Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Road trip!

November 1-7, we took a family road trip to St. Pete Beach, Florida. Mr. Rochester participated in a conference there and we decided to drive down there as a family. We stayed at the Guy Harvey Outpost at St. Pete Beach and we loved it! We had a one bedroom suite that faced the ocean. The view was gorgeous and at night, we could put our kids to bed in one room while we relaxed in another. 

Neither Trotwood nor Little Dorrit had ever been to the beach before so this was a new adventure - actually, it was a new adventure for all of us because with Little Dorrit's central line, we had to figure out ways to keep her from getting the dressing over her line wet from the ocean water. Thankfully, Little Dorrit seemed more interested in chasing sea gulls and playing in the sand than actually getting in the water. In fact, she was a little terrified of the waves and didn't want to have anything to do with the ocean so keeping her dressing dry wasn't a problem. Before we go out of town somewhere with Little Dorrit, I always worry that something might happen so we have to do some research to know where the closest children's hospitals and any ERs are located along our route. We were so lucky to all be healthy on this trip. It really was wonderful to get away for a week.  


While we were in Florida, we got tickets to go on a pirate cruise ship. I know Trotwood enjoyed himself but Mr. Rochester and I were glad when the two hour boat ride was over. It really was just a booze cruise where the parents drank and the pirate ship crew had different activities to do. And since Mr. Rochester and I aren't into boozing, we just tried to keep Little Dorrit happy most of the time and stay out of the way of inebriated folks. We did take pictures and look, we're smiling. Proof we had fun, right? 


One day while Mr. Rochester was at his conference, I took the kids to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. It was an exhausting day but both kids seemed to have a lot of fun. The main things Trotwood wanted to see were the rhinos. And they had the cutest baby rhino ever. 
Also, I couldn't resist buying the super overpriced pictures that they took of us in front of a green screen when we got there. It's a vacation. We'll have the memories forever. That's what I kept telling myself. 
On the way back from Florida, we stopped in Mobile, AL to see the USS Alabama Battleship. I will say, it was exhausting carrying a two year old up and down narrow spaces and stairs in the battleship, but despite that, touring the ship was a lot of fun. When I was little, I remember my parents taking me to this same park and I thought it would be a neat experience for our family. While in Mobile, we ate at a Ralph & Kacoo's which is a restaurant that my parents used to take me and my siblings to when we were little and lived in New Orleans. I didn't know there were any of these restaurants outside of New Orleans so we decided to eat lunch there.
Our last stop on our trip was to Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi. We actually were able to meet up with some good friends who happened to be in Mobile at the same time we were and they were driving back to Fayetteville the same time we were. So, we all decided to tour Vicksburg together - I know Trotwood enjoyed running around with some friends that day. 

From this trip, I've learned something. We need more vacations. And next time, an actual full on vacation where there is no conference involved. It was wonderful, exhausting and rejuvenating all at the same time. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Farm Friends Pumpkin Patch


Amidst all our other Halloween activities, we managed to squeeze in a trip to a local pumpkin patch. We tried a new one this year and the kids loved it. We thought it would be chillier than it was but it was warm and in the upper 70s. We spent a few hours with the kids there doing the different activities available including a corn maze (we did the abbreviated one), getting pulled on a trailer behind a tractor, feeding some cows, racing "tractors" (below) and playing in a giant bed of corn.
We didn't take Little Dorrit's stroller into the corn maze because I thought it would be too bumpy for her so we let her walk. That was before we learned that it takes at least an hour to go through the entire corn maze! Thankfully, we were able to find the short cut and enjoy the abbreviated time we were in the maze instead of getting frustrated about not being able to get out of it with two small children. Both Trotwood and Little Dorrit loved running around the maze.


But their favorite part was this giant box of corn - the both just loved getting handfuls of corn and rolling around in it. It's just a huge sandbox...full of corn.


Here's the one family picture we got on the tractor ride - it was really windy - and I'm not sure why I look like a hunched over old lady but here's our family picture!






Monday, October 31, 2016

The Halloween Experience

Somehow, October really just flew by. I love autumn and had all these plans to visit a pumpkin patch and take autumn family photos, and then it was the last weekend in October and we hadn't done any of those things! Despite that, I was able to squeeze in a last minute trip to the pumpkin patch (which is a topic for another post) as well as quite a bit of Halloween-ing for the kids during the last week of October. 

For Halloween, this year, Trotwood wanted to be a pea shooter from the video game "Plants vs. Zombies." He really loves playing this video game so I thought it would be fun for us to have family themed costume from the game. Here's Trotwood as a pea shooter. He's wearing all green with fake leaves pinned to his green shirt and Mr. Rochester and I made the pea shooter hat. I feel like it all came together really well although the hat is only made to last through one Halloween (which it did!). 
Our first Halloween stop was our ward's Trunk or Treat. We all dressed up as Plants vs. Zombie characters - I went as a zombie, Mr. Rochester is Crazy Dave, Trotwood is a pea shooter, and Little Dorrit as the sunflower.   
Our next Halloween stop was at my work. There were probably about 10 different buildings hosting "Candy Trails" for kids at work this year. We visited the marketing department and they do not disappoint! The two years we've been, they go all out in decorating the whole area, dressing up as different characters, and creating games and experiences for the kids. It really is amazing and I love to see it. Our favorite stops were the Pokemon and Ghostbuster areas. 

We miscalculated how long it would take us to trick or treat the candy trail at the marketing department (we got through so fast!) and ended up having an extra hour and a half before the restaurant we wanted to eat dinner at was open. So, we ended up visited two other buildings with the kids. They got a ton of candy and I think they both just had a great time - although Little Dorrit absolutely refused to wear the sunflower hat we made her. After we ate that night, the kids walked around in their costumes just acting silly. 
A friend gave us this adorable little outfit for Little Dorrit - she only got to wear it this one time so I had to capture a few pictures. 

Our last Halloween stop was on Halloween night trick or treating with friends! Here's Trotwood and his best little buddy. His friend was Ron Weasley for Halloween and Trotwood begged for some orange hair as well. We only spent about an hour trick-or-treating on Halloween night - I was tired and the kids had already gotten plenty of candy! It sure was a fun but busy time! 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fun Run

On Thursday, October 27th, Trotwood's school held a fun run to raise money for the school. Mr. Rochester and I decided to show up and cheer Trotwood on during the run. We didn't advertise the fun run to anyone to gain pledges -- I just signed Trotwood up and made a donation to the school. And I didn't know many other details about the run other than that there was a run and you could donate or pledge a certain amount of money for each lap run. I figured we'd watch Trotwood run around the track a few times and then he'd be finished. That's not exactly how it went. 

Each child actually had a grid with the numbers 1-35 stuck on their backs and every time they went halfway around the track, a teacher marked off a lap. The goal was for every child to do 35 laps. So, when the race began, Trotwood started running with the rest of the second graders and he.didn't.stop. After a lap or two, most kids petered out and started walking but Trotwood just kept jogging away. I mean, he's mentioned to me before that his favorite sport was running (basketball is his second favorite sport) but I just thought he meant he liked running around because he's an active seven year old. This was something completely new to see!
Mr. Rochester and I just kept watching him, a little incredulously, and cheering him on as he passed us. The only time Trotwood ever stopped running was when the teachers made everyone walk a lap to cool off because some of the students were getting overheated. It's still 80 degrees in October here! When Trotwood finished, Mr. Rochester and I both felt so proud and touched that Trotwood did such an amazing job! Seriously, it almost brought tears to my eyes - not because he was one of the first to finish (we're pretty sure he was the first second grader to complete all 35 laps) but because in my opinion, running 35 laps without stopping as a seven year old is pretty amazing. I think it ended up being around 3-4 miles. Um, I can't even do that without stopping! I was just so proud that he stuck with it and finished something hard. 
Afterwards, Trotwood was really tired, thirsty and sore but I could tell that he was really happy with his efforts. At the very end of the event, parents and supporters could do a victory lap with their student so we all walked together. 
We are so proud of our determined little runner! I hope he continues to try and accomplish things that are hard but also rewarding. And next year, I'll be sure to make a pledge for every lap he runs! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paint job

It's finally happening! We've lived in our house for six year and we are finally painting! I remember when we first bought our house we were so excited to make it our own but then life just happened and we just moved in without making some of the improvements we wanted. We decided to start with the kitchen. I absolutely love the blue we used (Sherwin Williams - Santorini Blue) and the way it makes our white cabinets and backsplash just pop. 


After the kitchen, we wanted to paint the kids' room. We actually let Trotwood pick out the color for his room. First, he wanted to paint all of the walls his favorite color: orange. We nixed that and suggested he pick something like blue and we could get orange curtains. So, he picked out this light blue color called Blue Discovery and we bought him some orange curtains. 
We sent Trotwood to Grandma's house for a few days so we could get his room all ready and surprise him! Little D. stayed with us and providing her with an old cell phone kept her entertained for a few minutes at a time so we could paint. 
I swear, we aren't planning on painting the interior of our entire house blue (although Mr. Rochester said he wants the office to be blue also) but so far, I'm really liking how everything turned out. Also, I realize, I should have taken some after pictures to show you but right now, everything is just in disarray. Has October been ridiculously busy for anyone else? I will take some after pictures and post them at some point though.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

{Little} Piano Man!

On Thursday, September 29th, Trotwood had his first piano lesson ever! He wasn't too excited about learning to play the piano because for some reason, he has his mind fixed on wanting to play the banjo. Now, I fully support learning a string instrument (or several) but piano is non-negotiable. When I was younger, I took piano lessons and didn't continue with the lessons when I was a teenager. I wish that I had chosen to take lessons then (or that my parents had forced me to take them) because I honestly love the piano and I love playing even though I'm terrible at it. And when I say I'm terrible, I'm not one of those humble people trying to downgrade their talent. I really do need a lot of practice at the piano. It's on my list to someday get back to but right now, every time I sit down to play, one or both of my children want to bang out a tune so I just let them and no real practicing gets done on my part. Someday, I will have more time to practice! In the meantime, I'll enjoy other people's talents and force my own progeny to practice.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Happy Fall!

Happy fall! It's finally fall although we are still experiencing 80 degree weather and have yet to see any leaves change. But it's going to happen! It may just not happen until later in October or early Novemebr. I love fall! And, I just got this little piece of art for my house and it makes me happy. 

This past weekend was General Conference weekend! In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, General Conference happens twice a year, the first weekend in October and the first weekend in April, and it's a time when we get to hear talks from the Prophet and President of the Church, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other church leaders. There are a total of six sessions, all of which are about two hours each. I know it sounds like a long weekend, but it's one I really just love to stay at home with my family and listen to these inspired talks. After conference is over, all of the talks are put online and I love going back and listening to them throughout the year. And, since we're at home all weekend, the weekend just turns into a weekend of cooking and baking in between conference sessions. 

Somehow, early on in our marriage, Mr. Rochester and I started a tradition of baking scones during conference weekend. I remember, we found a scone recipe in a newspaper years ago and we thought we'd try it out (this was way before Pinterest). And ever since then, I've made the same scone recipe twice a year during conference time. This time I thought I'd try a different scone recipe (thanks to Pinterest) along with my traditional recipe. 

Oh, I think I mentioned how much Little Dorrit is loving "coloring" lately. Here are both the kids with their pencils and paper at the kitchen table while I'm working on making the scones. "Coloring" to Little D. really just means drawing or scribbling and she rarely wants actual crayons. When we do give them to her, she just ends up eating them so we try to stick with pencils. Trotwood also loves art and drawing and I love to see the kinds of things that end up on his papers. 

So, I tried out this copycat recipe of Starbucks Pumpkin Scones. I'm not going to write out all the steps because if you're interested, you can just follow the link and see how it's done. But here are a few pictures of my process. 
The recipe had you divide the dough into two separate balls and then roll it with a rolling pin into two separate squares. Doing it this way produced smaller scones than I'm used to making since my other recipe instructs you to just pat the dough into a ball. 
And here's the finished product! I think I've mentioned this before but Mr. Rochester isn't keen on icing so I almost didn't put icing on some of these. However, they actually aren't very sweet unless you put the icing on. And the only way I deviated from the recipe was here when I added more liquid to the regular glaze to make it a little runnier. 
After adding the regular glaze and the spiced glaze, the scones almost tasted like cookies! We all really enjoyed these and I think I'll make them again sometime! 

As I mentioned before, the normal recipe I use for scones, came from a newspaper clipping - I can see the words "USA Weekend December 17-19, 2004" on one part of the clipping but that's about it. Apparently, I didn't capture the author's name in the clipping but after just a little internet research, I found the source! It's by a woman named Pam Anderson and the recipes gives you several variations of scones - our favorite is the cherry almond version. 

So here's my ingredients:
One thing, I like about this recipe is you grate a stick of frozen butter into the dry ingredients and then work the butter into the dry mixture. I feel like doing this is what really helps give the scones a flaky texture. 
Here's the circle I mentioned earlier. Then you cut it into triangles. 

And voila! You've got some delicious, flaky scones. 
I will say, I've never actually tried the blueberry lemon or cranberry orange scones - we've done plain blueberry and plain cranberry and those have both been delicious so I have no doubt adding the citrus elements to the scones will also be tasty. We just have a {nameless} person in our household who doesn't really like citrusy baked goods...but I think I may have mentioned that in a previous blog post.

Simple Scones

(adapted from USA Weekend Cook Smart, December 2004)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup raisins (or dried currants)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in raisins.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.

Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry-Orange Scones 

Follow the recipe for Simple Scones, adding a generous teaspoon of finely grated orange rind (zest) to the dry ingredients and substituting dried cranberries for the raisins.

Lemon-Blueberry Scones 

Follow the recipe for Simple Scones, adding a generous teaspoon of finely grated lemon rind (zest) to the dry ingredients and substituting dried blueberries for the raisins.

Cherry-Almond Scones 

Follow the recipe for Simple Scones, adding 1/2 tsp. almond extract to the sour cream mixture and substituting dried cherries for the raisins.

Yield: 8 scones. 
Per scone: 317 calories, 5g protein, 41g carbohydrates, 15g fat (9g saturated), 1g fiber, 263mg sodium.