Sunday, June 29, 2008

Questions Questions

My friend Crafty P tagged me last week and I figured that doing it be a good way to jump start my blogging for the week. Hopefully it won't end up being my only blog for the week!

Here it goes...

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
Oh boy - ten years ago was the summer before my senior year at Grove City. I was living and working in the Baltimore area so I would be able to see Matt, who had graduated a year ealier. In many ways it was a very fun summer because I got to spend time with Matt, after having spent the past year 5-6 hours apart. But I was working at a very boring job and the days literally dragged by. It was also during this summer that Matt began to experience some "cold feet" about our relationship of the past two plus years and we went from marriage talk to slowing things waaaay down. The first couple months of my senior year were really rough and many many tears were cried. In front of many people. Many of whom probably read this blog! Our long distance struggle with our relationship pushed me to rely on God more than ever and strengthened my faith in ways I was not expecting. Right around the time when I truly trusted God with my relationship with Matt and acknowledged that God's plan for me might be different from what my heart wanted at the moment, but I would trust Him regardless, is when God gave Matt a peace about leaving his bachelorhood behind and sent us off on the road towards marriage. In fact, just over one year later on September 4, 1999 we were married! Probably more than you were anticipating for an answer, but it was definitely a defining and refining time in my life - good to reflect on. I can't believe that it was ten years ago!

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
Plans meals for the week
Grocery shopping
Return overdue book to the library
Put up a new blog post
Keep kids happy

3) Snacks I enjoy:
This would have been easier if it were snacks I don't enjoy because I would have had to think of less. In no particular order...
Pretzels, chips and salsa/guacamole, salt and vinegar potato chips, swedish fish, apples, blueberries (if I'm being good), carrots and hummus, cookies...I like everything that's bad for me basically!

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire: In no particular order...
Travel all around the country and the world - with family and friends
Buy a house that had lots of land for gardening and playing as well as good space for entertaining and hosting.
Hire a personal trainer to kick my butt into shape.
Set up accounts for my kids' education and weddings.
Buy a new car. Never had one, wouldn't mind enjoying that new car smell!
Use it to give to the various missions that God puts in my path and sponsor more Compassion kids - a whole village!

5) Places I have lived:
Germantown, MD
Clearfield, PA
Grove City, PA
various suburbs of Philadelphia in Montgomery County
(just remembered that everyone says you shouldn't put your exact location, so I had to be vague there)

6) Jobs I have had:
Asst. to Stock Broker
Asst. to Sports Information Director
Youth Ministry Team
Program Director at a summer camp
Boring office job doing who knows what
Insurance Agent
Information Specialist for Human Resource/Benefits company
Current: Full time Mom and occasional catering work

7) People I want to know more about:
Nancy Renee Courtney Chrissie Karen and Crystal.

Crystal tagged me with a Share the Love award earlier this week and I figured it would be a good chance to highlight the wonderful bloggers on my blogroll - stayed tune for that in the next day or two!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No-Sugar-Added Summer Treat

As usual, I have a ton of other things that I should be doing - laundry, dishes, putting toys away - but those don't sound like any fun, do they? Instead I've decided to participate in this week's Works For Me Wednesday and share something that is sure to sweeten up your summer!

My kids love juice and sweet treats. Of course, because most of these drinks are loaded down with sugar, we try to limit them as much as possible, but hey, it's not summer without the occasional trip to Rita's, right?

Recently while I was catering a brunch, I realized that we were serving some sort of fruit smoothie concoction. When I asked about it I found out that one was simply pureed watermelon and the other was pureed honeydew. They were both chilled and then served as a drinks. It was a really fancy brunch and people were passing up the Bloody Mary's and Mimosa's in favor of the fruit drinks.
I'm sure everyone knows this, but watermelon is incredibly good for you. It almost doesn't seem right that something so sweet and good would be so healthy - God definitely deserves a big shout out for creating the watermelon. It is packed with antioxidants (specifically lycopene), vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B.

I made some for my kids using a few weeks ago and it worked great. I used a watermelon, but I'd love to try it with honeydew as well. I pureed it in a food processor, which resulted in some spillage, but that wasn't a big deal. I put it in the freezer for a while to thicken it up, but I didn't want it to be frozen. My daughters loved it and were excited to have a special treat. I served it in tiny paper cups, so it was just enough to "wet their whistles" (Ella's favorite saying).

Just a heads up - it doesn't taste like a smoothie. Most smoothies have a lot of added sugar and other stuff (which makes them quite yummy, not dissing the smoothie), but this is all fruit, and only fruit. If you want it a little sweeter, just stir a packet or two of splenda into it and that should do the trick.

Why go to all this trouble (not really trouble though) when you could just hand your kids a slice of watermelon? First - it seems like something special and different, which is always a hit with my girls. Two - All I have to do is clean up the mess on the floor from the watermelon drips the girls made tonight and I realize how much less mess it is to have them drinking it! Finally - I never have room in my fridge to store a watermelon once I've opened it. This takes care of it!

Healthy, sweet and a summery treat works for me! Head over to Rocks in my Dryer for more helpful tips. Also, click HERE to check out our recent adventures in dumpster diving!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dumpster Diving

A few months ago I caught an episode of Oprah that was talking about various alternative lifestyles. One that caught my interest was people who called themselves "Freegans". According to wikipedia it is defined as an "anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on "limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed."[1] The lifestyle involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters that have passed, or in some cases haven't even passed, their sell by date, but are still edible and nutritious. They salvage the food not because they are poor or homeless, but as a political statement.[2][3]"

Getting food out of grocery store dumpsters is often referred to as "dumpster diving". One of the segments had a film crew accompanying some people to a dumpster and showing all the items they pulled out that looked perfectly fine - frozen pizzas, bagged lettuce, canned goods and much more. Ever since I saw that I've been intriqued. I was dismayed to see many perfectly good items were thrown away and I was excited about the possibility of saving money. I know, I know - my main concerns boiled down to saving money - but hopefully by saving money I will be able to increase my own generosity with those in need around me.

I told Matt about it and we've often joked about going dumpster diving. I really am curious about what I might find in the dumpter of our local grocery store - not totally sure how comfortable I would feel with actually taking food from a dumpster - but I figured you never know until you try.

Last week we had our first experience with dumpster diving. It wasn't really "we" though - it was all Matt. This is what he salvaged from a local retailer's dumpster:

Perfectly good plants that were being tossed, apparently because they were a little wilted. Since you can't really tell from the pictures, the grand total of Matt's dumpster raid was four ferns, four Hibiscus plants and one rose bush. All in need of a little TLC, but other than that, in good condition. Also, we have about four bags of mulch. Unfortunately he had the Honda and not the minivan or we could have really loaded up.

So that was our first, and relatively risk free, experience with dumpster diving. I have to admit I was so excited that I've been bugging him ever since that we need to go back and try again.

We were out on Saturday and I dropped him at the grocery store to run in and grab a few things for lunch while I waited in the car with the kids. It just so happened that we were right next to the retailer (yeah - I'm not going to name names - I really don't want my blog coming up in a google search about dumpster diving at a particular store) he had visited earlier in the week. I was all gung-ho about it - while he shopped I would swing around back and see if there was any good trash. Matt, always the one to bring me back to reality, said "You know you have to climb up into the dumpster to see what's in it?", to which I quickly responded "Oh. I'm so not doing that."

Dumpster diving is interesting and exciting and a cool way to cut down on unneeded waste - I'm just not sure how actively I'll be participating in it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beach, Birthday and Bug Bites

This past weekend was one that I had been looking forward to for awhile now. No, not Father's Day, although I am blessed with a wonderful father and a husband who is a wonderful father to our girls. No, it wasn't my birthday, which just so happened to my 31st AND on the same day as Father's Day - can you say anticlimatic?!

What I was looking forward to see this weekend was a few days at the beach with good friends. The kids went to stay with Matt's family, so it made our trip just that much more relaxing. A weekend away from our kids happens for us maybe once or twice a year, so I was just excited about going to bed late, sleeping in, eating whenever I felt like it, relaxing on the beach with no interruptions - I'm sure there are many more. The weather over the weekend was gorgeous and we spent hours at the beach each day.

Here is a cute picture of me, Renee and Rachael hanging out on the beach.

We didn't actually hang out like that though - just for pictures! If you look at all the pictures from the weekend, it looks like that's the majority of what we did - take pictures. We were all in silly moods one night and took tons of posed pictures up on the roof. Yup, on the roof. Probably not the safest thing, but it was fun. Renee and Rachael are both super photogenic and both have spent time modeling as children. Not really, but it's the only way I can save face because in all the pictures they are sporting cool model-like poses and I'm kind of the goofball looking like I don't have a clue - every picture has at least one version when I'm doing the opposite of everyone else or my hair is in front of my face.

It was so nice to spend time with some of my closest friends and be silly and goofy and serious without worrying about entertaining Ella and Catherine. Of course I missed them the entire time, but it's nice to have some time away so I am able to miss them. Matt had heard from our parents how well they did, especially Ella (Catherine was missing mom a bit). On our way to pick them up on Sunday we were remarking on how happy we were that they were able to be away from us and do so well. I turned to Matt and said "you do know that this means they're going to be in horrible moods the whole way home." I wish I wasn't right, but I was. The excitement of their weekend wore off as soon as they got in the car with us and I spent the trip in full on entertainment mood - songs, food, (I was so desperate for the them to be happy that I gave them chocolate covered pretzels. The mess wasn't worth the few minutes of peace.) I-Spy and anything else I could think of to keep them happy.

Like I said before, turning 31 is pretty anticlimatic. Turning 31 on Father's Day is really anticlimatic. Thankfully I have good friends who made every effort to make me feel special and celebrated - is it bad to admit that I like that? Over gifts, I just like having a little bit of time when I feel special. Saturday at the beach we went out to dinner and then afterwards Rachael and Renee gave me some wonderful gifts that will get alot of use this summer. Renee also made me a beautiful cake at 11:00pm, and I think we actually ate it after midnight on my birthday. A true friend is one who will make a cake late at night after a long dinner that involved a few bottles of wine and lots of food. I told Renee I probably would have stuck a candle in a cookie! I feel like the whole weekend was a birthday present to me - being in bed at 9am....priceless.

Finally, to round out my post I have to comment on the bug bites that Catherine got while she was away. I've never seen anything like them. That is, until I googled mosquito bites on Google Images. And then I saw a lot of pictures that remind me of Catherine's legs. She has bites the size of silver dollars that are hard and oozy and scabby. It is painful for me to even look at them. Has anyone else experienced that with their kids? There isn't much we can do for her except give her Benadryl and put cream on them and watch them for infection. I'm going to have to invest in some good bug repellant, but I don't think I want something too harsh for her skin. Any suggestions?

I'll leave you all with my favorite picture of me and Matt from the beach weekend. Please ignore the large bruise on my arm. I'm not lying when I say I'm the goofy clueless one. I remember running into something at some point...I think.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pittsburgh or bust!

We left Thursday afternoon and headed out for a trip to Pittsburgh to visit my brother and his family. It was a great weekend - hot, but great.

We were lucky enough that our good friends Dustin and Courtney live five minutes from my brother so we were able to crash with them while we were there and visit with them as well.

I think the highlight of our visit for Courtney was the morning after our first night there when she opened her shower curtain and found Ella sitting on the toilet in the bathroom with her. Ella, as unphased by this as you might expect, simply asked "Courtney, why do you keep your toilet paper so far away." Ella never mentioned this encounter to us and when we asked her about it later she just said "She was IN the shower." OK. I guess that makes all the difference!

That day we were treated to a pancake breakfast by my brother Matt (by the way - Happy Birthday big brother - I know you're away so I can't call you, but if you happen to check my blog, you'll see a birthday message for you!) and then we headed off to the Carnegie Science Center. We spent close to 4 1/2 hours there and had a blast. There was so much cool stuff for the kids to do and experiment with - as well as just have a chance to hang out together.

Can you tell that Ella and Isaac love each other?
They really did good together during the two days we were there and I just so enjoy seeing them bond.

I have strong memories of the train town/village/city that has been set up at the science center for years and I couldn't wait for the kids to get to see it for the first time. I think my excitement was contagious because they all seemed to enjoy looking at the little details and animation that are only noticeable if you take your time. Here's a cute shot of all the kids (and me) checking out the scenary.

Catherine, Ella and Isaac catching their shadows.
Trying out the earthquake simulator with Uncle Matt.
After leaving the science center we headed over to the Duquesne Incline to take a ride - it was rush hour and hot out, but no one complained or tried to talk me out of it even though it would have been easier to go home. Thankfully at the top we were able to buy icy treats for everyone and we survived the heat. If I could find my cell phone I would post the picture I took of our car thermometer reading 103 degrees!

The next day we took a trek out to Boyce Park and tried out the wave pool. Aside from not being allowed to bring in food or drinks and having to repay if you accidentally forgot something in the car and had to leave seconds after paying, it was a fun place to go swimming. It took the kids awhile to get used to it, but by the end of the day all of them had enjoyed some time in the water.

It was crowded - hundreds of people were there because it was HOT and it was the first day the pool was open. Everytime the waves were about to begin a loud horn or bell would sound and everyone would start cheering and a mass of people would run into the water. Everytime. I have no idea why I was so entertained by it - I guess I wasn't expecting there to be such enthusiasm for the waves. But I guess people like their waves.

We headed straight home from there, but not before getting one last shot of the cousins (minus baby Nora, the beautiful new addition to their family, who was the reason/excuse for our visit even though it really just revolved around the older kids) walking out holding hands looking adorable.

All together now....aahhhhhh. Sorry it's been taking me so long to get posts up these days. I don't work well in the heat. So, I'll see you in September! Just kidding....

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Busy Weekend

It's Wednesday, and we've completely recovered from last weekend's busyiness and are getting ready for another one!

Last Friday we spent the day with Shannon, Jack and Cade Milinovich. Ella was so excited to see Jack that she was awake at 6:30 am (and that is the reason I typically avoid telling Ella about any upcoming trip or event until as late as possible - I like my sleep!). That night Shannon went to see Greg get ordained through the Methodist church - a ceremony that was being held 10 minutes away from where we live. The boys stayed with us and we all hung out at a a Greek Fest being held by a local Orthodox church. Shannon joined us for dinner and then after she left we all went on rides.

The first was a ride down the fun slide. It's unfortunate that our camera card was full and Matt wasn't able to take a video of the kids flying down the slide. For Jack, he was literally flying. After one of the bumps he got some air - and my heart stopped for a second - until his look of complete fear was replaced with one of complete delight!

Here is a cute picture of Jack and Ella on the helicopter ride.

Here's darling Cade giving us a grumpy look because his mom left him with people he hasn't seen in months.
The boys were both so good, especially coming home with us and staying the night at our house. Jack even let Matt read him a book and put him to bed because my girls were demanding my presence. Cade wasn't as excited about going to bed though. He screamed and was upset everytime I put him in the pack and play. Since Jack was right next door and I didn't want to traumatize Cade, we just brought him back upstairs with us. He would come and play with the toys and then get tired and lay on the ground with his blankie and roll around. When his eyes would get very heavy I would try putting him to bed.
He wasn't having it.
So we repeated the process- come up, play with toys, get tired, roll on the ground.
Meanwhile, Matt and I were watching the season finale of Lost. At one point Matt started laughing, he said "I can just picture that Shannon's going to come in and find us watching TV with Cade sound asleep on the floor."
Luckily it was a long enough service that Cade tuckered out and went to bed (in the pack and play) before she got home.

Oops - here's one final shot of the three kids on a little car ride. It's significant because it's the first ride Catherine went on without a parent. When I asked her if she wanted to go, she said "but I be scared!". I'm happy that she decided to do it and had a lot of fun. It helps having a big sister to sit next to you and keep you safe!

The next day was the wedding of two dear friends, Josh and Laura. It was definitely a wedding we'd all been looking forward to for awhile. Ella was soooo excited to go to the wedding (Catherine stayed home and napped - when I left I could hear her in her room, moaning "I want to go to the wedding!", but she did eventually nap)....can you tell?

Matt and I actually got a picture together. And with OUR camera! Pretty monumental.
Even though she later told Catherine that aside from everyone coming down the aisle, the wedding was boring, she's still looks happy and excited!

Here's a shot of the beautiful bride and groom. They are such a cool couple who seek to honor God in every aspect of their lives and both have hearts that are sensitive to the needs of those who are less fortunate - and they actually do something about it! The reading during the ceremony was from the book Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne and instead of a traditional recessional song, they left the church to the song "Send Me on My Way" by Rusted Root.
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The reception was a ton of fun - when you know most of the people there it's fun to have a big group out on the dance floor. Here's a shot of the guys hamming it up.

It sure looks like they had a good time. I think that us girls were having a good time. I guess I don't have ANY pictures to prove it (wink, wink), but I think we had as much fun as the guys seemed to have!

Anyway, we're heading out for a trip to Pittsburgh this weekend to visit my brother and his family and stay with our friends Dustin and Courtney. A bunch of my bloggy and real life friends are out there and they're going to see Over the Rhine in concert. Next time we'll plan on joining them there!

That's my update for now. Have a great weekend!

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