Friday, March 9, 2018

Lorelei's Birthday, the Big 12

This morning we celebrated Lorelei with a banner in our yard, our birthday tradition of early morning bagels/coffee (she chose Einstein Bros. at 6:45am) and our birthday interview. Isn't she lovely?
Tonight we'll celebrate with some friends at Dave & Busters, a singing of our spirited Dutch birthday song, "Lang Zal Ze Leven," then a slumber party and movie rental (Happy Death Day--L's fave movie). But for now, twelve things I totally love about my Lulu.

12. She's a pure original and knows what she likes--including blue and purple mermaid hair (which looks fabulous, I think).

11. She avoids drama with friends. I never hear her gossip, or put down others, or take sides unless she's worried about someone being hurt or left out.

10. She puts up with my wild adventures and is an amazing traveling companion--even braving long hikes in the Alps when she's under the weather with a cold so we can bask in beauty (can you see the sniffles on her face below?). This girl has wings to fly and takes it all in stride!

9. She is a lover of beauty who points out flowers, rainbows, sunrises and sunsets, the moon and stars. In the picture above, it's a snail shell and wildflowers--she especially loves all things small!

8. Sometimes she has anxiety and fear, and she faces it with resolute courage:
"I learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave [wo]man is not [s]he who does not feel afraid, but [s]he who conquers that fear." -Nelson Mandela
She does brave stuff. Like fish pedicures:

7. She makes the world a much more caring place with her deep compassion and kindness. 

6. She loves animals and cares so well for them. We still have to set up some volunteer time with the Wayside Waifs, where we adopted Domino, because she's always begging to volunteer with her furry friends.

5. She is a creative/artist, through and through. Her illustrations and comic stories are exceptional. She works hard at her art and has gained great skill that continually amazes me. She is also a voracious reader, and a pithy writer!

4. Lorelei has a sixth sense. Her dreams speak to her, and she listens and trusts their messages. I love when she shares her deep intuitions, and trusts her gut to guide her through life.

3. Lorelei maintains close friendships, especially with our neighbors, who she often gathers at our home for art, trampoline jumps, writing plays and stories and other creative adventures (this week, she's gathering with Ava & Sophie and their families in Mazatlan, Mexico, at her fave resort--what a birthday!)
(Virgin pina coladas at Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay--yes, please!)

2. She is a fiercely loyal older sister. She and Gryffy genuinely adore each other and rarely fight. They are inseparable, and their interactions are always punctuated with loud peals of laughter. From the moment he was born, she was his stalwart companion.

1. She is the world's greatest daughter, enjoying long car rides with music (she controls the radio), rain walks, adventurous journeys, card games, quirky traditions, reverse tuck-ins, deep talks at bedtime, snuggling up to read with me... she still wants to be around me, and I sure love being around her, basking in her beautiful light!

Lorelei, we love you so much! Happy Birthday, Cumpleanos Feliz, Lang Zal Ze Leven!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Club: Gift From the Sea

On the coldest day of the year, I'm really looking forward to Spring Break on the water.

I bought a small gift for Sherry and Vicki today at Half Price Books, and tucked a message into its pages to convene our book club by the beach...

“Out of the welter of life, a few people are selected for us by the accident of temporary confinement in the same circle. We never would have chosen these neighbors; life chose them for us. But thrown together on this island of living, we stretch to understand each other and are invigorated by the stretching.”

She’s wrong. I never would have chosen any other neighbors.

Not a chance.

I hereby convene the
Mazatlan Mothers Book Club

May we read, highlight, dog-ear and scribble irreverently upon these pages of Lindbergh’s short classic, Gift From the Sea. May we turn them over like glistening shells and shuck them like oysters in search of wisdom’s pearls, then tuck them into our carry-ons for the journey.

And sitting together on the beach, sipping pina coladas and mojitos, may our conversation be “as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”

Bring this book, with your favorite pages marked like treasure!


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pad Thai

There's a Thai food restaurant, Wai Wai Thai, near our house that we like to ride bikes to whenever we get a craving, which is all the time. I used to devour this stuff when I was pregnant with Gryffy, so it's no surprise that the kids love to gobble up my copycat attempt at this favorite dish... when I don't make it too spicy. 

But really, this is Thai food after all.
3 T sesame oil
1 T sriracha or chili paste (adjust according to your heat preference)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 egg
1.5 c shredded carrots
8 oz flat rice "pad thai" noodles
5-6 scallions, chopped in 2" lengths
1.5 c bean sprouts
3 T vinegar
3 T sugar
3 T fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 c shrimp (can use chicken)

finely chopped nuts (optional)
Soak rice noodles according to package directions, usually 25-30 min. in hot water from the kettle; set aside.

Warm oil in large pot or wok; add sriracha/chili paste and minced garlic; stir and cook 1-2 min. Add egg, stirring quickly. Add carrots; cook 2 min. Drain noodles when al dente and add to pot, stirring well to coat. Add scallions, bean sprouts, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce; cook 2-3 min. Add shrimp and cook until warm.

Garnish with peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges.

For dessert, enjoy fortune cookies.
"You will go on many adventures"
"We are happy together"
And the "thimble game."

Fill the thimble with water, name a category ("I'm thinking of a holiday..."). Go around the table and guess what it is ("Christmas," "Easter," "Halloween..."). When someone guesses, they get doused with a thimble-full of water!

We love table games...
...and Thai food!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Our Family's Core Values

During the summer this past year, we read some chapters of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey with some of our neighbors, and were inspired to develop a set of family core values. Here's what we came up with after some fun brainstorming sessions together:
We had a few sessions--some at home, others in Vail at "Camp Connelly", another at Red Robin over bottomless fries and campfire sauce (yum!)--and asked questions like:

What words define our unique family culture?
What are our dreams and aspirations as a family?
Who are we, really?

We generated a lot of words, and voted on them, Olympic style (eliminating the lowest scores, then voting again and repeating the process until we had our list).

This process also segued, at some point, into a list of places we'd like to travel to together:
That travel list made me all starry-eyed. I put it away in the summer and forgot about it, without realizing just how much it would shape our plans for the coming year...

I find that lists, even ones that we tuck away and almost forget about (I discovered this list in the above photo again just today!), have a subconscious effect of generating action, maybe even serendipity, what The Alchemist describes as the "universe conspiring in your favor." Years ago I made a vision board, and POOF--what seemed like far-off dreams (pictures of Vail, Norway and many other places I'd never been) manifested in our lives in surprising ways (we began spending summers in Vail; Mark's work required a trip to Scandinavia, etc.).

But that's another topic. Back to our core values...

We chose FUN, because we're cheesy-goofy, and we like to have traditions and dance parties and trampoline jumps and Chinese fire drills and, well, just quirky fun. 

TRAVEL (we were on the fence between this word and "adventure," but Gryffy insisted on "travel," and we want our kids to have as much ownership of these words as possible, so "travel" won out).

TEAM, because we function best together, and there's no one we'd rather be with than each other.

CREATIVE, for all our individual creative pursuits, and the creativity we bring to our family life.

LOVING, with snuggles and kind words and genuine care.

LOYAL, putting our family first and having each others' backs.

Next, we tried to find creative ways for these words to flow together visually.
Then I created a poster on Photoshop of our words displayed over one of our best memories (a black and white photo I took of the Hagia Sophia), and colored certain letters so that a hidden word would appear that knit them all together: FAMILY.

We recite our core values each Sunday to begin Family Night with our hands stacked, yelling "Connelly!" at the end, and then we sing the family rules that the kids also chose last year at "Camp Connelly," and put to a tune they learned for the Greek alphabet ("ATTITUDE, ORDER, RESPONSIBILITY, PEACE and ASKING are our laws").

We have the poster displayed for us to see every time we walk inside the front door, reminding us who we are, together. It's been great to review these words in the New Year as we contemplate the values we want to guide our lives.

This is Us:

Ringing in 2018

We rang in New Year's Eve with our neighbors. They say the people you're with on NYE are the ones you'll spend a lot of time with in the coming year, and with some vacations to Mexico and Vail planned together, this superstition is coming true. There's no one I'd rather spend time with in the New Year than our family and neighbors. We're so blessed.
We devoured good food (the kids made egg rolls all by themselves, except for the frying bit, and they were a hit), played games and watched the ball drop we these fine people.
Earlier that day, I stopped by the Catholic parish on NYE to fill up a bottle of holy water. We lit a candle, read blessings, and sprinkled holy water from room to room of our home, an ancient tradition to clear out old energies and welcome the holy into the dwelling that nurtures our lives.
Gryffy went wild with the holy water.
And on New Year's morning, our traditional donuts on strings:
"In the year 2018, let this be our goal: to focus on the donut, instead of on the hole."
When we came down the stairs that morning, this sign was propped up in the kitchen that Lorelei had secretly made to welcome in 2018. I love her colorful artwork! Wishing everyone a New Year filled with health, love, joy and lots of adventure!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Make Ahead Pesto Chicken, Quinoa & Turkish Salad

This recipe is so healthy and good. I made it for lunch today, we gobbled it up, then Mark and I made another trip to the grocers to make it again for lunches this week. 
For the pesto chicken, in a gallon size ziplock marinate together:
1 lb boneless skinless chicken
2 heaping spoonfuls of pesto sauce (Costco)
olive oil
rice vinegar (Trader Joe's)

Then cook until no longer pink, and fill up the small section of the meal containers.

Make quinoa in a rice cooker or according to package directions using:
2 cups quinoa
4 cups liquid (I prefer chicken stock, but water works)

Fill up large section of the meal containers halfway with quinoa.

And for the Turkish salad, whisk together:
3/4 c olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
2 T sumac (a lemony Middle Eastern spice found at specialty ethnic grocers)
1/4 c pomegranate molasses (also from specialty grocers)
salt & pepper to taste

To the liquid, add:
1 red onion, sliced thin
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
1 package cherry tomatoes, halved
optional: parsley or mint

Top the quinoa with the Turkish salad. Add feta or goat cheese if desired. Fills approx. 6-7 meal containers.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Notes on the Fridge

Oh man, I came across this photo on my Facebook news feed from four years ago, and it melted me and I wanted to post it here for memory's sake. I'm not sure I deserve it or live up to the hype, but what kind gestures! Two gushing notes from Lorelei and Gryffy, and a "Kindest Kansas Citian" award from our neighbor, Mady, that still makes me all teary.
I am so stinkin' blessed by these kids.