Monday, April 9, 2012

Capture Gratitude: Easter Edition!

“There is no event so common place but that God is present within it, always hidden, always leaving you room to recognize Him or not to recognize Him.”  Fredrick Buechner 

Before I get started counting this week's many Easter gifts, can I just give a blogging shout out? I wasn't sure when I started counting gifts in this way if I'd stick to it. But I really love it. It gives an overview of our week, and I like that it's a framework for big moments, but also every day moments. Things I'd never write an entire blog post about. But I also love that knowing I'm going to be doing this every Monday keeps me watching for thankful I love, and things I choose to give thanks for even when they don't feel very fun.  If you blog, you should consider doing something like this, it's really been a help and blessing.

P.S. I capture a lot of my gratitude via Instagram, which is my favorite app & social network at the moment. Up until recently, it's only been available to iPhone users - but Instagram is now available for Androids. If you're an Android user, check it out! And come find me - Nebraskaree.

And now... Easter gifts and thankful things!

Since I left for Africa at the end of October, my participation in any corporate worship, even our college group has been very hit or miss. I've made some Sundays, now that Micah is doing well in the nursery/Sunday School. But with Luke's basketball and soccer schedule even that has been spotty.

Micah went to Matt's mom's with Tobin and Luke on Thursday night - for the first time. I am SO THANKFUL that he did GREAT (Sara emailed us that night - 3 words: Piece of Cake). I am also really thankful that I am going to be able to get back into a normal schedule. And very thankful I was able to be at Destinations Coffee House for our pre-Easter worship Thursday night.

 Good for my soul. Also, we sang this song, which I love.

I've never gone to a church that had a Good Friday service. The last few years I've felt myself desiring a way to observe Good Friday. This year our church was open from 7am - 7pm with a self-guided Good Friday communion and celebration.  Such. A. Blessing.

These are my sister's favorites.

More about this coming soon... But it was so fun to be with Luke's grandparents again this Easter. And I love a small town Easter egg hunt.

Grandpa got a pretty new tractor. Or, as Micah calls it, "FRRRAAAAACCTOR".

We almost always spend Easter in Dow City, with Luke's family (Matt's first wife, Luke's first mom went to be with the Lord on April we like to be with her family at this time of year.) That means we almost always celebrate Easter at a small Lutheran church, singing unfamiliar songs and observing unfamiliar ceremonies. And I love it. I love that my kids can see different ways to worship God. And I especially love telling Luke that his mom probably did those same things, in that same church all of her growing up years.

I don't completely love that this involves a Sunrise service. Waking all of our kids up at 6AM to get dressed for church is PAINFUL.

But it did result in this picture, which I love, taken over hot chocolate before church.
Can't stop laughing at Tobin's expression. And Micah. Hysterical.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Peep S'Mores

The Marshmallow Peeps are likely to be on sale tomorrow. Want to do something fun?

This might be the first thing I ever pinned & did from Pinterest - and we LOVED it last year, so we did it again this year. The original pin was from here (and her pictures are much better than mine!)

Get some chocolate bars (I use dark chocolate because it's yummy), graham crackers, and peeps of your choice. Put half a graham cracker on a plate (I make 4 at once), top it with a square of chocolate, and a peep.

Stick them in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. Your kids may want to watch...the peeps blow up really big (don't over cook, the graham crackers will scorch.)

Then you just plop the other half of the graham cracker on there, and enjoy.

You should do this, it's a fun Spring/Easter treat.

And if you do, then your kids too can get this messy: 

Unless of course, they're OCD like our youngest. In which case, they'll get marshmallow on their hands, freak out, and be so obsessed with getting it off they won't eat a bite.

Friday a thief, on Sunday a King...

He is RISEN indeed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

PINNED IT AND DID IT: Pinterest Recipe Round Up

Not to many kids' crafts going on around here right now, with traveling and birthdays. But I'm definitely not neglecting Pinterest. Thought I'd share a few of the many Pinterest-inspired things I've done over the past few weeks... basically a listing of really awesome recipes. We've had some great luck, these are some of the best recipes I've ever tried. But it's not all recipes...

For starters, much of Tobin's Knights and Dragons birthday party was ideas I found or got instructions for through Pinterest.

And there's always this idea, which I can't even find the pin for anymore - but you should TOTALLY pin it, or at least remember it next time you're boiling:

Did you know that when you are boiling something - pasta, potatoes, etc. - if you put a wooden spoon over the pot, it won't boil over? I've been doing this for months, and I've only had a boil-over one time. In that case, I already knew I had way too much water in the pan (I was making noodles), and was in the process of grabbing a hot pad to pour some of the water out. So if you don't overfill your pot, it works like a charm. Amazing.

If you are facebook friends with me, you know I've been looking for kid-friendly fish recipes. I've been reading at Raising Healthy Eaters that most kids don't get nearly enough DHA, so I'd love to serve more fish. I pinned this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Frugal Girl, and it was the first fish recipe I introduced to the family.

This was a HIT. You should totally make this. It's actually a LOT like our favorite Asian dish, Taiwanese 3 Cup Chicken, so I think my boys were preloaded to like it. Tobin is not picky at all (he'll try anything) but hasn't ever liked fish. But he asked for seconds of this, and said, "I LOVE THIS MEAT!" I served it with brown rice, and doubled the sauce because I could tell from the recipe that the boys would love it.

Speaking of hits...

This little baby went viral on Pinterest a few months ago. I've made a few chicken enchilada recipes, and we haven't really loved any of them. But this:

...was INCREDIBLE. So very yummy. Matt ate the leftovers the next day and texted me: "Leftover chicken enchiladas tasted SO GOOD. Make a double batch next time please." I highly recommend this recipe!

I was a little sad I didn't try it earlier... Primarily because I've been limiting Micah's dairy intake. I'm not going totally dairy free, I just think it's hard on his system, so we're using alternative milk, yogurt, and cheese, and have cut out sour cream (wish I could find some non-dairy yogurt that wasn't fruit flavored, because I'm sure I could substitute that for sour cream. But so far, no luck.)

BUT...I was able to make this for Micah, and he liked it. I put 2 of the enchiladas in a smaller container, and instead of mixing grated cheese into the chicken as the recipe calls for, I used goat cheese.

The sauce started with a white sauce/roux, then you add in chicken broth, green chilis, and sour cream. After adding the broth, I separated out a fourth cup, added some green chilis, then melted another medallion of goat cheese in there. His sauce was a little thicker than ours, but he still gobbled his enchiladas up, both for dinner and then leftover for lunch the next day. WIN.

I did the same thing with another viral-on-Pinterest recipe, Baked Chicken Parmesan.

I'm not really a fan of Chicken Parmesan - I don't like how the breading on the chicken gets all soggy in the sauce. But I liked this. I didn't love it (not like the enchiladas, at least), but the rest of the family did (which is what I expected.) And I'm likely to make this again, whereas I'm not ever going to go to all the work of making Chicken Parmesan the normal way, because I don't care for it.

 I did the same thing for Micah with this one... I made a smaller portion with one chicken breast for him. I crumbled up the goat cheese instead of all the shredded cheese in the original recipe. I only used one medallion, but if I made it again, I would use two - I think it could use more cheese. This one wasn't quite as easy to adapt as the enchiladas, but yet again: Micah was perfectly happy.

 Next up... Cookie Dough Dip. We have a meeting of our college leaders every few months, and they've come to expect queso & chips and M&Ms. For our last meeting, we were in the mood for something different. So I made my friend Emily's AWESOME buffalo chicken dip (which has become MY buffalo chicken dip), and this yummy dip, which I'd noticed in my friend Sally's instagram feed.

 It was delish, although a little sweet for me. I think when I make it again (because I WILL make it again) I'll leave out the heath bits the recipe uses, I think I'd like a more pure cookie-dough flavor. But that didn't stop me from finishing off the leftovers the day after the meeting, so....

Lastly, two Pinterest standbys. I make these oven fries once a month, maybe?

But the broccoli? Every week...every time I buy broccoli, I make it this way. IT IS SO YUMMY. I wish I'd had some to make for dinner tonight.

Seriously. The best broccoli ever. Make it now.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Video killed the radio star...

That title has nothing to do with this post...except I do have some fun videos to share. I'm mostly posting these for our family because I know they'll love seeing them. But you're welcome to watch too :).

Here's one from last month, of the little boys dancing together to one of our favorite songs...

And some of the awesome fun at Around the Corner Music Studio, where we take preschool music (if you're local and have preschoolers, you should check it out - it's a great bargain, and super fun!)

Saving the best for last: This weekend was warm and summery (YAY!) Tobin has been begging to run in the sprinklers, and Matt was able to get all our hoses back out and hooked up Sunday. I'm so happy that I thought to grab my phone/camera and get Micah's first experience running in the sprinkler. WARNING: I could die from all this cuteness.

And, just because I can.... Here's an oldie but a goodie.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Knights & Dragons Birthday Party

Tobin is a party planner after my own heart. Shortly after last year's Space party, he'd already decided that for his next birthday he wanted a "Knights and Dragons" party.

It was an easy party to put together. We got back from Texas on Sunday 3/18 and I realized that the following Sunday was really our best/only option for his party. I didn't get much else done last week other than mountains of post-vacation laundry, cleaning the house, and getting things together for the party. But a party you can get ready for in one week? AWESOME.

This was Tobin's first friend party - we've always just had family in the past. And this child takes friends SERIOUSLY. We managed to limit the guest list to 12 kids - we ended up with 10, including our own 2 littles and 2 cousins. But he wanted to invite every friend we saw, and each new friend he's met since the party. Sunday we met a family with an Ethiopian born daughter, and he played with them for about 30 minutes before Luke's soccer game, while I talked adoption with the mom. And Tobin said, "Can we invite Grace & Zelly to my birthday party?" Um, honey, we don't really know them, and your birthday party was last week....

When Tobin was a baby, I had a dragon costume for him and a knight costume for Luke for Halloween. Tobin wore Luke's old costume for the party. I had a super cute knight costume I got on clearance a few years back, thinking Tobin could wear it and our next baby could be the dragon. And then we didn't ever have another baby. That knight costume is now the perfect size for Micah, but he wasn't having any of that!

We used toys and things we already had for decoration (like our awesome pop up tent thingy, which was the best purchase we made last year)...

Kool-aid was made fancy by plastic goblets from the dollar store, and grapes and cheese cubes with little sword toothpicks were a hit.


Each kid had a shield with a special knight/lady name. To make the shields, I traced the plastic shield we had (from Dollar Store) onto foam board a bunch of times, cut them out and spray painted them silver. I used duct tape to make handles on the back.

I got the idea for the knight names at Family Fun, but rather than playing a game to assign names, I just decided ahead of time (so we wouldn't have to take time in the party to write names on the shields.) I had a bunch of stickers for the kids to decorate their shields - this is what they did as we waited for everyone to arrive.

Luke and I also made a ton of balloon swords... Because knights need swords, but I've lived with boys long enough to know that I wasn't handing out anything remotely sword-like in a crowd of kids. I can't even give my kids chopsticks because they use them for a sword fight! I found a couple of places that explained how to make balloon swords, but this one was the best. In case you want to make some yourself - I thought Luke & I could blow up the balloons. For these long balloons, we found an air pump to be totally necessary. Not because we got light headed (which is what I expected), but because we were physically incapable of blowing the balloons up at all by ourselves.

After the sword fighting demolished most of the balloons, we headed to the back yard for our Dragon Egg hunt. I spray painted about 24 cheapo easter eggs with the same silver paint I used on the shields, then filled those along with every other egg we had. Luke loved hiding them for me, and we hid a few in easy places on the deck for our youngest knights (the rest were more challenging - Tobin continued to find eggs in the back yard for a week.)

After everyone had eggs in their bags, we broke out the cupcakes. I love having cupcakes at a kid party. Luke's first party (that I was in charge of - the year he turned 6) was a pirate party. I was an overachiever back then, and made him the awesome pirate ship cake from the Family Fun site. Then I watched him blow all over it, only to have him announce just as the door shut on the last friend, "My throat hurts." Yep. He blew strep throat all over that cake.  Anyway: CUPCAKES!

Besides wanting to invite friends, Tobin's only other request for this party was a pinata. I was a little worried about this, since we just had a week to find one. But they had an awesome dragon pinata at the local party store - and this is what set our color scheme for the party.

 After we were finished with treats, we lined the kids up on the deck and let them go at it (I was happy to have a set up where it seemed like no one would get whacked with the bat...although the successful batter did throw the bat at the end, so watch for that.) We only made it halfway down the line before Mr. Dragon got busted wide open. Thankfully, Tobin DID get a turn at bat. I hadn't even thought about what would happen if the birthday boy didn't get a turn to swing... I did reserve some of the candy - it wouldn't all fit in the dragon anyway - and after the kids finished with the pinata, I dumped more candy in their bags, making sure everyone went home with a good amount.

After the candy had all been snatched up, we had "jousting games." I just set up games we already had - a kickball croquet set and some other yard games. I also set up the bubble machine my parents bought for the boys while we were in Texas. I always thought those things were a racket ("back in my day, we just blew bubbles like normal people!"), but with young kids constantly spilling bubble juice everywhere? A bubble machine is a GREAT idea. It was a fun party treat too, the kids loved it.

I planned the party for an hour and a half, and the kids had 20ish minutes to play at the end of the time. Easy peasy. And suitable for boy and girl guests, which is good since we have girl cousins and several of T's closest friends are girls. Yay for knights and dragons!!

(I took pictures of T with each of his guests as they left...hence no pics with the cousins, since they stayed for dinner.)

If you are thinking of throwing a Knight party yourself, check out my pinterest birthday board, I have lots of fun ideas pinned - some of them WAY too elaborate or expensive for me, but still super cute.