Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mug cake?!

Ok- how have I survived this long without knowing that you can make an individual-sized cake in the microwave? This is a total game changer.
Natalie and I ran this test on a "cowboy" cake with chocolate chips, m&m's, and coconut. It was so good, we made more for FHE treat.

Angela is very cute and smart and feisty. She loves puzzles, throwing tantrums, laying in her crib with her pacifier and bear and drinking milk.

This hawk was staring me down through the window as I ate my lunch this morning.


And, in other news, Natalie had to have 6 cavities filled today. I blame the potty training jelly beans. Probably wouldn't have been so bad if she hadn't spent the better part of 2 years potty training, but alas, what's done is done. Micah stayed home this morning with Angela and when I returned, there were a bunch of photos of this lego creation on my camera. 


Natalie was pretty wiped out by the sedatives- she completely fell asleep in the waiting room before they took her back. But I guess once they started prodding at her she tried hard to fight them off. I wasn't allowed to go back with her during the procedure (which is really messed up and has me thinking of searching for a new dentist) but occasionally heard an angry wail from the waiting room. This afternoon she is slowly, very slowly, perking back up.


Sheesh, dental work is expensive. I don't think I have spent as much money on my overall health, including even the cost of otc medicine and hygeine products, in the past year as it cost for her fillings. Ah, well. We didn't really need that money. It's not like we just spent more than double what we had expected to stain and seal our fence and have our air conditioner repaired again. .:sigh:. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Little Cows and Beach Bums

Very busy lately. Natalie has started a month of swim lessons. She was terrified when I first told her I had signed her up, but she warmed up to it quickly once I took her. She's in the most basic group that doesn't involve a parent needing to be in the water with the kid- so she's learning about putting her face in the water, and very, very basic propulsion, like bouncing up and down and doing "ice cream scoop arms". I don't think she'll be doggie paddling in 4 weeks, but it's good progress for a girl who one month ago would cry if she got water in her eye.

A 16 year old from church who we've had over to babysit invited the girls over to decorate cupcakes. It was very sweet and the girls loved it. Strangely, though, the cupcakes we brought home only ever got partially eaten...


I forgot to photograph this yummy pie before we broke into it. I made it to take to someone's place on Sunday, but they ended up cancelling, so we had an overly fancy FHE treat on Monday night.

We also decorated cow shirts for FHE so we could score free Chicfila the next day on Cow Appreciation Day.
Unfortunately, Angela was having a tantrum all evening. Which was a shame, because she probably would have really enjoyed painting her shirt. She loves arts and crafts. 


My little Calves:


Angela was really into the cow, though she may not seem thrilled in this picture.
And, of course, the best part of all:







A few pictures of the girls while we were at the beach a few weeks ago.







I take the girls to the beach during the day once a week and we go with Micah on the weekends sometimes. They are learning to enjoy it more and more. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

First off, an exciting week was had last week

Lots of baking, like this loaf of rosemary bread that Natalie helped pick from a recipe book and assisted in creating.

And this giant cookie. Those "small batch" recipes on pinterest are killing me. We are eating way, way, way, way way too much dessert in this house lately!

Micah purchased this car, a suburu legacy, from a friend as we'd been planning. They moved up to a minivan and we're just glad to finally have a second vehicle. Micah will still bike to work, but this will be very convenient for those occasions when it's raining or when he and I have errands and activities that overlap, as is sometimes the case on weekends or with church responsibilities, etc. The car runs fine and has no problems, but it's quite old- 1995- and has 189,000 miles on it. Micah is looking forward to learning more about cars and fixing things as they go wrong.

The children, in their optimism, are quite impressed with daddy's "new" car and think it goes really fast.

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"Slow down, Slow down!"
"We're Not slowing down, its the fastest vehicle in the world, Angela!"
"Yes!"

I'm still just amazed that we can fit both cars in the garage. Wouldn't have been possible a few months ago!

One cool plus is that this car has a roof rack, so we could tote kayaks/surf boards/bikes/etc if we ever find ourselves at the right intersection of time, money, and interest. Also good if we ever need to haul materials for projects, like large pieces of wood to board up windows for a hurricane or that 2-story ladder we need to invest in before Micah puts up the Christmas lights this year...

Fourth of July was great fun! A lot of my early shots of the parade in Melbourne were like this because of lens condensation from all the frozen bottles of water in my purse.

 The parade was small but we enjoyed it. Angela was amazed at how they kept giving her candy and Natalie had a great time waving and wishing everyone in the parade a happy Fourth of July.


Someone passed out icee pops- brilliant!
It was pretty hot, but fortunately we had a nice spot in the shade and drank plenty of water.

The stickiness was sooooooooo incredible

After the parade, Natalie said, "Let's have a little playground action", so we stopped at the park for a while, then headed home to clean and get food ready. We had a very fun cookout with a few people from Micah's work who we know from church and a few who don't belong to our church. It was a very nice party, everyone had a great time and the food was wonderful. I made this angel food cake, some banana pudding and potato salad. 

Micah cooked some chicken breasts and hamburgers on the grill. Friends brought some sides like watermelon and salad and fancy cheeses. Kids played in the sprinkler and kiddie pool and water table and we laid out a tarp at the bottom of our slide and set the hose at the top for a little slip-and-slide action. Our water bill is gonna be horrendous this month, but probably still lower than the cost of one months' maintenance for an in-ground pool :)

Once our friends left, we headed over to a park that is on the river. We were hoping to see the fireworks display in downtown Melbourne, just a few miles up the river from us, but trees blocked all but the highest fireworks. We could, however, see LOTS of other fireworks going off across the river in all of the beach side communities. We also saw lots of fireworks on our way home. This place is CRAZY about fireworks. Like, we heard people lighting fireworks off all night long Saturday, Sunday and Monday night. A few households in each neighborhood, it seemed, set off huge, high legit fireworks, not just the little sputtery, ground-type ones that have always been synonymous with "home fireworks" in my mind. I think the motto here on the fourth of July should be "Brevard: One county, one billion different celebrations."

Here's how the girls felt about our Fourth of July adventures:

It was a very full, fun day! I did wax a bit sentimental in the morning as the parade began and I felt gratitude for the freedoms that we enjoy... at least for now. It's hard not to be pessimistic about patriotism in an election year like this :/ I may not love America all the time, but I do feel like I'm trying harder and harder to love Americans, to feel acceptance and love towards those around me and be a positive influence on those who I come in contact with. And what is America if not the people who live here?  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Powerless

We've spent the last 24 hours powerless. Like, without power. Literally. Our house did not have electricity.

Right at the intersection of our and our neighbors powerlines, 2 massive trees stood looming, just waiting for the perfect storm to knock them over and create mayhem. Our neighbor, being proactive an responsible, set about having them removed this last week, as they are on his property. Yesterday, as two guys went to work on the trees around lunchtime, an unexpected rotten portion of tree broke away and fell into the powerlines, affecting a transformer and ripping the line clear off the side of our house. The tree guys were great about calling the power company and having an electrician over quickly. The whole issue was repaired and resolved by 6pm. Unfortunately, due to STUPID FRICKIN IDIOTIC BUREAUCRACY NONSENSE, the electricity could not be turned back on until this afternoon, a full 20 hours later. The electrician who completed the repair was required to file a request  for an inspection with the city code and permits department and they in turn had to dispatch an inspector to examine the electricians work and report to the power company that was acceptably safe. To further complicate matters, the electrician's secretary had issues because they had recorded that the repair had been done at our neighbors' address (since they were the ones who called them out and paid for the repair) and they couldn't just take our word for it that the truck had been parked in our driveway and the electrician had been working on our house because "they could lose their license". Gah, what morons. I can't wait to see how many centuries it takes to restore power after a hurricane!

This whole event DID make me think more about our emergency preparedness. My main concerns now in the event of a hurricane- surviving without air conditioning and not going crazy from boredom. Aside from doing zumba in the morning, I was at home all day Monday until we went out to dinner and then headed over to a friends house to sleep and when I woke up today, I felt like I needed to go ANYWHERE and do ANYTHING to not be cooped up the hot house! We went to the beach and then walked around the mall until Micah texted me that the power was restored.

The problems we faced outside of hotness and boredom would not be so devastating in a hurricane because hurricanes don't come suddenly, you have time to get things in order. You can put a last big load of dishes through the dishwasher.You can eat down the contents of your fridge so that you don't end up with wasted, spoiled food. You can shop for pantry-stable snacks that you and your family like. 


One thing we might consider investing in: a manual can opener. I know a good trick to open cans without one, but I was too embarrassed to go out and do this on the front porch with the tree guys, 2 guys from the power company and an electrician all right there in my yard.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Two for Four

We have most likely lost another one of our chickens. Blondie, the surprise-green-egg-layer, disappeared from our backyard yesterday in the late afternoon. There was no sign of any predators- a hawk would have left behind a messy scene, as would a fox or bobcat. She would have been pretty big prey for a hawk and I don't know how any larger predators would have scaled the 6' fence anyway. The greatest probability is that she ducked through a small gap under the fence to explore the neighbors' lawn and got attacked or lost. I searched as best I could in the adjacent yards, and kept checking late into the night for her return- even if she'd gone away, she should instinctively return to our coop after dark. This morning I search through all of the trees on and around our property in case she roosted up high up and couldn't get down. I keep glancing out back, hoping she may have returned and is pecking to get back into the run to drink some water, but by now there is almost no chance she's still around. Only a vague fantasy that she has decided to go join the neighbor's flock. I am sad, not as sad as if I had lost a pet- the chickens are definitely more of a livestock animal to us- but still sad that I won't see her pecking around the yard anymore. Natalie and Angela really liked her because she was friendly and very sweet and liked to squat down and let us pet her. Also, her eggs were just beginning to approach full size!

I couldn't sleep all night. I was filled with anxiety over the hopeless cause of man versus nature, of civilization conquering the jungle, of survival facing the wild. I kept worrying about Natalie or Angela getting attacked by an alligator or drowned from wandering off and falling into a pond. By morning, I was more myself, the anxiety present though weak.

I am now both annoyed and optimistic about getting a few more chicks. Chicks are needy and smelly and won't lay eggs for months... but, it's interesting/fun/challenging to consider which breeds we will get now that we have some experience. Perhaps the elegant and docile australop would best withstand the long, hot summer here. Then again, a white leghorn would stand out so nicely while foraging in the yard. Or there' the classic Orpington with its golden plumage. How will the flocks merge? Will the pecking order be smoothly established or will fights break out? Can we get them to last, to keep our flock at 4 chickens? What more can I do to keep them safe while allowing for plenty of free ranging for improved quality of life/economy/egg quality?

All I know for certain is this: For the closest living relatives to the T-Rex, chickens sure are vulnerable little stinkers.
Blondie on the right

EDIT: Blondie miraculously returned! She found her way back Saturday morning. It is truly amazing that she survived two nights outside. We're so happy!

In other news, summer storm season is HERE. Heavy rains pop up suddenly and frequently.
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Last Saturday we had an especially strong storm, with tons of lightning, extremely heavy rain sustained for over an hour and winds up to 50mph.

Silly girls not knowing they ought to run for cover

 I recently read a book called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". It was pretty interesting. Her basic premise: Only keep items that spark joy within you. Throw away everything else. I think her method was a little impractical for me. I hang on to many, many things because they could be useful. That's just good thrift in my mind. Also, if I kept only clothing that brought me joy, I might end up throwing away every single item and become a nudist. That won't really work. I felt discouraged that I couldn't come up with more than a couple bags worth of stuff to get rid of. Part of it may be that we just moved so I've already weeded out a lot of the junk I owned. Also, our house is quite a bit bigger than we need right now, so closet space isn't exactly in high demand, so I don't feel much pressure to discard things. A few areas were very helpful to examine. I was able to sort through this tote of random computer-related items (which I was previously proud to have even gathered together into one box) and condense it into a box 1/3 the size.

Another thing I threw away- tons and tons of empty boxes!!! I was used to hanging onto boxes- moving boxes, diaper boxes, boxes that delicate objects came packaged in. It's part of the "I'm-gonna-move-soon" mindset that I've had for the last 9 years and I have finally decided to quit. I'm done looking forward to the next move and ready to just experience living in my home. I saved a few small ones, like shoe boxes, for organizing closets and such.

Another great victory: Our garage is officially 100% unpacked and de-junked. We moved all of our storables into the backyard sheds or into upstairs closets. We have now joined the 1% of Floridians without a garage full of storage. Yay! I should take a photo, I'm so proud. We have a 2-car garage that could actually fit 2 cars! Time to get another car, I guess :/

The most beautiful scene on earth: Small children cleaning up their mess without threats, raised voices or promise of a reward

For fathers' day we got Micah a chainsaw/pole saw tool to help him him get his yard work done much faster. We also got him an emergency radio/flashlight/hand-cranked or solar-powered cell phone charger. He went out and got himself a grill and cooked up some T-bone steaks on Sunday evening. He commented that he felt that his man score had increased significantly on this holiday, with the first power tool and grill additions to our household. The picture above is what Natalie brought home from primary. Glad to know she understands her dad's job about as well as I did mine at the age of 12.

Fruit and lemonade popsicles for FHE treat- another dessert inspired by Nerdy Nummies

At the latest free summer movie series- peanuts the movie! We ran into some friends and it was fun all sitting together at the theater. We have been to the movie theater more in the last 2 months than the previous 2 years!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent Events+ Interview With Natalie

The attack in Orlando this weekend was pretty crazy and has everyone down here in a panic. Lots of folks knew someone who worked with someone whose sister's neighbor's poodle's hairdresser was involved with the shooting. I'm not trying to make light of it; it's a very sad, sad thing. Every one of those killed or injured was an individual with people who loved them and lives that mattered. But it didn't make me feel personally frightened like a shooting in a school or a shopping mall or a movie theater because I don't expect that I'll ever personally find myself at a downtown club at 2 a.m. since that's not a very safe environment even without crazed gunmen about. 

I'm significantly more worried about the alligator that snatched a 2-year-old out of a lake at Disney World last night because that could quite possibly happen to my children if they ever approached a natural body of water around here. It seems like a more likely danger. Sorry if that seems insensitive!

Last weekend I finally got to see the new star wars movie. Was NOT disappointed, though I wanted more back story and for Han Solo's son to not be such a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. This air mattress was perfect for family movie night.

Natalie loves crafts. She wanted me to help her make a mask the other day. This is what she created. Terrifying.

Art is always fun when it's a bajillion degrees but the humidity makes it feel like a bajillion and ten degrees outside (seriously, the "feels like" temps have been like 10* hotter than the actual temperature. Anytime I go outside, no matter how briefly, I return inside drenched in sweat). Here are the kids doing play doh. I have a lot of trouble getting good pictures of Angela because she's always moving too fast or looking down.


Eating play doh. Yum!

My tomatoes have been killin it. They really liked the rain from TS Colin and I've gotten around 2-3 quarts of them in the last week. I've gifted some, used them in our dinners for the last 4 nights, and plan to freeze some. I want to can salsa and tomato sauce some day, but grape tomatoes aren't that useful for canning since they have relatively little flesh once you've removed skins and seeds. 

And finally, here's an interview I did with Natalie today during naptime:


What is your name? Natalie
How old are you? 4
What is your favorite color? Red
Who is your best friend? Everybody
What is your favorite place to go? Aldi and Publix and the gym
What is your favorite movie? Jungle Book
What is your favorite toy? Everything
What is your favorite animal? Dogs and cats
What do you want to be when you grow up? A zoo helper. Only zoo helpers can help giraffes and Zebras. You can only do that in Florida.
What is your favorite story from the scriptures? The first one, where Nephi tries to figure out which church to go to.
How old is Mommy? 12
What is Mommy's favorite thing to do? Play with me
How old is Daddy? 9
What is Daddy's favorite thing to do? Eat candy