Sep 22, 2015

Learning with Strawberries

 
 Within the past few months, I placed the girls "craft" box within their reach so they can grab things as they wish. They have access to their markers, scissors, watercolor, construction paper, stickers, glitter, glue, googly eyes, popsicle sticks and other random things. I wish I had done this sooner; I was so preoccupied with worrying about them making a disaster, that I had it out of their reach. They would need to ask or I would have to suggest it. But now I see they love the freedom of creating as they wish. Once in a while, though, they like more structured activities.  

 
We have read The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear more times that I can count. We've read it to the girls since the beginning. Our book is actually one of Jeff's from his childhood. His name is scribbled in pen on a front page, written decades ago. The book is so cute and we recently got a small, bilingual cardboard version of the book. It's written in English and Spanish. Lilly always requests I read both languages. Though, some of the Spanish words I struggle with. But it's fun, nonetheless.



I got the idea to make these strawberries for scissor practice from Reading Confetti. It was easy enough to make, especially as a last minute decision. Lilly got to cut three of the strawberries, since her scissor skills are pretty on point. Violet got to cut two of them. This was the first time she's practiced cutting along a line and she did fantastic! We then talked about sharing the strawberry halves which led us to talk about sharing other things. Then we had an impromptu lesson on how two 1/2 cups of water equals one cup of water.


Next, we painted strawberries with our hands and dotted on the seeds using a cotton swab. As usual, the girls got messy and loved working with their hands. It was the first time they've used a cotton swab and Lilly especially enjoyed making lots of marks and swirls with it.


We also made strawberry smoothies, ate numerous pints of fresh strawberries, baked muffins and practiced patterns with our strawberries and other fruit. Sometimes we playing with your food is ok.  



Strawberries are one of our favorite things to snack on and we adore this book so much. So these fun, easy activities were perfect for us.

Sep 9, 2015

Peach Mania

Peaches. We love them. And when the nearby orchard has thousands of them growing on trees, ripe for the picking, we buy them by the bucket load. Last month we took a little road trip over to Apple Annie's and we entered tree ripened peaches paradise. We've been going here for years. We used to live a little closer and would go for peach season and apple/pumpkin fall harvest time. But now, we usually only make it once a year. Peach season wins!

Who's ready to pick peaches?
Even though the temps were a little cooler at the orchard, it was still a sweltering day and naturally, we didn't arrive as early as originally planned. Our neighbors joined us for the day and
their first Apple Annie's experience. The girls had a blast running along the rows, dodging fallen fruit, watching giant beetles feasting away on the juicy flesh. They helped pick fruit from the lower branches and were great assistants at placing them gently into the buckets. Even though we were under the tree foliage canopy that protected us from the sun's rays, it definitely did not stop the heat. Two buckets were filled to the brim and the girls had had enough.

Hot & ready for lunch
little helper taking a break
In keeping with tradition, we paid for our bounty and then enjoyed our packed lunch under the shaded patio that looks out over the orchard. Afterwards, we bought a slice of pie and a heaping scoop of ice cream. We loaded up the truck with peaches and kids, parted ways with our friends, and headed home. Only for the AC to give us issues. Again. In high 90s temperature, we had to drive on the highway with windows down. For an hour and a half. If we weren't sweaty before, we surely were now.

As soon as we arrived at the house and unloaded the peaches, I began washing and prepping them. Of course, some were devoured right then and there. There's nothing better than a sweet, juicy peach picked straight from the tree. With your own hands. Violet's 1st solid food taste was a peach right off the tree while we were at the farm a couple years ago. I normally make a crisp or two to freeze and then freeze bags of sliced peaches. They are divine to thaw and bite into in the middle of winter. I can't even explain how amazing they taste. I'm instantly transported back to the hot summer days. This time I decided to be adventurous with the peach usage.  Considering the fact that we are trying to sell the house, I shouldn't FILL the freezer with prepped food.

I found recipes on Pinterest, took recommendations from friends and froze a dozen bags of chopped or sliced peaches as well. Here is the list of recipes that I used. They were all so delicious.

-Peach, Blueberry, Basil Crisp from How Sweet it is. Basil? I was skeptical too but this recipe came highly recommended by a friend. I've never thought of using basil in anything other than savory food. It added an extra fresh, summery punch to the dish. It had my taste buds confused but delighted.


My little baker
-Peach Pie Oatmeal Cookies from Amy's Healthy Baking. These little nuggets of goodness are bursting with flavor! They are made with almond extract instead of the normal vanilla in most cookies. I substituted maple syrup for the honey called for in the recipe, because that's all that I had. I'm not sure if the recipe intended to or not, because it didn't specify, but I left the skins on the peaches and it turned out superbly. These cookies were so moist, packed full of flavor, not too sweet or filling and chocked full of tidbits of peach. I doubled this recipe. I normally freeze a portion of a batch that I bake, but these were such a favorite that they never even stood a chance.

-Peach Pie Scones with Vanilla Glaze from A Latte Food. Truth be told, I've never made a scone before. I think I've only eaten one. These looked so good and I wanted to try something different. I'm so happy that I did. These were amazing! They were easy to make, not too dry, not too sweet. I think they would be delicious even without the glaze. I want to make these, and other variations again and again. I am now a scone believer ;)

-Peach Muffins from Food.com.  I used half whole wheat, half all purpose flour, and omitted the almonds from the recipe. I'd love to try them with, but Jeff is weird about nuts in his food and considering I need him to devour a large portion of what I bake, these were sans nuts. I made a mix of regular size and mini muffins and was able to freeze a gallon freezer bag full of them. These have proven to be easy breakfasts as they are not too sweet and are easy to pop out individually.

-Peach Fruit Leather from Weelicious.   I have been meaning to make fruit leathers from scratch for a very long time but have never gotten around to it. The thought of having the oven on for so long has been a deterring factor. But the oven is set so low that I didn't even notice it was on. These came out a little crisp along the edges of the pan but softened after sitting for a while. I rolled them up on strips of parchment paper, sealed with a tab of tape and stored them in a Tupperware in the pantry. The kids (and I) adored these. Even better that they only contained fresh peaches and raw, local honey. Nothing less, nothing more. I attempted a 2nd batch using peaches and raspberries but even after a LOT of extra time in the oven, they just wouldn't set. I was a little bummed at the waste of fruit.

-Upside-Down Peach Cake from Taste of Home. Oh. My. Goodness! How in the world have I never had peach upside-down cake? Why does pineapple get to steal the spotlight in the upside-down cake world? This was SO good. I'll be making it again. I used almondmilk in place of regular milk called for in the recipe. There are no pics of this because it didn't last long enough.

-Pureed Peaches in White Wine. Next time I won't use skin on the fruit. It was a little too chunky but it did the job while I was baking.

-Peach Raspberry Crisp. I don't use a recipe for this. I just use some concoction of oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter,or coconut oil, as a topping. Sweet. Tart. You can't go wrong.

-Peach, Strawberry, Blueberry Cups. My neighbor dropped these little beauties off to us. The fruit sits atop a concoction of cream cheese, homemade whipped cream and powdered sugar and is piled into cups made from Phyllo dough or wrappers? I'm not sure. The cream cheese mix is barely sweet which makes the whole thing light and fresh.

Spending hours on my feet, hands covered in fruit, cooking, cutting, mixing, is always a daunting task but the satisfaction of seeing the fruit go from tree to mouth is priceless.

What's your favorite peach recipe?




Jun 24, 2015

Buy Buy Baby

Welp, the house is officially for sale. It went on the market almost 2 weeks ago. We have had LOTS of views at the online listing but only 1 in home view so far. I'm both antsy and relieved. I am the former because this whole thing is a waiting game. We can't make any further plans until the house sells. So we wait. I am the latter because there's no more painting or fixing to do. We just have to keep the house as tidy as possible for last minute showings.

The day we listed the house, I had a fleeting moment of "omg are we REALLY doing this?? Are we insane?!". Then I quickly came to my senses and realized that we may be a little crazy, but are venturing on this new adventure with good intentions and reason. We've been talking about this cross country RV trip/lifestyle for well over a year! So to remind myself and to answer those that have asked us, here are the reasons why we're about to embark on a gypsy life (& I feel I can speak for jeff on these points as we're on the same wavelength):

1. Why not?

2. There is so much to see and do and we want to witness it all.

3. We miss friends and family. We're tired of seeing them once every year or few years and even then we have to cram visiting many into a short time frame.

4. We want the kids (and us) to experience & learn from things hands on and in person instead of just reading about it.

5. We're ready for our next great adventure.  When we 1st started dating, Jeff quit his job and came to live with me in Spain. That's just crazy!  We traveled throughout southern Spain and to Portugal, Morocco, Germany, France, Netherlands, to the Canary Islands and then we moved to AZ. And we traveled less but still had adventures, only more sporadically. And then we had kids, our biggest adventure yet, but with far less traveling. This is the longest either of us have lived in 1 place (be it house or city). In our entire lives! We both have the wanderlust itch.

6. It's time to DO instead of DREAM.

7. What if?  What if we only talked about this, but never did it? Would we regret it? You bet your sweet ass we would!

8. We will discover a new town/city to live in when we're ready to settle down. OR we'll realize that Tucson is where we're meant to be.  (I mean, this place is pretty bad ass, minus the triple digit heat in the summer).

9. We won't be tied down by material possessions or be disappointed in our inability to financially buy said possessions. Selling & donating the vast majority of our possessions, although a little stressful and overwhelming, has been very freeing. How did we collect so much shit? And not even nice or new or important. Clothes that we haven't worn in YEARS, books that will never be read again, decorations that collect dust. I can't even remember everything we got rid of, which means I don't miss it and we didn't need it.  Aside from a few boxes of photo albums & art work being stored at my mom's, whatever doesn't fit in the RV, goes away. And it feels good.

10. I'm excited to go from 1800+sqft to around 300sqft. There will be days when we'll all want our space and won't have much of it. BUT, it will force us to get outside more often. I won't spend half a day cleaning or picking up after the kids or feeling like nothing got done because an area got messed up as fast as I clean it. I'm hoping that means more time to play & maybe I'll get to read and create. Because my creative side is in hibernation and it saddens me.

11. The kids are too young to be angry at us for yanking them from friends/school/boy/girlfriends. Anytime they see am RV they excitedly point it out and then ask when we're going.

12. This adventure and new life will bring us closer than ever. I'm sure there are ways in which we can't even imagine yet, but I feel this will be great for our (J & I) relationship.

I will be sad leaving the familiarity and safety I feel from living in this city for 8 years. I know the curves and undulations of the roads, the smell of the desert, the quietness of the heat, the colors of the skies that never cease to amaze me. I'll be sad to see it all disappear in the rear view mirror, unsure if we'll ever see it again. I'll miss our amazing and supportive friends that we've met over the years, that have become our family. 

But someone, hurry up and buy our house! 

May 24, 2015

Awakening

Almost three months ago I took part in a photo shoot with the wonderful & talented Jade Beall. It was a nude & partially nude breast & bottle shoot. I was joined by a group of lovely women and their sweet babes. The photo shoot was to show solidarity in that it doesn't matter how you feed your babies--breast, bottle, formula, breastmilk, donor milk--we all love our babies the same. It was an amazing experience. I wasn't nervous, even knowing that hundreds, maybe thousands would see my softened body, filled with lines that I'm still learning to navigate and explore. My non-photoshopped image. Just me. In my pure physical form. I did this for self growth, newfound self love. I did this to show other women that it's ok to look just as you are, in this moment. You are you and that is enough. And you are beautiful. I did this to show my girls that their momma IS glorious and perfect just as I see them. I left the photo shoot feeling confident and elated. I also made new friends:) I couldn't wait to see the photos of me and my little sweetie, sharing our special moment. I needed to see myself in a new light, outside of what I see in the mirror. When the photos finally arrived to my inbox, I was ecstatic! Slowly I looked through all the glorious images of my fellow mommas and I teared up often. I smiled from ear to ear. Each photo of these divine Goddesses oozed love and grace and strength and happiness. I was so proud to have shared this moment in our lives with so many strong women. Then I saw my photos. And I cried. I cried myself to sleep on this night, that happened to be oldest daughter's birthday.

photo by Jade Beall
How the fuck did I get here?! My whole life I've been showered with love and affection from my mom. She's always tried to make me feel and realize that I am beautiful and smart and unique. But I remember from a young age not agreeing. I remember feeling that she was saying it because she was my Mom and HAD to say such things. Where did this come from? Is this natural? I would like to think not. I hope not. I remember in 4th grade watching Miss America pageant with  my mom and then crying myself to sleep because I felt I would never be as beautiful or talented as they were. In high school I was never the pretty girl or the popular one. I had friends and fun but no real boyfriends. I was skinny and flat chested. I was made fun of a few times for lack of womanly breasts.

Then adulthood came. And I blossomed a little. However, I never felt fully like a woman. I compared myself to others and down the rabbit hole I went. I've had company with many, myself included, that batter ourselves while looking in the mirror both internally and outwardly vocal. I guess we all feed off one another with our self image. Through my 20s I fluctuated weight, went through a marriage, boyfriends, lovers, and lack of feelings of self worth. I was shortly medicated for depression. And I self medicated with alcohol, sex and other things. Looking back, even in a size, shape and weight that I'd LOVE to be in right now, never once was I completely comfortable in my own skin. I had days of like, but many moments of dislike. I liked my nipples but loathed my lack of breast tissue. I liked my feet but not my dimpled thighs. I liked my face but not my wrinkled hands. But. But. But. Why couldn't I see that those breasts would someday nourish 2 children, that those legs were strong and carry me through this world, that these hands feel softness and show the life I've lived. Why are there any BUTs? Why can't there just be love for this body that's carrying around my soul? I am intelligent and loving and caring and nurturing. I am human. And I am beautiful. Why isn't this enough?

photo by Jade Beall

This past year has been a journey for me to take control. I don't know where this self hate stems from but I need to shut that shit down! I made a promise to myself and silently to my girls that I would not outwardly show them my disdain. I don't poke at my "flaws" or berate myself in front of them. "I'm so fat" has never been muttered. I threw away the scale a while ago. Becoming a mother has been the most natural and right thing for me. I was born to do this! Being in my new mom skin, however, was harder than I imagined. My negative view was taking a toll on myself and my sex life. So, last fall I did a photo shoot with a friend in hopes of beginning to peel away this layer of loathe. I was clothed, but along with the shoot I voiced all my thoughts to my husband. It was more healing that I could have imagined. He has subsequently caressed my scars and kissed my sagging belly skin while telling me they are his favorite part of me; they are a sign of my strength and our children. I've since started to focus on my stomach less when looking in the mirror. I don't cringe when my stomach is touched. The marks are here to stay. They tell a part of my story and the beginning of my children's.

I was ecstatic to take part in the shoot with Jade. I have been following her for a while and have been so moved by her work and all of the women that have bravely shared themselves with the world. I have been touched by every photo that has crossed my eyes. I feel as though every woman that has shared their story, their image, has slowly helped me become more confident. My sisters! My tribe. So when I got those photos back, I was appalled at my reaction. I thought I was better. I thought I was stronger. I was upset at numerous things in the photos, all of which were my doing and nothing to do with Jade's artistry and vision. I barely smiled. I stood awkwardly while nursing. I have finally become comfortable with  my breasts (or so I thought)...they've grown and I no longer hide under layers of padding. I even go sans bra now. As baby girl slowly starts to slow down on nursing, they are changing size once again. I'm lopsided now. And I'm trying to find peace in that. After a month of it eating at me, I let Jade know how I felt and then I thought the photo would be buried and I could forget about my crazy feelings.

Then she posted my image on Facebook and Instagram. Jade, if you happen to read this THANK YOU for doing that! You gave me courage that I needed and at the time I needed it. I can't express my gratitude for all the wonderful words from strangers around the world. In the photo I'm not smiling and I'm standing, but so many see greatness in those two things, where I could only see flaws. They've opened my eyes. I know, more than ever, that I'm not alone in my feelings. The past few days I've been thinking about what everyone has said; what those close to me have always said. And I hear you. I believe you. I want to be a strong, confident woman and when my children grow older and hear me tell them how wonderful they are, I want them to believe it too! I want to be the role model for them and for them to know whole heartedly that they are amazing for their character as well as their outward appearance. I don't want their life to revolve around what others see. I want them to know they are just as perfect as they are in my eyes now. I want to see myself through my children's eyes. I'm awake and I'm ready for new beginnings!

photo by Jade Beall

May 10, 2015

Progress

Someday we will list the house and start our RV adventure. Someday. That's what I keep telling myself.

I guess I'm just too antsy. But honestly, it's taking us longer than we'd like to get things sold and the house show ready. We've downsized to where everything is gone except either what we're bringing along, or essentials until we move out. For instance, our bed, couch, kitchen table, play room furniture is still here and will remain until until we having a closing date. I'd prefer we aren't sitting on the floor and sleeping on an air mattress for a year. Who knows how long the house will take to sell. So those things will be last to go.

We've boxed up artwork & photos we want to keep and are storing those at my mom's. Plus extra kitchen items (like some of our pots & pans, kitchenaid mixer) are in storage at her place. Other than that, everything has been sold or donated. Selling has been challenging and time consuming. I'm active on numerous Facebook sale groups, we've had a few garage sales and sold at the swap meet. We've also donated a bunch to a few organizations in town. We've made a lot of progress. But it's just not happening quick enough for me.

Some deep cleaning has commenced as well as repainting a few walls. I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to actually paint while the girls were awake. I envisioned foot prints of paint across the carpet. Luckily that didn't happen, though there's still time for that. However, Violet took it upon herself to get artistic with our gray wall and painted some white on it. Thank goodness we still have some of that color.

Going from 1800sqft to 300sqft is challenging. All these years of collecting stuff and then deeming which of the stuff to keep or sell vs give away... is so daunting. But we're pretty much done with that portion. The front family room is empty (unlike the photo), the office has been cleared, furniture in the girls' room is gone. Progress. Now, if we can just knock out the painting, touchups, carpets and overall cleaning we'll be ready to list. And wait.

Repainting
Chaos before uncluttering

Apr 9, 2015

Poppin' Up



A few weeks ago I noticed patches of flowers popping up. Then a friend posted photos of her boys in fields of poppies. Aaaaah, the desert is officially alive!
The last time I had seen this many poppies was years ago, before the girls were born. So I planned one morning for us to take a short trip to find these fields. Less than a 10 minute drive from our home the vibrant orange patches started appearing in my peripheral as I zoomed down the asphalt. Lilly gleefully shouted "Loooooook Mom! Flowers!" We pulled onto a small side street and parked the truck.

The strip of land teeming with flowers seemed to stretch on for miles. The three of us were ecstatic. You would think we had never seen flowers before. 


We smelled the flowers. We watched the flowers blowing in the breeze. We found sticks to play with. The girls dug around in the dirt like always. Apparently dirt is their favorite thing. If they are outside, they are in the dirt. The girls attempted to pick the flowers about a bajillion times whilst I harped at them to leave them alone for the bees and butterflies and so other people could enjoy them. In the end they were allowed to pluck one.

After frolicking in the field we went back to the street, climbed up into the bed of the truck and ate our packed lunch. The sun warmed  us. The breeze tousled our hair. It was a wonderful day. And I was with my two little ladies. Nothing could be better.











Mar 6, 2015

Passing

Seuss 1999-2015


I don't do good with death. It has never been easy for me. No matter how close or distant the soul was to me. I become crippled with grief. I've actually never seen death happen though.  Yesterday was the first time. It was hard. It was somber. It was raw. It was peaceful.

Our cat Seuss passed away at the age of 16.

I originally started writing this with details of her death. But it doesn't really matter how she went. She died of old age. She died amongst her loved ones. She died in a quiet room being petted and loved. She left us peacefully.


Seuss & Chamele. BFFs forever
Seuss loved snuggling with her sister. She loved chasing the dog. She loved curling up next to my head as I slept. She loved drinking water from the faucet. She loved pooping on the floor. She loved rolling around in catnip. Seuss travelled the world with me. She lived in Germany and Spain with me. She loved to chase laser pointers.

She was a little bit crazy. But she was my crazy cat. And I loved her. I love her. I will miss her.

She had a full moon burial. We sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to her. We drew pictures and messages that were buried with her. We blew kisses to her. And this morning we talked about her again and how she is no longer physically with us but will always be in our memories. We talked of how she will now become a part of the Earth and will help the plants grow. We are going to scatter native wildflower seeds over her resting spot.

You will live on in my memories, sweet Seussy-poo.

she was the cutest, tiniest little thing