The Second Week of School (Video)

Watch our 2nd week of school in just under 6 1/2 minutes!

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A Place to Play

Behind the couch in the living room, we used to have a table with the boys’ computers on it, but their feet touching the wall made it very dirty and the table scraped off some paint, so we moved their computers. This left a pretty big (about 6’x6′) open space.

Really, I’d like to put a nice ceiling to floor waterfall there, but since that’s not really practical, we decided Cameron’s idea of play mat (since the floor is concrete) and building toys was perfect.

Before the boys even had a chance to test it out, Lola let us know she definitely approved.

The boys like it. It’s comfortable to sit on and gives nice borders for where to keep their toys (sometimes those Magna-Tiles spread pretty far).

Adrian really likes the leftover edge pieces so those are sticking around for a while.

So far we’re all very happy with this use of that space!

Jamie and I went to DC

Jamie had a week of training in DC that just happened to be the same week as our 20th anniversary so I went with him. While he was in class all day I wandered all over the place (I walked well over 40 miles that week).

I went to the Renwick Gallery. I love that place. The art is really unique.

Down by the White House there was a dancing Trump clown. Between him and the various random protesters (including the octogenarian anti-NRA crowd), it was like a party over there.

I went to National Geographic and lunch with my sister. I am no good at taking selfies.

DC is beautiful.

I found everything Truman related in the American History Museum.

I went to the Smithsonian Castle. Somehow I never realized they have a random collection of stuff there.

I met an on-line friend at the Natural History Museum one day.

Jamie and I went to see Oceans 8 the Thursday it came out. That was also the day the Caps won the Stanley Cup. Without realizing, we got tickets at the theater right next to where the Caps play. There was a vast sea of fans in red out on the street there. It was amazing (and extra amazing when the Caps won not long after we finished watching the movie).

I went to the Air and Space Museum. It’s a lot smaller than I remember from when I was a kid. I went to see a show in the planetarium. That was really cool.

I went to the Sculpture Garden. This has always been my very favorite sculpture.

We went to visit my aunt. It was so nice to see her.

We moved to a hotel in Virginia the last few days. I was sitting there reading one day when the fire alarm went off. It was a false alarm, but I got to stand out in the drizzling rain and cold while the fire department cleared us to go back inside.

We flew home after 10 days away. It was nice to be back in San Antonio.

As part of their bedtime routine, I tuck stuffed animals in with the boys. I picked out these adorable little bears to bring back to them. They love them.

I think Lola was the happiest to have us home. The last few days we were gone she got sadder and sadder and was quite listless. She wouldn’t let me out of her sight for a couple days after I got home!

Ani and Valium (Wisdom Teeth)

Just over a week ago, Ani got her bottom two wisdom teeth removed. Because of her chronic health issues, the oral surgeon didn’t feel comfortable knocking her out for it, so instead, she did conscious sedation using Valium. The night before, she had to take one and things got kind of amusing. (Note: Ani remembers none of this. Also, she’s healed up very nicely and this weekend was much better than last weekend.)

Our Christmas

We had an excellent Christmas. Everyone was very happy with their gifts and the little guys are old enough now to pick out presents to give other people so they were pretty excited about that. As an added bonus, my parents finally arrived a few days before Christmas and are working on getting all their stuff unpacked making us a multi-generational household once again.

We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. Jamie and I also did pretty much all our Christmas shopping that day. Adrian was a little puzzled by all the wrapped packages under the tree. This is the first year we’ve done that (since all the kids have figured out Santa isn’t real and everyone is old enough not to open anything before Christmas).
Our Christmas

I got 24 little Christmas books and wrapped them all up with a piece of an Advent Nativity my mom made me years ago. Each evening from December 1st to 24th, the boys unwrapped a book for me to read to them and put the Nativity piece up to finish the picture. The boys also insisted that I make a countdown chain for them to rip off one piece each day. They love countdown chains.
Our Christmas

The kids left their shoes out and got candy and little presents for St. Nicholas Day.
Our Christmas

We got a huge surprise when it actually snowed. Considering we live in south Texas, this was definitely something unusual.
Our Christmas

We went to Main Street Bethlehem in Burnet and the Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls. Both were very amazing displays.
Our Christmas

We did our annual Random Acts of Christmas Kindness December 1st through 24th.
Our Christmas

My parents couldn’t find their stockings before Christmas (we found them a couple days later), so we got ones from Target for them on Christmas Eve (not much of a selection, but 70% off).
Our Christmas

Christmas morning our stockings were full and there were presents for the animals, too. Lola’s pile was a bit bigger than all the others.
Our Christmas

Everyone was quite happy with what they were given.
Our Christmas

But then there was the totally awesome present. Cameron decided to get a Nintendo Switch for him and his siblings to share. Ani got a couple games to play on it. The little guys were so surprised and so excited.

It really made a wonderful Christmas absolutely unforgettable. Even though Christmas is all put away now (did that on Saturday), wonderful memories were made. Merry Christmas a little late (or really, really early – your choice).
Our Christmas

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

We’ve done another 8 days of #24RACKs (for the first 8 days, go here).

On Saturday the 9th, we took cat and dog treats and toys to the Animal Defense League. Lola helped us deliver them because that’s where we adopted her four years ago.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Sunday the 10th, we held the door for other people.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Monday the 11th, we brought up our neighbors’ trash cans and left candy canes for them.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Tuesday the 12th, we gave a lottery ticket to a stranger.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Wednesday the 13th, we picked up litter.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Thursday the 14th, we took cookies to our pharmacist.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Friday the 15th, we fed the birds.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Saturday the 16th, we took socks to the homeless shelter.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

We Tried Home Chef

For our fourth meal kit service, we tried Home Chef. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Sun Basket, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

Pros:
1.) Each meal was packaged in a plastic bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking (I really liked the look of the bags since I could see what was in them without breaking the seal).
2.) Good size portions so everyone had plenty.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The instructions were easy to follow.
5.) Allergens are clearly marked so it was easy to find the gluten free meals we could choose from.
6.) While we didn’t choose to get them, you can select smoothies, quick lunches, and seasonal fruit for a small extra cost which is pretty cool.
7.) Came with a nice binder to hold the recipes.
8.) The vegetables were extremely fresh. In fact, we didn’t make the salad for 6 days after the box arrived and the produce was still in very good shape.

Cons:
1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) The chicken needed to have the gross bits trimmed off (I am really picky about the grossness left on chicken after it is cut up).


The box arrived about 6pm the day they said it would (expected delivery between 8am and 8pm). It was raining that day and the outside of the box was a little bit soggy. Inside everything was perfectly dry. The top of the box contained ice packs and meal bags and large produce. The meat was double wrapped in the bottom between more ice packs. The whole inside was wrapped in some sort of insulating material to, along with the ice packs, keep everything the right temperature during shipping.


The box included a nice three-ring binder to hold the recipes. I thought that was a nice touch, and definitely unexpected. Inside the binder was a few pages of general cooking information (this would be excellent for someone wanting to learn to cook) and instructions on how to recycle the packing materials.


Three meals plus the recipe binder equals a lot of stuff in that box! I really like the plastic containers rather than paper bags since I could see everything in them before time to make the meals.

The first meal we made was Korean Pork Medallions with Siracha and Slaw. Adrian helped me. He put some YouTube parody songs on his computer for us to cook to. They sent seasoned rice vinegar, green onions, garlic cloves, red fresno chile, pork tenderloin, tamari soy sauce (labeled gluten free), light brown sugar, siracha, chopped ginger, toasted sesame oil, and slaw mix.

This was an easy meal to make. I sliced the green onions and chile and minced the garlic.

I sliced the pork and Adrian helped me make the marinade. While the pork marinated, Adrian helped me mix together the slaw. Both the marinade and slaw dressing were easy enough that Adrian could mix them.

This meal was so incredibly good. The flavors were amazing, the pork was tender. We dished up the pork medallions with the slaw on the side garnished with chile pepper rings and green onions. It was spicy, but not overly so. We’ll definitely make this again!

The second meal we made was Coconut Jasmine Rice Bowl with Fried Plantains and Corn Pico de Gallo. Adrian helped me again. This time we put Christmas music on the Echo (don’t judge). Included in the kit was coconut milk, a shallot, a jalapeno pepper, jasmine rice, a plantain, black beans, a lime, a roma tomato, cilantro, and corn. Cameron’s had me save all the little containers holding ingredients. He loves little containers (he gets that from me).

Adrian made the coconut rice by combining the rice, water, and coconut milk. It turned out so good.

I cut up the vegetables. Since this was a vegetarian meal, there was a lot to chop up.

Adrian did the stirring while things cooked and I put together the corn pico de gallo.

This meal was so amazing! The taste of the rice was incredible and the corn pico was quite nice. The fried plantains were quite nice. Cameron really, really liked them.

Our third meal from Home Chef was Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad with Cripy Shallots. The box included grated parmesan, a shallot, two peeled garlic cloves, two romaine hearts, heirloom cherry tomatoes, two boneless skinless chicken breasts, blackening seasoning, white rice flour, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar. Fritz helped me make this meal. We listened to music by Taylor Swift on the Echo while we cooked.

Fritz prepared the blackened chicken while I chopped the vegetables.

I wasn’t expecting such an amazing meal out of something sounding so basic as a salad. The shallot rings were tossed with rice flour and then fried until they were golden brown and crispy. This added a nice bit of flavor and crunch. It also made me very happy because gluten free meals are often labeled gluten free after the fact. Basically, they happen to have no gluten in their ingredients so they can marked gluten free. Usually a chicken caesar salad has croutons in it, but they were replaced with the crispy shallots. It made the meal a little bit more special because it’s gluten free-ness seemed more intentional.

This meal was so good. The dressing was super simple and easy, but also very tasty. The blackening seasoning was delicious (though cooking it did set off the smoke detector which caused Lola to demand that we allow her to herd us outside to safety).

So now we have tried four meal kit delivery services. Home Chef has taken over as number one. It was better than Blue Apron. I could totally see using Home Chef on occasion again.

Rankings, so far:
1. Home Chef
2. Blue Apron
3. Hello Fresh
4. Sun Basket