...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Don't mess with Texas

So my youngest brother is heading to Texas for the summer for work.

And so, of course, we had to have a party to send him off.

And so, of course, it had to be cowboy/rodeo themed.  

It was a great event.  Everyone wore mustaches and drank from mason jars and ate ribs.  Super great!

(Also, my sister-in-law found pseudo kinder eggs as a tiny little
corner market and brought some for the kids...those things are
so much fun.)

Mustaches tickle...even painted ones.

And then, of course, we had to have a rodeo.

And then, of course, we had to play baseball (??).  Ok, that's not strictly Texan, but it was big fat fun.

But mostly we just had a great time together and that was the best part of it all.  

Best of luck Joely Bug in your gigantic Texas adventure.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Yup, I have a six pack

The other morning I got up and headed downstairs to exercise.

Ok, to be honest it was more like I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled downstairs to exercise, but who's counting.

Anyway, as I pulled up my great little On Demand routine (I love having options), there was a quick add for another workout that talked about how it was sure to give you six pack abs if you strictly followed the moves for a month or something like that.  I pretty much just scoffed at it thinking,  "Yeah, right, this mid section of mine will NEVER work itself into a six pack.  Don't they know that some of us have stretched out repeatedly to give life to people."

But that's when I realized that HA!  I do so have a six pack.

My middle is puddled with extras that were "pack"ed on as I birthed "six" kidlets.

Voila!  Six pack!

That's right (imagine me brushing fake dust off my shoulders with a haughty look), you got nothing on me exercise lady!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mixin' it up

I am all about thrift.

Living on a school teacher's salary is not always easy, but it is a great motivator when it comes to saving our pennies.

And so, we do what we can to trim expenses when we can.

One of the things we do to save dollars is we make our own dry mixes to use in the kitchen whenever we can (as an added bonus this also means I know everything that is in these mixes so we don't have weird add ins and preservatives).

For example, our family is a pretty heavy ranch dressing crew.  Everyone uses it on salad (which we eat often) but some members of our household (cough cough Josh and Aubrey cough) put ranch on almost everything...like hot dogs and tacos and eggs and pizza etc etc.

Anyway, because of that we go through a lot of ranch dressing mix and man that stuff gets costly.  So I decided to learn to make my own ranch mix.

You would think this would be easy, but sadly, I live with a ranch snob (defined as someone who is not satisfied with any old ranch dressing, someone who is picky about his ranch).  So, I tried several versions of dry mix until I finally found one that worked for us, and here it is.

Ranch Dressing Dry Mix:
1/3 cup dry buttermilk or powdered milk (we use Morning Moos dry milk)
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 1/2 Tsp dill
2 tsp garlic pdr
2 tsp onion pdr
2 tsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp dried chives
1 tsp Kosher salt
10 Club crackers (Ritz crackers work ok too)...this helps act as a thickener

I put all the ingredients into my food processor and run it until everything is smooth then store it for later use.  Blend 3 Tbsp of the mix with 3/4 cup milk and 1 1/4 cup mayonnaise (going a little heavier on the mayo helps to keep our ranch thicker instead of being runny).  We really like this one.  It works great for our family and I can make an entire batch of mix for much much less than purchasing Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix.

We also make our own taco seasoning rather than buying packets at the store.  We like this version.

Taco Seasoning Dry Mix:
4 Tbsp chili pdr
1 tsp garlic pdr
1 tsp onion pdr
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
6 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp salt
4 tsp black pepper

With this combination, add 3 Tbsp of the mix to 1 lb hamburger for flavoring.

These mixes work great in our house and save us little bits of money at a time, which adds up nicely over the months.  I do love to save a few pennies.

What are your great money saving tips?  I'd love to learn something new.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Goose Egg

This is Logan.

You may notice that he has a huge goose egg on his head.

I think every family has one, but this is our daredevil, drawn-to-everything, must-push-the-limits kid.  

And so, while everyone else was having a good time at the Fun Center, Logan (following a flip around a metal banister resulting in a face smashed against the bottom bar of said banister) was sitting with me with a bag of ice on his head.  

That kind of thing is fairly normal for us.  Good thing this little man likes to cuddle with his mom which makes comfort after these events better for both of us.  

This little sprite seriously likes to keep things interesting.

My adventurous risk-taker is one of my favorite parts of family life.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chillin' (literally) in Colorado

Last week we gathered up our little ones and headed off on adventure.  I love to take family trips (Josh tells me I can't call them vacations because with six kids buzzing around looking to be entertained there is not much vacationy about these excursions).

We once again borrowed on the benefits of my parent's time-share ownership and we scored ourselves a spring break trip to the snowy mountains of Mesa, Colorado.
Sounds like fun to me.  

I prepped our "to do" files and packing lists because I am a planner to the nth degree and when Saturday March 29 showed up, I was ready to go.

The drive to Mesa is just over four hours so we opted to take a quick break near Moab to explore Arches National Park.  The kids had never been there and it was the perfect middle of the way stretch your legs activity (plus I think it is beautiful and fun so I like to impose those things on my children when I can).

We explored the easy trails of double arch, the window arches and turret arch and then walked to the lookout to see delicate arch (we have Ellie so we do have a limit on the hikes we can manage).

Thank you kind lady who shared her camera skills (and the front of a random truck) with us...I'll have to crop that out when I have a minute but at least we did get a full family photo.

Double arch 
Adorable kidlets.

Just the three of us (two who are now tired and whiny about hiking and climbing...
I'll let you guess which two).

North and South Window Arch and some cute people we found along the way.

Half of Bryce's face, the top of Ellie's head and Delicate Arch (yeah, some people in our group were ready to go by the time we got here).
 Another couple hours in the car and we landed in Mesa (after a quick...ha ha, not...stop at the Grand Junction Walmart for our groceries).  We stayed at Goldenwoods Condominiums which was a great place for us.  Because the ski season at the neighboring resort ended the Saturday we arrived (although it was still plenty snowy, just not good snow for skiing), the place was quiet and calm and the condo was HUGE.  Even with our family of eight we had plenty of room (3 bedrooms, 3 baths, kitchen, dining room, family room and TONS of closet space).  It was a really great home base for our trip.
Kids enjoying the loft bedroom.
Sunday morning we took a couple family pictures while everyone was dressed nicely.  They didn't exactly turn out (professional photographers we are not), but this one was fun for me anyway.

Some of the fun we had on our trip included:

1. Sledding on the abandoned ski hill nearby (there is a ski resort next to the condo, but just a mile up the mountain road there was an old, well-cleared slope and it was perfect for some sledding of our own).  The snow was a little bit icy so we had to do some impromptu training about bailing on a slide before running into trees at the bottom, but it was a lot of fun.

2. Next up, visit to the Dinosaur Journey Museum in nearby Fruita (about an hour away).  This place a fun displays and interactive pieces (including a dinosaur that spit "venom" -- aka water -- at you if your friend pushed the button).  It was fun for everyone.

Experiencing a 5.3 scale earthquate...pretty cool!

 3. After exploring the dino museum, we chose to hike the "Trail Through Time" loop, a 2ish mile walk/hike which features the remains of honest to goodness dinosaurs that you can get up close and personal with.
To the right of the crew you can see part of the spine of this prehistoric creature.  It was really really fun!

More spine, yeah!
 While on our hike we even found this great little mini arch which we added to our supply after being impressed with the big ones at Arches National Park.  Big.  Small.  We like em all!

4. Mid trip we stumbled upon April Fools Day.  The kids were worried about what kind of stunts I would pull (I love this holiday) but I kept things simple and Josh and I just came out that morning with glasses, teeth and strategically placed whoopi cushions.  Still, it was a good laugh.

5. My super, ultra favorite man-made excursion of the trip was to the John McConnell Math and Science Center.  When you pull up, you realize this place is nestled in the crook of an elementary school which left my husband and children extremely skeptical.  But I had done my homework and read the reviews and knew that people love this place.  Now I know why.  As an added bonus the entrance fee was $12 per family so it was very reasonably priced.  Love it!

There are dozens upon dozens of hands on math and science displays that are really really cool.  From waves to force to hurricanes to electricity to microscopes to termites to bubbles to magnets and everything in between, there are SO MANY THINGS to see and try here.  Our kids got lost in it all and didn't come up for air for nearly two hours.  This place was incredible!  After our day visit we went back a couple nights later for their "Curious George Goes to Space" event and had even more fun.  We launched self made rockets and made our own egg drop containers.  We created asteroids from chemicals and dry ice and just loved it.  If you are nearby, DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE!!

(We had to tear her away from the microscopes when it was time to leave.)

Making their own tornado...AWESOME!

6. Knowing that not all of our time can be spent out and about I usually tote some in condo activities along with me when we travel.  

After we visited the science museum, I pulled out these All-A-Dollar treasures, some kits that let you grow your own crystals.  Voila!  Overnight we had these beautiful pieces growing in our living room.  Fun!

We also painted stained glass balloons one day...

and made these cutesy paper guys.

7. Our last museum was the Museum of the West.  I was a little unsure of this place, I couldn't find a lot of reviews from people with kids, but we purchased a season pass at the dinosaur place (cheaper than 8 individuals and now we can go if we happen to ever be in Grand Junction again in the next year...um, yeah) and the Museum of the West entrance fee was included as part of that pass.

I needn't have been worried, this place was really fun.  They had a lot of "climb on up here" displays that kept my kids entertained and lots of unique and interesting things to see (their extensive gun displays were killer for my boys).

Climbing to the top of the museum tower for a view of the city was another fun feature.  It was a good visit.

8. Our last piece of wandering was another of my favorite stops.  This time we schlepped to the waterfalls in Rifle, just east of Mesa.

It was maybe 30 yards from the parking lot to this spot but while it was gorgeous that was only the start of the fun. 

These individually frozen blades of grass were fun to see.

There is a trail which allows you to meander up the side of the hill and end up behind one of that falls.

But the best part (at least for most of the kids) was the caves that were sprinkled all throughout the hillside.  There were dozens of them, some of them quite large, and my crew had so much fun exploring those with their dad (cause mom stayed back with two little sprites who weren't quite brave enough for that adventure just yet...trolls and bats and ghosts you know).

And then we packed up and drove home.

What fun.  

I love to take these trips because I hope they will act as anchors for my kids.  I hope they will have these wonderful memories to be able to glom onto when life is rough or they hate their parents or whatever.  I hope they will have these little seeds stuck deep inside that remind them that family matters most, that God loves them, that it is good to explore and to feel.  These may not be exactly the epitome of "vacation" but to me, these trips are worth the world.

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