disney princesses are my spirit animal

I have decided something- Disney Princesses are my spirit animal. Don't believe me? Ask the dishes. Alice and I watch at least a few minutes of a princess movie every day. I dance around and sing Disney princess songs all the time. I just can't Let It Go. Alice makes requests in the car and I oblige. I'm currently trying to nail all the words from Tangled and I'm close. Why am I telling you this? Because truth is- I've been sad, like really sad. I pretty much shut down for a month or so and spent all my free time reading on the couch. Which is by no means a bad thing to do- I read like 10 books. And there are way worse things to be addicted to than books. Anyways, when I'm sad I ignore my blog. Actually, I continue to post random stuff and then I feel like a fake so I stop. But I like posting happy things and my mom keeps begging me to keep blogging so this is me staring over- a bit. I'm getting out of the funk with the help of my Prince, the ever supportful and loving Byron, and the Anna to my Elsa- Alice. There's also nothing like a little song and dance number to brighten the spirits. So don't worry about me:) Now, to catch you up on all the Raphael family happenings here are 11 things I/we have been up to.

1. All my reading has made me want to write again. So, I'm writing again. It feels great, makes me happy and enables me to sit it Starbucks for hours at a time on my days off. 
2. Byron started a blog where he talks about all the things he (we) likes to watch. It's pretty much a chronicle of everything we talk about. Nerds.
3. I'm taking ballet. It's the hardest, prettiest hour of my week and I LOVE IT!!! My calves burn for days afterwords and Byron probably thinks I'm nuts for jetéing around the house but it does wonders for my soul.
4. We decorated for Christmas- back in October. My rule- if it snows, it glows. 
5. We have lived in Wisconsin for over a year and it's cold again. Cold and snowing. 
6. I have decided to start working part-time in January and keeping Alice home more. It is going to be a huge change for all of us and I hope it works out. 
7. Funny story- I had to go to municipal court yesterday for a traffic ticket (suspended registration). Due to timing and schedules- I had to take Alice with me. It was a full on all-rise-court-in-session type deal where the Judge said "I expect absolute silence." I was pretty sure Alice and I would get thrown out and held in contempt, but she was awesome! We had to wait 45 minutes while other offenders were dealt with and Alice kept her voice to a whisper and sat quietly the whole time. After my offense was dismissed and justice was served the honorable judge commented on what a well behaved child I had. It was a miracle.
8. Alice gets to stay up late to watch Peter Pan tonight. see #7.
9. Speaking of Disney- we went and it was the best day ever. I'll post some pics here- but the video Byron got is spectacular. We will edit and post as soon as possible.
10. We had a relaxed Thanksgiving. I cooked the sides, smoked a turkey on the grill and made a bourbon pecan pie. We ate in our PJ's and it was awesome. 
11. After multiple viewings, we feel Tangled might be better than Frozen (Who knew, right?).

thursday flowers

Just some pretty flowers on a Thursday. Hope your week is progressing well.

hay days

Downtown Greendale had a celebration of Fall called Hay Days. There were ponies to ride, goats to pet, crafts and food. It was a cold day- more like Winter than Fall, but people were out enjoying the festivities. Alice took a ride on a small fluffy pony and we bought a bag of snow apples

apple picking

We went apple picking at The Elegant Farmer. We left with a pie. The best apple pie ever. Seriously. It's baked in a paper bag and the crust is like a sugar cookie. Also, it was topped with homemade caramel. Pie- awesome. Apple picking- not so much.

Due to the harsh Winter the apples were not so plentiful. As in, there were very few left on the trees. Most were piled in crates for quick distribution. Mild disappointment. NBD. 

I usually picture apple picking as quiet, peaceful work, done on a crisp fall day. Helicopter rides over the orchard at 5 minute intervals were not the best addition to the peaceful farm activities. Alice spent most of the time with her hands over her ears. But, we ate pie! The best pie! And the pictures turned out pretty cute.

Here's hoping this Winter is swift and slight and the apples next fall will be full and plenty.

trick and treat: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a well known cult classic horror film. Funny thing is- it's not that bloody and (SPOILER ALERT) only one person is killed by a chainsaw. What's not so funny- its rather disturbing and quite unsettling. It was filmed over a month in Texas, in Summer, in 100+ degree temperatures. The gross heat and decomposing meat things all make for a vividly horrific tale of the mad and macabre. Scare factor: high, really high. If you are a fan of horror and haven't watched this one in a while- what are you waiting for? 

In the spirit of brutal heat, Texas, and meat we made Texas Chili. I did some research to find out what makes a 'Texas' chili. Beef brisket, chipotle peppers and cumin seemed to be the most used items. I combined a few ideas from several sources and came up with this slow cooker recipe. 

Texas "Chainsaw" Chili
1 onion, minced
1/4 c chili powder
1 can tomato paste
3 tbsp olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 c minute tapioca
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 can chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
approx 2 lb beef brisket, cut in cubes
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 9-11 hours. If the meat doesn't fall apart at 9 hours, cook longer until it does. Skim the fat off the top, add salt and pepper to taste. 

I like my chili topped with ample sour cream and cheese- cuts down on the heat. You can also top with avocado, scallions, onions, tomatoes or even fried onion rings.

*A full can of chipotle peppers made a moderately spicy chili. Use less than a can for less heat. Add some cayenne for more heat. And always run away from people brandishing chainsaws.

harvest festival

Summer may be over, but the festivals continue. Harvest festivals! We attended the Retzer Nature Center's Apple Harvest Festival over the weekend. It was one of the few events we have been to that really catered to little kids. Alice had a blast playing games, making crafts and, of course, eating apples.

The kids activities were in this magical forest. There were even some fairy godmothers!

It was such a beautiful Fall day. I hope this season stays awhile.

It will be Halloween before we know it!

weathered barn

It's been a pretty slow week around here. The sky has been bluer than blue and the air has been quite cool. Fall is here in Wisconsin and Winter is coming. We have been curled up on the couch reading and relaxing most nights and Alice has somewhat dropped her two year old attitude and has been sweeter than sweet. Seasons are changing, outside and in. 

I drive by this weathered barn everyday and I love it! I imagine it has been through many Wisconsin Winters, and has survived. It's my ray of hope, my inspiration for the coming months (or weeks).

I hope your week has been well. I can't believe it's Friday already!

trick and treat: Signs

I love a good M. Night Shyamalan film. The Sixth Sense, The Village and Signs, the man knows how to put a thoughtful spin on horror. I love how he writes kids and parents. The kids are serious and intense while the parents are vulnerable yet understanding. For an alien invasion movie, Signs is actually really thought provoking and pretty creepy. 
Scare factor: I would make sure the lights are on before walking through the house. The first time you see the alien at the kids birthday party- creeps me out every time. 

Treat: crop circle corn on the cob

Rub freshly shucked corn in olive oil and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Grill on high heat until tender and slightly charred.

Sleep tight!

my daughter dresses better than me: frills

I've almost given up on these 'my daughter dresses better than me' posts. It's getting increasingly difficult to pick out Alice's clothes, not to mention getting her to stand still for a picture. She's my willful, do-it-herself gal and I can't say I blame her. I was the same way. So we will just work with what we got. I let her pick what she wants to wear and if I have something similar then we are golden. Bonus points if she is in the mood for pictures.

Extra bonus points if she'll let me fix her hair. For some reason she usually wants three ponytails or one on the side. Anyhew, we are pretty girly girls these days. All frills- lace and ruffles.

Alice was thrilled that her favorite purse matched her dress. Can you believe Hello Kitty is 40 years old this year?!?! And still so stylish!

I've been waiting for the perfect kimono to cross my path. And by perfect, I mean less than $20. I don't like to spend much cash on trendy items that might go out of style by next year. This sweet find was only $10 at T.J. Maxx.

pizzeria piccola

For us, weekday dinner outings need to be cheap, fast and preferably outdoors. We need to savor the last few days of Summer while the weather is warm. Pizzeria Piccola is a great little spot in the village of Tosa. They have brick oven fired pizza and an amazing rustic patio strung with lights. Oh, and a train nearby. Alice loves to wave at trains. She also loves pizza! Who doesn't?!