Monday, August 15, 2016

No Cook Refrigerator Dill Pickles

What do you do when you find yourself with more cucumbers than you can eat, and a couple of crazy kids?  Make pickles, of course!  I chose not to go through with canning them (did you read the part about the crazy kids?), so we went the refrigerator pickles route.  I even tossed in some yellow squash for color and variation.  And because I can only come up with so many things to do with it!  Being a science geek, I couldn't help but try slight variations in each jar until I found my favorite.  Granted, it may have backfired because Michael and I prefer two different recipes, but it's all good. Seriously, though, they are ALL good!  And super easy with no cooking required.  Here's how Mama and her crazy kiddos make it:

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

(makes 3 pint jars)
- 3 medium-large cucumbers
- 1 small-medium yellow squash
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 1/2 c. vinegar (white or cider)
- 3-6 T. sugar (more on this later)
- 3 T. kosher or canning salt
- 4 1/2 T. dried dill weed, or 6 T. chopped fresh dill
- 1 1/2 t. mustard seed
- 3 T. minced garlic, or about 6 cloves
- 3 wide mouth pint jars

Friday, August 12, 2016

Homemade Frozen Pizza

Yes, you heard me right.  Homemade FROZEN pizza.  No, it's not shaped like Olaf or one of Elsa's magical snowflakes.  It's good ole homemade pizza, with the ease of the frozen ones.  The more we add to our plate, the more I'm finding that we can't always keep up with making everything from scratch.  At least not in real time.  Enter the ever-popular make ahead freezer meal!  I see a few of these in my pregnant sister-in-laws' future ;)

Basically, I use the same recipes that I use for my weekly pizzas, but pre-cook the crust slightly so it sets up before adding the toppings then popping in the freezer.  From there, you can just pull it out and bake!  I'm thinking when I do make them in real-time, I'm going to just double it to stock up the freezer. Imagine the possibilities!!

Homemade Frozen Pizza

For our favorite pizza recipes, including crust, toppings, etc., see this post on Family Pizza Night.

1.  Make the dough.  For freezing, I split one batch of the dough into 6 smaller pizzas that would fit inside a gallon freezer bag. 
Side pony, beads, and bedhead
that's how everyone makes pizza dough, right?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Family Photos by Elizabeth Burns Photography

If you haven't read my post on our 10th anniversary pictures, check those out first.  Go ahead, I'll give you a minute...

Ok, so now you know what an amazing photographer Elizabeth is, and I can go on to bragging about what a great friend/relative she is.  Not only did she drive all the way here and back, around sunset, to take our anniversary pics, but she also stayed and took a few in regular clothes at our house.  Mind you, it was about 120 degrees with 300% humidity.  And it was her idea! 

You can really tell that the girls enjoyed these photos, especially when she asked them to bring some of their special toys along.
Emma chose Cinderella and her blankies
Anna chose bulldog and Lizzie
Lizzie even got a bow for the special occasion

 Can't you just feel the sisterly love?

These were super laid back, lifestyle photographs, with bare feet, special toys, matching dresses, and a cornfield backdrop.  AKA - a true snapshot of our daily life.  Which is why I love them so so much!

these are the best spinning dresses EVER!!!

The silly ones are some of my favorites because this is how we spend the non-arguing/fit-throwing time at home ;)

Annalyn says this one is "the awesomest"

my baby
milestone:  Annalyn learned to swing/pump all by herself this summer!

no, you're not quite as tall as the corn...

but Cinderella is close.
We also ended up with some fun pictures of the whole crew.  They are so "us," cornfields and all.  Love having these special pictures at what we intend to be our forever home.

 And that's a wrap!  Sealed with a kiss at sunset.

Ratatouille, Disney Style

Who doesn't love a little Disney magic in their life?  I sure do!  So when we watched Disney Pixar's "Ratatouille" and Annalyn asked if she could eat ratatouille, I was happy to oblige.  Especially since we have an abundance of summer squash and zucchini in the garden right now.  Unlike the traditional method of chopping the vegetables and serving more like a stew, I made it "Disney style" like in the movie with thinly sliced, beautifully presented veggies.   Here's how this Disney Mama made it:

Ratatouille, Disney Style

- 1 each (preferably long and skinny, very thinly sliced):  yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, red bell pepper
- 1 1/2 c. tomato sauce
- 3 T. olive oil, divided
- 1/2 medium onion, minced
- 2 T. minced garlic
- 2 t. balsamic vinegar
- 1 t. fresh thyme
- s/p to taste
- parchment paper

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Happily 10 years after

This July marched 10 years since we said "I do" and became husband and wife.  TEN YEARS.  Back in 2006, I told my brand new hubby that I wanted to be one of those cheesy/awesome couples that does things like renew their wedding vows and take anniversary pics in their wedding attire.  His response, "Sure, honey.  If you can still fit in your wedding dress."  Challenge accepted, 20 year old Michael.

This photo makes me feel invincible.
This photo screams for better or worse, we got this.

Well, 10 years and 2 kids later, guess who got in that dress?  And who kept his word and took intimate, romantic, incredibly fun anniversary pictures?  You guessed it, friends:

Sure it's probably not as awesome as flying to Vegas and renewing our vows with an Elvis impersonator, but thanks to our amazingly talented cousin/friend/photographer, Elizabeth Burns, we were able make that promise a reality and so much more.  Besides, there's always year 20 for that...
When we watched our wedding video this year with the girls, we had to laugh at a few lines from the ceremony.  One of my favorites is from our Pastor, "I don't think you're crazy.  I just think your crazy in love."  I wonder if he'd still agree?  Probably depends on the day...

Summer update

How in the world has it been two months since the school year ended?  I swear I blinked and we were back to school shopping again.  Not that I'm complaining, that is one of my FAVORITE things to do.  It has been a very busy and productive summer around here.
nothing better than watching the corn grow while you swing

First, we (Michael) built a castle swing set for the girls.  He designed and built it all on his own (except that river that Annalyn drew into the plans... execution of that one is still pending.)  Soon we will be able to paint it and add the drawbridge I drew into the plans and it will be complete (at least until we add another tower... or a river).

Next on the agenda was a little family vacation up to Michigan.  We enjoyed visiting the beaches, hiking the dunes, picking up some of our favorite fruit wines, and finding an awesome Danish bakery.


The best part of summer for us is the extra family time since every day I'm off, so is Michael.  We definitely miss that during the school year, but also love the one-on-one time we get with the girls when the other parent is working.  In an effort to mix in a little of both, we started splitting the girls up for special Mommy/Daddy dates.  My favorite date was taking each of them to The Bee Hive an enjoying a honey bean latte.  The ladies there even humored my request for a small decaf latte with a little cold milk for the girls (aka "big girl coffee"), and it was a huge hit.  Michael's dates usually consisted of eating ice cream at the Dairy Bar while sitting on the tailgate of "Daddy's big red truck."


In July, we (mostly Michael) finally built a shed for all our yard equipment.  Another pending paint job.  More importantly, we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a long weekend trip to West Baden Resort, sans kiddos!  It was the first time we've left them for that long, but we had a very relaxing trip.  Half the time it felt like we planned our days around doing "things that we couldn't/were much harder to do with the girls."  Things like running trails through the woods on horses, taking as long as we wanted to eat dinner, sleeping in, watching anything but cartoons on TV, and not planning our entire day around meals/naps/cranky times/bedtime.  Glorious.

The day after we got home, our amazing friend/relative/photographer, Elizabeth, drove 5 hours roundtrip to take our anniversary pictures.  I'll post more about that once I get the pics back, but I will tell you they involved recreating some of our wedding pictures (and some new ones), in our wedding attire, and even incorporated our adorable girlies in dresses very similar to our flower girls' dresses.  It was so much fun and really reminded us of exactly how we felt on that day 10 years before.
<sneak peek!>

Aside from extra immediate family time, we've also enjoyed some extra time with our extended families and friends.  My grandma and aunt came out to visit and see our house, which meant so much to me.  I even snuck in a coffee with them at The Bee Hive (again, I'm a little obsessed.)  Our sister-in-law and nephews from Virginia have visited a couple times, and we've been able to make several zoo trips with family.  And we mustn't forget the play dates with friends, old and new! Or the amazing little splash park we discovered nearby.  Ok, I'm starting to see why this summer went SO quickly!!!

In a little over a decade, this could be a reality!
These four lovely ladies will all be in high school together  

We even celebrated Oria's 1st birthday

And that's our summer of 2016 in a nutshell.  Lots of family time, building, exploring, playing, visiting, and ENJOYING.  I even chopped off most of my hair after a week in the insane heat/humidity. Not too shabby!  I'd say we're officially ready for back-to-school, football season, legit soccer mom status, chili, and bushels of apples (not our own this year, though we may get a few!). So long summer break! It's been fun :)