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

Friday, July 15, 2016

Favorites Friday: 3 Things I'm loving

I am seriously loving vacation.  Well, parts of it anyways.  This was the first week that the only thing we had planned was swim lessons.  That left time for art projects, reading, and swimming and bbqing with friends.  Apart from that we haven't left the house except for library runs and a quick Target run.  I am kind of savoring the moments with my kids at home because next month school starts and both of them will be there.  Weird.  Crazy.   I will write more on that another time.

Since, we've been back from vacation, I've been catching up on the Jamie Ivey podcast and one of the things she asks all of her guests is what's 3 things they are loving right now.  So, I thought, since I have yet to upload pictures from vacation and my house needs cleaned, what better post that to kind of borrow her question.

So, here's three things I am loving lately:

1.  Sparkling Water. 
So, seriously I am obsessed.  My husband thinks I have a drinking problem.  I've been drinking the Izze sparkling waters, but costco doesn't have them right now (almost had a moment!) and so, I have been forced to find alternative.  I tried the Dry brand, and wasn't that impressed because they added sugar.  I just want the plain ol' water, a little fruit, and some fizz.  Right now, my favorite is this Perrier pink grapefruit!  

2.  Bake from Scratch Magazine.
Okay, so we all know how much I enjoy baking, but this magazine has the most brilliant photographs and amazing recipes.  It's also 12.99 an issue with is kind of hard.  I mean that's almost 2 starbucks lattes right there.  But, thankfully Costco has been carrying it lately and so I've been able to pick up a couple of issues.  I make myself bake from it because, I mean do I have to say it. . . it's expensive!  I've already made three recipes from this season's issue (thank goodness it's by quarter and not by month!).  And all of them have been amazing and have made me get out of my comfort zone and try new things.  I think I like it because it challenges me.  Oh and it's yummy and the pictures are amazing! 

3.  Popsicles. 

I started buying Popsicle molds when Ethan was one.  And this year, I just can't seem to stop!  They are just so much fun and it makes for a fun treat!  It's even more fun for this mommy to watch them beg for a popsicle in the middle of the day and watching them gobble them down.  They are usually all fruit and hardly any sweetener, which is completely awesome.  I love the Tovolo and Zoku pop molds!  They are the great, and come out so nicely.  

And that's the end of my favorite things. . . right now.  Now, I am going to go play with some stamps or read a book while the boys finish up their quiet time.  I hope you are enjoying your summer! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Connection Time!

Today, I am fighting a horrendous headache that came on as I was walking out the door to swim lessons. . . seriously the worst timing ever!  So far a latte and aleeve have not killed this thing and so this blog post might just be weird.  Sorry about that.  Today marks the start of vacation where we are staying put and spending the majority of our time at home (with the exception of a few day adventures here and there).  The kids are relaxing and claiming to be bored and it's pretty much awesome.  I've been working on some top secret creative things and I can't wait to share them! 

This is probably one of my favorite posts where I just get to share my life with you.  It's more personal, like we are going to sit down and have coffee and just chat.  Maybe someday, I can get brave and video chat like Emily does over at her blog (btw, have you read her blog. . . she's awesome!). 

Outside my window the sun is shining, our grass is pretty much dead, but my succulents are doing wonderfully.  I think I need to plant more! It's pretty quiet and I love it!  There is a slight breeze. . . that my husband says is a trough, but whatever it is, I love it!  It makes our summer a little more bearable! 

I am thinking of just how sad the world is right now and how it breaks my heart.  Everyone seems so angry and bitter that I just want to stay at home and never leave.  It's peaceful here. 

Also, I am thinking that I need to start ordering stuff for school. . . but I am avoiding it, because I feel kind of like our summer just started.  And seriously, target. . . too early.  And Gap. . . stop selling long sleeve shirts. . . my kids still need shorts for school until probably November. . . . I can't even think about long sleeve shirts right now. 

From the kitchen Right now, I need to do some dishes and make some jam.  But, the BAKE magazine is seriously awesome.  I made a Georgia peach pie that pretty much kicked butt in the pie department last week.  I can't wait to share that one with you!  Ethan is working on learning to cook this summer and this week, we are making a pumpkin dessert. . . in July.  Yep.  He is definitely my son and pumpkin obsessed!

I am wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  My t-shirt has a stain on it and my jeans are new and so comfy.  We had swim lessons this morning and didn't feel like throwing on my yoga pants and t-shirt.  I was in the look like a human mood.  :)

I am creating something with fabric and there is a huge mess on my office floor.  Today, my goal is to iron and cut out fabric and start sewing.  If it all goes according to plan, it is going to be awesome!  It's top secret for the time being. 

I am going to enjoy the quiet.  The majority of our summer has been going and going and super fun, and now it's time to enjoy the quiet and just relax, sleep in, and create. 

I am reading nothing at the moment.  I honestly haven't had time, but starting today, something is going be started!  Bring on the reading!

I am hoping . . . honestly, for this headache to bite the dust.  Tonight, I plan on sneaking off with my first born and spending some time with him.  I am hoping it works out!

I am hearing the air conditioner going and the tv streaming movies.  I haven't heard arguing for a good hour now and I am just going to enjoy it.  Quiet time starts in a bit, so I am ready for some rest time and project time!

Around the House dishes that need done, legos and cars everywhere, a couple of piles that need to be dealt with, but there is fun happening at every corner.  I love it! 

One of my favorite things So, right now I can't get enough sparkling water.  I think I may have to do a post on it, because I am just finding it so refreshing this summer!

A few plans for the week - sew, bake, read.  Probably some cleaning in the middle of all that and some swimming with friends, but that's pretty much my week.  It really is the first week we've had no concrete plans (with the exception of swim lessons)

What I am listening to I've been kind of slow on the music front, but I've been catching up on the Jamie Ivey Podcast and thinking about the Johnnyswim album. . . looking for something new.  Suggestions?

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, July 04, 2016

4th of July & our Dining Room

Happy 4th of July!   We are back from our crazy multi-state adventure and we are ready to celebrate today with our family.  Bring on the swimming, hotdogs, salads, cookies, and fireworks (of course!)!  But first, I thought I would share my dining room with you since I haven't gotten around to posting that and also because I got it all ready for the 4th of July. 
First, a little about our dining room.  It sits in the same room as our living room (you can see that post, here).  There is also a divider that separates our entry way from it also.  It's painted the same as the living room, because it's pretty much all one room.  All the details are on the living room post

Once we did the floors last June, we we wanted to find some sort of buffet or hutch to go on the back wall and so one Saturday, I went and checked out Salvation Army to see if I could find a buffet or console table, but ended up finding this beauty for less than $150.  I sent pictures to my husband and we claimed it quick because others were starting to admire it.  I couldn't believe just how well it all ended up fitting together! 

So, that's our dining room area.  We love having a separate space for a formal eating area and we use it whenever we have company.  The house is still in the process of being picked up after we were on vacation, but it feels so much better than it did (it was a mess!).  My next goal for this room is to re-do the chair seats. . . they are kind of yucky after small kids and white.   But, we've had them for about 9 years and we love them!  

Most of the Patriotic stuff I made and shopped from what I already had.  To fill the glass jar, I used kidney, black, and white beans, which is a really inexpensive jar filler.  The mason jars are all painted with chalk paint and the pinwheels came from one of my Paper Pumpkin kits.  

It's time to go frost the cookies, so I had better go!  Have a wonderful time celebrating our Nation's independence!  


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