Friday, August 30, 2013

Side by Side - Random Friday

1.  It didn't matter where we were.  Every time I took a picture of the twins, they were side by side, playing.  They really put their bucket of pirates to good use on our trip.  I am fascinated by how much their bond has deepened this summer.

2.  During our trip I passed through the territory of so many blogging friends.  I was disappointed that I didn't have time for any meet ups.  It's hard when you are covering so much distance in such a short amount of time.
3.  These pictures were taken at our campsite at Natural Bridge in Kentucky.  While it rained both of the nights we were there, our tent held strong and did not leak.  And -- even better -- the weather was nice during the day!  We really lucked out.

4.  While we were gone, my garden was completely overtaken by weeds.  Deluges of rain wiped out parts of it.  I came back and my rows of onions and potatoes had both completely disappeared.  My broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts were demolished by bugs.  Aside from tomatoes, kale, beets, and carrots, my garden was pretty much a lost cause. 

5.  I had planned to start a new spot for some fall crops, but our tiller, which was in the shop for over a month, wasn't fixed in time.  I did manage to plant some kale, lettuce, and spinach.  I hope 2014 turns out to be a better gardening year for me.

Readers, do you have any fall garden plans? 

Linked with Nancy's Random Friday at A Rural Journal

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Butternut Squash Chickpea Soup - A Healthy Crockpot Recipe

I like soup year-round, but with the cooler temps that come with fall I start craving it.  I've been making this soup for almost a year now, and it's quickly become one of my favorite healthier soup options.  I clipped it from the newspaper, and made a few modifications.  I especially love that it is crockpot friendly (although I have made it on the stovetop before too). 

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 2 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 16 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
5 cups water
2 chicken boullion cubes
2 tbsp. butter

In a slow cooker, combine onions, garlic, squash, tomatoes, chickpeas, salt, and pepper.  Add boullion and water.  Cover and cook on high 4 hours OR on low 8 hours until squash is very soft and falling apart.  Use a potato masher to further mush up chunks and get a thick soup consistency.  Add butter, serve hot.  Makes about 6 servings, for 175 calories per serving.

This soup goes wonderfully with a crusty loaf of bread and a fresh side salad.  Enjoy it!

Readers, what is your favorite soup?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Virginia International Raceway

I'm not exactly a NASCAR fan, but when the opportunity came to go see a race, I was outnumbered by all the boys in my house.  They were all so excited to go, so how could I say no to that?  On Saturday we drove down to Virginia International Raceway, which is almost two hours south of us. 
When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was.  The racetrack is spread out all over, and you can walk around wherever you want.  We were told the only place we couldn't go was in the pits.  But we were able to walk around the paddocks and everywhere else.  The VIR is a resort, so there are many places to explore.
It was neat for the boys to be able to check out all the excitement close up.  See the truck to the right with the Krispy Kreme driver?  He was 15 years old, and did very well during the race, placing 5th.  Hard to imagine, since he can't even legally hold a driver's license!

There were plenty of dining options.  We didn't buy any food there, but I did treat the boys to some cotton candy.  It was the first time Cort and Reid tried it.  Needless to say, it went over very well.

There were also several free bouncy houses set up for kids, and our three put them to good use.  Then it was time for the race to start.  The race was the Biscuitville 125 K and N Pro Series East race. 

The course was curvy and long, so we were able to view the race from different places as we wandered about.  There is even a lodge, which looked very nice.  Because the course is so long, they have gazebos scattered throughout so that drivers can see caution flags when they're up.

This car ran into a bit of trouble around this curve, and spun out.  Luck was with #37 and shortly it was right back on the track. 

There were plenty of places to take a break and drive matchbox cars in your own race along the course.  Shady spots with tree roots for driving on were ample.  Really, this was the ideal spot for watching a race with kids. I loved that we weren't crammed into bleachers with a bunch of rowdy people. 
In the end, Dylan Kwasniewski, #98, who had led the field for a large part of the race, took the win.  The boys had such a fun time - and I found that I enjoyed it myself - really it was more like a walk in the park (with car racing) and this made it such a better experience than I expected.  Plus, I confess it was so fun to take pictures of the race cars - I took over 100 pictures total! 

Readers, have you ever been to a car race?

Disclaimer:  I received tickets to the race for review purposes.  The opinions above are my own.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Arch

We left Nebraska around lunchtime to start our long trip home.  Broken into three driving days (with one free day in Kentucky built in), our first day of driving took us to St. Louis.  We didn't have time to do anything fun there, other than a brief swim in the hotel pool.  The next morning we got an early start to Kentucky, and fifteen minutes into our drive we saw this:
 I told the boys that you could go up inside.  They were so disappointed that we didn't have time to stop.  I was a little disappointed too.  It must be quite interesting from the inside.

And then, just like that, we were past The Gateway Arch and headed further east.  Kentucky beckoned.
Goodbye St. Louis!  Maybe next time we'll get a chance to explore. 

Readers, have you ever visited St. Louis?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lincoln Nebraska Children's Museum

When visiting my husband's family in Nebraska, we took the boys to the Children's Museum in Lincoln one day, which was a huge hit.  We gathered eggs, shopped for groceries, and played with the needle wall.

There were motorcycles to ride, space ships to fly, and faces to paint (in a previous post, some of you asked if I painted Cort's face myself, and the answer is yes - using Q-tips!). 

We dressed like Cornhuskers and threw footballs, and admired this HUGE (the picture doesn't do it justice - I took it from the 3rd floor) sculpture of the Nebraska Capital Building made from Lincoln Logs. 

There was a room full of water fun, where the boys succeeded in getting their shirts quite wet. 

And of course, there were prairie dog suits to wear and tunnels to crawl through. 
We ended with a stop at the gift shop, where the boys' Grandma was kind enough to treat them to some new Melissa and Doug toys (plus a pirate umbrella for Cort).  The boys had an excellent time and were sad when it was time to go.  They were so worn out that the twins both fell asleep in the car on the drive when we left!  What a fun day.

Friday, August 23, 2013

An Unusual Moth - Random Friday

1.  On the morning we left Kentucky, Cort found a fantastic (and huge) moth in the bathhouse.  We gingerly carried it outside, but as it had a broken piece on the tail wing, I don't know if he was able to fare well or not.  He certainly had difficulty in flying. 
2.  I love the spots on it's wings.  Does anyone know what type of moth this is?

3. On the first day of school, Pierce was supposed to fill up a small bag with ten of his favorite things.  He put an antique glass eyeball (which he got from my grandmother's house) in there.  Wish I could've been a fly on the wall for that show and tell.

4. Speaking of Pierce, recently at the grocery store we were standing in line, and he picked up on the fact that the bagger was wearing an orange visibility vest.  He turned to him and said, "Are you from the prison?  From the work crew?"  I almost died.  The cashier started laughing, then I started laughing.  Then the cashier turned to the bagger and said very solemnly, "What'd you do?".  The bagger, in his early 20s, didn't think it was so funny. 

5.  I love the smell of garlic.  Guess there's no vampire in my blood! 

Linked with Random Friday at A Rural Journal. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A First Grader

Pierce had his first day of school last week.  Here he is waiting for the bus on his first day, full of excitement.

Aside from the fire drill (he hates them), he had an excellent week.  This year, Pierce was allowed to take a water bottle to school to keep at his desk.  Camelbak sent us some nice, BPA-free ones.  I have been using their Eddy bottle myself for over a year, and it is very durable and spill proof.  When kids get dehydrated, they don't think as well, so I'm glad to know Pierce will have water when he needs it.
In our back to school preparations, Paul welded some hooks for the backpacks from old horse shoes.  Didn't they turn out cute? 
I figure they are sure to have a lucky year, with their school backpacks on hooks like these!  If you are interested in having a similar hanger, you can find them in the Two Bears Farm Etsy shop

Poor Cort and Reid, they have to wait until after Labor Day to go back to their 3 days a week preschool routine.  Boy are they ever bent out of shape about it!  It's just not fair! 

Readers, have your kids (or grandkids) gone back to school yet?

Disclaimer: I received two Camelbak Eddy water bottles for back to school purposes.  The opinions above are my own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reunion Coffee Cake with Peaches Recipe

I've been making this Reunion Coffee Cake from my Baylor Cookbook for years.  It's not very healthy, but it tastes fantastic.  You can use any type of fruit filling you want (we have also tried apple) but peach is my favorite.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine (or butter), softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp butter flavoring
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 (21 ounce) can peach, cherry, apple or blueberry pie filling
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp. milk

Blend first 7 ingredients in large mixing bowl on low speed.  Beat for 3 minutes on high.  Gradually stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.  Spread 1/2 of batter in lightly greased 9x13 inch pan.  Place fruit filling by tablespoons over batter.  Spoon remaining 1/2 of batter on top of pie filling.  Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.  Mix powdered sugar and milk, drizzle over cake once it has cooled. 

It makes a lot, but trust me, it won't stick around for long! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dinosaur Cake and Turning Four

Cort and Reid turned four years old week before last.  Cort wanted a pirate cake and Reid wanted a dinosaur cake, but we decided to do a dinosaur cake because in the end, both Cort and Reid love dinosaurs.

We don't have huge kid parties, but we do invite a few family members over to eat lunch and have some cake. 

There were a number of really cute dinosaur cakes on Pinterest, but most of them were made with fondant.  I don't like working with fondant (plus, it's not so tasty in my opinion) so I did the best I could with buttercream. 
It's not perfect by any means, but the twins were thrilled.  Between the chocolate buttercream frosting and the wineberry jam in the middle layer, everyone said it was delicious.

All I have to say is - thank goodness I have two months to recover before I have to create a truck cake for Pierce's birthday! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nebraska Capital building

The morning after we arrived in Nebraska to visit Paul's family, we took the boys into to Lincoln to visit the Capital building.  Pierce has been so interested in the state capitals, so he was very excited to visit one.
 It's such a beautiful building inside with gorgeous murals and accents.  Unfortunately, it is also very dim inside, so a lot of my pictures of the ceilings and architecture turned out too dark.

We took the elevator up to the 14th floor, and the boys had fun looking out over the city of Lincoln.  Then we toured the second floor and admired a bust of Buffalo Bill.  We finished up with a short stop in the gift shop for a couple of souvenirs.

The boys really enjoyed their tour through the capital building, and there was no cost to walk through.  If you happen to be in Lincoln, I would recommend it!

How about you, readers, have you toured your state capital building lately?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Too Much Grass

1.  Look at Harriet.  Munching away.  In my opinion, she needs to lay off the grass a bit.  She looks like a weeble wobble that sprouted four legs.

2.  We drove over 3000 miles on our road trip.  With 3 kids.  You know what?  They did fantastic.  We spread the trip out the best we could (our longest day of driving was 10 hours - which realistically took us about 12) and the kids rolled with it.  I was pleasantly surprised.

3.  When we were at Chuck E. Cheese recently, Pierce asked how Chuck E. Cheese goes to the bathroom.  I took the easy way out, saying, "I don't know; you'd have to ask him".  Luckily, he didn't happen to come by again.

4.  Speaking of Pierce, he started first grade on Monday.  Hard to believe - summer went by way too fast.  I hope he loves his teacher and has a great year.

5.  The twins don't return to preschool until after Labor Day.  They will be in the "4s class" three mornings a week this year.  They will be so happy to see all their old friends when they return. 

Linked with Random Friday at A Rural Journal. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Biscuitville 125 NASCAR K and N Pro Series Ticket GIVEAWAY

Where I live, people take their NASCAR racing pretty seriously.  Fan stickers, yard signs, t-shirts and ball caps - it seems like everyone has a favorite driver.  Coming up on August 24th is the Biscuitville 125 NASCAR K and N Pro Series at the Virginia International Raceway.  The race will take place on VIR's North course, which is 2.25 miles long with 22 turns and 100 feet of elevation change.  Say what?  Yes, check this out!
Image courtesy of VIR
VIR has been named one of the top six courses in North America by Car and Driver.  Family-friendly, it also offers a wide variety of amenities like lodging, dining, a spa, an exclusive driver's club, karting, off-road racing, skeet shooting and more. 

The Biscuitville 125 NASCAR K and N Pro Series race is coming up soon, on August 24th!  Tickets are $15 for one day or $20 for both (and kids under 12 get in free). One lucky reader will win a set of two tickets!  This is the first time NASCAR has come to Virginia International Raceway, so it's sure to be an exciting event.  To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter below. 

Disclaimer:  I received race tickets for my family for review purposes.  I will be blogging about the event after we attend, so stay tuned.  The boys are very excited to go, with Matchbox car engines revving.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bioque Wrinkle Reducing Serum #Giveaway

At 38, I'm starting to get some wrinkles around the corners of my eyes and mouth.  They're not too noticeable - yet - but I definitely want to minimize them as much as possible.  I was intrigued when contacted to do a review of the skincare line Bioque, who uses a scientific approach to skincare to do more than just cover up.  Bioque products deliver over 80% beneficial natural compounds below the surface to help skin appear more youthful. They use a high quality of peptides, botanicals, and vitamins, and none of their products are tested on animals or contain parabens.

The most popular product is Serum XL, which is an anti-aging wrinkle appearance reducer, and has been very popular among celebrities, earning it the name of "serum of the stars".   I chose to review this product, a BOTOX alternative.

The Serum XL isn't thick and creamy, like I would have expected.  It is a white, liquidy substance, which I spread around my eyes and mouth twice a week for 2 1/2 weeks prior to taking the below picture. 
I am not wearing any makeup in this picture, but you can just barely see the lines around my eyes and the corners of my mouth.  They have definitely been minimized in this picture compared to how they were prior to starting to use Bioque.  Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that my skin felt much firmer after such a short period of time.  The difference, while subtle, was very pleasing. 

One lucky winner will receive a bottle of Bioque to try for themselves!  Just click on the Rafflecopter giveaway below to enter. 

Disclaimer:  I was provided a bottle of Bioque Serum XL for review purposes.  The opinions above are my own. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Crack the Whip Sculpture in Chicago

One of the sculptures that we saw in Chicago that the boys were very drawn to is called "Crack the Whip" by Jo Saylors. 

 It shows a group of children, holding hands, and running haphazardly in a line.  It's a lighthearted work, and the boys seemed to identify with the kids.

Because what child hasn't felt the pull and tug of a friend, in the joy of an exciting adventure? 

It's sort of hard not to join in with that kind of fun.

One interesting detail was that one of the girls had lost her shoe.  This is an intentional loss on the part of the sculptor, but the boys were a little distressed.  They kept trying to put the shoe back on, but it was anchored to the ground. 
We finally decided that she would have just as much fun running through the mulch in her bare feet, as with a sandal. 

Readers, what is your favorite sculpture or statue?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Five Ingredient Chocolate Churro Caramel Frozen Pie Recipe

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

Over the past few months, I have really enjoyed creating fun new recipes using International Delight products, but I think this one is my favorite. It's quick and easy, and it only uses five ingredients! But the best part is, the slight cinnamon flavor leaves it with a more sophisticated flavor than your typical frozen pie (like a summer ice cream for adults), yet it is still sweet enough to be kid-approved.

2 cups International Delight Cold Stone Creamery Churro Caramel flavored creamer
1 (8 ounce) container of whipped topping, thawed (plus extra for garnish, if desired)
1 (3.9 ounce) box instant chocolate pudding
1 graham cracker crust
1/2 cup chocolate toffee bits

Place International Delight creamer and chocolate pudding mix in bowl and mix at low speed for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Place in freezer for 8 hours or overnight. Before serving, put a dollop of whipped topping on top of each piece and sprinkle with chocolate toffee bits.

This pie would be wonderful to take to a friend's for an August dinner, and it whips up so quickly that it is no trouble at all. Even better - you can make it a week in advance and just pop it out of the freezer to serve when needed. We really enjoyed it.

Love ice cream + coffee? This summer, International Delight is bringing your favorite Cold Stone Creamery ice cream flavors to coffee and they're celebrating by giving away five $400 grand prizes to throw this summer’s ultimate Ice Cream Social! To enter, visit the ID + Ice Cream Pinterest board and pin your favorite image using the #IScream4ID hashtag. Good luck!

Readers, what would you need to throw the ultimate ice cream social?


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Best Barn Ever

I can't begin to tell you how much fun my boys had exploring my inlaws' barn.  You can't blame them, as it is absolutely fantastic.  Built in 1900, it has stalls for 22 horses.  My father-in-law has done the most amazing job keeping it in pristine condition - no small task considering that roof!

The boys all loved how there is a secret nail installed that will open and shut the big barn door. 

Inside, a long aisle is lined with the original wooden wide planked floor boards.  It isn't hard to imagine the flicks of horses' tails, and the stomping of hooves.

The stalls are still ready to host equines, with feed buckets in the corners.  Did this one house a dappled gray?

On the walls there hang a few vintage bits, an old rope twitch, and some harnesses.  And up in the rafters, you'll find this old dump truck, filled with bird nests.  I'm not sure how Paul's old dump truck got so high up...

If you climb the stairs up, you'll find rafters and open space - room for loads and loads of hay. 

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a prettier barn anywhere.  It certainly spoke to my imagination!

This post linked with Barn Charm Monday

Friday, August 9, 2013

Funny Kids

1.  Cort is a funny kid.  He's always dressing himself up and making us laugh.  This is a picture of him walking the streets of downtown Lincoln, sporting his Native American pouch, his lion face (which he insisted I paint for him at the Children's Museum), and carrying a pirate umbrella he picked out at the gift shop.  Our other two boys looked completely normal...and then there was Cort.
2.  I taught Pierce how to play Mad Libs during our long car ride back from Nebraska.  He LOVED it.  And I loved that he was learning to distinguish between verbs, adverbs, adjectives and nouns. 

3.  On our trip, Reid saw Pierce writing postcards and immediately he wanted to send postcards too.  Reid doesn't write yet (other than his name) but he sent off two postcards anyhow, with pictures he drew on them and his name.  They were kind of cute.

4.  I ran 22 miles in Nebraska on gravel roads (broken into 4 runs), swatting at these nasty biting flies the whole way.  On one of my runs, a young sweet brown dog adopted me.  She ran with me the whole way.  I hope she made it home alright afterwards.

5.  One day we went wading in the Platte River which is muddy and flat and spread out.  Somehow, Pierce discovered a matchbox truck buried in the muck.  It is now his most treasured possession.

Found any treasures lately, readers?

Linked to A Rural Journal for Random Friday.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

John Hancock Observatory in Chicago

While we were in Chicago Paul really wanted me to take Pierce up in the John Hancock Observatory.  We all would've loved to go, but it was rather expensive, so Paul hung up with the twins while I took Pierce up.  The twins will get to go if we return when they are older.

Pierce was impressed by how fast the elevator got us up to the 94th floor.  Our ears were popping.

He was so enthusiastic when we came out, and he declared that he wasn't scared at all.

Then he said, "I want to live here!  Wouldn't it be cool if we lived here, and then we could look down at the city at night with all the lights?"

Pierce and I spent some time trying to find swimming pools on top of buildings.  Pierce thought this was a little scary, but I explained there would be walls around the sides so you couldn't fall over.

We walked around and around.  We even did the skywalk part, which has these screens so it feels like you're outside.

We counted boats, and saw one that kind of looked like a pirate ship out on the water.  It looked so tiny.

We noticed quite a few tall buildings that had grass planted on the roof.

Pierce and I wondered a bit about how they got the grass up there.  Or how they got the water into the skyscraper swimming pools.  Pierce thought they must have used a hose.
We reluctantly got back in the elevator to head back down.  Pierce said, "THAT WAS THE COOLEST THING I'VE EVER DONE IN MY WHOLE LIFE!".  Well that sure made it worth the $30 in tickets.