Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wrapping up November

I cannot believe it is the last day of November. Where has this year gone? I am short on pictures this month - not because we've been busy - just the opposite. We have had lots of quiet evenings as well as several nights out together. I've kept the camera put away so we could just enjoy each others' company. That being said, I do have some pictures to share - some were from my phone and not that great, but I'm going to share them anyway. :)

First things first, all through the month of November, we each wrote down something we were thankful for and hung the papers on our kitchen door. It's always helps me have some perspective when I hear what simple things the boys are thankful for. For example, every single night when I asked Eli what he was thankful for, he said "mints." Every night. He did come up with other things, but only after he said "mints." Here are some of the other things they are thankful for.

Eli: Mints, apples, carrots, chip clips, apple juice, happy meals, Daniel Tiger, and coloring
Lex: snow, orange juice, blue tablet, mom, Mario Brothers, t.v., camera

Clearly, I have a lot to be thankful for too.

Here's what else we have been up to this month.

We had our first snow dusting. What you see is about the extent of what we got - but that didn't keep us from going outside and playing in it! 

With the exception of Chloe. She's all backwards. Loves to be outside in the heat of the summer but at the first sight of snow, she wants to come inside. She would definitely not cut it as a sled dog.

Eli collecting chunks of ice. 

This is not the greatest picture but I have to tell you this story. Our little town has the most amazing library and librarians. The children's programs are outstanding and we have been active in their activities since the boys were born. Recently they had a "Stuffed Animal Sleepover." The boys took their animals in one evening. They read bedtime stories to their animals and had cookies and milk as a bedtime snack. Then they left their animals at the library for a sleepover with the other animals.

The next day, we went back to pick them up and the librarian went to great lengths to tell the boys about all the "adventures" their animals had at the library. Lex's monkey got a blue ribbon for being the "best sleeper." Cat in the Hat got the "funnniest" award. So Cute! They were each given a stack of color pictures that showed the animals in a pirate ship (they were also given pirate bandanas as a souvenir), in time out (apparently monkey couldn't resist climbing and Cat in the Hat... well you know a lot about that). The animals also took selfies on the copy machine, but finally went to bed. We have picture documentation of everything. How awesome is that? The boys are already talking about taking them again next year.

 So here's a tradition we started this year. You know how in a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, they all eat toast, popcorn, pretzels and jelly beans? A student at school told me about how they all always eat the same thing while they watch the special each year. So of course, on the night before Thanksgiving when we watched a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, I made the boys homemade bread, popcorn, and gave them some candy as a snack during the show.

Our tradition every year is to go see Santa at Bass Pro Shop on the weekend after Thankgiving. They have the best Santa display and lots of games and activities for the kids to do. You also get a FREE picture with Santa with no pressure to buy extra packages. We have so much fun every year.

Some more fun at Bass Pro Shop. 

And finally, we also got our Christmas decorations up. Eli was clearly excited about that! I found him in the tub of decorations while I was assembling the tree.

It's Eli's year to put the star on top. 

And here the boys are giving their "thumbs up" approval.

 I hope you had a great November and Thanksgiving and have a restful December leading up to Christmas.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mexicorn Dip

I have made this recipe twice in the past couple of months, both times for football parties, and it has been a huge hit. There are several versions of this recipe on Pinterest, but I adapted mine from this recipe.  It is the perfect combination of creamy, chunky, and hot (as in spicy).

The ingredients are:

1 cup mayo
16 oz. sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar jack
2 cans Mexican-Style corn (11 oz), drained
1 can chopped green chiles
1 green pepper
3 green onions
2 jalapeno peppers

I don't usually use mayonnaise. In fact, I had to buy it for this recipe and can't even remember the last time we had it in our house. If you don't eat mayonnaise, I'm sure you could easily substitute additional sour cream or even cream cheese. I will probably try it without mayo the next time, even though it was tasty with it.

Add all your dairy items and mix together.

Dice your veggies. When thinking about size, just imagine dipping it with a chip. You don't want it super chunky. Also, this dip is really yummy with some heat, so leave at least a few seeds and ribs from the jalapenos in. It's worth it and balances well with all the cream ingredients.

Stir the veggies in to the dairy ingredients.

Add in the drained chilies and corn and stir everything together.

Serve it up with tortilla chips or corn chips.  This makes it enough for a crowd so bring it to a party or make 1/2 recipe for a smaller crowd.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

All Things Fall

 Let's start here, shall we? Who can resist a fall hike? On one of the very first evenings when it was in the 50's, we picked up the boys from preschool and headed straight out for a fall hike. This picture was taken on the north side of Three Creeks Conservation Area. When we hiked there earlier this year, we knew we wanted to come back when leaves started turning. It didn't disappoint. We took the opportunity to collect some leaves for fall crafts. 


A couple of days later, Jeremy and I met at the house before we got the boys and took a hike by ourselves on the south side of three creeks. I really wanted to get a fall picture to match the spring and summer pictures I took earlier this year. The hike down to the creek bed is a more difficult one, and while we've taken the boys (several times), we were able to move a lot quicker without them so we could get the picture and get out before it got dark.

Each of these pictures was taken in pretty much the same spot during different times of the year. I really want to make it back down there after the first snow fall, but am not sure if it will work out or not. It really is a steep trek down there and I'm not sure how safe it will be with snow on the ground. We will see. 

We have been pretty craft recently, and to be perfectly honest, I've just kept craft materials out on the table for about the past month instead of putting them away. I like to think it helps us all be more spontaneously crafty :)  

On that note, here are the boys being spontaneously crafty one evening.  The one inch circle hole-punch is currently my favorite craft tool.

We used fall themed scrapbook paper to make some magnets. 

Then we used the hole punch to punch circles out of our fall leaves from our hike. 

The picture is a little blurry, but this is one thing we did with the circle leaves. I also took some and glued them onto a glass jar and then put a tea light inside for a simple centerpiece.

The day before Halloween, I found this massive pumpkin for only $2.99 at our local grocery store. I couldn't believe it. I hadn't planned on doing a jack-o-lantern, but how could I resist this? We dug right in. Eli was more excited than he looked in the picture. He's going through a phase where he is often too cool to smile for pictures.  Also, if you're wondering what happened to Lex's face, he took a face plant of the top of the slide at preschool and landed face-first in the gravel. According to him, "It's just blood, Mom." He's so proud of his injury :)

Eli using all his muscles to get the gunk out of the pumpkin. Lex had absolutely no interest in helping with this part.

Here is our blurry picture of our jack-o-lantern, just in time for trick-or-treaters.

Finally, one thing I did in October was make an apple pie from scratch, in memory of my Granny. Her birthday was October 10th. Before she passed away, she taught me (and many of my cousins) how to make apple pies. Eli helped me roll the dough and put this one together and it made me so happy that I was passing this skill along to one of my children. And another upside was that this pie was delicious! The perfect fall treat.

So this is just an abbreviated version of what we've been up to this fall. Hiking, crafts, and baking - the perfect combination for passing time as the cool weather moves in. Happy fall!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

DIY Octopus Costume

A couple of months ago, I started feeling out the boys for what they might want to be for Halloween. I'm not super crafty, so if I'm going to need to make something, well, I need lots of time. Lex wavered quite a bit between the creeper from Mine-craft (which would require some crafting) and Spider-man ($15 at Walmart). He settled on Spider-man making his Halloween preparation incredibly easy. Eli, however has insisted since the day I asked that he wanted to be an octopus. Why you may ask? I have no idea. We don't have any toy octopuses, and I haven't seen any on the cartoons they watch. He knows what one is because we do have some non-fiction books on marine animals, but I have never heard him talk about liking the octopus any greater than other animals until the costume conversation began. I kept asking him just to be sure, but he never wavered - even a little bit. He wanted to be an octopus.

So I started my research on Pinterest and found surprisingly few DIY octopus costumes there. I spent quite a while looking on Google images but didn't find a good how-to guide. I did however find inspiration in understanding that really all we needed were 8 legs and some eyes. How hard can that be? 

So I started piece by piece putting our octopus together. Eli and Lex both offered lots of help along the way.

The first purchase were these leggings which I purchased mainly for the color. I got the largest size available because I envisioned the legs going from Eli's neck and wanted them to be fairly long.

 Next, I tied each leg in a knot at the end. Yes, I could have sewn them or something else, but I liked this look too. And let's face it - no octopus is perfect.

My next purchase just goes to show how little I actually craft. I had no idea how much filling it would take to fill 8 legs, so I bought the biggest bag there was. Let's just say I see some pillow making in my future. 

 Here is where the boys got to help by stuffing the legs. I held them at the top, and the boys took turns shoving handfuls of stuffing in them. Can you start to envision an octopus?

These legs sat in my dining room for a couple of weeks while I thought about what to do next. I had the legs but wasn't sure what to do with them from there. Someone at school suggested I sew them around elastic and then attach them with Velcro.

This is what I ended up with. I purchased black elastic, but if I had the time, I would have bought white and tried to die it blue. The black worked though.

.  I sewed a simple stitch on my sewing machine to sew the tights closed at the top and create a loop for the elastic. Really, this is the extent of my sewing skills so I'm glad it didn't get any harder than that. The boys are fascinated with the sewing machine so they also took turns either sitting on my lap and pushing through the material or sitting on the floor pushing the pedal.

Here it is from the backside. Since this part was going to be hidden, I didn't worry about cutting it off or anything.

I found this Velcro for fastening the elastic together. It is really strong and just peels and sticks onto the material. I was worried about how long it would hold up since I was attaching it to elastic, but not once did it come undone. 

So the idea was that Eli would wear a hooded jacket and the octopus legs would fasten around the neck of the jacket. I found these half circle Styrofoam spheres which I thought would make good "eyes" for the top of the jacket. I painted black pupils on with acrylic paint and then attached them with the Velcro as well.

Here was the final product. It's a little grainy because I took it on my phone, but I think you get the idea.

This was an "after" picture of both the boys. We lost a Styrofoam eye while we were out trick-or-treating. I wished I had hand sewn a stitch through the Styrofoam and the hood or something, but fortunately we had this hat which also seemed to work for the "eyes" of the octopus.

Again, it's not the best picture, but you get the point. It was in the 20's while we were out so it worked out good to have the jacket built in to the costume. Both boys were able to dress in layers and stay fairly warm.  And Eli was finally at the age when he could keep up for more than one street so they hit the jackpot on the candy stash! 

Happy Halloween and stay tuned if you're interested in reading up on our other recent fall/Halloween adventures.