Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A dinglehopper!

Sometimes, our kids do something ridiculous and I'm like, "Clear my schedule! Blogging!" So this is what I did while Dave put away the Christmas decorations just now (Oh hey, would have loved to help with that though! Maybe next year... ;)

Cookies > getting your hair done >>> going to bed.

Now to get to the Christmas stuff. There's lots of it!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A holiday "reading" by Riley Roo Hoo

A gift from Riley, "for Grandma, and Grandpa, and Jake, and all of the peeee-pol."

The book was meant to be part of their advent but they found it weeks ago and read it daily.

*A few other favorites from our holiday reading:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The big man and ballerinas

Riley met Santa!
Joe absolutely would not meet Santa. Can't blame him. But there were plenty of other distractions at the co-op Christmas party: cookie decorating, s'more bar, card and snowflake crafts, and hot cocoa.
I cracked up when I shot this one. Joy!
 Joe really loved his 'mallow on a stick - he actually wanted to take it to bed with him, but I told him skewers are not for sleeping with.

 Today we also went to the Landmark Building in downtown St. Paul for a free performance of Clara's Dream by the St. Paul Ballet Company. Apparently they perform there the second Tuesday of every month! It's in the rotunda by a cafe where there is a stage set up in the middle of the tables and people just take their lunch and watch amazing professional ballet. Kids can sit right by the stage and no one minds if they move around or get excited. It was awesome. The music awoke nostalgic, warm, holiday feelings, and the ballet was beautiful. And funny! Those elite athletes knew how to work a crowd.
 Afterwards the dancers did a little ballet lesson for the kids and gave out candy canes. Riley was star struck. We will definitely be back next month!

Seriously, there is no end of fun, cultural, family things to do here. I love St. Paul!!  Minneapolis too.

*For you Minnesota people, if you are looking for a good Nutcracker to take the kids to, this looks like a good option. It's pared down to an hour and a half of all the best parts, and not too pricey. Recommended from a friend!

Monday, December 8, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things

The past week I have been trying slowing down, keep it simple. I love this time of year, but the holidays get crazy-busy and I could (and have, in the past) run myself ragged, trying to catch every bit of Christmas glitter falling from the sky: Santa has a million different venues, everyone is celebrating with different traditions, and Pinterest, don't even get me started, but I want to make ALL of it. You got to pace yourself. Treat yo' self, yes, but I just don't want to finish the year feeling hung over, if you know what I mean.

Good, better best. So many good things to do this year, so we get to focus on the best!

Best = sugar cookies, carols, watching White Christmas, Elf, While You Were Seeping, It's a Wonderful Life, decorating the tree, reading the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Christmas Carol, cookie swap, going to visit family, homemade ornaments, 1st Presidency Christmas devotional, making thoughtful gifts, sledding, building snowmen, making snow angels, cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate...and that's me being selective! Haha, well I didn't say I was good at it.

Oh, and add to the list: the ward Christmas party! I love church Christmas parties. Ham and cheeeesy potato casseroles, gangs of kids running all over, carols and everyone shaking hands and "Merry Christmas"ing each other. I love it. I love listening to the miracle of Jesus' birth. Mary was younger than me, maybe 15. But what a sweet little mama and her precious baby boy. Did they shoo the animals out for the event? No I guess not, not in the middle of the night in a packed city - they would have kept vigil as the Savior was born...I'm so glad for this time to reflect and be grateful for God's gift of peace and hope to the world.

The Christmas devotional last night warmed my heart. It grew three sizes. I loved the picture Elder Maynes drew of the sweet family Christ was born into. And the Christmas stories...I'm so glad we have more than a pickle to give Riley and Joe for Christmas.

While we were painting popsicle sticks this afternoon, Riley asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I pulled a Dad and told her I just wanted smiling faces. She thought about that, frowned  and said, "No Mom! You have to pick somesing." So then I pulled a Dave and said, "I want some new socks," and she brightened up considerably. Nodding, she said "Ok Mom, I'll get you that. Ok." 

I love hanging out with these guys. Sometimes, they chase me around with the KitchenAid dough hook like they are Captain Hook.

Today we made hot cocoa mix (after a chilly afternoon at the park. Even wearing snow suits, they were ready for hot coco as soon as we walked through the door). The recipe was Alton Brown's and I must say, very delicious.
 Then we started making ornaments. If you are a grandparent you will probably get one. Lucky!
 Riley wanted a go with the camera. Here are some pictures she shot:
Cocoa goatee!
Go Riley! Our photographer! She sure has a knack for making people smile.

They fell asleep in my arms while I was reading to them tonight. It was a blessed day.

I'm really looking forward to next week when Dave finishes the semester and can play with us too - we miss him when he's gone. Joe always tries to follow him out in the morning, and Riley welcomes him home by slamming and locking the front door so, she says, "you can't get back out!" Haha! That's what he gets for being such a great dad!

We love you, Dave!
What would a favorite things post be with out my babydaddy? All time fav, right there!

*You can watch the Christmas Devotional online here
*Alton Brown's hot chocolate mix here 
*This Nutcracker sampling is on the docket for tomorrow - Riley will love it!
*My burgeoning holiday Pinterest board is here - if I started now I could make it all before the kids go to college, probably.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Who's behind on her blogging? THIS girl. Let's dive right in.

It has been a very busy, very chilly couple of weeks. Today it is zero degrees outside and we are holing up here till warm temps come in tomorrow. It is pleasant though, with our Christmas tree up and a friendly snowman looking up at us from the courtyard. I had leftover turkey and stuffing and pecan pie for lunch. I have no complaints.

So this is what we've been up to lately:

Chris came to visit and we all went to Minneapolis for Family Night at the Midtown Global Market. As luck would have it, the Roe Family Singers were doing a show there that night, so we got tamales and good old-fashioned Appalachian music (they pronounced it "Ap-a-latch-an" like natives. Bravo!) They also did a group clogging lesson.
 We joined in a for a square dance or two.
The following day Riley and Joe had two birthday parties to go to, so Dave and Chris went thrifting for materials and spent hours making some really cool...Christmas secrets. Shhh.
If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen these pictures already - I had to poach them since my phone is being a jerk and not letting me download certain pictures. Take that, phone!


Thankful, thankful! We got to spend Thanksgiving with about 30 of the Herrald clan in Rochester. It was 4 degrees out but our hearts were warm. A big meal and a fun crowd, football, pool, babies, and all the pumpkin pie you could want.

Photo creds to Don! New pajama creds to Suzette! Thank you!
St. Paul Tree Lighting/ Figure Skating/ Choo Choo Bob band/ European Christmas Market
A long title, but that place was hoppin'! From foot to foot, you know, to keep warm! It was fun though. We took the train because the babies love it. Joe screamed when we went through the tunnels and scared the whole bus.  Cracks us up.
Celebrity sighting!

 We have all our fingers today, thanks to these steaming cups of hot chocolate. Mmmm.
Once it got dark they had some Christmas carols and a performance from the cast of A Christmas Story before they lit the tree and set off the fireworks. St. Paul loves their Christmas. Brings to mind the Who's down in Whoville. Christmas in St. Paul isn't bought in a store. It is bought in an outdoor European Christmas market. Haha, I kid, I joke. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well here.

And, uh, the spirit of Thanksgiving too. I decided I wanted to do our own turkey, in addition to the giant one Pops served on Thanksgiving day, and a meal with all of my family's traditional dishes. We invited some friends over to make it a party, and Dave concocted a dubious turkey rub with crushed red pepper and sugar in it, among other things, which turned out to be, naturally, delicious! My pecan pie was awesome too.
 My turkey! And his turkey. haha "And then he, he himself, carved the roast beast!" (We read The Grinch too much around here.)

Our apartment is looking quite festive now. We put up our tree on Saturday but as soon as we got home from church on Sunday, Riley and Joe were back at it, rearranging ornaments just for fun.

They were wearing their aprons (to "help" with dinner) and with the bright winter light streaming in on them and the tree I was momentarily blown away by how quickly they are growing and how precious these moments are with our babies. They are so sweet, and it is a privilege to enter childhood's sacred, magical world with them.

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
-Charles Dickens

Thursday, November 27, 2014


You know what makes me feel thankful? Writing in this blog! I didn't anticipate that when I started, but recalling all the good things in life keeps them fresher. My memory: not so good. Putting it all in writing/pictures makes it hard to forget. I probably over share more often than not, but, truth be told, this blog is as much for me as for anyone.

"T" is for turkey cupcakes with the preschool group.

Well, I write this as Dave is tackling bath time. I have an empty milk glass and cupcake wrapper by my side and cornbread cooling on the stove (cornbread stuffing...awwww yeah!) Today Dave had the day off so we got to host Thanksgiving preschool together - lots of turkey talk and crafting and baking and Charlie Brown. We hit the library and the grocery store and the thrift store (tacky sweaters!) and we made dinner together. Once the babies are in bed we have Christmas projects to work on and pie to make. At the moment what I am thankful for: this sweet little family of mine. Riley's sassy and Joe is scrappy and Dave is...a little of both haha. My other family, friends - we are all a little quirky, wonderfully so. And besides that, we love each other, and really what more can you ask for in this life?

Riley is thankful for Mom and Dad, cars, airplanes, the park, and Joey, because "when I'm sick he makes me happy."

Sunday, November 16, 2014


*This post brought to you courtesy cold/flu season.

First let me say: I love the winter - it is so beautiful outside and romantic taking walks in the snow. I love the chunky sweaters I wear daily - they're the emotional equal of a fire crackling in the hearth. I love wearing boots and scarves, sipping peppermint tea or hot chocolate, and making exciting holiday plans.
But here at the Munion household, we are also enjoying lots of Tylenol, Dayquil, humidifier steam and Viks Vapor this month. And when you have a cold, there is nothing better than a pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove at the end of chilly day.

Chicken stock: About a year ago I came across this really great post about making your own chicken stock from leftover chicken bones. The idea of using rotisserie chicken in cooking, and then making ultra-nutritious chicken stock with the bones and whatever vegetables we had in the crisper really appealed - I am always on the lookout for ways to make things from scratch, have healthier meals, and stretch a buck. You should check it out. Follow her links to the 100 recipes using rotisserie chicken too - I've tried several, and...it might change your life.

Now I pick up a chicken every time we go to Costco (they are bigger and cheaper there than other stores), I strip the bones and freeze the meat in meal-sized portions and stick the rest of it in a pot with onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery, cover with water, and simmer for a day. She skims the fat off every few hours, but who has time for that? At the end of the day, I simply strain the liquid into a big bowl, cover and refrigerate over night.
In the morning all the fat is on top and it is super easy to spoon that off and freeze the stock in meal-sized portions (about 2 cups per a bag). I usually get 4-5 bags out of one chicken.

When you're ready to use it, run some hot water over the bag and it is ready to go! Stock is thick enough that you can add water for soups, or you can leave it un-diluted for stew or to make rice or casseroles. It will save you some money, and anyways you always feel good when you serve something healthy and delicious to your family that you made yourself.

Here are a few recipes I love that are great with rotisserie chicken and chicken stock. (PS, you can buy chicken stock at Costo for an even easier meal. I suppose.) I always make enough to have leftovers the next day - soup usually is one of those things better the day after. Soup and chocolate cake.

Chicken Noodle Soup:
Serves 6
Toddler approval rating: two thumbs up

2 Tbs Butter
3 med carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
Seasonings: 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash original, dash of thyme and parsley, salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 serving size whole wheat spaghetti (uncooked, the bundle of spaghetti should be about the thickness of a penny at most - not much), broken into fourths

Melt butter in a med pot over med heat, saute veggies till tender, add in seasonings and cook 2 minutes more. Add chicken, stock, water, bouillon, spaghetti. Careful not to add too much pasta - it soaks up the water and can make your soup too thick. In fact, if you want to run another pot, cook the pasta before you put it in so you can be sure and get the right ratio.

*Variations: Zucchini is good in this too, if you like zucchini. And I like to add a squeeze of lemon too sometimes - especially when I'm sick. It's nice. Also, canned chicken works great for this one.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup 
(From my friend Anjela Allyon, adapted slightly with what I had on hand. Isn't soup great for that?)
Serves 6

2-3 Tbs butter
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots, or shredded carrots
2 stalks celery
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups chicken, chopped
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 cubes chicken boulion
1 1/2 cups half and half

Melt butter in med pot, saute carrots, onions and celery till soft. Sprinkle in flour and stir till combined; add the rest of ingredients save the half and half. Bring to a boil and let thicken (can add a Tbs corn starch dissolved in water if not thickening). Add half and half the last ten minutes.
 *MN is known for it's wild rice - it's a big export here. Wild rice soup, wild rice sausage, wild rice stuffing...it also happens to be really good for you. It is full of antioxidants and has twice as much protein as brown rice, more fiber, but fewer calories than any other rice. Source: here.

Pork/Chicken and Veggie Stew

*One of my favorite stews of all time. Uses stock, and you could use rotisserie chicken in place of fresh meat, but I've never tried that way, to be honest. But I think you would just skip the first step of cooking the meat, and add in the cooked chicken after the veggies and stock.
Serves 6
Adapted from here

3 Tbs flour, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
1 lb pork steak or chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups chicken stock + water
1 and 1/4 cup water, divided
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cups cubed red potatoes (or russet, but for those, add in the last 20 minutes so they don't get too mushy)
2 med carrots, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1 rib celery, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp parsley

Place 2 Tbs flour and 1/2 tsp salt in large ziplock; add meat and shake so well-coated. Melt butter in med pot till sizzling, add meat and brown, stirring occasionally, for 7-10 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt, chicken stock, and all remaining ingredients, adding water if needed so meat and veggies are covered. Bring to boil and reduce heat to low, simmer 30-40 minutes till veggies are tender. Remove bay leaf.
Combine remaining 1 Tbs flour and 1/4 cup water in small bowl. Stir into stew, cook 3-5 minutes till it thickens slightly.

These are all amazing with a loaf of homemade bread or a salad. Here is my mom's easy recipe for delicious crusty white bread. So, you know, you can have the full experience.

Crusty White Bread

1 Tbs yeast
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tbs salt
2 Tbs salad oil + oil for coating bowl
3 cups flour
1 Tbs butter

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water, let sit till foamy, about five minutes. Stir in salt and oil, and pour mixture into large bowl with 3 cups flour. Stir till combined, knead till smooth and elastic about 8 minutes (or 4 in a stand mixer fitted with kneading attachment). Place in oiled bowl, brush top of dough with oil, cover, let rise in warm place till doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down, form into loaf and put in greased loaf pan and brush with oil; let rise till double, about one hour. Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes, till golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Brush with butter on removal, let cool on wire rack till ready to eat.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Feeling the Feels

Such a roller coaster of a week we've had! Nothing particularly super great or devastating - just the eb and flow of life I guess. But I tell you, one day is wonderful and..."...everyone is well, everyone is happy, and for that one moment...you have peace." Then, the next day dawns and...well, I'm on a mission to complain less, but sheesh!

"They're hot, they're cold, they're high, their low...they're up, they're down...this is really fun making a list with you, but I do have a column to write." Why don't I just do a whole post in nothing but romantic comedy quotes? I'm sure I could.


I am not known for my silent suffering, but I am trying to focus on the good and remember that happiness is a choice. At the same time, I want to feel all the feels and work through them in a healthy way, and come out on top. A good cry can do wonders. And a good honest talk with The Man Upstairs (prayer, that is) certainly makes the world a lot brighter.

We're all working on it, right? Raising other human beings has made me key witness to the work and effort involved in dealing our feelings, and responding to difficult circumstance. Here is a funny little moment Dave caught on camera, which I, ever helpful, transcribed for you. It is kind of relevant.
 And then Joe danced. But Dave just got a picture of that part.

Thank you, PBS, and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (a Mr. Rogers spinoff, for those of you who don't have toddlers.) While the song does have an annoying way of sticking in your head, the message is a true one. We should be patient with our feelings. Maybe acknowledging it and being ok with it opens up some energy to work your way up.

Mr. Rogers can wrap up this brooding moment now:
“How great it is when we come to know that times of disappointment can be followed by joy; that guilt over falling short of our ideals can be replaced by pride in doing all that we can; and that anger can be channeled into creative achievements... and into dreams that we can make come true.”  ~Mr. Fred Rogers
I think that what he is describing comes with maturity. And I think someday I will be super mature.
*PS: I am obviously not talking about depression the illness here. That's a horse of a different color.
*PSS: I'm quite happy at the moment - these are just things that have been on my mind this week.

It really was a good week, over all. Picture time!
We visited Choo Choo Bob's this week for a rare story time. "Conductor Paul" played his guitar and engaged the children in songs and stories and did some color-matching activities. The kids were riveted, and we have been singing the "Peanut butter" song every bedtime since! There was a little peanut on the the railroad tracks, his heart was all a-flutter. A-long came, a choo choo train - UH OH - peanut butterrrrr." Love it!
 We bundled up and got out to the playgrounds. Kids get antsy inside, so we get out whenever we can.
We thawed our bones with hot chocolate and buttered toast
 Riley and I painted together during that one nap Joe took this month. It was tender. She said it made her "really big happy."
 Story time lady brought her friend who brought ducks! I learned that ducks, while not the brightest of creatures (the lady gets them to leave their nests at night by walking into the duck house with white tennis shoes and they all come down to check out the "new ducks") are very friendly and easy to raise. I also learned that duck eggs are fantastic to bake with because of their big, clearer yolk. I also learned that I want to keep ducks.
Today we partied: went to a movie (How to Train Your Dragon at the dollar) and out for pizza (OUT, as in not Little Ceasars. It was a bit pricier but it was delicious). And Riley and Joe got the joy of people watching, which they love to do. Over the chest-high wall, through the windows next to our booth. Creepers.

We also got Joe a bed today! He has for a while now been sleeping on a memory foam pad on the floor, and seemed comfy enough, but when we saw a cute little wood bed at Unique Thrift for 10 dollars, we of course had to get it. I asked him if he'd like a new bed and he said, "No - that bed is for puppies!" I felt a little bad explaining to him that no, little boys sleep on beds, and that was going to be his bed. Poor people! Am I right? Although, I have toyed with the idea of someday all sleeping on mats on the floor, like Japanese people, out of principle. I hate moving, and that alone makes me want to be a minimalist.

And now I am the only one awake around here. Not a creature is stirring; I'm going to go join them.

*Have you read, "The Art of Racing in the Rain"? It is a book written from the perspective of the family dog but... it kind of blew my mind. So much I could say about this book but I think the greatest take-away for me was that the struggle is won inside ourselves first before victory manifests in the real world. We'll be talking about it in book club this month, but if you've read it and want to discuss, hit me back!