March 22, 2015

52 Project: 12/52

Week 12
March 16 - 22, 2015

Top:  The girls like to congregate on the top bunk.  And when I say "girls," I mean Annie.  
She is always triumphant when she climbs the ladder.  Ella and Kate are always a bit put out.

Bottom:  Littlest Baby the Teense learned how to roll her eyes this week.
That child is 17 months going on 17 years...

March 19, 2015

So Much to Miss: Last Day of School

Tomorrow is my big girls' last day of school.  Of all the things we'll miss about our life here, the girls' school is the thing we'll all miss most.

I suppose I should just be thankful that we've had three glorious years at the best little school on earth.  Ella and Kate have gotten a tremendous start in their early years.  They have lovely friends and incredible teachers.  They've had opportunities that most high school students don't get.

They are learning.  They are excelling.  They are happy.  

Ella Mae and her Prep School teachers and friends.
If you watch all they way to the four minute mark, the last face you'll see belongs to Ella Mae.  :)

This video, that joy, those smiles.  They are what every mama wishes for her babies.  And that's what makes it so hard to leave it behind.

This last week of term is full of performances and celebrations.  Out of This World at the Prep School.  Sunshine and Showers at the Pre-Prep.  Farewell parties for both Ella and Kate in their classrooms.  It's all fantastic, but I find myself tearing up while I applaud and express my gratitude.  Saying goodbye to these people who have nurtured and taught and corrected and loved my girls is incredibly hard.

There isn't another Dean Close.

I am so thankful that we're going to have a long summer holiday.  I'm afraid we're all going to need a few months to recover.

March 15, 2015

52 Project: 11/52

Week 11
March 9 - 15, 2015

Top:  Annie enjoys some morning snuggles from her big sisters.  I adore watching the bond between these three ladies.

Bottom:  Love this girl from the top of her curly head to the tips of her tiny toes.

March 10, 2015

So Much to Miss: An Ode to Ocado

Ten minutes ago my doorbell rang.  I opened the door to find Shaun — driver of the raspberry van — plus a week's worth of groceries on my doorstep.  Shaun carried my groceries (all those heavy bottles and tins!) into my kitchen, took away all my plastic bags from last week's delivery, chatted with me about daughters and accents, and saw himself out while I put away my groceries.

I'm going to miss Shaun.

Okay, that's not actually Shaun.
I considered asking Shaun to take a selfie with me, but I was too embarrassed.

Grocery delivery is one of my absolute favorite things about living in England.  I've been meaning to write a blog post about it for almost three years now, but I never found the time.  Nothing like moving in 30 days to make me bid a fond farewell to my favorite British things...  :(

I order form Ocado, but most major UK supermarkets offer delivery services.  Ocado has a fabulous, user-friendly web interface.  I can save my favorite products.  I can even auto-order necessities like bread, butter, eggs, and milk.  (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I actually get all my dairy and fresh eggs from a local farmer...also delivered to my doorstep three times a week.)

I love to cook, and I am convinced that Ocado saves me mega money.  I meal plan on Mondays, right here in front of the computer.  I see what meats and veggies are on offer (or on sale, if you speak American) and plan my weekly menu on the spot.  When I grocery shopped the old fashioned way, I meal planned in advance and bought what was on my list regardless of what was on sale because my meal planning was well thought out.  If one meal called for half a bag of spinach, I made sure that another meal that week involved fresh spinach so it didn't go to waste.  I was saving some money that way, but not as much as I save with Ocado.  Ocado lets me save money with a well thought out list AND what is on sale this week.

And did I mentioned that I don't even glance at unhealthy processed foods?!

Best of all, ordering groceries online saves me TIME.  To be fair, the first few online shopping experiences took forever.  I had to familiarize myself with the system, establish favorite brands and preferences, and set up my recurring orders.  Three years later, I am a grocery ordering machine.  If you're skeptical, read on.

One week, just out of curiousity, I timed myself with the old-fashioned method: half an hour spent meal planning and list-making, 5 minutes driving to the store, 45 minutes shopping (with three kids in tow), 5 minutes driving home, 15 (sweaty, sweary) minutes getting children and grocery bags into the house, and 10 minutes putting away groceries.  That's 110 minutes.  Compare that to my Ocado routine:  40 minutes on Monday morning meal planning and grocery ordering, then 10 minutes on Tuesday morning putting away my groceries.  That's 50 minutes.  Less than HALF the time.

I save money, I save time, I save myself endless hassle and headache.  It's a no brainer.

There are definite drawbacks to Ocado.  For one, I miss the experience of browsing in my beloved Waitrose.  Secondly, the produce is selected by others.  They try to maximize shelf life rather than selecting what is ripe now.  Lastly, Annie misses out on the educational grocery store experience.

There are many weeks that I wind up going to Waitrose just as an outing.  To let Annie exercise her growing vocabulary (apple! ore! beena! milk! chock!), get an exceptionally good (free!) latte, browse the gorgeous John Lewis home goods, and pick up some fresh, fragrant produce.  I get the best of a Waitrose outing, but I don't come home heavy laden with tins, bottles, jugs, and bulky paper goods!  It's magic I tell ya.

And in case you're wondering, Ocado is not paying me to say these things.  I just love it that much.  :)

Also in case you're wondering, below are my meal plans for last week and this week.  Most of my favorite recipes (and recipes to try) are on Pinterest.

Last Week
Swiss Bliss Steak (my momma's recipe)
Miso Glazed Salmon (thanks Laurie!)
Shrimp Scampi (my recipe)

**We also ordered fish and chips one night, ate dinner out with friends another night, and I made vegetarian Baked Ziti another.**

Teensa sat down (to pick a frozen pea off the floor...oops!)
while I was snapping this pic and I couldn't resist including it.  :)

This Week
Lemon Chicken (once again, Momma's recipe) w/Brussells Sprouts
Veggie Quesadillas w/homemade pico de gallo and guacamole (my recipes)
Smotherd Pork Chops (my sister's recommendation)
Kielbasa and Potato Bake (a new one I decided to try)

**Fish and Chip Friday is a big deal in our house.  Plus we've got dinner out this week too.  Apparently five meals a week is kinda my limit.  :)

Moving back to America is going to be amazing in countless ways, but grocery shopping is one thing I'm not looking forward to.  If anyone has helpful tips and routines to share, I'm all ears!

March 8, 2015

52 Project: 10/52

Week 10
March 2 - 8, 2015

Top:  Sidewalk chalk shenanigans.
Grubby clothes and not a hairbow (or hairbrush, for that matter) in sight.
You simply cannot beat a sunny day in the garden with these three natural beauties.

Bottom:  Deense deense deense!  
This girl LOVES to dance.  
I love that her hand and foot are ablur, but that smile is in perfect focus.

March 1, 2015

52 Project: 9/52

Week 9
February 23 - March 1, 2015

Top:  Annie is getting in on the Just Dance action.
Look at that precious little foot!

(My girls spend so much time dancing in front of the television that we have decided we MUST have a room devoted to Just Dance in our new house.)

Bottom:  Pointing to her diaper and saying "dipe."  This girl is always ready to take a bath!