A Grace Full Life



For two years in a row back in 2010 and 2011,  I thought it would be fun at Christmas to include my closest family and friends and have them make lists of their favorite things and I would publish them here on the blog.
Looking back, I realize that it was a way to include them in my blogging process but also, let's be honest: it was an easy way to get out of writing a post.
I would get out of an entire week of writing back then.
Back when I would actually write three times a week.
How did someone who had small children write THREE TIMES A WEEK?

As I mentioned last week, I was going through my old blog posts and that simple act motivated me to bring the holiday posts back.
Because I love my family and friends as well as my blog and I love to bring the three together.
But I decided to change up my Favorite Things lists this time around.
I had specific questions I was going to ask my loved ones so there wasn't a lot of pressure on them to have to think too much outside of the box.
Listen, this time of the year is hard enough and I didn't want them to have to think of one more thing for their loved one's blog so she didn't have to write a few posts for weeks at a time.

Here are the questions that I sent to all of my dear ones:

What one thing about Oprah annoys you the least? (tying it in with the whole Favorite Things theme)
Who is your favorite family member and why? (should be fun at the holiday table this year)
What is your favorite blog and why? ( they could not say mine because that is implied OF COURSE) 
What holiday food item would you take a bath in if no one was looking? (no judgement)
What one present do you hope to receive this year? (no world peace please, we ALL want that)
If you only had the money to make one holiday dish this season, which one? (recipes to come)
What one celebrity is your favorite? (Bruce Hornsby surprisingly hasn't made the list...yet)
If you could have your own television show, what would YOU give to your guests as your big giveaway? (YOU GET A TACO! YOU GET A TACO! YOU GET A TACO!)
What one thing (besides any religious beliefs) is your favorite part of the holiday season? (do not mention snow) 
If you could say one word to describe my blog, what would it be? (I don't know if I should have asked this) 

The theme?
One word.
Well, you could use more than one word to describe your answer but essentially to streamline the process, I made it much simpler by eliminating choices.

Join me this Christmas season by getting to know my amazing family and friends a little better. 
And I will be a little less harried because I will have ALL THAT EXTRA TIME as I will not be writing as many posts! 

Have a great Thanksgiving this week everyone!
I am so very thankful for all of you. 


The Decade of No Sleep. Thanks For The Reminder Netflix. #StreamTeam #5MoreMinutes

I honestly think that I might be a nicer human being if my youngest child would figure out how to adjust her internal clock.
Those who have met me in the past seven and a half years since her birth have no idea who the real Kari is because I haven't had a really good nights sleep since January of 2008.
I am not saying this for the sake of a humorous blog post, my entire household can attest to the lack of sleep going on within it.
Only one member of the family is completely oblivious to it.
The one causing said lack of sleep.

Our oldest and my husband as proof that we like our sleep around here. This was during the middle of the day. 

Her pediatrician once said, and I quote, "some kids just don't need as much sleep as others".
I wanted to punch him in the face.
And you would too if you haven't had a really good night of sleep in eight solid years.
Tried that years ago, nothing.
"Sorry, I really feel bad for you. I really do. See you in a year!"
My husband had to restrain me from jumping on him as he ran out the door.

I went in to check on my youngest during a nap time and found her like this. This picture explains a lot. She was ALWAYS MOVING. Until she just wasn't. 

Ellie has always had lots of energy and it just doesn't turn off at night like a light switch.
She has never been one to "pass out" in the car after a long day.
When she has an exhausting day, instead of her falling asleep fast, she has always been the opposite.
Taking her even longer to fall asleep on those days.
Now that she is older, it is much easier, her being able to regulate herself to fall asleep by watching her Ipad shows (JUDGE AWAY) or reading her books, until she falls asleep.

I take pictures of her when she falls asleep in the car because it is like a Bigfoot sighting. Of course, this was taken in our garage because I had just gotten home and she had just fallen asleep five minutes before. Of course. 

But when she was a wee one, it was a carnival ride of epic proportions.
Lots of amazing excuses from our very creative child would start to come each night.
Now I can appreciate them but back then, not so much.
When you are going on no nap and 14 hours straight of NONSTOPENERGY, excuses shmuses, you start to become Samuel L. Jackson, if youknowhatImean.

On the 11 hour ride home from my parents house. She only slept for 20 minutes of that trip. Here is the proof. 

We have had our share of bedtime nightmares over the years.
Including literal monsters in which we had to get "monster spray" which was Febreeze in a plain spray bottle with the words MONSTER SPRAY written with a sharpie.
I would tell Ella that the "monster spray" would make all the bad things go away each night.
She was safe as long as I sprayed the room from top to bottom with the "monster spray".
Because I am SURE the Pioneers were spraying the crap out of the log cabin with fake spray to get their kids to sleep.

It seemed to be working though, sleep was being had easier and I thought, HEH, THOSE PIONEERS WEREN'T AS SMART AS US.
It was one evening as I was putting Ellie down and getting ready to whip out the magical Febreeze "monster spray" and douse her room like a mutha that she was extra nervous.
But I assured her that the spray was getting rid of monsters left and right.
It was all good, we had this.
After four times back and forth to her room, I was standing at the foot of her bed when she said to me in her sweet voice, "Mommy, I don't think the Febeeze worked tonight".

So much for the "monster spray".

If you have kids that have trouble with those FIVE MORE MINUTES like we have had, Netflix has you covered with their Dinotrux 5 Minute Favorites.
There are several different titles to choose from such as Big Build, Tortool's Surprise and Tarpit Rescue.

So if your child is a bedtime staller like mine, put on a little 5 Minute Favorites and boom, time for bed.
This is much better than having to pause mid way through a show because we ALL know how painful that is.

Umm, Netflix, my child is ALL OF THESE.

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.


Johnsonville Naturals Made Me Eat Off Of The Floor.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Johnsonville. The opinions and text are all mine. 

Johnsonville sausage is going to hate me for that title but I swear it means something good.
Well, it won't make me look good but it will totally make them look good.
I never look good.
Even when I try to.
Moving on.

I love Italian sausage a little more than I would like to admit.
It started at the county fair many years ago and has seeped into my kitchen.
But over the years, I haven't found a sausage that I love to cook with.
Just okay sausage but nothing spectacular.
Just mediocre sausage.
Boy, I think I might have overused my sausage word quota in that paragraph.

Enter Johnsonville Naturals. 
They do not contain any artificial ingredients, flavors, colors or preservatives and contain only high quality premium cuts of meat and flavorful spices
Basically good for you meats but with the taste that you would expect from America's leading sausage brand.
Also know as my sausage soul mate.
I can TOTALLY have a sausage soul mate.

So you are in for a treat today because I am here to share with you a recipe that I have held near and dear for years.
I actually don't know why I have never shared it here on the blog before because it is so dang good.
Pasta Alfredo with.....wait for it....SAUSAGE.
And I can't wait to try my new soul mate sausage with it.
OMG that sounded so dirty.

The beauty of this recipe is that as amazingly good as it is?
It is even better the next day.
Embarrassingly good.
Why do I say embarrassingly good?
Well because this pasta dish will make you do embarrassing things.
But I don't blame the pasta dish.
I blame the sausage.
My soul mate sausage.

Because I never did anything embarassing before this sausage came into my life.
I mean, I love this Alfredo dish but when I would re-heat it the next day, I would just put it in a bowl, hit the microwave buttons and eat.
But after re-heating this the next day, a piece of soul mate sausage rolled off of my plate and onto my floor.
My dirty floor.
Maybe under the dishwasher.
Okay, totally under the dishwasher, but I reasoned it was clean under there.

But, but, but, this sausage.....I mean......it is so good.
I must not miss one piece.
Plus there is that whole five second rule thing OMG STOP JUDGING ME, YOU DO IT TOO.
I ate it!
I ate it!

I regret nothing.

Life Changing Pasta Alfredo with Italian Sausage

1 stick of butter
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
12 ounces of penne pasta
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 red bell pepper
1 package Johnsonville Naturals Mild Italian Sausage

Bring water to a boil for your pasta.
Cut up the sausage and brown in a pan with some olive oil (I only eyeball it but around two tablespoons or so).
While that is browning, cut your red pepper into strips and add in with your sausage to saute.
Once the meat is fully cooked, take off the heat and set aside.
At this point, your water should be at a full boil, so pour your dry pasta in and let it begin cooking.

Now on to the Alfredo sauce!
It isn't scary, I promise and this recipe is AMAZING.
Your family will think you ordered in from a restaurant.

Melt the stick of butter in a medium saucepan.
Once it has fully melted, add in the cream, garlic powder and black pepper and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
You will want to keep and eye on this and stir it occasionally during this process because it has a tendency to overtake the pot.
It just boils over sometimes so just stir here and there and keep your eye on it, that's all.

After the 10-12 minutes, add in the Parmesan.
By the way, I had a Parmesan/Asiago mix in my fridge and used that instead so as long as it has Parmesan in it, you are golden.
After you add in the Parmesan, make what is called a roux.
Mix two tablespoons of flour with 1/4 of a cup of water in a small bowl.
Add more flour if you need to because you want it to be a little thick in consistency.
This is a roux and it thickens the Alfredo.
Add it to the sauce and blend until no lumps show.

Drain your pasta then place back into the pot.
Add the Alfredo sauce into the pasta pot as well as the sausage and peppers that you set aside.
Blend gently.
Serve immediately because well, duh.
And if your sausage rolls on the floor, eat it.
Heh. Heh. Heh.

Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand. 

Also known as- you're gonna be famous!
Probably not. 
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Johnsonville. The opinions and text are all mine.


Evolution of a Room

There are many great things about having a blog.

- you can write it off as a major corporation in Switzerland *

- when people ask what you do for a living, you get to tell them, "I am a writer" when in all actuality, you eat Dove chocolate all day while taking quizzes on Play Buzz. But you can't fit that in the little squares on job applications, so "I am a writer" it is! *

- I couldn't think of a third thing.

* The above were made up for comedic effect, I don't sit around all day taking quizzes. Only when I have to write a sponsored post and have a deadline. Then I TOTALLY do this. Geez. * 

* Kidding again. Geez. *

*But I do eat Dove chocolate whenever I get the chance because that is some good sh$%.*

Actually, the greatest part of blogging is having this diary of your life for all of the world to see.
Well that and for me to see.
Recently I went through every single blog post I had ever written.
That is a lie.
I stopped somewhere in 2012 because HOLY CRAP DO I TALK A LOT.
It took me a solid week to get through two years of blog posts and I admit, I was editing as I was going along.
Gasp, I know.

Just grammar mistakes, forgotten periods, the EGAD your/you're conundrum.
I needed to make it go away or my eye wouldn't stop twitching.
But the real reason I was going through my posts was because we recently made a life change.
We have stopped shopping at Wal Mart.
Saving the story for another post but I was trying to erase all evidence from my blog posts because I needed to make them go away.

Then my husband had the brilliant idea of just writing a post instead of deleting their name in old posts.
I am not trying to cover my tracks, I just don't want to give them any endorsement, SEO and HOLY CRAP DO I TALK A LOT.
In going through old posts, I was re-living my life in a way and it was amazing.
I also went through old photo albums with the girls that week as well.
I just felt like reminiscing.
It is good and I recommend doing it every so often.

I found this old picture of Anna's room:

This was taken in 2011.
Just four years ago.
Parents know this: four years brings a lot of change.
I just had this conversation with my friend Shannon the other day.
Four years as an adult doesn't seem like much but in a child's life it is huge.

photo courtesy of Diane Pernicone

Scary, isn't it?
Don't. Blink.

So as I was saying, that room up there was her 11 year old bedroom.
Her sweet little hideaway from the world.
But at the time, she was outgrowing it and wanted more of an older room.
Well, as "older" as an 11 year old can imagine up.

With the help of my mom, who happened to be visiting that weekend, here is what we came up with:

I remember feeling like this was so much older and being a little sad inside yet happy for her and her new room.
Little did I know how many changes that would be coming down the road.
Naive me thought this would stick for years and years to come.
Umm, yeah no.

The added chalkboard desk helped bridge the gap into being a full fledged tween.
The desk lasted a while but the room, did not.
The pink needed "TO GO, MOMMMM".
Out with the old and in with the.......

I did love this makeover because it made her room look a little older but still soft.
I wasn't yet ready to let go of my little girl.

But over the next two years, the yellow started to fade and peel and I started hearing those words again.
"Umm, mom?? Could we maybe, I don't know....change up my room??"

Now, you should click on the links above because some of the dialogue is worth reading.
I was not going into these makeovers without a fight.
No sirree.
I had told Anna that this yellow was staying up until she graduated high school.
She is now a sophomore, to be clear.

So this past summer, we again marched to the Home Depot paint department and yet again bought another gallon of paint.
Or two.
But this time, she and I painted the room.
And it was actually, fun.

She chose white.
Simple. clean and elegant. 

I said on Instagram, it reminds me of a city apartment. 

It is perfect for a teenage girl.
Especially my teenage girl.

We have since removed the carpets in all of our bedrooms and I love the dark wood against the white.
By the way, that isn't wood.
It is laminate.

Our girls make messes.
Hell, WE make messes.
It is so easy to clean these floors.
So much easier than carpets.

The bedding is from Kohl's this summer, 60% off.
It looks like the fancy duvet covers we saw for hundreds of dollars.
No way is that going in my teenager's room who gets makeup all over her bedding.
This only cost us 60 dollars for the entire bedding set.

Change is good, change is good, change is good.
I know it is going fast, I see those four years and how they flew by.
I don't want to think about how fast the next two are going to go.


Say Please, Thank You and Don't Bite Your Neighbor. Oh and Don't Be A D-Bag. Life Lessons.

This article appeared on the Chicago Parent website where I was a regular contributor.

There are so many things to teach your child once you become a parent.
Don't put things from the toilet into your mouth.
Say please and thank you.
Don't bite the neighbors.
We work so hard to teach our children to do the right thing.
Eat the right foods, wash behind their ears.
But are you teaching your children to be polite to people who help you every day?

The nice people who scan your grapes at the grocery store.
The wonderful humans who protect you from getting stabbed on a plane at the airport.
The beautiful beings who mop up the pee you dribbled off the floor of the public bathrooms.
Yes, there are people who do that, in case you weren't aware.
I meant the mop it up part, not the dribble part, because we all dribble from time to time.

I am ultra sensitive to this type of conversation because I worked in retail for 14 years.
Two years at a fast food restaurant in high school and 12 years consecutively at a department store which will remain nameless.
Because sometimes you couldn't "expect great things."
Hint hint.
Oh, there were some good times, I mean, it couldn't have been all that bad for me to stay at the same department store for 12 years straight.
But it was hard work and truly a thankless job.
Kind of like motherhood at times, really.
Only, as a mom, I don't get a cool time card and stock options.

After years of cleaning up after people, whispering retaliative responses under my breath and basically being at the beck and call of humanity, I figured I was ripe for the picking of being a mom.
But I made a vow to myself that I would instill a respect in my children for those who work in careers of service to others.

Because after 14 years, I realized that this isn't something that is instinctual.

Please don't say, "It's their job" when referring to picking up after yourself.
My teenage daughter knows, KNOWS that mama gets crazy mad if she leaves anything laying on the floor or in the fitting room.
It has been ingrained in her pretty little brain that retail is tiring and that her mom worked many a year in retail, including the nine months she was in my belly and I form a strong bond with everyone in any store/restaurant/airport in America.
I may or may not have had an employee of Target do the slow clap when she heard me reprimanding my then 10-year-old about throwing a shirt on the floor after deciding not to buy it.

Give a training service worker a break. This doesn't mean to sigh loudly while tapping your foot.
When you work in an office environment and are new to the job, chances are you don't have all 50 members of the office staff standing in your cubicle asking you 10 questions about where the bathroom is or HOW LONG IS IT GONNA BE BEFORE YOU GET DONE WITH THAT EMAIL??? or yelling at you because you are going to slow.

In a service industry, you are at the mercy of the public, even when you are learning the job.
This is why I could never, ever work at a Starbucks.
I give those people mad props.
Seriously, if it were so easy to make coffee, espresso and lattes, THEN WHY AREN'T YOU MAKING IT AT HOME?!?!?!

You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, so the saying goes.
If you yell at the server at TGIFriday's about how weak your Electric Lemonade is, chances are there is going to be more than just lemonade in your next drink.

When you work with the public, it is stressful and when things get stressful in a service industry, most likely you are working longer, harder and faster.
Mistakes are going to be made, so understanding that going in is going to help you with your delivery if things do go wrong.

So the next time your fries are cold at McDonald's, you didn't get the 20 percent taken off your purchase at Target, you got a diet coke instead of a lemonade at Olive Garden, remember that employee is a mother or a father.
An aunt or an uncle.
A sister or a brother.
A daughter or a son.
They are doing the best they can, they are human and for goodness sake, be nice.


Why I Bring My Camera With Me To Get A "Life Changing Cheeseburger"

This past weekend was absolutely stunning.
Sunny, crisp but not cold, perfect for November.
It was the first weekend without any soccer or cheer obligations since summer so we decided to celebrate.
By getting in our automobile.
And sitting in traffic.

But it was worth it because we got really good greasy food.
Really, all you need are cheese fries to lure me out of the house on a Saturday. 
Same with my children; the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 
I brought my fancy camera along, for what reason, I have no clue.
To document the cheese fries?
To document the traffic?
To document us getting out of the house?
We needed proof. 

We started our day by heading to Paradise Pup in Des Plaines. 
Only my husband had been there before and he has wanted to take all of us for years because "it is the best burger you guys will ever have".
I will be the judge of that. 
See, I am a self-professed hamburger snob and I mean that in the least snobby way.
I haven't had a really good burger since Piccadilly Grill in Vernon Hills in the mid-nineties. 
It was right next to the Kohl's I worked for many years and holy moley they made the best greasy food I have ever eaten.
That place was kept running by the employees of our department store alone, I honestly believe.
When they went out of business, we were all in tears, standing with our noses pressed against the greasy windows. clutching our old menus.
Okay maybe that was a little dramatic but the burgers were that good.  
So I was skeptical. 

When we got to Paradise Pup, the line was out the door.
That is always a good sign.
Also, Dick Johnson from NBC 5 News had been there.
Also a good sign.
Dick Johnson.
Heh heh heh.

Oh yeah and he's been here too.
I find it interesting that his special request was a Red Bull.
She has obviously not seen an episode of Triple D before. 
And I can't believe she is shocked by all of that food.
Have I not raised her correctly??

I didn't get the "Paradise pup" but rather the "life changing cheeseburger" and we shared the 3 layer fries.
Let me just say, those fries didn't stand a chance.
I will drive back to Des Plaines for those fries.
Merkt's cheese, sour cream, bacon and green onions. OH SWEET LORD.
I may drive back there this week.
Anyone want to go with me?

Oh and the "life changing cheeseburger"?
Yeah, maybe I should have ordered a Red Bull like Mr. Fieri. 
Next time, I am sticking with a Paradise Pup and Google searching the hell out of the former owners of Picadilly Grill.
And ordering TWO of the 3 layer fries.
Or just asking them to make me a 6 layer fries.

Back in the car, we hopped on the highway and headed in to the city for the day.
It sounds so much easier said than done.
Just "hopping" on the highway and "heading into" the city on a Saturday.

Because everyone else has the same damn idea. 

"Are you having fun snapping pictures over there? I have a title for you. Traff....expletive...."
Party pooper. 

I do have to say, this did make sitting in traffic go a lot faster. 

I am sorry, I know this is a beloved tradition but it always makes me laugh.
I know, I realize I am secretly a seven year old boy.
You said nut.....cracker. 

Oh I am real alright.

This pretty leaf fell through the sunroof onto my lap as we were driving on Ohio Street.
The girls giggled as a leaf shower streamed through our sunroof as we were driving down the street.
It was a perfect fall memory. 

Uhh, ma'am, they are standing in front of a garbage can.
There are lots of other cool things to take their pictures in front of in Chicago.

Old and new. 




My favorite setting in the city.
Too bad I don't drink tea. 

I love this tree.

Putting up Christmas lights.

Amish in the city.
NOTHING like Sex in the City. 

This guy was telling us all that we needed to be saved.
Umm, sir?
I don't think she is buying it.

Chicago cop with a red Starbucks cup.

Tiffany blue.

Chicago flag.

November on Michigan Avenue part one.

And part deux.

Cool building.
Just not the best pizza in the city.

By George, that horse has a hat. 

We told the girls we had enough money to either get pizza for dinner or go on a horse ride.
They chose the horse ride. 
Hands down.

There is a park tucked in behind the water tower and right across from the Ritz Carlton.
Good to know. 

I love you so.

Still putting up those lights.

John Hancock.
Or since I am already being a seven year old, "the cock".

Showing "Ellie Grace" how to feed "Ellie Mae" a carrot.

Even Annie wanted in on the action.

It was totally worth giving up the pizza for.

Afterwards, we stopped at Water Tower Place to use the bathrooms and I found a scene that I had to take a picture of:

They lay there like slugs, it was their only defense. 

The lakefront on the way home.

It was a wonderful day, spending it as a family.
As they get older, it is harder to carve out this time together so when we get it, I grab it like a thief in the night.
I didn't want it to end.
I am really glad I had my camera with me after all. 

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