Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What I Did This Summer, Part II

Chatting with a friend on the phone this morning, I realized I have forgotten all about the 'lost blog posts'... the what I did this summer when I was too busy to blog about it posts. :)

So, here is another installment!

In high school my friend Melanie had an on and off relationship with Jared. Even when they were not dating, they still were pretty close. For example, they went to prom together, though I believe the lights were 'off' at that moment in time. Eventually they got married, because they love each other very much.

The End.

Or it would be if life was a Disney movie, since a marriage is the culmination of most of those tales! ;) However, in reality, life goes on and thank heavens, right? Jared and Mel are now chef-proprietors of a restaurant in the beautiful countryside near where we all grew up. As an aside, if you asked me to open the yearbook and draw a circle around the photo of someone I thought would live on a farm and raise chickens, well, I would not have chosen either of them, and I somehow think they agree. I'd have probably made a beeline for the "H" page and gone for Laura Huckabee, a lovely girl who did live on a farm but was also at one with it, unlike me, who just wanted to live in a normal neighborhood for crying out loud. But not Jared, not Mel! Melanie was model tall and thin and talkented at acting, and Jared could (and surely still can) play a set of drums like no one his age should have been able. While in college, I was too busy doing other stuff and not going back to the Burg very often to keep up with anyone, but I heard rumors that Jared and a few other knuckleheads I knew were rockstars in the making. To belabor my point: NOT exactly FFA members.

Life is funny. Fast forward a million years and my husband, kids, and I are sitting creekside on their land adjacent to the restaurant in idyllic Bedford County.

I grew up on land with decrepit old buildings falling apart here and there, and I love a dilapidated building for some reason known only to my inner child who also loved the old hay barn I was not supposed to, but did play in. So, I snapped about 500 photos of the old mill. It's the coolest color, has broken windows, rusty stuff... all visually appealing to me, at least.

It doesn't hurt that there are lovely plants and flowers ALLLLLL over.

Here are the chickens. Told ya. I just wish I'd seen the time last winter when they got out and Jared chased them with a stick, and--I am not kidding--a lawnmower to herd them back to the coop area. I'd pay good money to see that.

And, look! Babies! They were adorable, and I am not the world's biggest bird lover.

Speaking of babies, Bunny fell instantly in love.

Here's Hazel. Love at first sight for Bunny. She carried this poor kitten for as long as Melanie would let her. Actually, they seemed to enjoy each other's company.

The creek near their home provided hours of entertainment for Carter. He got good and soaked hauling out river rocks, piling them...

...and hucking them all back into the water. Melanie had been a little excited about this pile, as she likes to border her gardens with the rocks and thought perhaps a little labor had been saved for her. But nope! All back from whence they came. :)

This is, more or less, the sunset I grew up with. Fields, mountains, and fire oranges.

A cool old pipe runs from the creek to the mill. While nonoperational now, it was a lot of fun to balance on!

Here's the pasture near Jared and Melanie's house. You can see they've set up a little picnic/barbecue right by the creek, which is at the treeline.

Dusk fell, and the fire flies came out!

Our hosts even provided Mason jars for the kids to house the little buggers. Cole had no clue what was going on, but nevertheless enjoyed the heck out of running around at dusk screaming his little head off.

After dinner, they got to make s'mores! Carter, who often is reluctant to try new foods, had no reservations about this treat!

One last photo: crazy faces!

We had, so, so, SOOO much fun, and hope to be able to visit again, maybe next summer! I also want to try brunch at their restaurant. As good as their mac and cheese was, I know brunch will be incredible!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Walkathon '09

Saturday was the annual Walk-a-thon fundraiser at Bunny's school. This year the school had a huge goal of $40,000, and Bunny personally set a goal to walk 10 miles. I also volunteered to work a shift where ever they needed me during the event, and donated baked goods for the bake sale portion of the day, which is really like a fair with lots of walking. There's BBQ, raffles, silent auctions, crazy hair, you get the idea.

Bunny was raring to go. As luck would have it, we happened to have a massive heat wave that day... Paul had taken the Bunny and Carter to school, and I followed about half an hour after with Cole and snacks, which I just could not find enough time to pack that morning, as I was also baking cupcakes and brownies--last minute of course. :)

It worked out well that I was running late. Paul called and asked me to bring the beach umbrella. It was 9:45 and already in the upper 80s.

Paul walked a LOT with Bunny, sometimes cheering her on, sometimes prodding her on. It was HOT, did I mention that?

Cole was very happy to stay in the shade, and learned to enjoy having water dumped on his head to keep him cool.

Trudge, trudge, trudge. Round and round...
Finally Bunny made 7 miles, and we all agreed that was pretty good. Everyone was dragging, and they all did their best. I forgot to mention that Carter was really into the walkathon! He walked a LOT. Miles and miles... too bad he is too young to get pledges. But he did get a little pencil topper lap prize for being so gung ho, and it's a prized possession that surely will be much missed when he loves it to death (it's been 3 days and it's about 30% demolished already, haha).

We had planned to grill out at home, but the heat zapped all energy out of us grown ups, too.
So, we went to Alicia's for Mexican. Burritos are Bunny's favorite food from restaurants, so this was a very good place to celebrate.

It was SO warm that we didn't even need sweaters that evening, which was actually a nice treat in itself! Usually we walk to this restaurant, but we drove this time -- our legs were DONE. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Menu Verdict: Chicken Tacos with Mango & Avocado Salsa

Last week I tried out THIS recipe from the current issue of Cooking Light. Normally my husband is not the biggest fan of chicken breasts, but this is a hit!
I thawed a lot of chicken breasts and made more meat than the recipe called for to have extra for the next day. Paul's not generally one to eat tortillas, so I made him a salad version, which also is awesome... and I served my own tacos with lots of lettuce in them for extra crunch and veggies. Definitely worth trying!

*Note* I omitted the red pepper in the rub, as I worried it would be too spicy for little mouths. Still very flavorful for adults, and even the one year old gobbled the meat. Of course, he polishes off most foods, but still....

Another Monday, another chance to take a few moments and know what the plan is for dinner this week.

Here's the plan 'round here for the week. You can see my plans from last week made me move ahead one meal. Big deal--I had a plan, and life was easier for it, even so. :)

Sunday: Grilled Spare Ribs, salad
Monday: Pork Tenderloin with Mango Chutney (moved forward from last week)
Tuesday: Cock-a-leekie Soup in crock pot
Wednesday: Sausages and Garlicky Lentils
Thursday: Salsa Chili con Carne in crock
Friday: Undone Cabbage Roll Skillet
Saturday: TBD

Friday, September 25, 2009


Yesterday Bun's school kicked off their fall book fair. For fun we were invited to have a 'booknic' with the children during lunch, and siblings were welcome! Since I never get to participate in much due to the no sibling s policy in most else there, which I do understand, we were all over picnicking!

Cole and I picked up Carter from preschool and swung over to the picnic, which was already in full swing, as end of preschool and beginning of lunch were the same exact time. Thankfully his preschool is only 5 minutes away!

Small victory, but I was very glad I remembered our picnic/beach blanket, as this lawn is always soaked, even on 100 degree days. I swear, they must water the thing 8 hours every night. No less than 7 kids ate with us... some being friends of Bun's whose parents didn't get to come to the picnic.

Bunny was very excited, and happy to have us there. We all agreed this should be more than just an annual event. Maybe we can have a picnic for her birthday during lunch!

And, for the record, here is Cole with eyes! Haircut time again... :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I do it, Self!

Last week the boys and I went to the Discovery Museum for our first trip of the school year. We had not been there since May, and Cole's experience of the place is even more interactive than before. Three months is a long time when you're one!

For example, he'd never been big enough to really play with the firetruck. Cole's still very small by any measure, but he gets around pretty well.
He just has to put his all into it. Like climbing into the big huge cab of the fire truck, because you know he HAD to try out the steering wheel!

This is so high up!

When you're one, sometimes you have to even use your face for leverage. But do not DARE try to help him... he's going to do this all by himself!

Ta Da! He's as much proud of himself as happy to be finally taking this big boy out for a pretend spin.

We love the Discovery Museum!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This is too much fun.


Get your own HERE.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Return of Menu Monday...

It's been a long summer, and, while I have been unable to find (or perhaps, unwilling to sacrifice) the time to write about it, menu planning has remained a weekly must do around here. The couple of weeks I skipped planning sucked! While I had food to make meals, the end of the day, when everyone including me is tired and often cranky, is not the time to be winging it in the kitchen. Now, since school is in full gear and that means scout meetings, sports practices, and all the other fun, yet hectic additions, meal planning is even more vital. The kids and I are not home until nearly 7:00 three nights a week because of Bunny's swim practice, and I'm making sure to make at least one of those nights a crockpot meal that I put together when I 'only' have one child at home earlier in the day. It's SOOO nice to come home and smell dinner ready for us when we're ready for it!

Anyway, enough about how much taking the 15 or so minutes every week to plan for the next week is helping our household run at least a bit closer to smoothly. If you want to see oodles and oodles of menu ideas, click the linked image above.

Soooo, here is our week:

Sunday: dinner out
Monday: Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa
Tuesday: Beef Daube Provencal in crockpot
Wednesday: Crustless Quiche, sliced tomatoes
Thursday: Shrimp, Sauteed Zucchini, Salad
Friday: Pork Tenderloin with mango chutney
Saturday: BBQ ribs

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hug 'em tightly.

September 2009 013, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

This bench is in front of the high school where Bun has swim practice. There is a very large grassy area, and yesterday I took a tennis ball and we threw it around to amuse ourselves before heading over to watch big sister swim her last few laps.

To one side, sits this very nice bench, placed in memory of a student, his sister, and (I gather) his father, who were killed by a drunk driver in 1997. I have always thought memorial benches are a nicer way to honor a passed loved one than a fancy grave marker, as they're typically someplace the deceased enjoyed while alive, or at least someplace survivors frequent more often than a cemetery. I wonder if the mother in this family goes and sits there, if the anniversary of these tragic deaths (January 17) is marked with flowers... Were there other children in this family who were 'spared'? Or, was it one of those 'lose your family in a flash' events like in the movie 21 Grams? How did that mom cope, beyond this memorial?

Then I wonder if the students even notice the memorial plaques. 1997 may have been when they were preschoolers--ancient history! Plus, your average high school student suspects they're immortal. Two of my classmates died while I was on high school, but one had cancer, and the other committed suicide. On the whole, we were invincible, or so we felt. Who knows. I am pretty sure other parents who find themselves at this bench, if nothing else, come away wanting to hold on tight to their kids, and never let 'em go.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What I Did This Summer (Pt 1)

Don’t tell anyone I gave you the heads up, but a little birdie told me summer is OVER next week. Wha-huh? How’s that possible? It’s still warm, but slowly the changes are becoming more persistent in their hint giving. I have to turn on lights when I make breakfast. I have to turn on lights during dinner sometimes, and then always after dinner in the family room. Sweaters are needed—if only in the extreme ends of the day.

Sure, we still have a month more of very warms days, but it feel like summer came and went, and it all blurred around me. Where did it go?

Upon reflection, it didn’t ‘go’. It was ahappening, Man. Right on. (Heh.) I simply was so busy going and doing, I forgot the reflecting.

So, in an attempt to catch up, we’ll pretend I have a back to school, “What I did last summer” creative writing assignment.

Four days after school was out, we flew to Virginia to go the ‘grand tour’, which means we basically visited all three corners of that (triangular) state.

First we were in Northern Viriginia (which is not really part of ‘real’ Virginia, anyway). My inlaws live there, as well as many beloved friends from ‘back in the day.’

You know something funny that happens just any old day in the summer in Virginia? It rains! A LOT. Whenever it wants. Then maybe it stops. Then begins again. How do people plan picnics when you just never know? I like being able to say we’ll be at a park on the 3rd Thursday of June in 2011 and know the weather will cooperate.

So, when it just ups and rains (how rude!), you have to find indoor things to do. Like the big indoor water recreation area in Chantilly, Cub Run Rec Center!

While my loyalties still go to the Morgan Hill Aquatic Center for pure kickassedness, this was a great find on a ‘boring’ afternoon. My kids, like most are used to a LOT of outside time, and also not used to how grownups without children living with them have so much ‘not for touching’ things all over the place. So, it was about 9 a.m. on the first day in NoVa, after a red eye, that they needed to get out and about to play.

Carter loved this slide, and Cole even started to go down it himself with only a grownup or big sister to catch him at the bottom.

There was a cool whirlpool area that Bunny loved to swirl around in.

Somehow I missed a good photo of the huge water slides, which kept Bunny busy. I went down one, and it was dark, and fast. Bunny loved how scary it was.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Dillar, a Dollar…

Carter started preschool today!

He did great!  No tears, no problemo.  Carter painted an abstract masterpiece and made another picture that was glued farm animal shapes (their theme this week).

After, he was very tired, but he didn’t want to nap.  So he refused to lie down… until his body took over and…

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Resilience, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

Fire worn, but all the better for it.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Beeg Trees

Big Basin, originally uploaded by Kristianna.

Today, since they'd almost gone for two full weeks, it was *about* time for a 4 day weekend off from school. So, I packed us off to get some nature time today... All started very well. We were out by 9:15, and I seemed to be making good time.

Then came the windy last 10 miles. And we discovered that Mr. Middle gets carsick on curvy roads. Made it 18 days in a row to the beach without any inkling of this, but Highway 9 did us in. Plus: Bonus souvenir tee shirt bought by panicky mom who realized she must've used her last stashed shirt 'last time'. Carter loves this shirt. Minus: he puked on it on the way home, too.

HOWEVER, we did have a great time while there. I was *so* ready to throw in the towel, but put it to a vote, and both kids wanted to press on. (Well, Cole was asleep...) The kids became filthy with dust and sweaty dust-mud, and all in all, I'd pack a few extra shirts, quickly school Carter on the use of a plastic bag to puke in, and definitely go back sometime, maybe in the spring.


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