August 31, 2012


There's this adorable little park tucked in a corner of an obscure (read, ghetto) neighborhood just a couple miles from my house.  I love this park.  For several reasons.
A) There's hardly ever anybody there
B) The turf that surrounds the park is way better than wood chips- it's this rubber floor stuff.
C) The park is handicap accessible, which means lots of ramps, which means toddler friendly!
D) It's like 5 minutes from my house
E) It's got SO much really cool equipment
F) It's completely fenced in and there's only one way in/out so I can let him run and not worry about random people coming in or him trying to get out.

So we went there for the first time in a while the other day, and I decided to tote along my camera.  Here's what happened.

 "Woaa! Momma, this place is SO cool!!"

"Can I get up here?"                                        "Yes! I did it all by myself!!!"
 "OooOOO, but there's another car over there, okay momma, down please."

"Vroooommm, Vrooommmm"       "Woa! There's more stuff over there, can I go momma?"
Sure, sweetie, you can go wherever your want to!
 "From up here I can see everything!  Ooo, swings, momma can I go swing?"
Sure, sweetie, want me to help you down?"
*   *   *
"Momma, snack please?"
Sure sweetie, I brought you some puffs, want those?
"Yes please!"
 "Feese fuff are fo goof momma"
 Hey bear, you dropped a couple. 
 "Oh, thanks momma, I'll get those."
 "Momma, why are you taking pictures of me eating puffs?"
Because you're so darn cute little bear!
"Hey momma, whossat over there?"
Those are some kids swinging, do you wanna get down and go play again?

Healthy Shmealthy- I call it YUM.

Hubby & I recently decided to make some positive changes in our home - one of them being living healthier.  It's not like we were total crazies in the past or anything as far as our eating habits go, we are just being much more conscious of the things we put into our bodies (and don't, for that matter).
So anyway, just because we're eating healthy and all that jazz does not mean we're scrimping on taste and indulgences :)
So these are three of our 'staple' recipes around here that help us satisfy our snacky cravings without ruining our bodies with sugar, preservatives, chemicals and other nasties that come in the pre-packaged food.

Granola Bites
I found a recipe similar to this on Pinterest, but have modified it a few times until I found one that's perfect for our family.  It's super easy to make, no-bake and a perfect little snack!
We love these because they're naturally sweet (honey, not sugar) and they have all sorts of health benefits from the flaxseed and chia seeds (omega-3s, fiber, lingans, etc) and they're a good source of protein (from the PB, chia & flax).

You'll Need:
1 (heaping) C of old fashioned oats ( I use Quaker Oats (the big tub))
1/2 C of flaxseed meal ( I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 T Chia seeds (I find mine at Trader Joe's)
1/2 C natural (no stir) peanut butter (I use Jiff Natural)
1/3 C raw (local if possible) honey
A splash of vanilla

Combine all the ingredients (I recommend starting with dry, mixing, then adding wet) toss the bowl in the fridge for 20 minutes or so, then you can grab a spoon and scoop out and roll into balls.  Viola - that's it!  Easy. As. Pie.  Or.... granola.  :)

Our little bear loves things so much - for our 'adult version' I add 1/2 C mini chocolate chips - it adds a little kick of sweetness, but if you wanted to keep it uber-healthy you could use carob chips instead :)  I recommend storing them in the fridge, but you don't have to keep them there (for example, if you were to pack them in a lunchbox, they'd be just fine!)

Choco-Oat Cookies

These are another sweet snack that is perfect for satisfying that sweet tooth, that doesn't 'feel' quite as healthy as the granola bites, but certainly is! I got the original recipe from a friend, but have modified it for us :) I love that I can give Owen cookies and not feel the least bit guilty about it - and he demolishes them!

You'll Need:
1 over-ripe banana, mashed (the browner the peel, the better)
2T Coconut oil
1T Pure Maple Syrup
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 C old-fashioned oats
1/4 C flaxseed meal
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t sea salt

Mix the ingredients all together, scoop onto the cookie sheet (I prefer my Pampered Cheff baking stone), smash down a little bit and bake at 350* for 15-20minutes.

As you can tell from the ingredients, these don't technically have to be cooked, so baking them is up to you.  (Owen ate at least 3 tablespoons of raw batter when he helped me make them the other day!) I bake mine around 18 minutes depending on the size of my cookies and they firm up pretty nicely but are still soft/chewy like a cookie.  Also, I find it easiest to use a 1/8 measuring cup to scoop out the cookies, then flatten them on the cookie sheet.  These cookies don't spread or puff up at all, so you can put them pretty close together, and whatever shape you smash them into, that's what they'll stay like.

After I make a cookie-sheet-full for Owen, I add semi-sweet chips into the rest of the batter for us.  Again, you could substitute carob chips to keep it even healthier.
These store fine in a non-airtight (but covered) container on the counter, or in the fridge.  I prefer them at room-temp, but have found sealing the container all the way tends to make them mushy.  Hubby likes them refrigerated better so we split the batch :)

I kind of love graham crackers.  Stale ones.  Yup, I like 'em a little chewy and a little less crispy.  But alas, there is sugar and other stuff in the graham crackers at the store (even Trader Joe's brand!) that I'd rather not ingest, so I set out to find a homemade recipe.  I found one on Pinterest (i heart pinterest if you haven't figured that out yet) but (again) modified it.  (I'm pretty sure I almost never keep a recipe the way I find it - I always have to make it my own!)

You'll Need:
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled (organic if you have it!)
1/2 c. raw (local if you can find it) honey
2 T water
3/4 t sea salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 egg (cage free, organic if you can!)

Once the butter is melted and cooled down a bit, mix in the honey until blended (a fork worked well for this)
Then add the water and egg and mix until completely blended.
Next add salt, baking soda and half of the flour, mix until blended, add remaining flour and mix until well blended.
Set it in the fridge for a half hour or so to firm up a bit.
Flour your rolling pin and work surface (I used parchment paper to roll it out on, rather than flouring the counter - it made for much easier transfer to the pan later and meant I didn't have to flour the counter!) Roll out the dough extremely thin.  The thinner you roll it - the crispy your crackers will be.  Score with a pizza roller, then use a fork to poke holes.

Bake on a pan (I used my Pampered Chef Pizza Stone, as you can see, my grahams were not exactly... um 'regular'.)  at 350* for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  They will crisp up more as they cool on the counter.
Not only are these healthier than store-bought - but they are much cheaper too!
I will note that this is a recipe I feel like I haven't perfected yet.  I may add a dash of stevia to sweeten it up just a tad, or try swapping out a T of honey for pure maple syrup and see what flavor that gives me.  I like this version, but I don't feel like it's spot-on with the flavor I'm looking for.  

So that's it!  I hope you try these and I would love to hear your feedback when/if you do!  

August 29, 2012

Stream of Consciousness

Owen's latest thing is saying "muah" to kiss things or when he wants something to be kissed.  It's stinkin' adorable.  He kisses his giraffe, his bike, pictures in books, he even kissed my phone today when I was letting him watch a video on it about baby animals.

I hate how auto-correct corrects so many of my words when I write - especially when it's things about Owen & what he said.  Don't they know I'm trying to write 'muah', not mush.  UGH. I digress.

I have been reminded lately of how amazingly blessed I am.  To be able to stay home with Owen and watch him grow and learn new things everyday is such a gift and I am SO thankful for it.

Speaking of gifts.  Gramma bought us a plane ticket because she misses us so much.  So Owen & I are flyin' solo to Arizona next week to see her for the first time since he was born.  I'm pretty excited.  Not nervous at all.  Sad that Bill can't come (no vacay time left), but excited that she gets to see her only grandson again after 16 long months.  And I'm a bit excited to see her too.  I mean, she is my momma.  ;)

Owen is very into helping these days.  He always wants to help us whenever we are doing something.  If I'm cooking he wants to be sitting on the counter helping in some way.  If we're doing laundry he wants to help us pull it out of the dryer and put it in the basket.  It's super cute.  And usually very helpful.  Today at a friends house the oldest boy dumped a whole HUGE bin of wooden train tracks out to find what he wanted.  Owen immediately started putting the pieces back in the bin (that's my boy). Such a good little helper.

Last night hubby & I flipped through a bunch of old pics of little bear.  He's changed so much in the past 16 months - it's crazy.  He was SUCH a chunk for a little while too!  Why didn't you guys tell me?! I mean, the rolls, the cheeks, the chins-- they were abounding!

Africa keeps coming up in things.  Dreams.  Conversations.  Thoughts.  I can't escape it. (not that I'm trying). It makes me wanna go back.  Really bad.  Like now.  Or yesterday.

Okay. I guess I should go clean the tub.  I've waited several weeks for the house elves to show up and do it for me but alas, it is still dirty.  I shall go get my elbows greasy.  Or something like that.

August 28, 2012


Hubby & I used to camp a lot.
Like every-other weekend a lot.  In the summer, since I was out of school, camping was a cheap and easy getaway.  You can't beat $15 a night with the ocean only a mile away - -  hot showers and flushable toilets even!  We would beach-bum all.  the.  time.  We love the beach.  Listening to the crashing waves.  Laying in our beach chairs reading our latest novel-addiction.  Lazing around in the water on our boogie boards.  Munching on grapes, Pringles and beef jerky from the cooler, never really paying attention to the time.
So how much more fun would it be to take our 15 month old camping at the beach?!  We were inspired to give it a shot.  I mean, we camped in the bush of Africa for three days, surely we could survive two nights in a beach town of the Carolina coast!

So off we set on a Saturday morning, arriving mid-afternoon to our campsite we quickly got busy setting up our (borrowed) tent. We have a tent of our own, it's a four-man tent and very nice, it has lasted us more than 5 years, but when our (very gracious) friends offered us their ten-man tent that had three rooms, we had to accept.  That meant we could bring the pack & play for Owen to sleep in, rather than him being on the air mattress with us.
So we set up camp - Owen was an awesome (albeit, very dirty) helper.

He's very into that these days.  Helping.  It's sweet.  And cute.  And usually helpful.  

And viola! The tent was up!
So off we went to stroll the beach.  It was about 3:00 in the afternoon, so we slipped on our suits (we were all hot and sweaty from setting up the tent) and figured we'd take a dip in the water to cool off.
When we got to the board walk and we could see the ocean, Owen was very... hmmm interested? intrigued? leery? Yup.  All of those.
He wouldn't take his eyes off it.
 So we carried him down the boardwalk, slipped off his flip-flops and plopped him in the sand.  He just stood there for a minute, looking up at us like "what the??@?!?@" The we grabbed his hand and started walking and he walked along with us. Still unsure of this squishy substance beneath his feet.  He tripped a couple times, but got his 'sand legs' by the time we were down by the water.
When we got to the water's edge he clung to my leg as if his life depended on it.  He started saying 'nah. nah. nah' over and over again.  So we gently reassured him that we wouldn't put him in the water, and we told him it was the ocean.  We tried to get him to say 'ocean' but all he would say was 'nah.' (which means no).  So we just stood there for a little bit while he got used to the idea of the ocean.  And then it happened.  The water came up and over our toes, before rushing back out to sea.
 And he did. not. like. it. one. bit.
So we picked him up, reassured him that it was okay and started walking toward the pier.  Once under the pier we put him down again and he was okay.  He got to see a bunch of seagulls up close and he thought that was pretty cool.
Next we went up on top of the pier.  He much preferred the ocean from that viewpoint :)

 He even got to see some fish up-close (this one was being used for bait... but we didn't tell him that)
Some guy caught some crabs and he let him touch them, and we saw some people cleaning off some pretty big flounders too.  We left the cleaning table before it got too gory. And I didn't get any pics because there were scales flying everywhere, and I was in the moment watching bear's reaction :)
We headed back to camp after walking the pair so we could get the fire going and make dinner.  Owen did a great job around he fire - he kept saying "hot hot hot hot hot" and blowing on it (like we do when his food is hot).

 There were a TON of mosquitoes out because of all the rain we've had lately, (hence his jacket and pants in that first pic) so we ended up hanging out in the tent a lot.  Owen loved running around in the tent and jumping on the air mattress.  The tent appeared to have a level floor, but because there were roots and hills Owen resembled a drunken sailor stumbling around in it.  And that night, he was really tired.  When he gets tired he gets clumsy.  And the tired-clumsy on top of the uneven floor, was quite the sight to behold.  I'm pretty sure he fell more than he walked.  But he was a sport about it and always just got right back up.  Since we were in the tent so much we told him he had to find a spot to sit if he wanted to eat.  He chose the bed (of course).  So anytime he wanted to eat he would go climb onto the mattress and say 'eat eat please'.  It was cute.
The next morning we headed to a different part of the beach to set up camp.  Some (other gracious) friends of ours let us borrow their kid-beach stuff.  They let us take their little kiddie tent, kiddie pool and an umbrella.  So we lugged all our stuff to the beach bright & early Sunday morning.
 It had rained the night before just a little and the sand was nice and packed down - Owen much preferred it that way :)

He also much preferred the ocean water to be in his kiddie pool, rather than him being in the ocean.  We did take him down to the water once, I held him and we dipped in to cool him off, but he mostly just sat on that boogie board and played with the water in his pool.  He had a blast sitting there playing and that's what matters.  Maybe he'll like the ocean next time :)

I love how his hair got the 'beachy' look! :)
He loved sitting in papa's chair :)
And I loved his little sandy toes!

Around 1:00 we saw some clouds rollin' in, and Owen was getting tired so we packed things up and headed back to camp to get showers.  On the way to camp (which is 5 minutes from the beach) Owen fell asleep, so Bill & I took turns taking a shower while he slept in the car.  Afterward we decided to drive back down to the beach and maybe walk around, but what we saw was this:

So we decided to drive around instead.  I got some pretty neat shots in the process: 
 There is something so beautiful and raw about a storm on the beach.
 I was just getting ready to snap this pic of the lone umbrella left on the stormy beach, when the wind came and picked it right up!  Talk about timing!
  So for the rest of the afternoon we drove up to the local mall and let Owen play and run around the play area.  He had a blast climbing on all the cars and trucks that cost $1 to make them spin or move, and he didn't even care that they weren't on! We ended up eating out since our fire pit was quite drenched from all the rain.  
The rain lasted all night long, and it was quite the storm.  We stayed pretty dry in our tent, but Owen didn't love the sound of the rain on the roof and ended up in bed with us.  It was a long night for us, but he slept pretty well.  In the morning the clouds still looked a little threatening, even though it wasn't raining, so we decided to go down and walk the boardwalk for the sunrise, then head to the NC Aquarium.  

It ended up being a beautiful morning, but we decided to head to the aquarium anyway, because we knew Owen would love it, and there isn't anything like that close to us in Charlotte.  We were right on, he LOVED the aquarium.  He was so adventurous an would touch anything that he was allowed to.  His favorite: the turtles.
 He kept saying it over and over again "tuh-tuh, tuh-tuh".  It was adorable.  He also got to watch me feed a horseshoe crab (there was no way I was letting him touch the dead, cut up fish that was the food), he also got to touch a starfish, an anemone, and some box turtles.

Although he didn't get to touch everything at the aquarium - I was impressed with how much he was able to see and focus on.  He loved looking at all the fish, and was even able to spot the seahorses, though they were pretty camouflaged.

We got to see a lot of really neat little creatures!

and some not-so-little...

We let Owen walk around the aquarium for the most part, and he loved it.  We only held him or picked him up to let him see the exhibits that weren't on his level.  He really enjoyed being able to wander around and go wherever he wanted to go :)
When he was tired of looking at all the fish (I mean, they kind of start to look the same after you see so many (-;  )  we headed to the playground outdoors.  They just opened it this past spring and it's supposed to be this state-of-the-art playground - Owen didn't care how state-of-the-art it was - he had a blast!

I think this one is the look of shock on his face that he made it to the top of the slide all by himself and was about to go down :)

After the aquarium we decided to hit the road and head back home.  We spent a good 2 hours there before following the winding path through the trees, bushes and past the pond back out to the parking lot.  Right before the exit into the parking area we met this little guy... Owen was very excited to sit on him. :)
Owen did great on the ride home, dozing off and on and jabbering the rest of the time. :)  We slowly made our way home, in no rush, just enjoying the last few hours of 'vacation' time together.  We even stopped for dinner and had a picnic in the grass under a big shade tree.  It was a lot of fun - our first family camping/beach trip.  I did learn one thing: Camping is fun.  The beach is fun.  But doing both together with a toddler is a lot.  Not that I didn't think it would be, but it's a lot. So our family-consensus is that next time we go to the beach, we'll try to barter for a house/condo to stay in.  And next time we go camping, we'll go to the mountains where it's cooler.
But the best part of the trip were the memories we all made.  I'm not sure Owen will remember it all, but he has at least 348,379,874 pictures that momma took to help jog his memory one day :)