Monday, October 31, 2016

Family Pictures 2016

We recently had our annual family pictures taken. For the fourth year straight, Staci Nagel has done them for us and she did an amazing job for us once again this year. We picked a location that we've been hiking recently at Mark Twain National Forest. In fact, I've blogged about it twice this year. Once last winter when we first discovered it, and again in early fall. It turned out to be a beautiful location for our pictures.

Here's the set of the boys together.

This one (below) is my favorite out of the whole bunch. Their personalities come through perfectly.

Here's Eli. 

And our family. I can't decide which is my favorite, so for now, I'm just posting (almost) all of them.

 Apparently one of us isn't fun enough to do a funny picture. (Just kidding)

Lex and his first grade smile.

And finally...

We asked her to take some pictures of just Jeremy and me since our 20 year anniversary is right around the corner.

The boys and me. I love this one.

And my boys. So handsome.

That's it!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Three Cheap and Easy DIY Halloween Decorations

Halloween has been fun for us this year. The boys are finally both old enough to enjoy the "scary" part of Halloween. I put scary in quotes because I actually keep them pretty sheltered from the really scare stuff - the blood, gore, guts, etc. But we are all in with the creepy, crawly part of Halloween. I have no shortage of fall decorations around the house. Pumpkins, scarecrows, burlap... you name it. But this year, I wanted to add something more fun for the month of October.

1.) Spiders

We found these little tiny spiders in the party favor section of Target for only a dollar! We didn't even use half of them. We used sticky tack to adhere them to the wall and it worked really well. I've also seen a version of this that uses cockroaches instead, but I like the tiny, little spiders coming out of the vent.

We also put some spiders in our "web" that we got for $1 at Dollar General. 

2.) Wall of Bats

All you need is black construction paper and a downloadable bat template (just Google it). It took me less than 20 minutes to cut these all out. Easy, breezy. And it looks awesome in our entry way. Next year, I'd like to expand on this one and hang them from the ceiling, too.

And finally,

3.) Stand up ghosts.

This one cost me nothing, because I already had everything on hand. Cheesecloth... check, Liquid starch... check, googly eyes...check. It's so easy and they dried in an afternoon.

We used little sports balls on top of cups, but I've also seen people use balloons, too. Use whatever you can find. Soak the cheese cloth in liquid starch, wring  it out to get rid of the excess moisture, and then put it over the ball. Let the cheesecloth gather at the bottom because once it dries, that's how it will stand up. A couple of hours in, I separated the cheesecloth from the ball so it would be easier to lift off later. Then I put it back over the ball to finish drying.

Once it was dried, I glue googly eyes on with Elmer's glue. Easy enough.

I might go nuts with these next year. They are so stinking cute.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vegetable Bisque

We have been contentedly busy these past few weeks. The perfect kind of busy where we have time to eat together each night, but we still have to check our calendars on Sundays to make sure we have planned appropriately for sports, music, and school practices and events. Even when we're home, it's busy. The boys are at the age now in which we have a revolving doors of friends from up and down the street constantly coming through our house to play and hang out with the boys. I absolutely love it. I'm happy to provide snacks, and secretly listen in to the kinds of serious conversations that 5 and 7 year olds can have. I love hearing them laugh and make up games on the trampoline. And I love it when they run through the house chasing each other. It's all perfectly chaotic.

Most nights, I'm still able to cook supper or at least heat up a decent plate of leftovers. Piano lesson nights are the only night in which we typically have to run through a drive through to get some food to hold us over. There's just too little time between school and his lesson to pull off anything more than pre-packaged treats. But I try.

Sundays are usually my big cooking days in general. A big pot of soup holds us over for leftovers or at least packed lunches for the first few days of the week. This recipe is one that I absolutely cannot believe I've never posted before. It is a regular in our house - typically the first soup of the season. I always write notes in my cookbooks when I try a new recipe and the note beside this one says that I first tried it in September, 2008! It's one of our favorites and one that Jeremy regularly requests. I'm excited to share it with you.

A little disclaimer. I almost never, ever use cream of anything from a can. I have a hard time qualifying the number of additives and preservatives as actual food. I don't know when I started being like that because I remember a day when cream of mushroom soup was an absolute staple in my pantry. But for this recipe, I make an exception. I'm sure there is a way I could recreate it with "real food" cream of something, but that's for another time. So here you will find listed in the ingredients, canned cheddar soup AND canned cream of potato soup. So sue me. No, don't actually sue me.

Vegetable Bisque

A bisque is a creamy type of soup, usually made with some kind of seafood. But not in this case. This one has chicken.

Here are the ingredients you'll need.

4 Tablespoons butter
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise, and then sliced
4 medium carrots, cut into matchstick thin pieces
1 cup celery, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cans (10 3/4 oz) cheddar soup
2 cans (10 3/4 oz) cream of potato soup
2 soup cans water
2 soup cans milk
3 cups cooked chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large tomato, chopped

1.) In a large saucepan or dutch oven, cook all the vegetables in butter over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

2.) Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Heat through, stirring occasionally.

Here's the pictures for those of you who like a visual.

Matchstick carrots. Yes, this is time consuming. Yes, you could cut them another way if you want. BUT... The soup is so visually appealing with them cut this way. It's different.

At least the celery is easy to cut.

And the zucchini.

Yummy butter...

And in it all goes. mmmmmm.

Here's what you're looking for in the soup aisle (head hung in shame).

Having a sous chef helps too.

Here are the veggies, all cooked up.

The soups, water, and milk all added in to make it a "bisque."

I cook a whole chicken for this recipe, then use chicken broth in place of the water.

Add in the tomatoes last. They make it so colorful!

I mean, look at this! How could you not dig right in with a shovel?

I like to serve it up with some yummy homemade bread (and by homemade, I mean throwing ingredients in the bread maker and then pushing 2 buttons and waiting).

Try it. I hope you like it.