Monday, March 31, 2014

Love Where You Live: Green Gorge Trail

A couple of years ago when Design Mom was living in France, she had a series entitled Love the Place You Live. It was one of my favorite blog series and it really made me think about the things that I loved about where we lived (at the time we were in rural, north Alabama). 

Everywhere we have lived I have always found things to love and treasure. Currently I am lucky enough to live somewhere I adore and hope to stay and I wanted to share a bit of why I love this place so much...

If you are sitting on our back deck, there is an abundance of trees. The trees that are in your line of sight are situated in Green Gorge Park, on the street behind our home. Green Gorge Park houses the Green Gorge Trail – a short 2-mile trail that is located within the gorge. Even though neighborhoods surround the park and trail, it is incredibly peaceful since the trail follows the stream and is completely surrounded by trees.

A week ago, we took a family hike on the Green Gorge trail. It was a perfect spring afternoon and we were all happy to get out of the house. Sophie was in doggy heaven since we let her roam off leash.

We did about half of the loop (crossing two bridges). Jack did great for the first third of our walk, then he abruptly stopped and said we needed to turn around and go back to the car. Since we figured we were close to halfway into our loop, we pushed on.

Closer to the halfway mark, Jack stopped us again and asked for water. Since we weren't walking very far we had not brought water. Instead Daniel carried Jack for the last leg. That seemed to pacify him until we could get him a water bottle.

We enjoyed our walk immensely and love that we live so close to this trail. Once Daniel is working less hours (he's been working 60 hours a week since the first of January), he intends to start doing shorter trail runs here.

The park is small and the trail isn't that long, which makes it perfect for taking a toddler. Next time we will take our kid carrier and walk for longer.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Break 2014

Is it still considered spring break if you aren't in school? 

My mom was on spring break last week so Jack, Sophie and I made the trek over to Arkansas for a visit. 

The last couple of years we have done spring break with my sister but it didn't work out for us to go together this year... maybe next year?

Anyway, this year was low key. The weather turned cold, so we spent a lot of time playing at fast food restaurants with indoor playlands, and the library.

Jack didn't seem to mind.

On our last night at my parent's house, my aunt and uncle came over for sundaes and visiting. 

Jack ate all of his ice cream and strawberries, and then most of my bananas and strawberries as well.

Since Jack has been sleeping in a big boy bed, it was a relief not to have to haul a pack-n-play with us.

We had a great visit, but as with any trip, it is nice to be home and in our own beds again!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cooking with Pinterest.1

I have always been an avid meal planner and don't like to repeat recipes if I don't have to. But lately I have been in a bit of cooking rut. Nothing sounds appealing and I haven't felt like cooking.

Last week while doing my weekly meal planning (with the help of Pinterest) I realized there were a lot of recipes I have pinned but haven't gotten around to making. So I have decided to start tackling those recipes.

For my own sake I am going to write a weekly blog post that includes notes about what I liked, what I didn't like, what I changed and what I might change to make it better. I will also include a parent and toddler rating for each recipe. There are so many new things I want to try (I mean, there are at least 500 chocolate chip cookie recipes) so it may take a while to get through all of my pins. Here are the recipes I tried this week...

Ham and Cheese Gnocchi via Kevin and Amanda 

I am in love with gnocchi. I have never tried it before and this recipe was superb. After making it, I started looking up more gnocchi recipes to try. The only thing I changed was I used half and half instead of heavy cream and I substituted asparagus for the peas.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 2/5*
*Low toddler score was because Jack missed his nap and refused to eat. He went to bed after only eating a couple of bites. I think he would have loved it if he hadn't been exhausted.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce with Whole Wheat Spaghetti via Damn Delicious

I ran out of time on this so instead of the crockpot I cooked it on the stovetop for one hour. I halved the recipe and it turned out quite good. The sauce was a little runny for my taste, but still good. I added mushrooms to this recipe – since Jack and I are big fans of mushrooms and onions. I served this with a side of zucchini and squash.
Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

Banana Muffins via Anecdotes and Apple Cores

Jack wanted muffins and we had very ripe bananas, so voilà banana muffins. This recipe included sour cream and just a hint of cloves and cinnamon. I also made a mini loaf that I added dark chocolate chips to as a special treat for Daniel. Both were delicious.
Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5 

Sweet and Sour Chicken with a side of Jasmine Rice via Cooking Classy

The Cooking Classy recipe uses a Kraft sweet and sour sauce, since I try not to cook with too many processed foods, I found this sauce recipe at For this recipe I reduced the amount of chicken (2 large chicken breasts) and used 1 whole red bell pepper and 1 whole yellow bell pepper (less chicken and more vegetables, but it turned out to be good proportions). The sauce was not as sweet as I would like, but when mixed with the meat and veggies it was actually a perfect blend of sweet and sour. I only used half of the sauce so it didn't overpower the meal (I froze the rest for use in the future). Jack loved the pineapple and chicken. He is still not sold on bell peppers.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 4/5

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why I Work Out

Some people work out to lose weight or get healthy, I work out for stress relief, to meet new people, and because it generally makes me feel good. I guess you could say it brings me joy.

A few weeks ago, my bootcamp instructor asked if I had lost weight. Nope, don't think so (though I rarely step on a scale). Then she asked if I had at least lost inches. At the time I didn't feel like my close fit any looser (I don't track that stuff either), so no again. However in the last week or so I have noticed that I look a bit trimmer and my clothes do feel looser (maybe it's psychological?).

Anyway if I don't work out at least three times a week I get cranky. It's a big reason I exercised so religiously when I was pregnant with Jack. It made me a lot more mellow (aka less hormonal) and it made me feel much better in general. These days I tend to be in a better mood if I get my endorphins pumping while also getting some precious "me" time. Plus Jack loves going to his "class" at the Y.

I don't always love working out. In fact I am the person in class who sighs a lot and rolls my eyes (in a joking fashion). This prompts my instructor to give me a hard time which in turn makes me work harder. It's all in good fun. Just don't ask me to get on a treadmill!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

{semi yearly} Visit with College Friends

Every few years or so we manage to get together with a handful of our college friends. With social media being fairly prevalent in recent years, it has been easy to feel like we are connected even if we don't see or speak to each other very often.

This weekend Daniel's roommate from Harding University and his family came for an overnight visit. It was nice to be able to catch up and our kids had a blast playing together.

After eating our fill of chili and letting the kids jump on the bed and have a pillow fight, the kids went to bed while the adults stayed up to visit and enjoy a decadent Pi day Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Pie with a little decaf coffee. 

This morning, after a big breakfast, we took the kids to the Pumpkin Patch playground to run out some of their energy. 

After playing on the massive playground, we came home for more visiting and homemade fajitas.

Another Harding friend (who Daniel has known since childhood) drove over from Nashville with his wife to join us for lunch. 

It is hard to believe that we have all been married for around 10 years or that we all went to school together so long ago. The last 10+years have been a blink of an eye.

Our conversations have shifted from reminiscing about our college days to discussing our current lives – kids, jobs, families, illnesses, etc. I don't know what the future holds or what our future discussions will be, but I hope that we are able to continue to periodically get together. 

It is odd to think that our kids could theoretically be at Harding together some day.

Daniel on the big slide at the Pumpkin Patch

Daniel showing us how to zipline at the Pumpkin Patch.
He may have been a little too big for this :)

Friday, March 07, 2014

Words and Phrases: Toddler Edition

In the beginning when Jack was adding vocabulary, I really tracked everything. You can read about his first 50 words here and here. As he grows he is adding words and phrases in leaps and bounds. It never ceases to amaze me how sponge-like the brain of a child is.

Some of his phrases are sweet, some are funny and some are expressions of indendence. I love all of it. Here are a few of the phrases he has added this year (by no means everything he says, just the things that have stuck out to me that I want to remember).

Yeah, that's right. (when you guess what he is trying to say)
Come on Mommy... let's cook.

Cleem up (clean up).
You stay there.

I can do it.
I do it.
Can I do it?

Mecidine (instead of medicine)

Go down a mountain?
Go fast!
Look at more houses?

Me: Don't touch that.
Jack: I'm just looking.

Stay right there.
I'll be right back.

Come on mommy, (then looks at Daniel) come on daddy. Let’s build blocks.
My tummy hurts. My arms itch. (thanks to our experience with hives)

No Sophie, get down.
Can we slide (sled)?

One more time, OR Last time. 
(He doesn't understand that "one more time" and "last time" are the same thing, we're working on this!).

Watch "King George." (aka Curious George)

Daniel: We're moving to a new house.
“New house? That’s great!”

Stop! Stop! Stop unpacking, Mommy!
Wait for me.

I need to wiggle (when taking off pajamas).
I need a nose cleaner (Kleenex).

How about we go to the beach?
How about we go to Lee-why's house?
Can we dig dinosaurs? OR I want to dig dinosaurs. (aka: Can we go to the Creative Discovery Museum?)

I want app-a-sauce (applesauce). 
I want big snacks (fruit snacks).

I did it! I did it! I did it! (waves arms in air when he shouts this phrase)

Kids, I love kids!
I love chocolate milk!
I love friends!

People (when describing adults, he used to call all men "daddy" now he calls all adults "people").

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...