Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Amazing Strength

I have some truly amazing women in my life. I am fortunate, I feel like I say this a lot, but I am, to be blessed with a close group of ladies that I cherish. We have been through many ups and downs together.  The past week has doled out a few downs.  I don't want to go into details, but a few of the women in my life are experiencing some of the hardest things they'll ever go through.

I am writing this post not to dwell on the bad, but to highlight the good.  The strength that these women have shown while dealing with their tragedies is inspiring.  Their ability to continue the day to day while dealing with the emotional heartache. To go on when all they want to do is cry. To be strong for their children. I am truly in awe of them.

I hope to raise my children to be strong like these women. While I don't ever want H and B to experience life's difficulties, I know they will. I hope when they do, they handle it with the same dignity, strength and courage that these lovely ladies do. I am lucky to have them in my life, and grateful that they are in my kids' lives.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - Homemade Fruit Roll Ups

At work we could run a dog daycare and child daycare.  There's at least one kid there 60% of the time, and often times three or four kids running around. H and B are eating almost every time we go into work, food keeps them happy, so often times kid friendly foods come up. We we're talking about homemade fruit roll ups last week,  so I thought I'd give them a go.  Carolyn and Kara, this one's for you.


If you search Pinterest for homemade fruit by the foot, you get lots of different pins with tons of variations on how to make these. I don't have a dehydrator, so any recipes using one were out. I also skipped any recipes that wanted me to put plastic wrap in the oven. I don't microwave plastic, why would I bake with it? After reading 4 or 5 recipes I decided to wing it using various info from each one.

I was hoping to avoid using the stove top, but after seeing the consistency of the blended puree, I did use the stove.  I also didn't want to grease my silicone mats even though some recipes are adamant that you do. A few recipes call for the use of an offset spatula, which I don't own, and I was able to get by without one. I do recommend having silicone mats and a pastry brush. I know those aren't things every kitchen has, but they make this process easy. Plus, they're just amazing to have.

These are super easy to make, but a very lengthy process.  At least 6 hours, maybe more. Worth it, in my opinion, for a snack that consists of just fruit.  No added sugars, chemicals or dyes.

Homemade Fruit Roll Ups


1 pineapple 
1 6oz package blueberries

1. Rinse blueberries.  Peel, core and slice pineapple. 

2. Put fruit in blender and purée until smooth. 

3. Pour puréed fruit into a saue pan and reduce over medium heat.  

Before and after

4. Pour onto silicone baking mat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread with on offset spatula, or tilt pan from side to side to evenly spread mixture. (I tilted the pan and had great results.)

5. Bake at 140*, or your oven's lowest setting, for 6 to 8 hours. 

6. Occasionally take pan out of oven and moisten edges with a pastry brush that had been dipped in water.  (Optional step)

7. Once the center is fully dry, slightly sticky but no longer mushy or wet, cut into strips using a pizza cutter or knife. 

8. Roll strips onto strips of waxed paper and store in an airtight container.  

Notes: I made a second batch using raspberries and nectarines. The flavor is great, but they are very seedy. If using fruits with seeds, strain mixture before pouring onto silicone mat. One recipe suggested baking them for a couple hours before bed, turning off the oven, and then letting them sit in the oven overnight.  I tried that, and it didn't work.  In my oven it took about 6 hours to get them fully cooked.  I moistened the edges 4 or 5 times to keep them from getting too crispy.  When removing the strips, as soon as I got a corner free with my nail, they peeled right off of the silicone mat, no need for greasing.  

Harrison was very excited about his new treat.  Then in true Harrison fashion, he shoved the whole thing in his mouth.  

Brooke nibbled on hers like she was a little rabbit.  

I plan to try out more flavor combinations soon, and maybe even add in some veggies.  I will update with flavor successes as I go. 

Happy cooking!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Finishing My Summer Bucket List

My summer bucket list is officially done. Today I crossed off the final remaining item.  More about that in a minute.

Yesterday we took the babies and dogs out for a stroll at the environmental center, 50 or so acres of wooded trails and some wetlands owned by the local school system.  Unfortunately the mosquitos attacked as soon as we walked in the woods and our trip got changed to a stroll around the soccer fields and the park.  

The exciting part is that we used the Becos for the first time in months! Both kids decided they hated them around 10 months.  They really seemed to enjoying riding in them yesterday.  You wouldn't know it from Harrison's face, but they were smiling, giggling, pointing.  

Brooke got to go for a ride on Aunt Lynn's shoulders after the park.  

This morning Rob and I woke up early and headed to Cedar Point.  If you are from the Midwest or are a coaster enthusiast, you most likely know that Cedar Point rocks! It's been voted the best amusement park in the world 15 years in a row. 

I've been going almost every year since I was 9.  My first roller coaster was the Magnum XL200, and I've been in love with coasters ever since.  I can't wait to take the kids in a couple years and introduce them to all the fun.  

Seriously, how cute is this little ride?

We picked the perfect day to go.  It was in the low 80s and the breeze off Lake Erie felt great.  We didn't wait longer than 30 minutes in any line.  Most lines were less than 15 minutes. We were able to ride everything we wanted, with the exception of Sky Hawk which was closed, in less than 6 hours. 

Our day went as follows: Wicked Twister, Power Tower up, Power Tower down, Top Thrill Dragster, Magnum, Mean Streak, Millennium Force, lunch, Gate Keeper, Raptor, Millennium Force round 2. 10 rides in under 6 hours is amazing.  I remember waiting over two hours just to ride one roller coaster in previous years.  

For lunch we had Pink's. Cedar Point opened the only Pink's east of Las Vegas two seasons ago  We both really enjoyed our hot dogs, fries and onion rings.  The price tag, $33 for two dogs, two sides and two sodas, was a little steep, but it was a great little splurge.   

My last two trips to Cedar Point have been reminders of how young I'm not. Two years ago I discovered I can't ride spinning rides anymore.  Thanks to the Witches Wheel, my upchuck reflex was pushed past its limit. This year I learned wooden coasters are no longer enjoyable. I won't be riding the Mean Streak again anytime soon.  I also found out I need longer after eating before jumping back on rides.  No getting sick, but a definite queasy feeling.  I better get my old butt in line before H and B need me to start riding coasters with them.  

We made it home in time to put our sweet babes to bed. The perfect end to a great day.  We missed them so much.  It's 9pm. I'm exhausted and going to bed early, like now.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

5 on Friday

Darci over at The Good Life is co-hosting 5 on Friday again this week, and I thought I'd join in for a little Friday randomness.

One. Rob and I are planning a day trip to Ohio on Sunday. We'll be gone by the time the kids wake up and they'll be asleep once we get home. As excited as I am to have a day date with the hubs, I'm totally freaking out about leaving the kids for that long. I know they'll be fine, but will I?

Two. We live in a great little rental house and have since I was 4 months pregnant with the twins. I am a firm believer that a coat of paint livens up any room. The only room we painted when we moved in was the nursery. The nursery also happens to be my favorite room in the house. Coincidence? I think not. Now that we're coming up on two years in this house, I'm really getting an itch to paint a few of the rooms, the living room and master bedroom, but I don't want to have to repaint when we move in another year or so. I'm so torn.

Three. I hate to clean, I love sleep and I hate to work out. This lovely trio of facts means that my house is never as clean as I want it to be, my jeans are still tighter than I would like them to be, hello muffin top, and I sleep in each morning until I hear the kids on the monitor around 8am. I am going to make it my goal to wake up each morning either at 6 or when the babies wake up to nurse, and stay up. I am going to make a weekly cleaning schedule and get to the gym before they wake up for the day. This also means I am going to have to stop playing Candy Crush till after 11pm every night. Now that it's on the blog, I have to do it.

Four. I love my dogs. My blog is mainly about the kids and the dogs make a few appearance here and there. I really love my dogs, even though they drive me crazy at least 10 times a day. (Layla eating two packs of banana bread English muffins yesterday comes to mind.) I wish I was able to devote more time to them and take them to the pet store or for a hike the way we used to.  I wish I could take them to work with me when I go, but having them and the kids there is too much. I know that they have settled into their new rolls with the kids, but I sometimes wish they still got to take center stage.

Five. I am eating a piece of DeBrand chocolate as I write this post.  A dark chocolate raspberries and cream to be exact, thank you Kim.  One of the best things about living in Fort Wayne is DeBrand chocolate. If you've ever had it before, you know what I'm talking about. It is hands down, the best chocolate I've ever had. It's a mouthgasm every time I take a bite. Their raspberry sauce is to die for. If I ever move away from Fort Wayne, I'm comforted to know that I can still have DeBrand chocolate whenever I want thanks to their online chocolate shop. So tasty!

And of course no post is complete with a cute picture or two of H and B. 

Waking up to these smiling faces is the best! I hope you've enjoyed my random musings this Friday. TGIF everyone!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Chair of Their Own

For months I've been saying I needed to get the kids their own chairs.  We have one bouncy seat that is still in their room, at least it was until yesterday. They are both always climbing on it, laying in it, fighting over who gets to sit in it.  It was definitely time for their own chairs.  

The problem came when deciding what chairs to get them. I could never decide what chairs I wanted to get for them.  I absolutely adore this chair for a boy, but I wasn't in love with any of the girl chairs.  I love, love, love this chair, but could never justify the price. I kept searching and came across the fabulous chairs we decided to get.

While they were napping yesterday the UPS guy dropped off their new chairs. We set them in the living room and waited for them to wake up. Brooke went to hers right away and jumped in.

Once Harrison joined the laugh fest began.  They were so happy about their new seats. I have at least 20 pictures of them laughing as they kick their feet and climb all over their chairs.

Of course Brooke had to check out the chair Harrison was in.

And Pumba had to get a chance to sit in a chair.  They love their "big pig."

The chairs made it into the nursery where they will live for the time being. Both H and B were in and out of their chairs again this morning. Layla tried to sit in one and she was promptly told to get down. The look on her face was like I had just crushed her dreams. The poor dog has to lay on the Lovesac or my king size bed.  She has a rough life.

I'm a little worried about keeping the chairs clean and stain free, but we'll see how it goes.  We're working on cutting out snacks in order to keep B from refusing meals, so at least food in the chairs shouldn't be an issue. 

I can not get over how cute these chairs are. I wish I could sit in them.  I already tried, it's not going to happen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - Sweet Potato Fries and Risotto

Deciding when and how to start your baby on solid foods is a huge decision, and one that is different for every family.  What's right for one family, isn't always right for others.  If you read my Baby Led Weaning post, you know that we started out with purees and decided feeding more solid foods was better for us.

One of our go to foods in the beginning was sweet potato fries.  They had sweet potato fries twice a day, every day for weeks.  They couldn't get enough of them. They are still a favorite, and something I can always count on them eating if we are at a restaurant and looking for options for them. They are so easy to make at home, I almost feel silly writing out my "recipe" for them.

Sweet Potato Fries

1 large sweet potato


1. Preheat oven to 400*.  Peel sweet potato and slice into 1/4-1/2" strips.  Place on greased baking sheet, or silicone baking mat.

2. Bake for 20 minutes.

Notes: See, so easy. I like to sprinkle grated Parmesan on mine when I pull them out of the oven. One potato is usually enough to fill one standard size baking sheet.  I always use my baking mats and usually do 2-4 sweet potatoes at a time.  The cooked fries freeze well and are easy to reheat in the microwave or oven.

Since the babies moved on from purees pretty quickly, I had lots of frozen baby food left over that they weren't eating.  I have been using it up in recipes when possible.  Pumpkin or apple pancakes are a great way to use up left over baby food purees if your kids have moved on to finger foods.

They never ate any of the two acorn squashes I pureed for them.  The squash has been sitting in lonely little cubes at the bottom of my deep freeze for months. I remember seeing a recipe last fall for pumpkin risotto, and thought this would be the perfect way to use up the last of the frozen purees. I decided to add some of my just cooked sweet potato fries too.

I've seen enough episodes of Chopped to know that it's really easy to screw up risotto. You have to constantly stir and get the liquid to rice ratio just right. This was my first time braving a risotto dish, and I'm please with the results. It probably helps that my attempt was based off of Wolfgang Puck's recipe. It tastes like fall in a bowl.

Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Risotto

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 1/2 cups acorn squash puree
1 1/2 cups precooked chopped sweet potato
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter


1. In a medium-large size heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring continuously, until softened.

2. Add the rice and continue to stir, Completely coat the rice with the oil.

3. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the rice completely, about 3 cups, and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid is absorbed.

4. Pour in 1 cup of the remaining stock, and continuing to stir until it has been absorbed. 

5. Add 2 cups of pureed acorn. Continue stirring until the rice is al dente, tender but still very chewy, and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

6. Stir in the remaining acorn puree and the chopped sweet potato and reduce the heat to low so that the risotto doesn't simmer anymore. 

7. Stir in the Parmesan and butter. The final product should be very creamy.

Notes: The original recipe called for 6 cups of stock and 1/2 of a pureed butternut squash.  My squash puree was very watery, so I just substituted 2 cups of puree for 2 cups of stock.  You should be able to adjust the recipe based on what purees you already have available, and yield a similar result.  The dish is very sweet, so I recommend seasoning with pepper to taste.

Harrison and I were all about it.  Brooke wouldn't take a bite, but she won't eat anything except fruit, cheese and yogurt lately.

Happy Cooking!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Quiet Little Weekend

Our Saturday seemed pretty quiet compared to the last few weekends.  The most exciting part of Saturday was going to the daycare to let the dogs out.  Rose and Sydney, two of my employees' dogs were there, so the kids got to get in some extra puppy love.

We've been slowly working on trying to get the kids adjusted to walking with their backpack leashes.  Each time we try using them I always start out feeling like we're doing better than last time.  Every time I get that feeling, the kids decide to prove me wrong. They both run in opposite directions, sit sown, refuse to move, and start screaming.  My neighbors have to be questioning my parenting abilities after witnessing this for the upteempth time. We can't even make it to the mailbox and back with these things. I don't know how we're ever going to be able to use them at the zoo. Definitely not the highlight of our Saturday.

Daddy Day started out with a trip to the zoo. Having Daddy around is great not only because we love him and he's awesome, but also because we can do so much more when he's there. 

We have been putting off letting the kids ride the horses at the zoo all year.  At $5 per ride, per kid, we don't want it to become an every time thing. The kids and I are there once or twice a week, we have definitely got every penny out of our membership.  All of the extras add up pretty quickly with two kids.

They both did really well.  Brooke was only willing to do one lap on the horse. Harry stuck in for both laps. He rode a sweet little pony named Sandy and she rode Tabby.

They also got to ride the carousel since we had Rob along.  They finally like the up and down animals.  Of course neither of them were willing to smile for the camera at the same time.

After naps we went to target to get the kids a couple new pairs of shoes.  Shoes turned into book, toys and this puffer vest.  Fall clothes were just put out this week and there were only three vests left.  Apparently I'm not the only one who decided their kid couldn't live without the vest.

After dinner we went for a nice walk with the dogs, and ended the evening with watermelon in the back yard. It was a quiet, laid back weekend. It's nice to have a weekend with no plans every once and a while. 

Both kids have slept through the night, 8pm-7:15am the last few nights, so I'm hoping for a repeat tonight. Here's to a night with, hopefully, 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Friday, August 16, 2013

15 Months

My little monkeys are 15 months old.  I feel like 15 months is a big one.  I'm not sure why because there aren't any big milestones associated with 15 months or a pediatrician visit, it just feels like a special month.

The biggest changes over the last month have been with the kids comprehension of what we're saying to them. I am pretty sure they understand about 75% of what we're saying to them. They are learning so much each day. I know I said the same thing last month, but it's true. They still aren't saying a lot, so I pretty much have a one sided conversation with myself all day. Just within the last couple days, Harrison has started saying yes when I ask him questions. I can tell they have so much more to say, but are working on figuring it all out. They are also both starting to show me what they want more and more.  I'll be so glad once they're really talking.

They have both always liked being read to, but now it's their favorite thing.  Brooke started picking up the book she wants us to read and bringing it to us.  Harrison quickly followed suit.  They will both take books to Rob and wake him up in the morning so he'll read to them. Brooke is willing to sit in your lap forever while you read.  Harrison usually makes it through half a book before he's off to get another one.  Their favorite books have become very evident as they require us to read them over and over again.  Rob and I can both recite Dr. Seuss's ABC book from memory.

Their fascination with the dogs continues to grow. They have discovered what little tails the dogs have.  H likes to grab Layla's nub when she gets excited. Tyson follows them wherever they go, and not just because they often have food.  He is their constant companion.  They still think it's hilarious to feed the dogs from their high chairs, but I'm trying to put an end to that.

A few funny little things they've started doing over the last month include sticking their tongues out all the time, especially if you stick yours out first.  Brooke has discovered belly buttons and is constantly pulling up her shirt or dress to touch her belly button.  She also likes to pull up my shirt to touch my belly button. They are becoming very interested in faces too.  Touching my nose and then theirs.  Pulling each others ears and then touching their own. If we ask them to get a certain stuffed animal for us, like the honey badger or big pig, they will find that animal and bring it to us.  They get so happy when they find what  they're looking for.

No new teeth this month, but they are both definitely working on molars.  Cold teething toys are making a comeback in this house.  A few new foods they tried this month include meatballs, golden raspberries, kale,salsa, hot pepper cheese and alfredo sauce.  B didn't like alfredo sauce.  How is that possible?

They took their first bubble bath this month, we have previously avoided too much soap due to B's sensitive skin. We had a lovely run in with poison ivy while berry picking and I wanted to make sure I got any oil off their skin. B was kind enough to poop in the tub for the first time during their bubble bath. Enter Scrubbing Bubbles, a full tub sanitization and bubble bath number 2. Thankfully they didn't get a poison ivy rash, but I did.

Everyday is a struggle with sharing.  They always want what the other one has, even if they have an identical item.  Brooke has taken to stealing Harrison's food even if she has the same thing on her plate. We are still using redirection and trying to see the problem before it happens.  Toy envy is definitely the number one reason for tears in our house.  Amazingly, they are really great at sharing if you ask them to give you something.  Hopefully once they can communicate better, this issue will get better too.

We are still in the middle of nap transition hell.  Every day it's a guess as to whether they need one nap or two.  Each time I think we're finally down to one, there's a day where they break down at 11am. On the other hand if we do too many two nap days in a row, they will refuse their second nap and then be angry for the rest of the day. They are still waking around 5 or 6 each morning for a quick nursing session and then head back to sleep until about 8am.

If you want to stay up to date on all of our shenanigans, Bloglovin is a great way to not miss any posts from your favorite bloggers.  Follow my blog with Bloglovin  I use it to keep up with my favorite blogs.  Little Baby Garvin, A Work in Progress, 3 Ladies and Their Gent as well as a few others.

I hope we'll have some great weekend fun to share with you come Sunday or Monday.  TGIF!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are You Ready For Some Football?

As much as I'm not ready to give up summer yet, I am excited for Football.  I start every Sunday morning from September through January with Rich, Mooch, Marshall, Kurt, Warren and Michael. We are huge Pittsburgh Steelers fans in this house, but I like to know what's going on with each team. We usually watch all three games that air on Sunday, plus MNF and TNF.  

Living in Indiana means we usually get the Colts game on our local channel.  We have no interest in having DirecTV, so we have to go to a sports bar to watch most of the games. Last year that worked out well.  The kids would watch part of the game and nap in their car seats the majority of the time.  I have no idea how we're going to swing making it to watch the games and not completely mess up naps, but we'll have to figure something out.  

After searching for months, I finally found a cute jersey onesie for the kids. The best part? They are personalized.  Look out for Boo Boo and Dirty Harry on a football field near you.  There's so much cute football gear out there for both mom and baby.  I love the Bears Bling Tee, unfortunately Victoria's Secret doesn't make a Steelers version of it.  Insert my sad face here. Luckily there's plenty of cute stuff out there I can wear to support my team.

Three more weeks of preseason, and then real football begins.  Here we go Steelers!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - Homemade Marinara and Meatballs

There are two things that I worry the kids don't get enough of when it come to food, veggies and iron.  I'm anemic and the kids are borderline anemic. We tried doing iron supplements with Brooke, her levels were low enough they wanted to do a full blood panel, but she gagged and spit it up as soon as the liquid hit her mouth. So much for that.

As you might know from our pictures on here and Instagram(justjm03), we do lots of popsicles and smoothies. All of their popsicles and smoothies are laced with either kale or spinach in hopes of keeping their iron levels high enough. I definitely don't eat a lot of red meat, which means the kids don't either, but I'd like to incorporate more into our diets.  Enter spaghetti and meatballs.

For the first 6 years rob and I were married anytime we had spaghetti I always used Prego and would occasionally add some ground beef or sausage to it.  One day I was watching "Cooking Boss" and Buddy was making his eggplant parm.  He talked about making his own sauce from scratch and how easy it was.  I decided to look it up and try it.  It's so easy and delicious I haven't used canned sauce since.

I remember one time Rob decided to make meatballs and he wanted to experiment. The mixture wound up containing balsamic vinegar, peanut butter and Pepsi. They weren't disgusting, but they weren't great either. From then on out I've made meatballs myself on the rare occasion we have them.  I'm not a huge fan of sticking my hands in raw meat and eggs, but you have to get it thoroughly mixed. For the same reason I don't often make meatloaf.

Below you'll find the recipes for both Buddy's Marinara Sauce and Italian Meatballs.  An added bonus to meatballs, they are a great way to sneak veggies into your kids mouths.  There's an entire bell pepper and 1 cup of spinach in the recipe below.

Marinara Sauce
2 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 .6 ounce package fresh basil


1. Heat a dutch oven style pot over medium heat.  Add oil.  Once oil is warmed add garlic and cook until lightly golden and fragrant.  

2. Add tomatoes, salt and 1 spring of basil.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.    

3. While the sauce simmers, chop remaining basil.  Add basil to the sauce after 30 minutes of simmering. Serve immediately or freeze once cooled.  

Notes: This recipe yields enough for approximately 3 meals.  I always freeze two portions and use one immediately. 

1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
1 cup frozen spinach
1 bell pepper
12-15 1/2" mozzarella cheese cubes (optional)


1. Mince bell pepper and spinach.  The smaller the pieces the better. 

2. Mix all ingredients, except mozzarella cubes, by hand in a large bowl. Make sure all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. 

3. Roll mixture into 2"-3" balls. If you want to add mozzarella cheese, cover each cube with meat mixture making sure to pack it tightly into a 2"-3" ball.  Place balls on a baking sheet. 

4. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes, flipping meatballs halfway through.  Meatballs should be fully cooked and lightly browned when done.  

Makes 12-15 meatballs

Notes: I make my meatballs with the mozzarella.  No matter how tightly I roll the meatballs, I always have a little cheese leak out.  I used 1/2 green pepper and 1/2 orange pepper in addition to the spinach. Carrots, zucchini, squash and kale would all be great substitutes.  If you're concerned about fat content, use lean ground beef or turkey.

Brooke wanted just the meatballs and Harrison got down on everything.  Success!

Happy Cooking!