July 31, 2013

Coming Up for Air

My lonely little blog ... I haven't forgotten about you. The truth? I finally put down the stupid, addictive, maddening Candy Crush and picked up my Kindle before my brain turned to mush. I read 4 books in 5 days. I feel whole again.

What did I read? Well I suppose that's a bit embarrassing because all of it was considered "teen lit" but truth be told, I wouldn't let me teenage daughter (under 16) read them, if I had a daughter!

Out of Breath (Book #3)

This Girl: A Novel (Book 3 of the Slammed series)


Losing Hope: A Novel

I was utterly and completely (and sadly?) sucked in to all these story lines. I read the first two books of the Breathing series and Slammed series previously so I literally could not put down the Kindle to find out how it would all end!

All were quick reads, thus why I read 4 books in 5 days!

I know some people criticize books on how they are written, etc ... I'm not like that. If the storyline grabs my attention and I can't put the book down until I find out what happens, that's a good book in my opinion.  I don't get all hoity-toity about how sophisticated the author may or may not be. 

Sometimes you just need a little fantasy.

July 25, 2013

Homemade Refrigerated Dill Pickles

I grow cucumbers every summer in my garden.  I like to call myself the Cucumber Whisperer because I get some pretty awesome cukes out of my garden year after year.  Nothing store bought (or farm stand bought) tastes as fresh as the ones I pick from my garden.  They have a distinct taste that come the winter months, I miss terribly. If only I could grow them year-round!

I grow really large cucumbers, see?

At times cucumbers take over my kitchen counters. I'm not a canner and I have no idea how to do it, so imagine my glee when I found a very simple recipe to make dill pickles! Thank you Family Fun magazine!

Seriously, this recipe is so easy. The most difficult thing about it was finding where to buy dill seeds!  Local Amish Market to the rescue once again.... love that place!

 Proof dill seed does exist!

The Recipe*:

Step 1 ~ Gather the ingredients.

Step 2 ~ Slice your cucumbers and put them in a jar ... lengthwise, in chips, whichever way your prefer

Step 3 ~ Boil water, vinegar, sugar and spices - the brine - for about 10 minutes

Step 4 ~  Remove the brine from the heat source and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and fresh dill

Step 5 ~ Strain the brine and pour "the juice" over the cucumbers. Re-add the reserved spices into the jar and shake it gently

Step 6 ~ Put the jar in the fridge and let them cure for 24 hours.

Step 7 ~ At exactly 24 hours plus 1 second, eat and enjoy! They are sooo good!

Now my picky son says they are too sweet ... so the next batch I will greatly decrease the amount of sugar or leave it out completely.  I'm certain the recipe will work either way.

Making your own pickles doesn't get any easier than this!

The Ingredients:

2 pounds firm cucumbers
1.5 cups white vinegar
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp coarse salt, such as kosher
2 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
8 sprigs fresh dill (I used 1 tsp of dried drill weed)

*Recipe from the Family Fun magazine, August 2013

July 24, 2013

Pretty Butterfly

The benefits of planting the new butterfly bushes out front - 
they attract beautiful butterflies!

July 23, 2013

Football Forgotten

It's about that time of year when fall sports take over the lives of parents. But this year, there will be no football playing in our home for the first time in three years. I'm certain I can blame Bud's not wanting to play solely on the shoulders of the nightmare coach from last season. Even with a move to a new club/team, we still couldn't sway him.

We had many talks in the past few weeks about how there are good and bad coaches and how you can't let the bad coaches dictate whether or not you like to play the sport. I likened the scenario to teachers too ... some teachers we love and others not so much but you still have to learn and do your school work.

But in the end, he's decided not to play and we've decided not to force it.  Maybe he just needs a season off to regroup.

The Husband will be coaching football at the new club for the 7th and 8th grade team. This new club uses a whole different terminology to identify its teams.  I *think* the 7th and 8th grade team is called the "Seniors"?!  I'm sure we'll still be sitting field-side to watch a few football games in the coming months but it certainly won't be the same as watching your kid play.

Meanwhile, Bud is planning to play in a semi-organized fall lacrosse league and Boo will be playing travel soccer. I can't recall if I mentioned it or not, but he earned a spot on a travel team under a coach he played for before and one we love. So at least we won't have to worry about any drama there!

July 19, 2013

Lunch Break Friday #3

I haven't done this post in awhile and given that the back-to-school shopping frenzy is about to begin, let me show you a recent bargain I snagged!

$80 Reebok Lite Zigs for $29.99


We all know how tough BOYS are on shoes so a discount like this on good sneakers is big, big, big score!  This is his third pair of these shoes. They quickly became his favorite pair last Fall so he wore them almost daily. Since the 1st pair lasted almost the entire school year, I'm crowning these the best sneakers ever.

If only they had a pair in Boo's size too!

July 18, 2013

Summer Subway Art

In the name of cheap summer decor, I created a subway art print to display in a frame!

It's very easy to do ... just come up with some phrases and/or words that describe the subway art you want to create and use Ribbet to make a collage of the words! After playing around with the fonts, colors, spacing and stickers, you may come up with something like this:

If you'd like me to email the file to you, just let me know!

July 17, 2013

Crazy Boys

On Saturday we went to a friend's christening party for their new baby girl. It was a pool party at her brother's fantastic house which was perfect because it was so h-o-t.

It was awesome to just sit by a pool and do nothing but socialize all day long.  We didn't leave the party until well after 10pm.

It was a great day but the dog, ugh, he was not happy with us at all...

Proof my boys are insane:

We ended the night with sparklers and I was the only mom who made sure their kids put their shoes on first ... proof to my SIL that I still have a little bit of over-protectiveness in me!

July 16, 2013

Baked Chimichangas

I have a really good recipe to share today that I found on Pinterest ** (of course.)  These days it seems to be the #1 place I go to for dinner and dessert ideas. This one is a keeper, especially if you're looking for a really quick dinner and you might be cooking for one. You can easily adapt this recipe to make a large quantity of chimichangas or just one or two!

In my house, I'm the only one who will eat Mexican food.  Please feel bad for me. 

You only need 5 ingredients:

Cream Cheese
Cheddar Cheese
Taco seasoning
Shredded meat - chicken or beef - or you could even substitute black beans
Soft tortillas

I did not measure anything. I only had small tortillas so I planned to make two.  I was hungry. I took a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese (using the spreadable cream cheese made this really easy - glad I had it in the fridge!) and sprinkled in the taco seasoning. Added in the cheddar cheese and gave it a good stir.  Then added some pre-cooked chopped/shredded chicken.

I divided the mixture in half and scooped it into the two tortillas, folded them carefully, and placed them seam-side down on a foiled and greased cookie sheet. Spray the tops of the chimichangas with cooking spray before placing them in oven. Bake at 350 degrees, for about 25-30 minutes. Be sure to flip them at 15 minutes.

Serve immediately with optional sides of sour cream and salsa.

These were absolutely delicious!!  You could easily lighten these up a bit by using fat-free cream cheese and low fat cheddar ... but I used what I had on hand. I will be making these again, maybe tonight!

And in case you didn't know, this is THE BEST salsa ever made.  I haven't bought grocery store salsa since discovering this deliciousness about 4 years ago. I buy it from a local Amish market near my home but apparently you can buy it online too.  You're welcome.  Yes, it's that good!

** I can only find a picture link to this recipe on Pinterest so I'm unsure of it's original origin. I am not taking credit for this recipe, I'm just sharing it. All pictures were taken by me.**

July 12, 2013

Pool Follies

What's wrong with this picture?

Yeah, something tells me water shouldn't be squirting out like that.  The first time I asked my 11 year old what happened I got a story about how the skimmer pole fell and did that. Really? That's the story you're going with? A skimmer pole that weighs about 2 pounds shifted the "nut" like that? We'll get back to that part of the story...

In the meantime, my immediate concern was shutting off the power to the pump/filter and plugging the pool so my backyard would not turn into an actual swamp. Since The Husband was at work, I attempted to get a friend and a neighbor to come take a look but did you know? People actually have lives and don't sit at home on Saturday nights? News to me!

After a few harried minutes and several curse words under my breathe later, the water eventually stopped squirting out. A few minutes later, the extra boy that was at my house was picked up so now the real interrogation could begin.

"Are you going to tell me what really happened? Or are you going to lie to me again and wait until your father gets home and beats your a$$?"

With that option looming overhead, he came clean. He was walking along the edge of the pool to grab a tube and he fell backwards into the pump/filter, dislodging it. And that's when he turned around to show me the large mark on his back from the fall.  I had a tiny bit of sympathy for him but was really mad he decided to lie to me, especially when a Kindergartener could figure out a falling skimmer pole wouldn't move the whole pump!  He was afraid he'd get in trouble for walking on the edge, when they've been told not to probably 100 times.  Yet you didn't consider the consequences for lying?  Lying is worse, oh dear son of mine!

The good news is nothing was broken but The Husband had to take everything apart and put it all back together. I'm glad Bud wasn't seriously hurt. There were consequences for the lie and I hope he learned a lesson. The truth, while difficult to admit sometimes, will always be the wisest thing to say.

July 11, 2013

Summer Thunderstorm

I snapped this picture near my house on Sunday night, just a thunderstorm was forming overhead.

With all the rain we've had this past month, it wasn't a welcomed sight ... but it was cool!

July 10, 2013

Foyer Closet Mini Re-Do

In my old house, I had one very small closet on the main floor. It was awful. In this house, I have a spacious closet which is really just a magnet for a cluttered mess! I finally took control of it this past long holiday weekend and it only cost me $20.

I suppose the before picture doesn't look that scary but I had taken a few things out of there before I thought to snap a picture.  Now all the camera equipment/bags/cords are all in one cube and so on. I was able to reserve one cube for some non-holiday decorations that I change out frequently in the foyer area. Yay for organization!  The cubes were purchase at a local Big Lots store and were $4.99 each.  I will likely label the cubes but still trying to decide on how I should do it.

Now I won't mind if the sliding closet doors are left open occasionally!

July 9, 2013

4th of July Recap

I have some pictures to share of the small 4th of July BBQ I hosted for my family late last week.

I ended up not buying a bouquet of flowers for the table ... when I went to buy them, I wasn't impressed by the quality or the (inflated) price so I decided to make do with what I had on hand. I was barely able to snap a picture of the dessert table before the vultures swarmed.

The jello cups turned out perfect! The recipe I posted earlier intends for them to be made in little 1.5 ounce shot glasses but nobody's got time for all that so I used 12 clear 7oz cups, each filled a little more than half way. We topped them off with some whipped cream. Delicious!  My sister-in-law's called me a show-off for the patriotic jello cups. Whatever! They are cute and the perfect compliment to the July 4th dessert table.

July 8, 2013

The Teenager

I have another cat that is often forgotten about. It isn't because she isn't loved or given attention, it's because she hates people, noise, and all another animals. She's a recluse and prefers it that way. I suppose she's the epitome of why a lot of people dislike cats.

But she loves me. She was the first major "thing" I purchased when my husband and I bought our first home. I adopted her as a 6 week old kitten from a local shelter. She's a pretty kitty, with a unique marking on the bridge of her nose that makes her special to me.

She turned 13 this past April. So far she's lived through a complete renovation of an 80 year old home, outlived 1 dog, watched me bring home 2 baby boys, dealt with the adoption of another cat that she still hisses at daily six years later, survived a move (which was completely traumatizing to her) and most recently, dealing with the addition of large puppy to our home. She's like the Grandma of the house. She's seen it all.

When I take her to the vet, they are surprised she's as old as she is and told me she had the best looking teeth they've seen on a senior cat! I guess I should be proud of that, although I'm not sure I can take much credit for it. It's not like I brush her teeth. I'm not that cat crazy! Her diet is simple. Dry cat food and lots of water.  She will eat some wet cat food but not consistently and she won't eat cat treats.  She is the easiest cat on the face of the earth.

In the last two years, she's had some trouble reaching certain parts of her body to groom herself so the Furminator has become her best friend. She LOVES being brushed so it's a win-win for both of us.

I find myself eying her more frequently for any signs of age-related trouble.  She's been a faithful companion for so many years it will be very hard to lose her.

One of her favorite things to do is to sit on the bathroom counter in the morning while I'm getting ready for work. She can't jump up there anymore so she'll meow at my feet letting me know what she wants. She also loves to drink right from the sink.

I hope she sticks around for another 10+ years!

July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

My country, 'tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims' pride,

From ev'ry mountainside

Let freedom ring!

July 3, 2013

Patriotic Flag Jar

Yep, from Pinterest. Who has time to think up these ideas on their own?

I already had the jar and the jute so the only thing I purchased was a small flag. Using some clear packing tape, I secured the flag to the jar and wrapped the jute around it. I used another piece of packing tape to hold the jute-ends in place. Then I inserted a candle and called it done!

It's adorable!

July 2, 2013

New Landscaping

When we moved into this house almost five years ago, the landscaping was horrible. The previous owners had installed red brick pavers themselves and did it completely wrong. It looked terrible. One of the first things we did was remove the pavers that were simply sitting on the sidewalk ... sadly, I'm not kidding. A few weeks ago I finally finished removing the rest of the pavers from the front the yard. What a chore!

There was so much to fix, it was overwhelming. Between the backyard, the pool area, and the front yard, well, safe to say it took some time to get it right.  I'm happy to report it's all finally d-o-n-e.  Everything we wanted to fix and/or redo outside is done! 

We added the half-moon part you see in the first photo.  In front of the porch, we planted 4 butterfly bushes which are starting to fill in very nicely!  These bushes will get really big so we'll have to keep them trimmed to keep them under control. Later this summer we should see some pretty purple flowers starts to bloom.  Down the side of the house, we laid some heavy duty weed paper so for now, it will stay plant free. I don't want to poke holes in it this year. I want the weeds to d-i-e off first!

I suppose it would have been helpful to take some before pictures so you could see just how much work this was but I didn't ... you'll just have to trust me that this is a 200% improvement!