Loving these lately...

We spent the weekend with family up in Chicago doing a little bit of this...
 a whole lot of this... 
(check out her ridiculous tongue- 
she is constantly sticking it out at me!)
and definitely some chowing down on this...
by the way, if you're ever in Chicago, you HAVE.TO.GO.
Now we're back to our routine of kindergarten, preschool, laundry and Frozen card games...

And friends with girls- this 6-in-1 Frozen game set is AMAZING. We have been playing it endlessly! Thanks to my sister and sister-in-law for gifting it to my girls! 
And now, onto some of my favorite things these days...

We popped into Gymboree to use our Gymbucks and found not a single thing. It was sad until we walked into Crazy 8 and cleaned up! Both of my girls are insistent upon wearing dresses almost exclusively, so it was time to search for a few more cute little dresses to round out their fall wardrobes. How cute is this Crazy 8 Polka Dot Owl Dress? It was only $13 after 30% off of the already discounted price! Nice! The Catfish is so excited to wear it to preschool!
Now onto just a few items on my wishlist...

I think these Caroline Ballet Flat are PERFECT. I love the pop of color, and would love to add these to my flat collection. I was definitely more than a little sad to read the crummy review on the Nordstrom site though...definitely gives me some reservations!
A fun alternative to the Caroline's (and without the negative review!) are the Tieks Burgundy Ballet Flats. I've never owned a pair of Tieks (although I came ridiculously close to winning a pair- I would tell the story here, but it still makes me mad), and really my biggest hesitation outside of their hefty price tag is the blue sole. It kind of weirds me out, and I think I might find it annoying. For those of you who know me in real life, wanting a pair of red shoes is pretty brave, so I'm pretty sure the blue sole might put me over the edge.
My favorite after-Christmas purchase of last year were these Sam Edelman Penny Boots. They're on sale at Nordstrom right now. They are so stinking comfortable, not to mention cute, cute, cute.
So I saw this little bit of news in my email, and it was like the retail gods were smiling down on me. 
Yup, you read that correctly.
I nearly had to breathe into a paper bag.
October 30.
The countdown begins. 
And in delicious desserts news, my husband saw a pastry case filled with eclair cake at Portillos and challenged me to replicate it. 
Challenge accepted. 
I will let you know how it goes! 
 My coffee creamer obsession rages on with this new seasonal addition. 
Almost makes my coffee as yummy as a Starbucks peppermint mocha. 
 And because I need another craft project in my life, I'm considering painting the back of the built-ins a darker blue (not as green as the picture below, but you get the idea). The former owners of our house (who I am now lucky enough to call our friends) left us some beautiful blue and white curtains  in the office that I think would look really great with a similar blue in the built-ins. Still sorting through paint colors...
 And finally...
This sweet little witch appeared on my doorstep courtesy of my absolutely wonderful neighbor, J. She spoils our family like nobody's business (as you can see from the many mentions she's gotten on my blog!) and has made our move so much less lonely! Can you believe she came over and watered all of my plants this weekend without a) me asking or b) even letting me know she did it?! Her husband told me this morning at the bus stop when I thanked him for bringing in our papers.
 I am so thankful!

What are you loving lately?

Fall Window Craft

It's officially Fall, so break out your favorite pumpkin candle and get crafting!

We spend a lot of time in our kitchen, so it's nice to have a homemade craft up to admire during meals, board games, etc. Because we bought a stainless steel refrigerator that doesn't have a magnetic surface, all of the girls' art projects have been relegated to our playroom display in the basement.  We've found that these windows in our breakfast room are great for craft displays.
Here are all of the things you'll need for this craft:
two eye droppers
coffee filters
food dye 
brown construction paper
small bowls
a pan with high sides (like Pyrex)
double stick tape
Press 'n Seal (optional!)

Start by cutting out your trunk and branches then use double-sided tape to stick it to a clean window.
Add a few drops of food coloring to about 1/4 cup of water.
Place one coffee filter at a time into your dish then let your little friend(s) go to work with the dropper and colored water.
Look at that focus :)

I was pleasantly surprised that neither of my artists spilled colored water anywhere outside of their dishes. In the interest of not jinxing myself on that one, I cautiously waited until everything was cleaned up before saying that one out loud.
Once you've finished, lie each coffee filter flat on a cardboard box to dry overnight.
After cutting out different leaf shapes, you're ready to start decorating!
And, maybe if you're lucky, you'll step away from the camera and find this little gem when you edit your pictures, courtesy of your budding 3 year old photographer!
You can add a layer of Press 'n Seal along with a construction paper border at the end of the craft to give it a more finished look. We opted not to do this, and the girls have delighted in re-sticking any leaves that fall on the floor over the course of the day.  

You'll know your craft was a success if someone kisses it. 
Strange, but true.
Happy Weekend!

Italian Chopped Salad

A good chopped salad is one of my very favorite things to eat year-round. In the summer it's fantastic on its own, and, as fall then winter approach, it is delicious paired with a hearty soup. I'm a Chicago native, so I'm naturally a huge fan of Portillo's famous chopped salad. Because I live hours away now, it's up to me to make my own when the craving hits! 
Feel free to play around with your ingredients. I usually start with the basics: tomatoes, pasta, red onion, bleu cheese and bacon then add anything else that I have on hand. Grilled asparagus, red peppers, artichoke hearts, dried cranberries and pecans are just a few of the different ingredients I've played around with on my quest for the perfect chopped salad.
For this salad, I used two heads of romaine lettuce, cucumbers, bacon, bleu cheese, dried cranberries, ditalini pasta and red onions. I really liked the contrast of the salty cheese against the sweetness of the berries. 

The most tedious part of this recipe is the chopping. Once you've taken care of that, you're ready to toss everything together in a bowl. Tip: use a bigger bowl than you think you need! I am always regretting my bowl size once I start tossing the salad ingredients and end up with half on the counter!
 For the dressing, I made a simple red wine vinaigrette. The flavors are clean and fresh, coating the salad nicely and letting the ingredients shine. If you're not up for making your own dressing, definitely take the shortcut and use your favorite store brand.

To make my dressing, I mixed 1/4 cup of olive oil with 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar. I added 2 tbsp. honey and 1 tsp. sugar, a sprig of fresh oregano, 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard along Kosher salt and pepper to taste. I used an immersion blender, but you can always shake it up in a mason jar if you're in the mood!
 I had enough salad for a few lunches this week and packaged everything up so that I can just grab them and go. I'm finding that after packing kiddo lunches, I sometimes just grab desserts whatever is closest when it's time for lunch. 
 Happy chopping!

On the run...

I took up running about a year and a half ago after spending a good twenty thirty, actually years refusing to move past a slow trot. In fact, I think there were really only a few specific conditions under which I actually would consider running:

1) a good sale
2) something delicious
3) being chased by a would-be abductor
4) really, really having to use the bathroom

And then something crazy happened. I ran, and I LIKED IT.
After a random yoga injury to my hip, I've slowed down quite a bit and am running here and there, mostly between 2-3 miles and s-l-o-w-l-y like a turtle. But I still like it and, to me, that's what's important.

We have a beautiful trail that flanks the river about two minutes from my house, and I have been itching to head over there for a run since we moved. Last Thursday after I dropped the Catfish off at preschool, I threw on my running shoes and headed over there.
It's such a cute little area- this little building is a bar and grill situated right on the river. I haven't been, but it's on the list! 
And here it is, the trail! About five miles down from this spot is the cutest little town with antique stores, a fun park and a shaved ice stand. Love it!
It was such a beautiful day to be outside. The air was crisp and cool, and the sun filtered through the trees, dappling the trail with light.
About a mile in, I spotted this cute little guy watching from the side of the road. He took off when I got about ten feet away from him and watched tentatively from the trees as I passed.
How cool is this little house I found nestled in the woods on the side of the trail?! There were a total of two on my run, and they were absolutely beautiful. The landscaping on both was gorgeous. Can you imagine living off a trail in the woods like this? There is a dirt access road back to the main street, but these two houses are otherwise isolated. What a cool surprise!
When I turned around after taking the picture of the house above, this was the incredible view. Unbelievable!
And here is pretty much the only other human being I saw on my run. All I could hear  over the thumping of my heart in my ears was Keith Morrison from Dateline narrating my demise. I spent a good minute feeling each key on my ring to determine which one was best for fending off an attacker. All was well, fortunately, and I got a friendly hello as I passed by on my way back to civilization.
When I got back to my car, I noticed this little gem. Poor grammar just kills me, so I had to comment on the random apostrophe on this sign. 

For shame.
That's all from me for today!