All posts by sara

Hurricanes displace people, and animals too!

When Ethan headed to St. Croix to help, Taj and I told him we were ready to have a dog in our family and we wanted a Crucian dog. We told him that any dog he wanted to bring home to us would be perfect. Yesterday, he met and bonded with Coco, a 6 month old female #Dachshund who was rescued from an abusive home on #StCroix and waiting for the perfect forever home, ours! Taj and I can’t wait for their arrival back in Chicago on Tuesday! . . .Want to help a Crucian pup too? Taj and I are starting a ‘Pet Supply Drive’ here in Plainfield to ship down to St. Croix. Items needed: foldable animal crates, collars and leashes, heartworm & flea/tick medication. We adopted Coco through Sunshine Foundation St Croix and we want to help St. Croix Animal Welfare Center get back up and running. Through the tireless work of the volunteers and staff of these organizations, they get dogs off the street, manage spay/neuter programs and help dogs like Coco find their forever home too.

Hurricanes displace people, and animals too! When Ethan headed to St. Croix to help, Taj and I told him we were ready to have a dog in our family and we wanted a Crucian dog. We told him that any dog he wanted to bring home to us would be perfect. Yesterday, he met and bonded with Coco, a 6 month old female #Dachshund who was rescued from an abusive home on #StCroix and waiting for the perfect forever home, ours! Taj and I can’t wait for their arrival back in Chicago on Tuesday! . . . Want to help a Crucian pup too? Taj and I are starting a ‘Pet Supply Drive’ here in Plainfield to ship down to St. Croix. Items needed: foldable animal crates, collars and leashes, heartworm & flea/tick medication. We adopted Coco through Sunshine Foundation St Croix and we want to help St. Croix Animal Welfare Center get back up and running. Through the tireless work of the volunteers and staff of these organizations, they get dogs off the street, manage spay/neuter programs and help dogs like Coco find their forever home too. #VIStrong #dachshundsofinstagram #dachshundpuppy #dachshundsunited #petsuppliesneeded

Photo taken at: Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

And then she made it to Chicago, where we ALL fell in love with her.

Dachshund rescue meets new human

Recycled Crayon Heart Valentines Day Cards and Gift

I learned something about parenthood.

At age 4, Valentines are recommended. By age 5, Valentines are expected.
School sends home a list of all the kids names, just in case you want to make sure everyone gets one and so you can personalize them.

I, being the holidays-dont-mean-candy mom, wanted to do something crafty that the whole family could get involved with. I turned to Pinterest and found these cool heart crayons that you make from old worn crayons. It turned out to be great fun and kept Taj interested the whole time.

 

Sorting the Crayons

peeling and sorting crayons for valentines day hearts

We set up an assembly line. Dad razor bladed a line down the crayon wrappers, Taj unwrapped them and I chopped them.

We sorted by color and kept the brown and really dark ones aside. I highly recommend a meat cleaver for this task and much to Taj’s dismay, I told him this was my job.

 

Making the hearts

crayon hearts for valentines day

Using a silicone heart tray (that you will not be able to use for food post-crayon-heart-making), we made heart filled color themes. I told Taj no more than 2-3 colors per heart which kept them simple enough.

Bake at 200 degrees until they melt (about 30 minutes) and voila. Crayon heart!

 

Card Design

supplies for crayon heart making Valentines

The next step was to pick a card design. I bought foam hearts, but instead we used crafty Valentines Day paper that I found onsale at Meijers.

To adhere the cards, we did a little trial and error. The goal was to have the hearts stick to the card, but still be able to be pulled off and used.

It turns out a glue from the glue gun doesn’t adhere to waxy crayons.

Then we tried to drip candle wax, but that was messy.

Turns out double sided tape is the perfect solution.

Ok, assembly line works well here again.

  1. Taj picks the card per student
  2. I write their name and the Valentine’s Day note
  3. Taj writes “Love, Taj”
  4. Dad sticks on hearts (and keeps Taj moving fast enough to make it to bedtime before midnight)

Fun Things to Write Inside Your Heart Crayon Valentine’s Day Cards

  • Happy Valentines Day for “Crayon” Out Loud
  • Color Your Heart Out
  • You Color My World
  • Have a Colorful Day
  • Wishing You a Colorful Valentine’s Day
  • You Make My Heart Melt

Ta-Da! Recycled Crayon Hearts Valentine’s Day Cards

recycled crayon Valentines Day card and gift

CAPCA winter camping in Wisconsin

We joined a group of 68 individuals for winter camping in Wisconsin this weekend. And it was amazing!

camp vista RPCV trip

The Chicago Area Peace Corps volunteers do two camping trips twice a year to Camp Vista in Campbellsport, WI just near Kettle Morraine State Park. This was the 27th visit they’ve done and we are so lucky to be able to join this group. Finding Peace Corps-esque folks to chill with is amazing and we definitely plan to make this an annual event as long as we live in the Midwest.

We found out about it last year from some Dekalb friends that were also in Samoa and we are so glad that we finally decided to commit and do it. It was a relaxed comfortable weekend full of great conversations, tubing and some outside activities, cooking, getting to know like-minded folk and a great getaway. I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of our Samoan contingency which was strong with 5 volunteers plus our support team of spouses and children.

There were older people, younger childless couples, singles of all ages and families with children a plenty. Taj was the youngest, but only by a few months and he enjoyed the older girls’ company anyway. 🙂

The lodge offered a great commercial kitchen and with Steve bringing his chefs knives, this group really did plow through prep and dishes in no time. If the cooks need help, they simply announce to the fireplace room or the dining area that they need onion choppers or dishwashers and everyone gets up. Never a shortage of help and a great hierarchy of talent and culinary skills. As an skilled kitchen person, I helped and did as I was told, no control freak Sara showing her head during this trip. I really enjoyed the kitchen work, as I usually do.

Dinner was an amazing full Ethiopian spread with at least six dishes and homemade injera.

Ethiopian cuisine in Wisconsin

We voted for the next meal and Peruvian was chosen, which should be great fun and tasty too.

I do see myself helping organize a meal at some point after I spend a bit more time with the group. Maybe  Caribbean medley with mofongo, oxtail, conch salad, pates, rice and beans, etc. Samoan might be tough without an umu and I don’t think everyone wants boiled bananas in coconut cream. Then again, oven-based palusami might just work if I can find young taro leaves.

 

pile of camping shoes

Lots o shoes.

 

Wisconsin snow tubing at Sunburst

Snow tubing at Sunburst.

 

brunch in Beaver Dam

Then to end the weekend, we drove west to Beaver Dam to visit Tim, Stef and Lady Elaine for brunch. A short visit is better than no visit! Love these guys.

2014 – ZDub Year in Review

Greetings of the Season!

I love holiday cards! I love recapping our year, I love making them, I even like the monotonous stuffing and sticking, especially now that Taj can help. I know now everyone does cards, nor do I expect everyone too. But we sure do love getting them back and putting them on our wall. They stay there all year! Our lives are busy and our friends far away and around the world and holiday cards are way of slowing down and checking in on everyone.

Since it is not always practical to send a card to everyone, we decided to post it here. However, if you send us a card, I will send you one (well, until I run out).

Washburn holiday card 2014

Greetings of the Season 2015

We started 2014 on holiday in St. Croix sun kissed and relaxed. We then experienced an 80˚ temperature difference when we arrived home to Illinois. Although a bit under prepared for our first winter in 10 years, we survived the bitter cold, long dark days and gained a new appreciation for the glorious Spring weather that came next and perfect growing weather for the most rewarding garden we could ever imagine.

My father passed away suddenly in February. He is always missed, but ever present, especially now that I am reconnected with all my siblings. The note I got from dad after he passed thanked me for the ‘lookback’ of our year. So, to keep connected to those that knew him, our holiday card list got a lot bigger this year.

We bought our first house together, an older home complete with a RV barn, perfect for Ethan’s workshop and fall barn parties. We moved in while remodeling the kitchen, Taj helping me build cabinets and Ethan hanging them, with a stunning final product. It’s great to live in a central US location where people drive through or can make our house a destination and were rewarded with the company of all those that visited us. We also hope to make Ethan’s birthday pig roast an annual event; hopefully we won’t get rained out of backyard camping in 2015.

We took a few road trips and camping trips to Michigan, Wisconsin and the big trip across to the east coast to Connecticut, North Carolina and Georgia to see all my siblings, cousins, and some old friends too. Ethan and his cousins joined his mom and uncle on a reunion trip back to Hampton, VA and to scatter the ashes of his grandparents.

This year for my 40th birthday, Ethan surprised me with a dream weekend trip to Napa Valley. It was a magical weekend with wineries, great food and visits with friends in Sacramento and San Francisco.

We continue to get involved in our new community and learn to appreciate stateside living after being on islands for 10 years. Taj is an articulate and very social 5 year old, who continues to wow and amaze us daily. Ethan continues to enjoy his work with Diageo as the maintenance scheduler, growing his talents with SAP PM. I am now full-time with Idea Marketing Group and truly enjoy the creative marketing work.

Thank you for being part of our lives and we wish you a wonderful 2015.

Ethan, Sara & Taj

Zoolights at Brookfield Zoo

We took a trip to Chicago to get some Chicago lights. We stopped at Jill and Jay’s and had some wine before we headed out into the cold. It was cold, but not unbareable. Taj and Jay road the train and we waited on line to see Santa (Taj’s only visit of the season). There pics came out horribly, but we did snap one (that was equally as horrible, but free):

Brookfield Zoo santa

We also headed to the Holiday Dose Market at Venue One on Randolph St. the next day. Jill was working with the fantastic maple syrup to the chefs man, Tim Burton of Burton’s Maplewood Farm. And seriously, that maple syrup aged in whiskey barrels was some of the best maple syrup I’ve ever had. Taj asked for multiple samples and Ethan brought a bottle home (not for use on frozen waffles).

Late night dueling boys on iphones

 

Jill and Jay were great Chicago hosts! We had a great time and Taj is already asking when we go back and see Jay.

Crucian boys in Chicago

We found a vintage playground

This year was our first real tree together as a family. We never got a real tree in St. Croix. It just didn’t feel right to pick a tree out of a refrigerated trailer that was shipped from the US and we knew of a dozen stories of them loosing needles immediately, etc. So, this year, our first real winter Christmas, we decided we wanted to cut down a tree. So, we did a little research and found Larson’s Family Farm in Yorkville. Although the trees were a little smaller than what we wanted the experience was exactly what we were looking for.

The best part of our tree cutting trip was the playground of Ethan and my era there. The old-fashioned see saws, springy horses and the push merry-go-round that could definitely decapitate you if used incorrectly. It was great fun to play with Taj on these. Being the little daredevil that he is, I now understand why they don’t have them around at all town parks these days.

 

springy playground horse

Martens Family Thanksgiving in Georgia

What an amazing weekend!

Ethan, Taj and I flew on the two busiest travel days of the year to go to and from Georgia. They must have ramped up for the holidays because it was a very uneventful flight each way. And how nice to fly for a weekend and it only be an hour and half flight each way, definitely not something we could do when we lived on an island.

Cooking together with my mom was perfect. She had everything provisioned and ready so when I arrived, we spent Thursday just getting the meal together for our party of 13. Only thing I wish I had was pictures of how perfect it was. My favorite part was Nonny and Taj coloring the placecards.

We did get a chance to take a couple of perfect family photos (sans Leah and Casey).

My favorite is this one:

Martens family photo 2014

final-edited-family-wo
Friday we did exactly what we were supposed to. Nothing. Well, besides eat leftovers and playing ball in the cul-de-sac, the alternative Black Friday for this family.

On Saturday, the Martens family took a road trip to Bishop ,GA to visit The Martins, great friends Mark and Shannon. Shannon’s family from Michigan were visiting and Ethan hadn’t seen them in years. Taj got to meet new friends his age and explore the outdoors.

Mark and Shannon have built a beautiful farm and its been amazing to watch the transformation over the past few years, each time we visit. It was also great to get our families together and spend some time with my step brothers Michael and Jamie (and Michael’s fiance Tito).

About The Farm:

Classic City Clydesdales currently has 45 Clydesdale horses, a donkey, a herd of Highland Cattle, pigs, rabbits, chickens, Guinea hens, turkeys and I’m sure I’m missing some other animals. The new barn is gorgeous, the grazing fields are magical, the back pond is serene. Did I mention it’s peaceful for the soul to visit this place?

Here are a few pictures from our adventures. Too bad my phone died midway through the day and again, no pic of Shannon and I together. Next time, I promise.

Hayride.
Michael, Tito and Jamie.

 

Driving with Uncle Mark.
Taj driving with Mark.

 

Farm tour.
Looking for fish in the back pond.

 

Highland cattle.
Highland Cattle grazing. There are three new calves.

 

Taj horseback riding
Taj riding Casey. I think Casey is the only non-Clyde at The Farm.

 

Cowboy Taj
Do cowboys ride cows? Taj does!

 

4 wheeling
Taj got to ride a four wheeler (not by himself of course).

 

 

We finished out our weekend with brunch at Nonny’s place. “Lots of bacon,” said Taj. And the two of them got along famously. What a great weekend!

Nonny Taj love.

Birthday party with the Reptile Man

Jacob, our neighbor friend, invited Taj to his 7th birthday. They had Jim Nesci of Cold Blooded Creatures to do a presentation for Jacob’s birthday. At first I thought it was a bit torturous to have an alligator and a boa for a kids party, but Jim did a great job in explaining that most of these animals were abandoned as pets and they now lived good lives. His alligator responded to commands better than most dogs! Pretty cool birthday presentation. Here’s the boys (and Jacob’s mom) with a HUGE snake.