new world of my 30s. Oh man.

I honestly don't want to turn 30 because that means I'm running out of time, but all those people saying they feel the most comfortable in their skin and about who they are during their 30s? It's true. I mean, I'm not there yet, but almost, and I have become much more self-assured and therefore doubt myself less, and I'm able to make choices quickly based on past experiences because I know myself better. And all that leads to more contentment, less fighting things you can't control or change, more finding joy in the everyday. So I'm looking forward to that part of it. Just not the wrinkles. So here goes--twenty things:

  • I'm paranoid of things inside my shoes (spiders and slugs mostly) and gardening gloves and creatures underwater. I try to play it cool while swimming at the lake, but I can't get images of something grabbing me out of my head when I'm swimming in cold, deep water.
  • I have two brothers and two sisters.
  • I hate my widow's peak. It just completely ruins everything.
  • I have always loved how strong I am (physically).
  • I wish I could draw or paint. I see things in my head but can't get them out on paper.
  • I have the widest feet in the world. Mila inherited this from me and her shoe selection is very, very limited. :(
  • I've lived in Idaho for 20 years. That definitely beats 5 years in Ukraine and 4 years in Washington.
  • I'm lactose intolerant.
  • I need to be a professional proof-reader because I can find every single typo and incorrect use of there/their/they're. In textbooks, books, and let's not even start about blogs/Instagram comments.
  • My waist and upper body are way smaller size-wise than my legs, so I have always hated jean shopping. It's my enemy. That waist gap...ugh.
  • I don't mind folding laundry and Bogdan despises it, so he's folded maybe five baskets of laundry during our 12-year marriage.
  • My favorite movie is Wicker Park--so mysterious and romantic and wistful, and the best soundtrack ever.
  • I helped raise my little brother, then babysat all the neighbor kids (and then some) when I was older, and then I got married young and had my own kids right away. So I've basically never been without someone to take care of.
  • A clean house has to be the best feeling ever.
  • And fresh sheets and fluffy linens is the second best feeling ever.
  • I have the biggest desire to travel, but it's been on the back burner basically my whole life so far. I can't wait to be able to see the world.
  • I'd live in New York City if I could, but Bogdan is the opposite and hates city life.
  • I've always felt like I don't have enough friends. But it may be because I have too many kids. :)
  • I have the driest skin of anyone I know. My feet are especially embarrassing.
  • I could skip the food and just live on dessert.
  • This post took way too long to write.


Summer bucket list

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I don't like the term 'bucket list' for whatever reason, but there's really nothing better to call a list of things you want to do before the summer is over. So bucket list it is. I was inspired by Amanda Watters to make this list--I loved reading hers, and it got me all excited for summer!

Our summer break started twenty days ago now, but we've been busy celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, so I'm finally sitting down to wrap my head around what I want our summer to look like. We don't have any big trips planned, but summer doesn't have to revolve around expensive trips (hey, we have four kids and we're living on one income, travel is not at the top of our 'needs' list). The local things are an adventure as well, and you get to sleep in your own bed at night! :) Plus, I know there are so many things to do here locally that we haven't done yet and need to do. So here are some things I have planned for this summer:

  • camp out in our backyard 
  • swim at Eagle Island
  • paint something and frame it
  • visit the Museum of Natural History
  • craft with the kids again
  • catch up on back issues of my magazines
  • watch a Friday night movie in the park
  • go hiking with the kids
  • visit a new hot springs
  • lots of dinner guests
  • make an Instagram book
  • go camping in three new places 
  • visit the Boise Art Museum
  • pick fruit at a local orchard (borrowed this one from Amanda)
  • tea party with the girls
  • drive-in movie in Parma
  • picnic at the park
  • swim lessons for the kids
  • try a couple new restaurants
  • visit Hidden Springs
  • dollar theater with the kids
  • host a big dinner party for no reason at all--everyone's invited!
  • start Naomi's scrapbook
  • spend a day at Lucky Peak
  • blow up Ben's volcano
  • farmer's market
  • blow up one of my pictures into a poster
  • go on a hot air balloon ride
  • frequent our neighborhood pool more than ever before!
  • paint the kids' bathroom and upstairs hallway
  • visit a new Idaho city 
  • spend a whole day out of the house (daring, I know)
  • bike the Greenbelt for date night
  • splash pad
  • Roaring Springs water park 
  • launch Ben's rocket
  • sew the girls some skirts or dresses
  • go zip-lining with my other half
  • host some sleepovers
  • a day at the pool by myself-aaaaaaaahhh

That last one sounds so amazing right now! I need to figure out the logistics of it and go spend some blissful, uninterrupted time at the pool with a good book. The things moms wish for...

So now I'd like to know, what are some things that are on your bucket list that maybe I need to add to mine?


Chili recipe

Monday, June 23, 2014

I was craving hearty, meaty chili so much one day recently, kind of out of nowhere (but isn't that how cravings are?) so I went online and started comparing recipes to figure out exactly what ingredients I wanted in mine. I like to compare lots of different recipes to see the similarities and differences in ingredients and technique, and then I can save myself time and money by ruling out ones that don't sound that appealing based on what I like to eat. That way I don't have to make and have to eat three different recipes to know what I like best, and I can experiment right away. It's also very helpful to read reviews to see what people change and what they like about the recipe. What I came up with is based loosely on this and this and some other recipes too. I knew I wanted a ground beef base (versus various cuts of beef), lots of beans, but I also didn't want chili with only meat, bacon, sausage in it--I need to have plenty of vegetables in there to balance things out. I think this chili is the perfect balance:

about 2 tablespoons olive oil (I eyeball it)
2 pounds organic ground beef
one red onion
4 cloves garlic
one red bell pepper
one yellow or orange bell pepper
one jalapeno
one 28-ounce can tomatoes, whole or crushed
one 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 15-ounce cans black beans
one 15-ounce can kidney or pinto beans
one 12 ounce bottle of beer (preferably amber)
1/4 cup masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
shredded cheddar, for serving
green onions, for serving
sour cream, for serving
lime wedges, for serving

Add olive oil to a large pot or lidded frying pan and start cooking beef on high heat. Chop onion and add, then mince garlic and add. Chop beef up as you fry, turning and chopping with a wooden spatula until there are no large chunks left. Dice red and yellow peppers and jalapeno and add to pan, making sure to keep stirring the meat every once in a while. When meat has browned, pour in the tomatoes and tomato sauce, and add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and cayenne pepper. Wash your beans, and add them to the pan, along with the bottle of beer. Turn heat down to low, cover chili with lid, and let it simmer for another hour. (If you like to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start cooking, total cooking time is about an hour and a half.)

Right before turning the chili off, mix the masa harina with about 1/2 cup water and whisk together, then add to chili to thicken it to your desired consistency. You can always do a taste test at the end and add more salt or chili powder if desired. If the chili turns out too thick (keep in mind it will thicken as it cools), you can always add some boiled water to loosen it up. Serve with shredded cheddar, chopped green onions, sour cream, and lime wedges. I personally love baking up some fresh cornbread to go with it--it just takes the meal above and beyond!

If you like spice, you can leave the jalapeno seeds in, but I always take mine out so I get the jalapeno flavor without too much spice. Also, make sure you use regular chili powder, which has other spices like oregano mixed in. I used chipotle chili powder the first time I made this, and although I reduced the amount I used because I knew that stuff is insanely spicy, the kids still wouldn't eat my chili. Lesson learned--not the same.

The most important thing I can tell you, however, is to buy quality meat. I buy organic ground beef at Costco because we all know Costco has the best prices on organic products hands down, and it's the most delicious ground beef I have ever tried. It really does make a difference. Organic meat has so much more flavor than regular because the animals aren't on steroids to develop bigger muscles and therefore more meat. It tastes better but it's also so much healthier for you. You're eating meat, not toxins like antibiotics and steroids, and who knows what else. And did you know organic meat is actually more filling than regular? It's what God intended for us to be eating, instead of tampering with things and calling it food. I urge you to try it!


Family pictures by the lake

We were lucky enough to squeeze in a family photo session when Julia and Yuriy were in town last month. We did it the day after Naomi's family birthday party, where I cooked dinner for a million people for the second day in a row, so by Monday (which was also Memorial Day, and we had plans at the park with our church), I was pretty burned out. I was picking out outfits as Julia and Yuriy were arriving, and working on the girls' hair as they were taking pictures of Naomi. I meant to have the outfits all ready to go the day before, but I just kept washing laundry all week long and never got to finish washing it in time. I wanted everything clean so I could have all my options in front of me and be able to put something together that worked.Oh man. Embarrassing, but I'm so glad I didn't tell them to go back home cause this mama didn't have her crap together. I was pretty tempted to. 

When we were all ready, we did some shots of the kids inside, then headed back to the same park we had been at earlier in the day, and Julia and Yuriy worked their magic as the sun glowed golden behind us. It was the quickest photo shoot we've ever done just because I was late getting ready, we were working against a setting sun, the mosquitoes were eating us alive (but you can't even tell!), and there was something insanely allergenic in the brush. We all just wanted to get out of there! Our noses instantly got stuffy and runny, our eyes started swelling up, and we couldn't stop sneezing. I couldn't believe how fast and strong the symptoms came! As we were driving home in the car, we just kept getting puffier and puffier (mostly Mila, Ben, and me) as we rubbed our itchy eyes, and by the time we arrived at the store to pick up some children's Benadryl, Mila's eye was almost swollen shut. The symptoms wouldn't go away for days as I doled out Benadryl and wanted to rip my own eyes out, but it was worth it. No doubt. Just look at the pictures below.

I'm so thankful to have this time in our lives captured, to have these moments frozen in time for us to enjoy even as the kids grow, Bogdan and I get older, and the family dynamic changes. Because as we parents know, things change in a family very, very fast. We think this certain thing one of the kids is doing will stick around a while, but within a couple weeks they are done with it and moving on to something else. Photography is such a gift, and even though I didn't feel quite ready for the shoot, it's so nice to have these pictures now. And if you're on our Christmas card list, be prepared for one of these to show up! :)