Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Crafternoons: Greek Yogurt Edible Finger Paints

Lillian has long been my arts & crafts buddy. We often peruse Pinterest together for ideas, then go tearing through the house in search of pipe cleaners and glitter glue. Recently however, our crafternoons have undergone a shift in dynamics: Max. 

At nearly eleven months old, Max is into everything. I can barely keep track of him as he crawls and cruises around the house. He loves opening and closing doors, pressing buttons and figuring out the mechanics of things. He is no longer content to sit quietly in a jumpy seat while Lillian and I have all the crafty fun. 

Well, maybe "crafty" isn't the right word anymore. While, we've joyfully welcomed him into our fun, it has required some adjustment. We've been celebrating his sense of wonder with sensory play activities. Lots of messiness and discovering. I enjoyed this phase with Lilly a couple years ago, when we whittled the winter away with homemade play dough and colored puff balls. This time around, its even more fun since I watch the kids interact. They regularly delight one another and themselves. Today, for example, towards the end of our finger painting adventure, Lilly decided painting her brother's face was far more interesting than the paper. He sat patiently as she smeared his cheeks with green and blue, laughing hysterically all the time. 

The "paints" are a simple mix of plain Greek yogurt (I'm sure regular yogurt would work just as well), food coloring and a bit of water. This certainly won't make for lasting artwork, but the kids sure enjoyed smearing and squishing it. And I had absolutely no concerns when it ended up in mouths (and hair and ears). 

Greek Yogurt Edible Finger Paints
Makes 2 tbs of each color

1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt
4 shades of food coloring
water

Divide yogurt between four small plastic cups or bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring to each cup and stir until the color is blended. Add a small amount of water to each color to adjust the consistency of the paint as needed. 


Friday, February 20, 2015

We're all nuts for Baked Berry Donuts


Thank you, everyone, for the words of support, encouragement, kindness, and solidarity following my last post. Hopefully sharing my story will help erode some of the stigma that surrounds PPD.

Despite the ongoing recovery from crazy, we do actually manage to have some fun around here occasionally. I'm going to try to remember to document it. And here we go. 

Last weekend my parents visited for the weekend. My mom and I surprised the guys with tickets to a Blackhawks game on Friday night. 


And with Valentines Day on Saturday, they graciously offered to stay another night with the kids so JiT and I could spend one blissful, two-years-in-the-making night away downtown.

Sandwiched in the middle was Valentines Day Breakfast. I wanted to do something special for the kids before with ditched them, and also do something nice to thank my parents for watching them.  So we made baked raspberry mini donuts, topped with strawberry glaze and sprinkles. Lilly and I actually made the donuts a couple days beforehand and froze them. Then we just dipped them in glaze and hit em with sprinkles in the morning. Easy peasy and very cute for a party. 

While I'm not usually one for having a zillion specialty pans laying around, mini donuts are so cute and easy to throw together. And people think you put a great deal of effort in, so pretty well worth the splurge and the kitchen real estate. 

Everyone enjoyed the "party." JiT and I LUUURVED having a night to ourselves and I think Nana and Pop had a great time with the kiddos so it was a win for everyone. This weekend we've got one of my college besties in town and a bunch of my wine-drinking girlfriends coming for Sunday brunch so  the donut pan might be making an encore appearance. 


Baked Berry Donuts 
Makes about 2 dozen mini donuts

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
6 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup raspberry puree (press berries through a sieve to remove seeds)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray mini donut pan with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flours, sugar, and baking soda. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat egg and add in milk, oil and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir gently to combine. Pour in raspberry puree and stir until evenly mixed. Spoon batter evenly into the wells of the donut pan (or use a plastic squirt bottle, which is much less messy) and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, until donuts are golden and cooked through. Remove from pan and set on a rack to cool. When completely cooled, dip each donut into strawberry glaze and top with sprinkles if desired. 

Strawberry Glaze

1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup finely diced strawberries
1/4 cup freeze dried strawberries, crushed to powder

Combine sugar and strawberries in a small bowl and stir to combine. If mixture doesn't seem wet enough, wait five minutes for the strawberries to break down and release their juices. Do not add water, there will be enough moisture from the berries. 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Stint in Postpartum Purgatory

Last July I fell apart. Completely. Like, weeping and screaming like a maniac in the car because we couldn't find a parking space at the community pool and my both kids were crying and I hadn't slept or eaten and I. Just. Lost. It.

Well, I'd been losing it. It was already lost at that point. You know that mom who drove her minivan into the ocean with her kids strapped inside? That wasn't me, thank God. Thank God I have an amazing husband, mother, community of friends. I have people who took my by the hand and said "stop. breathe. get help." And I did. Nevertheless, I had the blues big time. The hormones and the not sleeping and the chaos of trying to get two children out the door to do anything, ever just closed in and I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. The only thing that seemed to keep me going was anger and worry. I don't even know what I was angry about. But boy was I ever angry. At everyone. Mostly at myself for being so damned angry. And sad.

Because I have everything I've ever wanted. I have two healthy children and a husband who adores me. I have a fulfilling career that I got to create for myself and it's far more successful than I'd ever imagined. I get to be home with my kids. We are financially stable and healthy and well. In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing to be angry about.

In fact, people would regularly tell me how great we looked in pictures. How precious the children were. Neighbors would tell us how nice our lawn looked. How cute our front porch looked. How adorable our dog is. How wonderful the cupcakes we brought the the party were...

I felt like I'd helped create this place where everything was tidy and adorable and Pinterest-perfect. And I couldn't be happy. I could not find a single moment of happiness in my world. Everything I did felt like a lie. And with two small kids in the equation, I couldn't seem to make anything look perfect anymore. Nothing came out the way I wanted it to. The more I tried the more exhausted and insane I became and the more miserable I made everyone around me.

I finally talked to my OB and started taking anti-depressants. At first that just made me feel like even more of a failure but after a while they helped. It wasn't overnight. But slowly, I started to accept that there is a difference between perfection and happiness.

There are still moments when I lose my sense of balance and start to feel guilty and stressed about absurd things: Max takes formula now because I lost my breast milk; he's never worn a single cloth diaper; Lilly's hair hasn't seen a bow in months and she watches more Disney Junior than I'd care to admit; our hummus is store-bought. A friend suddenly dropped me and I cannot figure out why. Our family Christmas card photo shoot was a laughable failure. This blog is a like a virtual black eye that I cannot seem to fix. Let's not even discuss the edible peanut butter play dough incident.

When stuff like this starts to eat at me, I try really hard to recognize the crazy, pull an Elsa and "Let it Go." It doesn't always happen but mostly it does. Lots of yoga. Lots of breathing. In January I was able to taper off the anti-depressants. And nearly two months later, I can honestly say I feel happy, mostly. And grateful. Always grateful to everyone in my life. Most of all to my husband and children and dog, for putting up with me and loving me anyway.

I'd like to think I'll be back here soon with more posts. With mouthwatering pictures of the mini raspberry donuts the kids and I just made for our Valentine"s Day breakfast. To share some of the stunning pics JiT has been taking with his new camera. Or to tell you about my amazing clients' blogs and the tv segments I've been coordinating and the awesome food styling gig I just finished. I hope I do that. But if I don't. If I'm too tired or too stressed or I just want to play with the kids and be really present for them, I might not get to this. And thats ok. Because my life is not perfect. But I'm trying to make sure its mostly happy.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lillian's Rainbow Three-For-All: A Third Birthday

Last week, my sweet Lillian turned 3. She'll be the first to tell you that she is officially a "Big Girl." And she'd be right. In the last few months we've seen such a surge in her development...she's (finally, hooray!!!) potty trained, her imagination has exploded, her vocabulary continues to floor me, and she's developed a wonderful (sometimes infuriating) independent streak.

We wanted to embrace and celebrate her Big Girl opinions as much as we could with her birthday this year. So, in keeping with the pun-y birthday theme tradition we've stumbled into (One-derlandTurning TuTu), this year was a Three-For-All. And was it ever.

We let her choose everything for the party. I'm normally a totally type-A control freak about party themes so I was surprised just how much fun we both had when I let her loose in the party department at Target. She got to pick it all -- the decorations (mismatched plates and napkins), her outfit (complete with homemade crown, lots of jewelry and completely random shoes), the favors ("we MUST have party kazoos!"), the menu (hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and watermelon) and especially the cake. For months, she's been telling me she wanted a rainbow cake. I wasn't quite sure what that meant exactly, but she was pretty happy with the results.

While I'm normally one for from-scratch everything, I'm still pretty short on free time while Max is still such a little squirt. So to create the cake, I followed a tutorial I found here to the letter. Right down to the boxed cake mix and frosting.

This definitely wasn't the most Pinterest-worthy party, but Lillian loved it. In fact, she loved the whole day. And we love her. Happy three little lady. I can't wait to see what this year brings.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Maxwell

We had a baby. Almost two months ago. His name is Max and he's just about the sweetest guy ever. 

It's pretty sad that it's taken me two months to make the official announcement here. So here goes:

Maxwell Michael Andexler was born on April 8 at 1:30 pm weighing 7 lbs and 20.5 inches. 

At first I was too exhausted recovering from preeclampsia and overwhelmed with figuring out how to juggle two children to bother with anything else and then as time passed it started to feel like there was just too much to say. 

Like how he was born with a knot in his umbilical cord, which was kinda freaky but apparently means good luck?

Like how his big sister absolutely adores him and calls him the special nickname she gave him months before he arrived (Toots McGoots) and fawns over him and squeezes him ("gentle Lilly!!") and whispers in his ear that he's her best friend. 
Like how enormous his feet are and how skinny his legs are and how ear-piercingly loud his cries are when he's really mad but how sweet it is when he's laying peaceful and heavy in your arms (which is often since he had yet to meet a swing, bouncer, car seat or any other baby holder that he will tolerate). 

There's so much already. So many things about this child and this newly expanded family to love and to challenge us every day. Perhaps there won't ever be the perfect time or the right words to encompass it all. 

So here he is. Meet my Max. 





Friday, March 7, 2014

35 Weeks


It occurred to me the other day that the blog has been celebrating Christmas since...well...Christmas. So, I thought I should do something about that. Sadly for you, this is about the best I could come up with. Things have been so, so, SO busy and crazy and...I'm TIRED these days. Being 35 weeks pregnant will do that do you I guess. 

Thought I'd share a few pictures to sum things up:

First we've got the long-overdue belly shot. Realized this is only the SECOND belly pic I've taken this pregnancy. So...ta da.

Then, the first of pics row shows the almost/getting there/nowwejustneedcleanclothesandtinydiapers kids room. We're hoping that they'll eventually share the room once the little guy is out of the bassinet. I have high hopes, obviously. Getting the room done was seriously stressing me out so I'm pretty relieved that this is somewhat ready for the little guy, who will be showing up in less than a month. WHUT. 

The second row shows my daughter NOT napping, which is exactly whats been going on at naptime for approximately a month (which is approximately forever in exhausted pregnant lady time). Finally this week we've had a few decent naps in a row again, so hopefully this was just some sort of weird phase designed to make me crazy. It may have worked. 

The bottom row is all about indoor activities! Because...wow. Winter. And I'm a winter lover. But ugh. We've been to the movies, we've been to every indoor playground I can find, we've been to the conservatories. We've been in our basement/obstacle course. We've signed up for swim class. We are out of ideas. Today it was 45 so we sat on the back porch and sunned ourselves. Please come soon spring. Please. 

As far as the rest of our lives go, things have been a little bit nuts. In addition to the baby prep and the napless toddler and the cabin fever, JiT is in the midst of a job transition. Ultimately we know its going to be a very positive thing for him career-wise and I've loved having him around at home for the time being -- he's been a tremendous help. But with the new baby on the way and all the unknowns and "what-ifs" and transitions with insurance and what-not, I've been more stressed about it that I'd care to admit. Meanwhile, I've been doing an absolute ton of freelance work, which is well-timed and amazingly rewarding but also presents a whole other pile of logistics and little details and...well my brain just feels like its in a million places at once all the time. 

So, this is starting to sound really whiny and complainy which is not my intention. Things are good and I feel very blessed to have some much going on in our lives right now. I just wish I had more time to appreciate it all. And with that, I better get back to it. 

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