Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jellies Exhibit at John G. Shedd Aquarium

After a number of failed attempts, we finally made it to the Jellies exhibit at the aquarium.  It had been nearly 20 years since I was there and while the grandeur and ambiance are as I remembered, there were so many new things to see.

We started our day with a viewing of The Polar Express in 4D.


It was fun for all - the kids particularly liked the feeling of ice and water as the train slipped and slid over the frozen lake!  

Then we explored the large main tank.  It was so peaceful (and the perfect place for a quick snack).  Here Grandma and N are enjoying some popcorn.  

After a quick picnic lunch, the children played in the Polar Play Zone.  N loved sliding down on his tummy just like the real penguins do!  

In the area there is also a play submarine.  N was overheard saying, "S.O.S.  We're sinking!"  All the kids (even the older ones) loved to manipulate the many buttons, levers, and lights inside.

Finally, we saw the jellies.  They were beautiful - moving so slowly.  I suggest turning off the sound as the exhibit was really crowded and it is much more beautiful without the distraction!  


Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday Photo Challenge: Good

This week's challenge is to share something we think is good.  Although I haven't been able to take many photographs in the past few weeks, I did take some pictures of my first fire this season.  I fell in love with the fireplace and have been a loyal user since we moved into the house.  Having grown up with one of those cardboard fireplaces, I truly believe that real wood fireplaces are "good"!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday Photo Challenge: Thankful

This week's theme is "Thankful", in honor of Thanksgiving, of course.

During my absence the past few months (more about that later), the importance of family and making memories has been stressed! While trying to find pictures of everyone, I realized that I had already posted them (from our reunion).  Given that, the next thing I am thankful for is my camera.  With it, I am able to document my adventures and those images stir emotions, feelings, and memories.  Because I only have one camera, I cannot take a photograph of it, so here are a few favorite autumn images I've captured recently.

I love autumn.  

If you would like to see submitted photographs from all over the world, click here.

Taken in Wheaton, Illinois at Seven Gables Park.  This tree
stayed yellow long after the rest had dropped
their leaves.  

This is the mum in my perennial garden - I love the deep red color!

Also taken in Wheaton, Illinois at the school where I teach.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Life Lesson . . . Change is Good!

Six years ago, I made a career change from teaching to social work.  Although this may sound similar, the work was completely different.  Instead of focusing on direct service, I was behind the scenes.  My work involved writing reports, contract compliance, quality reviews, customer service (for direct service staff), and grant/RFP writing.  While the work was challenging, the pay/benefits were good, and the egocentric side of me enjoyed the title, I wasn't happy.

After much soul searching and a few panic attacks concerning the reduced wages, I traded my suits/heels for a pair of khakis and an art apron.  The first few weeks were physically tough.  Although I have never been "in shape", I had become even less active sitting at desk for years.  What was more challenging; however, was overcoming the anxiety about being the "new kid" again.  Not to mention that at 40 years old, I am the oldest teacher in the building.        

Now, nearly three month into the new job, I am happy again.  My days are filled with music, stories, time on the playground, hugs and lots and lots of paint!  My co-teacher and I work well together and the children have settled into a routine.  Did I mention that I am so happy to be in the classroom again?!?!

Life lesson -- change, although scary and frightening can also be invigorating, encouraging and in my experience is most likely the key to youthfulness, inspiration, and creativity.

My old office.
My new office (I also have access to a library with a
Smartboard, gym, playground, and open play area).  
I love teaching!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thursday Photo Challenge: Growing

This photograph was taken at Long Grove, Illinois.  It is a small charming shopping area in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Unfortunately, I don't think it will be around much longer as more and more of the stores are closing.  

We stopped to have lunch and these ducklings were climbing around the rocks in a stream waiting for their mama to round up the rest of their siblings who were traveling down the small waterfall.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Sunrise

Things have been very stressful at work for some months (hence the limited posts).  Yesterday I took the leap and gave my two week notice.  As expected, I felt so relieved and woke this Sunday with a great deal of peace.  I took this photograph while on a walk though the neighborhood.  I loved the sunlight coming through the trees.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hauglin Family Reunion 2012

Every two years, my maternal grandmother's family gets together for a reunion.  My grandmother is the oldest of five siblings.  Both of her brothers have passed away so it is just the three girls.

Grandma, Great Aunt J & Great Aunt D, 2012
This year we met in Wisconsin Dells.  It was the first time we were in a more "touristy" area and while there was plenty to do, it distracted everyone and we didn't really have time to visit. Everyone was on different schedules.

In addition to the siblings photograph, we take pictures of each family and one picture of everyone.  Here is my immediate family.

From left to right in the back, my husband (in gray t-shirt), my brother (in light yellow t-shirt holding my nephew), my dad in the dark yellow t-shirt.  In the next row, me (pink t-shirt), my sister-in-law (red t-shirt), my mom (striped shirt), my sister (beige shirt).  In the front, my niece (blue shirt), nephew (green t-shirt), grandma, and niece (beige t-shirt).  

Here is everyone (except my cousin and nephew who left the night before).  

The tree became a metaphor for our family as it was huge and had a number of different branches.  The tree stood in the middle of cabins and provided not only shade but a wonderful meeting place.  

Here are some more pics of our time together.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday Photo Challenge: Movement

Thursday Photo Challenge:  Movement

Last summer I took my niece, H, out for the day.  While shopping at the American Girl store in Watertower Place, we participated in a hula lesson.  This photo was taken of the instructor. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Menu Planning

The weather is returning to normal -- today's high was in the 80s for the first time in two weeks.  I celebrated by grilling a flank steak for dinner.  It was wonderful!  Thank goodness for leftovers as I have big plans for the week.  Here is our menu . . .

Sunday - spicy mango marinated grilled flank steak, salad with broccoli, shallots, and bacon & a dijon mayo dressing, coconut rice

Monday - beef fried rice and homemade Korean pickles

Tuesday - chicken lettuce wraps (my version of PF Chang's signature dish)

Wednesday - BLT sandwiches on wheat toast, leftover pickles, fresh fruit

Thursday - baked macaroni and cheese with ham and buttered breadcrumb crust and steamed broccoli

Friday - grilled homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella, wild mushrooms, and fresh basil & sausage (for the carnivore, of course)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thursday Photo Challenge: HOT

The theme this is week is HOT.  Considering the weather we've been experiencing here in Illinois lately, this is quite appropriate.

This photograph was actually taken by my mother when she and I went to arrange my wedding at the Chicago Cultural Center in January 2009.  It was very cold that day and the poor pigeons were huddling around the Eternal Flame in Daley Plaza.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Menu Planning

Looking back, I realized that it had been a LONG time since I've shared my menu.  Since I am hoping to compile a family cookbook, I think better get back into the swing of things!  Previously, I shared my menu on Thursdays.  Given the number of grad school deadlines, work commitments, and the Thursday Photo Challenge, it seems a new day would be better.  I am going to play around with it for a while before deciding.  Let's see how Mondays go, shall we?

Menu for this week:

Monday - shredded steak tacos with onion and cilantro, roasted tomato salsa, and avocado slices
Tuesday - Jambalaya with sausage, shrimp, and chicken & fresh fruit salad
Wednesday - meatballs, pasta and steamed broccoli
Thursday - left-over day 
Friday - eat out!
Saturday - grilled bacon burgers with cheese & roasted sweet potatoes
Sunday - roasted turkey breast, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and green bean with almonds.  

Jambalaya is one of those dishes I really love to make as there are no rules - anything goes and the more veggies, the better.  I do start with a boxed mix as it is cheaper than purchasing all the seasonings and trying to get the correct ratios.  Sometimes, if I remember, I add in a few sliced and dehydrate tomatoes from the previous year's garden.  Don't add fresh; however, as they exude too much liquid and the rice is either too wet or overcooked.

Jambalaya (semi-homemade version)

1 medium onion,  finely diced
1 bell pepper (any color you prefer), finely diced
handful of re-hydrated tomatoes, chopped 
1 -2 tsp of red pepper paste (found in Asian markets) or red pepper flakes to taste
1 tsp of cajun seasoning
boxed jambalaya mix of your choice (and any tomatoes, water, or other ingredients as required)
half cup of cooked chicken, shredded/chopped
half cup of sliced sausage - we used beef polish but any kind you like is fine 
half cup of mini precooked shrimp

In a large wide pan, saute the sausage until browned.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  If necessary, add oil until you have 2 T in the pan.  Saute the onion and pepper until they begin to get a bit of color (color = flavor).  Stir in the tomatoes.  Add in the rice, seasoning packet, water and any other required ingredients.  At this point, I also add 2 tsp of red pepper paste and the additional cajun seasoning.  We are adding a lot of additional additional ingredients so we need to bump up the seasonings, too, as the seasoning was perfect for the rice mix only.  When the rice is nearly cooked, toss in the sausage, chicken and shrimp. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Serve with fresh parsley.      

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How does your garden grow? Week 3

I had been doing well keeping up with the weeds in the vegetable garden, at least until this week.  When I finally got back there last night to check on them, it looked terrible!

This morning, I tried a trick I read about on Pinterest to control weeds.  In the post, the gardener used layers of newspaper covered with mulch to control weeds.  I am hoping that it will also keep the mint under control (I didn't read the back of the seed packet before planting it (without a pot) directly into the raised bed.  This spring it had taken over the bed and was even "oozing" out of the seams!

Here is a picture of how I did it and how it looked afterwards.  The second picture is an image of the super 100 cherry tomatoes.  I am really looking forward to home-grown tomatoes