family · life · through my camera lens

Strasburg Trains

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When Blake was little he began watching Thomas the Train and liked Thomas a lot. Colby didn’t just like Thomas and trains, he LOVED them. When they were younger we went to a Day Out with Thomas two years in a row. Colby was beyond excited to ride the rails.

While they have outgrown Thomas, Colby still loves trains. He gets so excited every year when we put the train around our Christmas tree.

So when we were planning the trip to Hershey we knew we’d need to extend the trip and go to Strasburg PA. There we went to Strasburg Rail Road and the Rail Road Museum of Pennsylvania, they are across the street from each other. At the Strasburg Rail Road, we went to the Hostling Tour which meant we were up early to see them prep the steam engine for the day.  We got go inside the engine to see them working on stoking the fire. The boys even got to ride in the engine. Then we went on a train ride and rode in the lounge car.

Then we went across the street to see the Train Museum. This was an impressive collection of train items including engines, train cars, cabooses, as well as items that were used on the trains. The pictures below are panorama of the inside collection of trains taken from the overlook.

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This is just a fraction of the photos from this day. I had so much fun taking pictures of the trains.

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family · life · through my camera lens

Fireworks and more

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, As I mentioned in my post yesterday, they don’t have town fireworks on the 4th here. We had a quiet day. Richard went for a bike ride. We went to Five Guys for lunch. (We love Five Guys Burgers and Fries!, ok well Blake eats a hot dog and fries, but the rest of us love the burgers).

I then went out for a bit of time shopping on my own. This was two fold, I was bathing suit shopping (read my whine about that here) and I was getting a bit of time away. Richard worked in the garage putting one of our older receivers and speakers out in the garage. As I’ve mentioned in many past posts we always have music going in our house.

Colby decided that we needed to have cookies or something for desert. I tossed out a few suggestions and we decided to make maple and brown sugar oatmeal cookies. Colby helped make the cookies and pretty much made them on his own this time. If you follow my instagram, you saw a picture of this yesterday.

We had steak, sweet potatoes fries and grilled “oven” fries for dinner. I put the sliced sweet potatoes (with EVOO, S&P, sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg) into one foil packet. I sliced up two baking potatoes and put them into foil packets too. These get cooked on the grill at the same time as the steak. The potatoes I did one with just EVOO, S&P and the other had a seasoning blend with EVOO. Richard and I devoured the sweet potato packet. Every time we do this we say we need to make this more often, but never do. I really like the slices that get a bit of burnt edge because this adds another layer of flavor and the sugars are typically more caramelized.

While we were waiting for dark, mother nature decided to put on her own fireworks show. We had over an hour of lightning in the distance. There was no rain, there was little to no thunder, but there were some impressive bolts and often the sky lit up like day.

It let up enough right at dark, so cranked up the tunes and lit off some of the fountains that we purchased. The boys also played with snap bangs and sparklers. I brought my new camera out and played with the settings.

family · life · through my camera lens

Sprinkler fun

I feel like I often write about things that my kids are getting to do here that they didn’t do in Orlando. Don’t get me wrong, they had a great childhood there but this is a different childhood. We have created a less structured childhood here. The boys have more freedom and more opportunities to just be outside doing kid things. There are times I think they miss the structure and activities they were engaged in when they were in Orlando, but most of the time they love the quiet, free, open time they have here.

When they were younger they played sports all school year as well as were involved in a variety of other out of school activities. When we moved here we stopped that. The main reason is the fact that they were not passionate about any of the sports they were playing. Neither wanted to do anything to improve beyond the practices and games. I’m not saying they needed to ask for private lessons, but they didn’t want to go kick the soccer ball, toss the football, or shoot baskets when they didn’t have to. So, why pay for something they aren’t passionate about. When you get to their age the teams get more competitive and there is more involved, multiple practices and traveling.

They have both asked to continue acting, and they have another week of theater camp coming up soon. We will see where this goes.

But, this weekend they had another free child first. Playing in the sprinklers. In Orlando we had a sprinkler system installed in our yard. The water that was feed to this was reclaimed water, so the boys were not encourged to play in it. We actually usually ran it at about 5am so they weren’t even awake when it was running.

Here we do not have a sprinkler system, so the sprinklers run on hose water. On Saturday we were watering the front lawn since it had been a while since there was rain. Both the boys just began running in and out of the sprinkler in their clothes. At first they hesitated and were just going up and drinking the water or helping to move the sprinkler. When they realized they were not getting in trouble they went for it.

Sunday and Monday they went out and put the sprinkler in the backyard. These times they actually wore bathing suits. They brought out their water squirters and a bucket. They had a blast playing in the water.

They were just running around and laughing. They had fun… being kids!

family · food · through my camera lens · Uncategorized

Meatballs and weekday sauce

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When I was growing up, it seemed like a majority of the friends my brother and I had were Italian. We on the other hand do not have a drop of Italian blood in us. But that never stopped us from enjoying Italian foods! I love anything in red sauce, who doesn’t? I would be very happy if you gave me a bowl of red sauce and a loaf of Italian bread… yum!

Well last night we decided to have meatballs. We had purchased a french baguette at the store on Monday and we didn’t want it to go stale before it was consumed. Blake told me over the weekend he wanted to help with the cooking this week, so I had shown him Alton Brown’s Chicken Parmesan Balls recipe. We decided this would be the meatballs we make this time around. I typically make the meatballs from this recipe anytime I make meatballs. P1080320

The boys decided they would both help make dinner. Blake helped make the meatballs. He measured and mixed and then formed the meatballs while I cooked them in the cast iron skillet. Colby made the sauce almost completely on his own.

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Chicken Turkey Parm Balls

  • 3 oz panko bread crumbs
  • 4 oz parm cheese (I used a combination of parm and asiago since I didn’t have enough parm)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning mix (dried herbs not salad dressing)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 oz of fresh mozzarella
  • weekday spaghetti sauce (see below)
  • Heat oven to 400
  1. mix 1/2 oz of panko and 1 oz parm cheese in a small bowl and set aside
  2. combine chicken, egg, 1 Tbsp oil, bread crumbs, parm cheese, basil, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and salt in a large bowl. (use your hands it’s your best kitchen tool!)
  3. use cookie scoop to create equal size balls
  4. heat 1 Tbps oil in pan.
  5. brown balls in the pan, work in batches and do not over crowd the pan. remove to paper towel lined pan/plate as you go.
  6. put balls into baking dish and cover with weekday sauce. sprinkle on reserved panko and cheese. top with fresh motzarella
  7. bake for 10 min or until the cheese is melted.
  8. serve however you want (in a roll, on pasta, just on a plate, eat it right out the pan…?)

Weeknight sauce

  • EVOO
  • 6 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (herbs not salad dressing mix)
  • 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  1. heat oil in the pan (enough to coat the bottom of the pan
  2. add crushed garlic
  3. add remaining herbs
  4. heat until the garlic is starting to brown around the edges, making sure to continue to break up garlic if you didn’t chop it up
  5. add in the whole can of tomatoes
  6. let cook 5 min or so then begin breaking up the tomatoes (Colby used the wooden spoon then I used a potato masher) to the consistency you like your sauce

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This was really good. The boys did find the sauce a bit spicy. I think next time I’ll use 1/2 or 1/4 tsp of the red pepper flakes. I enjoyed the texture, taste and mouthfeel of these meatballs. I would make them bigger next time if I was making them for the subs. I tend to choose to make my meatballs smaller so I know they cook through and they also do not need as much binder then. I will certainly be making both the meatballs and sauce again since everyone enjoyed them.

 

family · food · through my camera lens

Breakfast…Quesadillas? Recipe By Blake

Hi everyone, Blake here. Toady, I decided to have a breakfast burrito, and with a regular recipe and a bunch of dumb luck, I ‘created’ a new food item. Here it is….

Ingredients:

Two regular eggs

dash of water

Any decent slices of ham as needed ( I used off the bone ham from Giant Eagle.)

Any amount of slices of Colby Jack cheese as needed

Two taco-size tortillas

A little bit of butter

Equipment:

A grilled cheese or panini press

About a 6′ pan/skillet

A bowl, any size

Procedure:

Step 1: Crack the eggs in the bowl, then poke the yolk, preferably with a fork. Mix it around until it is all the same color. Pour the water into the bowl.

Step 2: Turn on the stove, and put on its highest heat setting. Move the butter around in pan/skillet until it dissolves.

Step 3: Pour the eggs in and then cook it until it’s fully cooked. Then have the wraps, ham and cheese out and ready.

Note: Here’s where this dumb luck came into place. We (myself and my mom) had turned the oven on, but my  skills on proportions weren’t so good, and we decided to do this:

Step 4: Take out the press and begin to heat it.

Step 5: While the press is heating, put cheese on the bottom of one wrap, then put ham on top of the cheese. Then, put the eggs in. After that, do vice versa of the ham and cheese, but putting ham first. Last, put the other wrap on top.

Step 6: Heat the quesadilla until desired, take it out, cut it, and enjoy!

If it ends out well, it should sort of look like this:

I tried it, and it was pretty good! Unlike this picture!P1080312

Happy cooking, and see you in my next blog, whenever that is!

-Blake

family · life · through my camera lens

Frozen in the summer

This week the boys were in theater camp. When we lived in FL the boys were involved musical theater in their school. They got to perform in Lion King, Seussical and Willy Wonka. When we moved here they didn’t have anything like that at their school. They got busy asking around for places that had musical theater for kids. Both kids found friends we acted for Jeter Backyard Theater. While we didn’t find out early enough to get into their spring performance we did find out in time to get them into theater camp.

The boys are doing two weeks of camp this summer. This first week they were performing with kids from 4th-12th grades. The oldest that they remembered being on the cast was 15 years old. They went in on Monday, auditioned and found out their roll before they left for the day. Tuesday-Thursday they learned the script, songs and blocking. Friday night at 7pm they put on Frozen Jr. This was the first time this play is being put on ANYWHERE. Jeter and two other companies across the US are piloting the production for Disney Theater. When they go back in July they are doing Frozen Kid. This will be a slightly shorter performance. They will be working with a younger cast that time around.

For this performance, Blake was one of the townspeople. He was very happy that he would be in a lot of the scenes and actually had a line. Colby was one on of the “hidden people” (the rock troll people). He wasn’t in as many scenes, but actually had a solo line in the song “Little Bit of a Fixer Upper”. They had soooo much fun and are super glad they did it and excited to go back in July.

I love that my boys are into performing like this. I grew up on the stage too. I had my first performance in the third grade and performed until my freshman year in college. There is something about being on stage. I always loved getting to know the other actors and helping each other show their best on the stage. It is a place where the odd are accepted and respected for what they can add. You learn structure, flexibility, public speaking and so much more. Can’t wait to see what roll they get in their next production and hope they continue to choose to perform going forward.

family · life · through my camera lens

Busy week and birds

This has been a strange week. Originally I had thought it was going to be a busy week. I took Monday and plowed through most of my house cleaning jobs. The boys has mountain bike class Monday night. It had rained before that and they came home a muddy mess, but they had fun. Richard got off work early and met up with me to walk. He decided to stop home and pick up Dixie too. I walked around 3.5 miles. Richard and Dixie walked about 2.5 miles.

Tuesday Colby was supposed to have his field day. I had volunteered to help out. I got an e-mail at 7am saying it was postponed until Friday. The weather was calling for storms, plus they said there were field issues, probably flooding.  I went to the grocery store, made another pasta salad and baked chocolate chip cookies (it was national chocolate chip cookie day).

Blake went on a field trip. Chatham University backs up to their school campus. They have been learning about streams, fish and other natural environments, so they went to Chatham to collect water samples. They also looked at the creatures who live in the stream. After that they went to the garden there and helped work in the garden. They at lunch in the University cafeteria as well. Blake said he had a great time and the campus was “really cool.”

Today is Blake’s field day. We were a bit shocked to not get an e-mail saying it too was cancelled. The rain is now forecast to start at 4 instead of noon like it was last night. So I will be heading over there around noon to help with his field day. Colby is going on a quick walking field trip today. His class is walking over to the lower elementary school across the street. They are going over to read poems to the first graders. He had to write a poem that he shared with his class yesterday and the first graders today.

Tomorrow we are back at mountain biking!

Busy is good.

On a calmer note, we have a new visitor to our bird feeder. Baltimore Orioles. We added an orange sliced in half, added the wilting grapes and are trying to convince the Orioles, and other birds to stay. All four of us enjoy watching the birds visit the feeder. It is so relaxing and such a great way to touch nature.

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family · food · life

Favorite Foods… family addition

Happy Saturday!

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a few people posting about their favorite food items. I decided to take this and Lori-ize it. So you are going to get our family version of the top 5 food items.  Here we go:

Colby:

  1. Pasta- Colby would eat pasta all day every day if I allowed him to. I try to limit it to a few days a week. His favorite right now would be anything with Alfredo sauce
  2. Peanut Butter- He loves to eat this on a spoon, in a bowl or on a sandwich. He puts it with chocolate, honey or jelly.
  3. Steak- Colby has recently learned about the joys of filet minion. When we have gone on the Disney Cruises he eats steak almost every night for dinner.
  4. Stromboli- especially if Richard makes it at home
  5. Bacon, Bacon, Bacon- need I say more?

Blake:

  1. Pizza/ Stromboli- Blake LOVES pizza and tries to have it every week on the menu
  2. Cheese- Blake eats cheese 24/7, by the slice, shredded, in sandwiches or any other way he can have it
  3. Chocolate- anything sweet Blake eats has to be chocolate
  4. Quesadillas- This is something Blake makes almost every time we have fend for yourself (FFY)
  5. Chips- Blake eats at least one single size bag of chips every day.

Richard:

  1. Steak- Give Richard a rare to medium rare steak with the right seasoning and he is more than a happy camper
  2. Subs- This is reason we go to DiBella’s almost every weekend. He enjoys Italian, cheese steak and well… so many more
  3. Pizza- Richard not only loves to eat pizza, but he also loves to make his own pizza
  4. mint chocolate chip ice cream- This is his absolute favorite ice cream. He picks this as his flavor for sundaes, milkshakes and any other ice cream products
  5. fajitas- chicken or steak doesn’t matter… with or without onions and peppers… the drippier the better
  6. brownies- this is Richard’s go to desert

For me…

  1. Chocolate- do not give me the cheap stuff!  Ghirardelli, Lindt Truffles, Dove are my go to. Now don’t get me wrong give me a Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I’m happy, but there is something about the quality chocolate you can’t beat.
  2. Hummus- that stuff is addicting! I love it on tortilla chips, on chicken, on pretzels, on carrots… hummus is good! I need to make some of my homemade hummus to share with you one of these days.
  3. Fruit- the fresher the better. I can’t wait for the berries to be ready to pick
  4. Anything we didn’t have yesterday— I enjoy leftovers, just not the next day. I hate having to eat the same kind of foods for multiple days in a row

UMMMMM…. UMMMMM I don’t know if I have a 5th thing. I’m not a person that has a ton of favorite items. I like a lot of different things but I’m not an OMG I have to eat this. I like to switch things up a lot as I easily get bored with foods.

Join the fun… what are your favorite foods?

 

 

 

family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

Peace Love and Little Donuts review– by Blake

On May 5th, 2018, my mom suggested that my dad and I could go to the Peace, Love and Little Donuts in Wexford, get some donuts, and then I can do a review on it. It was pretty small, and it looked like this:

Image result for peace love and little donuts wexford Pretty interesting, huh? So, my dad and I walked in, and it looked like it opened in the 60’s or 70’s. There were a lot of old band posters dating back to that time, and here are a few of them:

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You can obviously tell that they’re pretty old. The donuts were divided into different sections, with different prices for each type, along with more band posters, as you can see:

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So, as my dad and I were looking around, I noticed something that was really cool:2018-05-05 08.49.25

The one thing that you can’t see, but it was probably their slogan, was: ‘Feed your inner hippie.’

I then decided that I’d get two chocolate chip donuts, which is a donut with chocolate frosting, and chocolate chips on that. We got a half dozen donuts, so we got the two chocolate chips, a maple bacon that we got for Colby to try (he didn’t, but my dad did), which is a donut with maple syrup with bacon on top, a chocolate pretzel, which is a donut with chocolate frosting, and then two pretzel sticks on top, a cinnamon sugar donut,  which is a cinnamon donut with sugar on it, and a cinnamon donut, which was a cinnamon sugar, just without the sugar. We then paid (and it pretty cheap) and went home. This is what all the donuts looked like:

We all (except Colby) tried one, and they were pretty good. It turns out they were cake donuts, which I’d never tried before. I finished one and had the other one today, May 6th.

All in all, this was a pretty good place. There’s multiple of them, one in Wexford, one in Pittsburgh, and one in Cranberry.

If you’re in a donut mood in Western PA and want to not use a lot from your budget, head on over to this place that I’d definitely go again. You won’t regret feeding your inner hippie.2018-05-05-08-50-04.jpg

 

 

book · family · life

With May Came Spring!

Finally we have had spring weather. The windows are open. Everyone is wearing shorts (don’t look at our scary white legs). It feels good to finally feel like spring is here to stay (we won’t discuss the fact that we had flurries on Sunday).

Today I went shopping. Blake decided that he needed new school shorts. Let me tell you something shorts for boys are hard to find. I do not let my sons wear athletic shorts to school. I make them wear cargo, jeans or something on that idea. Yes, add this to my mean mom criteria. I just see school as their job and I’m going going to work in workout clothes unless I work at a gym or something on that idea. I want them to see that play clothes are play clothes not play and school/work clothes. So after three different stores (Target, TJMaxx and Kohls) I managed to get him 5 pairs of shorts. There was not a pair of jeans shorts anywhere. Oh well!

In my shopping, I did pick up a few shirts for myself, some pajamas and new bedding for our bedroom. We haven’t got new bedding for our own bed in a quiet a few years and it was time for an update! I picked up a few shirts for Blake and Colby as well. Plus Richard needed a new wallet.

I don’t go out shopping very often beyond the grocery store and Costco… so when I shop… I shop!

When the boys got home from school we headed over to Costco. Blake got new glasses this weekend and they were ready to be picked up. We actually got him glasses and prescription sunglasses. He was very happy since he’s never been able to wear sunglasses. Both the boys now have to order adult size glasses. This was a challenge, but worked out fine. I also picked up a package while I was there. Richard ordered me a new laptop. I’ve had this one for quite a while and it was refurbished at the time. I’m excited for him to come home and set it up. The one I have/had couldn’t hold a charge for the last two years so it really is a stationary laptop now. It will be nice to have a lighter laptop that hold a charge so I can use it where ever I want, not just at the end of my island.

My parent purchased me a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader – Black, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers that I started playing with today. I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Illustrated Edition (Harry Potter, Book 3) yesterday so today I downloaded a book to read. I set up Goodreads first and downloaded Coming to Rosemont: The First Novel in the Rosemont Series. I’ve only read the prologue so I won’t share anything about it yet, but I will. Hmmm maybe I’ll take my kindle outside and read later?

I hope spring has sprung in your part of the world. Time to make dinner. We are have quesadillas tonight…. so easy! I have one more recipe from Alton Brown: EveryDayCook, Roasted Thanksgiving Salad.  This one is healthy and tasty and full of veggies.