Sunday, September 30, 2007

a guest appearance by the author

Alli noticed that there aren't many pictures of me on the blog. She said she wanted to see me on the computer.

So here I am. Okay, it is somewhat out of focus, and I photoshopped a zit out, but it is recent and it is me.

And here are a few snippets about me...

  • I have kept a journal (on and off) since I was seven years old. Some parts of it are more interesting than other parts. But a life recorded is a life remembered.
  • I am left-handed, but I use my right hand to cut with scissors. I design die-cut shapes for QuicKutz by cutting shapes out with scissors. I think it is funny that my work is done with my off hand.
  • I feel like I have too many ideas and too little time. Inventions. Businesses. Stories for books. I keep a notebook of those ideas... aside from the regular journal.
  • I like to ice skate. My grandmother taught me how to ice skate when I was quite small. Later, I took a course in college. I can still do a few (small) tricks.
  • I am writing and illustrating a book right now. It has been fun working on a project all my own. I love painting and drawing and creating stuff. (If anyone knows any publishers, let me know.) Maybe I'll post a sneak peek of the illustrations soon.
  • I have been pregnant four times (two miscarriages). I really enjoy pregnancy (at least 95% of it). There are ups and downs, but carrying a baby is overall an amazing, beautiful experience. I think big preggo bellies are gorgeous.
  • I love good chocolate. Dark chocolate. Exotic chocolate. I keep a little stash tucked away. Alli really likes my intense, dark chocolate, and I usually feel really irritated that she wants to share my chocolate. Shouldn't she like Hershey's or something? I guess I am a chocolate snob.
  • I have great recipe for ginger-chocolate cookies. The recipe is based on my grandmother's recipe, but I added some treats to it. I am proud of this recipe, it's a crowd-pleaser.

Chewy ginger chocolate cookies
Based on a recipe from Dorothy Tompkins, altered by Karyn Nicoll

2 C. sugar
¾ C. butter
½ C. molasses
2 eggs
3 C. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
½ C. candied ginger, chopped small
1 ½ C. good chocolate (I like a combination of dark, bittersweet, and semisweet) chopped into chunks

Cream sugar and butter. Add molasses and eggs and blend well. Combine remaining dry ingredients in another bowl, stir into creamed mixture. Once dough is formed, add the candied ginger and chocolate and stir until fully incorporated.

Drop batter by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets (actually I use parchment on cookie sheets), about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes until edges are firm, but centers are still soft. Makes 5-6 dozen.

Jewish friends make life more meaningful

On our way home from church, Alli said in a rather sincere tone, "Jewish friends make life meaningful." Alli's best friend is Jewish, and he does add much to her life. He taught her the Dreidel song among other things.

Appropriately, we attended another Jewish neighbor's Sukkot open house this evening. Wendy built a hut out of sticks on her patio and we sat under it and had some treats to celebrate the harvest and give thanks. She runs a nonprofit organization promoting peace and tolerance worldwide. She is a fascinating woman of many talents. She too makes our lives more meaningful.

And our Catholic friends make life more meaningful too. This morning we attended the Red Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. Andy's mentor/co-worker/friend Dan Murray was honored by the church and the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago for being the "Catholic Lawyer of the Year." His acceptance remarks were inspiring. He has done a lot of good and helped many people. Congratulations Dan!

Our Mormon friends make life more meaningful too. The Fosters watched Alli and Ruby while we attended mass today. They took the girls to church, and got them both to fall asleep during the service (that NEVER happens for me!). When Andy and I arrived at church we couldn't find them because I was looking for two rowdy girls. They obviously have a gift. After attending our church, the Hylton family came over for a crock pot feast. They have adorable twin boys that are almost two. Elena is such a patient mother and a great example to me. It was fun sharing an evening with them.

And our other friends make life more meaningful too. We are blessed to have friends of all sorts who enrich our lives with their faith and friendship. Thanks for making our lives more meaningful.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Girls will be girls

On Sunday, the Mallis, Seamons, and Tom Church came over for dinner. The girls disappeared after dinner, and were too quiet. When they came downstairs, they were fabulously accessorized and bedazzled; it was like a little diva fashion show. We had them pose for a photo, but apparently, their model-poses could use some work.

Our trip to the fire station...

Today I went with Alli's preschool class on a field trip to the local fire station. The firemen (or whatever they are called these days) were so friendly and excited to show off their trucks. Each kid got a firefighter helmet. The kids took turns sitting in the driver's seat of the big red engine. We toured the fire house, but the power was out due to utility work, so we had to use flashlights. Most of the kids thought that was very cool.

Here is Alli with some of her classmates and her teachers (wearing firefighting gear).

They let the kids squirt a manually pumped hose. Alli pumped while Luke controlled the hose (see his huge grin). Many innocent bystanders got wet.

Ruby came along with us. She was thrilled to get a hat. She was thrilled to have lots of things to climb on (trucks).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Alli is all tucked in bed, and I just went in to check on her. When I walked in, she started fake-snoring.
So clever. She thinks she fooled me. Hee hee.
The joke is on her, she is still in bed.
I win tonight... as long as she stays in bed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chrysalis update

Many of our friends have been asking about the chrysalis. It is still a chrysalis.
It is possible that it is a dud. It is possible that the girls have given it a little too much love.

But it is also possible that it is a spring butterfly. Some chrysalises formed in the fall are dormant until spring. That is what we are hoping for.

For more information, check out this website...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Recycling, Picnicing, Playing

I started out doing a little mending job this morning, and I ended up making pants for Alli. The pants are recycled. The pants legs are from a pair of jeans of mine that are now shorts.
I sewed a top for the pants with a stretchy waistband, pink button embellishment, and big back pockets.

After I finished the pants, we walked to the park for a picnic lunch. Alli pushed a stroller full of baby dolls and animals and dragged Skamp (the dog) by her leash.

We ate our lunch in the garden at Oz Park. After eating the girls ran around and played in the park.
Poor Skamp. Her nose and paws used to be white. She had a long walk today. She is going straight into the washer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Trust me.

At the park tonight, Alli was climbing on bars above my head and I told her to be careful.
She got all serious and said,

"Trust me. (long pause) I know you can protect me if I fall."

She did not fall, so we didn't get to see if she was right or not.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Garden Harvest

There is nothing quite so delicious in the summer as tomatoes ripened on the vine. Of course you have to leave them on the vine until the ripening happens. Ruby doesn't quite get this yet. She loves to harvest little, hard green tomatoes within her reach. She plucks them and brings them to me, so proud of herself.

The red tomato in the picture is there for comparison. That one was out of Ruby's reach.

Alli is my herb picker. I often find her chewing on chives or basil leaves. She is a great helper when I am cooking dinner and need some herbs. She knows how to identify all of the herbs in our garden.

I do love keeping a garden. The challenge of keeping things alive and thriving is fun. This year we have grown lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and herbs that we have eaten. The squash plant didn't make it. The carrots didn't work out either.

I think I have the world's largest tomato bush (about 7 ft tall). It hangs over our fence into the neighbor's patios. There are no tomatoes on it. All of our tomatoes have come from smaller bushes. But I guess I let it stay because it has worked so hard to be so big. I keep hoping that it will be a late bloomer instead of a nonbloomer.

Block Party

This afternoon there was a block party sponsored by Alli's school. I took Ruby and Alli (Andy had a Jenner and Block* party at work by himself). The girls loved the hot dogs, pretzels, cookies and soda for lunch.
Alli waited patiently in line for almost an hour to get her face painted like a lion. I was quite proud of her patience in line. I was disappointed with myself for turning into the mommy who tells other kids they are cutting. I was not so patient. The paint job was fun. Alli was a ferocious (in a good way) lioness.
Ruby loved playing in the bubbles, but she was very upset that I wouldn't let her hold the bubble juice jar. She worked up real tears to show me how mad she was... and I took a picture.
The slushies were a hit for both girls. Neither one would release her cup until she finished. Ruby wasn't getting enough out of the straw, so she shoveled it into her mouth with her hand. That's my girl.
The music was provided by a band called St. Jams which consisted of the Reverend of St. James and some members of the congregation. Alli and Ruby loved the music. Alli did some dancing while Ruby finished her slushy.

Alli and Ruby are sugared up now (cookies, slushies, candy, soda). The countdown for bedtime has begun.

*In case you missed that one, Andy works for Jenner and Block.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chrysalis update

Our butterfly has not yet emerged from the chrysalis. We are expecting to see it any day now. The chrysalis was formed on a stick in our garden, but Ruby plucked it from the stick this afternoon and brought it to me with a huge smile on her face. I don't think she damaged it. The chrysalis is safe in a container on our kitchen counter now. The chrysalis that Alli took to school has not yet emerged either. Stay tuned for butterfly pictures soon (we hope).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Adventures of Alli and Elijah

Alli and her friend Elijah had a play date at our house the other day. While I fed Ruby her lunch, they played in the office/studio/playroom/laundry room. At some point they took a potty break, unfortunately Elijah's aim was off, and his pants got wet.

No problem.

Alli and Elijah went up to Alli's room and got clean underwear and jeans for him to borrow.

He couldn't snap the waistband, so they came to me for help. As he descended the staircase I couldn't help but grin. Elijah was wearing Alli's flare-leg jeans with embroidered flower details and lace accents... and her purple panties.

High Style

Who else could pull off stripes, floral print, polka dots and pink cowboy boots in one outfit? Oh yes, Alli dressed herself again. She wore this ensemble to the park and the zoo.

Her sidekick Elijah dresses himself too. His style is more subtle, but his outfit is completely backwards. He likes it that way.

These two seem to have been made from the same mold. No wonder they are such great friends.

When Alli is away...

Ruby will play with Alli's stuff without interruption! She loves to sit on Alli's trike and pretend she is cruising around.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Caterpillars are amazing. They are eating machines. All day long. Instead of getting full, they grow bigger and more hungry. Their rolling movements are fascinating, like watching the Wave go around a stadium.
We had so much fun observing the five caterpillars on our parsley plant. Alli especially enjoyed letting them crawl on her hand. Ruby liked pointing to them and smiling her toothy smile.

On Monday, one of our caterpillar friends crawled up a stick near the parsley and started to transform. All day long it stayed frozen in place on the stick. Nothing seemed to be happening, but we had to keep checking all day long. By Tuesday morning, the caterpillar had changed completely.
The chrysalis is magnificent. It is about half the size of the caterpillar, so it must be cramped quarters inside. The caterpillar was bright and squishy. The chrysalis is dark and hard.

Three of the caterpillars wandered off to change without telling us where they went. A chrysalis is hard to spot if you don't see it being made. Hopefully when those caterpillars emerge as butterflies we will see them again.

Alli took the one remaining caterpillar to preschool in a plastic jar with holes punched on the lid. Her classmates observed the caterpillar and drew pictures of her (her name is Jessica). By Tuesday night, that caterpillar was starting its chrysalis.

We are counting down the days until the butterflies emerge. Black swallowtail butterflies stay in the chrysalis stage for about one week.

We are thankful for the wonders of nature unfolding on our patio, and we are glad we can share this with you.


Today was a cleaning day. I dusted and polished our furniture. I washed the mirrors, glass cabinet doors and windows. I mopped the wood floors... but as I finished and returned to the kitchen, I discovered Ruby drawing with sidewalk chalk on the floor.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Alli's outfit

Alli dressed herself today. From top to bottom: pigtails (I helped with that) with half a dozen clips and bows, a headband, flowered shirt, flowered shorts over flowered and striped tights with multi-colored sneakers...and her little dog too.

We got lots of smiles as we walked to the farmer's market, played at the park, and had lunch with the Caldwell's.

I love Alli so much! She has a great personality that shines through her fun style.


When I downloaded our pictures off of the camera today, this picture grabbed me. I was just taken with Ruby's sweet smile and the light in her eyes. She still has some ketchup-crusties on her face, and she pulled out the ponytail from her hair. She is energetic and happy and silly. Oh how I love this girl! This is a perfect picture of Ruby today.

*Great photo Andy!

Dirt cake fun

This week we made one of Alli's favorite treats-- dirt cake! We made pudding and layered it with whipped cream and crumbled Oreo cookies. Alli ate hers uneventfully. Ruby liked the taste and the texture and the color, and before I knew it, she was covered in dirt cake while Alli giggled along. Luckily, I knew to strip Ruby down before giving her pudding. No permanent damage done.

Goodbye parsley

We have a little herb garden on our patio. All of the herbs have done well this year, maybe a little too well. The gigantic bush of parsley has been taken over by five hungry caterpillars! They are munching away, depleting our supply of parsley by several leaves daily.

When we discovered the intruders, we looked them up right away to see if they were friend or foe. They will become black swallow tail butterflies. Friends. (Last year we had a tomato plant-eating moth caterpillar with parasitic wasp larvae hatching out of it. Foe.) This species especially loves herbs in the parsley family.

Alli named them all: Megan, Jessica, Elijah, Annaliese and Lucy. Ruby hasn't hurt them so far. We check on them daily and stare at them under the magnifying glass. They can eat an entire parsley leaf in less than a minute. They are growing more plump everyday. We are excited to watch them change into butterflies.

Stay tuned for more exciting news about our caterpillar pets.

Air and Water Show

One of the perks of living in Lincoln Park is the air and water show that happens every August right above us. I'm not really into airplanes (I have many childhood memories of suffering through hours and hours of boring airplane museums), but the show is spectacular.

The choreography of the airplanes is beautiful. The thunder of the engines is thrilling, you can feel the rumble in your chest. The speeds are terrifying.

The sanity of the pilots is questionable, but their skill is undeniable.

I took Alli, Ruby and our neighbor Elijah to watch the practice fly-bys. The kids only enjoyed the show for about half an hour, then they played in the grass. I had fun trying to figure out how to shoot a good picture (it is tough shooting into a bright sky). This picture was one of my favorites. These airplanes were dancing through the sky leaving trails of silvery smoke. Beautiful.