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    Happy Fall, Y'all!

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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    Happy Fall everyone! With last week's heatwave, SoCal residents worried we were in for a nasty beginning for the Fall season. Summer had been mild compared to the past few years, so the sudden spike in temperatures left some of us less than inspired when it came to decorating. And when I say some of us, I mean me.

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    Our wreath and mantle trim had been up since September 1st, but as it grew warmer, it was hard to get motivated to do much more. Thankfully, after several days of unbearable heat, the temperatures resturned to normal. Cool mornings and evenings, warm afternoons~this was more like it!

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    The children and I began getting in the spirit and started by sprucing up what we already had out. We retouched the decoration on our front door, Madeline added candles to the mantle, our Spode Delamere plates have been pulled out, and pumpkins appeared on bookshelves. It was enough to get this ball rolling.

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    I have a special Fall scone recipe I can't wait to share with you this week, and as many of us are already in a pumpkin-y mood, I'm pretty sure you'll love it. It's prefect for breakfast or a snack, and delicious with your morning cup of coffee.

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    Happy first day of Fall, everyone. Enjoy the gorgeous days ahead!

    You're Never Fully Dressed Without a...

    Thursday, September 18, 2014

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    SMILE!!

    Be still my heart. Will you look at that breathtaking display of joy and good humor? Yesterday was a long time coming. Madeline endured almost 3 years of braces, two oral surgeries, then had to reschedule the removal due to a cross country meet. And if you knew how her teeth started out, well, let's just say our orthodontist had a very challenging case to deal with.

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    My friends, I cannot begin to explain how much excitement has followed us throughout the week. We had a countdown going, plans to keep it a secret from her Daddy. But when Madeline woke up yesterday, she said something I know we've all thought when overly anxious: it's going to take forever until the moment arrives. The moment did arrive, though, and when the orthodontist began removing her braces (a process that took under 1 minute), I began alternating between laughter and tearing up. It was a huge moment for Madeline, and one I was glad to share with her. Much as I have always loved my daughter's smile~even with braces~I was ready to see it fully revealed. We all were!

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    Can you beleive the happiness in her face? More than anything, Madeline's satisfaction with the end results were what was most important, and if you can't tell, she's okay with how it all turned out. We all are. It's another passage completed on her approach to adulthood, but oh, it's a good one. Retainers are the new name of the game, and thanks to the infinite wisdom of our orthodontist, only to be worn at night. It's a trade-off we're happy to take on, and without a doubt, one Madeline will take very seriously.

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    Congratulations, Madeline! Your smile is radiant as ever!

    Oak Park Invitational

    Friday, September 12, 2014

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    We may not be able to make all of Madeline's cross country meets, but when we host, you can bet that we'll be there with bells on and cameras ready. It was Oak Park's second meet, and as this course was significantly more challenging than the first, it was a great one to observe. The weather was great, spirits were high, we could hear the cheers of our girls team as we approached the park. And who was there to great us?

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    Big sister and the rest of the JV girls were preparing to run their own race, and by sheer luck, we happened to be right at the starting line. We watched them warm up and do striders as the other JV girls teams readied themselves. I caught them on their way back to the starting line and took a few shots. This picture made me particularly happy. You'd think at this point the girls wouldn't be interested in taking any, but Madeline...well, there's a story. I'll get to it in a minute.

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    When the race began, we waited until Madeline and a few of her friends passed before heading to another point on the course. We wanted to see the girls in action and they certainly didn't disappoint. I'm always amazed by how effortlessly they move. They're in constant motion. And gosh are these girls tough! They train for hours upon days upon weeks, and watching them run by makes it all seem like they were just born with this natural ability. Perhaps they were.

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    I certainly wasn't, but watching Madeline dash by with her "in the zone" face on makes me glad that she has that "runner's gene". She finished her race with a fantastic time, and after giving some of the competing girls and friends high-five's, stopped to grab a hug from her biggest cheerleader. She wasn't even winded.

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    How is it possible? I don't know. What I do know is that cross country has made Madeline very happy. It's been a great outlet, and she has met the most wonderful people. I don't know much about the boys, and I'm sure they're fantastic, but the girls? They're a tremendous support and lovely as can be. Apparantly they read the blog on occasion as well! So if you want to know the story behind the picture of the JV girls from above, it's a little thing, but cute. After completeing a few striders, Madeline caught sight of me taking pictures and called out to the team that I was there with a camera. Within moments, each girl had turned around, and as Madeline laughed about her mom's crazy picture taking habits, stopped to smile for a quick picture. They were such great sports to humor me.

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    They can consider themselves part of the blog now, so I hope they enjoy it!

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    Congratulations to the Oak Park Eagles on a tremendous effort at yesterday's invitational. Y'all did a marvelous job. We can't wait for your next meet!

    Recipe: Monday's Roasted Chicken

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

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    School is in session, pumpkin foods and drinks are being served...I don't want to jinx things, but with all of that plus overcast mornings and cool evenings, it feels like Fall is creeping in. One can at least hope! I've been fighting the urge to nest and decorate the house ever since September 1st, but sometimes you just have to indulge.

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    To me, a roasted chicken is a year round meal. Change out the vegetable to suit the season, serve it up with different sides or as is~either way, you have a winning dish that makes everyone happy. This recipe is courtesy of the ever wonderful Jenny Steffens Hobick, and though I made a few minor adjustments that I will include here*, it is a simple and delicious one pot dinner.

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    Roasted Chicken

    1 whole chicken
    1 head of garlic, cut in half
    1 lemon, quartered
    1 small bunch of fresh thyme
    1/4 cup of olive oil
    1 tablespoon of sea salt
    2 teaspoons of cracked pepper
    3 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 pound of small potatoes, quartered
    1 red onion, quartered

    Begin by cleaning your chicken. Your butcher can do this for you, or your can prepare it yourself at home. Make sure it's completely thawed if frozen prior to cooking, remove anything stuffed into the cavities, and wash your chicken thoroughly in cool water. Pat it dry then sprinkle salt and pepper into the cavity as well as atop the chicken.

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    Place the chicken in a medium roasting pan or casserole dish. Stuff the inside of the chicken with the head of garlic, 2 pieces of lemon, and thyme. Place the sliced carrots, potatoes and onions around the chicken. Squeeze the 2 remaining lemon wedges over the chicken and vegetables, and place them in the pan with the vegetables. Next, drizzle olive oil over the entire chicken and all of the vegetables. Roast, uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the size of the chicken). Bigger birds will require more time in the oven.

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    Serve directly in the roasting pan, or put it on a pretty platter with the vegetables surrounding the chicken. Be sure to spoon the juice that accumulated in the bottom of the pan over the chicken and vegetables when serving

    *My oven is an older model and cantankerous on a good day. I noticed after an hour that the chicken wasn't done and the skin still fairly light. We enjoy a golden, crispy skin, so I turned the temperature up to 425 and let it cook for the remaining 30 minutes. It came out perfectly! People often ask how you can tell if a chicken is done and here are two ways. One way is to use a meat thermometer, which you stick into the thickest part of the leg. If the internal temperature rises to 165 degrees and the juices run clear if cut between the leg and breast, your chicken is done. Another method~and this is my daughter's favorite~is to wiggle one of the chicken legs. If it moves easily, your chicken is done.

    I hope you all enjoy this recipe, and my tips, as much as I and my children did. It was easy to put together, made the house smell amazing, and as it was all in one pot, easy clean up as well. So easy in fact, I did a little extra indulging as everything roasted in the oven.

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    Now what are you waiting for? Go grab a chicken and pour yourself a glass of wine. You'll be glad you did. Cheers!

    The Pancake Race

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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    They've been training all summer. Every boy and girl has sacrificed and worked hard for the beginning of the season, and now it's almost time. But before their first meet, the Oak Park High School Cross Country Team has a tradition they partake in: The Pancake Race.

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    A week prior to their first invitational, before they receive their uniforms, the entire team is broken down into groups of 7 by the team captains and assigned themes. They run a course near the high school called the Pancake Course, where in the spirit of friendly competition, the individual groups of boys and girls race against one another. Their combined times decide who comes out on top. Afterwards, the parents present the team with a homemade pancake breakfast. It is a wonderful event, and one I was glad to be a part of.

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    The theme chosen by the boy and girl captains for Madeline's team was "football & cheer". The girls were the football players, and the boys, in their artfully cropped t-shirts, were the cheerleaders. The other teams had chosen some good subjects as well: the Flinstone's, Wall-E...but as I'm partial to football, I thought Madeline's team had the best one. It was all in good humor, and everyone was in high spirits as the first race began.

    The boys went first, and as the heat started to rise, I have to give it to them: these kids really work hard. They're impressive. No one stopped-no one slowed down. They drove and encouraged one another as they raced around their courses. And the parents and coaches? Following their progress along the paths, cheering them on and shouting words of support the entire way. Of course, Madeline's team had built in cheerleaders, and as the girls raced, the boys shouted the chants that they'd written for them. You have to love that team spirit.

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    I've never been as proud of my daughter as I have been these past few months. She has worked tirelessly, and with great enthusiasm, to be a good team member. You can see how much she enjoys it, and this weekend, I finally saw it up close and personal. She loves this team. In the end, she had a great run, her team did beautifully, and as it was good prep for this week's Seaside Invitational, all felt properly motivated.

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    Madeline has been involved in sports since she was a young child, but never has she found a niche quite like this. Not only does she enjoy running with her team, she's really good at it. There is a passion there that was never present in her other sports; a drive that fuels her through each exhausting practice. I say a little prayer for her every day that she never looses that fire, and that if one day, cross country is no longer for her, she finds it in another area that helps her to grow. Something tells me she'll be running for a long time. All I can hope is that wherever she finds herself, she's surrounded by coaches and team members as amazing as the ones she has now.

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    Good luck this Friday team, and GO EAGLES!!