September 01, 2018

the absolute best bruschetta ever. seriously.

Confession: I do not love fresh tomatoes.
I realize that might make me a bad person, but it's the cold, hard truth.

Why I did not take that into consideration when planting four tomato plants in our planter boxes this past spring, I do not claim to know. So, of course, it's September first and I have an absurd amount of fresh tomatoes to use up before the fruit flies get 'em all.

Good thing I have the absolute best bruschetta recipe ever.

My sweet friend Elissa used to make it for my birthday, and we would eat copious amount of the stuff on toasted crusty bread. She kindly shared the recipe with me several years ago, and there is usually bowl of it sitting in our fridge around this time of year.

The bruschetta has a high liquid content, which only increases as it sits. But this makes it perfect spooned over grilled chicken breast, soaked up with crusty bread, or stirred into some angel hair pasta and dusted with parmesan.
It would be the perfect addition to any labor day snack table.

the world's best bruschetta. for real.
(adapted from a recipe I was given by a friend)

3 cups tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped if necessary
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp course salt
12 turns on the pepper grinder

Directions: Put it all together. Eat it. Enjoy.

August 30, 2018

friends camping 2018

We took our final family hurrah of the summer last weekend: the annual "friends camping trip" at Champoeg State Park.

There was something like eight families and more than twenty kids in our group. It was wildness and wonderful.
Also, no one slept.

Eleanor had a panic moment the week before camping when she realized all her friends would be biking like crazy and she still had training wheels!
So, we took them off and she conquered the two-wheeler a couple days before we left.

(I should also mention that we have since upgraded Elle to a larger bike.)

I love the memories we make with our friends each year, and we stay plenty busy with all those kids, but Champoeg park is not the most exciting camp spot. However, they put a neat park in a couple years ago, and our kids really enjoy climbing, sliding, and playing in the sand area (I can't... escape.... the sand..... Seriously, though, I feel like there is sand everywhere we go. Why can it not just be contained to the beach, it's natural habitat?)

I have really simplified meals over our years of camping. 
I used to be the (insane) mom who pre-made every single meal, and even baked my own graham crackers.
Well, no longer, my friends.

This year, our beloved Kodiak cakes or cereal and fruit was breakfast, sandwiches or hot dogs for lunch, and taco bowls, burgers, or chili for dinner. 

After everyone packed up we all made the usual stop at the Butteville Store for ice cream.

In other news, we are getting all geared up for our "soft start" of home school. September is getting crazy so we won't be officially starting until the third week or so... I know that a schedule and routine will be good for us, but summer is my favorite!

August 23, 2018

a hazy day breakfast and activity

Over here in the greater Portland area, we have been experiencing some nasty smoke blowing up from California and down from BC.

It breaks my heart thinking of how bad it has been in the areas affected by the dreadful fires and all the people who have lost their homes.

Sorry, not such a cheery start to a post...

Anyway, we have not been taking the warnings about unhealthy air conditions too seriously, but after a park play date yesterday morning that left me with a sore throat and headache, I figured its time to quarantine us inside the house for a day.

Perhaps it was similar ailments (or perhaps just the two bottom molars that have been cutting through her gums for the past few weeks) which plagued Natalie last night, and woke us up for good around five this morning.

Lane finally got out of bed to shower and head to work at 5:30, and I rolled out when I was sure Nat had fallen back asleep for good around six.
Thankfully, this gave me time to myself to make breakfast, listen to the Bible, drink my (first) cup of coffee, and prepare a little activity for the kids.

And by "prepare" I just mean that I unfolded a big cardboard box, took out our bin of small toy cars, and set out some crayons, markers, and colored pencils. When the kids woke up we made a town, complete with roads, a coffee shop, BurgerVille, gas station, police office, houses, etc. (Judah contributed "dino statues" around the town)

The best part is that it starts out as an art project that takes imagination and creativity, and then turns into a big game of cars (usually involving "bad guy cars" and all the emergency vehicles).

Also, there was breakfast.
I usually start my day with a protein shake, and the kids have oatmeal or pancakes, or half shakes and toast. But this morning I had extra time, and I needed to use up the bread heels that had been accumulating in our fridge.

The great thing about French toast casserole is that it is super forgiving- you just throw in some ingredients, bake it, and it usually turns out great! It is also really filling. Like, really filling. Almost uncomfortably-full kind of filling (clearly, I ate too much of it)...
Here is the version I made this morning:

10 or 11 slices of bread (I used almost all whole wheat heels, plus a half hamburger bun thrown in for good measure)
1/4 cup butter + a couple more tablespoons for dotting the top
1 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
6 eggs
generous sprinkle cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup milk (maybe another 1/4 cup, depending on the heartiness of the bread you use)
2/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a 9x13 casserole dish and stick it in the oven to melt. While it melts, cut bread into cubes. Take the dish out of the oven and swirl the butter to coat sides. Then place bread and remaining ingredients in the dish, mixing to coat everything well with wet ingredients.
Dot with remaining butter and bake until the egg is cooked through in the middle, but bread is not burning, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Update: the haze has lifted! Now, I have to pack for camping this weekend!

PS seven years ago
Also, if you want an outdoor car activity.

August 19, 2018

lately :: it's been a year


It's been over a year. HOW is that possible? I have never gone an entire year without blogging since I started WAY back in 2011 as a food blog.
It's not that there haven't been things to blog about. In fact, I think that my head has been spinning too quickly with thoughts and my hands have been too busy with the craziness of life with four littles that I just have never found the time.

Here is my present situation: I am sitting in my very messy house with my favorite quilt spread on my lap, a cup of coffee next to me, instrumental old lady jazz playing in the background (don't judge, I blame my dad for playing it my entire childhood), and I. am. going. to. blog!
(There have already been interruptions of people needing to explain to me in great detail what the slinky just did on the stairs, or beg to look up Lego-boat-making instructions on my laptop. But, the baby is asleep and no one is currently hungry, so that gives me like five minutes.)
Here goes:

Some things (that could all be entire posts of their own) :

1. My back is healing!! We had two scares that it would require surgery. In fact, I went in for surgery last October, and I left the hospital withOUT getting surgery. It was surreal, y'all, and something that I could probably write a book about. The bottom line is: God is healing me. He is good. He taught me a lot through the pain, and I know He had (and has) a plan for it all. I am still in recovery and I am still trying to sort out everything I learned from that horrendous experience, but I probably will never fully understand it this side of heaven.

2. I will be homeschooling next year! Elle is starting kindergarten and James will be in second grade. We loved the public school that James has been attending for the last two years, but this is what is best for our family now.

3. We finally got a trampoline. 'Nuff said.

4. I didn't blog much after we moved to our new house, but once I could stand up straight and move around we finally have been painting, decorating ( I have got to stay away from Marshalls), and hanging things (we still have more to hang, and I STILL do not have one printed picture of Nat. I mean, she's only 16 months, please don't rush me...)
Also, we LOVE our neighborhood. We have two big families (like, even bigger than ours) who live next to us. They also home school, and our kids adore all their kids. So naturally, we have kids running in and out our door all day- jumping on the trampoline, launching into wild nerf gun wars, constructing with Legos, doing gigantic art projects, and eating snacks as if it their job... It is such an incredible blessing!

Update: I've now moved outside where I am watching Judah and Elle run in and out the back door to fill bowls with frozen berries to eat. They are also making pine cone soup in a big Home Depot bucket. It is 11:45 am and neither of them have gotten dressed. Come to think of it, neither have I. 
Ah, it's a good life.

5. Judah hasn't worn pants since May. Pretty sure.

6. Natalie is insanely adorable. We can hardly handle it. She is becoming quite the sassy little thing too. She says "No!" and "Yeah!" in particularly cute ways, and we are always laughing at her and imitating her sweet little voice. Nat loves water play, pizza, her blankies, being independent, her baby doll, and her adoring siblings.

Well, there are a million other things going on.. some that I need to blog about and some that may be blog-able in the future... But, for now, I have some people who need tending to.

As always, thanks so much for reading! I would love to know your updates from the past 12 months!

PS seven years ago (HOW?!?!?!)

August 02, 2017

on sciatica and choosing joy

By nature, I am a positive, happy-go-lucky person. I tend towards sunshine and bright colors and kid giggles. Therefore, I like this blog to be about happy things- kids, easy crafts, good food, fun adventures, and the general blessings of day-to-day life.

But right now, life is a little rough.

I have been in pain for the past five weeks, with no end in sight, and it just plain sucks.
I am experiencing sciatica in my left leg and my lower back, so I cannot stand for more than a couple minutes or walk (hobble, really) more than a few feet before the pain is too excruciating and I have to sit down. It also makes sleeping difficult.

I have had multiple massages and chiropractic adjustments, as well as acupuncture. I have seen two primary care doctors and two physical therapists and tried five different creams (including cannabis cream) and four oil blends; heat and ice and epsom salt and every stretch in the book as well. Additionally I have been on a high dosage of ibprophen to take the edge off.

I have cried more in the past month than I can ever remember crying- sometimes due to pain, but more often due to frustration.

BUT, God is good. All the time.
He is teaching me so much through all this.

My first lesson was to accept this pain, count my blessings, and choose joy. 
(Coincidentally- or not so much- our church has been doing a series on joy. I have yet to listen to any of the sermons. I should probably think about doing that.)

I am ashamed to admit that my first reaction was anger. I have been frustrated that this pain is seemingly keeping me from a fun-filled summer with my family, and robbing me of the ability to fully be a mom and homemaker.
I would give anything to be able to stand in the kitchen long enough to make brownies with my kids, or to take them to the park and not have to sit on the bench, or stand in the shower long enough to wash my hair, or even to vacuum a room without having to fall down on the ground in the middle of it and lay there for a few minutes taking deep breaths before I can continue.
I cancelled my gym membership (meaning no pool days this summer) and cancelled a family vacation and a trip with Lane.

But I realized that instead of being frustrated and angry, I need to act out of joy and gratitude. In the grand scheme, this trail is nothing. I am still blessed far beyond what I could ever deserve- a handsome and loving husband, four healthy, sweet kids, a comfortable home, wonderful friends and family... on and on the list goes...

In the interest of saving time (I could write a novel on all the past month has meant for me and this post is already too long) I will bullet point a few more reminders that the Lord has been giving me:

- God wants me home to enjoy this time. At first, I accused God of robbing me of a fun summer with my kids. I like to be on-the-go all the time, and I would have been, but I now see that He instead has blessed me with a time in which I couldn't leave the house, or focus on housework, or really do anything else beside to sit around and stare at my beautiful baby and watch my kids play (and write blog posts, apparently). That is not my style at all, but that is what I am learning to do.

- God timed this just right. If this had been during the school year, or when we had a tiny newborn, or when we were moving (or while we were doing all three of those things this past spring), it would have been especially awful. But as it is, God allowed this to happen during a time when I could be home to deal with it.

- God provides. Our wonderful neighbors moved out this past week (we will miss them so much!), but they gave us a HUGE fun pirate ship to play with, a swing set, and some other fun, new toys. So the kids have new and exciting things to do at home! Not to mention, we have a nice big yard to play in finally!
We have also been blessed by such an incredible community of people who have been praying, bringing meals, and offering their help. We are so thankful for our friends and family, and another huge lesson for me has been to humbly accept help (something I am not good at).
(also not good at: writing thank-you notes. sorry about that. working on it, ha!)

There are just a few things God is reminding me of (along side what constant prayer looks like, how to listen to His voice, giving myself some grace- this post really could go on forever!), and I hope this short list is encouraging to someone else as well!
I don't know how long this pain will last, but I understand that this is where God has me now to teach me so much about Himself.

Trials are no fun, but they sure are a blessing!

PS two years ago
five years ago (evidently blogging doesn't happen much in August!)

July 16, 2017

lately: as in, the past nine months....

Let's start where we left off...

November: I reached the half-way pregnancy point, Elle turned four, I traveled to Pasadena for a wedding, and Lane and I went to Pheonix for a business training.


(the one above was our Christmas card. 

Then there was the December/January snow-pocalipse, which gave us a fabulous month-long Christmas break! It also made it almost impossible for Lane and I to get to San Antonio for our company's event, but we bought chains and made it to the airport!

...and then there was the spring. Which is all kind of a whirlwind. 
We remodeled and sold our house (in a day), bought our friend's house, sweet Natalie Joy was born, we moved, and then kindergarten finished up for James and preschool for Elle...

(James' school program. He had one line, nailed it, and picked his nose through the rest of it.) 

(James is reading! It is so fun!)

(photo credit to James)

It's been a little nuts.

Currently I am trying to get into the swing of summer, four kiddos, and the home business.

(Only documenting the following so that I can look back and remember this time and be thankful when it is over!) : I have been dealing with super severe nerve pain in my left leg for the past couple weeks. It has made standing, walking, carrying anything, and sleeping all very difficult. Lots of tears. So far I have gone to an acupuncturist, masseuse, chiropractor, physical therapist, and urgent care doctor. Nothing has made it better yet, but we continue to pray and hope that it will improve and summer can continue as normal.)

VBS starts tomorrow, and hopefully I will post all the summer pictures soon.
Or, ya know, in nine months...