Friday, October 30, 2015

Costume Countdown

I've walked with a parade of characters over the last nine years.

It started with dressing a three-month-old monkey and expanded to the major players in the Star Wars franchise. Halloween has been a fun holiday as a parent, and one of the best parts has been *ahem* influencing costume choices. I know such power ends at a certain age, so I enjoyed myself during the early years. It's Halloween Eve and while you're taking a break from preparing outfits for your own ghouls and boys, I thought we'd take a trip down memory lane. I'm here with a Bauer Top Five: Halloween Costume Edition.

5) I couldn't help but remember when Nathan commanded that the the wild rumpus start. In 2009 Nathan knew "Where the Wild Things Are" cover to cover and he had to be Max for Halloween. This DIY masterpiece included over-sized footie pajamas, a plastic crown, and a fur hat that absolutely came from Spencer's.

4 + 3) I understand that using one photo for two costumes is probably cheating, but I make the rules here. These two are like peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin and pie, light side and dark side. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker made for some adorable battle scenes in 2012. Also, Nathan's Ace bandage boots were on point.

2) Nora's Halloween debut was Leia to Nathan's Luke, but she stole the show last year as Wonder Woman. She ate her candy at lightning speed, stole the hearts of all who opened their door, and traded her invisible jet for a visible stroller. We know who holds the power in our trick-or-treating trio.

1) You knew it would be the carrot. There was no doubt in your mind that Number One would be Owen dressed as a carrot. Paired with an overalls-sporting big brother, this little veggie was a hit in 2011. It was a bumper crop that resulted in pictures that will come back to haunt him for years.

Honorable Mentions: Tiny Skeleton Man and Eyeliner Lion

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Truth + Pumpkin Carving

I'd like to know the history behind carving pumpkins.

I'm sure a Google search would direct me to a perfectly reasonable explanation of using these decorative gourds as lanterns on chilly autumn nights or something, but I want to know the turning point that made it parental torture.

Every October my brother and I each carved a pumpkin. Newspaper was spread across the kitchen table and we flipped through our books {the exact same designs still there 20 years later} and landed on a favorite. My parents would tape our patterns to our pumpkins and we would meticulously choose our orange-handled weapons. We poked around the pattern for approximately five minutes until it proved too much on our tiny hands. We proceeded to watch television as our parents brought our creations to life, then we delighted as the spooky faces glowed on our porch.

What a fun tradition, right? Wrong.

It's not all fun and games when you can't give up after five minutes. It's a different world when you're trying to avoid piercing your hand with a tiny saw while your daughter screams "HAPPY FACE" directly into your ear. Carver's elbow is a legitimate problem, and I am nursing it today. Last night was spent sloshing pumpkin goop onto our kitchen floor.

Nora requested a happy face {as you might have guessed}, Owen requested an angry face, and Nathan chose an owl from the wondrous pattern book. Nora said the "goopies" were too much, Owen got bored waiting, and Nathan had more pressing matters on Minecraft. Armed with itty-bitty tools and a few cold cans, Jonathan and I carved our pumpkins. They turned out lovely, don't you think?

These cute kids were excited to hold their parents' pumpkins and give the impression that they were involved. Honestly, I still say it's worth the carver's elbow. Once lit, we turned the pumpkins toward the glass doors so the kids could sit inside, mesmerized by our handiwork. They were in love and we exchanged back pats.

However, painting pumpkins sounds like an excellent alternative...

Be honest. Do you actually enjoy carving pumpkins? Are you one of the lucky ones whose kids do all the work? Do you know the pain that comes with carver's elbow? Leave it all in the comments, friends. Have a great Thursday!

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dreary Weekend Report

I have been using the word fall here for a while, but it's not official until I'm whining about the cold.

If you've talked to me today, you'll know where we stand. It started raining for the first time in months Friday and that gave way to chilly air and a grey sky. I've readied my flannel and fired up the seat warmers. The leaves have changed to beautiful shades of yellow and orange that pop against the sunless sky. It's fall, y'all, but I promise to keep my weather whines down until it snows.

The dreary weekend rained out our family photo shoot, but we rescheduled for Friday. I can't guarantee perfection, but I am of the opinion that my kids are cute. If we capture them being knuckleheads, then we got them in their element. Other than that, this rain was much needed. The fall garden has popped to life, leaves cover the dying grass, and Nora and I get to wear boots. The dark afternoons made for long weekend naps and we even started our comfort food season. As long as I have enough blankets, it won't be so bad.

We also made some crucial life decisions this weekend:

There are only five days on the Halloween countdown, and we finally have costumes. Nora has been the hardest to pin down, as her answer changes with the wind. Everyone who's asked her has gotten a different answer. She's proudly proclaimed Elsa, Princess Anna, Sleeping Beauty, a cat, a waffle, a ballerina, and Spider-Man. While I was gunning for the waffle, she landed on ballerina. We have a leotard, a tutu, and our fingers crossed she'll wear it.

Owen was easy. He chose between an army guy and a hunter and both involved a solid layer of camo and a toy gun. As of last night he's leaning hunter, but of both deer and zombies. He's a jack of all trades, really. Nathan took a long time to decide whether trick-or-treating was still cool. After stumbling on Nana's candy stash, he was swayed. He's keeping the Superhero tradition alive as Green Lantern.

The kids aren't the only ones having all the dress-up fun, either! We are celebrating All-Saints Day at church this weekend and I will be gracing the students' presence as none other than St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I'm going to be dressed as a nun. I imagine pictures will follow.

Do you know what your kids are wearing for Halloween yet? Of course you do, it's only five days away! Are there any other parents dressing up? Share in the comments, won't you?

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Fear Factor

{I will jump at any excuse to use this picture.}

It's that time of year again! Witches and goblins are lurking in your commercials, your Disney shows, and your kid's dreams.

As Owen likes to remind me at every preschool pickup, we are edging oh-so-close to the pumpkin that marks October 31 on his classroom calendar. Halloween is just a few weeks away, and in the spirit of things, I rolled with that theme at a recent Catholic Youth Ministry meeting {an aside: Jonathan and I serve as youth minsters for our parish's CYM. It helps that we are officially adults, but act like teenagers}. We talked about the things that scare us and countered that by considering the number of times the Bible says fear not.

To introduce the topic, I simply asked for their fears. The usual suspects were shouted across the crowded room. Snakes! Spiders! Heights! Then I asked them to think of the fears they hold deepest in their hearts. The ones they aren't so quick to leak into a room of their peers. We dug into it and I started hearing things like college decisions, the future, social acceptance, and struggles with faith. It was a wonderful discussion and a great way to turn back to the fact that we are never alone.

It was a beautiful time with our teens, but that's not why I'm here today. {Yes, there's a point!} After polling the youth kids on what scares them the most, I thought it would be fun to do the same at home. The answers I heard were... a bit different. Without further ado, the greatest fears that plague the Bauer Bunch:

Nathan: "Really big insects because they have all those moving legs and wings and it just creeps me out. Also nightmares because when you're having one it feels like it's actually happening. Once I had a nightmare that there was a devil taking over the world and he made a toxic ooze that turned people into zombies. Also clowns, but just a little."

Owen: "Vampires because they have fangs and drink all of your blood. And zombies because they are silly and scary. They're funny, too, except when they eat your brain."

Nora: "Goats scare me! {side note: She means ghosts.} Yeah, they scare me. Go away! So. So. Scary. Scary goats say MOO. {side note: She means boo.} And a cat so scary. And a witch say HEH HEH HEH."

You can't imagine how delighted Nora was to be able to answer that question. It was like she had been sitting on her answer for years. Now it's your turn. What keeps you up at night? Is it more in line with classic spooks or a more grownup answer like taxes? Ask your kids, too! You never know what might come out. Have a happy Tuesday, y'all.

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jeepin' with Owen

Jonathan and I recently took a ride in my dad's Jeep to give the deer lease a once-over.

You'll never guess who wanted to tag along.

Once Owen was strapped securely in the backseat, joy danced on his face and the wind played with his hair. Despite the fact that it's still summer in southwest Arkansas {it's literally 92 degrees right now}, deer season is just around the corner. Owen couldn't care less about looking for blocked stands or washed-out roads. He was thrilled with the idea of running through fields, hiding behind trees, and simply cruising the dirt roads with no roof. You may be shocked to hear we only had to stop to retrieve his hat one time.

My kid was quick to find the first sign of fall beneath the big maple tree by the cabin. He might have been drenched with sweat shortly after I snapped the photo below, but that's beside the point. It's October and there were leaves.

Owen used his time in the great outdoors wisely, searching through random hunting equipment and demanding an explanation for the pair of turkey feet that hung above his head. He attempted to climb a tree, and decided to save that adventure for next time. He laughed, he screamed, and he savored every second he could use his outside voice. On the trip home, he let me hold his hat:

What's your favorite place to explore? Is your hat safe there? Happy Hump Day, y'all!

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Left Hand

Today marks the tenth anniversary of a big day on the University of Central Arkansas campus.

It was my senior year and I was sitting in Stanley Russ Hall in some sort of broadcasting or journalism class... give me a break, it's been ten years. I was 21 years old and had been dating a guy for a little over two months. Many of my classmates had met him through department functions or seeing us out and about. They liked him. My friends liked him. My mom loved him and so did I. Things were going well after a tumultuous spring and summer {different story} and the fact that this semester had started while I was stuck in the hospital {ditto}. I was happy, and that was new.

Back to the class. It's been a long time, but I remember being clueless as I slung my backpack over my shoulder and bid my friends goodbye. I pushed open the heavy glass doors with the day's plans on my mind. Even back then, it was important for me to know my every move. That's why I lost my breath in the parking lot.

Inside my Jeep were red balloons. I don't know how many, but I couldn't see much else inside. I stood there for a few minutes looking over my shoulder for hidden cameras or pranksters behind the pear trees. Knowing I was being watched, I kept calm and opened the door. I brushed the balloons back and there in the driver's seat was a piece of loose leaf paper, folded into thirds with "To my love" carefully drawn on the outside. It was from him.

I began to read and from the corner of my eye I saw a handful of people from my class waiting to see what would happen next. Frozen with fear and anticipation, I made my way through the love and promise that poured from every word. He talked about how much I meant to him, how badly he wanted to take care of me, and plenty more things I probably shouldn't publish on the Internet.

I don't look at that letter often, but I'll never forget the last line. He told me to turn around.

There he stood. All 6 feet and 5 inches. I could hear an audible gasp from the audience as he slid to one knee in the UCA parking lot. I didn't care that anyone was watching. I didn't care that I looked a hot mess. I didn't care that there were students and professors going about their lives oblivious to this defining moment in mine. There was no one else.

He said my full name, and I laughed as my nerves hit and said his. He asked me to marry him and I told him I would. He slipped his grandmother's ring onto my left hand and he kissed me like nothing could break it.

He later told me he had big plans for a romantic proposal on the dock of my Mema's lake with a beautiful background and beautiful words and a movie scene. However, he had gotten the ring back from the jeweler that morning and couldn't wait another minute. Knowing how much he wanted to marry me was a movie scene. It was perfect.

These ten years feel like a lifetime. It's been so good and it's been so hard, but I will always be thankful he was in the parking lot.

I love you, Jonathan. I'm glad you couldn't wait.

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pepper Preservation

"MOM. You are the worst cooker ever!"

That has to brighten your spirits to hear this coming from a four-year-old who's covering his face with a blanket and passing one to his brother in order for him to do the same. While I'm not known for my cooking prowess, I do have an excuse this time around. I don't think a big pot of vinegar and garlic boiling away on the stove top is going to whet anyone's appetite. It was all in the name of pickles.

Last week I wrote about ripping out much of the summer garden to pave the way for fall, but that doesn't mean all that fresh goodness was going to waste. Jonathan pulled all the pepper plants out by the roots and laid them in a line on the grass. Then the kids set to work grabbing peppers. Nora was the most excited about this task, and even babysat the harvest as we moved on to the next chore:

We knew we were going to freeze all those lovely bells to use in soups and chili this winter. That's as easy as slicing, removing seeds, and freezing. The jalapeños were a different story, though. Sure, we could freeze those puppies just as easily, but I prefer a different form of hot pepper. Picked jalapeños are delicious on everything from nachos to hamburgers, so we thought we'd cook up a batch or two. Despite the awful stench that resonated through the house while the brine was coming together, the end result was perfection. I looked through several different recipes for pickling jalapeños online and settled on the easiest {naturally}.

All I did was combine a cup of water, a cup of white vinegar, two tablespoons of kosher salt, four tablespoons of sugar, and a garlic clove or two in a pot. I let that come to a boil, added in the sliced jalapeños and took it off the heat. After letting those peppers warm up for about 15 minutes, I moved the whole thing to a jar and let it cool to room temperature before sticking it in the fridge. I ended up with two pints. I think this recipe should work for canning, but I just did refrigerator pickles. I know they won't last long.

The fresh peppers were still spicy, but that sugar gave them a sweet kick, too. Give this method a whirl if you find yourself sitting on too many jalapeños when the weather tells you it's finally time to pull your peppers.

What are you pickling or preserving this time of year? I have a request for pickled okra, so I may try to figure that out next. Have a great Tuesday, y'all!

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Friday, October 2, 2015

Growing in the Fall

We have more dirt under our fingernails these days {and on our hands, knees, faces, etc}.

While there's still a little summer goodness growing in the Bauer Backyard, we've recently overhauled the garden to make room for fall/winter crops. Not long ago we made the decision to go all-in on second-season veggies. We've had some luck with this in gardens past, but we wanted to take it up a notch. We uprooted the peppers and all but three tomato plants {I can't say goodbye yet}. Check back for my preservation post next week. I know it may seem counterproductive to dispose of living plants, but I needed that dirt.

Jonathan took a trip to our favorite local nursery and came home with 16 broccoli plants and a four-pack of cabbage. Those went in the ground on September 22 and have been thriving in the cool nights. Then I made a quick order from Seed Savers and my packets were delivered within days {highly recommend}. It was time to fill the empty square of soil.

As you can see, the okra planted in May is still going. I'm not getting rid of them until they stop producing,
even if Owen is using the leafless poles as a slalom course.

We planted half a row each of lettuce, radish, spinach, and carrots. Nathan also sowed an extra half row of spinach all on his own - that kid's got his eye on a big bowl of spinach dip. We put the seeds in the soil on Monday evening, and the radishes are already up. I've never grown them before, but everything I read tells me they'll be my first harvest. There may not be too many people excited about these {radishes don't have the best reputation}, but I love those peppery little morsels and maybe we'll find a method or two of cooking them.

I can understand if pictures of tiny sprouts and dirt aren't your thing, but I'll be back with an update when the plants are more photo-ready. Until then, let's talk gardening. Have you put any cool-season crops in your backyard yet? There's still time for a whole mess of spinach and root veggies if you haven't!

Have a great weekend, y'all. Get out and enjoy this beautiful weather!

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dear October

The broccoli plants appreciate the cooler mornings as much as I do.

There's nothing like trashing a calendar page covered by all the to-dos you did, am I right?

That may just be me, but today I am welcoming October with open arms. It's no secret that the spring and summer seasons are my favorite, but I'm feeling exceptionally kind toward fall this year. It could have something to do with the fact that September 2015 was a bit warm. I love the heat and the sunshine, but at this point a cool breeze wouldn't bother me one bit. I'm not going to start drinking pumpkin spice lattes or anything, but bring on the long sleeves and decorative gourds!

The days are getting shorter, making earlier bedtimes possible. The triple-digit excuse of "too hot" has been banished from my vocabulary. We are spending more time watching chickens and kids in the backyard. The summer garden is old news and we're keeping an eye on the soil to see fall veggies spring to life. There's poetry in the changing of seasons, and I am embracing it. Our pile of yard debris is ripe for a bonfire, there will soon be pumpkins on my porch and we're narrowing down costume choice to Sleeping Beauty or Queen Elsa. It is indeed fall, y'all. Here are just a few more reasons I've decided to appreciate October:

  1. The Fresh Start: Sorting through the jackets, changing out the flower beds, and pulling open the windows are all distinct signals of a new beginning. It's not January yet, but I'm treating October 1 like a blank slate.

  2. The Trees: I don't live near the pinnacle of fall color in Arkansas, but the southwest can still put on a show. The evergreens pop brighter against brilliant shades of gold, red and orange, and my commute is drenched in change.

  3. The Air: It's crisp and clean and invites you to walk outside and breathe deep. It's like the Earth is waking up after sleeping in the A/C for three months. The air is lighter and lacking that faint scent of sweat. Win-win.

  4. The Food: It's almost time to make chili, y'all.

What's your favorite thing about October? Have a great Thursday, friends!

 photo signature_zpsf6106f25.png