Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Every year growing up, my parents loaded all four of us girls into the Dust Bucket (ie: the family station wagon) and made the drive to Okoboji. My dad's parents owned a small house there so every summer we went and stayed for a few days. Every summer we posed - from youngest to oldest, naturally - on the front steps and indulged my mom her yearly picture. Basically every year is a slightly different version of embarrassing.

summer of 1995
Side note: Yes, we are all girls. 
Felicia just preferred a boy's haircut while wearing a t-shirt featuring Pocahontas and John Smith. Thanks Disney. 
Meanwhile I am rocking a one-piece number with a built in belt and skirt. 

We spent our days swimming, fishing, playing in our usual parks, mini-golfing, and eating Godfather's Pizza and DQ ice cream. At night we hauled the extra mattresses out of the closet and arranged them in the over-sized living room. All four of us slept on them together, after about an hour's worth of jumping back and forth.

We went every year, all the way up through high school. 
One year we wanted to take friends. My mom was not signing on for a "vacation" with at least four extra kids. My dad was just crazy enough to agree. 
And that is how our dad ended up spending a long weekend by himself with nine girls.

What I remember most from the trip was that we made him drive us around while we listened to the Backstreet Boys. And he learned some words and sang along. 
My dad's always been cool like that.

Fast forward a good decade or more.
My grandparents still own the same small one-bedroom house, although minus that green carpet. 
And now I am the one with small children. And I would love for them to experience and enjoy the same wonderful things I did when I visited Okoboji as a kid. 

Yesterday we decided to make a little of that happen. 
We loaded our kids in our packed Honda Pilot (can't wait to see what our kids name it someday) and hit the same road my parents used to.

We picnicked at the same park we used to play at when I was a kid.
We swam and played in the sand at the same beach that we used to when I was a kid.
We drove around and noted what had changed - and what had stayed the same - since I was a kid.

The result was a day of smiles and laughs. 
Lots of cookie bars and lemonade.
Plenty of sun and definitely a lot of sand.

Our three came home exhausted, already asking when they can go back again. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Iowa State Fair

Corn dogs.
The big boar.
The butter cow.
Real cows.
Pigging out.
Basically a lot of animal-related stuff going on.

On Monday we packed up for the day and headed to Des Moines.
Jared had only been once, and despite being born and raised in Iowa, I have only been a couple of times. And since Jared's dad and step-mom were in town visiting from Kansas, we thought they might enjoy seeing the fair too.

You could spend hours just walking through all the animal barns. 
All the kids liked the horses, but the highlight for Avery was the goat that sneezed and "sounded like a kid." 
She's three so the pun was not intended.

This photo is very fitting since Bailey's favorite part of the fair was seeing pigs, especially the day-old piglets.

A personal favorite of ours from our last visit is this little beauty.
It's peppermint stick ice cream covered in a layer of fudge and finished a layer of cookie crumbles.
To die for.

Avery enjoyed this mode of transportation the best.

Graham finally gave up on it all around 2 pm, which meant more caramel apple funnel cake for me and Grandma Ann.
Hey, snooze ya lose, Brother!

It was a fun day that flew by. Sometimes taking the kids anywhere is like pulling teeth, but with so much to do and look at, they were constantly entertained and therefore really well behaved. 
And did I mention they were exhausted and fell right asleep as soon as we got home? 
Yeah, because that part rocked. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

At Long Last! Premiering in two days...

Those of you who know me personally have had to put up with my pushy book recommendations for years. One of my favorites is the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon. I got completely hooked when I was pregnant with Graham and devoured all seven books within a couple months. (And they are mammoth books. We are talking like 800, 900 pages each.) 
I talked both my mom and sister Catrina into reading the first one, but they didn't read any more and therefore did not become as obsessed as me. 
Obsession seemed to take over at book 3 I believe...

I am not going to even attempt to summarize the books because summaries just end up sounding cheesy and cheesy they are not.

Last year it was announced that filming had begun for an Outlander TV series.
Total excitement on my end.

And it premieres tomorrow night on Starz.

Now, we don't even get Starz. 
In truth we don't even get more than the most basic of basic cable.
BUT, we do utilize this amazing little site called Couch Tuner and it is AWESOME. Every current television show is on there. 
And did I mention it is free? 
Yep, 100% free with zero sign-up crap. Just click on it and watch. 

So yeah, I will be checking this out. Pronto.
I admit I have high hopes. The sneak peaks look great, and it is getting good buzz from multiple places. 

I am hoping it is on par with Game of Thrones (I know, I know, but I did say my hopes are high). It isn't main stream network TV, so they can actually do justice to the more racy parts (read: smut for ladies and brutal killing for the guys) of the books. Plus the author is overseeing everything about the series, so it is true to the books. 

I am hoping Jared might even give it a chance and watch the first few episodes at least. Buzzfeed even claims that men will like it (article here) and we all know they're always right, right? Okay, well at least I hope so in this instance.

At any rate, I am hopefully optimistic. 
Bring on the Scottish accents and the kilts, Starz! 
It's about time I learned how to pronounce sassenach properly.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Seven thoughts

Fe, Beaner, and I walked in our town's annual parade to support our youngest sister Justy's massage business. We handed out magnets and worked up quite a sweat. The girls got in on the action by donning their matching t-shirts and helping throw candy.

As I have mentioned before, I got serious about losing weight and getting into shape back in April. 
I am happy to report that I am currently down 17+ pounds in almost 4 months. 
It's no huge jaw-dropping number, but I am happy with it. I'm also happy that I am accomplishing it without totally giving up foods I love (milk, carbs, cake) or forking out money for memberships. It's just been simple exercising and not taking in more food than I burn every day. 
And it works. 
I have lost about a pound a week. And since my goal is to achieve a weight I can actually maintain, I am fine with a slow but steady decrease on the scale. 

I recently posted some photos of projects Jared had completed for his Etsy site. He is apparently on a real kick because he has been churning out all kind of new things lately. I think the newest one is pretty cute.

This past week my parents were in Washington D.C. for a vacation and I was garden-sitting for them. We went out to pick green beans and cucumbers and sweet corn every two or three days. I was in bean snapping mode for hours and hours this week. Fresh garden produce is at the top of my list of favorite things about summer. Jared doesn't seem to truly appreciate the wonderfulness that is fresh green beans straight from the field - more for me!

Some days it is just too hot to pretend I want to sit in the backyard watching the kids run around. Even if there is shade - don't care. Inside in the air conditioning is where it's at, folks. There is plenty of fun to be had reading books and playing in tents.

Speaking of books, I am back in reading mode. I have been wanting to read "The Fault in Our Stars" for months, especially since I knew the movie was coming out. Now if I want to go see it with my sister and her friend, I need to be finished in the next 10 days or so. So I should probably actually start it...

To any commenters: What is a great book you finished recently?
I love a good book recommendation, and my GoodReads "to read" list can always use a few new additions.

Check out my car wash cuties hard at work. The kids have fun and the car gets clean. Win- win situation.
And don't pretend like you weren't wearing your pink tutu the last time you washed your car.

And can we talk about Crocs for a moment? I don't love them. I have never owned a pair, don't plan on it. But Crocs (or a knock-off brand found basically anywhere) for kids? Amazing. 

They require zero assistance from me. And as many times in a day that the kids go out in the backyard and come inside again five minutes later, I figure I am saving myself at least a good half hour of work per day. 

Plus they are water proof. This is a big perk seeing as Avery abandons her shoes within one minute of going outside. I can't tell you how many pairs of soaked shoes I have rescued from the backyard after a rain storm. You throw in all the dirt they acquire at Papa's farm? Yep, Crocs, I have officially given in to your charms. 

Alright, I think that is enough random for now. 
Happy Monday!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

a little Etsy love

Most of you know that my husband has his own Etsy shop named Brand New To Me. He is always trolling the internet to find new ideas and inspiration and regularly raids a family member's old barn for wood. It gives him a chance to escape the house and be creative, plus he has a built-in excuse to wander around Menard's for a "deal" or two.

So with little to no shame I am going to showcase a couple of his new creations.

rustic pallet and barn wood shelf

wooden serving tray

shabby chic beach crate shelves

He is mid-project on creating at least one or two other new items. After months of pretty slow business, July proved to be busy with many custom orders and more currently in the works. Soon he will start building up a supply of Christmas items, because if this holiday season is anything like last year, he will need a surplus of stocking holders. (He literally took our own personal one of the wall and sold it to someone else while he made another because he was taken by surprise with how many sold.)

And as always his shop button is on the right-hand side of my page. 
And any local Iowa peeps can hit him up for a deal; without Etsy's cut and shipping costs, he has a little more wiggle room in the price. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wait... I want July back!

Summer is going by way too fast. And I know it can't be just me looking at the calendar and the approaching month of August and wanting to press pause on the life DVR button. 

We spent all last week at the lake cabin like we do every year.
This year the weather left a little to be desired. I know that typically adults (yep, not including myself in the adult category right now) like it cooler out, but come on, it's a week at the lake! I wanted some swimming and boating and tiny shovels in the sand along the water. I was hoping for the desire to escape the heat by hopping into the lake at midnight after a few drinks with the cousins.
It was in the 60s some days. There were times when we needed sweatshirts and pants on to sit outside in the shade in the afternoon! 

And because of that I have very few pictures. We did a lot of eating - no surprise there - and we took quite a few bike rides. The weather was phenomenal for that. We did some boating but I never felt the urge to even put on a swimsuit. It was never hot enough. 

We did however play some badminton - us adult kids are all slowly improving - and the little kids enjoyed the nearby playground as often as possible. 

We had our annual cousins' night too which coincided with Justy's birthday. Some beer darts and other games were played and copious amounts of cheese balls and chicken strips were consumed, but since no one went down a Christian Bible Camp water slide at 1 AM, I think we classed it up a bit this year.

Back at home we have been taking it easy. This past week the kids slept in more than they ever have before in their lives and I was right there with them.

There isn't too much on the agenda for the rest of the week. 
But we do have sweet corn. And to my kids it is like the Holy Grail of food.

Graham had his first ever taste of corn on the cob tonight.
Hey, it's an Iowa rite of passage.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

White Trash Golfing & Mud Volleyball 2014

In our family we do this weird thing we call White Trash golfing. It evolved three years ago when my sisters and cousin had nothing to do on a Saturday morning. Someone suggested golf, but everybody looked borderline trashy - cutoff t-shirts, old shoes, hair all a mess. It was suggested they should go anyway and just embrace the white trashy-ness. So they did. 
And White Trash Golfing was born. 

And then there is this couple - newcomers to the event. 
But from the looks of them you would never know.
They just do White Trash so right!
I can only hope they look just as ravishing at their upcoming wedding here in a few months. 

The next day was mud volleyball.
If you recall our team last year was the Bumpin' Amish.

This year we went as team Nerds 'N' Nets.
And I think we were just as stylish as that sounds.
Are you seeing my sexy husband?? Back off ladies, that geek is all mine!

I like big books and I cannot lie.

Talk nerdy to me.

Another engaged couple. 
With a picture this perfect, I really hope it makes the wedding slide show!

Nerd Love.

Truth be told, we aren't the best at mud volleyball. We won our first game and lost the two after that.
But we don't take it too seriously - it's all for the fun of playing. (And maybe the drinking?)
However, we did win for Best Team Uniform, so those trips to Goodwill really paid off.

The After look:

It was a fun time and worth the ten million mosquito bites and the 20 minute shower afterward. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Independence Day 2014

My family has never done anything special on the 4th, and I am not exaggerating. Sure, we sometimes got together in the evenings with our two cousins and launched some fireworks, but nothing overly exciting. Unless you consider all those near-misses with battle tank rockets exciting.

Jared on the other hand grew up always having a fun 4th of July. As a kid in Colorado his mom had their friends and family over in the backyard every year for food, homemade hand-churned ice cream, and plentiful games. So to him the 4th of July was always a favorite holiday. 
Not so much for me. 
So this year we decided to make it a fun holiday by hosting a party in our own backyard.

We invited family, spruced up the backyard (did I mention how tired I am of constantly pulling weeds this summer?), brainstormed menu items, and prepared to cross some items off our summer bucket list
We love to have people over, so we were excited to host a party. 

No get-together in this family is complete without lots of food. 
And I don't know why, but color-themed food just seems like a prerequisite for a 4th of July party. And while there are no pictures of it, my husband makes absolutely amazing homemade ice cream: vanilla, double chocolate, and strawberry. It was a straight-up stampede into the kitchen to get a bowl.

The kids had fun splashing in the kiddie pool we set up and throwing some water balloons.

The adults also had their share of fun. I had picked up a $20 badminton/volleyball set from Target and we logged a few hours of competition. 
Clearly we take our badminton seriously. 

And of course the 4th of July isn't complete without fireworks, although we stuck with the sparklers and snakes.

We finished off the night at my parents' camper watching the fireworks show at Twin Lakes. Avery and Graham didn't make it past 8:30, but Bailey made it until 10 o'clock in order to see the show.

It was definitely the most fun 4th of July we have had in a long time. And if just for the ice cream alone, it will probably be an annual event. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

summertime blogging catch-up

The past week or so has been full of ordinary and some not-so-ordinary, mostly good, some bad. And it's random, which seems to be my M.O. lately.

The girls spent last Friday in Omaha with Aunt Beaner. They ate food I refuse to cook for them (boxed mac & cheese) and hung out, getting spoiled by their aunt of course. They went swimming, ate ice cream, and played with bubbles. All of which they can do at our house, but it is much more fun when it's with your aunt. 

Aunt Beaner reported minimal fighting and only one incident in which a larger elementary school aged boy jumped on Avery in the pool, causing the lifeguard to jump from his post and "rescue" Avery.  Minor near "drowning" experience aside, the trip was a complete success.

While the girls were gone, Graham got some one-on-one time with not only Mommy and Daddy, but Grandma Sherri and Papa as well - which never happens. 

He also took advantage of Avery's absence and got some good use out of her pink cowboy (cowgirl?) boots.

This past weekend was the funeral of Nick Hildreth - someone I have known since he started kindergarten with my sister Felicia. He married a classmate of mine and they lived here in our small town. He passed away unexpectedly in an electrical accident and left behind a wife and four children. Funerals like that are gut-wrenching. To see the devastation on the faces of his parents and wife, not to mention their kids, it's just horrible. 28 is just way too young...

And while living in a small town can sometimes be well... annoying - everybody knows your business, everybody talks about your business - I think that in this case living in a small town will be a blessing. People in a small town care. They might be all up in your business at times, but they want to help. 

Funerals like that one make you think about what is important in life and what would be left behind if you died right here, right now, today. Family is the legacy you leave and I am grateful to be able to spend so much time with mine.

And speaking of family, we went out and bombarded visited my grandma Connie and grandpa Lyle this morning. The usual coffee time and what-not.

Bailey knows right where to look for Great Grandma's snack stash.
Bring on the cookies!

We couldn't get out of the house without bows. Bailey and Avery needed bows with their ponytails. 
And Graham is not going to be left out. 
He stood at the door yelling "Bow!" at the top of his lungs and would not be silenced. So I let him pick his bow too, placed it in his hair, and the miraculously the yelling ceased. We could finally leave the house. 

Checking out the corn which is doing really well in our parts - just enough rain but no flooding like so many other farmers have to deal with.
And while I know people think Iowa and think boring, boring, boring -
I truly love Iowa. 
I love the green of the fields right now. It's green as far as the eye can see. And I love to watch the corn wave back and forth with the wind. It's the farm girl in me. I used to go on walks down our gravel road growing up and loved just looking at all the green as I walked. I think it is beautiful. I'm always going to think it is beautiful.