And then they…

the things we do to live a better life.

Archive for the category “Habits”



I’m working on a more organized and savvy system for the blog and the H & A Baby shop.  I’m excited to see where all of this might end up.

You never know if you don’t try.

Check back for details soon!


A New Dress for Alma

The other night I totally had the urge to sew something.  Since I’ve been working, I haven’t made anything, and I’ve been missing my hobby. While I’ve made quite a few dresses in the past, they have all been sort of complicated.

I have been wanting to try to make a simple dress pattern, so I just gave it a shot!  I sketched out a simple sun dress, then drafted up a pattern.  I just took one of Alma’s dresses and used it to estimate the bodice proportions, then made a couple simple ruffle layers.

I’m really happy with how it turned out!  I love the colors together, on Alma.  She is really into foxes these days, so it was fun to include those.

I will definitely be making more patterns and dresses in the future!

And Then They - Sundress 4And Then They - Sundress 6And Then They - Sundress 5 And Then They - Sundress 3 And Then They - Sundress 2 And Then They - Sundress

Chalkboard Car Table For Alma

Chalkboard Table for Cars - And Then TheyOne of the things we did for Alma’s second birthday was make her a fun chalkboard table for her cars.

This project actually started last summer and went through a few different changes along the way.  It started with this crazy dirt-and-rock-filled-brick-planter in our sunroom:

Before andthentheyThis planter has been annoying me since we moved in 3 years ago.  I’ve never known what to do with it.  Since our bunny lives in the sunroom, I couldn’t just plant some plants in it – he would eat them.  For a while he liked to dig in the box, but that ended up making a huge mess.  The dirt in the planter is a really fine dust that coats the whole room when dug up.  Add a curious toddler and the sunroom was never clean.

My mom actually suggested that we do something with the planter.  I think I had just given up at this point.  Her first idea was to dig out all the dirt and fill it with something more fun (and less dirty) to play with.  When she came over and started digging, she realized how horrible the dirt was after inhaling the super-fine dust.  We started brainstorming again.  The next idea was to cover it with a board and paint a scene on it for Alma’s cars.  You know those old carpets that have the town and roads on them?  That idea, but in paint.  After agreeing that this was the perfect idea, I thought it would be even cooler to just use chalkboard paint.  I wanted the girls to be able to create their own towns, or whatever, not just be stuck with the town I painted for them.  Imagination and creativity are always encouraged here!

Jesse and my mom went and bought all the supplies, and Jesse quickly built the board using plywood and quarter-round strips.  We countersunk the nails, and filled the holes with spackle so everything would be smooth.  Then the board sat on the planter for a couple months.

Finally, I decided Alma’s birthday was the perfect reason to finish this project, so I sanded everything down and started priming the board.

Priming andthentheyI used two coats of primer, then sanded it all down again.  I wanted to make sure the wood was really sealed because the chalkboard paint is expensive and I didn’t want to waste it by having it soak into the wood.  Also, the directions say to prime and sand bare wood.

Then came 3 or 4 thin coats of the chalkboard paint.  I can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I did 4.  I wanted smooth, even coverage, so I did really nice, thin coats.  Below you see what it looked like halfway through the second coat.

Painting andthenthey

Then back out to the sunroom to cure for a few days.  I already liked how it looked so much!  No more dirt!

Installed andthenthey

I followed the directions on the can to prepare the chalkboard by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk all over the whole thing and wiping off with a dry cloth.  Our original idea was to attach the whole thing to the wall, but I sort of love how I can tip it up and brush the chalk dust into the dirt.  We might need to attach it if Alma or Harriet start lifting it up all the time, but it’s pretty heavy and I don’t think they know it opens.

Happy Birthday andthentheyI’m not sure who will like it more, me, or Alma.  I had a lot of fun writing a birthday message, and drawing a little road for her new cars.  I’m excited to work on my chalkboard-writing skills.

Playing andthentheyAlma definitely does love it, though!  She seems to like the drawing part more than the car part these days, but I’m sure she’ll appreciate that it is a fun, versatile toy out in the sunroom.  I also have a ton of the paint leftover, so I’m already thinking about what else could use some creativity.  Chalkboard all the things!  Uh oh….

ps – I am linking up with a link party on I Heart Nap Time!

Easy Homemade Beer Chili Recipe


This recipe is something I’ve eaten my whole life.  My strongest memories of it are on winter days, sitting at the tile table my dad built, after my mom came home from teaching skiing.  I’m not entirely sure of the accuracy of this memory, but that doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that this is my comfort food.  And it’s really easy.


Beer is key.  I love the subtle beer flavor that this chili recipe has.  It really makes it taste like chili to me.  I’ve made it before when we didn’t have beer to add, and it just wasn’t right.  This time, we had some Baltika 6 hanging around, so I threw that in.  This is a fun beer because it is a throwback to our time in Peace Corps, Azerbaijan.  I was even able to find all the ingredients to make this chili while we were in Azerbaijan.  I digress…  So without further ado…


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbs chili powder (more or less to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Beer – 1 can, or bottle, or half a 20, or however much you want to use.  I usually just use whatever we have around
  • 1 cup beef broth (I use a bullion cube and a cup of hot water)
  • 1 large can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 extra-small can (4 oz) diced green chilies
  • 1 small can (14.5 oz) red kidney beans, drained


  1. Brown and drain ground beef over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions and saute until they begin to get soft.
  3. Add cumin seeds, chili powder, salt, and pepper and saute until aromas start to smell good.
  4. Pour in beer and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients except the beans, and simmer for at least 1/2 hour to let the flavors meld and develop.  The longer the better on this.
  6. Stir in beans when almost ready to serve.

When I was little, we would eat this chili with wheat crackers, so that’s what tastes right to me.  My husband prefers cornbread, so we have that sometimes.  Enjoy!

New Nursery and Alma’s New Room

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything on this blog…  Maybe blogging just isn’t me.  I really should.  Maybe I will get better when I have this next wee one.  probably not…

Anyway, we’ve been doing some work around the house to get ready for Baby Girl #2 (though I’m starting to panic that it’s really a boy and I’m not going to be ready for that… even though the ultrasound tech said she was 99.9% it’s a girl… and it didn’t matter to me last time and we didn’t even find out then…another story…).

Without further ado:

Baby’s Nursery (to see what it looked like before, click here.)


And Alma’s new room.  I don’t think I have any photos of this room before.  It was a guest room/ TV room.

I had a lot of fun with this room.  I hand-drew and hand-painted her world map, had fun with ombre on the dresser and ALMA letters.  I was going to do an ombre dye on the curtains, but chickened out – I am so glad I chickened out – in the end I love the dramatic white curtains with the coralish ties.  Alma really loves her new room!


Summer Goal # 5

To the beach.

We woke up on Sunday morning and decided it was a lovely day for a trip to the beach.  I love the beach and the ocean more than almost anything.  I didn’t want Alma to make it to 8 months without having seen it!  Since it’s only about an hour away, we just did it!


Alma was fascinated with watching the waves come up on us.  I held her and walked into the ocean just up to my ankles and she loved it.  She also loved it when we would dig in the sand.  She didn’t get a chance to dig herself (we’ll save that until she stops putting everything into her mouth), but thought it was pretty cool when we did it.



Summer List

1.  Read 5 Books (at least).  Here’s what’s at the top of my list:

These are the five books I have on hold for my Nook through the public library.  Gotta love free reading! I’ve also just joined a book club, so we’ll see what that will bring me!

2.  Read Alma all her books.  I seem to be in a rut with Alma’s books.  She was given so many books when she was born and we haven’t gotten to many of them.  I tend to read a couple of my favorites over and over to her, but I’m sure she’d enjoy some variety.

3.  Sew 3 dresses + some.  I am making three dresses for a secret project, but I also want to try some of the many dresses I’ve pinned on Pinterest.

4. Do push-ups and sit-ups ALL.  THE.  TIME. Jesse and I tried to do 100 Pushups a couple summer ago, but I don’t think we made it.  Time for the second attempt.  I also want to do 10 minutes of ab work every other night.

5.  Take Alma to the coast.  Can it be true we still haven’t done this?  Terrible, I know.

6.  Write 4 letters.  I got this idea from Elizabeth and thought it was a lovely idea.  I’ve really been meaning to write more letters anyway.

7.  Swim ALL.  THE.  TIME.  Wherever I can, whenever I can.  I’m hoping to get to the pool a few times this summer, and to spend some time in a river or a lake.  I love swimming more than being on land.

8.  Hike a mountain.  Luckily I am surrounded.

9.  Try 10 new recipes.  Another Pinterest challenge.  I’m going to try to focus on using whole foods and cutting refined and processed ingredients.

10.  Blog whenever I do any of these things.  This might be the hardest of all.

Quick and Easy Salmon and Brussels Sprouts

I love salmon and Brussels sprouts.  Separately, they are good, but together, they are amazing!  Here’s my quick, easy, foolproof method for preparing both.  I had dinner on the table in under 25 minutes, start to finish.  That’s a win in my book.

Last night we had our salmon and Brussels sprouts with coleslaw from our fish market.  They make the best coleslaw, it’s hard to pass up when we go buy fresh fish.  I suppose this meal would be better with a nice rice pilaf or fingerling potatoes, but it’s good with coleslaw, too.

The salmon couldn’t be easier to cook.  I used to be totally intimidated by cooking fish, but then I discovered this method.  Rub olive oil on both sides of salmon, put on a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Here’s the key:  put in a cold oven then set the oven temperature to 400 degrees.  In about 20-25 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of the fish) it’s done!   I have never overcooked our salmon using this method.  A-maz-ing.

While the salmon is cooking, chop up some Brussels sprouts.  I usually quarter them, unless they’re really big, then I cut a little more.  It’s not a science.

Heat up some olive oil over medium/ medium-high heat and throw in the sprouts.  Stir occasionally while you get your relish ready for the salmon.  It usually takes 10-15 minutes total to cook the sprouts.  Turn the heat down if it seems like they are browning too quickly.  Throw some pepper in, if you feel like it.  Or some herbs.  I put herbes de Provence in pretty much everything, but you don’t have to.  Again, it’s not a science.

I love this relish, because it tastes like a summer day.  Seriously.  It’s seriously easy, too.  Chop up some herbs.  Last night I used parsley and chives because that’s what I have growing right now.  I’ve also used dill and cilantro.  Use whatever you like.  Throw in some capers, some olive oil and the juice of a small lemon.  Add pepper, but not salt (the capers have enough salt!).  Taste a little and see if you like it.  If you don’t, add more of whatever you think would make it better.  Not a science (do you sense a theme yet?).

When the sprouts are almost done, pour in a little balsamic.  Yum.  Stir it all together until the vinegar has reduced and everything looks good and done.

Take the salmon out of the oven, put it on plates, add some of the relish on top, throw some sprouts on the plate and whatever else.  Done!  So quick!  So easy!  So yummy!


  • Fresh salmon (about a half pound per person)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper


  • Quarter cup of chopped herbs (parsley, dill, cilantro, chives, whatever)
  • Juice of a small lemon
  • Quarter cup capers
  • Tablespoon or so olive oil
  • Pepper to taste

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

  • Brussels sprouts (about a half pound per person?  Cut up however much you think you would eat)
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Pepper
  • 1/8th – 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (just pour it in and see how it looks)

Monday Menu (on Tuesday)

Monday:  Grilled Cheese on homemade bread and tomato soup

Tuesday:  Out with friends for soup (I had a root canal today… yuck)

Wednesday: Fried rice

Thursday:Ravioli or chicken noodle soup

Friday:  Spaghetti at a friend’s house, we’re taking salad

Saturday:  Lasagna at a friend’s house, we’re taking another salad

Monday Menu Planning

Here’s what’s on the menu for this week:

Monday: Leftover chilli and cornbread.  I made a huge pot of chilli a couple weeks ago and froze what we didn’t eat.  Yum!

Tuesday: Chicken strips and green beans (frozen from my garden)

Wednesday: Fried rice and pot stickers

Thursday: Soft tacos with friends

Friday: Chicago Style deep dish pizza

Saturday: Dinner at a friend’s house

Sunday: Eggs Benedict brunch for Easter

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