Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm Dreaming...

...of a White Christmas! This week I suppose I'll have to settle for a green and brown Thanksgiving. But last Saturday, it was all about Christmas; You know...days merry and bright, Christmases of white. Christmas music. Christmas desserts, and Christmas cocktails. And an Ethiopian feast. But let me backtrack a little.

We're lucky to have some GREAT neighbors. When we moved into our neighborhood in 2005, we were certainly the only people under 50, and probably two of very few under 70 or 80. I loved my "old people" and often visited, took cookies, soup and rolls and enjoyed some nice conversations. But I never would have said that we had a "fun" neighborhood! Over the past six years that we've lived here, the demographics have changed, slowly but surely. As older people have moved away, died, or entered assisted living homes, their houses have sold to people more in our age bracket. And among those, luckily enough for us, are some great friends who live right across the street!

We've gotten to know Candace and Michael over the past year, and have a lot in common with them. Candace and I share a love for Ikea, thrifting, early morning "running" (which is usually more of early morning walking...), cheap wine and Target. Michael and Neil talk homebrewing, cooking and (unexpectedly!) golf. We like (and hate!) the same TV shows, the same music, the same books. We all love good ethnic food, and trying new things from other cultures. We share things back and forth like books, ladders, plants, music, gardening tips, and food. We plan lots of impromptu get-togethers for shared meals, bonfires, or drinks. And we all go to bed much earlier than your average young person. (Except on nights when we all hang out together!)

On one of our early morning walks, when Candace and I spotted the signs for White Christmas playing at The Grand Opera House, we decided it was a "must-do" for the four of us. We made a plan that got bigger and bigger, and soon came to be known as "Eubachman Christmas!" (That's Eudaley/Loebach/Pitman!) We looked forward to it for weeks, and finally got the enjoyment of a great night on Saturday!

Our wonderful babysitter arrived at 5:30, and we walked across the street to Candace and Michael's house. We began the night with an Ethiopian feast! We've never tried it before, and it was a totally new experience: eating with your hands, using tortillas, on a communal plate! Candace made delicious appetizers, five different "stews", and the tortillas from scratch. And it was delicious!!

From there, we boarded the pilot and headed downtown. We went and watched the play, which was great, although the pictures are quite shoddy. It totally got us in the Christmas spirit, and was one more reason to lament the awkward timing of American Thanksgiving, and laud the wonderful placement of Canadian Thanksgiving during October.

After the play, we headed home to find our two cherubs soundly sleeping and ended the night with some grasshopper pie (made by me, a la Pioneer Woman!), Christmas cocktails (made by Neil!), and our first monthly installment of winter beer tasting and rating!

It was a great time, from start to finish. The only disappointment was that we didn't walk out of the theater into a winter wonderland of snow! But more than just a fun night, it was just great to be reminded of what a difference great neighbors can make to a neighborhood, and how much fun it is when your friends live across the street! Candace and Michael, we're thankful for you, and we're so glad you live in the little yellow house that could!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Perhaps it takes having multiple children to realize the perfection in going away and just doing nothing. In the past, Neil and I have looked forward to anniversary trips as a chance to travel, explore different cities, find new restaurants, do lots of cool things, and come home exhausted. This year, we stuck close to home. We truly relaxed and spent quiet, quality time with each other. We tried very hard to have no schedule, no interruptions, no rush. We hardly went anywhere or did anything. And I think we'd both agree, number six was our best anniversary yet.

It helps that we found the most idyllic place on earth to stay, a mere 20 miles from home. We rented a cabin for the weekend, just outside Platteville. It's in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields and forest, complete with fireplace, whirlpool tub and all the whimsical touches you could desire. We truly never wanted to leave, and it truly was perfect. If you're looking for somewhere like this, I highly, highly recommend Walnut Ridge. It really seemed like the owners have stayed there themselves; everything was right where you wanted it, just where you needed it, perfectly comfortable, perfectly convenient...perfectly perfect!

We started out the weekend with a shopping trip to Hy Vee. We sipped coffee and chatted as browsed the aisles for our weekend wares. We took our time choosing cheese, wine, snacks, specialty beer and steaks for Saturday's dinner. And let me say, unless you have kids, you won't realize what a treat this is! But it was. We spent almost an hour in the grocery store! And it was fabulous!

From there, we headed to 111 Main in Galena for dinner. (Once again...highest recommendations!) We decided to try their four course seasonal tasting menu, and it was fantastic! We took our time chatting over our appetizer of apple cider pork sliders. We tried to guess the herbs in delicious course number two; sweet potato-chipotle soup. (We were way off! Basil and chives was our guess...turned out to be rosemary and parsley...what!? And we call ourselves good cooks!) We both had fun sampling the other's main course, chili-sugar cured duck breast over sour cabbage and potatoes for Neil and butternut squash ravioli with leeks, carrots and sage cream for me. And then (obviously) when we got to the dessert course, (pumpkin maple cheesecake with maple raspberry drizzle), we were so full that we couldn't do much justice in the eating. So we mostly admired, and then got it to go.

From there, we headed to the wilds of Platteville, accompanied by our (non-kid) music and good conversation. We'd been the the cabin a couple times before, but walking in was just...magical. We lit a fire in the fireplace. Then we exchanged gifts. We like to follow the traditional yearly gifts, putting our own spin on things to make it personal. Number six was our "iron" anniversary, and ironically, Neil got me a new cast-iron dutch oven, and I got him a cast-iron cookbook! What can I say, we're M.F.E.O. (That's Made For Each Other, if you've never seen Sleepless in Seattle!) From there, we enjoyed staying up late drinking wine, enjoying the fire and tub, without a care of being woken up in the night, or early morning...and it was wonderful! I'll spare you the details and the photos of us lounging about in robes, so really, there's not much more to tell!

In the morning, we slept until we felt like getting up, stayed in bed as long as we wanted, and when we got hungry, went to the porch to discover what the "breakfast fairy" had left for us. This is yet another fun Walnut Ridge touch, and it's always exciting to see what the battered yellow basket holds! We enjoyed muffins, pastries, juice and coffee by the fire, and just took our time...heavenly!

We headed into Platteville to get some coffee and poke around for an hour or so, which was the only diversion we needed for the day. I found a fun thrift store and scored some cozy new sweaters, while Neil was just happy to take some model shots under the sign for (the sadly no-longer existent) O'Neill's pub!

We headed back to the cabin for some lunch (pumpkin soup, bread and cheese, and white wine), a leisurely stint reading books in the tub, and an evening nap! We started cooking dinner at about 9pm. (See what I mean about no schedule? Wine for lunch? Sure! Afternoon bath? Why not? Evening nap? Yes please! Late night dinner? Of course.) We cooked steak with whisky-cream sauce, shrimp, baked poatoes, stuffed peppers, and mushrooms. We ate by the fire and it was wonderful. We finished up the evening by enjoying our traditional chocolate ganache cake and cracking open our "anniversary wine", the famous Rockway Glen Baco Noir, Vintage 2005, just like us! And it was just as good as we remembered!

Sunday morning, after we'd eaten our "last" breakfast (mini-egg bakes with ham and cheese), taken a "last" bath, had a "last" fire, and packed up (with much sadness), we headed back to Galena for a bit of shopping and some lunch. We found great gifts for the kiddos and our wonderful babysitters. We had a fun time exploring all the shops and looking for interesting and out of the ordinary trinkets, foodstuff and books. We enjoyed fish and chips and a pint at the Irish pub. Then we headed back to Dubuque, and after a quick coffee and browse at the book store, it was time to go home. We lamented the ending of a great weekend, but actually were excited to get home and see the boys. I think that means it was just about perfect!

I really can't begin to say how wonderful this trip was. It was so nice to be able to slow down, reconnect, enjoy our time and just have fun together. We reminisced about the last six years, and thought about the future. We realized anew how much we have to be thankful for. And I think it's safe to say that we came home ready to get back to real life with some renewed vigor and enthusiasm. Stu and Becky, thank-you from the bottom of our hearts! We know the boys had so much fun with you (and the rest of the Pitman crew!) and it was so nice to be away and not have to give their well-being a single thought. You are dearly loved as siblings, and much appreciated as babysitters! I think we'll do it again, exactly the same, for anniversary seven!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Remember when I said that Iain was starting to understand the different holidays? Apparently we still have a bit of work to do. Here's a conversation that took place in our house not long ago.

Neil: I’m excited about Christmas!

Iain: I AM TOO!!!!!

Neil: You should be!

Beth: What do you remember about Christmas, Iain?

Iain: Steak au poivre!

Beth: What?!

Neil: Well…kind of…

Beth: What do we put up in the living room at Christmas?

Iain: The birthday banner!

Beth: Nooo…we put lots of decorations and lights on it…It’s a big…

Iain: ELEPHANT!!!!

Beth: Um. No. It’s actually a Christmas…

Iain: Tree.

Beth: That’s right! Do you remember it?

Iain: Yes.

Beth: What color is it?

Iain: Blue.

Beth: Blue?

Iain: Yes. Bluey-dooey.

Beth: No, look out the window. What color are trees?

Iain: Green

Beth: Right. And we hang up stockings, and wrap up all kinds of fun presents for each other. But, do you know what Christmas is REALLY about? Why we celebrate it?

Iain: Yeah.

Beth: Why?

Iain: Ummm…

Beth: Whose birthday do we celebrate then?

Iain: Ummm...

Beth: What baby was born at Christmas?

Iain: LIAM!!!!

Guess we'd better get that birthday banner up, break out the steak au poivre and put lights on the elephant to celebrate Liam's birth!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


We made our first snowman of the year yesterday! It required almost all the snow in our yard and he does have some unsightly sticks and leaves sticking out of him, but he's pretty cute nonetheless. It does make me slightly sad that we built our last snowman of the year on March 9th, a mere eight months ago, and we're already building another one. This means that we apparently get to enjoy five months of "winter" in Iowa instead of three, which is hugely out of proportion with the other seasons! This also means that long before the snow is gone, we will be very tired of building snowmen! But yesterday, at our house anyway, the snow was welcome, and it was too beautiful and fun to pass up. Here he is. "Our HUUUUGE snowman, just as big as Iain!".

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Halloween was over a week ago, but I wanted to write a bit about our weekend, so I don't forget! And since it is apparently winter come early here in Iowa (Hello Winter Wonderland!) I thought I'd better get to it, before I'm blogging pictures of the boys making snowmen!

We had a lot of fun this year making the days leading up to Halloween exciting, as Iain is now old enough to anticipate, participate and appreciate every holiday! We read books from the library about Jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, costume parties and pumpkins. We asked him what he wanted to dress up as (and weren't surprised at his choice to be Curious George!). We watched "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown"! We checked out pumpkins in the stores, at the farmer's market and at the pumpkin patch. Of course we carved a pumpkin, and Iain even got to help use the knife, which he loved! He was super excited to wear his costume, and was especially excited that Liam was a Little Curious George.

The night of Halloween, we made pumpkin pancakes for dinner, and ate by the Jack-o-lantern light. We dressed the boys up and trick-or-treated around our (very awesome to live in but very lame for trick-0r-treating) neighborhood. We also took cookies to some of the new neighbors so we could meet them. On our entire street, we only went to four houses, because no one really participates. But the neighbors we did see were a lot of fun! Our friends Candace and Michael even had pumpkin bread for Liam, and hot chocolate for Iain, which he promptly told us was "Better than Ovaltine"! Iain was very excited going house to house, and even remembered what to say and do, although he was very shy. Liam fell asleep for most of it, but I think he liked his pumpkin bread!

After we trick-or-treated, we headed over to Neil's parents' house with Graeme and Ashlee and Baby Rowan (cutest little angry bird you ever did see!) and hung out there for a bit, and trick-or-treated at a few more houses. Then we finished the night at the GAC where all the adorable kiddos from church congregated to show off their costumes.

When we came home, Iain had to check out our (still burning) Jack-o-Lantern one more time, and then sort his candy. (Standard Halloween procedures!) Everyone was pretty exhausted after a fun-filled night, but Iain was super sad to take off his costume and have the fun end. So the next morning, I let the boys wear their monkey costumes to the library! Because if you can't wear your monkey costume to the library on the day after Halloween, where can you wear it!?

On a walk at the Farmer's Market to look at Pumpkins

Pumpkin carving with Daddy!

Our Happy Jack!

Making Candy Corn Cookies

Halloween Supper

Baby's First Halloween!

Two Little Monkeys (for real...)

At Grandma and Grandpa's House

Time to go home Monkey!

Curious George goes to the library!