Friday, May 31, 2013

Ferdinand? Is that you?

It's Random Friday so I'm linking up with Nancy at A Rural Journal today. 

1.  When we were at Booker T. Washington a couple of weeks ago, I took this picture of a cow in the pasture.  When I saw all the wildflowers, I couldn't help think of Ferdinand the Bull.  We love that sweet children's book that promotes peace instead of fighting.

2.  Pierce asked me the other day, "Hey Mom, you know the nursery rhyme Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush?"  As a matter of fact, I do.  He said, "If it's a nursery rhyme, why doesn't it actually rhyme?"  What a deep thinker that kid is sometimes!

3.  Pierce came home from school the other day talking about a little girl that is frequently discussed between us, as she tends to get into a lot of trouble.  I've always encouraged Pierce to try to be nice to her, even if she isn't very likeable (she does do some quite terrible things), because it sounds like she has no friends and is always struggling.  Anyhow, he came home and said she is getting a new mom and dad.  From the sound of it, I thought she might be in foster care.  So we talked about that some, and after a lengthy discussion I wanted to reassure Pierce about our own family.  I said, "Aren't you glad that you don't have to ever worry about getting a new Mom and Dad?  You know you'll always have us."  Pierce grinned really big and said, "Yeah.  I think I'll keep you!".  It was so cute and sweet that my heart grew 3 sizes, just like the Grinch. 

4.  Lots of people don't like sushi, but I love it.  My favorite are the smoked salmon rolls, with cream cheese and avocado.  I pretty much like all of it, although eel isn't my favorite. 

5.  Our ice maker has been broken for like 3 years.  It doesn't bother me until the weather gets all steamy, and then it really stinks that we have no ice maker.  I tried some ice cube trays last year, but they never really worked that well for some reason.  This  year I bought some of those fake ice cubes.  Still, not quite the same as cubes you can chew on.  And yes, I know it's bad for my teeth.  Readers, do you like to chomp on some ice? 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Free Country Swimsuit Review

Disclaimer:  I received a swimsuit from Free Country for review purposes.  The opinions below are my own.

Memorial Day is over, which means swimsuit season is here.  I was happy to get the opportunity to review a tankini from Free Country.  They carry a wide variety of active wear to fit your individual style.

I chose a tankini because I don't feel all that swimsuit ready right now, and tankinis have a way of being more forgiving.  I found a black and white one that I loved for it's sportiness.  The shorts, in particular, were really cute on - they had an athletic look to them that appealed to me.

The tankini was very comfortable and it didn't creep up at all in between standing and sitting.

It also didn't slide up in the water.  I've had tankinis in the past that were really bad about floating right up as soon as you hit the water.  This stayed put, thanks to the strings on the side that allow you to raise/lower the sides and tie it in place snugly.  Even when I swam a couple of laps, the swimsuit stayed in place.

As it turned out, we had a really fun time in the pool, and I liked not having to worry about the fit of the swimsuit so that I could just enjoy my time with the boys. 

In addition to swimwear, Free Country also carries an assortment of winter coats and outdoor clothing for men, women, boys and girls.  Readers, do you like tankinis, or do you prefer another style of swimsuit?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Children Are Such Monsters

One minute I'm busy fixing dinner, and the next minute I hear a ruckus.  I look up to see the house has been invaded by little monsters.

I don't know which monster is scarier - the one with the hook or the one with the light saber. 

Somehow, I don't think I'd like to tangle with either one of them. 

Even though they looked so ferocious, the monsters kept giggling as they battled on.
Eventually, I decided to let the monsters have their fun, and I returned to the stove.  Readers, have you seen any good monster fights lately?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Art of Washing Dishes #MyPlatinum #sponsored

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cascade. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”

I have a lot of thoughts about washing dishes, especially since I generally make all of our meals from scratch.  For a family of five, that adds up to a lot of dishes, and I'm running the dishwasher daily!  Prior to living in our current house, I did a seven year stint with no dishwasher, and I particularly loathed the winter months when the pipes would freeze and dirty dishes would pile up in the sink.  I sure am glad those days are past. 

Over the next four weeks, I'm going to be blogging weekly about our dishwashing routine, as I've been selected in an Ambassador program for Cascade Platinum!  I will also be sharing information about the "My Platinum" Instagram contest and Cascade's partnership with Top Chef Judge, Gail Simmons.  Cascade has been a frequent product in our household, as I've bought the Cascade Complete Action Pacs in bulk for years.  I've found them to perform well in our dishwasher, and I don't even tend to pre-rinse, as you can see below (yuck, lasagna buildup):

I have never tried Cascade Platinum though.  In the coming weeks, I'll be putting Cascade Platinum to the test, and I'm eager to see how it will handle load after load of messy dishes.  I'm especially interested to see how it handles our glassware - in the picture above you can see that the dishwasher is mostly loaded with plastic kiddie plates and lunch tupperwares.  But we do have glassware and I want to see how clean my wineglasses and plates can be.  Cascade Platinum is supposed to leave dishware spot-free and prevent buildup on dishwasher walls - all while providing the most powerful clean Cascade has to offer. 

For information on Cascade Platinum, visit out their Facebook page!  Readers, how often are you washing your dishes? 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Foster Kitties

Last year when the shelters had an explosion of kittens and were asking for help from the community, we stepped forward and fostered a litter of four kittens.  It's that time of year again, where the shelters are desperate for help.  We have two foster kittens. They are from separate litters, but were on the same medications for coccidia and colitis, so we have been able to keep them together.

The white kitten with brown spots came to us at the age of 3 weeks with the name of Miller.  The gray long haired kitten is 5 weeks and came with the name Oyster.

They both had colitis, coccidia, and Miller also had an eye infection.  Poor Miller was on 6 different medications at one point!  They are doing much better now, thankfully.  We plan to spoil them rotten for the next couple of weeks until they are old enough to receive their vaccines and go find their forever families.

Readers, have you ever stepped in for an animal that needed help?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Teacher Gifts and Recurring Dreams

It's Random Friday, so here are a few things on my mind this week.
1.  For Teacher Appreciation Day, I made little felt purses for each of the boys' teachers.  I tucked a gift card to a local cupcakery inside, and accompanied by a few chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, I felt like they were a fun little way to celebrate.  The boys certainly loved presenting them to their beloved teachers. 

2.  I have a recurring dream about tsunamis.  It's creepy.  I wonder if I have it when I'm feeling overwhelmed in my life?

3.  I love to watch documentaries.  Recently we checked one out of the library called Pressure Cooker.  It follows some inner city Philadelphia high school students as they compete for culinary scholarships.  It was such an inspiring film. 

4.  Our hermit crab, Misty, died a few months ago when trying to molt.  So when I stopped in a local pet store that was going out of business, and had everything 75% off, I picked up three new hermit crabs.   One for each boy.  The twins are quite pleased to have their own hermit crabs, however they do tend to sneakily overfeed them.  I'll go in to check the water and find piles of food as big as the hermit crabs in the sand.

5.  I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day!  Readers, are you doing anything exciting?

This post linked to Random Friday at A Rural Journal

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Boom! A burst of memory from a smell.

Have you ever noticed how certain smells will take you back?  Being fascinated by the way the brain works, I know that the olfactory cortex shares a direct link to the hippocampus, which stores our long term memories.  All the other senses are processed in the thalamus.  Maybe this is why, out of the blue, we sometimes get a whiff of a scent and are transported back in time.

This happened to me recently - I switched soaps because I became allergic to the soap I was using.  I have a tendency to develop allergies to things.  Shampoo, lotions, soaps, and deodorant (a particularly nasty allergic reaction last time that happened!).  So anyhow, I was using this fragrant soap that I loved and starting getting the massive itchies, so I knew I had to switch to something very mild, and switch fast! 

As I was perusing the soaps in the store, I recalled that Ivory is supposed to be very gentle.  I had used it years ago - in high school I guess.  I picked some up and brought it home.

The moment I ripped open the three pack I inhaled the soapy scent and was transported back to early high school.  My eye doctor had told me to use Ivory to wash my hands prior to cleaning my contact lenses, as it was one of the mildest soaps around and wouldn't burn my eyes or leave residue on my lenses.  This was back in the day of scrubbing the lenses in your palms each evening before placing them in a heated unit to kill any lingering germs.  Then once a month you'd do this fizzy tablet deal where you put your contacts in a solution with fizzy tabs to remove any residue buildup. 

I'd forgotten all those evenings I spent cleaning my contact lenses.  Thank goodness two week disposables came around by the time I hit college, along with the multipurpose cleaning solution.  Whew, so much easier!

Have you had any surprise memories from scents lately, readers?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mother's Day Hike

As I mentioned yesterday, we went hiking for Mother's Day.  We decided to go to Booker T. Washington National Monument, because the boys love all the buildings and animals, and the hike isn't too strenuous for them, so no one has to be carried.
 After a picnic, they took off running down the path for the old buildings.  This one was a kitchen house back in the day.

We counted a lot of lizards while we were exploring.  I couldn't help but delight in taking lizard pictures.  Almost as fun to photograph as ducks.

This is the old tobacco barn.  Reid would only stand in the doorway, as it was very dark inside and he said it was too scary.

Sharpening a few tools in the blacksmith shop.  The boys also enjoyed working the huge billows for the fire.

Tree marker along our hike.  One fun thing about the hike is that it has numbers throughout, with information you can follow in a brochure. 

The old Sparks cemetery sits on a ridgetop, and has a number of graves all marked with fieldstones.

Filling our hands to the brims with nature.  The boys are always stuffing their pockets with rocks and flowers and other goodies.

The twins don't read yet, but they sure do like to pretend that they do!

What a fun filled day.  I hope the Mother's Day hike is a tradition my boys will pass down to their own families.  It's a wonderful way to spend a special day. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Well. He's Just Fabulous

On Mother's Day every year, I tend to request a family hike.  It's become a tradition, and this year was no different. 

While we were hiking this year, we ventured a bit off the trail to check out the Jack O'Lantern Branch creek.  I look over and see Paul doing this:

At first, I thought maybe he was trying to spear a fish with his hiking pole.  Isn't that just the sort of random thing a guy would do?

But no.  He was fishing out a pair of pink sunglasses.  Well.  Isn't he just fabulous? 

You wouldn't believe the fights the boys had over those pink sunglasses during the rest of the hike.  Everybody wanted pink sunglasses!  Readers, do you have any pink sunglasses in your life?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Standlee Hay Products Review

Disclaimer:  This is a review written by me, with my own opinions, of Standlee Hay Products.  I was provided with a gift card to purchase their products for review purposes. 

Lately I've been putting our horses through their annual vaccines, along with their every-other-month deworming and hoof trimming.  I have a feeling that when I walk in to the pastures, they're whispering "Uh oh.  Here she comes.  What now?"  And then they heave a big sigh.  So when Standlee contacted me about doing a review, I was excited to have some tasty new feed products for them to try.  This time of year, the horses are full and round from all the green grass, so I don't need to do any feed supplementing, but that doesn't mean they can't test out a new product as a treat.  And next winter, I'll be all set when the land turns brown and the grass is sparse.

Pierce and Reid were my helpers for the evening.  I decided to try the Premium Alfalfa/Oat Cubes, the Premium Alfalfa/Timothy Pellets, and the Premium Alfalfa/Timothy Mini Cubes.  Standlee uses high quality timothy hay and alfalfa grass in their horse products.  We fixed some treat buckets of both for the horses to try.  Pierce smelled a handful of the sweet pellets and declared that they smelled like oats, so he thought the horses would love them.

Phoenix really liked the alfalfa pellets, whereas Harriet enjoyed the alfalfa/timothy mini cubes first.  They both licked their tubs clean.  Pierce and Reid kept saying, "They love their treats!"  Although both Phoenix and Harriet are seniors (both being over 20 years old), they had no trouble in chewing up the pellets, and seemed to love them. 
Standlee Hay Company is dedicated to growing the highest quality of forage products that are available.  Next winter we will be well-stocked with Standlee products, and I know our horses will appreciate receiving their nutrition this way when the months grow cold and long. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

When Bluebirds Attack

1.  We have a bluebird couple living in our bluebird house, in spite of the Willie Factor.  The male bluebird sees his reflection in the kitchen window and spends the entire day attacking the screen.  So far he hasn't busted the screen, but it is now covered in bird poop. I did manage to snap a picture of him through the window, preparing to launch into it.  There are 7 little blue eggs in the bluebird house.  I hope they will be okay with Willie around.
2.  The other day I burst out laughing at Cort, who was mad because I carried him into his room to get dressed (he was taking so long, and we were in a hurry).  He stomped his feet and actually beat his tiny chest with his fists.  I couldn't help it - he was like a miniature Tarzan throwing a fit.  He got even madder when I laughed, "MOM I WANTED TO WALK! THIS IS NOT FUNNY!  STOP BEING FUNNY MOM" which only made me laugh harder.  Talk about a parenting FAIL.

3.  We've had some evenings lately where it's been balmy and cool with a strong breeze.  It feels just like the beach.  This makes me happy - I love the ocean.  If I close my eyes, I can pretend I am there - only missing the delicious sea salt smell and the sound of the waves.

4.  In answer to last week's bouncy house dilemma, I let them go through, but I went crazy with the disinfecting wipes before we drove home. 

5.  If someone randomly handed you $500 and told you to go buy something you'd been wanting for a really long time, what would you buy?  I'd get a generator.  Not very exciting, but practical no doubt.  I still remember with horror the 8 days we had no power last summer when it was 100* outside.  Hoping we don't ever repeat that! 

Linked with Random Friday at A Rural Journal.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Black Bean and Mushroom Make Ahead Enchiladas Recipe

I love enchiladas, and am always tinkering with recipes for new combinations.  I like this one because you can make it up to a day ahead - so it's great to pull out for company. 


1 10 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
1 7 ounce can chopped green chilis
1 cup sour cream (light is fine)
1 small onion, chopped
4 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 4 1/2 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
1 cup shredded Monterey jack/cheddar cheese,
6 large flour tortillas
Dash of smoked paprika

Combine soup, sour cream, chilis, onion, olives and cheeses.  Measure out 1 1/2 cup of mixture and set aside.  To remaining mixture fold in black beans and sliced mushrooms.  Fill each tortilla in the middle with about 3 tbsp. of black bean mixture and roll tightly.  Place seam down in large casserole.  Once tortillas are done, smooth reserved mixture over the top, taking care to spread all the way to the edges of the tortillas.  Sprinkle with paprika and let sit in refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours.  Bake at 350* for 45 minutes. 

These go wonderfully with some Mexican style rice and a salad with a chipotle dressing! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Yet Another Goodbye

Over 15 years ago, I lost my cat, Toulouse, to kidney failure.  I was heartbroken, but eventually I headed to the SPCA in Houston and adopted a furry black kitten with gray sideburns that we named Disco.

Disco was shy with strangers, but he was very affectionate toward his family.  One of his quirkier habits was carrying around soft toys while yowling.  He would often bring the boys' stuffed animals into my bed - I'd be ready to go to sleep at night and would find a collection of small stuffed toys piled on the comforter.

This is Disco with Reid, when he was a baby, on the changing table.  The blessing in Disco's passing was that he'd enjoyed good health the past 15 years.  He lost some weight last summer, but I switched cat food and he put it back on. 

So the other night while Paul and I watched a movie and I suddenly noticed Disco missing, I sent Paul to look for him.  He was always right there with us in the evenings, requesting affection.  Paul found him on the cat tower, and it seemed he had died in his sleep.  Although I didn't get to say goodbye this time, I was thankful that I didn't have to watch his health fail and that he seemed to have passed so peacefully.

We buried him the next morning before Pierce left for school.  This came home in his folder from school later that day.
Talk about breaking a Mom's heart.  Disco was a loving member of our family, and he'll be missed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Minivan Buying Don'ts

When I was pregnant with the twins, we realized that soon we would need to fit 3 carseats in a vehicle, and decided we should look into buying a minivan.  Being on a tight budget, as always, we looked high and low for a used minivan that was in good condition.  Eventually we found one with around 45,000 miles on it, and while it didn't come with any fancy extras, it seemed like it would serve our needs. 

Fast forward four years and 55,000 miles.  With a summer road trip on the horizon, we have discovered one crucial thing missing from our minivan.
There are no rails to support a luggage rack.  It's bald on top.  So I called the manufacturer and do you know what?  They said that they couldn't do anything if it didn't come factory installed! 

I then purchased a 'universal fit' rack to put on top.  Guess what?  Apparently 'universal' does not apply to my minivan, as it didn't fit.  Meanwhile, every single minivan on the road that passes me has a luggage rack (or at least a set of rails) on top of it.  Every single one.  How did we manage to get the one minivan on earth that came without? 

I have special ordered a rather expensive Yakima rack system to see if that will work.  Wish us luck, because if this doesn't fit I think we're out of options! 

Update:  The Yakima rack fits!  Paul installed it with no trouble at all.  Thank goodness.  Now I just need to order the locks to go with it. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Bike Rodeo

Every year Pierce's school has a bike rodeo, and the boys adore it.  Basically kids just bring their bikes and ride around, and they have bouncy houses set up along with hot dogs and hamburgers.  The boys didn't care one bit about eating dinner.  They just wanted to bike.

I guess it's like uncharted territory, getting to bike ride in a new place.

Uh, hey Pierce, you need to slow down!

Pierce, slow down!

Pierce, there are too many people to ride that fast, slow down!

If you don't SLOW DOWN the bike is going in to time out for 30 minutes.

Guess what?  Pierce slowed down.  But I think his speedy zipping about rubbed off on his little  brothers....

Readers, do you remember the joy and freedom of riding your bike as a kid?  I sure do! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bouncy House Dilemmas and Such

1.  I'm going to miss having preschool mornings to go for a run this summer, when the boys are out of school.  I hope I can manage to wake up super early most mornings, like I did last year, to run and shower before Paul leaves for work.

2.  Say you were at an event with your kid waiting in line for the bouncy house.  The girl in front of you, about 7 years old, climbs through the entrance and you notice that she has completely peed in her pants.  You know that there is a big slide at the end that will likely be coated with her urine by the time your kid goes down.  Do you:
a.) alert the bouncy house worker and have the girl pulled out
b.) tell your child that he/she can't do the bouncy house today after all
c.) let your child go, but afterwards completely disinfect him/her with wipes
d.) ah, what's a little pee amongst kids?  have at it!


4.  I took this photo at the duck pond. I now think ducks may be my favorite animal to photograph.  They're fun.  And dramatic.  I like a little drama in my animals.  Snails?  Maybe not as fun to photograph.

5.  It's yard sale season and I am loving that! 

Stay tuned for my answer to question #2 next week.  Linked today with Nancy from A Rural Journal.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Cat Circus Comes to Roanoke

A few weeks ago my running friend Trina invited me to go see a touring Cat Circus.  The tickets were a little expensive so I couldn't take the whole family (plus, Paul made fun of me for wanting to go).  But I bought a ticket for myself and Pierce.  At the last moment, Pierce decided not to go, so in the end I took Cort with me. 

It wasn't just about cats.  There were rats.  And a chicken named Gregory Peck.

And a groundhog.  Whose name I don't remember.  But I do recall that he could bowl.  Yes, bowling.  Like the sport.

This is Tuna, the superstar of the show.  He took his job seriously.  All the cats are trained using clickers and whistles.

This is Oz.  Not all of the cats do what they are supposed to do all the time.  And all the cat lovers in the audience understood that.  As did the performers, who made a lot of hilarious jokes about cats.  It was part comedy act, part circus.

Some of the cats were rescues.  There were even some kittens in the show that were being fostered.

Cort's favorite part was when the cats would jump off the stage to wander around the audience.  He would get so excited when a cat would pass under his chair.

Part of the proceeds for the show went to a local no-kill shelter where I used to volunteer before I had kids.  So I was happy to know part of my ticket purchases were helping them.

The cats all seemed to enjoy doing their part - after all, many of the tricks they performed are things that a cat can do anyhow.

I thought this orange cat was gorgeous.  I've always been partial to long haired orange kitties.

The big finale was The Rock Cats band.  The cats actually played the instruments.  And in the bottom right corner you can see Gregory Peck on the tambourine.  The music wasn't pretty, but it was amusing.  The lady behind me laughed so hard I thought she'd fall out of her seat.

Tuna played the cowbell.  He was very good at it, and devoted.  I think he would've played cowbell all night long.
What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon!  Readers, are any of you fellow cat lovers?