family · life · through my camera lens

Mary Poppins Jr.

The boys had their performances this weekend of Mary Poppins Jr. They had a blast working with the cast in this play. There is something special as a parent to see your child up on stage singing and acting. But, even more important seeing them smile and their personalities shine.

Colby had so much fun and was improvising in all of his background rolls. Blake you could see was super focused and hit every mark he was given.

This is just one of the costumes that the boys wore in their performance. I can’t wait to share the pictures of them in their “park” costumes, but those were taken by the professional.

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family · food · reviews

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Cookies

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This weekend my school held their fall festival. This was an opportunity for the children to show off their classrooms, play games and play in the bounce house. We also had the book fair open and were selling items at a bake sale. All the staff members were asked to bake items to sell at the bake sale. So, I got thinking… what am I going to make.

I decided to bake two different cookies. First I baked S’more cookies, and messed up the recipe. It turned out ok, but would have been better if I followed ALL the steps.

The second kind I decided to bake at pumpkin spice oatmeal cookies. I figure, oh everyone is head over heals for pumpkin spice these will sell like hotcakes. Well they didn’t, but I don’t care they still tasted really good (and I am not a huge pumpkin spice person).

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal cookies. (edited from Food Fanatic)

  • 1 cup Butter, Softened
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, line your baking sheets
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, and mix in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla
  4. Add the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice and oats). into the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.
  5. Scoop out dough with a large cookie scoop and place on the lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown, its okay if the middles look slightly undercooked, they will finish cooking on the pan as they cool.
  7. Allow to set for 4-5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 2018-10-08 14.08.42

These cookies were REALLY tasty. They were not dry in the least. Colby took home some of the extras from the bake sale and they were sticking together. Colby was hesitant to try it at first and then loved them. I think he took home 4 bags from the bake sale. I guess I will have to bake these again. I bet they would be very tasty if you used apple pie spice in lieu of the pumpkin pie spice. I have more pumpkin pie spice now I want to make snickerdoodles with the pumpkin pie spice… yummy!

Education · family · life · through my camera lens

First day of school

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This has been a great summer for us. Hershey, trains, mountain biking and lots more. But that time of year has come: back to school.

P1000335Today is the boys’ first day of school. They were up and ready to go. While there may have been a bit of nervous energy, they were excited to get back to it. Both boys enjoy school. They enjoy learning and exploring knowledge. Blake thrives off the routine of the school year. Colby was psyched to go see his friends and find new ones too.

It’s hard to believe that Blake is starting 6th grade. Sixth grade is such a huge transformation grade. This is the time where kids go from being kids to being a younger version of their adult self. Yes, I know they still aren’t even teens, but trust me this is the year that so much growing and maturing in personality and maturity happens.

Colby is starting 5th grade. While the change isn’t as dramatic from 4th to 5th there is stillP1000337 a change.

This will be Blake’s last year at the school he is in now. He will have 4 teachers instead of 2. This is the school’s way of getting them ready for middle school. Next year the boys will be in two different schools, they haven’t had that since Blake was in K and Colby in preK.

I can only hope that they learn, grown and mature. That they take on challenges. That they push themselves to expand their knowledge base and learn. I want them to make mistakes, failure is a good thing… it is the means to growth. I want them to hold their heads up high and know that they’ve got this…. no matter what this is!

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.

book · life · reviews · Uncategorized

Star Girl and Mockingbird book reviews

This summer the boys and I got library cards. We have been going to the library every week. Each week Blake gets 7-9 books and Colby gets 5-7 books. I have been picking up 2 books each week. I am always shocked to see that we have plowed through the books and are ready to return them the next week.

The last two weeks Colby has been choosing books off a list we found of books for children who liked the Wonder series. He asked me to read one last week and one this week.

Book - Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliLast week he had me read Star Girl, by Jerry Spinneli. Star Girl is written about how a school deals with “The new girl” who starts school for the first time. Leo tells the story of how Star Girl changes Mica High from the first day she arrived. Star Girl did not look, act or even think like anyone else in the school. Is it good to be THAT different? Can the positive energy and unique desire to be happy all the time, that is Star Girl, bring about a change in the culture of a whole school, or at least a few of the students there?

I really enjoyed this story and so did Colby. I believe in some ways he could relate to Star Girl. He was just the new kid and he too is very emotional, passionate and always wants people to be happy. Now don’t get me wrong he doesn’t dress crazy, or call himself a unique name, or go out of his way to feel that different, but he knows his personality draws people in and makes them happy.  This is a YA book and one that is a good read for teen and tweens. The story is written from the voice of Leo and how he reacts to Star Girl. Both male and female readers can relate to this story.Book - Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Colby and I both plowed through the book Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine yesterday. It’s not that the book was super short, it was just that good. Caitlin is in the fifth grade. She is bight, a gifted reader and a talented artist. Caitlin also has Asperger’s syndrome. Before, her brother Devon helped her negotiate how to fit into a world that makes little to no sense to her. But, then the unspeakable happened. Devon was killed in a school shooting. Her father doesn’t no know to deal with his own emotions never mind those of his daughter. The school counselor tries to help Caitlin see that with a little guidance she can understand empathy and then understand how to help herself and so many other people in her life that are hurting after this tragedy.

This book is a good ready for anyone! It was an interesting look into the thought process of a child with Asperger’s. I have taught children with this and I could relate. I have know children with his and see how they just don’t fit in even when they don’t realize they don’t fit in. They see the world through their own set of eyes. This book did an excellent job of showing how important it is to see each person for their strengths and that if you just step back and look at the person for their strengths and not the aspects of why they don’t fit in you may see you have more in common than you realize.

The theme of school shooting plays a back plot in this book. It is not discussed in great details, but more deals with how this effects those left behind. The purpose seemed to be to connect a variety of characters to the same tragedy. This is something that is being addressed in schools on a regular basis, and helping children see how the shooting effects more than just the victims themselves may help children see this act in a new light as well.  (this is also a YA story)

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 · 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

The Point and North Park

Friday we went into the city. The boys and I met Richard at his job and from there we went to an art’s festival by “The Point”. Point State Park is the location of Fort Duquesne which was part of the start of the French Indian War. (I’d have to have Blake do a blog post to tell you more about it) The Point is also the location where three rivers (the Allegheny, Monogahela and the Ohio) converge.

 

The art festival was… ok. But, we had a good time walking around and just being. I was also able to get a few decent pictures of some of the bridges as well as the incline.

Saturday we got up and headed to North Park. The boys took Richard on another trail that they rode with their mountain bike class. This trail travels across the park so I dropped them off and then moved my car. When the finished they wanted to ride more so they took off on a new trail. This trail also ended in a second spot so I moved the car again. I hiked on two new trails for me too. We were all tired when this was done.

 

While I was hiking I came across this little deer having a snack. I decided to stop and watch. While I was there, the boys and Richard actually made it to where I hiked (we were going in opposite directions). We then headed back to the car.

Last night Colby had two friends over for a late birthday sleep over. They had a blast playing video games, watching a movie and we even went out for ice cream. We are all tired today, but it was a fun weekend.