June 27, 2013

Planning a Simple July 4th BBQ

When browsing Pinterest, you can quickly start to feel completely inadequate when it comes to planning party. All the elaborate and intricate tablescapes can make your head spin and wonder how in the world anyone has time for that.  That's exactly what goes through my mind with about 70% of what I see on Pinterest. But you know what? It doesn't have to be that difficult and time consuming to be nice. There is such a thing as too much!

I always start with the theme and the reason you are having the party. Then focus on a centerpiece and/or some simple table decorations to spruce it up a bit. Remember, even the food can be part of the decor! I did find this link to some really cute free printables which I may incorporate as well:

Planning the menu should be the most time consuming in my opinion. Let's face it, people are there to EAT and socialize not gawk at your decor.  You won't find me putting utensils in folded napkins wrapped in twine with cute little tags! Sure, that's cute, but not something I would take the time to do.

For our BBQ next week, I picked up a red, white, and blue plaid tablecloth on sale for $1.79.  I plan to buy a patriot-themed floral bouquet to make a suitable centerpiece for the table. I will add a few jar candles to the table as well and call it done! The food and various serving pieces I have will decorate the rest of the table.

I'm still trying to nail down the appetizers but we will be eating hand-pressed fresh hamburgers, hot dogs, and marinated (and then grilled) chicken & veggie skewers (recipe to be shared!) Sides will consist of my Father-in-law's always requested macaroni salad, a pasta salad, and deviled eggs. We will have all the extras too, like lettuce, tomato, and pickles. Pickles are a must in our family.

Desserts are the best part about having a party so I do tend to go a bit overboard in this area.  I'll be dipping pretzels rods in chocolate and coating them with festive sprinkles.

I will be making these, the kid-friendly version:

I also picked up this cake mix will make festive cupcakes for the kids.

And you can't forget the watermelon. It isn't a summer BBQ unless you serve it!

June 25, 2013

Gunner 1; Cats 0

For an entire year, Gunner has been trying to "be friends" with my cats. And by "be friends" I mean eat.  I had foolishly hoped that since  they were already in the house when Gunner was brought home, that he'd be gentle and calm around them giving them a chance to warm up to him.

Boy was I wrong.

When he sees one of them, he goes nuts - absolutely insane. His bark is playful but he's a German Shepherd. His bark intimidates everyone. Because of his insane reaction to seeing a cat, he isn't allowed to roam the house. I'm constantly running interference between him and the cats. It's tiring but as a result, the gates must stay. I tell myself it's exercise to hop over gates all the time. It counts, right?!

I miss the days when Tibby used to LAY on our other dog. I have pictures. It happened. But she hisses and swats and spits at Gunner. She h.a.t.e.s. him.

The other night, it finally happened. He got his wish. He got a cat:

I really liked this decoration too. I still haven't found the button that was on the star. I guess he ate it.

June 21, 2013

Summer Break - Week 1

The boys have been out of school for a week now and what a week it has been. I feel like they are testing us this week to see what they can get away with. 

"Put the hose down" has been said about 100 times.

"Go back and flush the toilet" has been said about 1,000 times.

"Stop eating everything in sight" has been said about 20 times.

"Are you trying to see if we will kill you both during the first week of summer break" has been uttered just once, when Bud was squirting the hose at Boo inches from open car windows...

They do go to summer day camp two days each week so that breaks things up a bit and gives them some structure. And I've already warned them that they could go five days a week!

June 20, 2013

Tough Talk

Over the weekend we were informed that the music teacher in our school district died suddenly. She taught both the boys, since she was a shared teacher between the schools. The boys heard a few rumors as to what happened to her from the neighborhood kids but nothing concrete. The other night I found out she took her own life. Her husband found her in the basement of their house. She was 42 and had 3 young children. 

I never met her but the boys only had nice things to say about about her. I'm so sad for her family and so sad that she didn't (or couldn't) ask for help before it was too late.
But the mom in me is mad. Mad that she did this to her family and mad that she did this to our school district and the hundreds of kids she taught. We're the ones left trying to help our young children understand the unexplainable.

 My husband and I sat the boys down and told them the truth about what happened. I believe in telling them the truth instead of trying to sugar coat everything.   Plus, with a 6th grader, it's only a matter of time before he would start hearing rumors about it. We did not go into detail about how she did it but more of the why someone might do it, even though we will never know. I wanted them to know that it's okay to be sad about it and that we will talk about it as much or as little as they want. They both asked a couple of questions and we had an honest discussion. We also let them know that no matter what the problem may be or how impossible they may think the problem is, we want them to come talk to us - anytime, anywhere - and we'll figure it out together.

June 19, 2013


This is bad. So very bad. 
But oh. my. god. 
It's like I've died and gone to heaven so good!

And if you add a little chocolate syrup?

It's like reaching nirvana with ice cream.

You're welcome.

June 18, 2013

Catching Up

Because of our trip late last month and the boy's spring sport schedules, we are behind in the yard work this year. Our pool isn't even open yet. But thankfully, the pool people are coming tomorrow to take care of that. Better late then never, I suppose.

On Saturday morning I took our large puppy back to dog training. He hadn't been to training in almost two months. Again, with the sports, his neutering, rain and the trip - - life got in the way. The trainer we use is not close to us so mid-week training sessions are not possible.  I'm hoping to wrap up the training by the end of the summer!

On the way home from training, I suddenly had a huge burst of energy and made a plan to go buy mulch for the backyard.  The mulch was bought, put in the car, unloaded and spread in under two hours - all by myself.

I. am. woman.

I also had my first harvest of the vegetable growing season - green beans!

I've never grown green beans before but apparently all it takes is sun and water. I did nothing special!  

The cucumber plants look fantastic and I should be able to pick the 1st one within the next two weeks. I cannot wait. There is nothing like a fresh cucumber picked from your yard. I wish I could grown them year-round!

The tomato plants also look great. I am surprised. I've had trouble growing tomatoes in the past but I think this year I may have it figured out.  

The strawberries .... I'm majorly disappointed. These plants have been in the ground for three years now and I should have a strawberries coming out my ears by now. I'm not sure what is going on but the berries are small and sparse. Time to google, I guess!

June 13, 2013

Bermuda Highlights

I'm sure you're tired of me talking about this trip but we just had such a fantastic time that I'm trying to hold on to it as long as possible!  I think it's probably the first real vacation we've ever taken. We've been to Disney several times and we've done the Outerbanks beach-rent-a-house vacation. Neither are relaxing to me.  This cruise was a true vacation and so I'm so happy we went.

I'd get back on the boat tomorrow if I could.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures I shared. Just a small sampling of the 565 I took. Crazy, I know. There's help out there for me, right?!

Here's a few more favorites from the week and then I promise to shut up!

If you ever have the opportunity, visit Bermuda. Fly there. Cruise there. Whatever suits your taste. You will not regret it!

June 12, 2013

Last Day in Bermuda

We spent our last full day in Bermuda at the Royal Navy Dockyard, which was where our cruise ship was docked.  It worked out great this way since we had to be back on the ship by a certain time and poor Boo was worried we'd get left behind.

Um smart child of mine? Do you see that gigantic boat sitting over there that's still tethered to the dock with about a thousand very thick ropes? It isn't going anywhere anytime soon. We won't get left, I promise!

We toured the National Museum of Bermuda, which included the Commissioner's House that was built in 1820. We saw the high cave, ramparts and cannons, hidden passageways, and different structures that once housed an arsenal of ammunition which now holds various pieces of history.  And for fun, this area now includes a Dolphin Quest.

After all of that, it was time for shopping. If you can believe it, I hadn't had the chance to shop on the island at all!  I had a few things on my list I wanted to get, including some t-shirts and some souvenirs. A long time ago I started a tradition of buying magnets of the different places we have visited so I wanted to keep that tradition alive. Nothing says Bermuda like a picture of one of it's beautiful beaches so I found a magnet that shows one!

Before we knew it, we were back on the boat and cruising back toward home. We had an awesome three days in Bermuda! I'm so happy we chose a cruise with this type of schedule. I'm not sure I'd like to be rushed in and out of 3 different ports in 3 days....  

With nothing but water surrounding us yet again, we savored our last full day of the cruise before reality became visible once again. When we woke up Sunday morning, bright and early thanks to Bud (who was dying to find a wifi connection!), we were securely docked in NYC.  The beautiful, relaxing, uneventful trip was over.  Time to go home!

June 11, 2013

Bermuda's Gorgeous Beaches

We visited three beaches during our stay in Bermuda. Each were absolutely beautiful in their own way.  I will reconsider sticking my toes into the Atlantic Ocean at the Jersey shore ever again after seeing the crisp, clean, and debris-free water in Bermuda. Yes, it really is that blue and clean. It's amazing!!

A note about Horseshoe Bay:

1.  It's supposed to be a pink sanded beach. Eh, there's a pink hue, I suppose, from this overview photo that I took. But if you're actually on the beach, it didn't look pink to us at all. Maybe I should get my eyes checked?!

2.  There are beautiful rock formations on the beach and of course my boys had to scale it as soon as they realized other people were too.  I quickly followed behind for fear they'd fall off. It is extremely high but just look at the gorgeous view you had from the top!

The boys had a fabulous time on the beaches. My Hubby isn't a beach person so this wasn't his favorite part of the trip but he sucked it up and did his best to enjoy the view. How could he not!

June 10, 2013

More Bermuda

Days 4,5, and 6 were spent exploring the island of Bermuda. We didn't really have a master plan but had some things we definitely wanted to see and do, while also keeping the boys entertained as well.

We started off in St. George, taking the ferry from King's Wharf.  The cruise staff endlessly warned us against renting scooters on the island (cars are not available to rent!). Driving in Bermuda is opposite of what it is in the US, so it can be confusing, especially if it's new to you. It was new to us.  We decided utilizing the ferries and buses was the best and safest means for us to get around.

However, the roads in Bermuda are very narrow, there doesn't seem to be a speed limit, and there is very little signage on the island.  And the bus drivers are slightly crazy! It was an adventure, that's for sure!  We joked that we wanted t-shirts that said "We survived riding the bus in Bermuda" and low and behold, on the final day while shopping for some souvenirs, we saw such t-shirts for sale. Funny stuff!

Another day we concentrated our sights on the city of Hamilton, also using the ferry from King's Wharf. This city reminded me the most of home. Or at least of a resort town in Florida or the like. They even have a KFC! No other chain-franchises are allowed in Bermuda. They are illegal!

We visited the Bermuda Underwater Exporation Institute. A neat place, filled with information about the water surrounding Bermuda, a very large shell collection, and tons of displays from shipwrecks that occurred near Bermuda.  We happened to be the only people there when we visited! I suppose it's not a top tourist destination for most visitors but we found it interesting and the admission was reasonable. And it was air conditioned.

June 7, 2013

Day 4 ~ Bermuda!

When I woke up Wednesday morning and pulled back the curtain, this is what I saw:

It's even more beautiful then I thought it would be. I've wanted to visit an island for the longest time but never had the means or opportunity before now. And I'm so glad I was able to share this experience with my husband and my boys.

June 6, 2013

Cruise: Days 2 and 3

When we woke up the next morning, we saw nothing but water. Boo climbs out of his bed, blinks a few times and says, "Well, we're still alive!"

I think I laughed for a good five minutes. I'm not sure what he expected or what he thought was going to happen but yes, we were still alive.

After breakfast, we played a round of mini golf and then headed up to the basketball court for Family Dodgeball. A decent number of other families showed up to play too, so this made it all the more fun! I think they should have played it again later on during the week when everyone was sick of each other!

After lunch, we convinced the boys to give the kid's club a try while we attended a short information session about Bermuda. They went reluctantly. Because of their ages, they weren't in the same group. One group was ages 6-9 and another was ages 10-12. We asked if they could just stay together but they wouldn't allow it. Other families weren't happy about it either. There may have been a lot less crying from younger siblings if they weren't so rigid with the rules.  I can understand it for kids under the age 6 but not for the older kids.  

We got dressed up and had dinner in one of the nicer restaurants.  I can seriously get used to having someone cater to my every whim! We ordered two drinks with dinner and for some reason, a Long Island Iced Tea was cheaper than a Cosmopolitan? Made no sense!  The food so far has been very good so zero complaints there!

Earlier in the afternoon the captain came over the speaker to let us know someone needed to be medically evacuated by the boat so we had turned due West to head back toward the mainland in order to meet up with a Coast Guard helicopter. Little did we know, the chopper would approach from our side of the boat!  

It was pitch black outside and suddenly the helicopter appeared. It looked like it was going to land in our room! The boys were beyond entertained! The chopper hovered over the front of the boat for about 10 minutes while someone was hoisted into the helicopter. We never did learn was the problem was but I hope the person is okay. After the slight detour, we were back on course with no expected delay to our arrival in Bermuda.


The following day was our final day at sea before reaching Bermuda. After a late breakfast, we lounged by the pool the entire day. It was heavenly.

We had dinner alone at a specialty restaurant that evening - Cagney's Steakhouse. It was a superb meal. Giant shrimp cocktail and wedge salads to start, followed by perfectly cooked filet mignon that melted in your mouth. For dessert, The Hubby chose a warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream while I had the raspberry creme brulee.  The meal was worth the extra $30 per person charge. You can never eat at a high-end steak restaurant, including dessert, for $60 at home!

After dinner, we picked up the boys and headed back to our room to change into warmer clothing to prepare for a visit to the Ice Bar! Yes, the boys were permitted to participate! They were so excited. It was a chilly 17 degrees in the bar so hoodies and socks/sneakers are a must. They do give you a fur-lined poncho and knit gloves to wear too.

Tomorrow morning we wake up IN Bermuda!!!!

June 5, 2013

The Boat ~ The Norwegian Breakaway

I suppose not many people can say they've been on a brand new cruise ship and it's their first time ever taking a cruise and their first time leaving the country. That's a lot of firsts, huh?  Our cruise last week aboard the Norwegian Breakaway was the boat's third ever sailing. And it's a beautiful boat!

We had zero problems (or lines!) checking in or boarding the boat. We arrived at the terminal in NYC around 10:45 am and 15 minutes later we were checked in. They weren't boarding at that time so we decided to take a walk around a neighboring pier to kill some time. The boys got a kick out of a dog park that was nearby. "Where's the grass?" they asked ... I guess they need to spend some more time in the city!

A short time later we able to board the boat. Wow. Sooo nice!  

We spent quite a bit of time exploring the boat and then made our way to one of the restaurants for our first meal on board the boat.  The boys were immediately attracted to the self-serve ice cream machine. Shocking news, I'm sure! 

We did some swimming, the water slides, the ropes course, the arcade, the shops ... we basically did it all.  We crashed early that first night. We were exhausted!

I can tell you I'm already itching to book another cruise!  I know, crazy, because we just got back. I wonder if I can convince The Hubby to take another cruise next year ...

More cruise stuff to come!

June 4, 2013

Alive and Well!

Lest you thought we drowned ... we are back from Bermuda.

We had a fantastic time. I filled an entire memory card. Oh yes I did.

Bermuda is s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g.

I've been busy gathering my thoughts and getting my house back in order. Hopefully this will hold you off another day?

I miss it already!