Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Home is where your family is - Right? Right.

    I'm a cautious buyer when it crosses the line from purchase to investment. I search and hunt for the best item for the best price and I take my time doing it. Often I take too much time and often I take so much time I end up missing out on an option. Sometimes I chalk it up to that old phrase "It just wasn't meant to be" and will take me a while to get over it. 
    I don't know why I let things hover in my thoughts. Maybe hover isn't the right word, its more like play pong in my mind. Just as I think the idea has left my mind it hits the board and bounces back in my thoughts. Ps. This drives the Hubs nuts!!! 

   Wondering where I'm going with this? I've become instantly obsessed with the idea of a house that recently came on the market - notice how I said the idea of it since I have only seen pictures online and drove past it (that was a bad idea, I admit). Now I'm having second thoughts about our house - which I shouldn't but it just feels like some force is showing off. 

   We have lived in our new house for just over a year. And let's remember, all five of us fell in love with it when we walked in the door after looking at a few other houses. We convinced ourselves that we would and could make it work with a few updates and adjustments. For the most part it has and continues to work for us. The kids have their own rooms. The Hubs has some space for his office. The kitchen is nicely updated as well as the upstairs bathroom. I can't fester on the fact that the windows need to be replaced, the front door needs to be redone and we now rock base board heaters instead of forced air so there is larger areas to avoid putting furniture with no option to install an a/c unit, or the cutback of land we took choosing this house. 

   I've also had a hard time adjusting to the feeling of this house being our home and not a rental. It's weird. It's like the house and I bonded before we signed the papers and then when we did and starting moving in, we became distant relatives. I get the occasional blurb of feeling at home but that flees shortly afterwards. 

   I know I shouldn't dwell on the fact that the house and land that we were originally looking for has come on the market around the corner from us. I really cant dwell that the front porch is that classic, dreamy porch that is coffee sipping on a glider friendly, there is a separate entrance for the upstairs office area that the hubs would love, a double garage, a slightly bigger basement or the wooded land behind the main back yard all still within the school district that we wanted to stay in and within our looking price range. There is absolutely nothing that we can or will do. I know we wont sell and move over there. I know we can't sell and move over there. But come on - what the heck?! Is this just a big test for me to be 100% true to myself grateful for the house we have and make it really feel like home??!  

   That has to be the case. This is a test. This is a challenge for me to overcome  and open my eyes and heart to. I have to look past what that house has and what our house doesn't have. Instead I have to look at what OUR house has and right now OUR house has my family in and my family is my everything. 

This was the picture that Lulu drew of our house before our move
- each kiddo is waving out a window. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Play and Grow!! #RSVPplayDate

    Toys! What kid doesn't want to come over to play with new toys? We were given an awesome opportunity to play! That's right, I said play!! Vocalpoint sent us a Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair and a Laugh & Learn Puppy's Smart Stages Train to play and review at a #RSVPplaydate.

    We welcomed our party guests to a "create your own snack" bar with some very nifty tote along snackers that were sent to us. We also made sure that the crew of kiddos had their liquid refreshments set in some unique travel sippy cups from Fisher Price before venturing over to play at the play mat. (Unfortunately, this is as far as two of our little guests got as one of the girls had a upset tummy still lingering from the day before..., so sad to see such cute little faces have to leave the fun but tis flu season starting. Luckily, I was able to arrange for them to check out the toys after the party at their house so they still got their "play on"- whoop whoop Clorox wipes!!)

   Our remaining crew finished loading up their snackers and we gathered on the incredibly sweet play mat that Vocal Point sent us. I introduced the "fun, yellow party chair" highlighting a few features and we set it to our 18mo guest. Wondering what I mean by "set it"? The Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair features a new technology that adjusts with your child's developmental stages. Below is from the Fisher Price website to further explain the differences in the stages:

    Smart Stages™ Technology 
    Level 1 – Explore – 12M+ First words and sounds spark baby’s curiosity 
    Level 2 - Encourage – 18M+ Prompt baby though questions and simple    
    Level 3 – Pretend – 24M+ Imaginative fun and early role play

  The kids checked the chair out. They liked the songs and the flip of the seat. Our 18mo was a bit too big for the chair (she's in the higher percentile) and our 3mo was a bit too small for the chair - talk about Goldilocks and the Three Bears! The green leaver on the side was a tab perplexing since it didn't cue any songs or commands but overall it's a fun chair that can be played with for 2+ years. 

    I then introduced the "party train and crew" aka the Laugh & Learn Puppy's Smart Stages Train and it became the instant life of the party! This train has it all! Puppy, Monkey and Frog are all aboard for some fun. 

    This one again, has the Smart Stages Technology and expands and grows with your kiddo. The numerous songs and interactions cues were a blast for all the kids, even our little 3mo party go-er. One feature that all the parents liked was it's switch to keep the train stationary or to activate it's motion. 

    We had a little dance party and some more snacks and play time then called it a play date! Our littlest party go-er was all tuckered out. How adorable is this??!! Play hard, sleep hard!! (And look at those Cookie Monster socks!)

    Many thanks again to Vocalpoint for choosing us to host a super fun #RSVPplaydate! The adults and kids all had a blast and we definitely know a few kiddos that have a train on their Christmas list this year.

PS - How about a little pre-playdate blooper? How cute is this? I still giggle seeing Daddio's assembling kid toys. 

    The Not So Fine Print - we were sent the toys to play and review. All opinions are our own. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Falling in love with Fall and #Starbucks #FallBlend

 My favorite season is Fall. The colors, the temperatures, the scents, the local attractions, everything - well everything but the occasional sleeting rain. There is just something about being outside bundled in a soft sweater that makes me feel happy.

  Another thing that is perfect during this cool weather is curling up under a homemade afghan with a fresh brewed cup of coffee. Pressing the cup against your chest as it cools warms the soul and livens the senses. A peaceful cup of coffee is a great way to wake up for the day!!

   Many thanks to Modern Mom and Starbucks  for sending me some 2014 Fall Blend coffee and I truly mean it - many, many, many thanks!! This is by far the best blend of coffee I have ever had! It is a warm and rich blend of three coffees that fill this medium roast in flavor. 

    How can you not enjoy the start of the Fall season with a delish cup of warm, amazing coffee?? Especially when Fall means its Back to School time!! 

    Starbucks did a great job selecting this blend for sure! Sumatran beans bring warm spice notes to the bright citrus Kenya beans both blended with a subtle nuttiness of Peru beans. A serious full-bodied, medium roast. 

    You can pick up a bag or two or three at major grocery stores for $8.99 per 10oz. package. Hurry up though before they're all gone. 

     Are you a savvy shopper? Visit Starbucks here and click on the top of the screen for a special savings. 

     Want to see more pics? Join me on Instagram!

   Not so fine print - Many thanks again to Modern Mom for the coffee - All opinions are my own and I really do mean it - this Fall Blend is awesome!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Beautiful, Strong and Amazing

    I want to share a story about a strong, beautiful woman I am so fortunate to have in my life. It's my cousin. We joke that she's the younger sister I never wanted but truth is she is the younger sister I really did want. My brother and I sure put her through the ringer growing up but what did we know? We might made her scared to use aloe-vera gel telling her it was Slimer from Ghost Busters but she was an only child so we gave her experiences only kids with siblings could get. (In all honesty I am sorry but we were kids.) 

   She is so incredibly strong, much stronger than I will ever be. She is beautiful and kind and thoughtful and simply amazing!!

   Over the past few years she has traveled beyond her path and her shoes are worn, her soul and heart have been tested, pushed to the limit and she has stood tall and strong.  

   Two years ago she found out she was expecting her second child which they found through a series of tests had a terminal condition. Through a network of bereaved parents they were given a recorder to capture their daughter's heartbeat forever. They later put that recording device in a bunny as a keepsake. And as those who have been pregnant know, hearing your baby's heartbeat is one of the most treasured sounds that will grace your ears in your entire life! 

    Her baby was born and while some may think the nine days she spent on Earth were too short, she will forever carry live on in our hearts. She was just like her mama - beautiful, strong and a fighter. 

   Over this past weekend my cousin held a bike run to raise money and awareness for the organization that gave them the recording device so that others can have this piece of their baby with them. She did an awesome job for a first annual event and raised over $1000! And I am so thankful that I was there to help. 

   I'm hoping I can talk her into having a dedicated page or two on social media so that we can raise awareness and even fund-raise year round. When that happens I will post any and all links here as well as on my social media accounts. 

   I am happy to finish up this post with letting you know she did end up having a wonderful "rainbow" baby who is just as beautiful as her sister and mother. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

We can because we can - Its #canningseason

    You read that right, it's canning season. My mother-in-law cans peaches and tomatoes that they get at a farm up where Great, Great Grandpa use to live. I have yet to tag along on a peach canning day but this is my second tomato canning afternoon since being with my Hubs.

    Lulu and I drove out to her house where she was already blanching and peeling away. Once we washed our hands, we dove right in. After a few batches and lunch we started picking up and I asked her what happens to the skins. She kind of look at me weird and said she just tosses them out. For some reason I felt like there was just something that could be done with them so I took them home with me (Lulu stayed to play while the jars cooled and the MIL would drive them both over before dinner.)

    I got home I started in on my search and found that many people dry the skins, grind them up and use them a lot of different ways. So TW and I started sorting our bag of left over tomato parts and pieces. I pulled out the skins, flattening them on parchment paper and scrapped away any extra meat.
TW had a blast until his belly was full. 

My little kitchen co-pilot 
(He found a tiny tomato that slipped past the cans)

Separating the skin from the rest of the left overs

    Once I had three trays full they went into my convection oven at 200 degrees for about three hours. In the mean time TW and I continued to sort through the bag of skins and parts. I put all the extra parts in a pot and boiled it up for maybe about an hour or so then ran it all through a sifter creating tomato juice (the Hubs was happy). 

How purdy is that??!
Dried tomato skins are delish as is - like fancy tomato chips - lol

    When my MIL came I shared with her what I found and she was over the moon. All these years she's been tossing out all of that thinking it was just waste. Looks like I may have updated the family canning process for the better. Use it all up! 
That's all that's left when I was done - into the compost it goes!

Ran it through my herb grinder and voila! 
Tomato skin powder

    Wondering what you can do with dried tomato powder? 
    ~ Make a paste using a one part water, one part powder ratio. 
    ~ Need a soup base? Use a two part water, one part powder ratio
    ~ Add to marinades, dips, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes
    ~ Lots more!!