Happy First Birthday G!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

G had an absolutely wonderful first year of life...in my humble opinion. He got to celebrate his first family wedding at just two weeks old; welcomed a new cousin just a month after arriving into the world; hit up a football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City last fall; went on vacations to La Crosse, WI; Minneapolis, MN; St. Thomas & St. John, USVI; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Des Moines, Disneyworld, and Anna Maria Island, Florida; enjoyed too many walks and bike rides to count; and somehow managed to stay alive despite all of his big brothers scheming to get him alone and tackle him. A year to celebrate indeed! In honor of the day, I choose a party theme of Woodland ONEderland. Was this really a 'boy' specific theme? No. Was is something mom enjoyed decorating for? Yes. Did it fit our adventurous little one year old? Absolutely. G is notorious for eating all sorts of sticks, grass, leaves, sand, dirt and rocks, so a Woodland ONEderland was maybe the perfect theme for our little explorer!








To avoid completely missing the boys afternoon nap times or having the party run into bed time, I opted to have G's party right away in the morning. The boys LOVE breakfast food, and a celebration to start the day was the perfect decision. I kept the menu relatively simple with bagels & cream cheese, oatmeal bake, mini donuts, fruit, yogurt & granola, coffee and a mimosa bar for the adults, and of course...CAKE. 






One of my favorite DIYs of G's party was this frame holding all of the milestone photos of G's first year. I used an old frame found by mama J at Goodwill, deconstructed it, attached some twine and mini-clothespins found at Hobby Lobby, then clipped a picture of G from every month of his first year of life. So much fun!














G loved being the center of attention and having ALL of his relatives here to celebrate his special day, and was completely in his element. His favorite gift may have been a cellophane balloon on a stick that Aunt H attached to his gift bag, as he sat and played with it completely entranced for a long time before being convinced to open any of his gifts. Another HUGE highlight was this truck which he immediately took to, and had the BIGGEST smile of pure joy I think we've seen! 









The cake smash was quite literally a 'smashing' success, and the definite highlight of the day. G immediately dove right in, making just about the biggest mess that our kitchen floor has ever seen, and loved every. single. minute. of it. He did in fact eat probably about half of the cake once he realized it was something edible, and not just something to smash, and it was quite a delight to watch him shovel it in about as fast as he could probably thinking 'this is really good, I better eat as much as I can before mom takes it away!'. G had so much fun at his celebration, and we couldn't have asked for a better day to celebrate our little man's first birthday!


Party Sources

Sausage Pepper Egg Bake

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

After many years of making the same tried and true ham egg and cheese breakfast casserole, I've been on the hunt for a great sausage alternative to throw into the mix. Finally, I ended up combining a couple of different recipes to find the perfect mix, and now am happy to say, I'm done looking! The great thing about this recipe is, there is a bit of zip to it, so no more bland casseroles, and it's heavy on the protein, so a great option to keep the boys in my life filled up for longer than an hour. Go ahead and double it, using a 9x13 if you are feeding a crowd!


SAUSAGE PEPPER EGG BAKE | Yield: 4-6 servings | Total Time: 1 hr

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb mild sausage, browned
1/2 bag frozen shredded o'brien hash browns, lightly browned
1 C cheddar cheese
1 red pepper, chopped
8 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl.

Add hash browns to the skillet and cook until lightly brown. Put hash browns in the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish. Top with sausage, cheese, chopped red pepper.

Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over hash brown mixture.

*Cover and refrigerate now if you are baking later.

Bake, uncovered, 40-45 minutes. Enjoy! P.S. --> Leftovers heat up great!




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Florida Summer Vacation

Friday, June 30, 2017

In mid-June, our family packed our bags for a somewhat last minute summer vacation to Florida. We had just visited in April, but after my entire family decided to go back in June, T & I came to the decision that we just didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to all be together again in the sunshine state. When I was a kid, we took several extended family vacations with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to Florida, and I have fond memories of the trips that will last a lifetime. I am so glad that we are able to continue the tradition with our littles, and look forward to hopefully many more family trips to come! 



Bright and early on our day of departure, we got packed up in the car and took off for the airport. We were almost an hour behind schedule by the time we left (after a long night of T being on call)and we ran into a detour, had to wait for a train, and went through interstate road construction all on the way to the airport three hours away. Needless to say, it was a bit of a stressful day, and we cut it extremely close to get on our plane in time. Having ALL the gear with us surely didn't help us to speed anything up, but the boys took it all in stride and we DID in fact make it in time...barely. Graham was his usual rambunctious self, and jumped from lap to lap to lap (my parents and brother were in the row in front of us, so G had plenty of friends to keep himself entertained!), while C was content to drive his school bus, motorcycle, and read, before being completely sucked into Minions on papa T's iPad. 

Upon arrival, we ended up getting an upgrade to our vehicle due to lack of inventory, and got to drive an Audi Q3 for the week. So much fun to drive a 'fancy' car! I would not, however, recommend this vehicle if you have little ones in tow. We had a very difficult time fitting our luggage, and ended up having to send one of our carry-ons with my parents. Since we had a mid-afternoon flight, it was pretty late when we got to our destination, but we were happy to discover the calzones at Danny's Pizzeria in Bradenton as a solid takeout option close to our destination on Anna Maria Island.

By the time we arrived at the beach house, the boys were pretty wiped out, but they were so excited about the new sleeping arrangements that you would have thought it was Christmas morning! C slept in the kids bunk room this trip, and he was sooooo excited! 


Everyone slept great the first night of our trip, and no one got up before 7a.m.. Granted, there was a one hour time change, so technically speaking, this was actually 6am, but I'll take it over 5am! After we got rolling for the day, we headed out to Ginny and Jane's for coffee and breakfast with Grandpa T & Uncle T. G loved every minute, and would likely still be sitting there if we would have let him continue to eat! He had a sampling of blueberry muffin, pancakes, and tots, and was so happy to be part of the meal.

After breakfast, we came back to the beachouse, and C & T played in the pool while I snuck out to the beach for a quick walk during G's nap. Later, G & I snuck out for a bonding moment during C's nap, and met up with some of my other family members who had been out boating in the gulf at Tide Tables Restaurant for lunch in Cortez. The restaurant is located on the water next to a fishing dock, and the fish is just about as fresh as it comes. They have a delicious grouper sandwich if you are ever in the area!



Back at the house, it was more swimming for C when G decided he needed a three hour mid afternoon power nap, and C had so much fun practicing shooting his water gun and sitting on the edge of the hot tub. We grabbed dinner to go from Poppo's Taqueria (awesome fresh ingredients - their honey lime slaw and chips and guacamole are where it's at!), and called it a night after a slice of key lime pie.



The guys (aka T & my brothers) got up bright and early Sunday morning to go deep-sea fishing, and were gone by 5:45am for a full day on the ocean. The little people in my life slept until 7:15am when G woke up and thought he was starving...ensuring that C heard him from the room he was staying in on the other side of the house and waking him up. After a bottle, he was much more content, and we got to enjoy a few quiet moments of snuggling before getting up for the day. 

After we did eventually get moving, Gma & Gpa, Aunt H, Aunt C, and the boys and I all walked to Paradise Bagels for breakfast. We weren't more than fifty yards from the house when C decided he wasn't interested in walking anymore, and he ended up riding on the front of the stroller for the remainder of the walk. At breakfast, G was not about to miss out, and he enjoyed sharing part of C's blueberry muffin, banana, and some eggs. I think he's just so excited to finally get to eat whatever everyone else is eating that he doesn't know when to stop!




Back at the house, both boys got in a good nap, and then to the pool we went. G loved swimming in his pool float with Gma & Gpa, while C had fun pouring water and practicing his baseball skills with a ping pong paddle and a tennis ball. The guys eventually made it home around 6pm, and had a great day fishing. They caught several snapper, and grouper, and we had a delicious fish fry poolside.





Monday morning was a day for donuts! We ALL went to The Donut Experiment, enjoyed entirely more donuts than were completely necessary, and loved every bite. G isn't completely sure of donuts yet, but C loved them, and had nearly two to himself. Of course, the vanilla with rainbow sprinkles was his donut of choice, and was devoured nearly as fast as I could get it cut up. After donuts, we walked around Galati's looking and dreaming about yachts before heading back to the beach house after it started to sprinkle. It rained most of the afternoon, so most of our playing was indoors, but the boys made the most of it and had fun playing cars and making parking garages on the couch.








 My whole family went out for dinner at The Waterfront, and I got to try a new fish - tilefish - delicious by the way! - while C enjoyed searching for Dory and Nemo in the giant fish tank inside the restaurant. It's not too often that nearly our entire family is in Florida at the same time, so it was nice of our waitress to snap a picture of us all together. After dinner, we snuck out to the beach for a quick walk at sunset, then after getting the boys to bed, headed out to The Doctor's Office, a new cocktail lounge on the island which happens to be walking distance from where we stay, with my brothers and spouses. So. Much. Fun. The first drink came out lit on fire, so it was obviously a good decision, and a good time was had by all! We all decided that this is going to become a regular stop every visit going forward. The ambiance is great, and has a very lounge like feel with dark woods, warm candlelight, and classic black and white movies playing on a projector screen. They also serve up some pretty amazing small plates to munch on while cocktailing, which was an added bonus.

The following morning started out with a trip to Ginny & Jane's for breakfast, where G once again loved the tots, and specifically picked them out of the other little morsels I put in front of him. After breakfast, we came back to the house so G could catch a nap, and I snuck out to the beach for a walk before packing into the car for a quick trip to my Aunt & Uncle's to see their new place about 40 minutes away. The ocean was super rough, and there were even people surfing on the waves off the beach. Not a sight I've ever seen when we've been visiting! It's a good thing the boys went fishing when they did!






After getting a tour of my aunt & uncle's new place in the Esplanades, we ate lunch outside at the onsite Bahama Bar situated right in the middle of the golf course the boys were atG may or may not have eaten more than C, devouring part of a cheeseburger, French fries, and some of my tortilla wrap before finally calling it quits. After lunch, Gma J, the boys and I all walked through some model homes in the community my aunt & uncle live in, and had so much fun seeing how the designers staged the various layouts, and some of the unique characteristics that were put into the homes. A perfect way to spend a super hot afternoon!


Wednesday morning, we headed up to Pine Avenue to grab a fresh scone and coffee from Hometown Desserts and do a little shopping to kick off the day. It was super hot and humid, so after walking through just one shop, we decided to bring breakfast back to the house to sit in the comfort of the a/c. 




Later in the afternoon, everyone went swimming at the pool to keep cool. G loved floating around in his pool float, and C enjoyed pouring water standing where he could touch, and sitting in the hot tub. Also, off topic, but can we just pause to appreciate yawning baby face for a minute?! G was completely wiped out after a long afternoon of swimming, but was all kisses (a.k.a. face licking) for Papa T after getting ready for bed. Such an adorable little fella he is.





After a long afternoon at the pool, my brothers, sister-in-law C, and T & I went on a date night on Longboat Key to Euphemia Haye. T & I had visited their dessert bar at The Haye Loft on our last trip down, and were so looking forward to trying out the main restaurant. It did not disappoint. I had pistachio crusted snapper, and T had noisettes Madagascar....so so good. Afterwards, we headed upstairs to the Haye Loft for the dessert bar and some live music before turning in for the night. I think this will also have to become a regular stop for us when we have someone who is willing to stay back with the kiddos! Special shout out to Gma J & Gpa T for offering to stay with C & G while we snuck out for an adults only date night!


On our last full day in Anna Maria, we woke up and decided that we needed a second trip to the Donut Experiment before we could be satisfied that we'd had enough donuts to get us through until our next visit. Many other people had the same idea, and we ended up waiting an hour for our fresh, still warm, donuts. I let C pick his own donut out of the box, and again, he went straight for the vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. Of course, he then helped to eat a few bites of the other flavors when his was finished, but the rainbow sprinkles remain his all-time fave.



Back at the house, C & T went out to the beach for a bit - T was adamant he wanted to try body boarding since the waves were pretty big - and C tagged along with our pop-up beach tent and Gma J in hand. The afternoon was for pool time, and while C wasn't all about swimming in the pool, he loved pouring water in his cups and sitting in the hot tub. Meanwhile, G was fully pruned out after floating around in his pool float for solid couple hours. T tried to get him to back float, and while he tolerated it briefly, he wasn't all that interested.

Our entire group along with my aunt, uncle, and cousin C went out to dinner at one of our island favs, Eat Here. G scavenged just about every piece of food he could find, trying everything from dill-caper sautéed mahi mahi to pimento cheese dip, while C acted like the little social butterfly that he is when around familiar faces, talking through the majority of the meal.

Later, as I was getting C ready for bed, I asked if he was ready to go home, and he responded 'I don't want to go home. I want to stay at the beach house'. I asked him 'why?' And he responded 'all the people I like are here'...this kid seriously lives for family time! Over the span of the week, I think we said individual prayers for each and every family member we were traveling with. Such a thoughtful little guy.



The final day of our trip, our return flight went about as smoothly as possible aside from a short delay on our way out of St. Pete. Most of my family we were traveling with were also on the same flight, so the boys had lots of people to talk to and play with in the airport while we waited, and they soaked up every last minute of time spent with their grandparents and aunt and uncles until we are together again. We had a great trip to Florida, and made many wonderful memories together as a family. Can't wait until next time! 
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