Friday, July 22, 2011

Rethinking Wallpaper

A quick post today as I am frantically preparing for Mr. Man's big birthday bash tomorrow.  He is turning 6!  It doesn't seem possible....but more on that later.   

Anyway-I have a decorating idea that I've been mulling over....wallpaper.  I'm typically horrified by wallpaper but my sister insists that it's coming back.  All I can conjure up are images of bad 80's florals, pastel splatter paint and country geese with little bows around their necks.  I'm shuddering just thinking about it. 

But then I found this:


It's from Anthroplogie and I think it's kind of fabulous.  There's a little wall in my living room that I think would make this work.  I want to repaint the other walls in there a chocolaty sort of brown. 

I'm going to hash it over while I frost two dozen cupcakes to look like baseballs.

God help me.


Happy Weekend!

xoxo

Jen

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Raspberries Everywhere

Monday was the opening day of U Pick Raspberries at a farm not far from home.  I took the kids to pick strawberries at the same farm last summer but we missed the short strawberry season this summer since I was in Boston at the time.  I have been anxiously awaiting raspberry season to get my U Pick fix for the year.

I have an odd affection for picking my own fruit on other people's farms.  I don't try to understand it-it just is what it is.  There's just something so rustic and homey about it.  My Martha tendencies get to shine through in all their glory.  Ahhhhhh....contentment.  

I literally dragged my sleeping children out of their beds at the crack of dawn so we could get there as soon as it opened.  Mostly this was to get out there before the ungodly heat had a chance to reach it's full potential and ruin the experience for us-but also it's cause I may have worked myself into a bit of a frenzy with a strange inner dialogue that insisted all the best raspberries were going to be gone if we didn't get there before 9am. 

I'm telling you-my psychosis around fruit picking runs really deep.  I'm just as baffled by it as you are.  Trust me.

Of course, I snapped a few pictures so I could share the berry picking with you:


Mr. Man loved the challenge of digging deep into the thorny bushes to find the best berries.


Miss Thing was very engrossed in the process for about 9 minutes until she got hot and bored and whiny.  She gets that from me so I can't really complain.  Also she insisted on picking only the tiny, unripe berries because they were "so cute."  I love her.




 Child labor.  Love that.



Ooooh!  Look at them in all their lovely, juicy, raspberry-ness!


 Hello, beautiful!


 Fun with photo editing...would it be weird if I framed this and put it next to my bed?  I know, I know...I need to cool it with the love of berries weirdness.


 More gratuitous raspberry shots.  There's a talented photographer stuck inside me just trying to get out.  That's all I have to say.


Back at home with our bounty.  The boy and I made the most amazingly wonderful Raspberry Chocolate Chip Struesel Muffins.  Oh my goodness...my house smelled like heaven for the rest of the afternoon!



 They were so, so good (if I do say so myself).  Here's the recipe if you're interested.  I followed this exactly but I added a half a bag of chocolate chips along with the berries (I doubled the recipe so you may want to use a quarter of a bag or so if you don't). 

Now I must go and attempt to clean my house before my sister and nephew arrive from Illinois.  They lost power due to severe thunderstorms last night which equals no air conditioning which means they're staying here until they have power again because the heat is showing no signs of relenting any time soon.  The temp is supposed to get up to 100 degrees today! 

I have two more pints of raspberries left....who has a raspberry recipe to share?  Anyone?  I know you're there...Blogger tells me so....make today the day you comment!  You know you want to!  I desperately need your favorite raspberry recipes! 

xoxo

Jen

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Bridge Activities

I found this workbook series for my boy to work on over the summer and it's worked out really well so I thought I'd share.  It's called Summer Bridge Activities-it's designed to review material from the grade your child just finished in the beginning of summer and then gradually begins to give them a preview of skills for the upcoming grade. 

The idea is that the child completes one or two pages each day-each month of summer is color coded and labeled for that day (i.e. the second section, day 18 corresponds to July 18th).  Mostly my boy has been able to complete the pages on his own with minimal support from me.  As we get deeper into summer it's getting more and more challenging so I'm being called on a little bit more. 

This is about as close as I'll ever come to homeschooling.  I have much respect for those who are able to do that but it is definitely not my scene.  This  has been fun though-and the boy Loves doing it.  He's kind of a freaky, rule-following, school-loving first born though just to be clear.  There's a page of stickers in the back of the book and after you complete your work for the day you get to choose a sticker to put on the bottom of the last page. 

Why are stickers so motivating?  When does that end?  I hope not soon.  I'd like to be able to bribe my kids with stickers well into high school if I can.  "You filled out the registration forms for the SAT's?  Nice work, sweetie.  Here's an alien sticker-I know how much you like those!"  What?  It could happen.

Anyway-here's what the workbook looks like:






This is the Kindergarten to First Grade level.  It covers basic reading skills as well as math.  They also throw in some physical fitness stuff too.


The books for the little guys have colorful, inviting pages. 


It's a very manageable daily activity so he doesn't get overwhelmed and looks forward to it each day.



He gets that weirdo "lefty" business from his dad.


If you do happen to check these books out-make sure you're getting the latest version from 2010.  The original series is from 2006 but I understand the updated books are much more colorful and user friendly. 

I love it so much cause it's just enough to keep their little brains sharp and prevent "summer slide" without being totally psycho and hard core and sapping the fun right out of their summer fun. 

P.S. It's still hotter than Hades in these parts.  If you don't hear from me for a while it's because I've melted into a pool of mush.  Thank you.


xoxo

Jen

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Weekend at Home

This weekend was one of the first in what seems like an eternity that we didn't have somewhere to go or something to do.  We just stayed at home and got some things accomplished, despite of the heat wave that has descended upon the Midwest.  Holy hell, is it hot out.  The humidity is practically unbearable.  But I'm not complaining...I'll take this over the icy, frigid winter that is just around the corner any day. 

So, we did old married people with kids kinds of things.  I worked in my garden, clawing up the earth around my vegetable beds to aerate it.  I guess this is something you're supposed to do?  I don't know for sure...I'm a novice gardener for sure.  I also spread some stuff called "Rabbit Scram" around the perimeter of the garden to keep away the nasty little bunnies that have been noshing on my lettuce and beans.  It's 100% organic so it won't hurt the little bastards, but it smells disgusting.  It's made from dried blood, garlic, and cloves.  Blech.  As well as some organic vegetable food stuff so my peppers hopefully stop looking so sad and pathetic and on the brink of death. 

My husband and I also cleaned and organized the entire garage.  Okay, so it was mostly my husband.  I helped for about half an hour before I got really hot and bored and overwhelmed and found other things to do that involved being in air conditioning. 

Here's some pics of the project in progress:






These were actually taken about two hours into the job so they don't really give the full picture of how bad it was in there.  Take my word for it, it was pretty bad.  The makings of an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive  bad.  Have you ever watched that show?  I'm addicted to it...it somehow makes me feel better about myself.



This is all the garbage and recycling we found in there.  Man.  Now that it's clean, maybe we'll be able to fit both of our cars in our three car garage.  Imagine that.

We did manage to sneak in some fun this weekend as well:


There were grilled hot dogs on the deck,


And lots of slipping,


And some sliding...



and peaceful wading in the cold water!

I was SO tempted to get my pasty self into a suit and join them.  It was so freaking hot.  I totally would have too, if it weren't for the fact that my neighbors were out in their lawn all day.  We're just starting to get to know them and I didn't want to scare them off too early in the relationship. 

I'll save that for later. 

I have a feeling I will be doing some slipping and sliding before summer's end.  Life is too short not to!

Stay cool everyone,


xoxo
Jen

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Happy Little Reminder



This sign is hanging over the window in my breakfast nook.  Okay, I'm not totally certain that I have a breakfast nook.  It's maybe just the part of my kitchen where the kitchen table is and it's surrounded by windows.  I've always wanted to say I have a breakfast nook so I'm saying it.  So there.

Anyway, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, this sign is hanging in my kitchen.  It makes me happy to look at it.

It has a funny history...A couple years ago my sister and her husband were house hunting and my mom came along on one of the showings.  The house was still occupied and so all the owner's stuff was in it.  They walked into the kitchen and that sign was hanging on the wall...my mom and sister thought it was the cutest thing ever.  That ended up being the house they bought.  My mom (who is the queen of EBAY) went on an internet search for the sign.  She found the exact one on EBAY and ordered one for my sister and me.  So, now we both have it hanging in our kitchens. 

(My sister lives in fear that someday the former owners are going to come back and ask if they can see the house again and they'll see the sign and think she is psycho.) 

The sign serves as a little reminder for me.  When I'm feeling crabby and short-tempered and just generally crotchety and I am snapping at my kids,  or when all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch reality TV instead of engaging with them-it reminds me that I only have my little guys here for a while and I will have the biggest influence on whether or not they look back someday and remember their childhood as a happy one or if the end up on some therapist's couch griping about how I ruined their lives. 

I think it sums up the ultimate goal of every mother...to give your children a happy childhood.  That means different things to different people, but the goal is the same. 

Before I completely cheese myself out-I'm going to sign off for today. 

Have a happy weekend everyone!

xoxo
Jen

Thursday, July 7, 2011

God Bless America

Hello, dear friends!  My posting rate has gone to hell in a hand basket...yes, yes, I know.  I promise I think of you every day..honest, I do!  I will share with you what exactly I've been up to that's kept me away from my laptop for so long...

Because of the way the 4th of July fell on the calender this year and due to the fact that we were part of several celebrations that happened to be spread across three days we had an extremely well, uh-Extreme 4th of July/Independence Day celebratory experience around here.  

The festivities started on July 2nd with our hometown parade and fireworks show.  July 3rd we were lucky enough to get to attend a big, private, fancy schmancy gala down on the lake front. The papers touted this fireworks show as the biggest and best in the Midwest and I think they may have been right.  Holy Crap was it amazing!!  And, holy crap did we have good seats! 

Finally, July 4th brought us to the lake house of my sister's in laws and to yet another fireworks show in the tiny little town my husband and I grew up in.  Have I ever mentioned that we grew up together?  At one point we lived just a few houses apart.  I literally, almost-kind of married the boy next door.  But that's another post all together....On to some photographic highlights of our week!



I've always wanted to make one of these flag cakes that you see everywhere...it was gorgeous.  For this photo at least and approximately 37 seconds afterward.  I didn't give myself enough time to bake the cake before we had to leave for the party and ended up frosting it with whipped cream while the cake was still warm.  Let's just say there's a reason why they tell you to cool cakes completely before frosting them.


My boy aka Captain America, right before we left for the parade.


Curbside waiting for the action to start.


Isn't this dreamy?  A shot of the sunset over the lake as we sat on the bank waiting for the fireworks to start.  Have I mentioned that I love it here? 




Day two at the fancy schamcy party...it was seriously like Never Never Land.  People kept coming up to us  with trays and offering us random things.  "Would you like some cotton candy? Would you like a glow stick? Would you like a glass of champagne?  Would you like a fresh pair of underpants?"  It was in.sane. But oh, so fun!


Obviously there were patriotic clowns everywhere offering to paint the childrens' faces.  Duh.



The boy was soooo excited by this!  Apparently I'm a horrible mother and I've never let him get his face painted before.  Who knew? 



Miss Thing chose to be a fairy princess.  So we knew that all was right with the world and things were as they should be.  Not quite sure how this design makes one a fairy princess but it involved glitter and pink so she was happy.


One of those photos that causes my sappy mama heart to swell and I just want to leap into the picture and squeeze her little face off cause I love her so much.  


Mr. Man decided to go with Harry Potter.  He was so proud.  We started reading the HP series this summer-we're half way through book three and he's digging it big time.



I snapped this a few minutes after the first fireworks started going off...look at that face!  I wasn't kidding-it seriously was one of the most amazing shows ever!


The fireworks lasted an entire hour!  By the time this was taken it was around 10:30pm...my babies were sleepy!


A few hours of sleep and onto to celebration number 3 at the lake house!  Yes-they are wearing the same outfits as the night before, in case you were wondering.  And yes, I was hand washing that little white dress at 1 am to get the cotton candy stains out of it.  I do what I have to do...not wearing red, white, and blue on the 4th of July in my family is one of the most grievous crimes.  Which seems really weird, but it's true. 


I have a freaky red, white, and blue family photo like this for the last several years.  I'm really not a Stepford Wife-I promise.  We just really, really get into the 4th of July.

 

Eating cupcakes sans shirts is a wonderful summer tradition...look at those green eyes!  Many thanks to the father of my children for those puppies! 


At our third and final fireworks show of the year.  Miss A is probably going to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but no one will accuse her of not loving her country...

So that's it!  I've spent the last two days in my pajamas and I think I may be just about recovered from the exhaustion.  What did not get captured in photos is the part where we took the kids back to grandma and grandpa's after the fireworks and went out until 2 am with some high school friends.  I still have a headache.

Hope you all had a lovely 4th!  (Or just a lovely week if you happen to live elsewhere on the big old globe and didn't find it necessary to celebrate America's birthday-in which case you probably stopped reading this post a long time ago so, nevermind).

xoxo
Jen


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