Monday, October 31, 2011

Ooey Gooey Goodness

So... it's honestly been a DECADE (or more!) since either Jonathan or I have carved a pumpkin. We're real up on our fall traditions, can ya tell?! Considering that our girls have been enthralled with the numerous pumpkins on our vernadah for the past month... we thought it was time we dusted off the ole' carving skills (or lack there of!) and had a family fun night!

As a child, my favorite thing about pumpkin carving was removing the ooey gooey pumpkin inerds!

Alia was all for it... 

... but Larren was more than skeptical! She didn't think reaching her hand into a giant orange hole and pulling out slimy seeds was too high on her priority list... and really, who can blame her?!?! (Yes... she did her hair all by herself!)

Did I mention that we haven't carved pumpkins in a really, really long time? And that neither of us have very high artistic genes?! Thus the reason for a stencil! :)

And masking tape just ups the fun factor for the kiddos, right?!

Jon was first up to take a stab at the kitten... umm... yeah, ya may not wanna think on that visual too long!!

Then the massive pregnant lady took a turn.

And surprisingly, it was quite relaxing... I wanted to keep on adding to the kitty cat...

... but it all goes back to that lack of artistic ability thing!

Jon and Alia did some fine tuning...

... and then it was time to do the official candle lighting!

Alia ran around the house, turning off all the lights so we could get a better look... which resulted in our youngest little lady falling off her chair. So we moved it outside to get the same effect with less risk of head injuries!

The girls were most pleased... and now the little meow-meow is ready to greet the 3 trick-or-treaters that come to our door! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

If it's a Little "Too Quiet"...

... and we haven't seen Larren in awhile... we now know where to look!

Her play kitchen has become her favorite new reading spot!

The only trouble is the dismount. Her little bum fits in the sink perfectly and can become somewhat wedged on occasion.

On those days when the dishes seem to pile up and the sink is "calling my name", I've been tempted to take Larren's approach. Leave the dishes as they are and simply sink down (ha!) with a good book. But I gotta be honest... I'm pretty sure wedging would be a concern, and my dismount struggle just wouldn't be nearly as cute as Larren's!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mi Casa Update

Several of you have asked how our house search is going, so I figured why not just update ya'll at the same time! If you're ready to READ (sorry, no pics on this one!) than dive on in. And if this looks rather long and boring to you... well, I understand! :)

Before we got married Jon bought an acre of land in a small community then moved an old farmhand's house onto it. Though this is FAR from common practice in Ohio, it's actually done pretty often up here. I guess it's that whole "don't let a good thing go to waste" mentality put into action! The house was put on a new basement and we spent the first year (who am I kidding... TWO years!) renovating the house from top to bottom. We're not talking a couple coats of paint either! Envision lath and plaster, dry walling, plumbing, wiring, wood shavings (which was what our house had for insulation), new insulation (and lots of it!), flooring, trim, siding, windows, paint, etc. and you get the picture! Our intention was to live here for two years (TOPS!) then find a bigger place. Sounds easy enough, right?

Well... 6 years of marriage and 2+1 kids later, we're still here! We have been actively looking for a different place for the last 3 years. No stone has been left un-turned type looking. BUT... we have a very specific list of what we want, we're not willing to settle for less than God has for us, and we have not felt God's release on any property thus far. Except ONE.

When we first moved to this community I wasn't the most impressed. I mean there's nothing fancy about it... at all. It's a 5 minute drive to town (which believe it or not, people here actually contemplate if they want to MAKE THE DRIVE to come see us... can you Ohio-ians believe that? It's ridiculous...) and we were the newbies in a community where people stay "forever". I thought it would be NO problem to move on without looking back. Turns out that's not the case.

The truth is, I have fallen in love with our little community. I have ZERO desire to move to town and even less of a desire to head east to the "big city" surroundings. It's safe here, the people are friendly without being nosy, everybody knows everybody but not every bodies business, some of our closest friends (our MB family, we call them!) live here, and we LOVE not having traffic, noise, or too many people to deal with! Of the current options before us, I simply want to stay HERE the most.  And that's where the problem comes in. No one moves away from this community. I take that back... one 80 year old lady moved to town to be closer to her family in the whole time we've lived here. So yeah, turnover is low to say the least!

We heard rumor that a family was wanting to move to town and talked to them about buying their place. As soon as we looked at their house both Jon and I felt that it was the one. We had complete peace about it, we were willing to wait for it, we felt God's head nod of approval... and so our search was "over"... kind of. We kept looking at other options, but arrows constantly pointed back to the "Z place". Their plan was to move to town by this winter, and our plan was to renovate their house ('cause boy oh boy did it need it!) and then put our house on the market after the renos were complete. We had verbal yes's, but they still needed to find a place before all the puzzle pieces could fit together. Over the summer we got more and more excited and couldn't wait to check back with them this fall. And sadly enough... that's when they broke the news to us, that after much searching they had decided to stay put. They too felt like our community was the best option.

It honestly took me a few days of grieving to get over that one. I was so angry with the Lord for "not providing." We had waited for almost TWO YEARS for this place, just to have the door slammed shut. But... after a while of wrestling and growing I have been reminded of a couple of things...

1. God has a plan for us that is GOOD and it's timed PERFECTLY

2. The Lord gave us a specific list of what we needed to do before we could find a new place... and all those items have been slowly checked off. We have been obedient ... and obedience is better than sacrifice. (1 Sam. 15:22) We have done what we can do and it's often in the waiting that depth and growth can occur!

3. As believers we feel that we are to live BELOW our means and that debt is not God's plan for His children. We refuse to go for more than the number God has given us... and even in this crazy high priced market, we are fully confident that God will honor the decision we've made to live in freedom.

So... all this means that we will be spending another winter in our little cozy abode. Not only will our current four be getting close and comfy, but we'll be adding a fifth member to the fun! At first that thought overwhelmed me, but God has really brought me to a place of peace. We have made small changes to make this house work better for all of us, we've tried utilizing every inch of space available, and we've chosen to be THANKFUL for what we do have instead of what we don't! Like the the lack of a dishwasher!! :)

We haven't stopped our house hunt, per say... but we're definitely more content to be where we are until God gives us a very clear sign to do otherwise. Yes, we're bursting at the seams... but "love grows in small houses" right?!

So there ya have it... at this point you still know where to find us. And just a plug... our house may be small but visitors are always welcome! Just think of our house as a hotel suite... minus the maid service! :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hoping for Winter

At bedtime tonight the words "I really hope winter comes tomorrow..." came out of my daughter's mouth! MY daughter, can you believe it?! It's crazy that my offspring can even concoct such thoughts... but I do have to factor into the equation who her father is! And there's no doubt in my mind that she got more of "his Canadian" than "my American!" 

We got Alia a new snowmobiling hat and after modeling it for Daddy, I think the wheels in her mind starting turning!

She remembered the distinct sound of the snowmobile, the feel of gliding over snowdrifts at a rip roaring pace, flying through the air at the "snow mountains", the welcomed warmth of the house after a long ride, the gallons and gallons of hot chocolate consumed in one winter season...

... and then she started reminding her sister!!

Yeah, it's a lost cause. I'm officially out numbered by the winter lovers in our house. All hopes of moving to a WARM climate are dashed... no matter how much hot chocolate I promise! :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pickin' & Pressin'

Back in Ohio my grandparents have a lovely fruit orchard. Come fall it's a family tradition to congregate for some homemade soup, an evening of apple picking, and possibly the occasional apple fight! We stand in the back of trucks, on ladders, on ladders IN the back of trucks, on buckets, on tractors... you name it... whatever it takes to get the job done! We all know what the final product will be, so we just keep pick picking away! Next it's on to the apple press to make some of the BEST cider known to man!! Our wedding happened to be after picking & pressing time so we were blessed to serve some of G & G's yummy cider to our guests. Even after all these years, people still comment on how tasty it was!

My family is generous enough to save a gallon or two for when we visit... but this year we thought we'd try bringing a "taste of home" to the north! 

First off... pick the apples! 
This poor tree had an "owey" and one of the limbs was quite severed, so a portion of our apple picking was spent on our bums... sounds like hard work, I know!

We transported the apples to a farm family up the road to have them pressed. They typically only press for family and friends but were super generous when we asked if we could come give it a go!

Next, spread out the apples on a metal grate and give 'em a good hose down... and maybe the cat too, while you're at it!

After the apples are sparkling clean, they are brought over to the press and loaded into this wooden box. 

This is a two man job... one guy loads it up and the other guy cranks the wheel to chop up the apples.

Once the bucket is full of itty bitty apple pieces...

... it's time to press the juice out!

Mmmm.... slowly but surely each bucket is filled with sweet golden yumminess!

We simply put the cider into square plastic ice cream pails and then popped them straight into the freezer when we got home! 

Time to load, rinse and repeat the process... 

... with lots more apples!

Alia (and her baby, Blueberry Muffin) were self appointed foremen. They made sure everybody knew there was work to do and that there was no standing around for her crew! Though, by now she's quite used to seeing her mama with a little black box in front of her nose doing... pretty much nothing... so she let me get away with a less than desired workload!

It was getting dark and bedtime was quickly approaching... but the girls were SO eager & willing to help wherever they could! A little too eager, perhaps... a gallon of cider was lost when little Larren tried loading it in the box all by her lonesome. Her spirit was willing but her flesh was just too weak!

Sadly, this cider didn't hold a candle in the wind compared to G & G's! It happened to be on the tart/sour side of life... let's just say we've already learned a lesson in which apples are for pie making and which are for cider! We're looking forward to starting this fun fall family tradition with our little clan... though I gotta say... after 8 gallons of tart cider it might take a little more convincing for next year!

** Thanks again T & K for all the apples! We'll keep that tree for pies and the south tree for cider next time! **

Monday, October 3, 2011

Green Smoothies

A couple of months ago my midwife introduced me to the concept of "green smoothies." It took me a little while to join the band wagon but now...  I'm hooked!

My green smoothies aren't as "interesting" as some recipes I've found online, and of course they could always be healthier, but they're still chock full of good-for-you-goodness!

My typical daily recipe is as follows:

2-3 cups baby spinach
1/2 - 1 leaf kale (stem removed)
1 1/2 c. water
1 banana
1 kiwi
1 cup berries (blueberries and strawberries)

Every now and then I'll throw in some cucumber, carrot, peaches or whatever else is on hand... and needs used up!

Easy enough, eh? I typically prefer "God sugar" vs. other sugars... but I have started adding about 1/4-1/3 cup yogurt, simply for the fact that I'm going to eat it anyway, so why not just mix it in?!

This recipe is SO easy to make and makes enough for me to drink at breakfast and as an afternoon snack! I love that it's so easy to get multiple servings of fruits and veggies in a couple of sips! But I'm not the only one...

"Moo-eee.... moo-eee... moo-eee!!!"

It's impossible for me to make a green smoothie without Larren drinking a hearty portion of it! Which is fine... but can I just say that it *huh hum* "cleans her out"... and that means more diaper changing for me! 

Alia has given them a try every now and then... but she still prefers PINK smoothies instead! :)

Their color may be a bit on the questionable side, but I assure you... they have been Larren approved and she keeps coming back for more, so they can't be too bad, right?! Go ahead... pick up some kale, dust off your blender and give 'em a whirl! Just be sure to let me know what you think! 

Beachin' it with the Fam

For August long weekend we were blessed to meet up with Jon's family at Manhatten Beach Camp in western Manitoba. Not only did we get to spend time with his immediate family there, but several of his aunts, uncles, and cousins too!! We were there for Gramma's family reunion and what a treat indeed! 

Here are Jon's aunts and uncles plus the cousins that were able to make it out for the weekend. 

Since Jon's aunties and uncles are spread out across Canada (and the States!) we typically don't get to see them very often. Needless to say, having a whole weekend together was wonderful! After connecting with them, being reminded of how sweet each of his aunts are, and seeing the girls quickly warm up and become "best buds"  with a number of the aunts and uncles, it made me wish they all lived closer!! Every night we sat around the campfire and were intrigued with stories of the past. Gramma came from a very large, hard working farm family and to say life was "different back then" is an understatement... it sure makes one stop and think!

Jon and I walked away from the weekend feeling VERY BLESSED by the heritage that God has given us through Gramma & Grampa and the love for Christ that each of their families passed on to them. Since most of the family lives far away we feel EXTRA privileged to have them "just down the road!" We hope to spend many a winter evenings listening to more of their stories as the weather keeps us cooped inside!

We didn't have our own personal boat at the camp, but were able to take a cruise around the lake on a couple of occasions! 


The girls soaked up as much time with Gramma and Grampa T. as they could! There were boat rides, swimming, trips to the park, bicycle rides, story times, and several trips to the ice cream/candy shop! :)

Jon grew up coming to this camp almost every summer, so it was really cool to connect visuals with all the stories I've heard!

The weather was perfect, so we went swimming both in the lake and in the pool.... though the term "we" is used lightly! There was no way I was going to don a bathing suit in my current state! Again, I'm thankful for family members who enjoy the water more than I do!  :)

Alia was given this bee for her birthday, and though she enjoyed playing with it... it was LARREN who couldn't get enough! For a girl who is ALWAYS on the go, it was a welcome sight to see her so relaxed! It didn't matter if the bee was in the water or on the floor in our hotel room... she was as content as they come when the two of them were together!

We tried to get a family picture that was somewhat decent but between energetic kids, people looking at two different cameras, and being able to see who was holding the remote camera control... we decided to go for a "realistic look" this time around!

We'll have to try again at Christmas... though we do give credit to Joe and Matt in this pic!!

We would have loved to extend the weekend a few more days, and it seems that there is always more conversation to be had or activities to do, but it was nice being able to see the whole family again... just wish it could happen more often!!

* The original intention was to post this RIGHT after the Ohio one, cause they're both way OVERDUE! But ... to give you an idea, we went to Manhatten Beach camp and then left immediately from there for Ohio. The adventurous train story should be in the middle, but as I've said... it's still in the works! *