Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend! We had a lot of fun! Three day weekends are always a treat, although it was a busy one. Saturday had us doing baseball, a baby shower, and then deck layout at Dale & Lauren's (lots of stakes and strings!), and a little post hole digging.

On the way home from baseball on Sat, we drove past a yard sale in our neighbourhood. It looked like they had a few nice bikes for sale, so we stopped. A perfect bike for Kenna - a 21 speed in excellent condition - for $10. SOLD! Kenna got to ride the bike home all by herself, since we were driving:-) Needless to say, she's been loving it! I'm still on the lookout for "new" bikes for Brooks and Grey, I intend to use my Cookies/Cupcakes profits for extras like new bikes (all of theirs are too small for them). A few more yard sales and YAY, that would save me from buying new:-)

On Sunday, we had church, and then there was a church wide picnic afterwards. The weather was perfect, and we stayed until 3. Brian played a game of Ultimate Frisbee (a fave), he hasn't played in awhile, so that made his day. Then, he was given a few giftcards to the Outback restaurant from a subcontractor ('cause he always goes above and beyond:-), so we went there for dinner with friends, and then onto Rita's for dessert for gelato!

Monday was lawn-work, beach, dinner, BED!
Beach - kids with Chae
Getting buried by Mr T

When Dads care more about building castles than kids do...

Rita's! The favourite flavour of the day was Swedish Fish

Baseball - the season will be over next week!
Some flower garden work!

A good helper. His chosen outfit cracked me up

He worked really hard

Burn pile is doing good, Mom

After spraying weeds, hoeing, removing all the rocks, getting rid of a bush, putting down mulch, and replacing all the rocks. It looks really tidy now! The shrub we got rid of is on the end of the porch - because it was weird looking and half dead, and also - we'd like to put stairs on that end of the porch too - since our front walkway floods really bad. Currently, when it's raining, you have to walk on those flat stones to get over to the steps, by adding a second staircase, we won't have to people to walk through the garden anymore:-) Adding stairs is easier and cheaper than tearing up the concrete walkway, leveling out the yard, and replacing the walkway.

We planted some petunias in our mailbox garden - the strange (and dead) shrubby thing just had to go. At the base of the mailbox, we planted a dark burgundy plant in the front, and a climbing flowering vine on the back side.

The flowers on the climbing vine

Other side of front garden, coming up next! this is basically what the other side looked like before too! Amazing how much better it looks now! Thankful for a yard of free mulch from a landscaper friend, it's enough to do all our flower beds. On this side, I can plant some flowers...I can't really on the other side, since we have to walk through the garden when it rains (kids aren't super great about only stepping on stones)

We planted some tomato plants! I need to get the wire thingys so they can grow properly, but excited for our own vegetables!
Anyway,  a fun and busy weekend for all! We slept in on Monday morning until 8:30, and that made us feel like kings!

Kenna learned how to do something new on Monday. She had a few belly flop landings before she learned to tuck better and land properly:-) Here's a belly flop!

Here is Grey just being Grey

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Elephant Cake

I am an epically bad estimator. Always. Ask me how far away that is. 1 yard? 1 meter? 1 mile? You might as well save me the trouble of having to guess way wrong and not ask me at all. I have a hard enough time telling right from left. {kiddingnotkidding}

So when it comes to cakes - same deal. I never know how much I'll need by way of icing. I've started to try and keep notes, so I don't forget stuff.

I thought I'd share, by way of being helpful. To future me. Who will forget by the next time I need to do a large cake...:-)

For this Elephant Cake (for a baby shower) - I have 3 tiers. 12", 8" and 4" (two cakes per layer, so one filling layer per size). The Mommy-to-be has a favourite dessert...strawberry shortcake. So this cake is a nod to that!

I rimmed the cakes with a stiff buttercream, filled the center with whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. (This cake MUST be refrigerated, and must be made as "last minute" as possible. I made this 24 hours before it was served. I would say, 2 days at the max, or else you'd have to stabilize your cream with gelatin, and that would likely only get you another day or so)

I whipped up 2 of these, adding vanilla and icing sugar to sweeten. I had some left over after filling all three layers

8" layer

I went back, after stacking the cakes, and filled in (with the "rimming" buttercream), all the areas where strawberries and/or whipping cream were showing through. I don't want any leaks.
For crumb coating, all three layers, it used 2 recipes of buttercream - with this much left over
To sum up:
To fill (rim only, all three layers) - 1 recipe of buttercream

To crumb coat - 2 recipes of buttercream

To decorate:
Bottom layer - 1.5 recipes of buttercream.
Middle - 1.5 recipes of buttercream
Top - 1/2 recipe of fondant
The elephants on the top...aren't they to die for?! They are so unbelievably cute! They are made of fondant, and I didn't make them. Well, I made the fondant:-) My friend Abbey, who is very much more artsy than me made them. She can actually sculpt, and I knew mine would definitely NOT look cute. I stink at playdoh, so I know this about myself. Abbey was gracious enough to help me out and give this cake the adorable final touches. (I made the balloons, haha!)
The theme of the shower is...you guessed it, Elephants!

Cute Mommy and Baby bums!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Golden Crystal

The frustration of Kenna's life is made fairly apparent when watching this video she took. NO BROOKS. I DIDN'T SAY READY YET!!

Sparky Award

Last night Kenna got her Sparky award - she's finished the third and final Sparky book, so she's on to Truth & Training next year. Craaaaazy! So last night was her last as a Sparky! She worked really hard this year to memorize all the required passages (some of them really long!) and do all the projects.

Brooks got his second book award - but they don't acknowledge that at the ceremony...because there are so many kids in the Awana club at our church, we'd be there for a week if they called them all by name:-) They only acknowledge the "major milestones" for the younger kids (Cubbies and Sparkies)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

For Mattea

My little niece Mattea is four years old. She seems to have gotten something from me (funny how genetics work, right?)...she hates to drink water. She is also super smart, which obviously also comes from me:-D

Within the past few months, I have determined to drink more water. I would barely ever drink any (a few glasses a day, with a meal), and was trying to get better about staying hydrated for overall health.

I read somewhere that you should drink half your body weight in oz. or MORE per DAY. Yikes. I decided to try it.

So here is my tip for Mattea. Maybe you can't drink water in a normal glass. I literally cannot. It's got to be a weird mental thing (likely because of the aforementioned super-smartness), but I really can't. When drinking water from a regular cup, the "normal" way, it takes me ages to finish a glass, and I never want more.

But when I put water in a cup like this:
I started being able to drink it! If I keep it full, and keep it with me (I tote it around the house, it's almost spill proof). Now - get this - after only about a month or so, I am drinking 100 oz of water per day!!!!

That is this jug full to the tippy top, plus about another half jug:
Please note, 100 oz is definitely more than half my body weight in oz. For those smarties out there trying to do the math.

Over time (about a week or two), your kidneys adjust, and you don't have to pee every 20 minutes.

The difference for me, I think, is really all in the straw. I can "chug" water from a straw, but not from a cup. Weird - yes. But it's working, so I'm going with it:-)

So, Tea, ask your Mom to get you a great cup with a straw (mine was about $4 at Walmart, it's plastic), and lets drink lots of water together!

Birthday Thank Yous

We want to offer up a sincere THANK YOU to all our family and friends who made our birthdays special. We appreciate all the cards, calls, emails, and gifts! The kids love getting mail...and when there is money inside? Well, lets say you made our day!

The kids have loved picking out their own shirts from Grandma K, and they get daily use out of these headphones from Grandma B (now I can never find my ipod:-)
They were thrilled with their money, and spent it on gifts for each other, or Daddy's birthday. It made them really happy to buy something with their own money! They have a few dollars left for their own special treats:-)
Thanks for sharing with us and giving us good memories. We'll have to do it again...next year:-)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Beach Season & Soup Recipe

The kids have been begging to go the beach for a few weeks now. When we lived in Norfolk, it was only a few minute drive to our fave spot, so we could squeeze in a quick beach trip in an otherwise busy day.
Since we moved, it's now a 30 minute drive to the closest beaches (one of which is our fave, yay)...But it requires more planning on my part, and a solid chunk of available time. It's been a busy month so far, and it just hasn't happened.
But they were delighted when I suggested a beach afternoon, after baseball was over. Other than cleaning and doing laundry...we didn't have anything else to do! (And who wants to dust or fold laundry, really?!)
The beach is really a magical place. There are no toys (or very simple ones), and yet no one gets bored...in fact, as long as we've ever stayed at the beach (sometimes near all day), I don't think I've ever heard the kids ask to leave, or be happy about going home. Water and sand and sun provide a kind of fun that nothing else can.
I love this kid. We had a nice talk. He has all kinds of interesting stories.
Kenna is getting buried in the sand by Brooks
This day, I had to entice them to leave...with bread bowls. Haha! Let me explain...for Mothers Day, we went to grab lunch at Panera Bread (because I wanted to go there, and we knew the wait times would not be long). Kenna is our soup girl. She adores it. So she got chicken noodle, in a bread bowl. This was about the best thing that has ever happened to her. Rarely has a girl ever been more in love with her meal. With my meal, I got some broccoli cheddar soup (in a regular bowl:-) and it was delicious.

Fast forward to last Wed night - Someone at our church has a connection with Panera - they get all the "day old" stuff, and bring it to the church for the seminary students to take home for free. Brian works out at the church on Wed nights, and was there at the time of the bread drop off. He noticed 2 bread bowls, and he snagged them. Yes, literally taking food out of some seminary students mouth;-)

But you should have seen Kenna. It was as if Daddy was a bread bowl magician. She couldn't believe he could procure such an amazing thing. She talked about the bread bowl from Thursday onward. We'd decided I'd make a knock off Panera recipe to go in the bowls (which were enjoyed by Kenna and Brooks. The rest of us had "just regular". The recipe was stellar, all 5 of us loved it!

So on this day, I enticed them to leave the beach with the promise of a bread bowl:-) Here is the soup recipe!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup - a knock off Panera Bread Recipe

2 T. Butter, melted
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. all purpose flour
4 c. half and half
4 c. chicken broth
1 lb. fresh broccoli
2 cups, julienned carrots
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 t. nutmeg
16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Saute onion in butter.  Set aside.   Whisk butter and flour over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Stir constantly and slowly add half and half.  Add chicken stock, still whisking.
Simmer 20 minutes.
Add broccoli, carrots and onion.  Cook over low heat until veggies are tender – about 20-25 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  The soup will have thickened by now.
Carefully transfer soup mixture to blender and puree.  Return soup to pot (or crockpot) over low heat.  Add cheese.  Stir until well blended.  Add nutmeg right before serving.
Makes 8-10 servings.

NOTE: I felt that 2 C carrots was too much, I will reduce this amount next time I make it, maybe down to 1C and see how that compares.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Water Play

Probably the two things I love about this house are: the yard/property and the screened in porch.

Now that the heat is upon us, it's time for water play. At our old house, our lack of grass/ability to grow grass due to trees/soil meant that we couldn't do...sprinklers! Not with out a mud bath involved anyway.

We are loving being able to play in the water outside! And I just love how the outdoor space makes it easy and very comfortable to host large crowds.

You gotta be careful in our yard - these gumballs hurt bare feet!
Brooks got this water baseball game for his birthday from friends!