Monday, October 29, 2012

Party Time...Few Word, Lots of Pics!

This weekend we had our annual Halloween party and it was fun as usual.  I was trying to remember how this little tradition started...hosting this party, and thought it began when we first moved into this house around 9 years ago.  I then realized it began long before that.  In college when Amy and I were roommates we started having Halloween parties.  These weren't Halloween parties on the actual day with costumes and such.  They were always a girls night where our friends came to our cute little house, ate chili, drank wine and carved pumpkins.  Such fun memories.  
Anyways.  Back to the present, still lots of chili and wine...
Chow...










Festive Drinks...     

The best part is everyone dresses up.  This is my favorite of the whole party, seeing what costumes everyone comes up with.  My girls didn't want to wear their costumes they are planning on wearing for trick or treating this week, so they went to the dress up box and got creative.  Not too bad for thrown together or borrowed outfits.


And our guests...







I love having everyone over.  Something about being in costumes just puts everyone in a happy and festive mood.  After everyone had filled themselves with enough food it was time for some games for the kids.  Last year Ava had this fantastic idea to bob for apples at the party, but have the apples hanging from the ceiling.  This was a great game and there were a lot of laughs (especially Matt and I my brother in law taking a turn) However, I wanted something different this year.  Thanks to Pinterest I found the "Mummy" wrapping game.  It totally reminded me of the "make a toilet paper wedding dress" game I've played at many a bridal showers, but I thought we'd do this Halloween version.  Needless to say you give a kid a roll of toilet paper and they are gonna have some fun.  Make a mess, but have a lot of fun in the process...








Eight rolls of toilet paper later...



What could have been a disaster to have to clean up was actually quite easy as I told excited kids to grab handfuls and run it to the fire pit outside.  Turns out kids don't mind cleaning up the mess if it means they get to have a bonfire along with it.  Since everyone was outside at this point we decided to do the pumpkin scavenger hunt.  Or in this years case, the buttercup squash scavenger hunt.  We ended up with a ton of these in our garden which we didn't know we were growing.  I wanted to save the few pumpkins we actually did grow for pumpkin pie and bread and such, so I passed the squash off as green pumpkins and sent the kids into the backyard on the hunt.  Thank you unpredictable Montana weather for cooperating and giving us a lovely fall evening for this event.










They may not be pumpkins, but they make nice decorations.  I may even attempt to cook one, just not sure yet.  We decided to take advantage of the nice evening and take a walk up to the creepy house.  This is a house in our neighborhood that always puts the best Halloween decorations out.  Last year the kids kept wanting to go trick or treat there so they could see it, but we didn't make it that far.  (It takes a couple hours to just go a couple blocks when you are stopping at Every. Single. House. along the way)  The party seemed like the perfect night to take them all there.  Kim kept saying we were going on a field trip....a creepy field trip.



Once back at the house it was time for kiddos to wind down so I settled them in for a Halloween movie and then it was time to say good night.



Our parties may not last until the wee hours anymore, but I like what they have evolved into.  Family and friends together just having a good time.  Nothing fancy, just simple fun.  After the party and clean up is over I always feel like Halloween should be done.  But, no.  We still have more costumes, class parties and trick or treating to do.  I promise I'll just mention Halloween once more next time and then I'll tuck it all away and move onto the next holiday. Tis the season.

Have a happy Halloween week.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Traditions.

Introducing our pumpkin family...

We are full into the swing of Halloween things and this should continue until the actual day of the holiday next Wednesday.  After that I will be completely over it and already plan on taking all signs of Halloween down on Thursday.  This is how I am about holidays.  I get very into it, excited and do it all out and then just as fast I get totally over it and put it all away until the following year.  As you can see from the final products above, this week began with pumpkin carving! 


Each year the help the girls need with these sorts of activities lessens.  It makes it all so much more enjoyable because it doesn't feel as much like work.  Not that I ever considered it work...it's just a little harder when you try to carve pumpkins with a toddler and they are into it for the first five minutes and then you end up carving pumpkins the rest of the evening on your own.  I enjoy these school age kids that scrape out the guts on their own and create their own Jack-o-Lanterns...


Layla has been working on her "scream" face


The one thing I miss from when they were younger and Halloween?  Ava calling pumpkins punkins...especially when she wanted to go "punkin hunking"  Oh, the cutest thing you ever heard...right?  

Onto more Halloween festivities.  The year of Ava's first Halloween I felt compelled to buy pumpkin and bat cookie cutouts even though she was only seven months old.  I just knew there would be years of cookie making with them and for the past seven years that is exactly what has happened.  A couple years ago I stumbled across the BEST sugar cookie recipe ever.  As my brother-in-law calls them...crack cookies.  Yes, they are that good.  I think it's the maple syrup in them that really steps it up a notch.  Last night the girls and I got deep into cookie making and decorating and sampling...

It's funny I've never expanded on the cookie cutter collection...it is always just pumpkins and bats every year.  You'd think I'd throw some ghosts or witches in the mix.  Nope...two cookie cutters is all we need.  Keep things simple.



This weekend is our annual Halloween party with my family.  I'm not sure when it started, but it seems like for many, many years we have had a party around Halloween.  It has changed over the years...the first time at our current house included a lot of bloody mary's, shots and craziness (this was pre kids, of course) and now have grown into a more family friendly affair.  Everyone still dresses up and there are festive cocktails, however these things are balanced out with pumpkin scavenger hunts and games for the kids, yummy homemade food and pumpkin pie fresh from the pumpkins from our garden.  (I wonder how many times I can say pumpkin in one post?)

I'm going to end with a totally random happy from the week...nothing to do with Halloween.  Catching my baby girl in a moment like this...


Last year I decided instead of printing photos and putting them in photo albums, I would make a photo book.  I was very happy with the results, so am doing the same thing this year.  It takes a lot of work.  I take a lot of pictures and sorting them all, deleting bad ones, organizing them into a book like fashion takes a lot of time and patience.  So far, for this year I'm on page 70 and with the holidays coming I'm sure I'll hit 100 pages.  Seeing Layla grab the photo book from last year, sit down in the chair and go through and "read" it with her own version of events while she doesn't know anyone is listening is absolutely priceless.  It is worth every moment of my time making sure these memories are documented.  

Until next time, happy Halloween's eve's, eve's, eve's, eve's, eve...does that put us to Wednesday?!



Monday, October 22, 2012

Yellowstone!

This past weekend we took the girls to Yellowstone National Park for the first time.  I have many memories of going there as a kid.  Some are good memories of seeing the wildlife and Old Faithful and some are of being totally bored on family trips.  The latter of course are more from the teen years.  I remember one trip in particular when my family went with some friends for New Years to snowmobile through the park.  In full teenage form I pouted this entire trip because I was missing a friends slumber party.  (I have pictures to prove this fact)  As an adult I see how silly that was...what did I think my parents were going to say, "Oh, Angie's upset...let's take her home so she can make that slumber party"  Yea, that didn't happen.  Now, as a parent I was so excited to take my girls there to see it for the first time because it's just what you do when you have a national park practically in your back yard.  Ava was also excited to see all the geysers (not sure if she knew exactly what that meant).  I think Layla was expecting swings and a slide.  Regardless, Saturday morning we loaded the car, met up with our bestest friends and hit the road to play tourist and see the sites.


I haven't been to the park in years, but it all comes back to you.  I think you appreciate the beauty and science of it so much more when you are older.  It's crazy all the hot pots, geysers and colors. (That's my very scientific description of the sights)




One thing you never forget about Yellowstone is the sulphur smell, that took me right back to childhood trips there.  So funny watching Layla plug her nose saying it smelt like "stinky pinky underpants"  It was chilly there, kinda felt like we stepped into winter.  I was happy I had thrown in hats and gloves.  Luckily the rain seemed to go slow to a drizzle every time we got out to walk around.  And, speaking of lucky we made it to Old Faithful just in time to see it erupt.  It used to erupt more frequently but because of earthquakes it's not quite as reliable.  You can get there and end up having to wait a couple hours before the next one goes off.  We got there just in time to find a place in the crowd, waited about ten minutes and saw the show...


Rare family photo...maybe we got our holiday card!
I was surprised how busy it is there now.  I swear when we were kids we would have the place to ourselves, this day we couldn't even find a bench to sit down to view it.  Crazy. After a quick picnic in the car (they really could use some better restaurants in the park, just sayin), we started to make our way back out.  I was so happy that we took a detour to find the Firehole Falls, that was probably my favorite and not something I remembered seeing before.  It is a beautiful water fall, I just kind of stared at it in awe...

By the afternoon the kids were getting over it, so we said good bye to the park and headed back to West Yellowstone where we would be staying for the evening.  But first, we stopped for refreshments, aka milkshakes, at Eagles...

The park was great, but there was still more fun to be had.  We stayed in a great little condo that had a fantastic pool for the kids, a definite highlight for them.  In fact, when we asked the kids what their favorite part of the park was, all answered Old Faithful, except Layla who replied "swimming".  We put spaghetti sauce on to simmer, threw on suits and took our little fish down to the pool.  I often wonder how long they would stay in the pool if we never made them get out.  That evening and in the morning we spent well over a hour at the pool and still got whines when we gave ten minute warnings before we left.  Back at our room we were met with the delicious smell of dinner and a warm cozy room, thanks to Matt cranking the heat to full blast.  The rest of the evening went a little like this...

PJ's, crafts and movies for the kiddos-


Cooking, drinks and games for the adults-




It was so cozy, all of us tucked in to the condo for the evening in the quaint little town of West.  Lots of laughs, lots of fun.  We woke the next morning to howling wolves, not something you get to hear everyday.  Breakfast, more swimming and then we took our tired selves home.  I think all the kids best summed up the weekend as they all whined when we were leaving that they wished we could stay longer and asking if we could do it again.  Yes, I believe we will have to do it again.  Thank you Frasers...it was an awesome weekend...

Enjoy your week!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

All Things Pinterest

I dabbled into the Pinterest world a few months ago.  I found it fun to explore new ideas, recipes, crafts, design, fashion...and organize it on your very own virtual bulletin board. Kinda takes you back to high school where you would cut things out of magazines that you liked and pin them to an actual bulletin board, collage style.  Now that I have it at my fingertips thanks to my phone, I have become a little more addicted to Pinterest.  I find myself scrolling through when I have a few minutes as I wait to pick up kids from school, tv commercials, etc.  Earlier this week as I was looking through stuff I had pinned I started to wonder what's the point of pinning all these things if you don't actually use them?  I decided to experiment with this and vowed to make only meals from recipes I had found through Pinterest and have the girls do some of the crafts I had pinned and forgotten about.  I believe it was a success.  (Except for the night I had a dream I was just endlessly scrolling down through Pinterest...that made me think I needed to maybe back off a bit.)  Anyway...here was my week of Pinterest.  I think I'll do a list because I love me some lists.

1.  Homemade Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons...

I still have a massive amount of tomatoes to use so this made the most sense to start our week with.  I made an attempt at tomato soup a couple years ago.  I had found a recipe in one of my fashion magazines and it sounded good.  What we ended up with was about a shot glass size worth of soup each.  (maybe since it was in a fashion magazine it was model food portions?)  Because of this I was a little leery about trying again, but the recipe I found this time did not disappoint.  It was tomato basil, so easy to make and made enough to leave leftovers for a couple days lunches.  Success.

2.  Mac and Cheese Quinoa...
I use quinoa a lot because I think it's a super food.  Also because of our mainly vegetarian diet I like to add protein where I can.  I pinned this one awhile ago and was the most excited to try it.  Ava took one bit and said it was the best mac and cheese she had ever had.  I think I have had better mac, but it was good.  This one will go in the recipe book to make again for sure.

3.  Fall Craft for the kiddos...
I was so glad to find this one on my board of Craft/Kid Ideas just in time for Fall!  The kids didn't have school on Thursday and Friday so what better way to spend a day off than with cousins crafting?  It started as them making these adorable Fall trees using q-tips and paint, and turned into a full on craft afternoon.  It's amazing how creative these kids are.  After trees were down, there were pumpkins being made, abstract art and some things I'm not even sure of.  My sister and I have always done crafts with these kids since they were little  (pudding painting is still one of my favorite memories with them all) and now that they are all older it is that much easier to do with them.  And, so fun to see where it takes them

4.  Maple Whiskey Bacon Cupcakes.
This was obviously not one I pinned, but seeing as it's a PInterest recipe and this is all things Pinterest I thought I should include it.  Earlier this week was Boss Day so my two co-workers had this idea that we should make these for our boss.  One of them had found it on Pinterest.  So, we got together one evening, shared a bottle of black bubbles and made these beauties.  They were a hit.  I am not a whiskey or a bacon fan, but of course had to try a bite.  I never in a million years would think bacon would be good on a dessert (or on anything really) but I have to say it was very good.

5.  Caprese Sandwiches and Melt in Your Mouth Potatoes...
This sandwich was probably my favorite of the week.  How can you not love the lovely combination of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil?  Then top it off with pesto??  Mmmmmmmm, is all I can say.  Not a very date like dinner, yet absolutely the perfect at home date night dinner.  

I enjoyed my week of Pinterest and really like that I actually used so many of the ideas and recipes of things I see and randomly pin.  There are some creative ideas out there and I like the inspiration I get from it.    All the recipes and the craft above you can find on my Pinterest page here.  

Now it's time to wrap it up and hit the road.  We are off to Yellowstone with friends and I can't wait!  Happy Weekend.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Pie and Weekend Things...

Last week I made pumpkin bread for the first time.  It will not be the last.



My relationship with all things pumpkin was not love at first sight.  In fact if you would have asked me two years ago if I wanted a slice of pumpkin pie or some pumpkin bread I would have said "no thank you" while making a gagging noise.  I had no idea how anyone could think that mushy texture could be considered a decent dessert.  Things began to change last fall when we ended up with a couple dozen pumpkins in our garden.  Matt had not planted them.  Our Jack-o-lanterns from the previous Halloween had ended up in the compost pile and from that we got pumpkins.  Around that same time someone in Ava's kindergarten class brought in pumpkin pie and she came home declaring we just had to make some because it was soooo good.  Trying to be a good parent I refrained from my usual gagging noise that accompanies pumpkin pie talk and said "sure, why not?"  (Parenting is so good at helping you grow up and be a good example for some things)  I did a little recipe research, found out how to cook a pumpkin to get the insides usable and viola, I made my first pumpkin pie that didn't come out of a can.  What I found out is, I actually do quite enjoy pumpkin pie.  The problem had never been pumpkin...it was the processed can of pumpkin mush that I had used before.  I made three more pumpkin pies that year and loved them all.  So did the family, especially Ava.  This year we intentionally grew pumpkins and I was so excited to use them again for baking.  I'll save the pie making for Halloween and Thanksgiving, but wanted to do something.  Pumpkin bread it was.  And, if I thought last years pies were the start of my relationship with pumpkins, the bread just bumped us up to serious.  The recipe I used is one of my go-to food blogs, Simply Recipes, and you can find it here.  You just have to be sure to use fresh pumpkin, no cans!!  (for my pumpkin puree I slice it in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, bake face down on a baking sheet for around 45 minute at 350-degrees.  Scoop out the pulp and puree in a food processor)  I wouldn't choose a slice of pumpkin pie over chocolate cheesecake, but I no longer gag at the thought of it.

We rocked a little Friday fun last week with the cousins.  I grabbed the girls from school and we beat the school bus to my sisters so we got to meet Greg and Kim at the bus stop.  The kids ran to each other for huge hugs as if they hadn't seen each other in months.  As I watched them all racing back to the house, giggling and chattering I couldn't help but feel so content.  Maybe because they have all been such a part of each others life since the day they were all born, I just feel very complete when they are together.


Once at their house we made fruit smoothies for snack, then they were off to play and my sister and I just got to chat and catch up.  Love that and love smoothie mustaches...




Sometimes I think about what it would be like if we had more kids and a big crazy family.  With both girls in school I sometimes think if we had one or two more it wouldn't be as sad adjusting to them both gone all day.  Then, I think how much I adore the dynamic of our family of four.  And we get the big crazy family feeling when we are with all of my big crazy family.  They get to be with cousins like they are siblings so in a way we get the best of both worlds.  Okay...I have to stop the family talk cuz I think I've been freaking Matt out about babies lately.  I really am good with the way things are...I think I just need to snuggle a little baby, get it out of my system.  Sigh.

I started the weekend out by declaring that I was not going to make breakfast on Saturday morning and we were going out.  Everyone threw on clothes and we headed out.  There's this tiny little restaurant on the edge of town that several years ago Matt and I heard about and tried to go to a couple times.  It never worked out because they have weird hours and we couldn't find it the first time and then they closed for awhile.  Last week a co-worker mentioned it so I started thinking about it again.  I looked online and there was no website, but there were a few reviews saying how good the food was and that it was a great place for locals.  Maybe it was because we had never managed to make it there and as a local (native, no less) I really thought I needed to try it.  We managed to snag one of the few tables inside and had a fantastic breakfast.  The girls banana bread french toast was like dessert, the service was no nonsense friendly and we all enjoyed the funky atmosphere as well as the list of rules on the back of the menu.  (such as...lick your forks clean so we don't have to do as much or you don't have to clean your plate cuz we'll feed the scraps to the chickens.  My personal favorite-you don't need a spoon, use your fork to stir your coffee)  Good stuff.

With very full bellies we decided to take a little nature walk and enjoy the changing colors of the season.  There's a trail right in town that is perfect for just that.  It also happens to have two of my favorite trees ever.  They are huge and have these twisted gnarly trunks, perfect for climbing on.  I just love them.





As we crossed the bridge on the trail we noticed someone has been painting some murals on them.  It reminded me of the post the girls and I painted in our yard this summer...a little bit of color to brighten someones day.



We have a bench in our backyard that is just begging for some color.  Next summer, that will be on our project list.  

Today was the last soccer games for the girls.  It has been a fun season.  I asked both girls this morning if they were sad or excited that soccer was going to be over.  Layla said sad, Ava said excited.  That pretty much sums up the season.  Layla was very into it and always eager for practice and games.  Ava was not quite as eager, but I think she still enjoyed it.  She had a good team with a great coach and I think she learned a lot.  Soccer just may not be her thing and that is fine with me.  I think the award she received at the end summed it up best...
"Most Improved and Super Attitude"  That is one of Ava's greatest qualities...her positive attitude.  She is full of smiles and such a happy, kind girl.  Layla's team didn't do awards, but if they did I would give her the rockstar award because even though she wasn't the most aggressive kid on the team, she got after it.  I'd give her that and messiest fudgesicle eater...

To top off what was a pretty awesome weekend we had a pizza night.  I have been trying to add tomatoes to most meals because they are turning red faster than we can eat them.     I remembered a pizza I had made awhile ago that only had roasted tomatoes for a topping.  Perfect way to use up a bunch of them and it is such a nice, light pizza.

I roast the tomatoes first with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  (10 minutes in a 500-degree oven)  The pizza is so simple...drizzle the dough with olive oil, top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Put the tomatoes on top, season with s&p and some fresh basil.  Bake for 10 minutes more and enjoy.  

This week is a short week for the kiddos...they get Thursday and Friday off which will be so nice.  Then we get to go to West Yellowstone with the Frasers for the weekend and I am so, so excited!!  We tried to do this last spring, take the kids to the park and stay in her parents time share, however a big snowstorm had other plans and we had to cancel.  We have finally made it work and I can't wait.  A whole weekend with our best friends, taking the girls to see Old Faithful for the first time and just getting out of town.  Good times will be had.

Have a happy week...I leave you with some sunshine