Friday, September 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Anna Bean!

Our sweet girl turned FOUR years old this week! She really is such a big kid now and it's been such an amazing experience watching her grow.

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Enjoying a breakfast tea party with her birthday presents from Auntie Ally!

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Anna's class plans a little celebration for the birthday kid. She got to wear a special crown, I got to come visit and bring special treats to share, the class sang her Happy Birthday, and I read one of Anna's favorite books to the class. She had initially picked her Frozen Golden Book, but on the way out the door I realized she had torn half the pages out so we took Jungle Jive instead.

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After school, we came home for cake and ice cream and presents. Anna insisted on making her own cake this year, and she requested strawberry cake and strawberry frosting and "vananilla ice cream".

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We kicked off the presents portion of her day with a bunch of new 4T Fall clothes.

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Our big (and only, really) present for her this year was a dollhouse. This dollhouse is seriously amazing - it's HUGE, double-sided, and is set on wheels so it's really easy to move. The girls have had such fun playing with it and rearranging the furniture. Yesterday I used some of her birthday money to buy some new dolls for the house and those have been a big hit too. Even the neighbor girls have loved coming over and playing with it!

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After presents and after a nap for Maddie, we piled into the car and drove across town to the North Georgia State Fair. Anna is obsessed with roller coasters right now, especially as we gear up for Disney, and we were hoping that the fair would have some good rides for her. It didn't disappoint!

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The afternoon initially got off to a very rocky start when I thought that Maddie was too short to ride almost all of the rides. She started having massive meltdowns when Anna hopped on the roller coaster with Daddy and she had to stay behind with me. Thankfully Steve double-checked my measurements and Maddie was juuuuust over the line to be able to ride almost all of the kiddie rides - she sure perked up after that! And Anna loved having her little BFF there with her - it was so cute watching them ride together!

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If we had been smart and bought the all-you-can-ride stamps for the girls, I think we would have been at the fair the whole night!!

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We left the fair completely exhausted but in great moods. The girls were happy the whole drive home, waited patiently for their Chick-Fil-A dinner (birthday girl's choice!) and told Poppy and SuSu all about their day over Facetime.

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Anna checked in completely healthy and at the top her developmental range at her 4 year well-check appointment- she knocked all of the developmental milestones out of the park! She's 39 and 7/8 inches tall and weighs 37 lbs.

Happy birthday, darling girl - we love you so much!! 

Playing in the Dirt Again: Succulent Edition

With the weather cooling off, I turned my attention to our fall garden. Our summer garden was such a disappointment this year, and I was especially frustrated because this was the first year I really got involved, being not pregnant and not loaded down with babies. I hear from other friend gardeners that their gardens weren't successful either so I'm not giving up!!

While the girls and I were doing our seedling shopping, I walked past a display of succulent plants and found myself stopping to look. Succulent arrangements have been a popular project on a lot of the home DIY blogs that I like to read, and they all swear up and down that it's almost impossible to mess up a succulent. Well, challenge accepted, haha. I was drawn to this mostly for the immediate gratification of having a pretty arrangement while I wait for our garden to grow. I will have to keep you all posted on how these last!

I don't know how much y'all know about succulents but I learned through this project that they are in the same category as cacti. Google tells me that over-watering and inadequate drainage are the two biggest mistakes with these, so I tried to make sure to set everything up for success.

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I found the dish on super-sale at Target and my handy husband drilled a large hole into the bottom of the dish for me. It's a stoneware dish so if you decide to drill your own, make sure you have the right drill bit. Steve was able to use some kind of bit that he bought for the glass for his fish tank so he didn't have to buy a new one.

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Apparently cactus soil is the best kind to use for these projects, but Home Depot didn't have any in stock so I used normal potting soil and mixed in Perlite to better mimic the cactus soil.

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I laid a coffee filter across the hole in the dish, and added a layer of pea gravel to help improve drainage. Then I added in my faux-cactus soil.

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Now for the plants! Aren't they pretty?

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Supposedly the plants like being packed in together...I think I could have actually bought a couple more and maybe I'll add a few later. I also opted to add a few pea pebbles to to the top just to add some visual interest to it and to break up the green and brown.

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This plant is my favorite!

All together this project took me about 15 minutes to pull together, not including the shopping. Not too shabby for this black-thumbed gardener! We have the arrangement on our kitchen table and it makes me proud and happy to see it front and center during our meals.

MiniKickers Mania

We took a major break from organized activities last year due to me not driving and wanting a slower summer, but we had our eye on soccer this fall for Anna and she was so excited to start!

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Showing off her braids, of course.

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She is so proud of her little soccer outfit!

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Steve jogged with Maddie up to meet us at the field and Anna couldn't resist running over for a hug.

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Anna loves Coach Katie!

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Coach Katie played a game with the kids where they would dribble dribble dribble STOP! And have to put a body part on the ball. Anna picked Elbows for her turn!

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Such a pro already!

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We end every practice with a scrimmage game and it's all kinds of hilarious because basically the kids chase the ball around in a pack, running into each other.

Anna loves soccer so far and it's been a lot of fun being involved with it with her - the MiniKickers is still very dependent on parental involvement so we are hands-on almost the whole time helping her learn how to play. Steve splurged on a soccer goal and balls for our backyard and it's one of her favorite things to do now to go out and play with us and to show us what she learned that past week. I love how delighted she is seeing her clean outfit folded on top of her drawers and wanting a countdown to when she can go play with her friends and Coach Katie again!

Lucky Number Seven

Steve and I celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary earlier this month - can you believe it! Our anniversary is smack-dab in the middle of Steve's fall busy season so we never do anything too over the top, but we did have a special evening and we also enjoyed a date night that next weekend.

Steve brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and I supplied a bottle of champagne and the treat of one of his all-time favorite dinners from our early years of marriage. I haven't made this dish in years but this was the perfect dish for a special evening. We ended the night with a dish of gelato, as a nod to our Italian honeymoon. Happy anniversary, Sweetheart!

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When we first got married, I bought a few "cooking for two" cookbooks that provide smaller portions. This recipe, and several other early favorites, came from these books and I still make them today and just double the recipes to feed our family!

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes, Pancetta, and Smoked Mozzarella

Serves 2

3 TBS olive oil
2 oz pancetta, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, slivered
4 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, shredded
6 oz dried spaghetti, cooked
3 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into very small cubes

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil, and add pancetta and cook for about 5 minutes or until crispy, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for just 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring mixture to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 7 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and made a sauce.

2. Stir in the shredded basil, immediately raise the heat to medium-high, and cook uncovered for 1 minute, until the basil wilts and the mixture thickens slightly, stirring constantly.

3. Stir in the cooked spaghetti, remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the cheese. Cover the pan and let it stand at room temperature for 5 minutes so that the cheese melts. Toss, then serve.

- recipe from Cooking for Two: 120 Recipes for Every Day and Those Special Nights, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Touch-A-Truck

One of the nearby towns hosted a Touch-A-Truck event a few weeks ago and my sister and my nephew came with us to explore the festival. It was HOT and crowded but we managed to have a good time anyway!

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The kids all enjoyed their snow cone treats. The snow cone truck has all of the syrup flavors on the side so the kids could put their own flavors on...you know they got a kick out of that!

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Cutie pies.

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I was so impressed with all of the volunteers at this festival. It was all construction companies and city employees and they were SO enthusiastic, excited to be there, and engaging with the kids. Some of the guys even had their kids there helping, and their kids were so happy being able to show off their knowledge of the trucks and construction techniques. It's a little funny to see burly construction guys filling up balloons and handing out bead necklaces but they were having a blast and the kids were too!

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We got waylaid when Anna spotted a face painting station. It was so hot and the line was slow, so I threw every bribe I could think of Anna's way to convince her to skip the face painting (I had already said she could do it, rookie mistake) but she held strong.

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Admiring herself in the mirror.

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Maddie very sweetly put her hand in mine and whispered if she could get her face painted too. How could I say no!

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Maddie told the artist that she wanted one just like Anna's.

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The festival had a little petting zoo set up in the corner so of course the girls wanted to go see the animals!

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I had to laugh when my chatterbox daughter starts talking to the firefighters. She launches into some story of how "one time our house caught on fire and the firetrucks came and put out the fire with a tall ladder!" The firefighter looked over at me and said "Really?" and I had to say "No, that's never happened by any stretch of the imagination." I have no idea where she comes up with this stuff sometimes!!

We had such a wonderful time at the Touch-A-Truck festival and we were glad that Allyson and Danny could join us. We've already got our calendars marked for next year!