Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Favorites: Suriving the waiting game

I like to be prepared.  I try to have baby wipes in the car, regardless of the fact that nobody is in diapers anymore.  Snacks are a must have.  Along with something for them to do. . . I call them boredom busters.  I know that allowing kids an opportunity for boredom is important.  It's when creativity really comes alive.  However, I know that if that boredom appears when you aren't at home and you need them to be contained, you end up miserable and with someone in tears (like me. . . ha ha!).   I have been unprepared before.  It is not pretty.  We are all miserable.  I'm sure we've all been there. 

Last night marked Ethan's first soccer practice.  This week has been kind of crazy, but I grabbed a few things for Weston to do for the hour we were at the field, threw them in his activity bag I made him a few years ago, and we headed out.  Last night, there was a beautiful, cool breeze and we found a shady spot and set up camp.  Weston was kind of tired (kindergarten is exhausting!) and so he just sat next to me playing memory and coloring.  Never once was their a complaint.  We just laid there and worked on our stuff.  It may have been my favorite part of the day!  

I really believe that boredom striking when we are playing the waiting game is just horrible for everyone.  And, made worse when it's the end of the day and everyone is pooped.  The combination of exhaustion, hunger, and nothing to do just can be a bad thing in the right setting.  Soccer practice for Ethan lies at a rough time. . . dinner (the time of day, where my kids sometimes turn into monsters. . . please tell me I'm not alone?!?!?).  But, really, it's once a week and we make do because it's fun we have to practice sometime and any later just won't work.  

We take these bags on small road trips, to doctor appointments, in the car.  Basically, anywhere there is a possibility to play the "waiting game" where any form of melt down may occur, I try to bring an activity bag. We don't bring a lot of things, because it needs to be light enough a 5 year old can carry it.   So here are my 5 favorite things to put in our grab and go activity bag:

1.  Game - Any game will do.  Yesterday we brought along Travel Memory.  We also sometimes stick Spot it, Jr., Uno Jr., or more recently the card game version of Eye Found It.  

2.  Coloring Book and Crayons/Markers/Colored Pencils - If you pack one to keep in the car, do NOT pack crayons. . . they will melt.  My favorite coloring tools for on the go are Crayola (of course!) Twistable Colored Pencils and Crayola Pipsqueak markers.  I usually try to have a coloring book for something they are excited about right now (Star Wars, Avengers, Miles from Tomorrowland)

3.  A book to read.  I usually throw a picture book or two into the bag and if my oldest is going to be waiting, he usually grabs his latest chapter book adventure.  There is also a Highlights magazine with stories and hidden pictures to look at.

4. Something hands on.  We often bring these when we are on the go.  They keep the kids busy in restaurants and other "waiting game" opportunities.  My mom also gave us some foam pattern blocks which are also super fun to have on the go.  We don't usually bring Legos, because the pieces are too small and they will get lost.  But, we have brought a freezer bag with some dulpos places and that works, too.  

5.   A device of some sort.  A lot of times, we grab the kids Leapsters and throw those in the bag, and other times we grab the Ipad.  It really depends on the situation and how long we are waiting.  I will note that sometimes it's hard to see the screen if you are outside and it's really bright.  

Also, when we are playing the "waiting game" outside (like soccer practice), we bring out blanket out and lay on it.  We can spread out and be comfortable.  We have this one and I absolutely love it!  

If you want some more ideas, here is my post on traveling with kids, with some more fantastic ideas!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Catching Up

It's been a few weeks since I've made time to blog and now I am ready to get back into the habit.  So, let's catch up.  Go grab a cup of coffee and join me in some chit chat.  

Sometimes life just gets hectic.  Life is busy.  School has been back in session for 5 weeks and we have officially found our groove, made it back to the beach, celebrated a birthday, started Bible Study, soccer has started, and a few other things that would probably bore you.  I think yesterday, was the first day that I had time to notice how quiet my house was.

My sweet reader friends, this year is so strange.  Both kids are at school for the majority of the day and there is quiet.  I can clean up and it stays clean.  I can sit and read and no one interrupts me.  It took me 5 weeks to realize how quiet it is when you aren't rushing around trying to get things done.  I kind of miss them, but am really enjoying this time.

I've had a LOT of people ask me what I am going to do this year, and I joked that I will just sit down and eat bonbons all day.  Obviously, that isn't the case.  I won't lie.  Today, I needed some margin after going non stop for a few weeks and so I sat down and watched a chic flick and drank a latte.  I am okay with that.  Sometimes our brain just needs a break before started the next project.

There are a lot of projects coming up and some are a little overwhelming. . . like our office. I have the okay to re-do it.  But, first, I need to find it and get rid of some stuff.   Like I said, overwhelming.  Scary overwhelming.

I quieted the house the other day.  All the summer decorations have been retired and Fall is slowly starting to make an appearance.  I found the cutest little burlap/chevron pumpkins last week in the dollar spot at Target.  So, glad I grabbed them when I did, because I can't find them anymore.

Oh, and the bread making quest is going really nicely.  I can't wait to share a delicious recipe with you for some homemade cinnamon swirl bread.  I am really enjoying this challenge.  I think my family is too!

Did you challenge yourself to try something new or learn how to do something for the year?  One of mine was bread making.  It is awesome!    How is going for you?

Well, it's time to head to soccer practice, so I had better wrap this up.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Connection Time

My kids went back to school last week and well. . . things are a little bit different around here.  BOTH kids are gone during the day.  Last week was so busy, I really didn't get a chance to enjoy the quiet of the house, but this week I am soaking it in.  I'm trying to find my groove. . . which is kind of why blogging just hasn't been a priority.   I am enjoying the quiet.  My house is almost recovered from summer vacation and I am exhausted.  It's exhausting!

So, here's what's going on around here. 

Outside my window it's dark, but earlier we had a most glorious sunset.  They've been absolutely amazing (thanks to the large amounts of smoke in the air due to the amount of fires that are raging around here).  You can see the reds, pinks, and oranges streaming into our livingroom as we are getting the kids ready for bed and I just swoon.  Ethan has been noticing them too, which makes my heart happy. 

I am thinking that I miss sleeping in.  That's one thing I miss about summer.  But, really I just want cooler temperatures.  Soon.  I keep telling myself. 

From the kitchen  I made my first Sourdough bread boule yesterday and it was worth every day of stinky, smelly starter making.  I am so excited to make more sourdough bread.  soon.  very soon.  I've been doing a lot of prepping stuff for easy breakfasts for the kids and I think tomorrow I will make some cookies.  You know. . . to get us through the week!

I am wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt.  When I am home and cleaning, I really can't justify wearing "real" clothes because I am just getting dirty.  And really, these are just so comfortable! 

I am creating mostly food stuff right now.  But, I am craving my sewing machine.  I've also been making a lot of cards, and purging my craft supplies.  Operation office/craftroom redo will be underway soon! 

I am reading Simply Tuesday, by Emily Freeman.  So far it's sooo good. It's really challenging me to not get lost in the hustle of the everyday and to enjoy the ordinary.  Right now, I am adjusting to a new ordinary as I move into a new phase of life.  It's exciting and quiet and crazy. 

 I am hearing not a lot, because my house is quiet.  But my soul is hearing "don't hustle" and just enjoying this new ordinary with both kids at school.  I have also been listening to the Jamie Ivey podcast and the Christ Centered Mom podcast. . . both great! 

Around the House I have almost recovered from summer.  There are still piles lingering, which is bugging me.  I will probably attack those tomorrow.  I really want to do something creative today, so I plan on taking time for that. 

One of my favorite things is my pillow.  I've been exhausted.  But, also my fitbit. . . all this walking back and forth from school and going on runs has really increased my steps.  I like it!
A few plans for the week We are really just taking it slow.  Weston is on  his second week of school and he is just exhausted.  We all are!  So, mostly just making our new routine a habit and resting.  I think this weekend, we will watch tv and just relax.  hmmm. . . now to see if that's they way it works.

If you would like to join in the fun, fill out our own in the comments or on my facebook page and let's connect!  

Outside my window
I am thinking
From the kitchen
I am wearing
I am creating
I am going
I am reading
I am hoping
I am hearing
Around the House
One of my favorite things
A few plans for the week
What I am listening to

Monday, August 08, 2016

Back to school tips

Today marks one week exactly until my kids start school.  KIDS.  People.  Friends.  This is BIG.  BOTH by boys will be in school this year.   Weston has told everyone this summer he is going to be in kindergarten.  EVERYONE.  It's the first thing he tells people when he sees them.  Ethan will be a second grader and only has one wish. . . that he gets to be in his BFF's class.  He's so cute!

One week from today, I am going to go walk through Target, with a cinnamon dolce latte, by myself.  There might be a happy dance.  I don't know.  I am ready.

So, with one week left of vacation, it's time to get ready.  Here are some of my favorite tips for making school days easier.

1.  Make a morning checklist.
I make one on my computer and laminate it and give each kid a dry erase marker.  It has pictures on it, so Weston who isn't quite reading yet, knows what he has to have done before we walk out the door.  I keep it simple with the basics.

2.  Get as much done the night before.
I like to get lunches made the night before and have it sitting in the fridge where they can grab it and stick it in their lunch boxes.  We always keep their ice packs in the same place in the freezer so they can grab those on their own, too.  Clothes are also set out the night before so they can get dressed as soon as they wake up.  This year, we are going to try having backpacks packed by the door ready for school the next morning.

3.  Create a homework station. 
At our house, homework is done after quiet time and before dinner.  We do it at the kitchen table, so I can help them and work on dinner at the same time.  We have a cart where we keep crayons, pencils, highlighters, scissors, and glue.  Pretty much everything they need for homework is right there so we don't have to spend 20 minutes finding things to do our homework with.

4.  My favorite thing we do each morning before walking the kids to their lines is pray.  A few years ago, I heard Priscilla Shrier talk about how she prayed and quoted scripture to her boys empowering them to be young boys of God.   Sometimes I forget and the kids remind me.

I guess I don't have too many tips, but that is how we get through the day.  Either that, or I am distracted by the Olympics (let's be honest. . . who isn't?).

Here are also some other posts that might help you out:

Lunch time inspiration

A gift for the teacher (Free printable)

Routine check list

Why we send our kids to public school

 I hope you have a wonderful first day of school (whenever your kids start).  Do you have any helpful hints?  Feel free to post them in the comments or on my facebook page. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Vacation Recap, part 1

 I blame my mother for my love of traveling.  The summer, she packed us into our little car with a bag of "prizes" in the back trunk and moved us half across the country to sunny, HOT California is a summer I will never forget.  We took that trip almost every summer and occasionally during Christmas vacation.  She made lots of stops, she made us learn and explore, and truly enjoy those long trips back to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  I want to do the same thing with our kids. 

My husband, whom I met on an airplane, also has a amazing desire to travel (God knew what he was doing when he put us together!).  For for our first anniversary, we flew to Chicago for a week of wandering and exploring downtown.  One of our fondest memories was walking back to our hotel from Navy Pier and watching the family in front of us.  A mom and dad walking with a stroller, baby, and 2 small children.  It was late and raining, they were probably tired after a full day of fun (we were!), but they were happy and loving the moment.   My husband and I have burried that memory deep within our hearts.  We want to be the kind of parents who take our kids on big trips and small adventures.  We want to give them that travel bug.  We want them to grow up appreciating God's creation and understanding that we are just a small part of His creation.  There is so much more to the world than our little neighborhood, school, church, and city.  We want them to see the diversity of His creation, the beauty and splendor of it all.  We hope and pray that they feel the joy that we do when we see amazing places with our own eyes. 

We have traveled every year since the kids were born.  Some trips were small and only a few hours away.  Others, have been long road trips with a 9 month old and thousands of miles.  Traveling with kids is fun, it gets easier as they get older, and is very different from traveling as childless adults.  We pack backpacks full of activities and stock up on lots of snacks to have on hand at all times (snacks can cure all sorts of crankiness!).  Then we just go.  We go and we go until we come and home and it's a blast.  Our kids grow so much during these adventures and that might just  be my most favorite part. 
 This year, our trip was the biggest trip we've ever taken as a family.  We drove to San Francisco for an evening of exploring before catching our flight to Denver the next morning. Our hotel had a free shuttle to the airport, so we took advantage of that and caught the bart from the airport into the city.  San Francisco is one of my happy places.  My husband and I have been going there since we met.  We've taken the boys on a few adventures here, but non that require lots of walking (which is what we love to do!).  This year, after a day of driving (with a quick stop at some outlets and a BMW dealership to see some of our favorite soccer players), we bravely walked hiked our boys from Market Street and Powell to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39.  We saw the sea lions, Bertha, a beautiful bay sunset, rode the cable car part way back, and I even got to go to my favorite shops.  We had a blast! The kids did great!  I mean, San Francisco is all Hills and they were phenomenal!  I can't wait to take them more!

 The next morning, we got up.  We didn't have to rush, so we ate breakfast and went ahead and left for the airport a little early.  This was our first time flying Virgin Airlines and I was so impressed.  They were the nicest, most helpful people from the moment we checked in til we landed in Denver.  While Jon and I checked our luggage and got our tickets, one of the guys actually did a magic trick for the boys. Seriously, we flew Delta home and it was such the opposite experience, I told Jon I only want to fly virgin!  The kids were able to play video games, watch Disney channel shows, and Jon ordered some brownie bites from his seat.  We loved it!  When we landed, Weston had a temperature, so our plans for the evening were a little bit more relaxed.  Thankfully, Weston only had some sort 12 hour bug.  Part of me wonders if it was an allergic reaction to something he ate.  We will never know.  But, he was all smiles, and fever and throw-up free the next morning so we continued on our adventure to Cheyenne.  We stayed with my sister and her family and they showed us the sites of the town that has changed so much since I was a kid and lived there.  It was fun sharing memories of my childhood with the boys.  There is so much history in Cheyenne.  Someday, I want to take them during Frontier Days (which is actually this week), and spend the whole week exploring.  For a capital city, it is not very big, but it is beautiful.  My sister has a cute little yarn shop in downtown Cheyenne and there is the neatest coffee shop around the corner from it.  We even found a delicious donut shop that was half chinese food half donut shop. 
 Our stay in Cheyenne was short, but we fit as much as we could in this trip.  We had a long driving day up to the Black Hills.  Thank goodness for small towns with cute fabric shops to stop in and stretch my legs.  Sadly, a lot of fabric stores are closing or had already gone out of business, so I was only able to make it into 2 stores on this trip (sigh of relief from my husband. . . ha ha!). 

We stayed in Custer for 2 nights and it was probably one of our favorite parts of the whole trip.  Mt. Rushmore at night is my absolute favorite and it did not disappoint.  Ethan was able to get his first Jr. Ranger badge and he was hooked.  We had bought some really neat leveled readers about Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone before we left, and Ethan had learned a little about Jefferson and Washington at school.  He was so proud that he knew some of the answers to the questions all ready!

The next day we did Wind Cave and it was amazing.  Weston wasn't too sure about being that far underground, but he hasn't been able to stop talking about it!  The kids thought it was so cool to see prairie dogs in their natural habitat and not at the zoo (along with elk and antelope)  We spent the afternoon vegging out and doing laundry.  The kids watched lots of tv and played roblocks. . . after going non stop for several days, we just needed to take some time and rest . . . and clean our clothes.  That night we ate this delicious restaurant.  We knew it was going to be delicious because we had tried to eat there the night before, but it was a really long wait.  This time, we got there before they opened so we could get in right away! It was worth it.  We also had to try some of the local dessert shops. Ethan had the biggest ice cream in a waffle cone at the Purple Pie place.  I found a place that sold macarons with the nicest owners that just talk to you like you are old friends. 

 The next day, was another long driving day that included a stop at Devil's Tower.  There was lots of talk about aliens (ha ha ha).  Ethan was able to earn another Jr. Ranger badge.  It was really hot and so we only stayed a little bit, but it was well worth it.  We even went into one of the tiniest post offices to mail post cards.  One of the things Ethan did on this trip was send post cards to his BFF as we traveled and now his BFF is doing the same thing. 

This was a whirlwind trip and only a tid bit of what we did.  If you have any questions about traveling with kids feel free to comment and I will try to answer them in my next post.  Happy Traveling! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sugared Jam Cake

I bravely took the boys to Costco today.  It's super hot and we really didn't want to leave the house, but we needed food.  Like bread.  It's kind of important to the making of PBJ's and stuff.  It's definitely the end of the month when we are running out of basic necessities.  That and it was an easy lunch for the kids. . . and churros are a great bribe (don't judge. . . I know I am not the only one!). We made it home in one piece and part of me did a happy dance.  I even managed to get my kids to do a few chores before quiet time.  Today, I feel accomplished. 

One thing I've been doing this summer is baking and stretching my baking skills.  Baking is something that refreshes my soul.  Following a recipe and seeing something beautiful (sometimes, even a fail) is amazing.  Sometimes, it's just to get me out of a funk. My friend, Dorina, says it best, when she says that cooking can become an act of worship.  Sometimes my time in the kitchen, while my boys are watching Phineas and Ferb has been the quiet part of the day.  Other times, it has been crazy and loud and fun as I watch my boys learn how to follow a recipe as they help me or make something on their own.

I stumbled across this magazine a few months back and I'll be honest, the 12.99 price tag scared me, until I found it at Costco. . . my go-to place to get magazines I don't subscribe to.  I finally broke down and bought one and I drooled and drooled and made bread.  So, when the next issue came out just before summer started, I found wanting to challenge myself in the kitchen.  Jump out of my comfort zone and get kind of crazy (well. . . .not too crazy!).  

The pictures are beautiful and just call out to you to bake immediately.  They all look delicious and I just want to bake it all.  I am practicing self control because baking. . . well. . . that's usually a lot of bread.  A lot of bread.  And cake.  Must use self control.  That's what I keep telling myself anyways.

A few weeks ago, I made the jam and the rustic pie in the picture above.  They were wonderful!  The combination of fresh blueberries and blackberries was heavenly combined with flaky pastry crust was heavenly.  However, the recipe only used half of the jam. . . so had to make something else. I mean it would be a crime to let that jam go to waste and Jon said it was too sweet for a PBJ.  I mean, what else could I do? 

Several pages away was this delicious looking vanilla bean cake that slightly resembled a jelly-filled donut.  No joke.  The writers said if you eat it for breakfast, you just won summer.  It's safe to say that my husband took the challenge and loved it for breakfast as well as for dessert!  It was also super easy!  Especially since I had already made the jam.  I bed that you could use a different jam in it and it would be really good, too. 

Sugared Jam Cake

adapted from Bake from Scratch (summer 2016)

2 cups flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup jam

1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8 inch round pan (I think mine was 9 inches and it still worked beautifully).  And line with parchment paper (please don't skip this step. . . you don't want to risk it cracking when you take it out).

In a mixing bowl, with whisk attachment, whisk butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla bean paste. Slowly add dry ingredients.   Stir until everything looks combined . . . not too long.  Pour about half of your batter into your prepared pan.  Pretend there is a 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch wall on each side.  Spread jam in the middle, leaving that wall along outside jam free.  Pour the rest of the batter over and spread carefully.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Add a piece of foil to the top of your pan/cake and continue baking for 30 more minutes. 

Let cool for 10 minutes and then flip it out carefully and place on plate with the cake top facing up.  Melt butter and use a pastry brush to brush the cake with butter.  Brush the sides and the top.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mix over the top and then rub sugar along the sides of the cake. . .gently pushing it into the cake so it stays.

Eat warm or cold.  It's delicious! 

For the jam: In a medium saucepan, add 1/2 pound each of blackberries and blueberries, 2 cups sugar, and some lemon juice.  Let it sit for about 2 hours to let the juices come out.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring constantly.  Cook for 5 minutes. Keep stirring (just keep stirring just keep stirring. . . . sorry we just say Finding Dory).  Turn heat down to medium and cook and mash fruit.  do this for 45-60 minutes until you have a nice think mixture.  Let cool for 1 hour and then put into a clean jar and refrigerate.  Good for 2 weeks. 

Enjoy and Happy Baking!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Newsprint watercolor art with the kiddos

I just checked the calendar and I am finding it hard to believe that we only have a few more weeks left of vacation.  I am kind of sad because last year and this year we have come to the point where my boys are, for the most part, enjoyable.  Don't get me wrong, we have our moments.  But, we can go to restaurants and it's not a nightmare.  We stay at home and I don't have to have every part of the day mapped out. . . oh and the best part. . . this mommy sleeps in.  The kids don't, but they love their morning tv watching and it works.  

 The first month of vacation seemed very busy.  Lots of fun and not a ton of down time.  We like our down time.  The quiet is nice . . . until the kids start getting stir crazy and start running around acting like hooligans. . . or wrestlers . . . or track and field champions. . . or something.  It drives this mom a little on the crazy side and so we do art.  I am a huge fan of art with kids because it gives them confidence and strengthens their fine motor skills, and a whole lot of other things.  Basically, art is good (and as I type, it is almost midnight and my brain is tired).  It also corrals the kids at the kitchen table for an ungiven amount of time.  No one is fighting.  No one is running around with their head cut off.  It gives me a break of from the crazy and a little bit of structure for the boys. 

I found this project on pinterest and knew at once, we were going to do it.  It didn't take a lot of materials.  We had watercolors, old newsprint (trader Joes and junk mail is what we used) and some painting paper.  We painted shapes on the newsprint and then our background on the art paper.  The next day, we came back and cut out our newsprint shapes and made houses.  Even though I was doing the project with my kids, guiding them step by step, they each had their own idea what they wanted to do with theirs.  Weston kind of did his own thing and we ended up making flowers and trees out of what he did.  Ethan painted his house on the paper and then added the door, chimney, and windows out of the water colored newsprint.  He also had some fun with the sharpie. 

I think that's what I love about art. . . even though you set guidelines, it's okay to step outside those to create something amazing.  I love how each one came out and I loved the pride on their faces when they couldn't wait to show their daddy what they did that day. 

I hope you are surviving summer. . . and if you need any other ideas on what to do. . . message me or check out my Instagram


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