Five on Friday

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::: 1 ::: 

Last weekend we went into the city on Saturday for my sister Nell's 24th birthday. She had a party at The Robey, but she wanted to spend the first half of her day with Prince Leo. After stopping at her apartment in Lincoln Park, we all walked over to the zoo. Leo was SO excited, the entire morning we was just giddy, and getting to see the animals through his eyes was so much fun for all of us.


Leo loved the monkeys and the lion, and the entire week afterward we asked him what his favorite animal was...and apparently it was the zebra. 

He did great, had so much fun, and we lasted at the zoo for a little over two hours before we headed to lunch at Parlor in Wicker Park. 



Leo wasn't spoiled at all. 

After lunch, the whole family left to go party at The Robey with about 50 of Nell's friends. 
Thankfully, Leo was able to sneak in a nap at his Aunt Hannah's and I think he fell asleep in about 12 seconds from his head hitting the bed.

We brought Leo to The Robey's Cabana Club for like an hour (maybe not the best parenting call), but it was really fun and he was absolutely a crowd pleaser.  

::: 2 :::
 Our neighbors were having a garage sale this week and we scooped half of this awesome toy storage piece for fifteen dollars! I stuck it in our playroom and need to organize it, but I think it will perfect. I ordered some chalkboard stickers for the front which I think will add a cute touch.


::: 3 :::
 I have Leo starting a 2year pre-school in the fall. He technically isn't a 2 year old by September 1 (Illinois' cut off), but the school we have him at are fine with letting Leo go for it, with the notion that he will have to repeat either the 2 or 3year program at some point. 

With that being said, I'm so excited for Leo. I think he will flourish in a classroom and I'm excited for him to meet new friends and for all the fun things he is going to learn. We got his schedule for the school year, and I'm already overly excited for our farm and pumpkin visit at the end September.

And of course he is going to need a new backpack!

 ::: 4 ::: 
This week Leo and I were lucky to have some visitors with us during the week. My cousin Amanda spent the night on Monday and then was able to join us at music class on Tuesday and then on Thursday, we spent the morning with JJ at starbucks and then the park. 

Leo is the first little buddy for most of my friends groups and I just feel so lucky and honored that all of these people love my baby as well as they do. 

::: 5 :::
 We are off to Iowa this weekend to visit Joel's brother and sister-in-law, and their new (4th!) baby. I'm really excited for a little road trip with my boys and just excited for a little change of scenery.

Hope you have a great weekend too!  

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CrockPot Cashew Chicken

I was talking with my girlfriend Jenna on Sunday when I told her I had been in a major cooking rut. I feel like all summer long we have made the exact same things, and I've just been so bored in the kitchen lately. 

My issue is that I'm bored in the kitchen, but I don't really have the desire or motivation to really mix it up - so I'm on the hunt for recipes that are easy (under 20ish minutes), taste good, and are somewhat healthy. 

She recommended a crockpot dish that she has been making the last few months - Cashew Chicken. She serves her over quiona, but I decided to serve ours over brown rice. There are tons of recipes on Pintrest, so I looked at a few, and finally ended up using this one as my base. I made a few slight changes (and doubled the recipe), and overall really liked it. 

In all transparency, it's probably not my #1 most favorite dish, but its good. I think it is a slightly better dish for fall, but it's easy, it's different, and I made it for my parents too this past Monday and it was a good crowd pleaser that everyone really liked and went in for seconds. 

I served mine with a pre-bagged Asian salad that complimented it really well. 


as I mentioned, I doubled this recipe to serve 4 adults and had enough for leftovers. 

The Goods: 

  • 3 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 tbsp of Cornstach
  • heavy dash of black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 8 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 7 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 4 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp minced galic
  • 2 Tbsp of squeeze-able ginger
  • Heavy shake of red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 cups cashews *I slow cooked 1 cup, and added 1/2 cup before serving for extra crunch.


1. Combine cornstarch, pepper, and chicken into a gallon ziplock and shake to coat.

2. Heat oil and brown chicken for 4 minutes on each side (My crockpot is fancy and I can do this in the crockpot. If yours doesn't you could pan fry it and then add the browned chicken to your crockpot, OR the original recipe says you can skip this step too, but that it does add a nice touch).

 3. Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, ketchup, chili sauce, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup of the cashews (I saved another 1/2 cup to add when I served the dish for extra crunch). 


4. Cook on low for 4 hours 

5. Serve over brown rice (I used 2cups uncooked ((which makes almost 4 cups of cooked rice)) which was plenty and allowed for rice for leftovers as well)


Leo - Month 22

  ::: 21  months :::
Weight: 24.5lbs

Nicknames: Leeman, Lee-Lee, Wee-whoa
Clothes: 24mth,  5 shoe, 5 diapers
Sleep:  You've been a great sleeper this past month. We have had a LOT of abnormal days - some really late naps and really late nights, and you've been a total rockstar about going with the flow.

7:30am -Milk
8:00am Breakfast- you looove waffles!
9-12am play
11:30am/12pmish- lunch
1:00 pm nap
3:15pm snack 50% of the time & playtime
6:00pm dinner with a cup of milk
7:20/30 pm  bed

Health: You have had perfect health all month long and it's been lovely, amazing, and we are very grateful for it!
Now, I will say, this entire month, I haven't had you at the gym because we have taken our workouts outside. The problem with that, I'm convinced thats where all of your colds/strep came from, so I'm scared to take you back!
Crying: We have had a lot of 2 year old moments this month where if you don't get what you want, you will totally lose your cool and freak out. You can be distracted after a few minutes, but it's going to be an interesting phase.
Feeding:  We've had some success with tuna this month which has been a nice, new protein. You're still great with eggs, hummus, yogurt, etc. but I just can't get meat or veggies into you. Thankfully your smoothies get some goodness into your body! You're doing great with forks and spoons though and overall are a pretty decent eater.

Likes: This month, I am happy to report, you actually now love sand. You will play and pour and dig in sand for hours. You don't mind walking in it anymore either so that's been an awesome improvement. You loved the zoo this month, you loved the anticipation of it too which was really fun for us, and then we have talked about the zoo and all of your favorite animals for days after the zoo. 

You love being around people. you love being a showman and really appreciate being the star of the show, and you love doing things. 

This month you have also started to love "moonies" (movies). We will sit for about 20 minutes on the weekend nights, get "cozy" with our blanket, and you will melt into us and not move the entire time we let you. It's lovely and fun and so far, not a problem for us to turn off so we are going with it!
Not Liking: Being pulled away from an activity you are enjoying. Going inside from walks, leaving the house and getting in the car, going upstairs to get your diaper changed.....not your best times.

Milestones: I am going to say that you are just about talking. You and I communicate all day long, and its absolutely amazing. I can ask you what you would like for dinner, and you will straight up tell me (It's normally pasta). You also have a great memory recall which has been fun to watch. You can tell us what your favorite animals were that we saw at the zoo last weekend (the zebra), or you can tell us who we played with at the park yesterday......it's pretty impressive.

You've also started to increase the amount of words you will pull together in a sentence. You're longest and sweetest sentence this month being, "I love you mama (or dada, or Roro, or ______)"

You are jumping and clearing the ground, throwing, singing, dancing, laughing, and smiling, and continue to make us laugh every day.
Places You’ve Gone: We finally got you downtown Chicago this month, and I'm sorry it's taken us so long to do so. We drove up with Coco and Papa, got to see both Aunt Hannah and Aunt Birdies houses, went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, hung out at the Robey where Hannah works, and saw tons of buses that you just couldn't get over.
Roscoe: Roscoe hurt his hip this month, and you have really missed him on our walks. Every time you get into the stroller you ask me about Roro as if I have forgotten him inside. He's on the mend and will be back walking with us in just a weeks time!


Five on Friday

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I've admitted this to a few people and was given very dramatic, and negative, reactions in return but....I'm ready for fall. I know that fall means winter, and winter means horrible, but I haven't experienced a fall in now almost six years and I'm damn near EAGER to get it started! Ah..... sweaters and boots (that I need to buy), the start of football season, the fall activities we get to experience this year, chili and Sam Adams Oktoberfest....just the whole damn thing. The only thing I'm not looking forward to is admitting that this precious pie will somehow be 2.

::: 2 :::
I think what got me in the fall state of mind today was the fact that I spent a good chunk of the afternoon cooking. I haven't been cooking much this summer, but I wanted to get a dinner to friends who just had a baby so I decided to make a ton of enchiladas. My dad had been out of town, so I figured my mom could use some dinner, and since I was at it, I may as well make a frozen dinner for us as well. Stocking the freezer is one of my favorite ways to spend a day, and for whatever reason, typically happens in the fall, so that's what I'm blaming.

Either way, I used this really easy recipe for the enchiladas, tripled it, and added jalapenos and was able to get 4 solid dinners out of it! 

::: 3 :::

This week we made it back for the second week in a row to Music at the Beach. It happens every Tuesday night in the summer where a band comes to Main Beach, and everyone picnics and enjoys the night. The kids can swim or play in the sand, and tons of families and friends come to drink and get together. Both times we've gone we've ended up seeing neighbors, meeting new people, and seeing old friends so it's been a really fun thing to do. Sometimes it feels like a hassle to get dinner packed up, leave the house at 6:00pm on a Tuesday night, and get to bed later than I would like for the beginning of the week, but I'm forcing myself to stop thinking like that. Life's short.....go to the damn beach Tess! 


::: 4 ::: 
Have you seen the trailer for Bad Mom's 2? It's a Christmas themed plot and the preview looks every bit as funny as the first one. Watch here

::: 5 ::: 
It was my sister Nellie's birthday yesterday and so tomorrow the whole fam is heading into the city to spend the day with her. We are going to hit up the zoo in the morning if the weather holds out and then spend the afternoon having lunch, popping into her pool party, and then have an early dinner before heading back to the burbs. I'm either going to have Leo skip a nap all together, or put him down for an hour at my sisters, but either way, I'm so looking forward to getting down there. We haven't had Leo in the city at all since we moved back, so I'm excited to show him our favorite spots. 
Hope you have a great weekend! 

Too many hours


The List that doesn't End

Just this week actually, we have lived in our house for six months. 

I honestly can't believe it's been that long, and at the same time, it feels like we've been here for years. 

We've made a ton of updates to the house since we've been here, but it for sure feels like every time we cross off one item, I add another one to the list. 

We are still not sure about how high a priority our outside space is. We had a quote come in for our screened in porch that was honestly 3x what we were budgeting - and now I'm thinking about giving it some time before we screen it in anyhow.

And if that's case, can't I use that budget in other places? ;) 

The few things I'm obsessing about lately are window treatments in our guest bedrooms (actual necessities because we've literally hung sheets up when guests have stayed over which kills me), installing a gas converter into our fireplace (a not fun job that costs quite a few hundred dollars and will be done in the fall), changing out our door knobs/hinges, and lastly  a new chair for our living room.

I think the first job to be done is to have someone install , or order (does anyone have good expierence with Blinds.Com or HomeDepot DIY?) basic 2" wood blinds on both of our huge windows upstairs.
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And after that job gets done, then I really want to pull the trigger on a chair for this spot.

I'd like to move the table with the lamp on it to to the side of the fireplace, and create a cozy little corner that will really complete and fill out our living room.

The colors in my living room, I think, would do really well with an oversized, buttery soft, broken in leather chair, so that's what I'm on the hunt for. 

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Image result for pottery barn leather chairs 

Christmas is around the corner, right???? 


Weekend Report

 I think this might be my first weekend report on a Monday in like 3 months!! I'm blaming SnapChat for my lack of picture taking lately, but I'm really trying to get better so we'll see if I can keep this up.

Leo and I spent Friday with family in Park Ridge, and by the time we got back we were both pretty zonked from the day. We ended up pulling out a freezer dinner that I had made a few months ago (Natalie's Meatballs which freeze really well), popped Leo in a bath, I read a magazine, we watched the cubs game and called it a night. 

We started Saturday morning with haircuts for Joel and Leo. Leo's hair is literally the cutest thing ever, but was starting to get a touch out of control, so he was due for a little trim. 

Giving his hair stylist "knuckles" after a job well done
Thankfully the hair cut seemed to increase the amount of curls, so I'm still a happy camper!  

While Joel  got busy on house stuff, Leo and I took a walk with my mom. Joel and his dad hung a flag pole in the front of the house and a really cool wooden star on the back of our house on the brick fire place.

I found that wooden star years before we even lived in Crystal Lake. A house on the lake had two of them and had them sitting out by their garbage cans when I was out for a run, and called my mom to bring her car to come help me snag them. I had been saving them in my mom's garage since then, and finally have it hanging up in the perfect spot.

Joel also managed to switch out our dining room light fixture.

I bought this chandelier on Prime Day, and really like the simplictity of it. For whatever reason, one of the drum shades is not sitting straight, so I need to fix that (and put in light bulbs) but overall I'm really happy with the switch. 

We walked to our neighbors house around happy hour to meet their precious new baby girl, and then I left Joel and Leo to have sushi with my parents at Kyoto (which was SO good). 

Sunday morning I drove into the city to have brunch with my girlfriend Sara to celebrate her birthday.

We had breakfast at Trench in Bucktown and while our breakfast was good....I don't think I would go back anytime soon. My dish was so rich, over sauced, and the menu didn't really excited me at all. Plus, they don't make latte's which immediately annoyed me (if I'm being honest). 

When I got home, Joel and I snuck away for an hour to take the paddle boards out on the water.

It was a little windy, so we got in a half decent workout, but I'm really enjoying paddling. I love being on the water and feel so relaxed when we are out there. It's been a really fun activity for Joel and I to go do on Sunday afternoons. 

Afterwards, we went back to my parents for a really good Sunday night dinner, and then got home and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

It was a really perfect at home, summer weekend (even though I've started to get excited about fall!) 

We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. —Thomas S. Monson #LDS


10 Things I miss about living in LA

I'll be honest, overall, both Joel and I (and Leo) have honestly loved our move back to Illinois. The feeling of being "home" is something that I missed in LA every year we were there. I like having my family rooted and have not one single regret about our move. Although...while I don't have any regrets...I have started to look back on our time in LA and collect things that I really, really miss. Some things, I miss because nostalgia has set in, but either way, this was a fun list (in no particular order) to come up and think fondly back on our life back in California.

1. Not ever thinking about the weather - and, I have to preface this because I'm sure my California friends will call me out on this but I actually didn't love the constant 75 and sunny weather of California. I longed for crisp, fall days, thunderstorms, and blizzards that closed school and work BUT - I did take for granted how you really could depend on the weather in California. Having an outside wedding shower? Not a care in the world. Planning a trip to the zoo on Sunday.....cool. Here - you always need a back up plan and that does get annoying. 

 2. Hiking - The sport in general doesn't exist here because there is no where near to actually hike. I miss the beauty and the views hikes 15 minutes from our house offered. Plus, it was a solid workout, outside, that really refreshed my soul in a way I didn't really realize until the option was no longer.

3. Not being official grown ups - Now that we own a house and live in the suburbs, I do feel like we've really - and I mean this in a pretty lame way - grown up. Not that Joel and I have ever really been "willy nilly", but, we have adopted some real old people habits since moving here - like staying in most nights, going to bed really early, and spending most of our weekends doing house things and shopping at home depot. 

4. Fresh Brothers - I know we are in pizza territory here in Chicago, but I miss Fresh Brothers every single weekend! 

5. Celebrity Sightings - A little tongue in cheek, but it was really fun to run into Victoria Beckham at Soul Cycle or walk down the street with Jamie Foxx or run a 5k with Ben and Jen. That aint happening any time soon here! 

6. Lunch with Joel during the week - And if this was Joel's list, he would say his commute. In LA, Joel worked 10 minutes from our house, and Leo and I would meet him every Wednesday to have lunch in the garden at The Montage in Beverly Hills. It was a fun outing for all of us, and something that we all looked forward to each week. Joel's commute here is at least 40 minutes, and that's just too long and there is no beautiful garden at the Montage near his office! 

7. Bouginvillas - There is nothing more beautiful and vibrant and they bring me so many California memories.

8. Santa Barbara - I really miss our day trips up to Santa Barbara. It was our favorite little home away from home and whenever we had a free Saturday we would take the dog and the baby up for a day of beautiful walks, great easy lunches, and tons of relaxing wineries that we would just sit at and catch up. 

9. Walking....most everywhere - I do miss the ability to walk 3 blocks up the road and have a great grocery store and coffee shop right there....a few more blocks and ending up in Westwood Village where I could pop in and out of stores, stop at Target, or pick up lunch. The vastness of my options of things to do was just so much bigger and while I did take advantage of it while we lived there, I SO wish that came with us here.

10.  Our friends - I really can't think about LA without thinking about all of the people we left behind. Especially my tight girlfriends. It's going to take years to recreate those kind of friendships here in Crystal Lake, and that breaks my heart a little. We all still stay in close touch, sometimes every day, but there is a big, big, gap in my life without them....no doubt of that. 

And the reality is, I could come up with many more things that I miss. And an entire list of things I don't. 

We knew what we were giving up and gaining when we moved, and more than anything, I'm glad to have all of it under my list of experiences lived.  

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were big things