Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sun, Sand, and Splash Pads

With the weather heating up here, the kids were in need of a little vacation time. But with a backyard remodel in full swing, what is a mom to do?

This mom channeled her inner Tim Gunn and decided to "make it work".

Sunshine fun? No shortage of that here.

Stylish little lady, stylish!

Sand for castle building and excavating? Check!

Great way to reuse the dirt we removed while leveling the pool area.

Splash pad for hours of cool off fun? You got it little man!

Gabriel decided to put his lawnmower on top of a sprinkler

"Mom, you have to try this!"
While I know this doesn't look stylish, we accomplished exactly what we wanted. All of us outside enjoying the summer together. In a month the remodel will be done, and they will have a perfectly manicured area to play in. For now I will let them enjoy(safely) a little dirt, a little mess, and a lot of sunshine.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why I Can Never Get a Manicure

Once, long ago, my biggest chore was the once weekly deep scrubbing of our little one bedroom apartment. Three hours of intense cleaning to my Dido: No Angel cd and our little nest was sparkling clean and smelling like whichever candle I had going. 

Fast forward three years, one fixer upper house, a teenage brother and two babies. Somedays all the pecan praline candles in the world cannot mask the dust on the bookshelves, piles of laundry to be put away, and the miscellaneous piles of power tools strewn around the house. 
It's not only the house that takes a backseat to pristine when we have projects going on. In fact, I think the littles are the only ones in this house to get fresh non painted on clothing and a bath on a daily basis. Super mom here.

While I wouldn't trade my life for anything, I do sometimes get so caught up in a goal that I forget myself into it. I sacrifice my down time or relaxed time with my husband to push through another house project deadline, or crafting obsession. 

Most times I feel no harm in it. I am enjoying myself, my kids are not being neglected, why not? But weeks like this where one seemingly straight forward ambition (install above ground pool) becomes an avalanche of headaches, I look around my home and see the temporary cost.  Messy desk here, clean laundry piles there, a kitchen floor in need of sweeping and a kids bedroom full of toys to be put away. I think of the moments my husband and I could have been connecting over something other than what size we want to make our deck posts.

Don't you just love my nail treatment? Black rubber leak sealant. Stylish.

While my husband and I enjoy doing these projects together, and our son always gets excited watching mommy and daddy use tools (little man busts out his tool set right along side us), I know there are times we need to step back and regroup.

So tonight I am choosing laundry over deck building, mopping over pool cleaning, doing puzzles with my kids over making concrete forms in the yard, and snuggling up on the sofa with my husband over yard work by flood light.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What We Are Eating Wednesday

As usual, projects that were supposed to take a week have stretched into two weeks worth of work. At least we get to enjoy some delicious meals while we sweat it out doing manual labor in the summer heat.

One of the highlights of our dinners last week was this Chobani Maxc and Cheese. Not only did I find it delicious and creamy, but it was the first non Kraft mac and cheese my husband liked. And believe me, I have made that man MANY homemade mac and cheese recipes.

Grilled turkey dogs, watermelon, corn on the cob

Island chicken with grilled bell pepper/pineapple kabobs
Lofthouse style Greek yogurt cookies

Apple/gouda chicken sausage tossed with olive oil and penne pasta, and salad

Whole wheat spaghetti with turkey meatballs

Whole wheat pancakes with bacon and bell pepper scramble

Crock pot chicken cheese steak sandwiches and tater tots

Grilled chicken with baked sweet potatoes and salad

Next week we have Fourth of July, and I cannot wait to spend a whole day with the family, gorging on delicious food, with not a single home project in sight.

Monday, June 25, 2012

DIY Backyard Landscaping

Around here nearly everything we do is DIY. We do this because we love to use our hands to build our home and put our touch on our lives. In addition to doing most everything ourselves, we also like to do things on a very tight timeline. We do this because we are crazy confident.

Our latest time crunch project revolves around my amazing sister-in-law. She is currently baking the newest addition to the family, a little bubba love due in October. So when this darling, amazing, wonderful lady asked us if she could have her baby shower here, of course we said yes!

Only problem? Our yard is not really dressed for company.

See what I mean? A whole lot of dirt, weeds, and random construction leftovers. 

At first we had small remodeling thoughts. "Hey, let's just add the concrete supports to the swing set so the kids coming to the shower can play on it without it wobbling." But then, like always, our thought pattern went like this:

If we are going to anchor the swingset, we should add playground mulch
If we are going to add the playground mulch, we need to put in a concrete curb to hold it back
If we are putting in a concrete curb, we should weed, level, and put gravel under the trampoline
If we are weed spraying that area, we should weed spray the whole yard.....

And on, and on it goes. Now our project encompasses sod, sprinkler system, new fire pit (bigger!better!square!), and oh this bad boy....

Please pardon our mess. 

A big-blue-pool. We had talked about eventually getting an above ground pool. But when I happened along this big guy on Craigslist, we couldn't help ourselves. It's  9'x19', and 52" deep. Big enough for all the floaty and pool noodles our family needs. 

We didn't even let our small borrowed truck stop us from taking the pool and it's bonus deck home.

the hubbs and my glorious mother-in-law

"They loaded up their truck, and they moved to Beverly. Hills that is."

Of course, buying a used pool means you have to set it up quickly. The longer it sits, the more likely the seams are to rot out. 

That would be why we were working by flood lights until midnight getting our area level and the pool set up. Turns out the area we wanted to put the pool had a slight slope. Slight, as in the right area by the trampoline was 4" higher then the left side. As you can't add dirt to the low side to level it out(the weight of the pool will just compress it down again) you have to put the work in and scrap out the high spots. The pool area is 13' x 23', which means there was a whole lot of scrapping going on.

Me, dragging a 2x4 with an attached level to scrap down the high spots

I wish I could say this is a rarity for us. But the truth is we are somewhat notorious for late night, back breaking, time crunch projects. Thus our reputation for being insane ambitious. But we always find a logic to our madness. And our loving family always steps up to help us. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her boyfriend were all out there digging out the dirt, cursing the stupid 4" grade difference, and laughing at the endless silliness that comes with exhaustion. We are really so very blessed to have them.

Now the big blue bohemith is sitting in our yard, almost full of water. We have to buy a few hose connecters tomorrow, and then the pump will be running, and the salt water system will be up and going.  The deck we got with the pool is getting a bit of a make over, and will be up this week too. It will be nice for the little man to have a water source to play in other than our sprinklers (which, incidentally only water weeds).

Our sweet little man enjoying sprinkler sprayed trampoline jumping. It's an official sport.

Now my sister-in-law will be able to enjoy a relaxing baby shower in a place she can be proud of.  After all, there are only a million projects left to do in the next three weeks. That's is totally doable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What We Are Eating Wednesday

This week is filled with landscaping projects. Combine that with the warm weather and the hubbs working four nights this week, and we get a heavy dependance on crockpot meals.

Brinner - scrambled eggs w/ bell peppers, bacon, whole wheat blueberry pancakes (recipe soon)

Crock pot french dip sandwiches on homemade rolls, watermelon
*will double the roll recipe and make 1/2  hoagie style, 1/2 bun style

Chobani mac & cheese w/ salad

Crockpot sloppy joes, homemade rolls, sweet potato fries, watermelon

Crockpot ziti, french bread, salad

Vegetable pizza on homemade crust with homemade pizza sauce

Grilled maple chicken, crockpot baked beans, mixed veggies

Next week we will be able to put my husband's new grill to use. Time to bust out my marinades!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yard Sale - AKA Haggling Over .50

I have stuff. Boxes and boxes of stuff. Some good, some great, and some I would pay you to take. Seriously.

It has become a Saturday morning tradition around here to have a good ol' fashion yard sale. My lovely sister in law is expecting baby number two, and her eagerness to clear out her place in preparation lit a fire under my tush to do the same. So for three weeks now we have been getting up ridiculously early and hauling out the boxes.

I have to say it feels good. Really, really good. My little family has collected so much misc. stuff over the last few years. Not that we are hoarders (do all hoarders say that?), our lives have just been so tumultuous we have either a.) accumulated family member hand me downs b.) never had time to go through things c.) I have been to sentimentally attached to let it go.

Well my friends we are letting it all go. And besides the slight monetary gain every Saturday (Pizza and beer money, yay!) I have been gaining some much needed emotional release. Doesn't hurt that it has given my sister-in-law and I some quality time.

So here's to yard sales. May we one day have no baggage (physically or emotionally) left to haggle over.

Our snack station. Coffee, cookies, chips, soda. 
Although I think the helpers ate more cookies than we sold.

Friday, June 15, 2012

When Mom's Away...

During his nap time, the little man somehow used his super toddler ninja skills to get the door knob cover off his door and escape. Dad was napping and I was outside, providing a prime mischief opportunity. In the few minutes of freedom he enjoyed, he gave me a small heart attack and found a treasure trove of sugar. Please enjoy the results of his extreme climbing abilities. I swear he will be a parkour guy someday.

Please excuse the dishes. We had spent all morning making cookies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This Little Dough Went to Market....

Ok, technically not to market. Unless you count hugs, kisses, and groans of satisfied contentment as payment. Which I kind of do. Then I suppose my kitchen is Meg's Marketplace.

Tonight's meal plan was bbq chicken on home made rolls. I have been searching for forever (maybe a little less than that) for the perfect wheat bun. Instead I felt like Goldy locks. This bun is to hard. This bun is too soft. Finally my friends, my buns are just right (snicker, snicker).

The basis for this recipe came from somewhere. I found it a few months ago while researching Portuguese milk rolls. However, due to lack of forethought on my part I didn't write down where I found the original recipe. Bad, bad, bad Megan. Until I can track the owner down, please accept my measly wheat version. Which is also darn delicious.

Wheat Milk Buns

1 1/2 cups white wheat flour (this is a much finer version of whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 T yeast
1 cup warm milk (I use 1%)
1 teaspoon salt
3 T sugar
2 T melted butter

1. Proof yeast in warm milk for 10 minutes.

2. While that is doing it's thing, mix together flours, salt, and sugar. 

3. Combine the yeast mixture with the dry ingredients. Add melted butter.

4. Mix until a loose sticky ball is formed.

5. Pour onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled container, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.

6. Divide dough into eight sections, and roll into balls. Place in greased baking dish, cover, and let rise until doubled.

I made a double batch. Half for tonight, half for the freezer.

7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Once risen, bake buns for 12-15 minutes. They will be lightly golden and have a hallow sound when flicked.

That's it!! Enjoy your scrumptious, soft, and whole wheat buns for burgers, shredded beef or chicken sandwiches, baked chicken breast, you name it!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What We Are Eating Wednesday

Wednesday is grocery day in this house. Or, as my toddler sees it "sample all fruits and vegetables in the store" day. Luckily he is cute and our produce department is patient. Otherwise the kid would be scrubbing floors to pay for the many bitten apples and munched on leaves of lettuce.

Wednesday is the only day of the week hubs is home all day, so lately I have been leaving Mr. Produce Sampler at home while I head out to bargain hunt a weeks supply of nutrients for the family. Thinking of it that way makes me wonder if I should always buy chips. But I digress.

Here is the meal plan for the upcoming week.

Bell pepper, olive, and pepperoni pizza on homemade crust

Crock pot shredded BBQ chicken on homemade rolls, sweet potato fries, and salad

Roasted bell pepper, garlic and spinach pasta

Chicken fajitas on homemade tex mex tortillas, with Spanish brown rice

Sunday - Father's Day
Breakfast - diced home potatoes w/ bell peppers, scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes
Bean and cheese burritos on leftover homemade tex mex tortillas, with Spanish brown rice

Scrambled egg sandwiches with  cherries and tangerines

Belated Father's Day Dinner - Steak, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, salad
Blueberry Boston cream pie for dessert

When it comes to meal plans I have a few general guidelines I try to follow.

At lease one night of no meat a week. 
Not only does this save us money, but it is also healthier for us.

No complicated meals on single parent nights.
 I always try to be aware of what nights the hubby is working and plan a simple meal.

Meals need to be big enough for both dinner and lunches the next day. 
This keeps the kids and I from living off of pb&j's, and hubby from eating fast food.

Whenever possible, make it healthy. 
I try to make our food from scratch using whole grains and low sugar. 
While we try our best to be healthy, don't be fooled. We still hit up the pizza place and get McDonald's french fries (so tasty) at least a few times a month. But if I am going to be cooking, I figure I might as well come up with something a little better for us.

That's the plan for this week. Let's hope it is a successful meal adventure.