Sunday, March 8, 2015

Kiddie Update

My Littles.

Tripp, 15 months:
Expert crawler. 
Nervous stander. 
Fruit, cheese and bread chomper. 
Happy sleeper. 
Car and truck racer. 
Couch climber. 
Cabinet hider. 
Afternoon napper. 
Stairway sneaker. 
Toilet bowl finder. 
Taiga tickler. 
Book reader. 
Marker eater. 
Smile giver. 
Daddy's hat wearer. 
Heart stealer. 

Charlie Ann, 3 1/2 years:
Problem solver.
Self dresser. 
Attentive listener. 
Book reader. 
Let It Go singer. 
Twirling dancer. 
Curious George watcher. 
Daddy lover. 
Outdoor adventurer. 
Rule follower.
Deep feeler. 
Do it myselfer. 
Olive eater. 
In the lines colorer.
Fabulous helper. 
Brother protector. 
Everything pink wearer.
Magazine flipper. 
Perceptive watcher. 
Hotel pool swimmer. 
Fiery leader. 
Tenacious avower. 
Detail rememberer. 
Expert puzzle piecer.
Beautiful inspirer. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

SOUPer Soup

Winter swallows everything for a solid six months (insert black and white scream mask here) in the grand land on Lake Ontario. And when winter hits, it gives the ol' one, two punch with knee deep snow, plunging temps and grey, grey, GREYNESS. For. Months. On. End. My current fight-back technique is straight from the kitchen- armed with pots, measuring spoons, butter and a LOT of spatulas.  Cooking and baking. That's how I fight fire cold with fire. And, when I'm in Narnia, I cook a lot of soup. I mean, A LOT OF SOUP. I'm actually thinking of hosting a soup swap party, where everyone brings recipe cards and a big bowl of their favorite kind...  We'd use approximately 87 paper bowls sampling the soup spread, drink generous amounts of wine and soak up olive oil and pepper with the best bread, but anyway, I digress..
So, soup. Chowders. Bisques. Stews. Jambalaya. Broths. Stocks. Curries. Chilis. Yep, I love all of that hot in a pot goodness. 

Here's what is boiling on my stove this winter:

Zuppa Toscana

1 pound Italian sausage
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 slice pancetta bacon, diced
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tsp chicken base (or bouillon)
4 cups water
2 potatoes, cubed
2 cups kale, rinsed and julienned
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Place sausage links on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until done. Cut each link in half lengthwise, and then into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside for later.
In large pot, over medium heat, saute onions and pancetta for 10 minutes, or until onions are almost clear. 
Add garlic and saute one minute. Add chicken base, water and potatoes and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. 
Add kale, cream and reserved sausage, simmer for 5 more minutes and serve.

Minestrone Soup {Slow Cooker}

4 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/3 cups diced zucchini
1 1/3 cups shell pasta
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup green beans
2 cups slightly packed fresh spinach
Finely shredded Romano cheese, for serving (Parmesan works too)

Add vegetable stock, water, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and sugar to large slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook on low heat 6 - 8 hours or high 3 - 4 hours.
Add in zucchini, green beans, pasta, garlic, kidney beans and cannellini beans and cook on high heat and additional 30 - 40 minutes, until pasta is tender. Stir in spinach and cook several minutes until heated through. Serve warm topped with Romano cheese.

Chicken Noodle

1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and meat chopped
2 TBS butter
1 med onion, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup peas
1 cup corn
1 cup green beans
6-8tsp better than bullion, chicken
10 cups hot water
1 tsp marjoram
frozen or refrigerated noodles (i.e., Reames egg noodles)
1/4 fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Saute onion and celery in butter in large stock pot or dutch oven.
Add remaining veggies and chicken.
Dissolve bullion in a cup or so of the hot water. Stir into pot. Add remaining water and marjoram.
Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer.  Let simmer about 35 minutes.
Return to a boil and add noodles and parsley.  Boil about 3 min (or according to directions on package).
Remove from heat. Pepper to taste.


1/2 medium cabbage
4 cups sauerkraut
1 lb stewing pork
1/2 lb bacon, uncured
1 lb kielbasa sausage sliced
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 bay leaf 
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cut the cabbage in thin slices and boil until tender in a pot of boiling salted water.
Boil the sauerkraut in another of about 2 cups water. Strain and keep the sour water aside.
Saute diced pork. Set aside.
Saute bacon, kielbasa, onion and garlic together.
In a large pot, combine cooked cabbage, sauerkraut, sour water, tomato paste, spices, cooked meats, onion and garlic.
Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Let simmer 1 hour.

Meaty Split Pea

1 lb sausage
6 cups water
2 cups split peas
2 med potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp pepper

Cook sausage until browned, drain.  Add water.
Rinse peas, add to meat. 
Stir in remaining veggies and spices.
Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Cover and let simmer about 1 hour, until peas are tender.

Spiced Kettle of Beef and Vegetables

2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast (stewing meat)
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbs salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
Olive oil 
1 cup onion
6 cups water
1 clove
1 tsp pickling spice
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cups carrots, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
3 cups potatoes
1 cup peas
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

3 Tbs cornstarch
1/4 cold water

Combine 1/2 cup flour, 1Tbs salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp paprika. Dredge beef in spice mixture. Brown dredged beef in stock pot with olive oil.
Add onion, saute.
Add water. Put clove and pickling spice in mesh wire tea ball. Immerse in soup.
Simmer 30 min, covered.
Add veggies and seasonings. Simmer uncovered another 30 min.
Make thickener. Stir into hot soup.

Cauliflower, Bacon & Cashew Curry

2 cups coconut milk (canned)
4 Tbs curry powder
1 lb bacon, uncured, cut in 1 in strips
1 tsp sea salt
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup water
3 cups cauliflower, cut in small florets
2/3 cup cashews
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large skillet cook bacon. Set aside
Add 1 cup coconut milk to stock pot with curry powder and sea salt. Bring to simmer. Whisk to combine.
Add cooked bacon, onion and garlic. Cook one minute. Add remaining coconut milk and water.
Boil a few minutes to reduce liquid.  Add florets and cook 3 minutes, until just tender.
Remove from heat. Stir in cashews. Garnish with cilantro.  

***Follow the link to read about these previously posted amazing soups.***

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tripp Turns ONE YEAR OLD

Tripp. Tripp. Tripp. My Little Boy. This past year has been a wonderful one with our little guy.  He has brought new depths of joy and happiness like I've never known.  I am so thankful for this little man's endless good days.  His smile is contagious and that grin brings a new level of love to the Sickler household.

Tripp, at one year old, loves to crawl. He army crawls most of the time, but is beginning to do a little stiff-elbowed, hand and knee crawl. He is pulling up on anything 30in or shorter. He loves to climb the stairs and is faster than a toupee in a hurricane when the gate is left ajar. Tripp has figured out how to open kitchen drawers and about 50% of the time can manage the kitchen cabinet doors as well.

Tripp loves to clap, to wave, to point and to grab. He is working on those fine little motor skills while turning the pages of his board books--he shakes, he is concentrating so! He is quite busy with the books, and will occasionally let you finish reading one to him. But most of the time, if you start to read a book to him, he wiggles down, finds another book, scoots back and enjoys "co-reading".

His favorite game is putting small things into bigger things, dumping out, and then repeating.  He plays with all of Charlie Ann's baby-friendly (and the non-baby-friendly, actually) toys, and tries to do everything she does.. especially coloring and magna-doodling.

Tripp is a chitter-chatter-chatter box.  He doesn't stop talking.  Even when I have soothed him to sleep, and as I am laying him down in his crib, he still is mumbling and smiling with his eyes closed.  What a funny boy.  He is saying a few words, like "stop, stop, stop", "all done", "daddy", "night-night", "Taiga", "mama" and "no, no, no, no".  (An insight into his little world, maybe? Ha.) He is learning sign language for please, thank you, more and all done.

He is a bit picky on foods.. rather, I have let him be pickier on foods. Sigh, some things gotta give.. and when there is a challenge on eat this! vs. eat something!, I usually go to the latter.  It's mainly just non-pureed meats and veggies that we have problems with.  But he does pureed meat and veggies just fine... Hence, why we are still purchasing jars of 'chicken orzo' and 'beef with mixed veg'.

Tripp still nurses.  Sigh.  However, over Thanksgiving, with the help of our holiday company, Tripp has managed to take a soft spout sippy cup! Whoop.  I have him on almond milk and occasionally cow's milk.  He is not really into it as a substitute for nursing, but... baby steps?  Also, he is successfully going to bed for Jarod or our holiday guests.  Which is like... MEGA-RELIEF for this mom. It's like a pinch hitter. A pinch hitter that you want to write into your will.

He is LONG AVERAGE and SKINNY still.  In the 60% for height at 30'', and 11% for weight at one ounce shy of 20 lbs. Ha. Tripp wears size 18 month clothes across the board.

Tripp is in the funny (not-so funny) stage of merging his two naps a day to one.  Making for either a long morning or afternoon (whichever one didn't get the nap). His night sleep is good. When he is not teething or under the weather, he sleeps a solid 12+ hours.

And, at 12 months old, he has 12 teeth. Chomp.

Tripp is the cuddle bug of the family- still snuggling and laying on shoulders.  He is so sweet.

Tripp is seriously a ball of joy and laughter and I am so thankful he is part of our family.

Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 Reflections

Looking back. Looking forward. Reflecting. Pondering. Wondering. Hoping. Surviving. Wanting. Wishing. Waiting. 

The year of 2014 brings many thoughts of tired days, interrupted nights, toddler angst, cold cups of coffee, weary parents, studying for the primary exam, disappointment, frustration, loneliness and slogging ahead, just to make status quo. Although there were a few sprinkles of rest, 2014 was tiring. 

Jarod is in the thick of his PhD work. He is at the official mid-point of his five years here at the University of Rochester. As accurately described, it is too far from the start to be swept up in the romance of pursuing a PhD (or to quit!) and too far from the end to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is now where the work feels insurmountable, where the new ideas are far between and the demand is wearing.  It's been a hard year with all that has been required of Jarod. While we still know we are meant to be here, having daily faith and veracity to make it through has depleted us. 

I took on caring for a sweet little two year old girl in July for 38 hours a week. Having three under three, five days a week, has proved daunting, to say the least. 

Charlie Ann brings new challenges and new depths of patience and forces new creative methods of training. Her spirit is tenacious and her heart feels deeply. I admire her perseverance and strength. And I pray constantly that we are channelling her strengths to help her and lead her rightly. 

Tripp has brought so much joy and happiness. He is the one thing that is thus far, simple and not complex, and I'm so thankful. His needs are straight forward and not complicated. And it's refreshing to know he is satisfied with cuddling, lunch or a nap. Tripp has been such a bright spot for everyone in the Sickler household. He is so expressive in his love for all of us, and it brings my heart deep happiness to see him make his sister and his daddy smile. 

As the children are now one and three, we are moving out of the baby stages and into easier years. They are communicating better and becoming much more self sufficient. And although their demands are still very physical, there is much more rest and restorative sleep at night. I'm looking forward to having a toddler and a preschooler in 2015. 

Jarod has only one more semester of class, and then he begins his writing proposal and dissertation work. Which, although the demands will be rigorous, he will have more authority in his daily schedule and freedom in his hours. 

In 2015 I am hoping for a less reactive life style, and a more proactive one. One where I am thriving, instead of merely surviving the day to day. I am hoping to be able to rise early again in the morning, before children, and take a deep breath before beginning my day. I am so satisfied in this opportunity to stay at home with my little ones while they are so young. And even on my worst days, I still can feel my heart smile at the privilege to walk the journey with them so closely. In 2015, I want my home to show peace, contentment, joy and gratitude. 

In 2015, I want more dates with my spouse, more high fives between us and more comraderie in our united efforts. I want to be more compassionate, more understanding, more sympathetic and more encouraging. He is a good, loving man and not many can say they married their first love. In 2015 we will celebrate seven years of marriage. I am so pleased.

My personal challenge for 2015 is to grow in my comfortableness of being emotionally available for my family, to swallow my pride and acknowledge my wants and my needs. To move away from militant task master and towards one who has freedom to enjoy and freedom to rest. 

It is good to reflect, to ponder and wonder. It is good to take time to step back and observe. I am grateful for all that we learned and managed this past year, yet I am eager for what is ahead. 

Cheers to 2015. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Birthday Photos - Charlie Ann

Much celebrating was had on November 11th for Charlie Ann. 

Waking her up and telling her she was THREEEEEE!
Clapping is so necessary. 
Queen for the day. 
This three year old face. (Insert heart-eyes emoji here) 

And the bitter sweet part of that day-- returning those pacis to the store. Everyone knows that's what happens when you turn 3. 

And she traded them in... 
...For a larger than life Minnie. 

And no birthday is complete without cake. 

And I'd like to point out that this is a much improved cake as compared to her two year old cake-trastophe.. 

We love celebrating our little Charlie Ann. She's a gem. Happy three, Sweet Pea!
(Also, obligatory birthday growl)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Charlie Ann and the Big Three

Three. Years. Old.

I know it's still a little age for a child, but in this household, 3 sounds like retiring age. How is it that my little girl is already three?

Celebrating Charlie Ann's birthday was bitter sweet for me. Sweet to see so many smiles and witness genuine excitement. Sweet to watch her understand and know what celebrating her birthday means. But bitter to know that two years old is a finished chapter.  Bitter to watch her struggle with the inevitability of growing up (namely trying to fall asleep without a paci for the first time in her whole little life). Bitter because as the older she gets, the more I realize and experience that she is her own person, not always to be fixed and soothed and comforted by her mother. I don't always know what she needs now. She is more complex in wants and needs and personality. I can't always MEET her needs and wants and understand who she is and that is a humbling place to live.  I know that these things are healthy places for all of us.  But of course, adapting to change is always a bit prickly.

But speaking of this new chapter of THREE...

Charlie Ann at three is a smart little cookie, very aware, full of adventure, confidence, curiosity and compassion for her little brother.

Three year old Charlie Ann loves Curious George, duplos, playing outside, running and walking (never riding in the stroller), purple rain boots, the color pink, Minnie Mouse, tomato soup, cleaning up her toys, drinking from a glass (with no lid or straw), climbing in and out of her car seat and buckling it all by herself, taking showers and washing all by herself, swimming, making Tripp laugh and doing everything that Daddy does.

Charlie Ann is learning to share, to draw with pencils, to ride her tricycle, to kick a ball, to climb the climbing wall, to help with chores and to be patient.

Three year old Charlie Ann sings songs she knows and makes up new ones, has just started an interest in dolls and make believe/pretend play, teaches Tripp the hand motions to multiple ditties and tries to get him to talk and walk.  Charlie Ann is very responsible and is very dependable and trustworthy.  She looks after Tripp when I am in the other room, and I hear her repeating my phrases of correction.

My sweet Charlie Ann, thank you for making me a mom and bringing to light new depths of love and fear (and consequently faith) like I've never known!  Thank you for continually refining my character and challenging me to face my own insecurities and frustrations (it's amazing how much kids can be a mirror! -yikes!)

I am looking forward to so many more years together.