Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is It a Tradition Yet?

Last year we went to the Indianapolis Zoo during Christmastime and then we came home and had cookies and hot chocolate with yummy homemade marshmallows. It was so festive and fun—and the light displays at the zoo were out-of-this-world beautiful—that we decided to do it again this year. We’re going tonight! Yay!

I, for one, would love to do this every year!!

Does that make it a tradition? How long do you have to do something before it becomes a tradition? Or, it is simply your intent?

Here is Meredith enjoying the batter from the marshmallows I made this morning!

This is so typical of Clara—she smiles so big it looks like her face is going to get stuck that way. My mom got her this Santa outfit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tidings of Joy

The Koons family continues to enjoy the Christmas season. Today I bought a Christmas CD I found in the Target dollar aisle. I was skeptical that I would like it but thought it was worth the risk for a dollar. Turns out that I love it! It features all the traditional songs sung by a choir. Yes, songs like “Santa, Baby” are cute and fun but, if you’re like me, you get tired of them after hearing them ten times in a day. I don’t think I could ever get tired of hearing “The First Noel” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice.”

This year is the first year I bought a substantial amount of gifts online. I must say that I’m now a convert. I plan on doing this for all future Christmases. It was SO great to just click, click, click, and then have all these packages show up on my doorstep. Not only did it save me loads of time shopping (with two kids) but I also enjoyed being “surprised” by packages arriving. Fun!

Today I finished a baking project (Chocolate Anise Biscotti and Gingerbread Biscotti):

And here is something else we’re enjoying, a special advent calendar Megan made for our family. It’s beautiful, as you can see for yourself:

More Snow!

On Sunday we enjoyed a fun afternoon playing in the snow! It was so beautiful because the tree branches were also covered in a layer of ice. Here are some photos I took:

Birthday Surprise!

Kevin was indeed surprised by the birthday bash I threw on Friday night. It seems like everyone had a good time. I’m glad it’s over, though, because I got sick of lying to Kevin, trying to keep him from figuring out I was throwing a party for him. I’m a really, really bad liar.

Anyway, a bunch of people asked for recipes, so here they are!

Sidecar Cocktails
Roquefort Pear Salad
Aussie Chicken
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Vegetables

I did frost the glasses for the cocktails, which was fun. And, the mashed potatoes recipe is enough to feed an army--I made one-fifth of the amount indicated. You can automatically change the amount of servings using the tool on the All Recipes site. Also, for the roasted vegetables, I added carrots and zucchini.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Big 3-0

My man is 30 today. Although we think of the one having the birthday as the one who gets the presents, I can’t help but think that it’s me who gets the best gift. I got it when Kevin entered my life. Aside from Christ, he is the best thing that could have happened to me on this earth. Every day I know how lucky I am. Someday our daughters will know it better too.

If a person’s success is determined by how much his wife and children love him, then I think Kevin is the most successful man I know.

Words cannot express how much we love you, Kev.

Here’s to another happy decade!

All our love,
Amy and the girls

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gingerbread Project and the Snow Man

Well, it certainly wouldn’t win a contest. It made a total mess all over the kitchen table and floor. And, Meredith probably ate more candy than ended up being put on the gingerbread house. But good times were had by all!

I did the frosting and she put about 90% of the candy on it. It was a nice mommy-daughter bonding time. I think we’ll plan on doing this every year. Maybe by the time she’s a teenager, we can start entering contests.

And, it's kinda nice Kevin is not a crammer. As I type, he’s taking two final exams back to back. But since he’s not a crammer, he took a break this morning and made a snow man with Meredith before heading off to take the exams. Two more next week and then he’s done (until January)! Yay!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Let it snow!

Here is why I don’t mind the cold Indiana winters: Snow! I love waking up and being surprised by snow.

It’s the times when you’re caught off guard—it wasn’t here yesterday and suddenly the world is covered in a blanket of white—that snow becomes magical.

Yesterday we woke up to this winter’s first snow. We were lying in bed, looking out the window, waiting for Meredith to wake up so we could show her. Then, suddenly, we heard a squeal coming from her room across the hall, “Daddy, the snow is falling outside!” Then there was a big belly laugh that lasted for a good 10 seconds. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever heard.

Meredith has been reading lots of picture books about snow and has been fascinated with the topic. This year’s first snow did not disappoint.

When I moved to Virginia to work for a national non-profit organization, I remember being amused by many of the young people fondly reminiscing over childhood snow experiences. The things they talked about were foreign to me. For instance, ice skating in the front yard after a thin layer of water froze on the lawn. Going “group sledding” at a party—one big tarp, one hill, and thirty kids. I couldn’t really relate to these experiences, but it sounded like lots of fun.

Watching Meredith enjoy the snow this morning made me glad that she’ll have fond memories of playing in the snow too. Kevin remarked how happy he is that she is able to enjoy snow.

So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Behold the Tree

After five years of marriage I was really tired of the same way my tree looked year after year. I have this gold ribbon that I’ve used and I wasn’t looking forward to dragging it out again. At the same time, I didn’t want to financially invest in all new stuff this year. So I was glad to get an idea from Megan—stringing cranberries and popcorn. But I hear that hers has dried oranges in it, so it probably looks even cooler. Maybe she’ll post pictures. (Hint, hint.)

Anyway, I love the look of the tree this year! Very classy. I will admit, however, that it was time consuming—it took watching about six episodes of Alias before I finally finished. And my fingers were stained red for about a day.

One more comment on the tree—there is no way we will be able to ever get an artificial tree as long as our kids our young. Meredith was so excited to go tree shopping that she was literally bouncing the entire time. Kevin was the one designated to pull the various trees out for inspection. And Meredith and I were the dutiful judges. She kept saying, “How ‘bout this one daddy?!” It was so cute. I would not miss out on this yearly tradition for anything. Next year, though, I do have romantic notions of going to cut down a fresh tree.

The picture of the tree is kind of blurry. Just think of it as impressionist photography. :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

What's Cookin'

Last week I tried this recipe out and we all loved it—Almond Maple Granola. (I used pure maple syrup and substituted flax seed for the wheat germ.) I think I’ll make some more this week. It’s been great to put on yogurt, eat as cereal, etc.

MondayPesto Chicken Panini, fresh fruit and vegetables

TuesdayChicken Tetrazzini (this is a Giada recipe and the sauce is out of this world), scalloped carrots


Thursday—Tacos and all the fixings. All Recipes has an excellent homemade taco seasoning recipe.

FridayBeef stew, honey wheat rolls (a new recipe from a T.O.H. cook book; if it’s good I’ll post it)

Saturday—Leftovers or take-out

Sunday—Brunch w/ the fam.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Child's Prayer and Hope for Mom

Meredith’s prayers are getting longer and reflecting more of her own heart. I’m so grateful that Kevin has consistently taught her to pray about personal things, by guiding her words at first during mealtimes and family worship. Now she prays spontaneously about things that are important to her and things that are on her mind, without much, if any, prompting. We serve a God who wants a personal relationship with us. It makes my heart glad to see Meredith personalize her prayers.

The other day she said, “Father God, thank you for daddy getting spit-up [the flu], and then getting no spit-up anymore [he got better]. Thank you for mommy and Clara. She’s just a little baby. I love you. Amen. And thank you for eggs! Amen.”

Often Meredith says, “I’m sorry for my sins, please forgive me.” Yesterday, however, she said, “Thank you for my sins.” Oops.

She also prays about random things she does during the day. I love hearing this because I know we serve a God who actually cares about things a child does. She always thanks God for the “Chillseum” [Children’s museum] whenever she goes, for instance.

The other day she said, “Thank you for Meredith. She is soooo obedient.”

It’s scary to be a parent because I know there are so many things I could do wrong, without even realizing it. And it’s not just the things I do, it’s the things I might not do. Should I be doing more? It’s the omissions I’m worried about more than anything else. Am I doing enough to help Meredith and Clara reach their potential?

I guess I’m encouraged by these prayers because it reminds me that there’s really only one thing that’s ultimately important—encouraging my children to love God and walk with Him. If I can do that, then the rest doesn’t matter quite so much.

Yule Slide

Have any of you Indy people out there taken your kids to the “Jolly Days Winter Wonderland” exhibit at the Children’s museum yet?

We went for the first time this morning and it was probably the most fun we’ve had there yet. I think we could have spent the entire day on the Yule Slide. All three of us (Meredith, Clara, and me) went down together twice. We were planning on a third time together but Meredith accidentally went down by herself before we could get behind her. I thought she would be terrified because it spits you out pretty fast when you get to the bottom. But she LOVED it.

She also enjoyed the ice castle, going “ice fishing,” and the story time with Mrs. Claus. Everything was festive at the Children’s museum today. Even the carousel music was “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

I feel like I need to go shopping tonight, or something, and wear my Santa hat around the house. I’m totally in the Christmas mood!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007


Here is a letter I wrote this week to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Why am I posting this on my blog? Because blogs are for random things like this, why else?

Dear Sir or Madam:

My family has been a member of the Children’s Museum since February of last year. We have been very pleased with the Children’s Museum and plan to continue our membership for years to come.

I am writing, however, to express my dismay that Burger King was removed from the Children’s Museum food court.

We were always so impressed that there was a Burger King to begin with because we had expectations of inflated food prices at the museum. Now we are very sad to see that the Children’s Museum has gone back to price-gouging concessionaires.

It was refreshing to see a change from the typical high-price museum eating options.

Because of Burger King, families had an affordable option to eat out with their children at the museum. Now families will be forced to pay premium prices for lunch for their kids.

Additionally, the Children’s Museum prides itself on creating kid-friendly experiences. Burger King was a part of that. My daughter always loved ending her mornings at the Children’s Museum with a Burger King meal and getting the BK crown to wear home. We are all sad that she will no longer have that to look forward to.

It is unfortunate that Burger King was removed from the Children’s Museum food court. If there is any way to reverse this decision or bring in another kid-friendly, affordable eating option, our family and numerous others would be very appreciative.

I would love to hear from you as to why this decision was made and whether it is possible to remedy it.

Very sincerely,

Amy Koons
Mother of Meredith (age 2) and Clara (age 4 months) and
Children’s Museum Member

60 Years

This weekend my grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Because of Kevin’s looming finals we were unable to attend but my thoughts were with the family as they commemorated this special event.

I am deeply honored to have grandparents who have loved each other and kept their marriage commitment for six decades. In an age of hook-ups, infidelity, and rampant no-fault divorce, their 60th anniversary takes on even more significance.

My grandparents have been an excellent example to me of constant love. I’m and thankful beyond words for this heritage.

It's Monday, It's a Menu

Here's what's up for this week:

MondayTangy Turkey and Swiss sandwiches, fruit salad

Tuesday—Chicken and noodles, vegetable, apple sauce


Thursday—Pizza and green salad

FridayAwesome Honey Pecan Pork Chops, couscous, vegetable

Saturday—Reuben Sandwiches, chips, fruit

Sunday—Catherine’s gruyere chicken, rice pilaf, vegetable

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Two Kids and a Squirrel

Today I watched Meredith and her friend Sol run around in the park chasing various squirrels. It gave me great pleasure to watch two carefree children enjoy their youth. When you’re young anything is possible and an adventure is always waiting for you to discover it.

I could hardly believe it but they came really close to those squirrels. Then, the squirrels would climb up a tree and Meredith and Sol would circle the tree pointing their little two-year-old fingers, smiles plastered all over their faces.

Sol was here because he’s now a big brother. Welcome to the world little Eden Rose!

Here's a pic I took this morning. M and S kept fighting over who would get to "take care of" Clara. Cute.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What's Cookin'

Here’s this week’s menu! Can’t wait for Thanksgiving! My mouth is watering already.

Monday—Leftover sweet and sour meatballs, salad greens

Tuesday—Dinner w/ the family; I’m bringing Pumpkin Cake w/ Mascarpone Icing

WednesdayDave’s black bean (from freezer) and cornbread

Thursday—Thanksgiving Feast; I’m bringing twice-baked sweet potatoes, pumpkin risotto, and cranberry dipping sauce, and I’m thinking about trying this recipe too ‘cuz it looks so yummyroasted baby pears with herbed goat cheese. I’m also roasting another turkey.

Friday—Thanksgiving leftovers. Another party; I’m bringing roasted red pepper dip and chips.

SaturdayReuben Sandwiches (one of our favorites), chips, fruit

Sunday brunch—Italian Almond Coffee Cake, ham and cheese frittata, fresh fruit

Friday, November 16, 2007


Just wanted to encourage everyone to join us in seeing Bella this weekend, if you can!

It’s a beautiful, award-winning film (top pick at the Toronto Film Festival) and has an uplifting pro-life message. The word on the ground is that it needs to do well this weekend in order to extend to next (Thanksgiving) weekend, which is the biggest movie-going weekend of the year. If it’s in theaters next weekend, thousands more people will get the chance to see it.

Kevin and I are seeing it this weekend for the first time because it has just now come to the Indianapolis market.

So, friends, join us in supporting this film if you can! Christians often bemoan the lack of good messages coming from Hollywood. This film is exceptional.

We hope you can support it this weekend too!

For a listing of the cities showing Bella you can go to this website.

To view a trailer for the movie and watch the testimony of Bella's star, Eduardo Verástegui, you can go here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Garnishes and the Girls

First, garnishes. I love garnishing soup with ingredients that are already in the soup. Food should appeal to all the senses, right?

And, here is picture of my girls that I snapped yesterday as they were "playing" on the floor. Meredith is looking forward to the day when Clara can play for "real."

I'm a CVS Believer

My friend Catherine has been getting free, nearly free or, sometimes better-than-free (because they pay her to take it out of the store), items from CVS for a long time. I was always a little bit awed by this and a tad bit skeptical.

Nothing in life is free, right?

One day Catherine linked to Money Saving Mom’s "CVS 101" tutorial on exactly how to do this. I read about the details then I decided to try it one week. My first time doing this, I spent about an hour in the tiny CVS store reading and re-reading how to use the coupons I had printed off online and what exactly to buy. This last time it was a cinch and took hardly any time at all.

My first trip I got three Tylenols, two packs of eight AA Duracell batteries, two Revlon mascaras, and two Revlon long last eye shadows for about $20, plus I got $15 back in CVS’s “Extra Care Bucks” (ECBs) which work like cash in CVS stores.

My second trip I got two bags of Hershey Kisses (for holiday baking), five bottles of Palmolive dish soap, two Children's Dimetapp cough and cold medicines, AND two bottles of Garnier Nutritioniste facial cleanser (these were the “better than free” items).

I spent all of my ECBs ($15 worth) from the last trip plus $1.90 of my own money, AND I got $18 worth of ECBs for next time. So, CVS essentially paid me to take all of this stuff home.

The trick is to look for store sales, and stack coupons (manufacturer coupons and store coupons) on top of that, and to only buy stuff with a high rate of ECBs return.

My policy is to only “buy” stuff I will use and all of these items are things that I already use, except for the facial cleanser. But, hey, I’m willing to try it since CVS paid me to take it home.

As Catherine says, “It’s such a rush.” I felt like a kid at Christmas. Last night I told Kevin that even if I were a millionaire I’d still want to do this because it’s so much fun! I can’t wait for next week’s ads to come out so I can see what other types of free stuff I get.

I am a believer.

The People's Mayor

We recently subscribed to the Indy Star and I’ve been reading about the new mayor-elect. I hate to say it, because I don’t like to be a mindless voter, but I really didn’t know much about him when I voted for him. All I knew was he belonged to my party and I didn’t care for the incumbent.

It turns out that the more I hear about him, the more I like him. It was an upset—no one predicted that he would win. But because everyone in Indianapolis is upset that their property tax bills have skyrocketed, now Greg Ballard is mayor.

He just seems to be an Average Joe. He was military until recently and he lives in a very modest house in a very modest part of town. He was outspent 10 to 1 by the incumbent. He only raised 300,000 compared to Bart Peterson’s 3,000,000.

Only time will tell what kind of mayor he will be. But so far I like the guy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Okay, several friends are posting their weekly menus now and this has inspired me to try to do it too. I'm always looking for good menu ideas and new recipes! Menu planning is something I’ve done since the week after the honeymoon. But sharing with others is new ... and fun! :)

Here's my plug for why you should figure out a weekly menu and go to the store with a written grocery list: menu planning 1) saves money (you don't buy unecessary stuff), 2) avoids stress and the "5 o'clock dread," and 3) you eat healthier and more delicious food.

Because of Kevin’s school schedule (i.e., he’s gone a couple of nights and usually on Saturdays), I rarely cook more than 4-5 times per week. So I’ll probably have some carry over for next week. But here goes!

Baked Potato Soup
Orchard Salad (greens, apples, pears, cheddar, cider vinaigrette)

Roast chicken w/ Risotto & Carmelized Onions
Creamy au gratin potatoes
(need to use up the 15 lb. bag)*

Real Italian Calzones (I'm cheating this week and using premade pizza dough!)
Marinara dipping sauce
Green salad

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Friday or Saturday:
Tortellini and Sun Dried Tomato Soup (from Cooking Light book)
Crusty bread

Breakfast (either Sat. or Sun.):
French Breakfast Muffins
Egg, cheese and chives omelets
Fresh fruit

Dessert (for whenever I feel like it this week!):
Rich Lemon Cake w/ lemon glaze

The tortellini soup, muffins, and lemon cake are new recipes. The rest are old favorites.

Check out I'm an Organzing Junkie for more menu plans!

*The 15 lb. bag of potatoes was $2.78 and the 5 lb. bag was $3.99. So, what was I supposed to buy?

Holiday Kickoff

If you don’t count my turkey roast experiment, then my official holiday kickoff was when I went to the Holiday Home Tour in historic Meridian-Kessler with some girlfriends this weekend. I had been looking forward to this for a long time. After lunch at Café Patachou, we toured four large 1920s homes decorated to the nines for Christmas.

All of the homes were built in the 1920s. One was traditionally decorated, one was more funky-modern, one was eclectic-antique, and I’m very sad to report that the Governor’s mansion has a lot of Grandma-style wallpaper. At least they didn’t use taxpayer dollars to pay for it, according to the docent. (But, to be fair, the large family room was beautiful and the tree and mantle decor in the family room was very awesome.)

But back to Patachou. It’s a new French restaurant that opened here in Broad Ripple. Laura, Shannon, and Colin rave about it. But I was disappointed with the crepe/egg/béchamel thing I got. I’ll have to try it again, though. Maybe I’ll get a dessert crepe. Or their omelets and cinnamon French toast, which looked fabulous. And, I definitely was NOT disappointed with the French Hot Chocolate. In a word: Amazing!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I've been tagged.

My friend Alaina tagged me for a meme. I must really love you Alaina because I usually do don’t do these meme things.

So... these are the "rules": Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Okay, here are the first eight random things I could think of about myself.

1) I have been a passenger on the Good Year Blimp and, for some crazy reason, the pilot decided to allow my sister to take the controls when we were over the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully I am alive to tell about it.

2) I often smell my food before I eat it (and Kevin makes fun of me). I don’t know why. Maybe my subconscious is telling me that I will enjoy that bite of food better if I do (laugh if you want, but smell is linked to the enjoyment of food). My mom tells me I have done this since I was a baby.

3) I have lived on both the west coast and east coast. I never thought I’d live in the Midwest but now I live here and love it. (I think I will post a blog about this soon.)

4) I used to hate classical music but, thanks to my husband, now I enjoy it.

5) I’m a licensed California attorney but I’ve never practiced; I work from home writing a weekly public policy/current events newsletter. I doubt I will ever practice law but someday would like to start my own business and think my legal training will come in handy. Hopefully by that time I’ll still remember a few things from law school. Ha!

6) As a new driver, I totaled two cars in the period of one month (the air bag went off in my face both times).

7) I cannot whistle to save my life. I think it’s somehow a genetic defect.

8) Someday I want to go to South Africa, and pretty much everywhere else in the world.

Okay, I tag Sara, Rachelle, Karen, Christian, Lindsay, Megan, Shannon, Missi and anyone else who wants to do it. Give us some random things about yourselves. :)

The strangest book I've ever read.

We read The Time Traveler’s Wife for book club this month. Wow. I give the author an A+ for innovation. The plot was hard to follow at first because the dates kept changing. It was written from the perspectives of two different characters—the time traveler and the girl/woman who eventually becomes his wife.

One of the things we talked about at the club was the believability of the book. The plot is obviously far-fetched. But because the author was so gifted in enabling us to sympathize with the characters, there was an aura of realism to it.

Although the book was strange, it definitely held my interest. The love between the two characters was powerfully portrayed. Because of the plot, this book could have been so hokey. But it wasn’t. It had many beautiful and moving aspects to it.

Another interesting thing about the book is the theme of “chaos vs. determinism” which is integrated throughout the story.

One caveat: There are several crass and explicit sexual scenes in this book. For this reason alone, I would have a hard time recommending it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Yes, I Can Be a Norman Rockwell Mama

After five years of marriage, and two kids, I figure it’s time for me to know how to successfully roast a juicy turkey.

After some reading, and some inspiration from Alton Brown, I decided to take the turkey challenge. He has several “secrets” but the most important one is soaking the bird in brine for six hours. Let me just say that the brine worked like a charm. The meat was very tender, juicy and flavorful. In addition to the brine trick, I invested in a professional meat thermometer so I wouldn’t overcook the meat. And I made a foil tent to shield the breast meat, while allowing the dark meat to cook sufficiently.

The most interesting thing I learned is that basting does absolutely nothing to ensure a juicy turkey. If anything, it helps to dry out the turkey because you are constantly opening and shutting the oven door.

I would highly recommend Alton’s recipe, which you can find here.

Life is too short to eat dry turkey!

Monday, November 05, 2007

The last time.

Kevin has registered for classes for the last time. This is a hallmark for us. It comes on the tails of the most stressful week so far. It was a week where we both questioned whether or not this going-back-to-school-with-a-family thing is worth it. I know that ultimately, as long as Kevin doesn’t die of stress, we’ll be glad he did this. It will be worth it in the end. But the sacrifices have taken their toll. And I won’t say it’s been easy.

Every time I think of Kevin never having to register for classes again, I smile. This is the first of the lasts. It is something that gives us renewed energy.

This would be a good time to also mention God’s faithfulness and goodness. We received a series of four letters from the school over the summer, each letter containing a new item of good news. Most of it was good financial news, whether news of a scholarship or our in-state tuition appeal being granted. These were reminders of God’s promises to provide and take care of us.

God has blessed the decision to go back to school. But, did I mention it’s been hard?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Save Time and Money

Some day I will know I have “arrived” when I feel like I don’t have to shop at WalMart for groceries. The reason I frequently shop at WalMart for groceries is because it significantly cuts our grocery bill. Generally I don’t buy produce there because the quality is not as good but I have noticed that the produce selection at my local WalMart is getting better. They are starting to sell fresh herbs that appear to be in surprisingly good condition.

The only place here in Indianapolis that sells groceries cheaper than WalMart is a place called Aldi’s.

Here are the reasons why I refuse to shop at Aldi’s:

1) It’s inconveniently located;

2) It would be yet another stop to make with the kids because they don’t sell everything I need, and I don’t have time or energy to do that;

3) The produce is even worse than at WalMart;

4) Generally speaking, I don’t like how their special brands taste; and

5) It’s dirty and always crowded, even more so than WalMart (and, what if you don’t happen to have a quarter in your wallet to get the cart out of the machine?).

Well, now I have a win-win situation because I’m getting Aldi’s prices at WalMart.

A while ago Aunt Kathy told me that WalMart will accept competitor prices. I filed that little piece of knowledge deep in the recesses of my brain and forgot about it until recently. The last two trips to WalMart I have brought along Aldi’s ads, as well as Kroger ads. Then I saved back the on-sale-at-those-stores items until the end and asked the cashier to reduce the prices, which she did with no questions asked.

This easy step saved me making two additional trips to Kroger and Aldi’s and, on my last trip, resulted in a savings of about $15.

Also, the brands don’t have to be the same for WalMart to give you the same price as long as you get the WalMart generic brand (Great Value or Sam’s Choice).

I’m blogging about this because I thought this tip could be useful to some of you busy moms out there trying to live on a budget! If you’re like me, unbuckling and re-buckling kids from car seats to chase down a deal is not your favorite hobby.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Oneness and Halloween

Today I went to a friend’s house for a play date. As the kids happily scattered toys around her living room, I mentioned to her that last night Kevin and I had our yearly discussion about Halloween, because I needed to be reminded again why we don’t celebrate it. This is something we disagree about. Kevin doesn’t believe we should participate as a matter of conscience.

Well, how did God know I needed to go to this particular play date today with this particular friend on November 1st?

My friend, in relating her own experiences, graciously told me exactly what I needed to hear: “Oneness in marriage means taking the other person’s side.” She said that, rather than saying “my husband/wife thinks this,” she and her husband try to say, “our family does this.”

Really, the distinction is important because it shows your heart. It shows whether it’s “me vs. him” or whether we’re a team, committed to ultimately being on the same page despite personal differences.

It’s really not hard to forgo Halloween when your friends are skipping it too. It’s a lot harder when, as is my case right now, most of my friends do celebrate it.

So, what am I going to say next time someone looks at me and asks, “What? You don’t celebrate Halloween? Why is that?”

Well, I’m not exactly sure yet. I have nearly a year to think about it. But I am definitely going to change my response from a “him vs. me” tone. I need to look for ways to better advocate the position of the person I love. That would be the respectful and loving thing.

That would be the thing that promotes oneness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On Good Mommies

I recently read something on the difference between “frustration tantrums” and “temper tantrums.” Meredith has a lot of frustration tantrums. These usually occur when she is trying to get herself dressed a certain way and her body is not coordinated enough to cooperate.

The other day Meredith was trying to pull a pair of tights over her pants and it wasn’t working, so she started having a fit. Then I offered to help her. Usually she is resistant to my help because she wants to do it “all by myself” but this time she let me. As I was pulling on her tights, she started patting my back and said, “You know what? You’re a good mommy.”

I don’t know if I am or not. But this is something that’s sure nice to hear from your two-year-old. And like Kevin said: even if I’m not a good mommy in other people’s book, who cares as long as my kids think so.

Monday, October 29, 2007

One of my favorite things.

One of my favorite things is the Safety 1st Bike Trailer.

My parents got this for us exactly two years ago. We have used it for countless family bike rides. We took a short break when I was in my third trimester with Clara and then shortly after she was born. But I’m happy to announce that now we’re back to family bike rides on weather-permitting Sunday afternoons! It's so much fun!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The longest line ever ...

I am now number 260 in line on the wait-list at my local library for the Deceptively Delicious book, thanks to Oprah featuring it on her show.

Last night I went to coffee with several of my friends from MOPS and Leah mentioned that she’s read the book and it’s easy—all you do is add pureed vegetables to everything from cupcakes to meatloaf.

Maybe next July when it's my turn to read the book I'll find out more ...

French Onion

In celebration of cold, autumn weather, we had one of our favorite soups last night. I used to order French Onion Soup in restaurants a lot until I realized how easy it is to make at home. And then I found this recipe, which is the best French Onion Soup I’ve ever had anywhere. It’s super easy to make and has a tantalizing, buttery taste. Adding the sherry is a must.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Spices of Life

One of the main reasons I went to Trader Joe’s today was to get vanilla bean for a crème brulee that I’m going to make on Saturday.

I was disappointed to learn that they decided to discontinue vanilla bean at my TJs store. This meant that I would either have to forgo the vanilla bean and use extract instead—which just isn’t nearly as good—or I would have to make yet another stop with tired and soon-to-be hungry children.

It turned out that the absent vanilla bean was a lucky twist of fate.

The TJs employee routed me to a specialty store called Penzeys where you can “see and smell more than 250 spices, seasonings, and herbs.”

Several weeks ago I saw a Good Eats episode where Alton Brown visited a spices and herbs store in Chicago. It was fascinating to learn about this type of business. I wondered if there might be one closer to Indy but never followed up with it.

Let me just say that I cannot wait to go back to Penzeys when I have the time to explore, learn, and experience more of it. It’s not exactly the type of place you want to hang-out at with a two-year-old.

The whole idea of a store dedicated solely to spices and herbs is very intriguing to me. I enjoy using fresh herbs when I can and I love a variety of spice flavors, but I realize there is so much more to learn about how to pack maximum, pleasurable flavor into food.

My mouth is watering just thinking about the possibilities.

Penzeys, I will return!

[Oh, yes, and I ended up buying a Madagascar vanilla bean, which is different than a Mexican vanilla bean, according to the lady at Penzeys.]

Trader Joes with Kids

I’ve been a Trader Joe’s fan most of my life but until today I had never gone with kids in tow. It’s hard enough going to one store with kids and, since TJs won’t meet all my shopping needs (it’s always for wine, specialty, or fun stuff, when I go), I rarely drag kids there.

Well, now I’m going to have to take Meredith back. She loved it. Shopping at TJs with kids was a fabulous experience. Here are a few reasons why:

1) They have cute shopping carts just her size for children to push around.

2) They have a stuffed monkey they hide in the store (a new location every day) for kids to find. When they find it, the kids get a “treat” from the cashier.

3) The treats are kid-friendly but also healthy. Meredith selected nuts and dried cranberries trail mix.

4) Meredith also got a helium balloon to tie around her wrist and take with her.

This was definitely the best-grocery-shopping-with-kids trip I’ve ever experienced.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Don't Hate Me

Please don’t be overwhelmed, don’t let me do that to you, but Christmas is less than nine weeks away.

I hate it when Christmas takes over the beauty of fall celebration. The Christmas season really shouldn’t start until after Thanksgiving, truly. But, on the flip side, the Christmas season is much less enjoyable if you’re not prepared for it. As a kid, I took it for granted that the tree just magically appeared and all the Christmas cards wrote themselves. It’s only been since I’ve been married that I’ve realized how much work Christmas can be.

So, I try to find that balance between planning for Christmas early but not allowing it to be a focus too soon.

This year I have really good intentions. I bought a special notebook and printed out a cover page that says “The Koons Family’s Holiday Notebook.” I plan to use it to stay organized this Christmas. I will also use it to keep all our holiday tradition ideas, recipes, and other fun stuff in one place. Now that I have kids, I think it’s important to make the most of every holiday.

Of course, this is something I’ve tried to do all my life. But now it makes sense to be more “intentional” about it.

Last year I attended several talks about making holidays memorable and ideas for creative family traditions. It will be interesting to see which ones we end up incorporating, and which ones stick. Every family celebration is unique.

Have you guys ever checked out the “Christmas Countdown” on They have a six week countdown planner that starts this week. Check it out!

Kid Update

Clara has become infatuated with her own voice. She will “talk” for five minutes straight and Kevin and I have concluded that it’s because she just enjoys hearing herself. I am imagining my life two years from now … two very talkative, giddy girls. Nice! At least I’ll never be bored.

Clara also smiles ALL the time. I don’t remember Meredith smiling half as much. It’s the most encouraging thing in the world; totally lifts my spirits.

And here are some excerpts from Meredith’s journal (I try to keep journals for both my kids, cute things they say and do, and how God is working in their lives. It’s to keep me from feeling guilty that I don’t scrapbook very often!):

Meredith has now learned to help with laundry by sorting the “lights” and the “darks” into different piles. She’s at about an 80% accuracy level.

Meredith is known to float around the house and say things like: “It’s so beautiful! It’s a wonderful dream come true!”

The other day I wiped peanut butter off Meredith’s chin with a washcloth. She was upset because she wanted to do it herself. After screaming for a few seconds, she took a little piece of peanut butter sandwich left on her plate and smudged it all over her chin to “undo” what I had just done. Do I have a strong-willed child, or what? I need prayer.

When I told her I needed to change her diaper, she said, “No, you already changed it yesterday.” (This is also her line when I want to brush her teeth.)

Meredith often mimics Clara and says: “Clara not say any words. She just say ‘aaaaaaaahhhck.’”

When I told her she could pretend to nurse her own dolly, while I fed Clara, she looked at me quizzically and said, “No, mine are too little.”

When I gave Meredith Gatorade she said, “That sounds like alligator. Alligatorade. Heh, heh!”

“We eat spaghetti with Hannah” is what Meredith told me last night when I served her spaghetti. I was incredulous because yes, indeed, three months ago Hannah’s family brought us spaghetti dinner after Clara was born. Then Meredith added, “We eat chocolate too.” Yes!! We also had chocolate cake that night, three months ago. Her memory and retention scares me sometimes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Family" Vacation

The decision for Kevin to go back to school has taken its toll. Our family really needed to get away for a few days. Although Kevin had a paper to write over his fall break, we decided to take a mini-vacation anyway. All the state park lodges were booked so we decided to stay at the Embassy Suites on the NE side of Cincinnati, take our time getting up (you can’t really “sleep in” with kids), eat their amazing breakfasts (the best omelets and pecan pancakes ever), splash around in the heated pool, and do whatever else suited our fancy.

We ended up going to a really cool park with a lake and getting a paddle boat. We also took Meredith to see her first movie in the theater (Ratatouille), which she loved. On the way back home we took the scenic route, following the Ohio River to Madison, Indiana. This trip was the best thing we could have done. It was so much fun.

It really was our first “family” vacation because the last time we took a trip, up the Oregon coast and through Seattle, Meredith was only 10 months old and could care less what we did. This was the first vacation where we tried to do kid-friendly things and got our child’s input on what we did next. (And, yes, she did have definite opinions.) I told Kevin that I really feel all “grown up” now being the MOM on a family vacation. It was such a different feeling.

On the way to the hotel we told Meredith that she was going to sleep in a “special bed” that folds out of a couch. She thought that was the greatest thing ever. As soon as we got there, all she wanted to do was promptly go to sleep in “my bed.” She never gave us trouble about going to sleep because, after all, her bed was “cool.”

Embassy Suites are great for young families because the suites allow you to put your kids to bed early and then the parents can shut the door and play games, watch a movie, etc. without worrying about waking the kids up. Meredith also loved the pond in the lobby with the fish and turtles. I think this indoor pond/ stream thing is fairly common at ES.

Recently I read in Parenting Magazine that 60 percent of adults think vacations with their kids are “more fun” than adults-only vacations. This statistic really surprised me because you obviously have to skip out on things when kids are in tow. But, after going on this little trip and seeing Meredith so thoroughly enjoying everything we did, I have to agree. It’s so much fun to see your child enjoy herself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I have a crazy, loveable sister.

Betsy called me late last night and said, “Hey, I’m in Chicago and I have to fly out tomorrow at 11 a.m. Can I come and visit you guys tomorrow morning?” My sister is a pilot who flies private jets around the country and sometimes internationally. She hadn’t seen Clara yet and wanted to visit both girls.

Chicago is three hours (and one time zone) away.

She arrived at 5:45 a.m., with Steve her boyfriend (he’s a pilot too and often flies with her). We greeted them with sleepy eyes and bed head. Fortunately they were bearing Starbucks coffee with them. We woke Clara up at 6:00 and Meredith at 6:30. Clara was her cute self and gave her aunt several smiles. Meredith sang some songs and read a few stories with Betsy.

They left for Chicago O’Hare at 7:30 a.m.

My sister is crazy and I love her. I love people who do spontaneous and impractical things just for the sake of good times. That just about sums up Betsy.

Sick baby, sick toddler, sick mommy.


If you’ve noticed my absence on Blogger, it’s because last week I was super busy and this week we’ve all been sick.

This was my first time to have two sick kids and be sick myself. Meredith had a nasty head cold which she generously passed on to her mother and baby sister. Then Meredith got the flu. We changed her bed sheets five times in one night. The second time she got sick, I got smart and put a plastic bag over her pillow before putting her pillow case on top!! Fortunately no one else got the flu. I think God knew I was at the limits of what I could handle.

But I have to say … caring for kids while you are sick yourself is the pits. Mommies don’t get any “sick time” off to sleep and drink chamomile tea when they’re under the weather.

Kevin’s wonderful mother brought us chicken pot pie last night for dinner. Let me just say that, when you’re sick, there’s nothing better than having yummy, homemade chicken pot pie delivered to your doorstep. Mmmm. Good, healthy comfort food!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Company Picnic

Bounce Fun

At the pinata with daddy.

She was so happy to get ONE piece, she got up and left the group to show me!

Kevin plays "Egg Toss"

Yep, caught it!

Clara at her first Company Picnic

Clara loves her toys!! I often catch her smiling at this bug.

I think we've got another blue-eyed girl on our hands.