Monday, June 30, 2014

Little Bennett Campground & Sugarloaf Mountain

This past weekend we decided to make an impromptu trip out to the edge of the DC metro area for our first family summer camping experience.  It was only about an hour away from us, but a totally new area for us called Clarksburg, Maryland.  We picked Little Bennett Campground there based on it being 50% off (I'll do anything for a coupon) as part of the Great American Backyard Campout event. 

I've never really camped in the prime of summer before, and was overly worried about the heat and the bugs.  But slathering us and our campsite with bug protectant, and sticking to the shade while outside made it a very enjoyable time.

We checked in right at noon on Saturday and made our way to site A8 (we decided near a bathhouse was best with our four year old).  The boys all busily set up the campground while I put together our walking tacos for lunch.  After we were fed and set up, we headed through the woods along the Nature Trail to get to the Hawk's Reach Activity Center were Theo got to make a bug box craft.

 Afterwards, we took Little Oak Trail to Big Oak Trail to Stoney Brook Trail which brought us back around to our campsite loop.  Altogether it was about a 2.5 mile, fairly easy trek.  With lots of different mushrooms to learn about and compare features.

 Despite being so tired from the hike that both boys needed to ride on daddy's shoulders, they both ran right up to the playground and had enough energy left to play some more at the end of the trail.

Afterwards we grilled some hamburgers over the quickly put together fire (another benefit of summer camping, the wood seems much better), and then headed back to the activity center for an ice cream social featuring root beer floats.  As always, our four year old was much more social than us, finding a boy to talk with based on the character t-shirt he was wearing (Legos, which we just saw at the dollar theatre).  I think this was the first time Theo had a root beer float, and of course he loved it (poor Eli just got the ice cream).

After some more campfire time, we all hit the tent.  Eli had a hard time sleeping so near to us (which meant mama did as well), but Theo slept like a rock at the edge of the tent as always and never stirred once.

After a dry night (we were surprised there didn't seem to be any dew), we woke up, had breakfast, and started packing up.  We didn't really have any plans for the day, but eventually decided that the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain sounded like a great place to spend a little more time hiking.  We figured at only 1282 feet, it's not too much for our 4 year old and almost 2 year old to manage.

We drove up to the last parking lot (West View), and just randomly started out on some trails, not planning to take a lot of time.  But we ended up hiking for more than two hours, heading up the blue trail toward McCormack Overlook, then taking the red trail up to a great vista at the top.  It was a little steep in some parts, and very rocky in others, but very doable for the boys.  The vista at the top was pretty rewarding.

Theo for some reason decided it was an Arizona mountain when he saw the view... he's got some surprises in store when we finally get to visit Phoenix with him.

Our last stop of the trip, was a quick stop at the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard that we had spied on the way to the mountain.  A quick check to their website said they were kid friendly, dog friendly, and you were welcome to picnic there.  This sounded perfect for our needs, and we had our mid-day meal at a picnic table neighboring their rows of grape vines, with a glass of wine.  (We didn't do them, but tastings are 8 for $10, fyi.)  It was so fabulous to get to relax at such a beautiful winery after a couple of days being outdoors.  Easily stopping at roadside wineries is definitely something I miss most from my pre-parenting, pre-pet-owner days, but this place was just a perfect stop for our family.  And the cherry on top of a beautiful weekend with my boys.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

First Day of Summer Smoothie

So, perhaps this post was originally titled "first day of spring smoothie" but at least I am eventually getting it on here.

I have never been a big breakfast person.  Ever.  For one thing, I don't like eggs.  For another, I am not a huge cereal fan.  But for the last nine months I've really been working on eating properly and of course one of the first things everyone says on the subject is to eat a proper breakfast.  So, throughout the spring and into the hot summer months, one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast is THIS smoothie.

It took me a while to perfect it, and I do make substitutions based on what ingredients my husband accidentally uses up, but for the most part, it's the same thing.  My boys always want a little with their monster breakfasts that seem to go on forever, so this is normally enough for a full cup for me and a couple little servings for them.

 In a blender, combine:
1 ripe banana
4-5 fresh strawberries (or thawed frozen ones)
a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
4 ice cubes
a handful or two of spinach (I am growing fresh on the patio, but have a bag in the freezer for when I'm between batches)
1/4-1/2 milk
*optional:  Chia seed or other desired nutrients

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

U-pick Strawberries and Shortcake!

Apparently, Saturday was National Strawberry Shortcake Day.  Who makes up all these days, really?  It's a little too much sometimes.  But, I'll take this one since it's probably my favorite late spring/early summer dessert.  Without even knowing this, we hit the road Friday and went out into the country a bit to find a u-pick strawberry farm near us, Yankey Farm.  I have picked grapes, blueberries, and apples other places but never actually picked strawberries before.  It was super easy, and my almost two year old really enjoyed it.  The four year old was a little hesitant for some reason, but it was a good mama and sons outing.

Yankey Farms has a pretty simple set-up, basically a tent in the middle of the strawberry field (with a port-a-potty nearby), but did accept credit cards as well as cash.  For $4 you could pick a pint, and for $20 you could fill a huge bucket.  Prices were slightly higher to buy already-picked pints/buckets that were available as well.

I decided to let each boy pick a pint, and realized I should have brought a handled basket for Eli to put his in so they didn't get spilled.  I should have had them both in rain boots since it has rained a lot this week, and they love puddles.  But otherwise, it was a perfect activity for my two little guys.

We decided to make some strawberry shortcake with our haul, and plan to make some popsicles too (though Theo wanted to make "carrot popsicles" instead).  I love a good biscuit-like cake for my shortcake, and wanted to share the recipe I use here:

•    Quarter 2-3 pints of strawberries and toss them with ½ cup of white sugar. Set aside to macerate.
•    Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease and flour one 8 inch round cake pan.
•    In a medium bowl combine 2 1/4 cup flour, 4 tsps baking powder, 2 Tbsps sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.
With a pastry blender cut in 1/3 cup shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add 1 beaten egg and 2/3 cup milk. Stir until just combined.
•    Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 425˚F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.

To serve, slice cake in eighths, and then slice each piece in half height wise as well.   Separate and top bottom piece with strawberries and whipped cream, and then repeat with top layer.

 Theo requested I take his photo as well.  And yes, he is wearing snowman pajamas.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Elijah: 21 months

21 months

Naptime:  I'm starting this post while you are napping in your crib!  Finally.  After living in Virginia for almost a year, you have maybe slept in your crib for nap time 5 times.  You didn't mind it at night, but just would not take a nap without lots and lots of crying.  So, you napped in your stroller for the last year.  Once school was out though and we weren't walking at nap time every other day, we had a few days of you crying at naptime but you're finally okay with napping in there.  It is a big change for us. Lately we've been reading Little Blue Truck, the Hungry Caterpillar, and Llama Llama, Good Night at naptime.  You give the llama a kiss on the last page and then I put you into bed.  A few minutes later you are out.

Attached:  You are definitely struggling right now with wanting to be independent but also being very attached to mama.  We just got back from a long trip where you were not willing to be seperated from either of your parents for long.  You did warm up to your E grandparents, and anyone who looked like daddy, but that was about it.  You broke some hearts I'm afraid.  But, you really like babies, toddlers, and little kids so at least you're friendly with your cousins.  You love playing with Theo's friends almost more than he does, and never want to be left behind.

Words:  You picked up a few more signs this month, but still no new words.  You say mama and dada, sign more and please, and can indicate yes, no, up, and bye.  That's it.  I think it's all going to spill out one day, but until then you're stubbornly refusing to try to talk.

Teeth:  These last months also brought your canines, which seemed to be some of the worst teeth to come up.

Other Likes:  Walking the dog with her leash, electronics, cats (any animals really), babies, berries, watering flowers, pointing out airplanes as they fly by, puzzles, washing dishes in the sink, and Elmo & Corduroy.

 18.5 months
 19 months
 19.5 months
 20 months

20.5 months

You're definitely leaving babyhood behind, and becoming a big boy.

Miss Emelina Mae's Quilt

After making my first baby quilt earlier this year, I was excited to make another for my second second-born niece born this year.  Like myself, Emelina is born into the role of being a little sister to a sister just about 27 months older than herself.  I wish her luck in her teen years. 

For her quilt, I kept changing my mind but finally decided upon the deep lilacs of the Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 for Free Spirit collection.  I love the purples and blues of this collection, and thought the details in the prints were perfect for a little girl.  When deciding on the pattern for the quilt, I think the dormant math teacher in me came out as I kept coming back to this arithmetic pattern (found here).  I love lots of squares on baby quilts, and couldn't resist all the plus-signs made on this one.

I think I received the material in the mail two days before she was born, and was able to finish the quilt before she was a week old (even with breaking the reverse button off my sewing machine).  Good thing she came two weeks early so we could meet her when we went to Indiana for my brother's graduation.
And thankfully, her mama took some photos right away as I forgot to take some with the quilt when I was there.  I was busy with snuggling her and trying to keep Eli from carrying her off by himself.

Isn't she a cutie?  Can you believe how much hair she has for coming two weeks early?