Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pool Days

Our neighborhood pool opened last weekend and I think we've been swimming everyday this week! The girls are little fish, they love to swim and are brave to jump off the side of the pool into the coolest belly flops ever seen. It's going to be a great summer with these two!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Rib Masters

I have a weird thing to admit: I'm afraid of meat. Weird, right?!

What I mean is I'm afraid to prepare it, everything except chicken and ground beef, that is. For the first 5 years of marriage, I cooked everything other than chicken dishes and ground beef dishes in the CrockPot for fear of undercooking a tough cut of protein. I love to cook and read restaurant menus online (nerd alert!) for fun. I study tough recipes like I'll be tested on them later, I should not be afraid to cook a brisket or tenderloin!

Baby back ribs have always been at the top of my scary meal list. Ribs seem so time sensitive and finicky. So much could go wrong! And we don't have a smoker - don't ribs need giant smokers or other meat cooking contraptions?! JD suggested we try it, we are smart after all, we could learn the secret of the perfectly tender, fall off the bone ribs.

So we did. I read a bazillion rib recipes online before going with the instructions on the packaging on the meat. They. Are. Perfect. We are amazing rib making people! Who knew?!

Our rib preparing method:

Coat meat generously with dry rub, wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (overnight is best). Preheat oven to 325, wrap marinated meat loosely in foil and place on a foil lined sheet pan arc side up (like a rainbow). Add 1/2 cup of water inside the foil wrapped meat. Seal tightly and bake for 2 - 2.5 hours. Remove from oven, cover ribs with BBQ sauce (optional) and cook on grill at medium heat for 15 minutes. Eat!

Dry rub recipe:
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper

These ribs are so tasty, a little spicy, and fall-off-the-bone delicious. We had them tonight and after stuffing my face, I couldn't believe how silly I have been all these years avoiding them. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Disney Days

At the first of the year, we bought Disneyland season passes with Christmas money from my family. I knew it would be a gift that the girls (and I!) could enjoy all year. Boy have we had fun!

We have been to the parks (Disneyland and California Adventure) every week since January, except for the the 2 weeks we were in Tennessee. It has been a blast exploring and getting to know every square inch of the happiest place on earth.

JD bought a pass on my birthday and he has been using vacation days to join us for the past few weeks. It has been great having him with us. I typically take the girls by myself and while there are some definite challenges as the only adult, it's doable and we all have a great time. But having daddy with us means more roller coasters and less stroller pushing for me!

JD is learning what it means to be a Disney season pass holder. Basically, getting at the park 30 minutes prior to opening and staying until close, never eating during traditional mealtimes because ride lines are shorter then, and being ready to ditch the stroller anywhere to sprint to the rides with the shortest lines. He gets better each week.

We are about to be blocked for the busy summer season so this week's trip is probably our last until the fall. We made the most of it by staying late and riding many rides that we skip due to the long wait times. We had a great time and will be sad to take a break.

10 tips from this seasoned season pass holder:

* Bring band-aids and ibuprofen. Headaches plague me nearly every trip and one or both of my girls scrape a knee more often than not. Be prepared!
* Watching a show is a great way to escape the sun and heat and get off of your feet for a bit. Some of our favorites are Muppet Theatre, Peter Pan Story Time, and Turtle Talk with Crush.
* Download wait time apps on your smartphone so you know which rides have the shortest waits. This saves you from wasting precious time walking around when you could be riding!
* Skip the parades to ride the most popular rides. There will probably still be a wait, but it will be much shorter with most park-goers watching the parade instead.
* Get there early. The whole parking and entering the park process takes time. The earlier you arrive, the less crowded it will be and the more RIDES you get to ride! We rode 4 within the first hour yesterday!
* Pack all your meals. Disney can be (relatively) cheap. Most trips we buy nothing at all. I pack tons of food and a giant gallon jug of icy lemon water and we spend nothing all day.
* Eat lunch/dinner on rides! I am sort of hardcore about using our time wisely while at DL. Any wasted time not riding something is a source of frustration for me so we eat on trains, steamboats, and on the monorail. Not every ride allows this and obviously you don't want to eat on a turbulent ride, but find the slow-moving ones and chow down. Once it's over, you'll have plenty of energy to sprint to Indiana Jones!
* Bring sunscreen and a change of clothes for everybody. I love the water rides, but walking around with wet underwear all day is miserable. Bring lightweight changes and stash them in a plastic bag at the bottom of your stroller/backpack.
* Figure out what your most comfortable pair of shoes are and wear those. Tennis shoes kill my feet after wearing them all day. For me, TOMS are the most comfy. Wear what makes your feet hurt the least. You will be walking miles.
* Likewise, put shoes on your kids that they cannot remove! I've seen more discarded toddler shoes than I can count where some kid, bored in their stroller, kicked off a shoe while their poor mother was oblivious.

Disneyland is really fun and we are blessed to live so close. What's your favorite thing to eat/ride/see at Disney?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Land of the Free

Howdy! We have had the best weekend swimming in the neighborhood pool, walking to the beach with friends, and doing some home improvements. It's so nice to live in such a beautiful place with good friends to enjoy holiday weekends with.

We went to the beach today and as I was walking across the park to take Penelope potty, we passed folks in all types of beach attire from very provocative to fully covered up swimming clothes. I'm so grateful to live in a place where my daughters are free to wear what they please. I hope they make conservative choices, but I'm relieved they won't be accosted (or worse) for baring skin at the beach.

I'm so thankful to live in America, to live in a land with so many freedoms and choices. And I'm thankful for all of the service people and their families for their sacrifice. Freedom comes with a cost and I am so grateful for those selfless heroes. May God bless you and the U.S.A.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Quilt of Many Colors

I have a bit of a yarn problem. Every time I walk into a craft store, I buy yarn. Sometimes I need yarn for a project or special order, but a lot of times I don't need any yarn, I just like buying it. My stash is pretty substantial. I have every color, in multiple shades and textures. I don't need anymore yarn, but I can't seem to stop buying it.

So, obviously, one of my New Year's resolutions was to not buy any new yarn for a year, unless I needed something for a special order. In addition to not buying anymore yarn, I also challenged myself to use up some of my stash on as many projects as I could.

It's mid-May and I have only bought 3 or 4 skeins of yarn all year (this is huge for me). I needed this yarn to complete a baby blanket for our newest baby niece. I am so proud! When I feel a creative surge, I shop my stash instead. It feels good to save my cash and use up what I already own.

One of my favorite things I've ever made is this quilt of many colors. I started it back in February and worked on it a little every night. I ran out of yarn on a few rows and had to go searching through the girls' accessories to disassemble hats and baby sweaters to complete it. I really wanted to finish this quilt without purchasing any new yarn and except for buying new green, I did!

I love how it turned out. It's colorful, soft, and a great kid-sized blanket. You can check it out here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

In This Season

In this season of my life, conversations like this occur a lot:

"Mama, can you help me smell this?"
"Well baby, you just have to use your nose and smell it yourself."
"Can you just do it for me? I don't want to smell that."

I am in an endless cycle of cleaning up dollhouse furniture, washing dress up clothes, and picking glitter off of the couch. The messes are constant, the laundry multiplies, and emotions run high among my little girls.

The needs of my children are great and require all that I have. Some days I am awesome at meeting each one, other days I fail miserably before I've had my morning coffee.

Motherhood is hard. It's a daily reminder of my shortcomings and areas where I need grace in my life. I struggle with patience the most. But it's also mostly joy. Watching my children's bodies grow strong and their brilliant brains expand each day is amazing. These little babies that came from my body are turning into little people! Sassy little people... They say the best, most hilarious things and have giant, compassionate hearts.

I know it's cliche to say that I can't remember life before having my kids, but I can't remember life before having my kids. In this season, they consume me. They need me for everything and touch me so often, it's like they are still apart of my body. It's overwhelming sometimes. But I know it's just a season. Soon enough they will be grown up with their own little ones to raise.

Sometimes I try to burn an image into my mind to recall on their wedding days, like when Penelope struggles with pulling up her pants and after giving up, waddles around like a streaking penguin until someone helps her. Or when Beatrice begs me to save all of my bras and underwear for her to wear when she's a teenager. Amid all of the chaos of mothering young children, these really are the best days.

I never wanted to find my identity in being a mother. I imagined myself to be so much more than that: friend, wife, lover of Jesus. Then I grew people in my womb and something changed. I never knew the honor of being a mother until I became one. There's no greater calling in a woman's life than to raise babies. I may have many roles in my life, but in this season, I am a mother. And I love it.

Happy Mother's Day! All photos by my friend, Sara Rose Photography.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


For Easter I gave the girls seed packets in their baskets. They were so excited to plant strawberries and tomatoes. That made my mama heart so happy since I love gardening and growing, tending and harvesting. I was so excited to start our seedlings with my little sprouts.

We carefully planted seeds in tiny plastic pots, covering them with just enough soil, and watering them ever so gently. We waited. And waited. We didn't think we would ever see growth, especially after an unfortunate accidental dumping of the strawberry pot.

But alas, sprouts!

I'm always so astounded at the seedling process. How something so tiny can be buried in dirt, watered for 10 days, and then sprout and grow into a plant that bears fruit my family can eat is amazing to me. What a good God we serve!

I dumped the extra tomato seeds into a big pot on my porch with my basil plant and holy moly, did they ever sprout! Look at those tiny tomato plants!

I think I'm going to have to transplant some of those! We also planted a few squash, zucchini, and mature tomato plants. We have a small bed in the back of our yard that is shielded from the harsh winds we have every afternoon that was perfect for a small garden. The soil is so rich and full of earthworms, I'm hopeful my harvest will be great this summer.

The girls are loving their daily watering duties. I'm loving teaching them about growing our food. We talk a lot about how God is the Initiator of all life and how He makes big plants grow from tiny seeds. We also talk about how worms, sunshine, and water are good for plants like food, exercise, and water are good for our bodies to grow. Gardens can teach us so much!

I'm loving this time of tending to young, delicate plants. I hope my girls cultivate a lifetime love of this process too!