Thursday, May 30, 2013

keeping busy

How can it be Thursday already?  I really thought that this long summer days would just drag on and on.  I thought I'd be desperate to keep the littles busy and happy.  I thought it would be hard to fill our summer days.  I was wrong.  So far...  I'm probably jumping the gun here, since school hasn't been out for even 2 weeks yet, but we have been really jam-packing in the summer fun around here.  Trips to an amusement park, trips to the pool, trips to the playground, trips to the farm, even trips to the coffee shop!  And it has felt busy, which is why I realized only this morning that I hadn't posted anything since Monday.  And even now I'm in a race with the clock to post this before a morning trip to the park where we are meeting friends to play.

In between all the busy has been working in our garden, working on making somethings, and getting our pool opened.  It should be opened in time for the weekend.  Bone chilling cold, but open.  We have a birthday party this weekend, and a big town festival.  So no end in sight to keeping busy!  And you know what?  I'm liking it that way.

How are you keeping busy with littles this summer?  I'm sure I'll run out of ideas, so let me steal yours, okey-dokey?

Monday, May 27, 2013

We Remember

And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier's tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.
- Joseph Rodman Drake

                                             MAJ William Hecker 
                                             CPT Christopher Petty 
                                             SFC Stephen J. White 
                                             SGT Johnny J. Peralez, Jr. 
                                             PVT Robbie M. Mariano

And the thousands of others who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

meringue key lime pie in coconut crust

 When my parents were visiting, my mom and I made a key lime pie on Brian's request.  He loves lime pies.  His favorite is probably the limeade pie that is made with frozen lime juice concentrate.  But mom and I wanted to do the real thing.  Plus I've never tried my hand at meringue, and I really wanted to learn while my mom was here to show me.

We adapted Martha's key lime pie recipe.  Very much adapted.  We basically used it as a guideline and then threw it out the window.  Because of the said meringue and because we made a coconut crust.  Because what goes better with lime than coconut?  Nothing.  I rest my case.

3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 T butter, melted
1 T sugar
Pie Filling
1/2 cup fresh squeezed key lime juice
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1 T grated lime zest, plus more for garnish
4 large egg whites
2 T sugar

9 inch pie pan

First mix together the crust ingredients and press down into the pie pan.
Bake at 375 for about 10 to 12 minutes, until just lightly browned.  Cool completely.  Juice and zest the limes.
Combine the pie filling ingredients in a bowl, and gently whisk together.
Pour into the cooled crust and turn the oven down to 325.  Bake for 10- 12 minutes.  While baking, prepare meringue.  When I asked my mom how many eggs whites are needed for the meringue, she said that she always used the same amount as the egg yolks in the pie.  So 4 it is!  She also said to be careful to not include any egg yolks in the meringue, as they will cause the meringue to fall.  Whip egg whites in a mixer with the whisk attachment and add the sugar as it mixes.
The meringue is finished when peaks form but don't sink back down when the whisk is pulled out.
Pull the pie out of the oven and top with meringue.  Take care to spread meringue to the edges of the crust, so that the pie is sealed.  Or else the meringue will sweat.  And who wants sweaty meringue?
Turn oven BACK up to 375, and bake another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the meringue browns lightly.  Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
And that's it for a really delicious, summery pie.  I would have taken pictures of it sliced, but we took it over to a neighbor's house for dinner, and I just felt weird bringing my camera for the pie cutting.  But it was tart and refreshing, and just a lovely light yellow-green color.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

last day

Fletcher's last day of school was last Friday.  I can't believe he's finished his first year of school already.  I know that Rowan went to school too, but she only went 2 days a week, so it doesn't feel official with her.

Here is Fletcher's last day picture, along with his first day.  Can you believe how much he grew?!  I don't even realize how quickly these littles grow until I look at side by side comparisons.
This time when I asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, he said an Army man like Papa.  So he still wants to be just like his Papa when he grows up.  But an Army man?  I don't think this mama's heart could take it.
And here is a little side by side comparison of Rowan's first and last day.  
Also unbelievable how much she grew!  She's also changed so much with her time in school.  She had such an excellent teacher who really worked with the kids, and loved working with the kids.  Which really makes all the difference.  

Fletcher learned and changed a lot, but we made a hard decision to keep him in preschool for another year next year.  His birthday is at the end of a June, so we thought giving him the opportunity to be the oldest kid in his class, rather than the youngest, might be a good idea.  He's so smart, and is so eager to learn, but he is also young.  It's hard to make these decisions as they come up.  We want the absolute best for him and for his life, and all the advice we received led us to giving him another year to grow.  As parents, we make these decisions as we go, hope for the best, say a prayer, and send out our children to do their best.  It's hard.

Friday, May 17, 2013

this week

This week we've been really enjoying the company of my parents.
 They spoil the kids rotten, and they make the work for these mama's hands light.  And I haven't had to go grocery shopping this week!  And I've cooked a lot less.
 The littles are playing together well this week.  We've had grumpy moments, but they really are starting to become pals.
 This week we've been visited by some turtles.  We get a lot of box and snapping turtles around here, so we make sure and let the littles know not to touch ANY turtle.  We'll see how long they listen to me.
 This week the iris started to bloom.  And Rowan is already going around picking them.  They are just so frilly and feminine.
 This week the roses are just starting to peek out, and if last year was any indication, we'll have roses blooming until November.
 This week the lily of the valley is on its last legs, but little nosegays that my mom and Rowan have picked keep the house smelling so sweet.  But the sage is in full beautiful bloom!
And this week my mom helped me put in my herbs in planter boxes right outside the kitchen door.  I am so looking forward to walking out, snipping off a couple leaves, and throwing them into whatever I'm cooking.

What was your week like?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

mexican skillet

As the days get warmer and the sun sticks around for a while longer, we start doing dinner a bit differently.  We might start up the grill, or I might make a big salad (salad is Fletcher's favorite meal- true story) or I throw whatever vegetables we have on hand into a skillet in various combinations.  I happened to have jalapeños, avocados and cilantro in the fridge, so I was either going to make guacamole or a skillet meal.  Since we had no chips, skillet it was!  There are no hard and fast rules about these meals, but here is what I put into this one.

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn (fresh, frozen or canned would all work)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 small avocados, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
small bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 T olive oil
2 limes
1/2 cup prepared salsa

serve with tortillas, chips, or rice
serves 4

First I chopped and prepared all the vegetables.
Next I sautéed the onions and peppers in olive oil on medium heat for about 7 minutes, and added the garlic and jalapeños for an additional 3 minutes.  While those vegetables were sautéing, I lightly mashed the black beans with a fork, so they would mingle into the mixture a bit.
I added the beans, tomatoes, cilantro, corn, salsa, and the juice of one lime to the mixture, and turned down the heat to low, just warming them.  I turned off the heat, and added the sliced avocados on top right before serving.
Brian ate his mixture in a tortilla with cheese, extra hot sauce, and sour cream, and I had mine just in a bowl with the cheese and sour cream.  We both squeezed extra lime on top.  So quick, easy, and delicious!

Monday, May 13, 2013

the party

Rowan has quite a few classmates at school, and we made the decision to invite them all over for her party.  I made the (wise) decision to have the party last exactly 2 hours.  Which, if you were wondering, is just enough time for eating pizza, playing pin the crown on the princess, singing Happy Birthday and eating cake, and opening presents.  That was it!  And Rowan couldn't have been happier.  She remembered her manners, opened each present with a "ooo, it's just what I wanted!" and thanked everyone for coming and for the gifts.  Right at that 2 hour mark, she began to get a bit crabby, though, so the very sweet and polite Rowan was traded in for a tired and cranky Rowan.  I could not be more proud of how well she did, though.
It's a funny business to me, these birthday parties for 3 years olds.  Come on over!  We'll give you too much sugar, and then make you watch someone open presents of toys that you can't play with!  It'll be fun!  Luckily it actually WAS fun, and no one got the jealousy bug while Rowan was opening presents.  She's even shared a bit with her big brother.  I call that a success!
I also call it a success that while Rowan wanted a "Princess Party" I was able to (mostly) keep the brand named, Disney stuff out of the equation.  Don't get me wrong, I don't object to Disney and their princesses, but I like a more handmade feel to a party.  And Rowan didn't mind.  She was originally going to wear her Cinderella dress up dress, but my parents saved the day by bringing her a beautiful purple dress from their trip to Mexico!  There was one Disney princess that made an appearance in the form of pin the crown on the princess, but I drew her on a poster board myself, so even she was handmade.  Rowan also requested the color purple for decorations, and then added in blue for the boys.  Actually, it was just for one boy, the 12 year old son of friends.  She adores him, follows him around, calls him her best friend, mostly because he is so sweet and kind to her.  So purple and blue it was!
I always put up a photo garland of some snapshots of the birthday girl/boy for their parties.  And Rowan requested purple flowers.  So of course papa got them for her.  He's a sucker like that.
It was a fun party, and I was so thankful for the extra helping hands from my parents.  Rowan had a great time, and I learned that I don't have to break myself to make a fun party for the littles.  And that ordering pizza instead of making the food is just fine.  Especially since it's Rowan's favorite.
My baby is 3!

Friday, May 10, 2013

3 years old!

We all know that time can fly by so quickly.  This is especially true when we watch our children grow. I know it's trite, but I REALLY DO feel like Rowan was just born.  I can remember it all so well, and when I think about her as a baby, it is so clear to me, I am almost surprised to find that she is a little girl now.  Three years old.  Her birthday is Sunday, and we are having a little birthday party with her school friends tomorrow.

As I prepare for her party, I keep wondering when it was that she turned away from the tantrums and needs that is the terrible twos.  She has become sweet, caring, and kind.  With a few tantrums still thrown in there.
 Rowan's favorite food right now is pizza and pineapple.  Not together.  She loves anything to do with the Disney princesses, much to my dismay.  But she also loves to play trains with Fletcher, so at least there's a balance.
 She loves to wear dresses and ballerina skirts, but insists upon wearing pants under them.
She adores cats and dogs, and has two favored stuffed doggies that she sleeps with every night.
 Rowan loves to tend to flowers and plants.  Watering, picking flowers, and smelling flowers are among her favorite pastimes.  She has a very unique way of smelling flowers, ha!
 Dance parties are frequently requested by Rowan, with an emphasis on the Hokey Pokey.  But she really will dance to anything, anytime, anywhere.
 She has a great sense of humor, even at her own expense.  Rowan enjoys a good knock knock joke.  She also enjoys a bad one.
 She is my little shadow, and will join in any activity or chore I have to do.  Folding laundry?  She'll help me unfold it.  Cooking dinner?  She will insist upon standing on the chair next to me and helping chop vegetables or stir a simmering pot.  No, I don't let her.  She just tries to insist.  Tending the garden?  She will overwater the plants, and then step on them.  She makes any chore 10 times longer,  but she's such a cheerful companion, I can't complain.
 Although Rowan is my little shadow, she is a papa's girl, through and through.  Every morning she wakes up asking where he is, and is bitterly disappointed the 5 days of the week that he is at work.
She is a blur of painted nails and ponytails.  She is a tagalong to Fletcher, and they are sometimes partners in crime.  She gives hugs to everyone, and hasn't met a stranger yet.  Which is sweet, and scary too.

She is turning 3 on Sunday.  Did I mention it feels like she was just born?

Rowan, you are such a bright spot in Mama's life.  Your sweetness and compassion are evident even at 3 years old.  You are passionate about many things, and your emotions can run hot, but that is part of why I love you so much.  You're a little beauty, but mostly because of the sweetness that shines through.  I love you!