Welcome to Illinois Axe Murderer Dinner

Our Tivo friends Jami and David prepared a dinner in our honor to welcome us to Illinois. It was originally going to be our first dinner there…until we ended up going last-minute to one of their previous dinners. As usual, everything was DIVINE…and we came home with leftovers once again. :)

I wanted to try my infamous selfie shot but we went the easy route since the kids were with us—Owen was our group photographer.

The Menu

Searing the sous vide prime rib.

Checking on the kids who were being amazing in the living room. They had their iPad, Netflix, and pizza…the kid trifecta.

Part of the aftermath.

I hate when they get off their sleep schedule but I have good memories of sleeping in the car on the way home from family events (and being carried into the house by my dad) that I feel it’s only fair they get to experience it, too. 💗 Katie was out within five minutes; Owen took about 10.

New hair and new color day!

A stylist posted on NextDoor looking for people to get their hair done for pics and videos for her website so I said why not. I’ve been itching for a small change for awhile and this was it (it’s the same style, just a bit shorter—I’m not going crazy!). We had a fun time…talked food and kids and lipstick and business ideas…and she surprised me with a new color layer under the purple! I was a little nervous in the chair because I haven’t gotten this much cut off in a looooong time…but it ended up awesome! Plus she snuck in a new color! (SERIOUSLY. She didn’t tell me until she was done!)

Of course it feels waaaaay shorter than it actually is and feels very strange but I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly enough. :)

Internet axe murderer friends are the very best.

We have some foodie friends who always make the most incredible-looking meals and we are always jealous when we see the pics on Facebook. But tonight our wishes came true and we were invited to a dinner! (It was last-minute as fill-ins but we didn’t care—if Jami and David ever invite you to dinner, you do whatever you need to do to make it happen!! In our case it was get a last-minute sitter to pick up the kids from Parents Night Out at the rec center and take them home and put them to bed.)

Holy shitballs was that an amazing multi-course meal. Here are just a few pics…and yes, I missed a few courses because wine. We might not need to eat at all tomorrow, though the leftovers will be tempting. Totally worth the 2.5 hours of drive time. Internet axe murderer friends are the very best. 💗

Sesame butter and radish chive tea sandwiches. Aged Gouda. Chorizo foam and goat cheese chantilly with bread sticks. Prosciutto-wrapped artichokes.

The first bottle of delicious wine…

Sous vide pork belly on smoked gouda mac and cheese

Sous vide potatoes and filet mignon (missing bearnaise in the pic)

We then ended the evening with a super fun game and were on the road home by 9:30. A great time was had by all…and we can’t wait to do it again!

My first Instant Pot lasagna.

I just did a quick taco lasagna with taco meat (from the freezer), ricotta and Mexican cheese blend, and some enchilada sauce at the last minute because I had no “sauce” in my layers (just meat). It cooked for 20 minutes, did a 10-minute natural release, and then I didn’t let it sit any longer because we were hungry, so it started to slide apart. But it was yummy. Owen even wanted seconds. Of course Katie didn’t like it at all.

And now a new water heater.

You know what sucks? Not being able to take a decent hot shower because the hot water runs out really fast (like less than 10 minutes).

You know what sucks even more? Discovering the hot water heater is…23 years old. And it was last serviced four years ago.

You know what’s cool? Tom is handy enough to know how to drain the sediment.

You know what sucks? Draining the sediment didn’t help.

You know what sucks the most? Discovering a slow-ish leak four days later after Tom had gone to bed. So I hooked up the drainage hose to a bucket and put something under the drip. I decided to check the bucket before I went to bed and it already had 2″ in it so I moved the hose into a 25-gallon garbage bin and went to bed, figuring it would be safe. But it apparently turned into more of a spray overnight and by the time Tom got up and checked at 5:30 the 25-gallon bucket was overflowing. We have some wet carpet—unfortunately some is in a place we can’t easily get to and dry (under 300# of loaded shelving) but nothing was damaged. And thankfully we got someone here early and it was a simple fix. (Apparently due to the age and type of tank, you have to unscrew/rescrew the tap a few times to get the gaskets aligned right.)

You know what’s the best? Our landlord, who is now replacing the water heater.

So if you’re keeping track, he’s replaced the garage door, repainted Katie’s room, has planned to replace a few windows, has replaced the kitchen/dining floor, and is now replacing the water heater…


There’s nothing like a call from the school on Thursday afternoon telling you Katie is missing FOUR shots and absolutely cannnot come to school on Monday unless she has them.


We knew about the deadline but we just had her 5-year well-visit before we left and they said she didn’t need anything so we weren’t worried about the deadline!!! GRRR. 

After a few moments of being completely stressed out and pissed off, I started making calls and thankfully the base has a walk-in immunization clinic so she will be there at 7:30am tomorrow with Tom.

Jelly Belly Factory Tour

We surprised the kids with a mini road trip to the Jelly Belly factory which is right up the road…And also surprised them with who was also there!

Getting ready for a train ride around the factory floor. It’s really just a warehouse.

Since it is a working factory we had to wear hats—they are very cheap plus I have a big head so it didn’t last long…but I had to keep it on. :lol:


We were able to try whatever flavors we wanted. I tried margarita and pancakes and maple syrup. They were both tasty. 

We spent about $50 on stupid jelly beans but we had fun. And I can honestly say I don’t need to buy Jelly Belly fudge again (it’s in the freezer so others can try it). :)

No more training wheels!

He’s been going out biking a lot with the neighbor kid and he said he was finally ready to take the training wheels off. Tom had moved them so they were still on but up high enough where he couldn’t really rely on them. So we made him ride down the street and I followed him to see if the wheels ever touched. They didn’t, so Tom took the wheels off! Then it was time for the first real ride!

And of course sister was with us, too, because she is a bike riding fiend.



And getting his reward for learning to ride—his new (adult!) bike!!


Len Summer Christmas 2017

Nick and Gracie making Christmas M&Ms (the rest went into Lisa’s monster cookies).

Just a few brats to cook…

All the kids like to fish but they say Aubrey is the one who loves it the most and is the best at it. She apparently gives lessons to other kids at their house!

Katie caught a fish!

Someone took an unplanned jump into the river (learning you can’t walk on lily pads):

Drying off…

I think this picture is a tradition.

And the mandatory annual family Christmas photo! Every year they give us grief about taking it… And this year with the craziness of the move I didn’t post it immediately and they were all asking about it!! So there. :p

And the annual kid comparison—Katie is getting closer to Aubrey but Aubrey is still ahead (which should be the case, as she’s almost 9). And as usual, Owen is definitely taller than Gracie…

But I think he beats Nick this year!!

Last year:

More fishing!

After a campfire and s’mores it was time for bed. The kids decided to all sleep in the living room… Poor Timmy. :)


A list of things to even out my karma, Illinois edition.

So back in July 2014, I compiled a list of things I liked about our new house to hopefully counteract all the bitching I’d done about it. Well, it’s time for another list.

  1. We live just about equidistant from both sets of grandparents. 
  2. The house is on a flat street. 
  3. The house has a flat yard. 
  4. We have a nice green lawn. 
  5. We have a decent size back yard. 
  6. We have a good place for our patio set. 
  7. We have a good place for our picnic table. 
  8. We have kids living next door and next next door and around the corner. 
  9. We have great neighbors—with kids our kids like. 
  10. The bus stop is three houses down. 
  11. We live near two cul-de-sacs and one dead end which are great for bike riding. 
  12. There’s a small playground a short bike ride from home. 
  13. We met our landlord and he’s really nice. He told us he has learned “to make his renters happy.”
  14. Our landlord said he’d give us his pool passes to use the rest of the summer. 
  15. The landlord put in a brand new insulated garage door (because we said the old one was falling apart).
  16. The garage door is wifi-connected. 
  17. The landlord will be putting new hardwood floors in the kitchen because of the failing grout and his unhappiness with the overall look. 
  18. We live less than a mile from both kids’ schools. 
  19. We live about three miles from a big city water park.
  20. We live three miles from a huge mall and pretty much any basic store we’d want (Target, Lowe’s, Marshall’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc.). 
  21. We have granite countertops in the kitchen and master bath. 
  22. We have a great gas stove with a center burner. 
  23. We have a good dishwasher that actually dries dishes. 
  24. I finally have an undermount kitchen sink!
  25. Our sectional couch fits in one of our living rooms (so it’s no longer relegated to the basement).
  26. The A/C works well. 
  27. There is a big storage room in the basement. 
  28. The kids will love the pool table the landlords left. 
  29. Katie gets a pink room (it was pink for the owner’s daughter).
  30. Most of the house is freshly repainted. 
  31. There is so much natural light everywhere that we generally don’t have to turn on lights until it gets really dark. 
  32. There are windows in the master bathroom. 
  33. There are windows in the laundry room. 
  34. There’s a window over the sink which overlooks the back yard. 
  35. There is a wood-burning fireplace. 
  36. The household wifi seems to be really good.
  37. We have a covered porch. 
  38. We have room for guests to park in the driveway and on the street (just not overnight).
  39. Sixty miles of bike trails nearby. 
  40. Located by many sporting events (professional and college). [Note: that one is from Tom—it isn’t a big deal for me!]

My heart feels better.

Both kids have been troopers about moving, but they’ve both been sad and missing their friends (as would be expected). It was weighing heavily on me, even though there was nothing we could do about it (as would be expected). So we took them out to ride their bikes and get their mind off things.

And literally within 10 minutes, neighbors with two kids (a 5yo girl and 4yo boy) walked over and introduced themselves. After talking for a few minutes, the kids were off riding their bikes together in the cul-de-sac and then were invited to bounce on the trampoline. The parents offered to watch them for a bit while we worked. 💕

They were the perfect welcome for the neighborhood. And their kids (plus another neighbor’s 7yo son) are just what mine needed after leaving their besties.

When I went to retrieve them about two hours later, Katie was on the trampoline in a gymnastics leotard and when I joked about it the mom laughed and said they had a costume change and they might also have makeup on. I said I would expect nothing less. :)

[Note after a few days: So both kids have apparently found their new best friends. Our very next door neighbor is the 7yo boy and him and Owen are already thick as thieves riding bikes, playing catch, and playing basketball. The little girl is two doors down and is also starting kindergarten! They both come ring the doorbell and ask if the kids can come out to play. We love it.]

Mermaid hair!

I saved this photo many many months ago as something I thought I’d someday like to do. Well…today is that day!

So this is happening!

I opted to go for teal instead of the pink in the original photo…so I’m going to be a mermaid!!

I’m leveling up! (Yeah, that was a new term for me, too. It’s going up the color chart to a lighter color.)

The parts of my hair that aren’t being touched—a bun on the top of my head and the under layers pulled to the side.

Leveling up (yes, bleaching) completed. YIKES!!! I have never seen my hair this color. The cool colors come next.

Stage two: More colors my hair has never seen!! The next time you see me I’ll be done!

The final product: I totally ❤️ it. I’m sooo thrilled!!

And here are some of the pics my stylist took to add to her album—she was SO excited to get to do it because people don’t often choose these types of colors!!

iFly again!

Today is the day I redeem my free flights from them messing up me not getting any photos the last time! And what better lipstick color to wear for flying than Fly Girl? (Though it’s a tiny bit too deep for me on its own so I layered it between Cocoa!)

Since I missed out on any pictures the last time, I made sure to have Tom take a ton of them this time around—which he certainly did!! I had about 100 to sort through! Here are the best of them…I am making excited faces in most of them because I was smiling and making faces for the kids when I flew around by them. (Click on any of them to see a bit bigger version!)

The instructor knew I had flown before and had told me that we could try a new move or two, but since I only had short flights (two one-minute flights instead of the two two-minute flights I had the first time) we wouldn’t be able to do too much. That said, almost as soon as I got in, I flew way above her head! I could sense she was a bit nervous (they generally keep you at chest level or below so they can grab you if they need to) but she saw I was okay so she let me go!!

Taking me up for the High Flight!

Owen was the videographer for these! He did a great job!!

And the actual pics they took! The instructor said she put me in front of the camera A LOT to make sure I got a good photo!

Post-flight success pics!

It’s funny. While I was waiting (and it was a looong wait today) I was like “Ugh. Is this really worth it? All the travel time and all the wait time for two silly minutes in the chamber…” And then I did it and YES, it was totally worth it. It’s SOOOO much fun. I can’t wait to use my 10 minutes in Chicago!!