Friday, July 29, 2016

Foodie Friday // Garden Update

The lovely ladies at Arkansas Women Bloggers host a weekly feature called Foodie Friday, in which local writers share recipes.

And would you believe I was asked to participate?? Debbie is likely unaware of how little I know when it comes to the kitchen, and I doubt she wanted a recipe for thawing nuggets or stirring mac and cheese. She had a motive, though. July's Foodie Friday theme is "eating our gardens" and she knew my thumb is as green as my culinary skills. I accepted, then turned right to my husband for help. We decided to share his delicious homegrown stir-fry, and used a version that featured produce from all over our town. You can read my narrative and his recipe on their site today.

Click HERE to read the post, leave a nice comment, then give it a whirl for dinner tonight. If you have a bag of rice, soy sauce, and some form of veggies and protein on hand, you're good to go. Kids can pick around what they don't like, and they'll probably accidentally eat a vegetable or two. Bon appetit, y'all!

GARDEN UPDATE // This particular harvest season has come with plenty of help, even if the "help" consists of sprinkling dirt on everything. Nora loves searching the plants to fill her basket and counting how many sunflowers are open. The weeds are back with a vengeance and the excruciatingly hot afternoons don't exactly make garden labor inviting. She doesn't mind, though. She thinks her garden is beautiful, and so do I.

With late summer does come new trouble, though. We have hordes of stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs on the tomatoes and they're starting to invade the nearby cucumbers. We have tried various methods, but we are still knee-deep in battle. Trust me, I'd love to share these vegetables with whichever humans {and chickens} can appreciate them, but I hate sharing with bugs. We carry on, though. I'll shudder when I see them, ask Jonathan to remove them, and pick tomatoes like nothing happened. It's easiest this way.

That's your official garden update. Everything is overgrown, leggy, and maybe a bit past its prime, but the bounty keeps coming. How does your garden grow? More importantly, how are you using your garden this season? I showed you my recipe, now show me yours. Seriously, leave me tips in the comments. Share recipes to use up tomatoes, pickling ideas, and maybe even a salsa or two. Don't be shy, show me what you've got!

Have a great weekend, y'all. Get dirty!

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Take Care

When the idea behind parenting is taking care of new people so they can take care of themselves, it's easy to get lost.

Last week at Arkansas Women Bloggers, I talked about discovering your kids and mentioned the importance of looking in the mirror, too. While I focused on parenting in that post, today I am focusing on me and you. I hold the opinion that motherhood isn't about being the martyr who drowns while holding up her kids. You have to take care of yourself to be the best parent/person you can be.

Self-care options range from watching Netflix for six hours at a time to running a marathon. While every person's needs and rations of free time are different, I've been thinking about what I can do to keep my own wheels turning. In treating myself, though, I have learned a few things. My best care is something that leaves a positive impact. While watching TV for hours on end sounds like a good time {and maybe it is for you!}, it usually leaves me feeling worse. I'm bad about beating myself up over non-productivity, so I recharge by getting things done for myself. Some of you moms might be laughing at me thinking "time to yourself" is a mythical rainbow-colored unicorn, but it's not. It takes just a few seconds to refocus and renew, so look for opportunities. I know you need it.

These are just a few easy methods of self-care I grab on to when the world seems to spin faster. I felt like sharing them because I needed to remind myself, but maybe you could use a reminder, too.

  • TOGETHER As surrounded as I am by people in this house, sometimes parenting can be lonely. It is fulfilling heart and soul to connect on a personal level with other adults. It is imperative to spend time with friends who can empathize and swap stories or even wipe "kid talk" off the plate.

  • ALONE Date night isn't "alone" to many, but it's my favorite form of the word. A huge dose of self-care for me is calling a babysitter and being my husband's wife. Whether it's stealing TV time after the kids are asleep or a full-on black dress date night, time with Jonathan is good for my soul. He reminds me who I am.

  • STILL Sometimes the best treatment is a still moment. I use them to remember where I am and what's important. Sometimes this means taking a glass of tea to the porch swing or just folding towels on the couch while Nora's napping. Quiet moments are rare, so I try to notice and enjoy them.

  • SWEAT It's the opposite of warm blankets and hot coffee on the couch, but working out is therapeutic for me. My brain feels better, my body feels better, and I make better choices afterward. I don't just work out to look a certain way, I do it because I want to be strong and healthy. It does my body {and my mental state} good.

  • WRITE Moments of quiet at the keyboard {like the one I'm having now, for instance} fill my empty cup. Whether I'm sitting down to a fresh blog post, brainstorming ideas for youth group, or jotting plans on my calendar, this gives me a sense of organization and accomplishment.

  • GROW If you read last Friday's post, you know what my garden is to me. The sun on my shoulders and the dirt on my hands give me life. My thoughts wonder as I plant and prune and dig and harvest. I get to see the literal fruits of my labor. Just a few minutes in the back yard brings the calm I need. It keeps me... grounded.

I am in no way a medical professional. I am just a girl who gets very overwhelmed very easily, and these are a few of the things that bring me back. How do you help yourself?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Owen Network

"Hey guys! Be sure to leave a comment in the box below if you like this video!"

Parents of young children, I know you feel me on the YouTube videos. You have my back on the agony that is watching a woman with an untraceable accent unwrap Disney toys or line Shopkins on her counter like it was her job. You've watched dozens of blind bags, surprise eggs, and mystery boxes opened in slow motion by Internet strangers. I'm here to ask a simple question: Have any of your kids become non-published YouTube stars?

Lately my boys have been on a vlog kick, and unfortunately I know every member of the Hobby Kids TV family by name {I'm also getting familiar with the extra-annoying Skylander Family}. They're loud and obnoxious and encourage my kids to do things like squish a box of Sour Patch kids into a giant ball and attempt to eat it. Not exactly role models, but there you go. However, a new development occurred the other night. Owen, who watches YouTube Kids on an iPhone 4 with a cracked screen and no data plan, was taking a selfie. Then I realized he was talking. He was giving his "audience" a backyard tour, introducing them to his sister and chickens, and asking them to subscribe to his nonexistent channel.

I'll let the videos speak for themselves at this point. Side Note: I did receive permission to publish. I will warn that these videos were directed by a five-year-old who runs a lot and has no cinematography skills. They're shaky and hard to follow, but they gave me a good chuckle and I thought you could use one this morning.

PS: If you want to see what the rest of our days are like, head on over to Arkansas Women Bloggers, where I am still reigning Blogger of the Month. This week's post prompt asked me to describe a day in my life. Let's just say the end result was more humor than anything. My days aren't spent curing diseases or writing history, but they're real.

Click HERE to read the post and have a great Tuesday, y'all.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Backyard Beauty

The garden in our back yard is getting good, y'all.

The long row of cucumbers has each of my kids pacing, lifting all the leaves to see if they can spy the biggest one. The sunflowers are opening up and turning their faces toward the light. The tomato rows are full and we've already sliced up a few to enjoy that first homegrown bite {though the cherry tomatoes can't seem to make it indoors}. It's a gorgeous garden year at the Bauer House. We're still battling weeds and cursing worms, but this is the month we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Aside from filling my vegetable crisper {and my parents' and in-laws' crispers} with fresh cucumbers, this year's garden has done wonders for my well-being. I know it's a million degrees out, but as the sun starts to dip behind the trees, we make our way outside. The breeze blows the sunflower heads and Nora's skirt, and I like to stand back and soak in the view. This is basically a picture of all my favorite things:

Walking up and down the semi-symmetrical rows brings a certain calm, and all the tension that had built up during the day melts. As I bend down to pull weeds, I may spot the first okra pod growing. When I lean over to snatch a ripening tomato, I'll see a bunch of jalapenos ready to be sliced and pickled. There is joy in gardening, and I am thrilled to have a family that delights in it beside me.

Nora's quickly become a gardening expert, always by my side and eager to pick what she sees {ready or not}. Most nights, however, I'll look up from the garden and see a couple of boys through the back door, trying to decide whether the garden is worth trading video games for heat. It usually is. Last night I had Owen in the chicken coop collecting eggs and Nathan studying the row of okra he planted himself. Nora showed off her harvest and then the three decided to feed half of it to the chickens. Lucky girls.

When Owen found a cucumber we missed, you would have thought he won the lottery. He kept asking if he did a good job, and I told him as many times as he wanted to hear it. I know my garden is not much compared to others, and may not be as neat and lush as I want, but it's ours. We did this with our hands, and to me that's perfect. The heat and bugs and age of the plants will soon turn this garden into a crispier version, but it's a sight to see today.

Now if you will excuse me, I want to get out and soak up some sanity before the bees get to work. How does your garden grow?

PS: Let me know if you live nearby and want tomatoes or cucumbers. Seriously. Have a great weekend, y'all. Get dirty!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Minnie Party

From my living room couch, I have a clear view of a kitchen splashed in a sea of pink.

Streamers cross the ceilings, balloons float on the floor, and Minnie is staring at me from where my not-so-pink decorations used to be. We're in summer birthday hangover mode, so forgive me if I seem a bit drained this week. Every time I step into my still-pink kitchen, though, I am reminded of the fun that sweet girl had. Today I'm sharing some highlights from one bow-eautiful party.

Told you I was drained.

You can probably guess Nora chose Minnie Mouse for her third birthday party theme. This came with a lot of pink and polka dots. For both the birthday girl and her mama, the food was the best part. With the help of multiple viewings of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse {and Pinterest}, we threw together a great spread. We used Nora's favorite foods, hot dogs and Cheetos, and labeled them Hot Diggity Dogs and Pluto's Puffs. We also served a quick-and-easy cold pasta salad with veggies and Italian dressing to play into the bow theme. We added Donald's Cheese and Quackers because it was funny.

The stars of the show were created by Aunt B, known the world over for her Minion skills. She turned ordinary Oreos of various sizes into Minnie Mouses, complete with pink skirts. They were adorable, and they were the first treats to vanish.

Although Nora loved her party snacks, she had been counting the minutes until her Minnie cake arrived. She turned three on Friday and the party was Saturday, but she swore she was two until the candles were extinguished. It took her a few tries, but that girl got it!

As it turns out, Nora is one efficient present opener. She held out a hand, pulled out her gift, squealed, and handed it to her Daddy while the next one was placed in front of her. Nora, age 3, racked up quite a Shopkins collection this weekend. I still don't know what they are other than a match for Legos on the barefoot pain scale, but it brought her such joy. She got a tiny plastic lawn mower, for crying out loud. Someone please explain this to me.

After the living room was strewn in pink tissue paper, Nora led her friends outside for some swinging, sliding, and piƱata opening. We bought a less-violent version of Minnie, but it was still fun even if we didn't get to smash it. Everyone pulled a string, and everyone dove in.

Once the birthday girl said goodbye to her guests, Nora asked me to fill her new Frozen watering can. She guided me to the garden and watered her favorite plants {and a few patches of grass between the rows}. From a tiny growing cucumber to a towering sunflower, she picked the best and proudly poured. It was a wonderful close to the day and our peaceful backyard refuge was enough to ease the party-planning crazy.

Thanks to all the friends and family who joined us to celebrate the Big Three with Nora June. A special thanks goes to Jonathan's parents {you may know them as Grammy and Poppy} for surprising us! They didn't think they would be able to make it down due to Poppy's battle with ALS, but I know the smile that spread across Nora's face when she saw him wheel in was worth it. Thanks so much for making her day and helping us make this party a success. We love you!

Happy Hump Day, y'all.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Birthday Splash

The equation for a successful nine-year-old party is simple.

It's as easy as pizza + friends + water cannons + unsuspecting parents. Add that up and you have one fun way to celebrate! Nathan's birthday party was held on his actual date of birth {as amazing as this was to my son, I give credit to poor planning and booked weekends}. It was still one heck of a party. We invited a few of Nathan's friends to meet us at Diamond Springs Water Park in Murfreesboro.

This choice eliminated activities and decorations. All I needed was a cake idea. Both of my boys have been obsessed with Minecraft for months now, so it was no surprise when Nathan said he wanted his cake to reflect his favorite game. However, when I started showing him various designs featuring Creepers and Steve and whatever a Wither Skeleton is, he told me I was barking up the wrong tree. When he said he wanted a Minecraft cake, he meant it. Apparently this is a white box with red dots? I don't really know what flavor that could be, but that's what he wanted and our cake lady delivered. I was thrilled when his friends were impressed {and knew what it was}:

While it was fun watching Nathan joke around with his buds from school {and the never-ending loop of Owen going down the big slide}, Nora brought the entertainment. The water in this pool is only 1-2 feet deep in most places, and she waddled and swam and crawled like a boss. Unfortunately, this ended in Nora being the last person to obey the lifeguard's whistle at closing time. It made for a soggy, sad ride home, but pretty cute pictures:

Turning nine worked out well for Nathan. He had a wonderful time swimming with his friends and the next day {Nora's birthday - try to keep up}, he was treated like a king at Red Lobster. Prior to our shrimp feast, we went to Chuck E. Cheese for Nora's choice in entertainment.

A Lobsterita was not only a drink order, but a necessity.

Check back tomorrow for Nora's Minnie party details and have a terrific Tuesday, won't you?

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Nora: Age 3

My little girl with the not-so-little curls is three years old today.

From the side-eyes to the knock-knock jokes to the constant kiss requests, you never know what to expect with Nora. She's a ball of laughs, as long as you stay on her good side. She has an order to everything and will make sure {no matter who you think you are}, that you don't step out of line. She's one of those kids I'm always reminding that I am the grownup, and then end up walking around the kitchen bar clockwise instead of counter-clockwise just to get her off my case. She'll also demand I only respond with "nice words."

Despite the approach of the terrifying threes, Nora is one of my favorite people. She still loves to hold my hand and she makes me laugh regularly. She loves all things pink, all things cute, and all things baby. She also loves to play catch, do ballet, and walk in the garden {as long as you clean her feet}. Her crazy blonde curls match her personality perfectly and that sweet smile could melt any heart. I could tell you all the little things that make Nora June who she is, but I thought I'd let her try this year:

Birthday Interview: 20 Questions
  1. What is your favorite color?

  2. What is your favorite toy?
    Minnie Mouse. And my little baby Cowy.

  3. What is your favorite TV show?
    Minnie Mouse and whenever we watch Mickey Mouse on TV she is always there doing something.

  4. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
    PIZZA PIZZA. And I wish I had pink macaroni and cheese, too.

  5. What is your favorite movie to watch?

  6. What is your favorite game?
    I want to play hide and seek. I will hide under the table now, you find me.

  7. What is your favorite animal?
    Dinosaur, because they're nice and not scary.

  8. What is your favorite song?
    Welcome to My House. And Meeska Mooska.

  9. Who is your best friend?
    I love Avie and Jaycee and Jenna and Hadley and my baby sister.
    {Side Note: She does NOT have a baby sister, she just claims one at day care.}

  10. What is your favorite thing to do outside?
    Look at the garden and find a little tomato.

  11. What is your favorite drink?
    Capri Suns. I like Nora tea, NOT mama tea.

  12. Where is your favorite place to go?
    Nana's house because I play games and go swimming.

  13. What do you want to be when you grow up?
    A ballerina.

  14. What is your favorite thing to play with Nathan?
    Legos and McDonald's. And we just play picnic in my room.

  15. What is your favorite thing about Owen?
    No way, I don't like him. Okay, fine. I like him when he likes me. I like when he says something to me.

  16. What do you like to do with Mommy?
    Play dance moves in the living room.

  17. What do you like to do with Daddy?
    Sit on the couch and snuggle.

  18. What makes you laugh?
    My funny face, but not my scary face.

  19. What's your favorite thing to do at day care?
    I like to watch some TV and play toys. I love to eat fish sticks and bread with meat and cheese. MEAT AND CHEESE.

  20. What is the best thing about your birthday?
    I want a present and pink balloons at my birthday.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Nathan: Age 9

This morning a boy whose body is almost as long as mine crawled into my bed as I was convincing myself to wake up.

He put his hand on my shoulder and whispered, "It's my birthday." And just like that, he was nine. Nine years ago I jumped from the couch at my in-laws' house because something was amiss. I was only 36 weeks into my pregnancy, but Nathan was ready. Although I can make July 7 the anniversary of the day we became parents, I want to celebrate the anniversary of one of the best people I know.

Nine years ago I had no idea who Nathan would be. I didn't know he would be so smart and love learning. I didn't know music would come naturally to him. I didn't know he would be a fantastic big brother who's always willing to reach a blanket on the upper shelf or open a bag of Cheetos. I didn't know he'd be witty and shy at the same time or love video games and dance music or be willing to plant okra seeds just so his dad could fry him some for dinner. Nathan is considerate, aware of others' needs, and proud of who he is. I'm proud of the five-pound baby I met before I was ready and I'm even prouder of the nine-year-old who is counting the seconds until we celebrate at the water park.

Now the part you've all been waiting for! Nathan and I sat down to do the official birthday interview recently, and here's a peek into the life of my oldest son:

Birthday Interview: 20 Questions
  1. What's your favorite color?
    Red, just because I think it's cool looking.

  2. What is your favorite thing to do?
    My most favorite thing to do is go swimming, but I also like watching TV and playing Minecraft and WoW.

  3. What do you want to be when you grow up?
    Video game designer because I think gaming is fun, and I learned about coding this summer.

  4. What is your favorite food?
    I love shrimp and Doritos, but not together.

  5. What is your favorite TV show?
    Teen Titans Go and Amazing World of Gumball - both of those shows are really funny and weird.

  6. What is your favorite animal?
    Kittens because they're cute.

  7. What is your favorite toy?
    If trampoline counts as a toy, then that's the one.

  8. What's your favorite thing to wear?
    My shark tooth necklace my parents brought back from Florida.

  9. What do you do really well?
    Play piano, I like when I get to play fast, jazzy songs.

  10. What makes you laugh?
    When Nora dances to the waffle song {be sure to click that}. It's hilarious!

  11. What are you afraid of?
    Being alone in the dark.

  12. Who is your best friend?

  13. What's the best thing about your little brother?
  14. He's funny, especially when he talks in his crazy voices.

  15. What's the best thing about your little sister?
  16. She's very nice and helpful and gives me hugs when I'm sad.

  17. What do you like to do with your parents?
    Play board games, we love Scattergories.

  18. What do you love to learn about?
    Coding at Kids' College and I love learning new things when I read at school.

  19. Where do you like to go?
    I like to go to Nana's because I get to go swimming in the pool.

  20. What is your favorite book?
    Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

  21. What is your favorite movie?
    The Jungle Book - the newest version.

  22. If you had one wish, what would it be?
    That I had a TV in my room because I would love to watch TV in bed.

Past Birthday Interviews: Age Eight, Age Seven, Age Six

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Calendar Girl

{I like to think Miss July would have a crown of seashells... and fake blue eyes.}

Sound the trumpets and roll out the red carpet, y'all are dealing with royalty here.

If you know me well, you know being the center of attention makes me a bit twitchy, but that was not my reaction when the Arkansas Women Bloggers told me I was crowned July 2016 Blogger of the Month. I'm pretty sure I squealed out loud and immediately forwarded the email to my husband. I am honored to be selected out of a fantastic group of writers from across the state and I am thrilled to step up to the plate.

Throughout the month, my writing {and my face!} will be featured on their blog. Every Monday they will publish a new piece. I will still post here regularly, but be sure to visit them every now and then to see what's happening. You can click the logo at the bottom of my sidebar to get where you need to go. Don't worry, I'll remind you.

The first featured post is up today. It's the story behind my blog, what it means to me, and what I hope it means to you. CLICK HERE to give it a read and leave a comment if you'd like. I am extremely thankful to all the Arkansas Women Bloggers for reading my stories and believing they're worth sharing.

Thank you for this honor, I hope to do the {seashell} crown justice.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Dear July

'Tis the season of brilliant fireworks, homegrown tomatoes, and super sweaty kids.

It's July in Arkansas, and although that means triple digit temps on the regular, it's one tasty time of year. Plants in my backyard are full of fruit waiting on the perfect time to ripen and I'm getting ready to jump into process-and-preserve mode. The mess has been cleared from my kitchen windowsill to make room for tomatoes and the harvest basket is sitting by the door.

July brings summer sunsets that fade into warm air and lightning bugs, a breeze that carries the scent of neighborhood vegetable patches, and the relief that comes with that first jump in the pool. Today I'm welcoming the new month in list form. Join me, won't you? What are you looking forward to this month?

  1. Favorite Thing: July may bring oppressive heat that will cause me to complain several posts in a row {sorry}, but I honestly live for this weather. Give me a 103-degree day over anything that dips below 50. Seriously.

  2. Planning: I am working on a plan to have 11 laying hens. The seven newbies should kick into gear this month and I'll be getting close to a dozen eggs a day. I'm thinking of looking into local farmer's markets or advertising on social media or simply ensuring my friends and family stay stocked in incredible edibles.

  3. Eating: Fresher than ever. The hot air has me craving crisp and light and healthy and I should have backyard access to such meals soon. Most specifically I am looking forward to sliced tomatoes with salt, fresh beans sauteed with garlic and onions, and so much watermelon.

  4. Drinking: I'd be lying if wine wasn't the central answer, but there's something about a mason jar filled to the brim with ice-cold tea and lemon slices sweating right beside me. Cucumber water is a favorite, too.

  5. Wearing: Not much {insert laugh here, but I'm also kind of serious}. Shorts, sundresses, flip flops, and tank tops. Sun's out, guns out, after all.

  6. Listening to: Snoring. Two-thirds of my children are excellent at summertime sleeping in. At least Owen will grant my "five more minutes" request a few times.

  7. Enjoying: Those crazy kids of mine. Sure, the summer whines plague us all, but July gives me time to enjoy them without hassling them about the clock. We don't have many plans this month, so I want to just play outside, eat Popsicles, and watch movies.

  8. Current Project: This first day of July is being spent like any other - scrambling to get ready for Nora and Nathan's birthdays. I can't believe my oldest will be nine and my youngest will be three in a matter of days. {I'll save the dramatics, though, as this means we are nearing a diaper-free life}.

  9. Hoping for: A bountiful harvest, of course. Things are looking much better in the garden this year in comparison to recent years {please don't let this be a jinx}.

  10. Doing: Nothing. My favorite July activity is nothing. Maybe I'll do nothing on the swing in the yard. Perhaps I'll do nothing in the air-conditioned haven of my living room. I could even do nothing poolside. Wherever I am, I hope to snag the opportunity to stop this month. We all need to every once in a while, right?

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