Monday, August 29, 2011

Look Polished...Quick!

A manicure, even one done at home, always is a nice finishing touch to your look. It can make even the most basic of outfits look more pulled together, and as a mom to two little ones, I need a little extra help sometimes.

I go in phases when it comes to polishing my fingernails. There will be times when I keep them polished regularly and then I'll stop polishing them for a few months. Since I had Lillian, I don't think I've painted my nails once...until today.

Between washing dishes daily and washing my hands a gazillion times a day, my polish doesn't usually hold up for long. I also don't have a ton of time to sit while my nails dry between coats. That's why I have come to love quick dry nail polish. It literally takes me just a few minutes and I can have freshly painted nails.

Here are my favorites...


This is Park Ave from the In a New York Color Minute collection by NYC. It's a nice gray with just a hint of purpley-plum to it. I've been wearing this a lot on my toes this summer, but it's a great nail color when you're wanting a darker shade. I wear it on my fingernails a lot in the cooler months.


This is Petal Pusher from the Insta-Dry collection by Sally Hansen. My friend told me about this line. Besides being a quick drying polish, the brush is also wider so it only take a few swipes to cover your whole nail. I am a sucker for a pale pink. It's so easy to wear--a step up from a clear coat, but any chips don't show easily.


If all else fails, I turn to a quick dry product, like this one, over my regular polishes.  Just a few minutes and I can be polished and back in action with the kids.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons...

MAKE LEMONADE!!!


Well, I'm happy to report that currently life has not handed us any lemons, but in the spirit of stretching out summer, we've been making lemonade this week.

I'm a big fan of lemonade (so is Levi), but for whatever reason, I had never made my own fresh-squeezed lemonade. I came across this blog post and decided that the time had come to give it a try. I picked up some lemons and we made our first batch on the weekend.


It was a hit, so of course, we had to do it again. Levi loves helping with the juicing, but loves drinking the finished product even better..."More wema-wade, pease!"


I see many more pitchers of fresh-squeezed lemonade in our future! Yum!


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Another fun moment this morning...

Levi was outside playing mailman again when our own mailman came around. He stopped to say hello and we told him what Levi had been doing. He asked Levi if he'd like to sit in a real mail truck...well, of course he did! He was so excited!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stretching Out Summer

This week has meant back to school for a lot of people, including one member of our house. John headed back to work yesterday and his students started today. While his going back to school means that the kids and I will get back into a more regular routine, we still have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the last bits of summer before we slip into fall. And you better believe John's going to join us when he can.

Monday was a gorgeous day-warm, but not too warm, with a nice gentle breeze. There was just the slightest hint of the cool autumn weather to come. It was too nice to spend much of the morning inside, so we headed out front. Levi drove around while I dead-headed the flowers and the wind blew Lillian's wisps of hair around as she sat in the stroller.

Before long the mail truck was coming down the street and not long after, his Cozy Coupe turned into a miniature mail truck.


He redelivered the day's junk mail to me and we fashioned a play mailbox to add to the fun.


He protested when I announced lunchtime, so we set up a picnic in the front yard.  I realized it was his first picnic. We'll have to do it again while we can.


Later on, John got in on the summer-loving action. All summer, he's wanted to make meatloaf on the grill. Initially, I questioned if it was possible, but he assured me that you can cook anything on the grill. So, the night had finally come. I couldn't stand in his way-it was the combining of his favorite cold-weather food and his favorite mode of cooking (I think it's a guy thing...the fire and all). You can see how happy he was.


He took the reins on supper and we had "grilled" meatloaf and corn on the cob. De-lish!


Ahh...summer...we're stretching it out over here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Zucchini

'Tis the season to enjoy the bounty of one's garden, but since I don't have a vegetable garden, I rely on the bounty of other's. Thankfully, my in-laws are quite generous with all they grow. Each year we get lots of tomatoes and zucchini.

My favorite use for the zucchini is in breads and muffins. You can also make a delicious chocolate cake by simply adding shredded zucchini in place of the oil in a box mix.


When I grate the zucchini, I freeze it in the quantities I most often use it in, usually 1 1/2 C. or 2 C. So far, I've gotten a few large zucchinis from my in-laws. I've baked some things already, freezing a portion of the baked goods, and the rest of the zucchini went straight to the freezer for use later this fall or winter.

This year I tried a few new recipes, with the help of my favorite baking assistant. His favorite part is always licking the spoons or beaters at the end.

We made...

Fat-Free Zucchini Bread from Healthy Meals for Less (see recipe below)


Chocolate Zucchini Muffins from http://www.fortheloveofcooking-recipes.blogspot.com/


Both turned out delicious and we'll definitely make more with the rest of the zucchini we have stored up in the freezer. Now if I could just get my hands on some of their peaches...you know what I'd do!

You can also check out my friend Joanna's blog for some of the zucchini recipes she's tried this year.

Fat-Free Zucchini Bread
from Healthy Meals for Less by Jonni McCoy

3 eggs
1 2/3 C. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. unsweetened applesauce
2 C. grated zucchini
3 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and applesauce in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until well blended. Stir in the zucchini. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture, and mix well.

Pour into two greased 9x4" loaf pans. Evenly distribute the dough in pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 min., or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean when inserted in the center.

Options: Add 3/4 C. chopped walnuts, 1 C. chocolate chips, and/or 1 C. raisins with the zucchini.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day Out With Thomas

Today we spent part of our day with Thomas the Tank Engine. Levi has been looking forward to this all summer. Thomas came to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL and we headed there with John's parents. In addition to seeing Thomas and taking part in some of the Thomas-related activities, we got to enjoy the museum's regular exhibits and trains. It is definitely a place we will visit again.

We started the day getting some temporary tattoos of Thomas and Friends. Daddy and Grandma Sue each got one, too. Levi chose Thomas and Harold the Helicopter.


Next we headed over to get some pictures with Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt.


Then we spent some time checking out the trains on display and taking a ride on a streetcar.
Levi was doing this goofy smile most of the day.

By the time it was our turn to ride the Thomas train, we were all pretty hot and tired. The train ride nearly lulled Levi to sleep. I knew he was getting tired when he asked me to hold him. So, I had a lapful with both Levi and Lillian, who was sleeping in the carrier.


After a short ride in the air-conditioned car, he pepped up enough to enjoy some frozen yogurt. This was a fun way to wrap up our summer and I'm glad we can share experiences like this with our family.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Everyday Things

I've mentioned before that blogging has made me stop to notice the little things in my everyday life. I have two "little things" in my life and I want to be sure to remember all the moments of their lives-big ones and small ones. Some things happen on a regular basis now and you can start to take them for granted, but I know that as my kids grow, things will change and the moments that seemed ordinary will be more precious.

So yesterday I took the time to snap a few impromptu shots of everyday things that my kids are doing now.


We went to the library yesterday and got a new bagful of books. Some moms get nervous when their little ones get quiet, but I know when Levi's quiet, he's probably looking at books. He wasted no time digging into his books, pulling each one out before choosing one to start with.


Levi loves books-both being read to and now "reading" on his own. He has a good memory so he often ad-libs the stories as he reads them or he defaults to "read, read, read" (turn the page) "read, read, read". My favorite is when he reads to Lillian. He always makes sure she is looking at the pictures..."See it, Lill?"

These days Lillian is having fun kicking it on her gym mat (literally). Big Brother loves to get down on the floor to talk to her and make her laugh. His favorite thing is to blow her belly.


She's a very happy girl and is cooing and talking a lot. She also has recently started rolling from her back to her sides and from her stomach to her back.


I started putting her in her Bumbo seat a few weeks back and she enjoys sitting up and looking around at the action around her.


Before you're a parent everyone tells you to enjoy it because it goes by fast. I didn't fully believe it until I saw my first little baby growing into a toddler. I know I have many more years with them and many more moments to enjoy, but right now I'm savoring these everyday things.

Monday, August 15, 2011

One Happy Boy

My little guy, Levi, loves all the things you'd expect a little boy to love: cars, trucks, trains, fishing, sports, etc. Some of his favorite toys, though, are his Ertl construction vehicles, or "big trucks" as he calls them. Maybe his enjoyment of construction equipment was brought on by the construction that has been going on near our house for the past year, or maybe it's just because he's a little boy. Whatever the reason, he loves to see these big trucks at work and then reenacts things with his toys. Instead of a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, Levi takes a few big trucks to bed with him each night.

This morning was quite exciting because a real-life cement truck was coming to our house. I got Levi dressed early so he'd be ready when it arrived. As soon as it showed up he told me, "Gotta go outside. Gotta see 'ment truck. Gotta help Dad do work."

So we headed to the backyard to have a good view of the truck and the work being done. (John is building us a much needed shed and had to pour a slab for it.) I think seeing a real cement truck at work so close to him was a little overwhelming at first. He was real quiet and wanted to stay close by my side.

Not too sure yet, but he didn't want to take his eyes off it.

A little later he seemed to get more comfortable and agreed to pose for a picture by the slab. He was thrilled when the cement truck driver honked the horn as he drove away from the house.

John got some help from his dad, our friend Ryan, and the friendly cement truck driver.

Levi seemed to beam the rest of the morning and I'm sure he'll be doing some major work with his own cement truck in the days to come.

Still smiling on our walk afterwards.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Follow Me!

I've been blogging now for over a month and am loving it. It's fun to share about the things that go on in my life. It definitely makes you look at your life differently. Suddenly everyday things like cooking become something to blog about. I find myself constantly thinking "I should blog about this" and usually I do.

If you've been reading my blog and are already a follower-THANK YOU! However, I know that there are others who are sometimes, or maybe just one-time readers and I'd like to encourage you to "follow me."


So, you might be asking, what does it mean to "follow" a blog? Basically, it's kind of like being someone's friend on Facebook. It lets me know that you're reading my blog and that you like it. It can also be a way to get connected with my other readers who may have blogs that you'd also like to read or you can find out other blogs they're following.

Becoming a follower is very simple...just some clicking and typing in order to get your account set up through Google Friend Connect. Here's what you do:
  • From my blog, click on "Join this Site" on the right side of the blog. (It should appear towards the top. If  not, scroll down until you see it on the right.)
  • This takes you to the Google Account sign in. Unless you already have a Google account, under "Don't have a Google account" click on "Create an account now" (If you have a Google account, log in as usual and skip the account set-up steps below and go to the steps about following.)
  • Enter your email address (does not need to be a Google account) and create a password. Then fill in the other info they ask for. Read the terms and conditions and click "I accept. Create my account."
  • The next window asks you to confirm that you want to create an account through Google Friend Connect. Click "Confirm."
  • This will take you to your profile. You can add a picture or further customize your account by clicking on "Edit Google Profile".
  • Below that it will say 'Settings for Crafting My Happy Life'. It'll say that you're following publicly (meaning others will see you listed with my followers on the right side of the blog) and it gives you a few other options that you can do or not do. Most importantly, click "Follow".
  • Then you'll see a Congratulations box. It gives you a few options of things you can do or you can just click "Done."

That's it! It may seem like a lot of steps, but it's very quick and easy. If you're enjoying my blog, please consider becoming a follower and telling your friends about it too. It makes me feel good and it's an encouragement to me to keep on blogging.

Also, I love to see comments from my readers, so don't be afraid to leave a comment if you've got something to say.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Two Reasons to Celebrate

Five years ago today, John and I set out on a marvelous adventure together--marriage. It was a long time coming. By the time we were married we had been together for almost eight years.
Back at the beginning...Fall 1998
(Dressed for a 70s party)

During those years, we did a lot of growing up and we grew as a couple. We definitely knew what we were getting into when we married each other, but that's not to say the last five years have been perfect. However, as the saying goes, we may not be perfect, but we're perfect for each other.
Chicago-2000

We pick up where the other one leaves off. We have the same dreams for our life together. We respect each other as individuals and give each other room to be ourselves. We share a commitment to our marriage and family. And we love to laugh together.
Hiking in Yosemite-2003
Oregon-2008

If I could do it all over again, I would still pick him.  
Photo by Heirloom Photographic Memories
Photo by Heirloom Photographic Memories

Happy Anniversary John!

 
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Long before August 12th was my anniversary, it was my mom's birthday. When we were picking dates for the wedding, it came down to either being on John's mom's birthday or my mom's birthday. Neither one of them would have minded sharing their birthday, but it worked out better to have the wedding on the 12th. So, from then on my mom has had to share her birthday with our anniversary.

My mom is an awesome lady (and not just because she's my mom). Now that I'm an adult, she is not only my mom, but she's also my friend. It's wonderful having friends who know your past-the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I love my mom because she's supportive, a great encourager, loving, creative, generous, and brave. She is a strong woman of faith and to this day, nothing gives me more peace and comfort than when she prays over me. On top of that, she is an amazing grandma to my children.

Florida-2010

Happy Birthday Mom!
You deserve only the best today and always!
We love you!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Garden Gallery

While on my visit to Iowa, my mom took me to the home of Jolene Rosauer in Grundy Center. In and around her home you'll find the Garden Gallery and Gift Shop. Jolene is a talented artist who loves to garden and buy antiques at flea markets and estate sales. She has combined her talents and hobbies to offer a garden walk and shopping experience every Saturday throughout the summer. She has had so much interest, she will be continuing into October.


You can begin your visit in her garden where you'll find antiques and her glass art. She creates flowers and garden towers out of vintage glassware. Each one is unique.




Throughout her home, she has artfully displayed a variety of antiques. She has vintage linens, depression glass, pottery, antique kitchen tools and dishes, plus more of her artwork.





Jolene's medium of choice is photography. She sells her popular line of photo cards, "Greetings from Iowa", as well as canvas prints and bookmarks.


The Garden Gallery and Gift Shop offers something for everyone and the atmosphere invites you to linger and gather inspiration for your own home and garden.

If you are in the area, be sure to stop in to this hidden treasure and tell her you heard about it here. You can also visit her Etsy site.

Garden Gallery & Gift Shop
Open Saturdays 10-5
801 10th Street
Grundy Center, Iowa
319-825-4045
images@gcmuni.net




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Family Time on the Farm

This weekend we were in Iowa, in part, to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe that they are old enough to be celebrating fifty years of marriage and it makes me hope that in forty-five years, John and I can celebrate our fiftieth.

We headed to their farm for cake, ice cream, and time with family. It's always fun to visit their farm. As kids, my brother and I loved going there to see the animals, help with the chores, and enjoy my aunt's home-cooking.


My aunt's garden is always beautiful.

Now, Levi loves to go there too. At home he has a farm set that my aunt and uncle gave him. He loves playing with the tractors and has even named one of the farmers, Daryl and one of the ladies, Betty, after my aunt and uncle. He loves to sing "Daryl and Betty had a farm..." instead of Old MacDonald.


It was a low-key afternoon of yard games, good food, and time to catch up with family. What a fitting way to celebrate a legacy of faith, family, and farming.



The men gathered in the shade while the ladies stayed cool inside.

Lillian was dressed for the farm in her John Deere dress.