Saturday, August 30

Summer Is Nearly Over

I just can't even.

Here we are at the last official weekend of summer.  Let me tell you, it's been a fun one.  We've been blessed with some amazing weather and even better company.

Peanut had such a good time this summer with her cousin that is two years older than her (my favorite cousin's little girl......can I say that?  Well, I just did).  Peanut also got to know her other cousin (who is about a year and half older than her) better this summer, as little S got to stay with her Grandma and Grandpa all summer.


(Just for the record, these are both actually second cousins.  In case it seemed confusing--for simplicity sake, I refer to them as cousins.  I also think "second cousins" sounds so distant and formal....and these relationships are anything but!  But I digress.....)

There was lots of giggles, lots of swimming, lots of sunscreen, lots of ice cream sandwiches, and lots and lots of good times.

Our sweet boy has had a great time too, although at just past two years old, I don't know that most of it will make it to his memory arsenal.  Sigh.  But that's what pictures are for, right?   Although he ended up loving the pool, he loved water fights even more--the most?  Could be that he's a little obsessed with cops (otherwise known as our local law enforcement, one of whom lives in our neighborhood and my boy grins from ear to ear when we drive by and the officer is off duty, as evidenced by the police car in the driveway).  Anyhow....he carries his water pistol around the yard in a way that would even make Detective Stabler proud.


So, yeah, he's had lots of fun too. 

My mom and I have talked about it on several occasions, and we think Peanut will definitely remember this summer.  Hopefully it will be up there as one of her fondest memories from her childhood.  Last year, I read BooMama's A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet and she's writes of her sweet  memories spending time with her cousin at her grandma and grandpa's each summer.


Be still my heart......because that is exactly what I want for my children. 

Lots and lots of  wonderful memories of carefree summers spent at Grandma and Grandpa's where she can swim and pick fresh blueberries and eat them right of the bush, swim some more, drive her car, have a tea party, wonder around "helping" Grandpa on his projects, dive for pool toys, and point out animals in the fluffy white clouds above.  Too me, it's just doesn't get any better. 


I hope Peanut will feel the same way.  I think she will, because she has told more times than I can count, "Mommy, I just LOVE summer."

I think it's safe to say that memories are being made!



 

Friday, August 8

I Think We've Turned a Corner

So back at the end of May, I mentioned we were going to attempt potty training the little brother.  And then a week later, I decided to throw in the towel, deciding he wasn't as ready as I thought.

I don't know......I can't read his mind?

Anyhow, fast forward to this past week (Peanut was completely done with swimming lessons, so we could be housebound by choice once again) and we decided to give it another go when we used the last of the diapers.  

A week ago Thursday was good, Friday not so much, Saturday not so much and Sunday was meh.  I mean, I didn't even really try that hard on Sunday because we had Sunday Family Dinner at my parents.  In fact, it was so unremarkable, I actually went to pick up some more diapers while the boy was down for a nap at my parents.

But then Monday morning, he awoke bright and early declaring he had to go potttttty!  And so we were back at it once again while Daddy watched him and kept an eye on him while I ran errands in the mornings (giving me a break, let's be honest!) before he had to go in to work.  Daddy even achieved a #2 victory with him while I was out and about.  Daddy for the win! 

It's so funny too, because like each of our children, the potty training experience has been completely different each time.

With Peanut, she learned early on to tell me when she had to go.  Like every two minutes we were in the bathroom while she relieved herself of the one sip of water she had had ten minutes prior.  And so it went for probably a week (a month?) before she started to figure out she could hold it long enough to relieve herself of the entire sippy cup of water all at once.

With our boy, he instead learned from nearly the beginning that he could hold it.  But then, he didn't quite figure out that he needed to tell me when he needed to go.  So I've been cleaning up lots of messes this week.  Ahem

We've went through a ridiculous amount of gummy bears this week--don't judge.  His goal of course, was no wet underwear--meaning he goes all in the potty and not half on the floor in the living room before telling mommy.  Each time he achieved this, I would hand him a gummy bear and his response would be "Sissy gummy bear?  Mommy gummy bear?" meaning he thought his sister and I should get one as well.  It was kind of like he declared "Drinks Gummy bears are on me!" at our {breakfast} bar.  He is so funny!

So it's been an emotional week of highs and lows to be sure.  And really, potty training shouldn't be this emotionally draining.  {Maybe it is for everyone??!?!}  I said as much to the Hubs and his response was, "This reason it is for you is because you can't control it."

He's so right.  

Because not controlling it is really hard for this self-admitted control freak.






Wednesday, August 6

Preserving Cucumbers

I love me some fresh cucumbers.  It's funny too, because I've really only learned to appreciate cucumbers in my adult life.  I pretty much avoided them like the plague all through my childhood and throughout high school. 

However, I've always loved pickles, so go figure!  I guess a lot of people do that though, so it's probably not entirely strange. 


Anyhow, I don't know if there is anything better than fresh from the garden produce.  It just tastes....better.  I buy cucumbers here and there throughout the year (yes, I realize that's not buying seasonal!) for our green salads and there's nothing like biting into a fresh from the garden cucumber to remind you the ones you've been buying from the grocery store pretty much have little to no flavor. Plus, you appreciate the garden your dad plants for you all the more. 

Even as much as my family (yes, all three of them!) and my parents like fresh cucumbers, you can only eat so many.  And as much as I wish there was a way to preserve the cukes in their natural state, you really can't.  So making refrigerator pickles and sweet relish it is.   

And before all you sweet cucumber haters click away, let me tell you too, my husband CANNOT stand bread and butter pickles OR sweet relish.  And he raves about both of these to whoever will listen. They are both that good. 

Our former favorite landlord blessed me with both of these recipes about a year ago and I can't thank her enough. 


Easy Refrigerator Pickles 

6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (my dad planted English cucumbers and they worked just fine)
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, sliced

Place 3 cups of cucumbers in glass crock/bowl (I used canning jars); top with 1/2 cup of onions and repeat.  Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in small saucepan, stir well.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.  Pour over cukes/onions.  Let cool.  Cover and chill for at least four days to allow flavors to meld (my husband usually can't wait longer than day!).  Pickles may stored in refrigerator for up to two months. 

I've definitely stored some longer, but as always, use your best judgement.  If they smell or look or taste off, time to toss 'em. 

I know this next recipe sounds like a crazy amount of veggies, but you let it sit in a salt solution to extract much of the water out of it, and in the end it made just 7 pints of relish.  More than enough to last until next summer and even some to give away!  

Sweet Relish

Combine in a large pan/dutch oven:

8 cups ground cucumbers
1 cup ground red pepper
2 cups ground green pepper
6 cups finely diced celery
1/2 cup un-iodized table salt (I used sea salt)

Cover with tap water and let stand at least four hours.  After sitting for four hours, drain as much of the liquid out as possible.

In a seperate saucepan combine:

3 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp celery seed
2 tbsp mustard seed

Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar and then add to strained veggies and bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil for ten minutes.  Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  Screw on lids and rings and place in water bath.  Water bath can for 10 minutes.  And remember, that's 10 minutes once it's reached a rolling boil.

Here is a great set of canning instructions if you've never canned before.  

My parents let us borrow their outdoor burner to process the water bath on.  We have a glass top stove top and I've heard that you are not supposed to use those for canning?  Anyhow, this is such a nice alternative because it can be done outside and avoids heating up the house on warm summer days! 






 

Monday, August 4

Summer Update

We have been enjoying our summer to the fullest these last few weeks.  It's been consistently in the mid to high 80's with more than several 90 degree days thrown in.  So that has translated to a lot of trips to Grandma and Grandpa's to take advantage of their open house hospitality and pool.

What a blessing that has been for this no air conditioning family.

 I've said this before, but we really do live in a climate where air conditioning is not really a necessity at all--the average temp in our little neck of the woods between June and September is right around 75 degrees--which is actually quite liveable and comfortable without the luxury of AC.  But after several weeks of high 80's and low 90's, I kinda' wished we would have shelled out the $5,000 for air conditioning several years back.


I said kinda'.

But then almost as soon as I start to get sick of the hot weather, the weather starts to change and we start heading full speed into fall, and while I love all things fall, I sometimes need to remind myself to enjoy the moment and everything it has to offer.

Sweatiness and all.


While everyone was in the pool the other day (I don't really go in terribly much--it has to be Africa hot for me to indulge) I got out my macro lens that I had nearly forgotten about.  Honestly, I hadn't really forgotten about it, it's just not as practical for every day use when taking pictures of on-the-go littles.  At least I haven't found it to be, but perhaps I haven't played around with it enough?  I had the macro lens on my camera taking the photos of the Peanut the other day and I was too lazy distracted to put my every day lens on, so I went with it.


My dad puts in a garden every year {mostly for yours truly} and so I got some pictures of it's progress.  While he has at least a dozen tomato plants going strong, we are no where near to harvest like some of the other bloggers I read about.  It seems like they've been harvesting and putting up tomatoes for weeks while our are just getting started.  Here, our harvest for tomatoes is usually early to late September and then it's a roll of the dice to see how many you can let ripen on the vine before the first frost comes.  Clearly, one of the disadvantages to our nice, comfortable summertime average of 75 degrees!

Our boy has been learning the fine art of water fights as well.  Most days he is still figuring out how to fill up the water gun, but then when he does, he is so darned pleased with himself.  It's serious business for sure. 

The little Peanut has been having so much fun in the pool--and she is rocking the tan as well.   (Sidenote--I stink at taking iPhone pictures-- see below.  While very convenient at times, the smart phone so does NOT replace my DSLR.  Just sayin'.)  We affectionately call her our little Indian.  Not the most politically correct term, I am fully aware.  But in all honesty, my side of the family is quite jealous of her genes from my husband and his swarthy-esk skin.  While he is actually quite fair skinned most of time, when he gets out in the sun?  Full on tan lines in a matter of hours.


Like I said, jealous.  'Cause this pasty white girl doesn't tan very easily.  I have to get my sun in very small increments otherwise I'll be a lobster.  But the nice thing is I can rest assured that both my littles will have very nice school pictures indeed, with both sun kissed skin and hair.

And it doesn't get much better--as those pictures will be evidence of a hot, long, lazy summer. 



 

Friday, July 25

Not Already

I knew this day was coming....but I thought I had a couple more months at least.  I mean, she hasn't even started Kindergarten yet.

That said, I should have known it wasn't very far off.  With a super early September birthday, she will be starting Kindergarten just shy of turning six years old--three days shy to be exact.

But I digress.  The little Peanut's first permanent tooth has popped through.

Note, I didn't say she lost her first tooth.  Because she hasn't.  But that permanent one?  Well, it's certainly right there behind it.  

So like any good mom who dabbles (and I use that term very loosely) in photography, I marched her straight outside to capture that fading glimmer of her baby tooth smile.

Be still my heart.  

I was seriously crying the ugly cry while she played outside quietly during her brother's nap.  It's like hard core evidence shoved in my face that she isn't my little, sweet, Peanut anymore.  I mean, she's still my sweet Peanut--my sweet, fiery Peanut to be sure.  But little?

Not as much any more.



Wednesday, July 23

First HomeTown Parade

I must confess.

While I have lived in my HomeTown for more than 20 years, I have never attended our annual parade. 

I know.  It's a shame isn't it? 

I have however, been to many a parade in my life.  It used to one of the highlights of the year, where my parents dad took me and my sister to the big city parade at the beginning of every summer.  I loved it so very much.

As we were waiting for the parade to start this past weekend, I was talking with my dear, sweet, husband and it turns out he had never even been to a parade prior to Saturday. 

Talk about so un-Amercian!! 

I mean, I just can't even. 

Well, this last Saturday, not only did he get to "attend" a parade, but our family was actually IN the parade.  For both Peanut's preschool and this upcoming Kindergarten year, we have been blessed with the opportunity to be able to send our little Peanut to a small, Christian school.  With it being an independently run school, it comes the requirement for the parents to put in volunteer hours to help with the school's various functions and any maintenance needed throughout the year. 

One of those functions is needing volunteers to represent the school in the Hometown Parade.  How easy is that, right? 


So walk in the parade we did.  Well, I walked.  They rode the "float."  My biggest worry about being able to log on the required hours is that Hubs works such inconsistent hours and with having a little 2 year old at home, it makes figuring out those details a little more difficult.  So when this opportunity was on the list of events where "help" was needed and it involved the whole family, I penciled that our calendar right away! 

Plus, it was such a fun time for the kids--very much a win-win for us! 

 

Thursday, July 10

Another Last

Peanut completed a few swimming classes/levels last summer and this year she has been in swimming lessons since the beginning of June.  Our weather then finally warmed up enough to where we were able to start swimming at my parents just a few days before the Fourth. 

This girl.  My ever cautious girl.  She went in my parents pool for the first time this year wearing her Puddle Jumper, convinced she still needed it. 

Even though she'd been in swimming lessons for a month--in just as deep of water with no life preservation what so ever.  


It was like pulling teeth to have her take it off and I was a little concerned.  See, that is just like me.  I avoid taking risks at all costs--and while I don't want our girl to be foolish, I would like her to go outside her comfort zone.

At least every once in a while.  

Her Daddy finally convinced her to take it off, and well, there has been no looking back.  She's been loving having her arms completely unrestricted.  


Me?  I am so glad she decided to brave the water without it.  But?  It didn't even occur to me that it would be the last time she would ever wear the Puddle Jumper.  Another last has come and gone. 

Sigh. 


But of course life moves on at lightning speed and the Puddle Jumper torch has been passed to the little brother.  Each year he has to get reacquainted with the pool.  And each year, after the first two or three times in, he acclimates once again and then he is ALL about the water. 

He has his own "boy" Puddle Jumper now and he thinks he's pretty hot stuff.  Personally, he reminds me of Anne, with puffed sleeves

I still think he's the cutest little boy, but don't tell him I said that.  

 

Sunday, July 6

Happy Fourth!

Our fourth was fun filled with lots of family, friends, and food. Not necessarily in that order.

Ahem.

For reals--we had some awesome weather, even better food, and the best company. 

I learned several years ago when the Peanut was nearly three that if I wanted a special family picture to document any type of occasion, it's best to get it at the start of the event.  Everybody is rested, clean, hair all combed, etc.  Everyone is also typically in the most solid emotional state they will be in that day.  Not that we've ever had any type of temper tantrum.  No, not me us! My family has never done that.   

Sorry, I couldn't seem to find the sarcasm font.  

That said, we got family pictures first thing when we got to my parents.

It was nice enough to go swimming, and these four girls bonded (L-R: my cousin's little girl; my best friend from high school-her little girl; my other cousin's little girl; and of course, our little Peanut) rather quickly and were busy playing with each other ALL day. 

And I do mean, ALL day.

Our little guy had his own activities, including getting into absolutely everything and keeping all said adults on their toes, blowing bubbles, and even having his very first sucker.  They weren't a kiddin' when they say you are always more lax with the second one.  Peanut?  I think she was pushing three and half before I let her have a sucker.  This little boy?  Not even a week into two and he had more than one this weekend.  I know


There was also baseball with some of the kids and dads.  Peanut has been practicing on choking up on the bat correctly with lots of instruction by those who have come before her.  My friend's little boy was so sweet and patient with Peanut.  He's such a good big brother to his own little sister and it's evident in how he treats our Peanut.  So very sweet!

We also had horseshoes, yummy Sangria, and this dessert made by yours truly.  All not pictured, because either a) blogger fail or b) I was having such a good time, I didn't get pictures.  You decide

We had one small kerfuffle with the Peanut, but she bounced back in no less than two minutes.  Because you know, she might miss something. 

At the end of the day, we had a pretty awesome fireworks show (thanks Grandma and Grandpa!) and it was proven once again that boys will be boys.  Not that we ever doubted that. 

Cough, cough--dad, hubs, my uncle-cough, cough. 

Even our boy thoroughly enjoyed the festivities.  So much so that he has asked for fow woks {fireworks} each night since the 4th.  The noise did startle him a bit, so we got out Peanut's ear muffs for him.  Poor kid.  I'm thinking this a great one for the future graduation/wedding slide show?
 

I even got to play around with the camera and I actually got some pretty good fireworks shots.  Finally, three years and counting and I finally got some worth posting!  Third time's a charm, right?

Last, to close out the evening my dear sweet cousin camped out with the four girls in a tent....and captured this sweet moment of the girls before going to sleep in the tent.  



Blessings abound. 



Monday, June 30

Puppy Party: Our Boy's 2nd Birthday

A puppy party. 

I saw the idea of a it just a few months after his first birthday.  Yes, I know. 

While there are TONS of cute little boy party themes to choose from on the grand ol' world wide web, so many seemed just a little too old for him....baseball, super heroes, Legos, camping.....all of those are super sweet and fun, but none of those are things he has an interest in just yet


And he loves my parent's black lab.  So it just made sense. A puppy party it was. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, none of these ideas were originated entirely with me.  Pinterest provides lots of inspiration y'all.  

When we have Sunday Family Dinner at my parent's, my aunts and uncle and cousin all bring their dogs each month, so this was another great reason behind doing the puppy party, because what fun is a puppy party without dogs, right?

I looked at lots of ideas on Pinterest for the invites and combined several ideas to come up with this:



I decided to stick with red and blue with the Fourth of July being just days after our little guy's birthday.  I mean why reinvent the wheel, right?  Stick with red and blue and then whatever is leftover can be used the following weekend.  Can I get an amen? 

Peanut has a friend in her preschool and his birthday is July 2.  I was talking to his mom and she said she's done some sort of red, white, and blue theme for all five of his birthdays.  This last year he wanted superheroes party and her first thought was, "Red, white and blue....superheroes....?.....we can do Captain America!"  I love how she thinks! 


This last winter I found the cutest little dog t-shirt for him on clearance at Gymboree.  I paid like $5 total for both the shirt and shorts.  It was in reds/blues/greens and I totally made it work. 

On the menu were hot dogs (what else, right?) with all the fixings and potato salad (homemade because store bought is just blech!) and a fresh fruit platter.  I also did Puppy Chow, because, of course.  And then cupcakes and homemade chocolate and vanilla bean ice cream.  The chocolate was this recipe, and the vanilla was this recipe.  They were both amazing.   

My mama gave me a Cricut cutting machine nearly six years ago and I had a cartridge that had a little puppy face cut out.  I used that for the treat {doggy} bags, the bunting banner, the cupcake toppers and even the paper circle garland.  To make all those crafts probably cost me less than $10.  My mom had bought me a lifetime supply of white paper lunch bags at our local restaurant supply store prior to Peanut's Elmo party nearly four years ago.  While I thought it extremely excessive at the time, those bags have come in handy each year since.  I had red, white, and blue card stock from my prior years as a Stampin' Up demonstrator, and I had white thread for my sewing machine for the paper garland.  Really all I had to buy was the red/white baker's twine for the bunting and the navy/white star scrapbook paper for the background for the bunting and red/white washi tape.  Because I've seen this washi tape trend all over and I finally had an excuse to try some!  Plus, the twine, scrapbook paper, and tape I got all on sale.  So it really took more time than anything!

For the treats inside the bags, I got dog bone shaped graham crackers (dipped in chocolate) and blue racquet balls.  So the kids could play fetch and get a treat.....get it???!?  Also included but not shown were "dog tags", whistles, sidewalk chalk, blue bandanas (which we forgot to pass out!), and bubbles.  Those were all purchased--that did not come from my stash!


I found straws and cupcake sugar pearls from this Etsy shop....and let me offer you a little public service announcement when using sugar pearls for cupcakes.   First off, it had nothing to do with the brand or where I got these sugar pearls from.  The Etsy shop owner was oh so great!

I was so disappointed in the cupcakes I didn't even take a close up of them.  Right: the one that held up.

But here goes.....because I am a planner and list maker extraordinaire, I knew I would be busy with decorating and last minute food prep the day of the party.  So naturally, I baked and iced the cupcakes the day before.  Because I made cream cheese frosting, I refrigerated the cupcakes.  And because that would be grody to leave cupcakes in the open refrigerator air, I put them all in covered containers.  All but one cupcake, because the last one didn't fit in said containers.  So there he sat in the open refrigerator air all night long.  Don't ask me why the cupcake was a he.  He just was.

I'm no scientist, but my theory is the condensation had no where to go but on the little sugar pearls and cause them to bleed all over.  The one in the open air?  Held up beautifully--and still is three days later.  I might have totally had a meltdown the morning of the party.  To the point of tears and considering using cleaned tweezers to take the melted sugar pearls off and replace them with new sugar pearls.  Then my mom suggested that was way too time consuming {which it was} and scraping off the icing and starting over would be much easier {which it would have been}.  But then, that just seemed INCREDIBLY wasteful with all those in the world who don't even have enough food on their plates each and every day (I'm dead serious).  It took nearly everything I had, but in the words of Elsa, I "Let It Go."  It was a very hard thing to do.  But like my sweet six year old daughter reminded me, "They'll still taste good, mommy." 

Out of the mouth of babes, right? 

Anyhow, after that little spoiled sob story, here is my PSA: if you make cupcakes ahead and use sugar pearls and feel the need to refrigerate, DON'T cover the cupcakes.  There.  I feel so much better having shared that with the masses.  


Oh, and then the weather.  What a blessing THAT was.  Ten days ago it said the day of his party was forecasted for rain.  And rain it was up to the day of the party.  Even several people who came to the party said they drove through downpours and showers all the way to my parent's house.  But my parents house?  A slight sprinkle the morning of and even slighter sprinkle that afternoon.  That was it.  It even ended up being slightly sunny for the better part of the party.  To the point of all the older kids swimming in my parent's pool!  In 68* weather no less!!!  But that's another story for another time....  All that to say: we were blessed immensely.  Praise the Lord!

So finally:  Our boy had such a fun time.  And he didn't say a word about the cupcakes.  He loved seeing his cousins and aunts and uncles and over of course, his Papa and Gamma.  He was a big fan of the fruit platter (he loved on mango for the first time!) and he generally didn't. stop. moving. for nearly six hours.  He enjoyed all there was to enjoy and then some

He had a blast at his pawty--no pun intended, as he can't quite say his R's yet. 

Next up?  He is so excited for the fow woks {fire works} because what boy doesn't like explosives? 


 

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