Sunday, March 30, 2014 enjoy the weekend with the Whitlocks! fun to see old friends.

The kids fell right into their groove...

and Kristen and I didn't miss a beat.

On Saturday, the weather was warm and it seemed like it would be a good idea to shlep the crew to the Fort Drum Maple Syrup festival.  They all loved the event!

In addition to learning how maple syrup is made there was a special exhibit of animal hides and skulls local to the Fort Drum area on display.  These kids could not get enough of these!  Dead beaver, possum, fox, rabbit, squirrel, weasel, wolverine...


There was a short optional hike with 'interesting' facts and displays including deer carcasses and a dead porcupine.  The kids LOVED it!

There were other 'more mundane' things to note on the trail as well...

a beaver cut this tree down
Games and prizes and face painting and free maple syrup cotton candy were added bonuses!

The best part was just rolling in the muck...err...snow.

The rest of the weekend was full of buddy time, gaming and movies for the kids...

These two were inseparable the whole weekend.

Such a fun weekend!  I am so thankful she made such an effort to come and visit us here.  And I am so sorry she had to help shovel the 6+ inches of freshly fallen bleepedy bleep bleep order to leave this frigid tundra.

What a trooper she was!

And the memories made this weekend were priceless.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 host a coffee

...and try to usher in spring

It was my turn to host the Brigade coffee this month and when I was trying to think of what 'theme' I should plan my menu around I decided the focus would be on Spring.

My plan was bright colors.  Light foods.  Plenty of fruit.  And fresh flowers.

The evening before the coffee I took Abbey on a 'date'.  One of our stops was Walmart to pick out some flowers to brighten our home.

You may notice I went a little overboard...

White and yellow daisies are throughout the living room, dining room, kitchen.

Meghan was kind enough to help me all morning in preparation for the gathering...her first task was flower arranging.  This lovely spring bouquet made the perfect centerpiece.

...and flower placing.  I loved the pop of yellow in these tiny vases.

Abbey LOVES the brightly colored daisies.  She picked out several colors.

Tulips are probably my favorite springtime flower.

Meghan also brought these beautiful desserts!  You can imagine they were as delicious as they are lovely!  The flowers are courtesy of Abbey.  More color!

Lemons and Limes helped bring in bright and festive colors.

The Menu

Lime & Cilantro Chicken w/ Mango Salsa
Quinoa with Red & Yellow Bell Peppers & Squash
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Lemon Poppyseed Dressing
Fresh Fruit
Cheese Platter
Dinner Rolls

Citrus Spritzer
Lemon & Lime Infused Water
Red/White Wine

Raspberry Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Lemon Bars

Coffee Bar

Thank you Meghan!  I couldn't have pulled it off without you!

Sunday, March 23, 2014 watch how Maple Syrup is made

...with two of my beautiful girls!

It was a beautiful, albeit very cold day (14 degrees) for our Maple syrup tour at the Massey Farm here in Watertown, NY.

While we waited for the tractor ride portion of the tour there was a campfire to stand around...

The informational part of the tour was so interesting.  The syrup is being boiled down.  He explained the process of the collection, he showed the girls what sap looks like (mostly like water) and explained that sap is 98% water.  That's why it takes so much sap to make a very small amount of maple syrup.

He explained that a good sugaring season would consist of warm days (40+ degrees), cold nights (below freezing)...this has NOT been a good season.

In this photo the gentleman is explaining the different color variations of the syrup that he gets through the season. 

The first sap draws of the season draw very light colored syrups, the dark amber syrups are drawn late in the season.  Here in the windowsill, he keeps a small sample of each batch of syrup he produces.

He explained the dark amber syrups (grocery store versions/qualities) are usually drawn later in the season after the trees have budded but the sap is still running.

We took a tractor ride to see where some of the trees have been tapped...

A view of the syrup building from the tractor:  

I thought it looked so pretty.

The Massey family made cotton candy from the maple syrup.  It was delicious!

What a fun outing with my Isabella and Abbey!

Thursday, March 20, 2014 welcome Spring!

...and hide the winter things away...

The kids and I went out to dinner tonight to celebrate the first day of Spring watch some March Madness.

We had fun eatin' wings and watching Michigan Sate get a W in the first round of the tournament!

Since I am not doing well enough with my bracket picks to talk basketball (no thanks to Ohio State)...I'll shift the focus of this post back to the weather.

We are in the midst of another 'Winter Storm Warning".  

Newsflash Mother Nature: "TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!!"

I.  Mean.  Seriously.

Enough.  Is.  Enough.

So...I did what any rational person would do...

I got rid of every sign of winter that I could find in our home.

I wiped away the sign our Elf Plymouth wrote on our window several months ago...

"Let It Snow"
I took down the homemade snowflakes out of our windows:

And I made all the snowmen in our downstairs bath disappear.

Maybe it's irrational to think these token signs of winter are willing the snow to continue.  

Call me superstitious.  I don't care.  

Besides...I already know I am crazy (because of this weather)!!!

But now I know for one can blame me for the snow that continues to fall!

Google says it's the first day of Spring:

Now its time for the birds and the bees and the leaves and the say so too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 try a new recipe

...and make a new favorite as well.

Today was a baking day...which usually means one of two things:

1)  I have too many things to do and don't know where to start so instead I bake.
2)  I have a lot of my mind and don't know how to relax and baking relaxes me (till its time to clean up my mess).

Both situations usually mean I create a big GIANT MESS in the kitchen.

Three of the kiddos have been home for the last two days with a stomach bug of one kind or another.  We have had a Harry Potter movie marathon and finally late this afternoon I tortured them with their homework that Amy dropped off.  One would think after two days of their minds turning to mush they would be happy to work on mathematical modeling....

Um.  No.

Anyhow I digress.

I made this bread recipe into muffins.  They were a big hit.

I made a few changes...I did not melt the butter (no time for that extra step) and I also just throw the bananas in the mixer (I never mash them time for this step either).   I baked them at 375 for about 17 minutes.  (Cooking them at a higher temp makes them rise more).

These have been a good snack for the kids today...tempting enough to get them to eat and sorta-healthy right?

This next recipe was a hit when I sent them to Mark.  He said they were delicious even after they made the long (at least two weeks) trip to Afghanistan.

This recipe makes quite a few...make sure you have someone to share them with!

They are too delicious to stay away from!

Sunday, March 16, 2014 have great thoughts

...about our weekend!

The kids and I were lucky to get away for the weekend to a little resort a few hours from here called Greek Peak.  The Army sponsored the weekend for us and about 30 other Fort Drum families to attend a conference for families with a deployed family member.

The weekend was set up for the moms to enjoy plenty of quality time with their children at the resort;  and the resort had so many activities to offer.  We chose skiing and the water park.  My kids LOVED both!

There are many, maybe-not-so-great things to say about the weekend:  I could talk about the workshop (not the most insightful workshop I have participated in), I could focus on the inability of the resort to seamlessly handle a group of women and children the size of ours, or I could focus on the stomach bug that began working through our group...

Instead, these are the definitely-so-awesome things about our stay:

1)  Meghan and I were lucky enough to get adjoining rooms.  Completely by chance.

Our kids loved going back and forth between both rooms as much as they love wrestling together.

2)  Meghan remembered to bring a bottle of wine for me.  It was so nice to enjoy a glass with her by the fire one evening.  Because we were relaxing and chatting, while the kids were busy playing chase and gaming....we have no photos of these few moments of calm.

3)  Our kids LOVED skiing.  I mean they really loved skiing.  I thought it would be fun for them to try...but had no idea how crazy about it they would be.

Audrey and Paddy getting geared up for their adventure!

The two of them posing with their instructors.
 Would you believe it if I told you the photo below was taken at the end of three hours of skiing?

Audrey, Will, Abbey, Isabella, and Paddy
4)  Our kids LOVED the water park.  I know they love water parks.  But now I LOVE WATERPARKS!  Do you hear me shouting?

This was the first-time-ever that I have been able to relax at a waterpark.  Relaxed as in: "I-am-confident-none-of-my-children-are-going-to-drown."

Mind you I haven't arrived at the: I-can-sit-in-a-loungechair-and-read-stage but I know that stage is not too far off.

These GIANT slides:  Audrey, Paddy, Nina, and Abbey went down these slides so many, many times I couldn't even begin to count.  Even the lifeguard at the end of the evening commented she had never seen four kids enjoy them so much.

Abbey & Paddy
 Every time Nina and Audrey would get off those slides they would do a little song/dance combo. "Best-Friends-Forever" was their jingle.  So.  Cute.

These kids ran back up as quickly as they could.

Often sticking together...

The bigger kids enjoyed a little more autonomy through the evening.  They also had

This crew closed the water park down.  They loved every minute.

my crew and their friends
I am so happy my kids and Paddy got to enjoy so many fun activities this weekend.  So many good memories...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

...another snow day

...of course.

I've lost track of how many we have had.  Between snow days, two-hour delays, winter break, and regularly scheduled half-days, my children haven't been to school much.  In fact, since Thanksgiving, they have not had a single full week of school.


Research shows people crave routine.  Children crave routine.  I crave routine.  We have NO ROUTINE!  Unless of course me losing my temper 'routinely' counts.

Today we welcomed Winter Storm Vulcan.

And we were rewarded with 12 inches of fresh powder.

12 inches of powder is great!  If you live at a ski resort.

Fort Drum is no ski resort.  Nope.

I saw this article posted on FB:

Maybe we should just go for an even 200?  That seems like a nice round number.

Let me be clear, I will be the first to admit that I love a good two-hour delay!  Who doesn't want an extra hour (or two) of sleep on a given day?

Similarly, a snow day here and there is fun!  Hot chocolate.  Art projects.  Some TV time in the middle of the week!  Awesome!!  Woot woot.

Newsflash:  We ran out of hot chocolate.  The washable paint is gone.  And the kids have watched every.single.episode. of Jessie at least 6 times.

This was our snow day fun today:

What a trooper...
delivering Thin Mints in a blizzard.
I just may be getting close to my breaking point....

I think Timber is too.