August 26, 2013

Weekend In Rewind

Wow! It's amazing how quickly the weekends come and go.  Football, family time, birthday preparations and shopping, birthday celebration, re-cooperation, and family bike riding. I think that about sums up my weekend!

Saturday morning started out bright and early. . . 5 a.m. to be exact.  Of course, it wouldn't have to be so early if I didn't require the morning cup of joe.   It was also the first day of cheerleading for Football Fest and team photo's.  Cheerleading is very new to us, we are pretty much the typical "soccer family". The boys haven't ever played Football, which is probably because Mommy never let them. Yes, it's my fault. But now that I am seeing the boys play and learning about the safety measures the Coaches and Football League takes, I am not sure that I would mind it as much if they decided to give it a go.

Ryan's 9th birthday followed cheerleading. It's kind of crazy how 9 years ago while I was in labor with Ryan all of my high-school classmates were celebrating the 10 year reunion.  Am I showing my age now. . . Ha ha!  

We couldn't have asked for any better of a day. The weather was cool in the morning and pleasant in the afternoon, more like a September afternoon than August.  There were lots of family and friends there to celebrate with us, including the Editors of Cupcake Mag, Chic Style Modern, and The Bunch and Beyond.  They are such lovely ladies!

We skipped cake and went for cupcakes this year.  Our favorite so far are the Glorious Treats Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes.  Originally we were going to whip up a batch of Billy's Bakery cupcakes, but Glorious Treats seem to have better reviews.  If you decide to make this recipe, my only recommendation would be to fill the cupcake liners 1/2 full instead of 2/3.  Our first batch overflowed, and looked more like they had Mickey Mouse ears.  Due to time, we opted for Betty Crocker's icing but used a decorator's bag and tip to frost them.  The American Buttercream Frosting looks delish, so we might have to whip up a batch for the Labor Day weekend.

Mom Mom had the little one's full of laughter running around the yard.  I wonder how long they could have ran around, laughing all the while.

Meet Grayson, Cupcake Mag's littlest.  Isn't he just a doll? I think I had him stuck to my hip most of the day.  Grayson is such a happy baby, full of smiles and drool.  Momma and Daddy are supposed to be going on a little vacation soon, and I just can't wait to have him for the weekend!

Meet Nicholas, my oldest. Apparently once you hit high school, you are no longer interested in being photographed. Is this what my pictures of Nicholas are going to look like for the next 4 years? I certainly hope not!

Meet Madison, daughter to the Editor of Chic Style Modern, learning how to ride a skate board.  Madison excels in athletics (I think she must get it from her Mommy) and took right off on the skate board.

On another note, I must skip off on my merry way. Till next time friends...

August 22, 2013

Back to School: Shoe Shopping Tips

Have you completed your back to school shopping? 

Did you remember those shoes, backpacks, and socks? If not, we have some great tips from Famous Footwear that will make it much easier for you to choose just the right styles for those trendsetters!

August 16, 2013

September Photo-A-Day Challenge

Get ready to jump on board with the launch of a brand new photo-a-day community.  Stacey (Author of The Bunch and Beyondand Stacy are excited to launch our first EVER photo-a-day on Instagram.  We are still working out all the final rules and details, but wanted to get the word out to all of our followers.  

Below is the word a day for the month of September.  We look forward to motivating and inspiring many people to get out and shoot.  It doesn't matter what type of camera you have, or the amount of experience.  

We simply ask that you be creative, and be considerate to others when sharing your pictures.  We do not want any nudity, profanity, or anything that might be offensive to others.

Simply add your picture to Instagram, and include #iswirlphotoaday.

I will be posting the monthly list to the website a few days before each month, but there is also a new page added above for quick reference.

August 15, 2013

Freezer Meal Series ~ Spaghetti Sauce

I have always wanted to grow my own herbs and vegetables in hopes of making my own spaghetti sauce and salsa's. Every year I plant a garden filled with different types of tomatos, peppers, onions, and a variety of herbs but never enough for more than a salad with dinner.
This year I was certain we had nailed it.  We dug a larger bed for the garden, mixed in manure from a local farm instead of the dirt you can get from the hardware stores, did a soil test kit, and added peat moss to the manure.  The summer has been mild, and we have had our fair share of rain so the plants have required minimal watering. Everything seemed to be in line for a great harvest, but for some reason we have ended up with cucumbers and a few tomato's.
So... we weren't able to harvest enough vegetables to use in our spaghetti sauce.  I searched the internet to find a recipe that looked like something we would enjoy. Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman shares her recipe, and goes into detail on each step.  The tomatoes she uses are canned, so we didn't have to buy a bunch of tomatoes and prepare them for the sauce.  I really like that she notes which ingredients are optional, and which ingredients can be changed out with something else.
Anyone that knows me, knows I do not like lots of vegetables in my sauce.  The hubbie was SHOCKED to see me chopping away at the onions and green peppers.  I even threw in a can of diced tomatoes, since I know he loves them.
The Pampered Chef Food Chopper and Mix 'N Chop made cooking so much easier. I originally began chopping the onions up, but my eyes were watering terribly. The Food Chopper worked like a charm!  The Mix 'N Chopl worked great to really crumble up the beef. Perfect for cooking up 5 lbs at one time!
Once the sauce was done, using a big ladle, I scooped about 4-5 spoons into each bag. This made a total of 5 bags, and a nice amount for one box of pasta.  Since the bags can slide around easily, I set them in a cake pan in the freezer. Once they are frozen I will just remove them from the pan.  If you have room on the door, that would be another way to keep hold of them.
One other suggestion too, add a description and the date to each bag. This will help you out greatly, especially if you plan to make and freeze other recipes.
We used the sauce for dinner at my brother's birthday celebration.  Everyone LOVED the sauce, from the littlest to the adults.  This will now be my "Go-To" recipe for all my spaghetti sauce.

August 9, 2013

New York City Day Trip

Some of our neighbors said we were completely crazy to take a "whirl-wind trip" to New York City, but there were so many things we still wanted to do that we couldn't pass up the chance. My Mother decided to come along with us since she hadn't ever been to the city.  I was so excited to take her with us, it was hard to sleep the night before!
Our first stop was Central Park. There is a great App (Best Parking) you can download that provides parking garage prices and a map to show you where each garage is located in the vicinity. Some parking garages require you to download a coupon at least 30 minutes prior to arrival in order to use it. Not a bad option if you plan ahead. I will note that not all prices are correct. The first garage we stopped at wanted to charge $50 for a couple hours. We located the next closest garage and were able to park for $27. A little shopping around can definitely pay off!
Our day began pretty eventful. On the way to the park, we found this (see pic below) pretty water fountain, just across the street from The Plaza. The kids started walking around the fountain, climbing up the stairs on the back.
Little E decided to walk around the fountain and up the front side. As I am sure you can tell by the picture below, she walked right into the water. She must have been thinking she could walk on water! Hehe... Fortunately it was a nice day outside, so she dried off pretty quickly.  And yes, she is wearing HOT pink lipstick. My little fashionista.
I think it's wonderful that there is such a beautiful park in the middle of such a busy city where people can escape from all the hustle and bustle. In just the short distance we traveled through Central Park, we were able to see a carnival, take a ride on the historic Carousel, catch a ball game, and enjoy many historic landmarks.
Ball Game
Ball Game
Dairy Visitor Center
Dairy Visitor Center
The Dairy Visitor Center has been used for many reasons over the years. It was once used as a place people could go to get milk and snacks, and now it is one of the five visitor's centers.
Playmates Arch
Playmates Arch
Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields is a memorial for John Lennon.  My Mom has always been a Beatles fan, so I knew we just couldn't miss the chance to stop by and pay our respects.  This was one of the busier landmarks we visited.
Fun at the Mall and Literary Walk
Fun at the Mall and Literary Walk
The Mall and Literary Walk
The Mall and Literary Walk
Hopefully next time we visit Central Park we will be able to see more that it has to offer, and possibly visit the Zoo.