to kindergarten they go

Today, Etta and Claire headed off to kindergarten, two tiny girls with giant backpacks. This year, they will be in different classrooms, but they will be right across the hall from each other, and will have recess and lunch together.

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There’s another set of twins in kindergarten this year, two boys, whose blond hair seems to have a counterpoint in each of our girls. They are both in Claire’s class. Their mom, and many others, asked me if I chose to keep the girls together or apart. The truth is, we saw a lot of benefits in both options and decided to let the school handle it. They’ve done great together at Montessori, and all of their teachers there remarked on how they are neither clingy or dependent on each other, nor antagonistic and fighting– they just kind of coexisted like any other two kids in the same class. They are also very different little humans, though, and I think being on their own could give them each a chance to shine and grow in a way they can’t together, and I’m excited to see how this will go. We’ve been reading a great little book called Twindergarten about a set of twins who are in different kindergarten classes, right across the hall from each other, but who are together for recess and lunch, and it’s really helped them prepare for this change.

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I realized at Back To School Night that I’m mostly just excited for them as they embark on this big journey. Their teachers had big sheets of paper on the wall where we answered questions like what we are most proud of about our children, what they are curious about, what they like to read about, etc. To me, the most interesting question was what our hopes and dreams are for our children in their kindergarten year.

I want this to be the year they fall in love with learning and school. I want them to be, like I was, excited to learn and to be with friends. I am excited to watch them learn to read and have the world of books unfold for them, a world that has always been my happiest and safest place. But most of all, I hope they continue to grow and stretch their kind and loving hearts. “Brave” and “kind” are much higher on my list of desirable traits than “smart” or “successful.”

I mostly don’t feel sadness that my “babies are growing up.” I am so thrilled to see them becoming who they are. I am so excited for the adventures that await them. I woke up before my alarm, just buzzing with excitement. I can’t wait to pick them up (about to head out on our bikes to get them!) and hear how their day went!

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Summery Pasta Salad with Bush’s Best Chickpeas

This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best Beans in conjunction with The Women Bloggers. I am proud to partner with them in sharing this post because Bush’s is a brand that I love and use to feed my family and friends. As always, all content and opinions are mine. Check out #MyBestWithBushBeans for more great bean recipes.
Summery Pasta Salad with Bush's Best Chickpeas | erniebufflo.com
One of my favorite things to throw together for a last minute gathering or picnic is a pasta salad. I almost always have dried pasta and canned beans in my pantry, and I add whatever veggies, meats, cheeses, and herbs I have on hand. The result is almost always delicious and colorful, and when friends and family try it, they always ask for the recipe. That’s when I’m forced to admit I never really had one, I just threw a bunch of stuff together that I thought would work.

Summery Pasta Salad with Bush's Best Chickpeas | erniebufflo.com

Canned beans are a staple of my pantry, and come in handy for throwing together summer salads and meatless meals.

That’s how this Summery Pasta Salad with Bush’s Best Chickpeas got its start. We decided to take a last-minute day-trip to the mountains with my family and my sister and her husband, and I needed to pack up a quick lunch. Peeking in my fridge, I found cherry tomatoes, a couple odd ears of corn, and some cubed pancetta. I knew these ingredients would work great in a pasta salad with the Bush’s Best Beans I bought at Walmart, and a delicious salad was born. We all practically licked the bowl clean. That’s when I knew this thrown-together summer salad was a keeper, and I decided to recreate it and share the recipe here.

Summery Pasta Salad with Bush's Best Chickpeas | erniebufflo.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pasta such as bowtie, rotini, or penne
  • 4 oz. cubed pancetta (you can sub chopped thick-cut bacon here if you can’t find pancetta)
  • 2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut from cob (canned corn would also work, and is a great pantry staple)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (or spice blend of your choice, lemon pepper would also be great here)
  • 1 can Bush’s Best Chickpeas, rinsed and drained (If chickpeas aren’t your jam, Bush’s Best Cannellini Beans would also be a great choice here.)
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. ciliegine mozzarella (These are little balls of fresh mozzarella the size of grape tomatoes, usually in a tub of brine. You could also use 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut into bite-sized pieces.)
  • Handful fresh basil, sliced thinly
  • Zest and juice of one large or two small lemons
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil (or salad oil of your choice, like avocado or grapeseed)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, and don’t forget to generously salt your pasta cooking water.
  2. In a skillet over medium high heat, cook your cubed pancetta (or bacon), stirring occasionally until it starts to render its fat and brown slightly.
  3. Add corn and green onion to skillet with pancetta and season with 1 teaspoon Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (or spice blend of your choice). Cook, stirring occasionally until the corn and onions start to brown.
  4. Add Bush’s Best Chickpeas to skillet with pancetta, corn, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally about one minute more.
  5. Remove skillet from heat and set aside to cool.
  6. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Normally, you don’t want to rinse your pasta, but it’s necessary for a pasta salad.
  7. In a large bowl, combine the cooled corn/pancetta/chickpea mix with pasta and all remaining ingredients, and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and your spice mix to taste.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

This dish is not just good for gatherings and picnics, either. I like to make a big batch of pasta salad at the beginning of the week for my kids and I to enjoy for lunch. Pasta salads also pack great, and I sent this salad with my kids to day camp. The dishes returned empty!

Great for kids and grownups alike-2

Got any great summer pasta salads that you frequently throw together with pantry staples? Please share them in the comments!

And in the spirit of sharing, here are a few of our other tried-and-true, favorite recipes that make great use of Bush’s Best Beans:

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dealing with a summer skin freakout

In my mind, summer is a season of barely any makeup and glowing skin. Instead, lately my face has kind of been freaking out. It’s not an all-out breakout, but my face is more congested than I-70 traffic. My forehead and chin are covered with little bumps thanks to clogged pores. It makes sense: sunscreen, sweat, still using my heavy cooler-weather moisturizers… my face is not handling it well.

Luckily, I know how to take care of this issue. Counter-intuitively, the first step is OIL. Specifically oil-cleansing. I know. When your pores are plugged up, you’re probably thinking oil is just going to make the issue worse, but “like dissolves like.” When your pores are clogged up with oils, sunscreens, and makeups, oil can dissolve it. I like to use either Trader Joe’s Facial Cleansing Oil or Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil. Put a pump or two into your hands and massage into your dry face for a good minute. Really go in on the bumpy areas, massaging in circles. Don’t be weirded out, but you might feel actually gritty stuff coming out of your pores. That’s normal! Great, even! Then remove oil with a wet washcloth (I use flannel baby wipes) and wash with your usual non-foaming face wash. Definitely try an oil cleanser. Recently, I was staying with a friend and convinced her to give it a try. I ended up leaving her my bottle of Trader Joe’s oil cleanser.

Next step: clay mask. I like the Captain Blankenship Petal mask or the L’Oreal Detox and Brighten Clay Mask. Tip: apply your clay mask with a foundation brush. Leave the mask on until it feels dry and like your nose might crack off. Remove with a wet washcloth.

dealing with a summer skin freakout | erniebufflo.com

Then: ACID. I’m a fan of the Pixi Glow Peel Pads, but I would absolutely not recommend 20% glycolic acid for acid beginners. I’m also a big fan of The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid. Start with the 5%, or if you’re used to using acid exfoliants, go for the 10%. Apply all over your face. If you use the peel pads, rinse after a few minutes. If you use the weaker acids, you can just wait a bit (I go with 15 minutes to whenever I finish whatever show I’m watching and remember to do the next step) and then move on to moisturizing.

Speaking of: I’m back on my old standby while my skin adjusts to summer life: Clinique Moisture Surge. I love the cooling gel texture and the way it makes my skin feel plumped in a baby-cheek sort of way. It feels extra soothing on skin that’s seen a little to much sun, too, and it doesn’t clog my pores. I’ve been using the stuff for over a decade now, and am still super loyal.

After one night of this, my skin texture was already drastically smoothed out. You want to do this routine once, maybe twice a week. Otherwise, I’m sticking to my usual routine and keeping up with my retinoid (Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum) and 10% Lactic Acid every other night.

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we finished updating our ski condo, and it looks amazing!

Yesterday morning, we officially finished updating our Keystone ski condo rental just in time for a professional photo shoot. Thanks to a super-speedy photographer (who, it turned out, had spent several years living in my hometown in Arkansas– small world!), the photos are here and ready to show off. As I mentioned in the “before” post, the overall aesthetic of the condo when we got it was “aggressively brown” with a side of “lodge cliche.” I think we’ve achieved a modern mountain aesthetic that feels both stylish and peaceful, and we’ve managed to add more sleeping accommodations. If you’d like to book a stay in our condo, please check out our VRBO listing.

Our building, Expedition Station, right in the heart of River Run Village.

 

I’m calling the wire animal heads my “vegan taxidermy.” All of the living room furniture is new. Log coffee table from Zulily (brand privilege), two log side tables from Target, pillows from Target, all other furniture from American Furniture Warehouse, and “vegan taxidermy” from Hobby Lobby.

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My kid has spina bifida. The AHCA is a nightmare bill for kids like her, and pro-lifers should be calling their Senators in droves.

I decided, in light of the AHCA, to research the average cost of health care for people with spina bifida. They call them “million dollar babies” for a reason. The first year, according to an article I found on PubMed, is $41,000. Every year after that is around $14,000. (The first year is the most expensive, usually, because of neurosurgery and NICU stays. I’d bet we racked up more than $41,000 in our first month of life.)
In Arkansas, we had private insurance, as well as Medicaid TEFRA, for which we paid an income-based premium and which we qualified for on the basis of Claire’s disability. It covered 100% of what our insurance didn’t. And there’s a lot that insurance doesn’t cover, but that is necessary to help kids with SB be as independent as possible, like therapies and developmental preschool. In Colorado, a supposedly more progressive state, we still have private insurance, but no Medicaid. We end up paying more out of pocket for our daughter’s care, even though we are privileged to have excellent insurance because my husband works for the university hospital.
I remember when I testified before a committee about Arkansas’ proposed 20 week abortion ban. I talked about how 20 weeks is right around the time that people usually get a fetal diagnosis that changes their very wanted pregnancy into a nightmare. One thing that people are wondering when they get that diagnosis is, can we afford to provide this child with the care she will need for the rest of her life? Will this bankrupt us? It’s a very real consideration. And I have read that 60% of people who receive a fetal diagnosis of spina bifida choose termination.
I’m pro-choice. I support safe, legal abortion care for any reason. However, I also truly believe that there are ways we can help people keep these WANTED pregnancies instead of terminating. And one of those ways is helping them afford the care their disabled kids will need for their entire lives.
The AHCA comes from the supposedly pro-life party. And yet this is a deadly bill for people with disabilities, many of whom depend on Medicaid for their life-sustaining care. This bill will make the answer to “Can we provide this child with the care she will need?” a “no.” I am confident it won’t help, and will in fact increase, that 60% termination statistic.
It also creates new worries for us as parents of a kid with spina bifida. Will she stand to have her coverage capped at some point? Will our insurer say, welp, you’re at the limit, we won’t pay any more for you, and kick her off? Will she be able to get a new policy with her pre-existing disability? Will she be able to work as an adult, or will she have to stay unemployed, lest she get too “rich” for her meager benefits? Will my husband have to stay in his job forever to ensure we keep the insurance we have now, because she might not be covered if we have to switch providers?
If you haven’t already called your senators about the AHCA, please do so. It’s a needless “screw you” to Obama that will cause pretty much everyone to pay more for less coverage, and will literally lead to people dying and pregnancies being terminated. Repealing the ACA and replacing it with this cruel bill helps no one but rich folks who will be getting a tax cut. Please call your Senators and oppose this bill. Today.

I have a new job!

Two months, no blogs– what gives?? Well, here’s the story…

We recently received an unexpected inheritance from Jon’s grandfather, George, who died about a decade ago. George had wisely invested in Denver real estate way back when, and fortuitously, by waiting this long to sell his property, his three kids made a bunch of money, which they generously decided to share with all the grandkids, too. We wanted to honor this gift by investing it wisely, and, convinced by a very business-minded friend who owns two condos in Keystone, we decided to invest in a ski condo which we could manage as a vacation rental and also use ourselves.

Why Keystone? It’s close to Denver, we’ve enjoyed visiting there, and it is a little less pricey than some other ski areas, real-estate wise. I will say it felt surreal to be looking at ski condos that cost more than our actual home in Denver, but we felt pretty confident, thanks to our friend’s experience, that were making a good choice.

This is where I’ve been lately: shopping for, buying, and planning a renovation of our new ski condo. Since I’m a stay-at-home parent, it makes sense for me to be the primary manager of our vacation rental, so I’ve been researching and reading and pinning and shopping and generally obsessing with this condo. Part of the big plan is we want our place to look FANTASTIC in online listing photos, so I have been channeling my inner Joanna Gaines, and reminding Jon that he’s my Chip. I HAVE A VISION, OK?

My goal is to make our condo a stylish, rustic/industrial (no cliche lodge furniture or generic decor for us!), family-friendly destination. Because I know what it’s like to travel with little kids, I especially want to make it the number one unit people want to rent when bringing kids to Keystone. We will have pack and plays, high chairs, night lights, baby monitors, bouncy seats, toys, books, and more to prevent families from having to schlep so much gear. Also, our condo has a private pool not shared with any other buildings, and our unit is on the quiet slope-side of the building with no neighbors above. We also chose a unit close to the playground and skating rink/putt putt course, with the Kidtopia headquarters in the same building. Kidtopia puts on cool kids events and activities– on a recent visit, our girls participated in a strider bike race, and Claire got second place! Our unit has slope views, and you can walk to the lifts.

I figured I would share our “before” photos this week, and next week will be the big reveal of our renovated unit. If you want to go ahead and make a reservation, you can check out our VRBO listing and sign on up!

I am not sure which is more baffling here, the permanent Christmas decor, or the chicken-themed art in a ski condo.

I would describe the “before” aesthetic as “aggressively brown.”

Having both a queen murphy bed and a queen sleeper sofa, plus a third bathroom, means this 2 bedroom condo can sleep a TON of people.

BEARS! DEER! CHEVRON?

Fun fact: tons of Keystone condos have this exact bedding. And wall art. I think it came with the place when it was built in the 90s. Which means tons of folks are happily paying the big bucks to sleep under 20 year old bear comforters. Ew.

Am I the only person who irrationally hates tchochkies on top of cabinets? They just get sad, dusty, and gross.

We are ditching the twin beds for a queen with a lofted twin above it. I’m also turning the skylight nook into a cute play space.

That balcony view, though.

sometimes maybe you should go to bed mad

I love this guy with all my heart, and sometimes we go to bed mad.

I don’t give a lot of marriage advice. I mean, every couple is different, and you have to find your own groove. The most I’ll usually say is “Marry someone you truly enjoy spending time with” and “Be most excellent to each other, and party on dudes.” But, I’ve been married going on 11 years now, and there’s one piece of ubiquitous advice that has always rubbed me the wrong way: “Never go to bed mad.”

This is really dumb advice.

We tell people all the time to “sleep on it” when they’re facing a big decision, and it’s because we know that sometimes you just need to let your brain work on something while you stop thinking about it, and maybe things will seem clearer in the morning. We know that big decisions take time and marination. But we tell people in a relationship that they have to solve all their differences and arguments before the sun sets on them?

Sometimes the thing you’re fighting about is just stupid, and you’re so far in that you forgot that fact, but you’ll realize it when you wake up in the morning and it no longer seems to matter as much.

Sometimes, particularly if you have small children, you’re not really so much in a fight as you are sleep-deprived and irrational, and after some sleep you’ll realize that the whole thing wasn’t even a disagreement.

Sometimes one of you is a hot-head and needs some cooling off time.

Sometimes one of you is an internal processor, and you’ll be able to work stuff out and communicate your side more clearly after you’ve had some time to work it out in your own head for a while.

Sometimes everyone will be able to be calmer and more receptive if you continue the discussion over a cup of coffee the next day.

Sometimes, going to bed mad may even mean one of you storms off to bed and the other conks out watching TV on the couch, and you both wake up missing each other and in a more loving frame of mind the next day.

Sometimes, without the pressure of WE HAVE TO SOLVE THIS RIGHT NOW BECAUSE WE CAN’T GO TO BED BEFORE WE RESOLVE IT, you can actually have the space to come up with a better, more amicable resolution.

Sometimes you really should just go to bed mad. Because in the morning, you’ll find you just aren’t mad anymore.

So, there’s my new piece of relationship advice. Screw “never go to bed mad.” Sometimes you should just sleep on it.