Monday, October 17, 2011

Our Very Own Lil' Pumpkin Patch

I know what you are thinking - after a highly stimulating Friday, I would take advantage of the good fortune of little girls sleeping late Saturday morning and have a peaceful, low-key, relaxing around the house kind of day. Nope. Not us. That would be way too sensible.

After washing the fair stink off the girls with a morning bath, I dressed them in their Halloween shirts and we headed to the pumpkin patch for more pumpkins!

A friend told me about Belinda's Pumpkins & Gourds last year. After our trip last year I knew it would become an annual tradition. Unfortunately Belinda's pumpkin patch seemed to have been hurt by the stormy summer like so many other farms (see "The Great Pumpkin Shortage"). While the pick of the pumpkins might not have been quite as great as last year, we still came home with several awesome pumpkins for carving (and a few gourds which my girls are obsessed with this year). Did I mention the pumpkins from Belinda's are not only beautiful pumpkins but the most affordable pumpkins I've ever come across? If you live in the triangle area of NC I'm telling you it is worth the drive!

The mums were also beautiful. I spent all the cash I had on me Saturday on pumpkins but I'm thinking I may have to make a quick trip back out to Belinda's one morning this week and get one or two mums for my front porch.

After loading up our pumpkins I took the girls to McDonald's for lunch. McDonald's Happy Meals are in Halloween buckets right now. They did this last year too but when we finally made it to McDonald's in October, they had sold out of buckets. The girls and even myself were disappointed. So when I saw the buckets were back I decided I would make sure I took the girls sooner rather than later so we wouldn't miss out again. Would it be the end of the world or the biggest disappointment ever if they did not get a bucket again this year? Of course not, but I had promised them a special lunch to McDonald's soon anyway so why not.

With all of our pumpkins we have our own mini-pumpkin patch!

This was actually our second trip to a pumpkin patch this year. Gabrielle turned the big 5 in September and we were able to throw her the big birthday bash we've talked about since she was born. We live about five minutes from Hill Ridge Farms. While this place can get really crowded and crazy busy this time of year, we always have so much fun. We have made a family trip to Hill Ridge every fall since having Gabrielle (with exception of last year - Ed's work schedule just didn't allow for it and I didn't like the idea of taking the girls without him). We were blessed that all of our family, our closest friends, and Gabrielle's best buds were all able to attend the party. It was a day of hay rides, train rides, pumpkins, Chick-fil-A lunch (yummy!), and giant slides - and much more! It seemed like everyone had a lot of fun and  Gabrielle (and her mommy & daddy) were full of smiles that day.


Gabrielle's "How Tall This Fall?" photos - fun to look at and see just how much she has grown and changed each year.

I guess Samantha's "How Tall This Fall?" photos will start with this year at age 2 (the photo is part of the birthday collage above). Here is a photo collage of her very first Hill Ridge trip. 

It's also fun to compare birthday photos and Hill Ridge photos from each year to see all the different weather scenarios typical, yet unpredictable, NC weather has been. We've been to Hill Ridge when it was hot and didn't feel like fall at all, when it was freezing cold and felt like full on winter and even once when it was what fall should be.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Sunday Scripture

*I am borrowing this blog post title from a blog I frequent (in)courage . Last Sunday I happened to post about our church service and included the verses from the service. Maybe this will become a regular thing, posting a verse or two I have read at some point during the week that I find particularly inspirational.

Today I helped out in Gabrielle's Sunday school class. The lesson theme is currently letting our light for Jesus shine.

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven." ~ Matthew 5:16
My hope for the week is that I live my life each day, letting my light shine for Jesus!

This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine

Let it shine

Let it shine!

**The image above is a lightning bug by the way - just in case it wasn't obvious! The class colored pictures of lightning bugs - or fireflies depending on where you're from.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Family Friday Fun

Yesterday we had an entire day of Family Friday Fun. It made for a long, exhausting day but definitely one I think the girls will remember for a long time (I know I will).

The morning began with a trip to Marbles Kid Museum in downtown Raleigh. This was a field trip event with Gabrielle's school. Marbles Kid Museum is an extremely fun place where kids can play and explore while learning. There are giant games like Connect Four and Chess, giant Lego's, a place to build and race your own car, art centers, a grocery store, kitchen, vet and pet grooming center and even a giant piggy bank that once full will drop your "$avings" of plastic balls down on all the kids! And there is even more - way too much to include in a single blog post. It is always a great place to visit - yesterday was no exception.

Gabrielle found her best friend from her class a few minutes after we got there. The two girls wanted to hang out together all morning.

After a couple of hours we were all getting hungry. A quick exit through the gift shop (why do I always get suckered into visiting the gift shop??), I decided to find a nice park to have our picnic lunch. If I had brought one of our picnic blankets we would have tried out one of the parks downtown but I was not that prepared. Instead I decided to try to find a park I used to frequent when I was a nanny of three little girls in my younger days (I sure wish I had the energy and patience now that I had then - life would be so much less stressful!). After driving in what seemed like circles I finally found the park. Like so much of Raleigh, this little park has changed dramatically since my days of actually living in Raleigh. But it definitely had changed for the better with nice paved walkways, a sheltered picnic area and new play equipment. We ate our picnic lunch consisting of the standard PBJ, applesauce, goldfish and juice boxes and then explored the play area for a while.

The girls on a park bench with their new "friends" from Marbles Gift Shop.

The girls were having a blast and the weather was near perfect but it we had to get going so I could get all of our "stuff" together for our evening at the N.C. State Fair. Ed was going to be home from work at 4:00 and wanted us ready to leave when he arrived.

We did the whole park & ride routine to get to the fair. It was much quicker and less stressful than driving and parking (and paying who knows how much to park) ourselves near the fair. Gabrielle was a little nervous about riding the CAT bus but only because she thought it was some sort of fair ride. Once we got going she said "It's just like riding in a car!!" I had to laugh. She is definitely not a fan of any type of amusement ride. She had made me laugh earlier while in line to get our bus tickets. Gabrielle saw one of the teachers from her preschool and her shocked reaction to seeing a teacher outside of school always cracks me up. Last year I had to explain to her that teachers don't live at school - they actually have homes and families of their own. She is still not 100% convinced.

The weather yesterday was absolutely perfect fair weather. At a cool 74 degrees it was not too hot, not too cold, but just the perfect cool fall fair weather.

First on our fair to-do's was getting dinner. Gabrielle and I shared a giant delicious turkey leg. It was so good! Even with Ed helping us out, we still couldn't finish it off. Samantha had a hot dog for dinner (sounds pretty ordinary but it looked like an exceptionally tasty hot dog) and Ed had his traditional fair food, a sausage with peppers and onions sandwich.

This is the only photo we took at the fair. We were too busy enjoying the sights and time together to think about getting the camera out. Pictures are great to have but sometimes just being in and enjoying the moments are more important.

We walked through all the buildings to see the livestock - cows, sheep, pigs. We even saw a bunch of different rabbit breeds. I am now trying to convince Ed to let us have a cute little pet rabbit. I'm fairly certain I will be totally unsuccessful. We saw the ginormous prize winning pumpkin and watermelon. The watermelon, which was a new state record, was only 9 lbs. shy of setting a new world record. Mighty impressive! We attempted to browse through the Village of Yesteryear, definitely one of my favorite fair exhibits, but that was later in the evening and the girls were getting restless so we did not get to walk through it all.

Gabrielle was obsessed with winning a prize therefore we had no choice but to try our hand at the fair games. We chose the kiddieland games to be guaranteed a prize. Nothing is worse than not winning a game and having your kids cry and scream about not getting a prize. And at least one of our kids definitely has that kind of personality. After a couple of games the girls each had a couple of prizes and were happy as clams.

The girls with some of their fair prizes, taken this morning. I'm not sure how the smallest child ended up with the biggest prize. She kept hitting people with the giant crayon (that she actually thought was a real, working crayon!) while we were waiting for the bus home.

What to do next but more fair food of course. Roasted corn, ice cream, caramel apple with sprinkles, kettle corn - is your mouth watering yet? Or maybe your stomach is turning with a sick feeling?? Ha! I actually feel like we stayed fairly "healthy" with our food choices, considering we were at the fair. I would not dare touch a deep fried Twinkie or Oreo or whatever the new deep fried craze is this year. Gross! But to each his own I suppose. We decidedly reached our junk food limit for a while. We topped off the evening with some Lingg hot apple cider and decided to call it a night.

A quick bus ride back to our car, a change into pajamas for the girls and we were headed for home. A little over half way home I was a little concerned by the chattiness of our girls. "Certainly they are going to fall asleep on the way home" was the thought racing through my mind. It had been a very full, very busy, very long day and Ed and I were both exhausted. The thought of getting home at 10:00 pm and still having to go through the whole bedtime routine stressed me out! Alas, not more than 10 minutes away from home sweet home we finally, thankfully, praise the good Lord, had two sleeping girls in the backseat.

This morning the girls slept in, Gabrielle sleeping until 8:30 and Samantha just after 9:00 am. If only I could make every Saturday "Sleep In Saturday", then all weekends would be closer to perfection!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Thought

I bet Mattie and Bella worried once I had "human" babies, their days of being pampered and spoiled would be over. Well, the photos below prove they have certainly not been forgotten!!

This, however, is probably NOT the kind of pampering and attention they had in mind or would have preferred.

But don't my lil' witch and lil' pumpkin look so cute???

While perusing the Halloween isles at Target today not only did I score the cute doggy costumes above but I also discovered dog trick-or-treat goodies. I am not even kidding - bags of little boxed dog treats to pass out to all those pets who go trick-or-treating are available at your local retailer!! Seriously??? Do people take their pets trick-or-treating? Have Mattie and Bella been deprived all these years?

And honestly, will any of you be prepared if a dog or cat or some other pet comes knocking on your door the 31st? Truly something to think about.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Let the little children come to me..."

Today was a special day for our church. It was Children's Sabbath where the entire service, except for the actual sermon, was led by children of all ages in our church - from the youngest being 3 years old to the oldest being 5th graders. The children, with a little guidance from a few parents, served in the roles of greeters, ushers, Lay Readers (scripture), the choir, leading in prayer, and even giving testimony of "Moments of Gratitude". The service was filled with moments that brought a big smile to my face - a smile of pride and happiness that we belong to this church. And of course there were moments, especially in the sermon, that brought tears to my eyes - tears of joy and awe and love and appreciation.

The scriptures for today's service were 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Matthew 18:2-5 and Mark 10:13-16. I strongly encourage you to read them. I know I personally can use the reminder to live my life with child-like faith!

On a children-related note, last night we got to experience a little of what it would be like with four daughters. Last month a friend and I decided to try out a kid swap where once every month or so we would take turns keeping each other's children overnight. We both wanted more regular "date nights" with our husbands but neither of us had a regular babysitter (nor did we want to shell out the extra money on a regular basis for one). Last night was our turn to keep their children - two girls, ages 7 and 2. Gabrielle absolutely adores their 7 year old and loved having a "big sister" for the night. Samantha and their 2 year old enjoyed having someone their own size and age to play with I think. All the girls behaved and got a long beautifully and the entire evening went smoothly especially considering it was the girls' first time staying with us. I definitely have a greater appreciation of parents with 3 or more children though!! (After seeing what it would be like to potty train 2-year-old twins I have to thank the good Lord above for blessing us with only one child at a time!!)

The Little Children and Jesus
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. ~ Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Flavors & Family Fun

October is here. The leaves are just starting to change from green to vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow. Pumpkins and mums adorn front porches. The air feels cool and crisp in the early mornings.

Fall is here and I L-O-V-E this time of year!

With fall comes my cravings for comfort food. Tonight for dinner we had baked potato soup - loaded with cheddar cheese and bacon (and as I think about it I bet some chopped green onion and a dollop of sour cream would have been D-lish too).

As we ate our dinner one of my favorite fall foods was baking in the oven - pumpkin bread! The house was filled with the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg. Unfortunately it is better to wait until the next day to slice into this yumminess. We all had to be content with just a taste from the crunchy top I cut off in order to level the bundt for plating. But it will make for a very tasty breakfast tomorrow!

I have a love for Starbucks and their seasonal specials. Maybe my fave of all seasonal flavors would be the Pumpkin Spice Latte. But let's face it - a daily, or even weekly, trip to Starbucks is not exactly budget-friendly. I decided I must search online to find a good substitute for my Starbucks fix. I found this website, Deliciously Organic, and their recipes for homemade flavored coffee creamers. The recipes are simple enough and require a few basic staples plus a special ingredient here and there like specific flavored extracts. The first one I had to try of course would be the Pumpkin Spice creamer. I had a cup of coffee earlier (yes, I had a large cup of regular coffee at 8:00 pm) with some of the homemade creamer and I am very happy with the results. It is not quite as sweet as say the flavored store bought creamer but I'm willing to bet it is probably a little healthier since there are no preservatives or artificial flavors, etc. I can't wait to try the Peppermint Mocha in December!

With fall also comes a more regular routine for our family. School has started as well as all of our fall activities. This year Gabrielle is in school five mornings a week and Samantha is going to our church's Parents Morning Out one day a week. Both girls are taking dance and Gabrielle is in our church's children's choir again this year. Not only are the girls busy but my Bible Study has resumed as well as a busier work schedule for myself and Ed. We are all certainly staying busy and it seems we are always on the go. But with a busier schedule and routine I am happy to say we have started back our Family Friday nights - a night set aside to do something fun as a family.

Tonight we started with a good old fashion game of "Go Fish!" Gabrielle received a set of Disney Princess playing cards for her birthday. With the girls being young we play on teams of two so each child has an adult to help out a little. I am surprised though how little help they need, even Samantha picked up on the game rather well. After playing cards we surprised the girls with "The Lion King" DVD that was just re-released this week. By then it was just past 8:00, Samantha was exhausted and went straight to bed. We allowed Gabrielle to stay up and watch the entire movie even though she had seen it before. I'm hoping since she was up until almost 10:00 she will sleep in a little tomorrow but my guess is both little ones will be bright eyed and bushy tailed by 7:00 am despite the later bedtime.

I have been giving a lot of thought to my blog this week and I think I have come up with a few ideas to freshen things up a bit. Hopefully this is the first of many more regular posts in the future. Even after the late night cup of Joe my eyelids are starting to feel heavy so until the next time - good night and happy fall!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I suppose you could say I have been on a blogging hiatus - albeit an unintentional one. I do enjoy blogging and documenting our life and hope to get back to it soon. I'm simply trying to figure out a way to post more regularly without the feeling I'm neglecting some other area of my life and with more purpose and reason - more intentional I suppose. ;)

Hopefully I'll be back soon...thanks for sticking around and not giving up on me or this blog!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Girls' Artwork Display

I am forever behind on blogging - I still have a couple of days of vacation I wanted to post about - but I suppose that is the way it will always be unless I just take a few days, stop all activities and sit in front of the computer! Eventually I'll get some more vacation pics up but I wanted to share a part of the girls' new room I am super excited about.

For a while now I've wanted a better way to display the girls' artwork. My fridge is always covered with paintings and coloring book pages. In Gabrielle's old room we just used pushpins to put various pieces up she was particularly fond of and after school ended last year and she came home with a full portfolio of artwork, a few works of art were put up in mine and Ed's room as well. I had thought about framing a few and also considered scanning them in and making a calendar with them through Snapfish or some other online photo printing company. While I still may go through with those ideas I just wanted something more.

As we all do when we want to find anything out these days, I Googled "children's art displays" and found this idea which I love! Curtain rods and curtain rings - so simple!

I wish I could remember the exact web site I found this idea on so I could give them credit. It is such a simple and very inexpensive way to display their work and what I love the most about it is I can easily change out the art as the year goes on and new masterpieces are created!

Gabrielle's art is displayed on the top curtain rod and Samantha's on the bottom. At the moment Samantha has a few more hanging because she is in the Parents' Morning Out program at our church this summer so each week she brings something new home. Once our summer slows down a little more and certainly once school starts for Gabrielle I'm sure she will be rotating her artwork quite regularly.

Other than a two or three little details I'm working on, the girls' room is complete and we all love it! Once Samantha has adjusted to a big girl bed and they both learn that bedtime is bedtime even if there is a "playmate" in the room, we will all love the arrangement even more!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vacation Continued

The middle of the week at Meemaw's was a little of this and a little of that. The only "big" outing was a morning at Atlantic Beach. We got to the beach at 9:00 when it was not as hot and a lot less crowded. I had no idea the girls would love the beach so much!!

I knew they would both like the sand because they love our sandbox at home but I really did not expect them to enjoy the ocean water so much.

The water was kind of cold at first as ocean water is the majority of the time but it did not take too long to get used to the water temp. Both girls, especially Samantha, were very hesitant at even getting their feet wet. The waves understandably scared them.

I held Gabrielle's hand and stood just close enough for the waves to wash over our feet. After a little bit of that we slowly inched our way out. Gabrielle loved it! We would spend some of the time standing and then spent some of the time sitting and letting the waves wash over us.

I think Samantha must have gotten curious and maybe a little jealous because eventually she wanted part of the water fun as well. Once Samantha got used to it, it was definitely a two person job keeping up with them. Samantha was maybe a little too brave! There were times she did not want me to hold her hand but it was way too rough. I held on tight whether she liked it or not!

Mama and I finally convinced the girls we needed to take a little break for snack and also to reapply some sunscreen.

Next time we go to the beach we'll probably pack a picnic lunch and stay even longer. The girls would have stayed all day I think! I'm so glad they have learned to love the water this summer!

The other days were a little more relaxed. A trip to Meemaw's library for story time, a little shopping and a little cooking. Gabrielle loves to help in the kitchen. She helped Meemaw make M&M cookies one day.

Samantha wanted in on the kitchen action as well so one morning she helped make the blueberry-peach muffins for breakfast.

On Friday Ed was joining us for the weekend as well as my sister and her family so Thursday was spent trying to clean up the disaster we made of Meemaw's house! It wasn't too bad I guess but my girls certainly make themselves at home when we're there.

It was nice to have a few days of a little relaxation because the weekend was very full and very busy but very fun as well!

First Night New Bed

Tonight was the first night with the girls sharing the new trundle bed in their new room. Samantha's crib was set up in the middle of the room until we could get the second mattress. When Ed came home tonight with the mattress the girls could not have been more excited. I put Samantha to bed first and laid down with her since this was the first night out of the crib and in her "big girl" bed. Once she was asleep I tucked Gabrielle in and where does Gabrielle end up? Not in her part of the bed but on the trundle with Samantha!!

Maybe we should have just gotten a double bed!

Oh, and yes their hair is wet - from sweat! Our a/c is out and won't be fixed until Tuesday. We kind of knew it was coming but of course it would quit on us the hottest week of the year!! Last I checked the thermostat in the house it was 85 degrees - and that was at 10:00 pm!! Tuesday can not get here quick enough!!
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vacation, Day 3

OK, so I started this post last week and due to some crazy, hectic days around here I am just now getting the time, actually just making the time, to get this one done and posted!

Day 3 of our vacation just so happened to also be the 4th of July. I was excited to be on the coast for the 4th this year because there is just nothing like a fire works show on the water.

We started out the day with a trip to Harkers Island - my hometown. Even though my mom does not live far from there at all now, it had probably been close to two years since I had visited. Not too much has changed really. It was weird to go by the house where I grew up. I don't think the current owners or renters have really made any changes at all to the outside of the house at least but for some reason it just looked...different. Maybe smaller than I remember it being? I'm not sure. I guess it is just somewhat surreal to see the house where I spent 18+ years and know someone else is living there now.

This was the girls' first trip to the Island except for a trip or two for Gabrielle when she was a baby. In addition to pointing out the house I showed them my elementary school where I went to kindergarten through 8th grade and all with the same 22 people! Ha!

The main purpose of our trip to the Island was to visit the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum. This is where Ed and I had our wedding reception but since then the other half of the museum has been completed. I was able to show the girls a little bit of family history. They may be a bit too young to understand or even care a lot about it now but hopefully we can make this an annual or at least every other year event and one day hopefully they'll "get it".

This is Gabrielle in front of my Poppy's old band saw. This sat in our backyard right beside the clothes line when I grew up. When Mama moved she called to have it donated to the museum knowing they would clean it up and take care of it.

Samantha was being anti-photo this day and this is the best shot I could get of her with Gabrielle and the band saw.

I wish I knew more myself of my family and hometown history (I'll have to make a point to buy a book my next visit to the museum) but what I do know is this. My great-grandfather, Stacy Guthrie, was a resident of Diamond City, NC, now known as Shackleford Banks. He was one of the residents that floated their homes over to Harkers Island after a hurricane in 1899. He was a whaler and boat builder. In the museum are several photos and stories about him and a couple of other family members.

My Poppy, Stacy Guthrie.

"Hey, Samantha, you want Mommy to take a picture of you with the ducks?" (She actually had been fairly excited about the decoys in the museum.) The photo above is her reaction to my request. She looks excited, right? And it was mid-morning, not nap time or meal time!!

Gabrielle was definitely more compliant - at least with most of my photo requests.

Almost a cute photo of Samantha and Meemaw in the rocking chairs.

At the top of the museum was a wrap around balcony. The view was great - the stairs getting there, not so great!! We took the elevator down. :)

You can see Cape Lookout Lighthouse in the distance.

Of course, Gabrielle would decide she did not want to have her photo taken when the request involved a family shot with me! And we're facing the sun so our eyes are all squinty. Oh well.

After the museum we went across the road to Shell Point to have a picnic lunch. To say it was windy is an understatement!

Gabrielle really enjoyed feeding the sea gulls some of our goldfish after lunch. Though she got a little freaked out a couple of times at just how close they would get to her for the food!!

After lunch we went back across the road to the National Park Service office. None of us had been in there before and we weren't sure what we would find. We were pleasantly surprised. It wasn't huge but there were some photos and displays of various parts of Cape Lookout and the banks. And there was a magnetic wall where the girls matched up the plant and animal life magnets to where they thought they lived on the Outerbanks. There was also a small table of sand, shells, bones and other interesting things that the girls could actually pick up and touch.

We spent the afternoon resting up since it would be a late night for the girls with fireworks. We were hoping to grill out with my brother Benji and his girlfriend Mimi for dinner and then walk from their house to the waterfront to watch the fireworks. Unfortunately Mimi was in a terrible accident that afternoon so of course dinner plans were canceled. Fortunately, God had certainly sent an angel to Mimi that day. She is bruised and battered and sore and will probably be dealing with some pain and issues for a while but it was a head on car accident and could have certainly had very different, very tragic results. So thank you God for Your protection over Mimi that day!!

While dinner plans didn't work out, we still went to Benji and Mimi's house, checked in on them both then walked down to the waterfront for the show. The girls loved the fireworks and I thought it was a pretty good show.

They were beyond worn out from such a crazy busy day. The fell asleep on the way back to Mama's and since we were on vacation at the beach I figured it was ok to go to bed a little dirty for one night.