29 February 2016

Bubbles

That's a pretty good bubble!
The girls went to a birthday party the other day and each received a bubble wand for a party favor (thanks for sharing Tessa!). With some practice, Kate has mastered blowing bubbles, after trying until she was lightheaded (never let it be said Kate is not determined).
Deep breath...
Ready...set...
Go!!!

(She gets those from me).

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28 February 2016

Bather

It seems like just yesterday that bright-eyed baby Kate was being washed in the sink by her doting big sisters. Now she's all grown up and she gets to help with her baby brother.

The bathee has become the bather.

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26 February 2016

Henry's Savings

Everyone has a piggy bank for their coins, too!
A few Saturdays ago, we were near our bank and decided to cross off the goal of opening a savings account for Henry. A few hours (yes, hours!!) later, we were able to cross that off our 2016 list.

Phew!


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24 February 2016

Motherhood Bootcamp

Henry's a lightweight compared to a sousaphone.
A neighbor spotted us outside rounding up the maple sap while the girls played and Henry rode in our trusty old hiking backpack. We chatted for a bit and he asked if Henry got heavy quickly. I chuckled and told him no.
Compared to the fifty-ish pound sousaphone I toted around through high school and college, Henry's a featherweight. Turns out marching band was a sort of motherhood boot camp and having played such a hefty instrument, it's made children in a backpack seem like nothing.

I always knew marching band would be a good investment.

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23 February 2016

Kitty Cat Playground

One of the things I love about our strange old house is the deck. It's so spacious and offers a wonderful place to grill out, overlook the horses, watch the sun set, or to play on a rainy day. It turns out, the cats also feel the same way. They laze around in the sun and hop onto the windows to watch and see what we're doing, occasionally even dragging a "prize" or two for us up there (I've stepped outside to find many-a-dead critters, thanks to our little tiger wannabes).
Hercules and Snickers discovered that going up and down from the porch was just a matter of either A) climbing the often-present ladder or B) hopping off the car. So, as long as there's a car (or ladder) parked nearby, it's a constant up-down-up-down exercise for them.
It's their very own kitty cat playground and it satisfies their need to pretend they're wild cats and climb without Jack having to prove his true love to me by rescuing them out of towering trees.

Win-win.

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21 February 2016

Miracles

Do you believe in miracles? We do!
Now we can watch movies alllllllll the time.
(Just kidding!. It'll only be used on long road trips, but boy, is that a nice feature!)
Getting new vehicles have been on our mind lately. Both the van and the truck have been, shall we say, well-loved? They've been good farm and family cars, but we'd put enough miles and hard labor into them that they began to leak and groan and rust. Plus, it doesn't make sense for Jack to drive the big, less fuel efficient truck to work every day when a small car would do. So, we listed both cars and had an eye out for a full-sized SUV that could accommodate our growing family and be large enough for farm needs, like towing the horses. We planned on buying a new car first, so we'd found several online and tried our best to find one that fit into our budget without much success. Then, Saturday, a nice man overlooked many of the van's flaws and bought it. We were grateful to get that one out the door and have cash in hand though at the same time, a bit frantic. We've lived as a one car family before but Jack's commute is far enough that it makes it unpleasant if we need to drop him off. What were we to do?
Everyone loves the sunroof.
Not two minutes after we sold the van, I found a Suburban that was in good shape, decent mileage and most importantly, a good price. We said a quick prayer that it would all work out, and it did. The person ahead of us in line declined to see it, after test driving it, poking and prodding and inspecting everything, Jack haggled with the owner, who eventually settled on an even better price (thank goodness for those mad haggling skills that Jack learned while living in Mexico!) and we were able to find a way to get our hands on the cash we needed, even though the banks were long since closed. To top it off, between selling the van and some savings we had set aside, we were able to meet the goal of paying for our next car in cash and came home with another vehicle that will work out nicely for us.

In the eternal scheme of things, buying a car is a trivial, unimportant matter, but recognizing the Lord's hand in providing those small tender mercies and answering prayers is nothing short of miraculous.




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20 February 2016

Half a Million

Just over half a million pageviews!
Last year, we had our first goal crossed off our list within days of the New Year. It's not that I'm slacking, but crossing off goals this year hasn't been in rapid succession just yet. I was hoping to do a few races late winter/early spring, but I'm still recuperating from a torn calf muscle, I'm writing a new novel, but not as fast as I'd like and I tried making yogurt, but it turned out as an inedible, goopy slop. But, one goal that happened without me noticing (and with little extra effort on my own part) is that the blog has reached half a million pageviews! I know, I know. Some blogs get half a million pageviews on a bad week (and my mom probably viewed it 499,999 times herself), but I'm pleased to have marked off that goal.

Half a million sounds pretty awesome to me!

How are your goals coming along?


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19 February 2016

Tough Egg

We've been blessed to have fresh eggs all winter!
Today was a sunny and warm late-February day, so the girls and I were outside enjoying the weather and collecting maple sap. Before heading in for lunch, we checked the coop for eggs and were happy to find two warm, fresh eggs nestled in the straw. Naturally, the girls asked if they could bring them in, to which I gave them the chance to learn to be responsible. Not to my surprise, Kate dropped hers with a loud crack on the kitchen floor. To our surprise, however, the egg shell was cracked but the egg innards were just fine.
Easiest cracked egg to clean up ever!
And that's the literal meaning of a tough egg to crack.

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16 February 2016

All That A Horse Could Teach

Stoney's in a trustworthy mood today.
To learn all that a horse could teach, was a world of knowledge, but only a beginning...Look into a horse's eye and you instantly know if you can trust him.

~Mary O'Hara

Dancer? Um, not so much.
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14 February 2016

Chocolate Party!

Dressed for Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day drums up all kinds of sentiments from a wide variety of people. For me, it's always been a sweet holiday that I've been blessed to celebrate with many friends and family.
Dancer loves Stoney. Stoney is moderately fond of Dancer.
This year, Jack continued his tradition of spoiling the girls and me. He got everyone their traditional flowers and I'd taken the girls shopping one at a time to pick out a special treat for one another. And if chocolate equals love, then Jack loves, no, LOVES us. Instead of a box of chocolates, he threw a chocolate party for the family. Then, we balanced out the sugar overload with having only salad for dinner, calling the grandmas and soaking in a bubble bath.
We had more chocolate than we could ever eat in one sitting, though everyone made an honest attempt.
Like other holidays, Valentine's Day isn't the only day we celebrate our love and admiration for each other, but it is nice to make a bit of a special effort. I count myself a lucky lady to feel valued and cherished by Jack every day, who's also a doting father and to have children who enjoy, care for and adore their siblings and unfailingly love their parents.
We hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day, celebrating love of self, friends and family!

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12 February 2016

Crock Pot Chicken Fajita Soup

I love a warm, hearty soup on a cold day that requires very little work. I even used some of our zesty salsa in it--with a little cheese, some avocado, chips or sour cream, it's an entire meal in one bowl.

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless chicken breast
2 (10 oz) cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup salsa
2 cups corn
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Spray the bottom of the crock pot with cooking spray. In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients, except cheese, then pour over the chicken. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken and shred. Return the shredded chicken to the crock pot and mix in the cheddar cheese, cooking for about 15 minutes more. Serve hot and top with diced tomatoes, sour cream, lettuce, avocados, tortilla strips, chopped cilantro, etc (optional).

Enjoy!
Thanks to The Recipe Critic for the recipe inspiration!

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11 February 2016

07 February 2016

Precious Jewels

The most precious jewels you'll ever have around your neck are the arms of your children. ~Unknown

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04 February 2016

Peck Away

The poor ash tree has been gnawed from top to bottom.
I haven't counted exactly how many, but I'd guess we have several hundred trees on our small acreage. Most of them line the North side of our property and in the summer, they're quite impressive and shady and do an excellent job blocking the view of the road and making us feel like we're a little more secluded than we really are. In the winter, though, when everything is bare, they're a little less impressive. Sure, Jack enjoys going out about now and starting maple syrup season and we're literally burning through firewood, but otherwise, we don't notice the trees too much right about now...until we noticed one of the trees literally being chewed apart.
Source
We scratched our heads for a while and theorized what on earth was doing the damage. Squirrels? Chipmunks? Bobcat (haha, yeah, good guess Jack!)? Then, upon closer inspection and a bit of research and realizing just what tree was being attacked, it turns out the poor tree is most likely infested with the emerald ash borer larvae.
The woodpeckers have been making quick work of pulling out the insect larvae.
I remember first hearing about the nasty little insects when I worked for an entomologist in college and it was kind of a shock to actually see them in action. I'm all about letting nature balance itself--predator and prey, life and death--but things that seem to serve no purpose other than to destroy really annoy me (like ground bees...). There's nothing to do now that the tree has been pecked apart by the woodpeckers searching for the emerald ash borer larvae, who are actually the ones who kill the tree by feeding and living in the vital, live part of the tree trunk. A pesticide could be applied to the other ash trees, but the one that's infested will most likely die. We'll certainly use it for firewood when it is felled but it always seems a bit of a shame to have to chop down a tree in its prime.

I suppose I'll stop complaining about the occasionally woodpecker hacking away at our house when they can help keep those horrific little bugs at bay. Peck away, birdies. I don't mind.

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