Friday, October 31, 2014

Last Minute Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

I am not a procrastinator.  I like getting things done early, checking them off my list, and being ahead of the game.  However, that was not the case for our annual trip to the pumpkin patch this year.  I also love tradition.  We usually go mid-October to a very large farm with every variety of pumpkins you can imagine.  That has been our tradition for 7 years now.  Because of busy schedules and going to the lake last weekend instead of the pumpkin patch (not my choice, by the way) we were running out of time.  Nothing like waiting until the day before Halloween to squeeze in a trip to the pumpkin patch.  Since we only had yesterday evening to go, we picked Berry Patch Farms, a pumpkin farm that was a much shorter drive than our usual trek.  

When we arrived the kids ran straight for the tractor and from there right over to see the wild assortment of animals.

Boo-Boo was fascinated by this pumpkin he saw on display and the girls agreed it sort of looked like corn kernels.

They loved it so much that they wanted their picture taken with it.  :-)

My kids' requirements for a pumpkin patch was a hayride and pumpkins.  This farm fit the bill so next we took the short hayride to the pumpkin patch.

The kids were so excited to run around and pick out the perfect pumpkin.  One good thing about waiting until the day before Halloween is we got to take advantage of the buy one, get one free deal they were having!  Unfortunately, it was slim pickings as far as the "good" pumpkins go and a lot of pumpkins looked like this:  

That pumpkin is way past it's prime.  Why they didn't bother to remove the rotten pumpkins is beyond me, but thankfully we did manage to find some good ones and Blondie declared this one her pick!  

Then they spotted a lone pumpkin that must have gotten a shove from someone because it ended up down a big hill.  They wanted to "rescue" it and bring it back with the others.

Little Mama needed a break from carrying that heavy pumpkin up the hill!  

Boo-Boo kept finding small baby pumpkins that were tossed in with the bigger ones and decided that he wanted to bring one of those home.

This farm was really small and honestly, even though we got a good deal on the buy one, get one pumpkins, I still thought they were a bit over priced for the quality and selection compared to what we were used to.  That being said, it fit our needs this year and we have our family pumpkin patch outing checked off the list.  

They did have this adorable photo op set up with an old wagon and a variety of pumpkins that we totally took advantage of.  

And a huge thanks to the fellow mother that offered to take a picture of all 5 of us.  She spoke my language, because without even having to ask her she snapped at least 10 pictures, just hoping that one of them would turn out good.  And, it did!  

That's a wrap for our pumpkin outing this year and I've made a promise to myself that I will not let this happen again next year.  However, on the way home Little Mama told me she had so much fun tonight so that is all that matters. Our kids made memories, I got my photos, and we have pumpkins for Halloween!

I hope everyone has a wonderful time tonight for trick-or-treating.  I can't wait to see all the kiddos dressed up.  Be sure to check back on Monday for a recap of our Halloween, including our Trick-or-Treat party that we are hosting tonight for our neighbors.  Happy Halloween!!!
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Parade of Cuteness

This week has been full of all things Halloween. We attended Cute's Halloween parade and party at school, and let me just tell you...cutest thing ever! I just love seeing all the tiny little ones in their tiny little costumes. 

We headed out nice and early so that we could get Little Cute and I a good spot to view the parade. We arrived right on time, and then sadly it started to pour down rain. Boo! Luckily his school has enough room to do the parade inside. Everyone did a great job staying organized and keeping the kids happy. 

Here's cute with his sweet teachers. He loved seeing them dressed up for the parade, and couldn't believe that grown-ups could trick-or-treat too. 

His wonderful teacher from last year, Mrs. T., had such an adorable snowman costume I just had to take her pic too. She fit right in with the Frozen theme that was hugely popular this year.  

Cute loved parading and was so excited to find us in the crowd. He opted not to wear his scary race car mask for the parade. His reasoning was apparently no one would be able to see his "big bad race car driver face". 

I was fine with that as anything has to be better than the mask. Back story: I had delusions of sweet coordinating costumes for The Cutes, but then on a shopping trip with daddy he saw this costume and was instantly attached. He has no clue it is an evil race car driver, and I couldn't bring myself to break his heart to switch it. 

In the end, he has fun wearing it and that is what matters. He loved it so much he even wore it the whole day, and wanted to sleep in it. And I let him. :)

Everyone had such adorable costumes!

After the parade, the little ones had a fun party filled with treats, crafts, and spooky Halloween stories. The kids loved it.

And just when the sugar started hitting their systems and things started to get silly, it was time to head home.

We sent everyone home with these fun treats and mini pumpkins. I just added Cute's personalized treat tag sticker to it on the front. With food allergies in his class we have to opt out of homemade treats and certain candy so these were a quick easy way for us to say "Happy Halloween!". 

Hope everyone has a fun Halloween tomorrow!!!
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kitchen Confessions {Chicken Tortilla Soup}

I'm pretty sure I have mentioned this before, but I'm not really one to love cooking.  I love to provide healthy and nutritious meals for my family, but I like doing so in the quickest and easiest way possible.  And that, my friends, is where the frozen and pre-made meals come into play. #keepingitreal

Tonight while the girls were in their dance class, some of us moms were talking about new recipes and I mentioned that whenever I do take the effort to cook I always make double and freeze extras of things like chicken pot pies, lasagna, and spaghetti sauce.  Then my sweet friend asked me about my spaghetti sauce recipe.  Um, recipe?  Doesn't everyone use jar sauce and just add to it a bit?  Well apparently not.  That got us all to cracking up.  In my opinion, Ragu has perfected the art of spaghetti sauce making and who am I to mess with a good thing.

That got us on to the topic of other foods like soups now that the weather is cooling off.  They were rolling on the floor when I admitted to "cooking" the Publix lobster bisque and a salad for dinner on Sunday.  You know what, it was really good and I'm sure it was a heck of a lot better than I could have made from scratch.

At this point I'm totally owning it and the icing on the cake was that I told them for dinner last night hubby and I had TGIFriday's potato skins. From the freezer section.  They are pre-done so all you have to do is heat them up in the oven and they.are.awesome.

No shame here.  I'm happy to mix in pre-made meals with some homemade ones to make my life a little easier and I was pretty sure that Jen shared my feelings.  I was texting with her last night and gave her a brief description of the conversation that happened at dance.  I knew there was a reason she was my BFF.  She also thinks that Ragu from a jar is the way to go and we both agreed that we are the last people who need to be giving cooking advice or recipes.  Here's a little screen shot of our conversation.

Honestly though, that is whole point of our "Kitchen Confessions." We are not professionals (obviously), but we are both busy moms and when we come across a recipe that is easy to make and a crowd pleaser, you better believe we are going to toot our own horn and share it with y'all! And if it comes from the crock-pot, well that is even more reason to share.  Especially since Jen mentioned buying a new one on Instagram yesterday and it appears that lots of you ladies share the same love for yours.

So, here is my favorite crock-pot recipe. It's called a "soup" but it's more like a chili or stew consistency, just FYI.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cans whole-kernel corn
2 cans black beans
1 jar black bean salsa

Place chicken breasts on the bottom of a crock-pot and cover with remaining ingredients.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Remove chicken breast and shred with two forks.  Then return shredded chicken to the crock-pot and stir.  When serving, top with shredded cheddar cheese and/or sour cream and a side of tortilla chips.

My kids love this because they can scoop it with chips and everything is more fun to eat with chips, right? I love it because I literally just dump it all in the crock-pot in the morning and it is ready for us that night.  It also freezes really well, so I often will make and freeze extras.  It's perfect for cool fall and winter nights and if you are a don't-love-to-cook-mom like us, you will feel all warm and fuzzy about your homemade meal!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Officially Number One

Well, it is official. Little Cute officially turned one! 

She turned one, and oh boy does girl know how to celebrate in style. We had a weekend packed full of fun birthday events. So much so that I didn't even have a free moment to dwell and get too emotional about the milestone. Well...not too much anyway. 

On midnight of her big day, I went into her room and gave her a little smooch and told her happy birthday. I enjoyed the quiet sweet moment because I know in just a hop skip and a jump her midnight birthday celebrations won't be as peaceful. 

When she woke up in the morning she was all smiles and hand claps when the three of us burst in singing Happy Birthday.

After a fun morning of present opening and yummy breakfast, we took our little birthday girl to celebrate at the Georgia Aquarium. We took Cute for his first birthday so we thought we ought to keep up with the fun tradition. 

The Cutes loved it! We started off with the Dolphin Tales show, and both children were mesmerized. It was right up Cute's alley as it was filled with ship captains, sea monsters, battles, and dolphins doing tricks. After the show we toured all the exhibits and ate lunch in the cafe. 

This scuba diver was so fun. He saw the kids waving to him and waved back. Then he swam over to our spot and gave each kid a hi-five on his side of the glass. The kids thought it was hilarious.

Cute found a new pet to take home...

And also enjoyed schooling Little Cute on every fish that swam by. Every. Single. One.

Little Cute was uninterested in the lesson, and just kissed each fish that passed her by. Needless to say there was a lot of kissing. And a lot of sanitizing.

The Cute's also loved how interactive everything was. Happy Feet being one of Cute's longtime favorite movies, he was so excited to see "Mumble" up close and personal.

After we thoroughly explored each exhibit, we headed home to continue the celebration. We made Little Cute's favorite meal, spaghetti and meatballs, and had birthday frosted cookies. Then we wrapped up our day with a family walk and ran into fun neighbor friends for an impromptu backyard bounce house celebration. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

The birthday celebrations didn't stop there though. On Saturday, we had a fun party planned with our extended family to celebrate. 

I went with a Halloween and dessert theme. Cute ended up having a make up soccer practice and game that morning so it didn't leave us much room to do anything too elaborate. Hubby was quite thankful. 

The desserts were quite easy considering the timing and the theme of the party. With having little free time over the few days leading up to the even, I just went around to every bakery and grocery store and bought out every Halloween themed treat I could find. 

Cheating, yes. Simple, easy, and stress free...yes, yes, and YES!

I ordered the same cupcakes, I did for dinner club last week, and Little Cute was not one second disappointed. She waited patiently while we all sang to her and then it was game on. 

Her second cupcake also did not stand a chance.

Cute not pictured because he was too busy running around manically on the sugar high of all sugar highs. He snuck a cookie from any grandma, aunt or uncle who he could bat those baby blues at.

Did I mention we have an extremely large family?

We are expecting him to come down from the high sometime around March 2016.

It was a great event, and we could not have had a better celebration planned for our sweet girl.

The last order of business for this big one year old was having her 12 month check up.

We learned we have a big, happy, and healthy little girl on our hands. We could not feel more blessed!!!
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Easy Halloween Treats for Teachers

I love spoiling teachers!  I used to be one (before having kids) so I know how it feels to get little treats or gifts from students.  Even a hand-written note of thanks and appreciation can go a very long way in brightening a teachers day.  (Or anyone's day, for that matter!)

Teachers have an incredible responsibility to care for and prepare our children for the future and they obviously don't get paid enough for that great task.  As a parent, I feel like the least I can do is prepare little goodies to show them our appreciation and say "thank you" for being so wonderful.

Every Halloween my kids help me make this snack mix to give their teachers.

It might seem like an odd combination, but trust me, it is really good! I don't even like candy corn and I like it in this mix.  There is something about the sweet/salty mixture that makes it so tasty.

4 cups Cheerios or Chex cereal
1/2 bag of mini-marshmallows
1/2 bag of pretzels
2 bags of candy corn

Mix together and enjoy.  Seriously, it is that simple.

I buy a package of 12 mason jars at the grocery story for less than $1 a piece.  Then the kids help me fill them with the snack mix, tie cute coordinating ribbons and we are good to go.

Super simple, super cute and the perfect little way to say "Happy Halloween" and bring a smile to just about anyone.  My kids get so excited to give these treats and this year we will give them to school teachers, our bus driver, dance teachers, and cheer coaches.  And, we might just have saved some of the snack mix for ourselves!
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Friday, October 24, 2014

A Dinner Club To Remember

Well it's official...Little Cute turns one today! There are lots of fun things planned for her today, but the celebration actually started this past weekend. 

Carrie Beth and I have a very special group of close friends. Five years ago our little group met for a random last minute dinner one Sunday in December. Something about the spontaneity of it and the feel good way it wrapped up our weekend just felt right. We had so much fun that we decided from that point on to do a dinner together one Sunday a month. Now even as families have grown, lives have gotten busier, and some have moved out of state, we still manage to meet our one Sunday a month. I love it! 

October fell on our month to host and I knew I wanted to do a little something different to celebrate Little Cute's birthday with our Sunday Dinner Club. A new little bounce house place opened up about a minute from our home. It is super small and after talking with the owners about what I wanted to do, I decided to host our rotation there instead of my house. 

Let me tell you. Best. Decision. Ever. 

The kids had a blast. The adults had a blast. Little Cute had a blast! 

And my house...just as clean as I left it. ;) 

No, seriously that is something to be excited about. Children are starting to out number adults in our dinner club, and nothing will tear up your house faster than a pack of toddlers on a cupcake sugar high. 

Aside from the location change and a few fun touches here and there to acknowledge Little Cute's birthday, we kept the dinner club pretty low key. 

Little Cute and I wore our coordinating shirts that Carrie Beth and I worked on earlier in the week. 

Little Cute tested out each bounce house and had a blast running around with everyone. She was all smiles the whole night and was fearless in trying everything. I might have a second dare devil on my hands. Lord help me.

The older kids were so excited to find that one of the bounce houses also had a huge zip line built into it. It was definitely a hit! Word has it a husband or two might have also tried it out even though they exceeded the suggested weight limit. 

The G Family made the trek all the way from South Carolina, and we were all so excited! They literally just had their new baby a few weeks before, but that didn't stop them. Baby B couldn't miss his first dinner club! He is adorable, and we all loved snuggling on him. I'm already counting down the days until next month when I get to cuddle him again. 

Dessert time rolled around and we sang Happy Birthday to Little Cute. She didn't know what to think of it at first, but it didn't take her long to clue in to the deliciousness that is a cupcake.

"Holy cow, where has this been my whole life?!?"

That cupcake didn't stand a chance.

This picture makes me so happy! I asked the owner to take a picture of the whole dinner club. I don't think we have ever taken one of the whole group before. I love that everyone is in it!

The one special touch I did, other than our matching shirts, was to make these fun favors for the kids. 

I was sad to know the night ended so fast, but love that we get to do it all over again in a month. 

And as for this little cutie...just don't make the next year fly as fast okay? 

Now we are off to do some more celebrating! Have a great weekend everyone!!!
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