Monday, January 31, 2011

Locks No Longer

Last week, while on a special date with Mommy, Alia got her first hair cut!

Now... ya gotta remember a couple things...

one - my girls have been baldies for the majority of their little lives
two - it takes a good LONG while for their hair to grow even the slightest 1/2 inch
three - the only time Alia's hair has seen scissors is when I tried trimming her bangs... which resulted in a slightly Amish look for the next few weeks!

In light of these three facts, I was quite reluctant about cutting Alia's golden locks! But her do had started taking on a little "mullety" approach and I wasn't a big fan... so it was time to take action!

Things started out positively with toys in the waiting area...

a super friendly hairdresser...

and a tractor/race car seat that Alia could "drive" in!

She made herself comfy in no time!

She wasn't so sure about "her hair getting a bath without her clothes getting wet"...

but soon thought it was a pretty funny concept!

She paid VERY close attention to what the hairdresser was doing...

down to every brush stroke and snip!

The first cut of many...

Nearing the end...

Alia was pleased as punch!

What started out positively... ended... EVEN BETTER when Alia was asked if she wanted sparkles in her hair and her pick of FREE nail polish!

We had one super happy girl on our hands!!

It has taken Jon and I awhile to get used to Alia's new locks... but, we're getting there! It's just that her little "baby curls" are gone... and it's shorter than I thought it would be... and she looks so grown up... and... and, well, this growing up stuff is hard enough as it is!

Up and At 'Em!

Larren has went from pushing her stroller...

... and laundry baskets...

and chairs...

... to OFFICIALLY walking!!

She has been trying, oh so hard, to take a couple of steps lately, but has only been able to master 1 - 1 1/2 steps, at best! And... I'm a little funny about what I consider the "first steps" to be. In my book it has to be at least two, unassisted, upright steps... and on Saturday she met all necessary guidelines!

With the help of a big sister, and a "prized" golf ball... Larren took about 7-8 steps across the rug, in hopes of getting her cute little paws on the ball that Alia was holding! Since then she has taken many a steps and continues to get a bit braver with each passing day!

I know she's just a normal child... doing what normal children do... but goodness... how joyously sweet it is to be a part of it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Olive Garden.... To My Heart's Content!

Olive Garden is my favorite restaurant... has been for years and I don't see anything taking it's place in the near future! BUT - the closest Olive Garden is quite a fair drive away, which means I don't get there very often! So... in step a couple of these tried and true "Olive Garden" recipes! Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. spicy Italian sausage, crumbled
1/2 lb. bacon, chopped into small pieces
6 c. water
2 (14 1/2 oz.) cans chicken broth
2 larger potatoes, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 med. onion, chopped
2 c. Swiss chard or kale (spinach MIGHT work... haven't tried it)
1 c. heavy whipping cream (can get away with 1/2 c.)
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a skillet over med. high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as your fry it; drain and set aside. In a skillet over med. high heat, brown bacon; drain and set aside. Place water, broth, garlic, onion, and potato in a pot; simmer over med. heat until potatoes are tender. Add sausage and bacon to pot; simmer for 10 minutes. Add Swiss chard and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper. Heat through.

Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

1 c. chicken breasts, cooked and diced (you can use a rotisserie chicken)
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
1 quart half and half
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
1/2 c. celery, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. carrots, finely shredded
1 c. onion, finely diced
1 c. fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 T. extra virgin oil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese – optional
1 lb. potato gnocchi – can buy this in the gourmet section or dry pasta section of many supermarkets

Sauté the onion, celery, and garlic in butter and olive oil, over medium heat. When the onion becomes translucent, add the flour, and make a roux. Let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half.
Cook gnocchi according to package directions.
Into the roux add the carrots and chicken. Once the mixture becomes thick add the chicken broth. Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings. Simmer until soup is heated through.

Olive Garden Salad Dressing

1/2 c. white vinegar
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. corn syrup
2 1/2 T. grated Romano cheese
2 T. dry pectin (the secret)
2 T. beaten egg
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
pinch of dried oregano
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all of the ingredients with a mixer on medium speed or in a blender on low speed for 30 seconds. Chill at least 1 hour. Serve over mixed greens or use as a marinade.

Place torn or chopped Romaine into large salad bowl. Top with thinly sliced onion strips, pitted black olives, sliced tomatoes and sweet Italian peppers. Drizzle lightly with Olive Garden salad dressing. You don't want to drown the lettuce in oil. Use just enough to lightly dress the salad. A pool of oil in the bottom of the bowl means you've used too much. Don't toss yet!

This is the most important step. If you skip it, you'll still have a good salad, but it won't be fabulous. Cover the salad bowl with plastic wrap and leave it alone for ten or fifteen minutes. This is when the magic happens, so let it do its thing. No touching.

Serve with croutons and fresh Parmesan and of course, bread sticks!!!!!

Olive Garden Alfredo Sauce

1 pint heavy cream
1 stick butter
2 T. cream cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder (I like using a couple cloves of fresh garlic)

In a saucepan combine butter, heavy cream, and cream cheese. Simmer this
until all is melted, and mixed well. Add the Parmesan cheese and garlic
powder. Simmer this for 15 to 20 minutes on low. You may wish to season
with a little salt and pepper.

You can also find a few more recipes HERE at Olive Garden's website!!

Buon appetito!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

We're Getting A Little...

... stir crazy.

Can ya tell?


And yes, many of you have probably realized that the girls are wearing their PJ's in like almost every single picture I've posted here, as of late.

You're not mistaken. The fact of the matter is... my kids don't wake up until 8:30 - 9:00 am, so our morning is usually a bit slow in the making. And, because it's so crazy cold here in winter, we don't go anywhere. Ever. Okay, I mean... hardly ever. We make like a monthly grocery run, we have friends come visit us one or two times a week, and we head to church on Sundays.... but other than that, we're pretty much home bodies. And home bodies like to stay in their PJ's until 11 am... unspoken rule!

Winter Wonder Wuss

I've mentioned that I'm not a huge fan of winter, right? Oh.. really, I've left that out of our conversations? Huh. Well, I'm really, really not a snow lover! Yeah, yeah... it's beautiful for like a month or so... and then it's time to move on! Pronto!

But the sad reality is, I live in the prairies of Canada where winter is like 6 months out of the year. AND... I happen to have a cute little 2 year old who lo-o-o-ves the stuff. So, it is out of pure GUILT that I bundle up both girls and myself, in more layers than we can count, just so we can trek around in the fluffy whiteness for a couple minutes! That and the fact that it gets me off the hook for a day or two!! Okay, okay... and I just CAN NOT resist how stinking cute kids look when they are trying to walk (or crawl) in their crazy amounts of snow gear. UGH, it melts me every time!

Larren is the innocent one in our snow escapades... she just kinda gets drug into it, whether she wants to or not!

On most occasions, she's really not too sure what's going on. And, I have to say... I know the feeling!

Though, the other day she did figure out that she could CRAWL in her pink marshmallow suit... and me oh my, I could have just gobbled her up right then and there. A-DORABLE.

Picture this with me if you will. Her little tiny, pink padded bum wiggling along as fast as she can possibly muster... just so she can be close to the action. Too, too, too cute. (I had one of those "I hope I never, ever forget this moment" kind of moments!)

But, seconds later, she realized there are slippery spots... and that snow is cold... and that there's a warmer, comfier place within feet of her...

and Mommy was oh so happy to oblige in taking her there! :)

UP, UP, and AWAY

This week has been a little on the boring side for the girls. I have been under the weather since Tuesday and basically my "play time" with them has consisted of laying on the floor and tossing things back and forth every now and then. That was it... that was all the energy I had!

So Friday morning, when Alia suggested we go on an airplane ride... I "cowgirled up" and we had a grand ole time!

First she lined up some chairs in the kitchen (I helped her straighten them a bit... but she wanted 2 in a row... no more, no less!) and then instructed us where our seats were located.

Larren was pretty pleased with both her seat placement (a window seat, no less!!) as well as the reading material provided!

We never heard a complaint out of her!

Alia left nothing out. We were going on a big trip and "all the trimmings" were coming with us! Doodling board, camera, backpack filled to the brim with books, snacks, and a sippy cup...

She was in front... of course... and had several conversations with the "aiwpwane duy", thanking him for the sticker repeatedly. On our last REAL airplane ride we talked to the pilot and Alia was given a sticker... it's amazing how much they DON'T forget!

This airline was even pretty generous with their snack selections, so that made the rating go up a notch or two in my books!

BUT... our "big trip adventure" came to a screeching halt when the trip coordinator realized we weren't actually going on a REAL airplane.

See, Alia must have heard us talking to Jon's mom about flying there for spring break... and to Alia spring break is... well... today!

So after a brief explanation and a call to Gramma, Alia walked away with a smile on her face! (Though I must say, the call to Gramma sealed the deal... my explanation was NOT making any head way!)

And just so you know... we're keeping the "A - word" to a minimum around our house! We still have like 60 more sleeps until our trip west.... and really, the poor girl can't handle anymore airplane heartbreak for awhile!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mr. Potato Head Gone Wrong

The girls got a Mr. Potato Head set for Christmas with 2 potatoes and TONS of accessories to dazzle 'em up. They are quite a hit around our place!

Alia plays normal... with the occasional, ever classic, eyes-where-the-nose-should-be creation. But Larren on the other hand...

must not have read all the directions! :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Full Blown Canadian

She might be a full blown Canadian.... she likes her snowmobiles, she likes her snow, she even BEGS for winter. BUT...

she sure is like her mommy! Alia has every vent in the house "bookmarked" for when the the cold Canadian winters become a bit much! :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Eager Easel Beaver

My parents keep gift giving simple... which I really appreciate! The girls each got a new toy, a new outfit, and a new easel as a "combo" gift! And although the easel is meant to be used (and shared!) by both kids... Alia has laid more claim to it than Larren has, though not for lack of trying on Larren's part!

We set up the easel for the first time after supper and Alia was camped there until bedtime. Nothing short of a landslide could have distracted her!

She had "cwafs" that needed to be finished, after all!

The next morning she was up and at 'em... willing to skip breakfast, just so she could carry on with her crafting spree!

It didn't take long before the little eager easel beaver took notice of the new craft center!

Fascination was quickly replaced with...

... hands on learning!

Big sister was quick to bring the little eager easel beaver some other fascinating toys to gnaw on for a couple of minutes!

Every morning... seconds after her breakfast is gobbled up, Alia can be found at her desk/easel!

And... leave it to beaver, she'll be there ready to "work" in no time!

On this particular morning...

big sister thought she could "trick" the sly little beaver...

by simply moving everything to the opposite side of the work station!

But she's persistent, that little one...

... she'll be back! Busy beavers can't stay idle for too long!