Nature Discoveries on the Home Front

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The other day the kids called me over to the mailbox before I sent them inside for dinner.  They wanted to show me this Monarch Butterfly that had been caught by a big, black, hairy spider.

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It’s too bad I didn’t capture a better picture but it was shady and I was rushing to get food down the kids’ gullets.

The next morning we were riding our bikes out front and the kids noticed the aftermath of the spider’s feast.

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Just the pretty wings were all that remained. Too bad for the butterfly but lucky for the spider. Such is life. And the kids peddled on.

Just now I was presented this toad as I sit typing and playing lifeguard.

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I told my daughter to kiss it in case it’s really a prince but she refused.  I told her she’ll probably end up kissing a lot of toads before she finds her prince. She just started at me so I told her to put it in the garden.

I wonder what our next nature moment will be…

“I Love My Family”

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We headed to a fun bowling alley this morning before lunch with Great Grammy. They have $5 tot bowling every day from 10-noon but you gotta get there a little early to make sure you get a lane. It can get pretty packed in there. My kids were worried we’d be late again and not get a lane but those worries were for naught. They happily hugged each other as they stood at the front of the line, my boy giggling, “I love my family!” over and over again.

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Then his sister bashed his finger and the moment ended just add quickly as it began.

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This bowling alley rocks for so many reasons like the plush leather couches, lane-side service for all your drink and snack needs and the kid movie playing on the screens next to the scoring screens to ensure your minions don’t get bored and wander off between turns.

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It was a great hour together and as it turns out my youngest is the most enthusiastic bowler of our group. She ended up bowling for everyone at the end.

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We obviously need a sticker near the camera lense so we know where to look!

Tomorrow we’re tackling something a bit more involved than bowling…Six Flags Great America! Wish me luck!

Recent Cookie Creations

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In the past month or so I’ve done a little baking for a few events. The first was a hired gig which I normally don’t do but it was for a friend whom I am forever indebted to for her last minute help on my wedding day, almost 6 years ago, decorating my tent using wild flowers from my MIL’s field after I failed to consider that very important issue.

She needed some Peter Rabbit themed cookies for a baby shower so I whipped up these as favors for the party:

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The next day, since my kids were bummed I wouldn’t let them help on the Peter Rabbit cookies, we baked up more cookies and I brought these over to another dear friend:

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I’m not sure which I like more, the fun ice cream cones, dragon flies or the cute dogs.

More recently I made cookies for my 10 year high school reunion. Since I had so many other things to do for the party the cookies were done as quickly as possible so I didn’t do anything too fancy. It’s a good thing simply swirling two colors together looks so neat.

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Two days after the reunion my sister, who was in town from Colorado, held an Arbonne party at our mom’s house so I made some cookies of their emblem using a specialty cookie cutter I was gifted. Again, since I was mid-planning for the reunion the cookies got a quick icing job and a little sprinkle action.

Here’s the logo and the cookies

 

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I think I’m done with sugar cookies for a bit but don’t quote me on that. I always find an excuse to make more cookies!

 

Classic Summer Fun-County Fair Style

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Despite only getting a handful of hours of sleep after my 10 year reunion it was off to the county fair with the family yesterday but first we stopped at a dear friend’s house to meet her new little nugget before they move. It’s exhausting being so cute!

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Luckily we had quite the crew with us at the fair since I can’t ride any rides and was not eager to carry any tired kids around.

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Auntie Kelly is in town and her appearance at the fair had my daughter delighted.

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We played games

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and won prizes.

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Corn dogs were devoured

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and rides were ridden.

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My husband and our buddy spun the kids so much on one ride that my girl almost vomited.

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She recovered quickly with the help of some furry friends.

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You know, we did all the basic fair things. It was exhausting and fun. We tried for a family picture by the ferris wheel…. My husband and I are the only ones smiling but that’s probably because we’re both being groped, me by my husband and him by his buddy! Good times.

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As soon as we got home I collapsed on the couch.  Luckily mommy clone (Auntie Kelly) came over, fed my kids cereal for dinner and bounced with them on the trampoline before bed. By the time Kelly was ready to needle my husband’s problem spots I was feeling much better and gleefully watched her stick him like a pin cushion.

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It was quite the day and after some stellar sleep I am feeling like myself again. Time to get this household back in order!

Selfie

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Well,  I’m 29 weeks into this 4th pregnancy with 11 left to go. I woke up this morning feeling exhausted from crap sleep due to keeping late hours working on projects for my high school reunion (which is tomorrow… yikes! ), coupled with having a very active baby in my belly,  lots on my brain and a husband who was on-call and got unnecessary 5:30am wake up calls.

So, what’s the first thing you do in the

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morning when you feel like dump?  Take a bad selfie and share it, of course.

Here I am world. Not really ready to tackle this day but like my SIL has been known to say I’ll just, “fake it it ’til I make it. ”  Whatever that means 🙂

Happy Friday, friends!

New Celebrity Crush

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Amy’s excited face waiting to meet Chip, a.k.a “Deacon”

So last night, after a day of boating, I headed up to Janesville, WI to go to the Rock County Fair with  one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world so see a concert. I didn’t even remember who we were going to be seeing but I didn’t care because it was a me-focused day of fun without the kiddos.

While boating I looked up who was going to be performing so I wouldn’t show up totally oblivious. Turns out we were going to see Clare Bowen and Charles “Chip” Esten from the hit show Nashville. I was like, “Oh, cool. I have no idea who they are but whatever.”

So I show up to Amy’s house and she’s down right giddy. I knew right away it was going to be a fun night. I haven’t seen her that excited about meeting a country star in a long time so I made her give me the quick run-down on her Nashville crush and she introduced me to some of their music before we headed to the fair.

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Amy had VIP tickets for the pre-show meet-and-greet and although I hadn’t previously known of Chip’s existence, by the time it was our turn to meet him, Amy’s excitement had rubbed off on me and I’m certain I was blushing as he signed our CDs and we took a picture together.

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The concert, with the lit up fair rides as the backdrop, was the definition of Summer fun. Both Clare and Chip were stunning on stage yet still came across as a little dorky and down to earth which I can appreciate and gave us spectators much to laugh at. Now I need to actually watch the past two seasons of Nashville so I can swoon a little more over Chip and find out what all the fuss over this show is about 😉 It’s a good thing I have friends to keep me in the know about hunky celebrities/actors/musicians and worthwhile TV shows while I’m busy keeping my circus running!

Talking Buffalos

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DSC07281I love my night time snuggles with my 6 year old just as much as my 2 year old loves her mid-day snuggles on the couch with her sis. I love our snuggle time so much because it’s just us. It’s often time the only time throughout the day that we can carry on a conversation without being interrupted and it’s always a toss up as to where the conversation will lead. I like to let her talk, mostly, as I intently listen to her silly stream of consciousness or her inquiries about the world. It’s always been our special time and it lets me get a glimps into the inner workings of her mind. It’s a magical place in that mind of hers that harbors many deep thoughts and tons of curiosity that often leaves me a bit floored/smitten/entertained when I walk out of her room.

A recent bed-time conversation went like this:

L: “I wonder what will come after us?”

Me: “What do you mean? Like after humans and such? Like dinosaurs then humans and then…(shoulder shrug)”

L: “Yeah. Maybe talking buffalos!”

Me: “Hahaha! That’d be pretty awesome. It could happen.”

Like I said, I like the way she thinks! Life is good with a 6 year old.

 

 

 

Tooth Fairy Business

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DSC07284My daughter has been itching to loose a baby tooth for quite some time. Most of her friends have lost at least one and she was feeling left out. Well, as of this evening she is now officially part of the gap-toothed smile club and she is thrilled, less so because she’s now part of the club and more so because she can eat normally again and nobody is trying to persuade her to yank it out. She has decided that the idea of having a loose tooth is more exciting than the actual experience.

For a solid 16 days this tooth extraction has been front and center on her mind. On the fourth of July I was laying in bed with her resting up before the festivities began and she casually mentioned she had a bump on the back of a tooth. I asked her to show me and was surprised/horrified to find an adult tooth already well above the gum line behind her baby teeth. Turns out she had been meaning to mention it to me for a while but kept forgetting. Frankly I don’t know how I missed it myself during the handful of times I helped brush her teeth.

I was worried since her baby teeth weren’t even loose yet so I scheduled a dentist appointment for the following week at which point the baby tooth was of course starting to wiggle. The dentist said all looked well and so my girl ramped up her attempts to get it out. She complained about how uncomfortable/annoying/odd it was while I complained about how we should start saving now for all the orthodontic work our children’s teeth are going to require. I myself went through two sets of braces with rubber bands, an expander, head gear and retainers to achieve my lovely grin (Thanks Mom!)

Anyways, throughout the last two weeks my girl continued to tell everyone she ran into that she had a loose tooth and would wiggle it for them all to see. She especially delighted in torturing her Grandma Maggie, who isn’t a big fan of loose teeth, by wiggling it extra enthusiastically in front of her every chance she got and there were many! Punk.

Thankfully the tooth came out tonight while she was brushing her teeth. The pure joy on her face was priceless and her siblings were super excited for her as well. We immediately found a little pouch to put the tooth in and placed it under her pillow. After reading a story I tucked my excited little 6 year old into bed and spent the next 10 minutes with her discussing Tooth Fairy specifics.

We speculated on how many Tooth Fairies there might be (she thinks maybe one per country since that would be a lot of teeth for one little fairy to collect each night), what the fairy does with the teeth (I suggested she uses them to build her castle) and where she lives (she suggested the fairy might be a drifter of sorts with homes/castles in every town). We talked about how cool and weird it is to have a hole in your gums and how when you stick your tongue in the hole it tastes a little metal-like. She would have continued talking but I had to cut her off and end her snuggle time because her brother was yelling from the bathroom that he need some  toilet paper to wipe his butt and her little sister was in the bathroom bothering him. Like older siblings d0 she rolled her eyes, giggled, said goodnight and promptly fell asleep.

These sure are some fun times being a mom and I can’t wait for the morning!

 

 

 

 

 

Black Raspberry Cake

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Ahh, what a weekend. No major obligations. Just quality family time doing whatever we wanted. We lounged, we went black raspberry picking again like last weekend, we swam in the rain and in the sunshine, we went to a movie and watched one at home and we celebrated our friend, Lesley’s, birthday which meant I spent a little time in the kitchen.

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I was a bit heavy handed with my dusting of powdered sugar and the edges were well done but it was still a well received cake.

Since I had 5 very ripe bananas sitting in the fridge I whipped up some chocolate chip banana muffins using my favorite Cooks Illustrated recipe for Ultimate Banana Bread. I blogged about this recipe way back in 2011 for the first time and included some terrible photos to boot. You can find those terrible photos and the recipe here and I highly recommend that you give it a whirl! Sorry I don’t have any improved pictures to post for you. The 12 normal sized and 24 mini muffins were annihilated before I thought to photograph them and it doesn’t help that my camera has been missing since the 4th…so that sucks.

Anyways, I didn’t think the muffins would be enough for our little birthday get together and I felt the birthday girl needed an actual cake for her candles so I whipped up one of my favorite little cakes that takes almost no time to throw together. I was turned on to this cake originally by my sister-in-law and can’t believe I haven’t shared it with you until now. It’s a pleasant alternative to a traditional birthday cake and is a crowd pleaser.

The recipe comes from Simply Recipes and it’s originally posted as a Blueberry Cake but since I failed to thaw my blueberries, was short on time and had a fridge full of freshly picked black raspberries it was a no-brainer to take a more seasonal approach to this cake.

Have a special function coming up?  Got a craving for something berry-filled and delicious? Give this cake a try! You’ll be glad that you did, I promise.

 

Blueberry or Black Raspberry Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon of flour (plus more for prepping cake pan)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups blueberries/black raspberries/any other berry, rinsed and drained (if using frozen berries, thaw and drain first)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour. Or use a 9-inch round cake pan, butter and dust with flour and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2 Combine 1 cup of flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.

3 Using a mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Then add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, a couple minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

4 Combine the berries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice in a bowl. Spoon the berry mixture over the batter.

5 Bake on middle rack in oven for 1 hour at 350°F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan. Transfer the cake to a platter, berry side up. Dust the cake with powdered sugar before serving.

 

 

Beach Bums and Backyard Sleepers

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Yesterday we picked up Grandma and went to the beach. 2014-07-10 13.31.09We spent a glorious few hours soaking up the sun, playing Monkey in the Middle in the water, doing cartwheels and summersaults down the huge sand pile and failing miserably at building a sand castle worthy of any respect. It was great!

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She looks angry but was really just on a mission to get her goggles! Phew!

 

Then after piano lessons and dinner followed by more snow cones I tucked my minions into their tent for a second night of backyard camping.

This kid was bouncing off the walls but some how I finally got him settled down and ready to sleep.

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The longer you look at this picture the more it looks like I photo-shopped his head onto his body. Give it a second… See what I mean? Cracks me up.

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His sister was equally as squirrely so I issued a few threats about noise and getting out from under their covers and marching them up to their own beds which eventually got their attention.

With their lovies by their side they snuggled in.

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I kissed their faces and made a hasty exit, admiring the full moon above their tent, into the house and2014-07-10 20.55.01 upstairs to my comfy bed where I slept peacefully and uninterrupted all night long! I think their busy day at the beach must have worn them out since no one woke up with nightmares… at least none that I’m aware of, and that’s a win in my book!

Now it’s time to intervene and stop the arguing I hear outside as I type this. The kids are suppose to be cleaning out all their gear from the tent so we can put it away but this seems to be a herculean task for some reason… probably since they’re 4 and 6 year old punks.

Happy Friday, friends!