Thursday, January 9, 2014

Junior Park Ranger McBrayer

While the AR McBrayers were here, we took a side trip out to Mesa Verde, one of our favorite places to visit. The entrance is only about 35 min from here and they have just finished their brand new visitor's center at the entrance to the park which as it turns out, is quite stunning! ( I wish I had pictures to show you).

Not sure how many of you know but all National Parks (and most if not all State Parks) have a Junior Ranger program that is designed for kids from 4 years old to 12. It's a program that encourages kids to protect their parks and learn a bit more about each park during their visits. If you fulfill all of the requirements by the end of your visit, you can take the oath to become a Jr. Ranger and are awarded a medal to show off!.

 Here are my little Jr. Rangers working hard on their booklets inside of the archaeological museum.

They took this project very seriously. Greenpea is hard at work. 
The kids were so engaged that I ran with it and had them complete almost the entire booklet before I realized they only needed to select a few activities. There are different activities depending on the age groups you have too.

Here they are making cornmeal that they even bothered to taste! (I imagine it tasted just like sand since there wasn't actually corn in there and eroded rocks turn into just that!)

"Raise your right hand…or your left, or maybe just any ol hand and repeat after me."
Right from left. Something it looks like we all need to work on...

I am always amazed at just how thoroughly these rangers double check the kids work and correct them as they go along. They don't give these badges to just anyone, you know.

I am proud to announce that we left Mesa Verde with 4 Junior Rangers that day!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I'm makin' pies

First you have to play this just to get in the mood…

I don't usually make an abundance of pies during the holidays and 4 is about my limit. In the last week though there just seems to be some many excuses for pie that I've made 7 pies and I have 4 more to make this week! I'm getting good at the home made crust. And since a friend requested the recipe and how to, here we go.

This recipe came from one of Justin's high school friends and I've been using it for over 10 years!

Josh's Homemade Pie Crust
(makes double crust)

2 cups flour
dash of salt
1 Tbsp sugar (omit if you are making quiche or anything savory)
2/3 cup + 2 Tbsp butter or shortening or butter (you should really use butter)
4-6 Tbsp ice water (8 Tbsp if you live in the dry West)

Cut the butter or margarine into the flour until it's roughly pea sized crumbles. (I'm a butter kind of girl. I never use shortening for this and never margarine. It's worth the splurge. You are eating pie for crying out loud, it's not worth trying to keep the lbs off! You will cry yourself to sleep thinking on how good it could have been if you'd only used butter. Just trying to save you the drama of disappointment here.)

Fill up a glass with water and some ice cubes. Dip out the water and add to the dry mixture. Toss it until everything is sort of wet and looks like it will stick together. 

The trick is to not over work the dough. All of those crumbs of butter will melt away in the oven and create little air pockets in the crust to make a delicious flakey goodness. 

Work the dough just enough to get it to stick together while you roll it out. A peel is really helpful if you have one, other wise you have to use more flour. Roll it out and then drape it over your rolling pin and transfer to your pie plate. 

Trim the left over so that the dough hangs about 1/2" over the edges. Roll the draping edges under to rest on the edge of the pie plate. Using your thumb and forefinger on your right hand and your forefinger on your left, push your left finger up against your right all the way around to create a zigzag design. If you look closely, it will have a marbled look to it with the pockets of butter in there!

I learned a long time ago that your pie can be elevated from just yum to spectacular with a homemade crust and decorations for the top. Use the left over dough to cut out shapes to place on top of the pie when it's done. They can be baked on a cookie sheet until lightly brown and crispy and then used on top after the pie is finished baking (unless you are using a lot of them for a fruit pie, in which case you can bake them with like a top crust.

Brush the pie crust and the decorations with a little 1/2 & 1/2 and dust with sugar before you put it in the oven.

Bake for 15 min @450 and then 15 min at 350 if you are planning to use it for a cream pie or something that doesn't get baked after filling. Otherwise, just fill it and bake it with your pie. Cover the edges before they get too brown if your filling isn't done when your crust looks finished.

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Honor & Strength & a Big Imagination

My little warriors asked to be Spartans this year for Halloween. Only problem is that Spartans pretty much wear nothing more than a pair of leather undies and a red cape. Precisely why my youngest found this so appealing! 

Even if we could get past the idea of basically streaking through the neighborhood for Halloween, which might work in Georgia, we happen to live in Colorado where we could easily have 6" of snow on the ground by All Hallows Eve! Tighties and a cape aren't gonna fly.

All I could think of doing to warm them up, was to buy a muscle suit until I ran across a tutorial for this. Can you say GENIUS?!?!

I'm not gonna lie. I looked at all of the pictures and then sort of made it up as I went. A scrap piece of material, stuffing, layered it inside  50 cent t-shirts from the thrift, drew lines with a ruler and sewed along the lines. Much easier than all that cutting!  I added a little darker color paint to the creases and added a belly button and I was a hero

Ok so I wasn't a hero. The 6 year old woke up the next morning with a huge grin on his face scrambling to try it on and the 8 year old said, "I'm so not gonna wear that!" (Are we seriously there already?!?) Oh well. We can layer real clothes under all of this and it will only make them stronger looking!

Cereal boxes, elastic, glue gun applique and some bronze spray paint. I learned this from some over the top, overly creative helmet how to on instructibles

So I ordered the shield/sword combos which were totally worth the $12 on Amazon and the Spartan helmets which were totally NOT worth the $12 on Amazon and ended up being pretty cheap. 

"Honor and Strength" is the saying on the shield. I think these were so cool with the spot for the sword to fit into the shield. You know like for when you are marching and you need to carry a spear too...

Choir robes from thrift for the capes.

And a cut up leather skirt that my mother sent me (Sorry mom. I looked for Annie Oakly accessories to go with it to no avail but I still got three Spartan costumes out of it!)

Curtain rods from thrift. And I might add, the 8 year old is taking this picture pretty seriously even though he said he'd never wear those muscles...

You might be asking, where is the third Spartan? He is actually going to be a Roman soldier (so they have someone to fight, naturally) and since he already has bulging muscles I didn't make him a muscle shirt and I am totally making him wear the leather briefs version of the bottoms! (That will have you checking back for another post! He he.) And as you might imagine, he's not really all that in to dressing up on random nights more than a week before the big candy binge and sparing in the courtyard in front of a bunch of college students. 

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mama + kids = music, art & sports

Daddy + kids = science, math & history

It's so funny to me to watch the activities of the boys when they are influenced by either me or Justin. When we take our turns with the boys separately, the days are geared so differently. With Daddy, the boys are all about science, math and history. When they are with me, it's all about art and music and being active. While Justin was away, we spent our week making field trips to the college practice rooms for their real pianos to practice on. We spent three nights at Sugar Creek rehearsals getting ready for our gig at James Ranch and then an evening of performing and goat herding. (We had a baby goat join us on stage for Wagon Wheel!). We spent a day at the lake swimming and went on countless bike rides. I got the stuff for them to craft in their scrap books and I've had watercolor "classes" at the kitchen table. And we piled all the balls, bats, tennis rackets, frisbees and the sort and went to the park one day to have some skills practice. There is a reason God intended there to be two parents. They learn so many different things from each of us.

Here are a few captures from James Ranch.

First Week Report: Camp Daddy

In case you were curious just how my first week back to work was for the kids was, here is a recap of the activities I came home to witness over lunch and at the end of the day.

Science. Bases versus acids. They tasted EVERYTHING.

And kept detailed notes about each one. 

Sushi for dinner! Mango as well as avocado nigiri is remarkably simple and delicious.

Potato gun building and launch.

It took some fiddling but they eventually got this thing to shoot potatoes to the edge of the trees.

On our way home we found the most terrific toad. 
Check out this beast!

A history time line in the hallway of Animas.

Thanks to the history prof down the hall from Justin, they scored some history books that they were able to cut pictures out of to use for the timeline.

Color coded for Old World, New World and people. They add to it each day. And they did reading and math flash cards each day. This Dad's default is education and there is just no way around it. They may thank him one day for all of this.

I am pretty sure, they don't miss me at all! What do you think?!?!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Working Mama

Some of you may or may not know that I started back working full time three weeks ago! I can't believe it. Both my kids are gone during the school year from 8-3 and with as much as I love graphic design, it was time to head back. The summers will now be very difficult as Justin and the boys will have all the recreational fun but I am excited at getting back in to the swing of a career.

When I was the sole breadwinner of our family in order to put JP through graduate school and had no kids, the idea of our livelihood resting on my shoulders alone was so daunting I was almost crushed by the weight of it all. And once I had babies and was working full time with an hour commute on either end of my day I felt guilty that I wasn't there for them and a bit resentful that that was our situation. I was able to nurse on my lunch break and pump (which is no picnic), much more than a lot of mamas get to or are able to do but I ached to be home with them.

When we moved to Colorado 5 years ago and I got to stay home with my little guys for the first time outside of maternity leave, what I thought would be so easy and relaxing turned out to be just as stressful and guilt generating as when I worked only in different ways and for different reasons. I felt guilty that I wasn't contributing financially, that I wasn't as good at parenting as my husband and that these boys would grow up remembering an impatient mom. Or worse, a mom who didn't prepare them for the world in the way she should have. YUCK! I didn't realize just how exhausting the stay at home mother job is. You are never off and if your kids are awake, then you are on duty. There is no recoup on the weekends or evenings, it's go go go all the time.

I sound a little ill-content in all of those situations but the more accurate read of this is probably insecure. I want to do right by my kids. No I have higher hopes than that even. I want to do stellar, amazing, even unbelievable by my kids. So all of that to say, as I enter this new season of life, of parenthood, I am excited, relieved, ready and yet terrified at the same time as to how we will shake into this new lifestyle.

I just finished week three and you'd think I'd be in to a routine by now but the second two weeks JP has been on the other side of the world and so I got to be full time working from home mom to two rambunctious boys on summer break. (Major props to the single mothers out there. If you aren't a single mother, help one out with her kids every now and again. They need it, no doubt.) So ask me in a month when we get in to school and settle a bit. When I have time to actually sit at my desk with my own computer and we are in the swing of things. Once I get to see just how awesome flex time in a full time job where the commute is literally a walk across campus and my kids are in school most of the day anyway.  This is a new season. I think it's gonna be a good one.

The littler chef

Justin will let the boys cook what ever they want as long as it is reasonably square. For the kid who picked mac and cheese for his first daddy and son cooking lesson (no surprise there) he went to the other end of the spectrum on his second go round. LOBSTER! The seafood dinners are always my favorite. I wonder why?!? It was delicious!