Tuesday, July 31

Boys Clothes - Not Bad Afterall

When we found out we were having a boy I was so excited.  So was Jared.  But I knew shopping for him wouldn't be nearly as much fun as shopping for a girl.  At least I'd save some money! It seemed to me that infant and toddler boy clothes just aren't cute.  Everything I saw had cartoon characters on it or was covered in feminine embroidery -- not for me.  How wrong I was!  We've received some really awesome outfits as gifts, which has led me to be a fan of some great brands.

After three years with an adventurous daughter I've decided it's better to invest in a few quality pieces than a whole bunch of cheap pieces, that everything eventually goes on sale, and Old Navy is still the best place for plain colored shirts and pajamas.

Here are the cool boys clothing brands I've discovered (in case you're also searching for onesies without teddy bears or trains).

Thatcher was gifted this cute onesie this week from my dad and stepmom. Love it!
I also received an outfit for Maggie when she was a baby.  Their clothes are so soft and cute.

The rugby one pieces are awesome and I'm definiately ordering a thermal onesie (or two) for the fall..  The clothes are light weight and super soft. 

Great preppy one pieces!  We've been really fortunate (blessed, blessed, blessed) to receive a lot of hand-me-downs from my dear friend, Courtney.  Lucky for me her boys wore a lot of RL!

Mini Boden
I really like Mini Boden for both girls and boys.  It can be a bit pricy but they always send a discount code with their catalogs and the clothes are high quality and stand up to many wearings and washings.  You can't go wrong with Mini Boden.

The Good Ones is a new line for boys created by my favorite girls' line, Matilda Jane.  I haven't ordered anything from it yet but I really like the look of a lot of it, and I trust the brand. Let me know if you try it out.

Happy shopping for those handsome little guys.

Recipe Reviews: Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

I'm always looking for news ways to make easy weeknight meals.  Dishes must either (a) be quick and easy to prep during nap time and stored in fridge until dinner or (b) be super quick and easy to make at dinner time.  The best dishes are ones that bake in an oven for at least 30 minutes.  Here's how dinner time goes for me:

- preheat oven and take pre-prepped meal from fridge
- get baby undressed and ready for bath
- put meal in oven and set timer
- while meal is cooking give baby bath and put to bed (this takes about 30 minutes)
- once baby's asleep the rest of us sit down to dinner

Both of these recipes are easy to prep ahead.

I love this recipe.  The chicken is flavorful and moist.  She calls for boneless, skin on  chicken but I used split chicken breasts bone-in and skin-on. The lemon, garlic and thyme is a good combination but be sure to use more salt and pepper than you think you need, and broil the tops at the end of cooking.

This would have been really good, if I had remembered to add the Parmesan. Oops! I'll try this again some time.  It's a beautiful way to serve vegetables.  Here's a tip: cut your tomatoes thick, your potatoes thin and the squash in between.

Overall, a pretty decent dinner for a Monday night and our week got off to a healthy start.

Whenever I'm trying new recipes I make sure the next meal is an old favorite, just in case the new recipes were a flop.  So tonight we're having another Ina Garten recipe -- Weeknight Bolognese.  Everyone in my house devours it, just be careful of the red pepper! (I use whole wheat organic pasta shells, in case you're wondering how to substitute the white pasta).

Sunday, July 22

Sunday Pancakes

Usually I think everything is better from scratch.  Better for you and better taste.  I buy very little processed food, and have few boxes in my pantry, but there is one box I keep stocked -- Hodgson Mill pancake mixes.  Specifically I really like the Multi-grain Buttermilk Pancakes with Flax Seed.  I used to make pancakes from scratch but once I tried these there was no going back.  They're light and fluffy with a great texture and I'm comfortable with the ingredients.  Just add an egg, a tiny bit of oil and some milk.  The mix is a little thin at first but once it touches the heat it puffs up perfectly.  I mix in a few dark chocolate chips in a few for the kids and blueberries to a few more. 
 Hodgson Mill mixes are available at most grocers either in the cereal isle or the natural foods section.  Quick, easy, yummy breakfast! 

Today's sermon at the church we attend encouraged us to live for today, praising God and thanking him for all our blessings.  In the simple things, like pancakes on Sunday mornings, and in the much larger things God is to be given thanks.  Nothing in our lives is significant, nothing is good, nothing is fulfilling without knowing Jesus Christ.  So many are struggling and facing difficult circumstances, but today, if even for a moment I hope you, my friends, find a moment to thank God. 

Here's to a wonderful week...

Thursday, July 19

Lunch for a Lazy Lake Day

The perfect meal for a lazy day on the lake is something that requires no plate, no fork and makes no mess.  Everything is either eaten or thrown in the trash, and it's just enough to feed everyone lunch with no leftovers.  I think I have finally perfected my family's standard lake day meal.

Here's what I take:

Baked Mini Turkey Sandwiches
photo is before they were baked, but you get the idea
You can find many variations of the classic Kings Hawaiian ham sandwiches so to spare re-posting basically the same recipe, here's a link to The Girl Who Ate Everything.  Her variation is my favorite, except I use honey baked turkey because I hate ham.

I assemble the sandwiches the night before and pop them in the oven 20 minutes before we leave the house.  I wrap the sandwiches in foil and put them in an insulated bag.

To go with the sandwiches we take two types of fruit (like apples and pluots), a bag of chips and granola bars for a later snack. Some times I throw in a bag of carrots too.

So easy! And off we go to the lake with a yummy lunch everyone enjoys.
Don't we look like we're having fun?!

Wednesday, July 18

{Kids Stuff} Simple Pleasures

It doesn't take much to make a kid happy. Today we had watermelon for a snack. Outside. Naked.  Nothing better than eating cold watermelon outside on a hot day. Naked (the naked part was particularly important).

I just hosed her off before we came inside.  That was also a lot of fun! 

Monday, July 9

Ladies Lunch - Yellow and White

Every mommy deserves a break now and then and I know lots of ladies with young children who could use a day at the pool to relax, without chasing kids.  To give my girlfriends a relaxing afternoon I rented our neighborhood pool for a few hours and sent out an invitation to "Lunch and Lounge."  Mother Nature had other plans however and 30 minutes before our lunch was to start the rain came pouring down.  Plan B -- lunch in my kitchen.  It's not quite the same but at least my girlfriends could still get good use out of the babysitters they'd hired and have a nice lunch.  Here are some photos of our lemony, sunny lunch on a rainy day.  Even though there wasn't any swimming or suntanning it was still a nice time to get together.

Drink:  Lemonade Champagne Sparkler
Mix 1 cup champagne with 2 cups lemonade and 2 tablespoons cranberry juice.

I love to use inexpensive upholstery fabric for festive tablecloths.
Yellow tin buckets I found in my craft closet filled with Twizzlers was the only table decor.  Cute and sweet.
Every ladies lunch needs a sparkly drink.  For the water bottles (since we were supposed to be at the pool) I bought yellow and white stripped straws on Amazon.  The lemon keeps the straw from falling into the bottle.
We're never too old for polka-dots, especially when partnered with stripes.
Sweet, tart and not too heavy.  Lemon squares are such a refreshing dessert.

Sunday, July 8

Freezing Peaches

I just finished freezing the 50+ pounds of peaches Maggie and I recently picked.  To tell the truth, this took some work, but I think it'll be well worth it when I'm baking peach and blueberry pie this fall, or blending them into baby food this winter.  I'm not completely sure what I'll do with that many peaches but it makes me happy to know I have them and can use them when I want to.  Peaches make great marinades for pork, and I know I can use them in my morning protein smoothies.  Maybe I'll make peach scones ...the possibilities are endless.

Here's how I froze them:  (I chose freezing over canning because I've never liked canned fruit or vegetables)

To make peeling them easier bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.  Drop in 5 or 6 peaches and let boil for a minute or less.

Transfer peaches to an ice bath to stop them from cooking.

Use something slotted to transfer the peaches to avoid putting hot water in your ice bath.

This is the ideal result.  The skin should easily peel right off with a slight tug of your finger.  Every so often you'll get a stubborn one and will need to use a peeler, so keep it handy.

Peaches can make a huge mess.  I have two bowls ready and put a cutting board in a rimmed baking sheet.

Use one bowl for the peach peel and pits.  Use the other bowl for the peach slices.
To preserve the peaches for freezing I coated them with Fruit Fresh and 100% pure apple juice.

Use just enough juice to cover the peaches.

 Using a 1 cup measuring glass I transfer 2 cups peaches and juice to quart size Ziploc freezer bags.

Squeeze as much air out of the bags as you can before sealing.  If you feel you can't get all the air out, I've found using a simple straw and sucking it out is very effective.

Seal the bags and store them flat in your freezer.

End note:  To my friend and neighbor Patricia, thanks for the Fruit Fresh and for doing this with me.  Our adventure as fruit pickers and preservers is so much fun!

Saturday, July 7

Watching Them Grow

Sometimes I just stare at my kids and I wonder...

What kind of toddler will you be?

What will you be like as a young lady?

I can't help but be filled with wonder for who these little people are growing into.

I believe strongly that God created each one of us with a unique plan. And that when we allow Him to lead us His path is far better than the one we would create on our own.  I pray my children follow the paths God has carved for each of them.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." - Matthew 6:25-34

Thursday, July 5

Front Porch Living

I attended a church once where the pastor spent most of the summer preaching on "front porch living."  It was a movement he wanted the congregation to take hold of.  There was a time when people used their front porch more than their living room.  That kind of living created great communities.  Nowadays we tend to spend most our time inside or in our backyards guarded by privacy fences.  In most neighborhoods the neighbors have never met.

In Romans 13:9 the final commandment is "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."  Jesus summarizes God's law to say we should love God and our neighbors more than we should love our self.  

Front porch living is really important to me.  We've been in our home for just over a year and we've gotten to know some of the most amazing people.  We're all a little different but the one thing we have in common is our enthusiasm for having community on our blocks.  We spend a lot of our time outside anticipating which neighbors might come out that we can socialize with. When we make a big dinner we eagerly text neighbors to see if they'd like to eat with us.  When Maggie and I bake we discuss which of her neighborhood friends might like a treat.  Knowing our neighbors makes living life better.  I always have a friend to walk with in the evenings (or push me to do squats and bear crawls -- thanks Jen!).  I trust these people to help us raise our children and to watch over our home.  It's an unmeasurable blessing to know them and live with them. 

For the 4th of July a few of our immediate neighbors and my family gathered together in the lawn that connects our houses.  There were no big plans or a specific host, it was just something that came together during evening chats in the driveways.  We  all agreed to make a little food and bring it out for everyone to share.  We dragged folding tables and chairs to a shaded area between our homes, and invited some new neighbors that just moved in.  We ate together as a small community, which feels like an extended family.  It was perfect.  No fuss, no pretense, just a casual gathering of friends for a meal.  And we all spoke of how lucky we are to live with each other.

We have this friendly neighborhood because of the effort each household makes.  We get out of our homes and meet each other.  We welcome newcomers.  We care more for our the community we live in then we do for ourselves.  It's front porch living.  It's fellowship. And it's awesome!