Saturday, July 14, 2012

Family.


 I come from a very tight knit family.  These last couple months with everything going on with my sister it has gotten even tighter.  When things go wrong, we rally.  We pick up the pieces that need to be.  I am happy that I can be here to help when help is needed and take comfort in knowing the support is there if I need it.  We have all been spending a lot of time together...not just because of my sister being sick, but also because of birthday parties and other summer time things.  There have been times recently where I feel like I've overdosed slightly on all this family time and have wanted to make sure to keep a balance of time with extended family and time with our little family of four.  I feel a little guilty for those thoughts at times, but know they are normal and that we all probably feel it occasionally.  I feel so fortunate to have such a great relationship with my sisters and parents and that we all get along so well.  And, the kids just fall right into that.  Yesterday we took advantage of even more family by getting together with aunts, cousins, second cousins and grandparents.  My one aunt, who owns a dairy farm invited us all out to spend an afternoon at the farm.  Boy, did we have a fun afternoon.  Horseback riding, seeing the baby cows, kittens and watching the dairy cows get milked.  At one point I sat back and looked at the generations…my grandma, my mom, my girls…then add to that aunts, cousins and my cousins kids.  The farm is a place that holds a lot of my childhood memories.  As much time as my kiddos spend with my sister and her family is what we did with these cousins.  Hours running around that farm, sleepovers and just so many fond memories.  It feels full circle bringing the girls back there and watching them experience it.  It's funny, we all live in the same town but don't get to see each other all that often.  As we've all grown and started are own families, it just doesn't happen.  When it finally comes together on a day like yesterday, you take advantage.  It made me think even more of this family concept and how lucky I am to have all this.  It doesn't matter that we don't see each other often, we have that common connection and that alone bonds us all.

Ava has a love of horses that began last year when she got to ride a pony at a birthday party.  Yesterday she graduated from ponies to a horse....

The first loop around she was a little nervous.  All the kiddos were...everyone was a little unsure.  As soon as they all had one time, they were hooked and all smiles the second time.  It was fun to see the difference of our kids and my cousins kids who are growing up on the farm.  They jump on the horse like it's no big deal, no nervousness...it's just what they are used to.  However, it didn't take long for these guys to catch on.

The horse was fantastic and I was so happy for them to get this experience.  After the kids were done, my aunt asked if any adults wanted a ride.  Well, if given the opportunity for a horse ride I say you have to take it, so that's exactly what I did.  I have ridden horses before, when I was a kid and a couple times as an adult, but still felt a slight apprehension at jumping on.  However, it's kinda like riding a bike...once you get back on you remember.  
The horse wasn't the only thing that won over our hearts...

This little ball of love almost made it's way home with us.  I'm pretty sure if Matt was there he would not have been able to resist Ava begging to bring the kitty home.  (I'm thinking that's the only reason I ever ended up with cats, my poor dad couldn't resist a pouty girl face)  We loved on it there and reluctantly left him at the farm.  If our old cat wasn't so crabby, this kitten would have been ours.  

The part of the farm that they weren't impressed with?  The smell.  The girls didn't quite get that you can't have that many animals without some smell to go with it.  Nothing a little nose plugging couldn't help...

It was a really nice afternoon...topped off with Popsicles and lemonade and catching up with family.  I hope to get the opportunity to do it again soon.  Family is a cool thing.

Earlier this week we got the privilege of babysitting my little nephew for two whole nights.  He is at that absolutely adorable age of two and we so enjoyed having him around.  Because they have lived away from here for the past couple of years we don't get to see him nearly as much as we'd like, so we crammed a lot of fun into these few days.  Starting with cooling down in the pool....

He wasn't too sure at first...it's a pretty big pool for a little guy and he kept running and slipping and then not quite sure if he should laugh or cry.  He took cue from the girls and immediately started giggling.  The splashing and giggling continued for the next couple of hours.  

Being the aunt I find it my job to spoil my nieces and nephews so we of course ended the evening with ice cream cones and thunderstorms on the front porch.

When my older sister had her first two children I didn't have my own so I really embraced getting to be an aunt and spoiled them.  When she had her youngest two, it was at the same time I was having my own and the four littles were raised kind of as siblings.  Instead of getting to spoil them, I got to love them like they were my own kids.  That takes away from some of the spoiling, because my sister and I just became second mamas to each others babies.  I am thankful that they have her for that and I am thankful for the relationship it gives me with her kids.  Now with my little sister's son, I feel like I get to go back to my spoiling aunt duties.  
The next day we met up with Amy and her daughter Graci at Lunch on the Lawn.  It was the first one of the year...they have food vendors and live music and kids activities.  It's a fun thing to go do in the middle of the week.  It was hot.  I don't ever like to complain about the heat because we get so little of it, but out there with no shade it got to me a little.  The kids didn't seem to notice...they're good like that.  They just enjoy.



We reluctantly had to let my sister have him back...he is such a good kid, I would have totally kept him.  Now that her family is moving back I look forward to a lot more time together.  

We were going to go camping this weekend...it's been so nice getting away on the weekends.  However, neither of us was feeling overly motivated this morning to actually do it and the weather forecast threatened rain, so we decided to stick around.  Totally worked out...we went to the Farmer's market and scored the coolest vintage dresser for our room...

 We've been looking for new furniture but decided we only wanted to get something that kinda spoke to us, not just something from a furniture store.  We have slowly been accumulating things.  Now we just have one more piece to replace in our room and we will have successfully gotten rid of all the hand me down furniture we have used over the use.  We'll officially be grown ups.  The other perk of staying home is tonight we get to have Amy and Chad and the kiddos over for a bar-b-q. We take advantage of the summer months of getting to see a lot of them and I am looking forward to it.  It kinda brings the family concept full circle.  Not only are we lucky to have such a close family, we also get to have friends who are like family to us.  Amy and I met in the 6th grade and that was it, I'd found my best friend and she has stayed securely in that spot since. We met Matt and Chad in college and the rest is history.  Through all the years, even when we haven't lived in the same city we've always stayed close.  It was amazing when Amy and I found out we were pregnant at the same time with our first babies and we have just meshed them all together.  They say friends are the family you get to pick and we picked us some good ones.
Last night we didn't get to do our usual date night because it is birthday season in my family so we had our second birthday party of the week to attend.  We both really look forward to these evenings, so I didn't want to miss out completely.  I knew we'd be doing dinner at the party so I told Matt we should skip the birthday cake and I'd make a yummy dessert and we could enjoy it with some wine and a little backyard fire.  We've been having a lot of ice cream and fruity desserts and I was having a chocolate craving like nobodies business.  Little sea salt brownie bites took care of that...

They were rich and ooey, gooey delicious...perfect compliment to a glass of red wine.  It's like the two were meant for each other really.  Here's the recipe...
Sea Salt Brownie Bites
-Pre-heat oven to 325-degrees and grease around 36 mini-muffin tins.  
-In a dutch oven or heat proof bowl sitting over simmering water, melt 2 sticks of butter.  Once it's melted stir in 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and 5 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)  Stir until it's all melted and mixed 

Let cool.  Stir in 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pure vanilla.  You will then need 3 eggs.  Whisk them in one at a time.  Stir in 3/4 cup cake flour.  Don't over mix.  Fill muffin tins and sprinkle with sea salt.  Cook for around 15-18 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for around 5 minutes.  Put in the freezer for around 10 minutes, then they will pop out of the tin easier but still be warm in the middle.  Try to just a eat one...bet you can't!!

Happy Weekend.

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