Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring in My Step ...

In place of a thoughtful, well-crafted post, I offer a series of photos capturing things that have put some "spring" in our step the past couple of months.  What's given us some pep.  Yep.  

You may know that I'm a real sucker for good-smelling, slightly-overpriced cleaning products available at Target.  All spring I've been enjoying the limited edition Method "lime + sea salt" all-purpose spray and the dish soap.  I've also been enjoying looking at the fabric swatch (hanging on window since October.  See background of photo) for the kitchen curtains I hope to have made someday.

While we're in the kitchen, how about these adorable "dwink" holders?  I use juice pouches or those flavored milk cartons when we are on-the-go for t-ball, eating in the car on the way to swim lessons, or having lunch at a park or play place.  And, okay, fine, I also pass them out at lunch at home some days too.  Never fails that Sweet P will squeeze half her beverage on her outfit.  Found this nifty solution at our local toy store.  Pop in the beverage pouch and your child uses the handles instead of causing a mini explosion with injudicious squeezing.  Seems to work.

At the risk of looking obsessed with beverages, I'll also brag on my new straw holder.  We're phasing out sippy cups around here and rock a lot of cups (often lidded) with straws.  Now, don't get me wrong, it was a lot of fun keeping the straws in a plastic cup in the cupboard and having that cup topple and its contents scatter a couple of times a week.  But this glass canister that I found at Home Goods for $4.99 and filled with colorful straws from IKEA?  It's more fun.  

My kids think root beer is just about the biggest treat ever so I decided to blow their minds with root beer floats a few weeks ago.  I had one myself.  Forgot what a delightful combination root beer and vanilla ice cream is.  

Cousins always make us happy, and we had a great visit from a few cousins over Easter.  It's not often that ALL the cousins are in one spot (hopefully this summer), but whenever two or more are gathered, there is love and fun and chaos.  

Here are two of the "little girl cousins" over Easter weekend.  What I love about this photo is that at ages 3 and 2, they are posing like they are little tweens or something. 

I can't remember now when we first went through the house we are now living in.  Maybe in late April or early May of last year.  Whatever the time frame, we definitely missed the blooming of the trees.  The bloom has come and pretty much gone by now, but what a treat it was to discover that four trees in our yard were just gorgeous.

While we're in our yard, I need to share this photo of Bub.  He hauled a kiddie chair up into the swing set and settled in to relax and read his Oriental Trading catalogue.  I'd love to enjoy a spring breeze and a good book up there myself.

This next smile-maker was more of a winter favorite, but I found the photo on my phone and had to share.  The kids and I found these Duck Tales DVDs at the library, and they were really into them for a while.  Got us through a couple late winter afternoon witching hours.  I defy anyone to pop one of these in and resist singing and dancing along to the theme song.  Definitely a spring-in-your-step kind of song that lends itself to big swoopy, swingy arm movements and some popping jazz hands.  We're fans.

Grandma and Grandpa visited last weekend.  We had a nice dinner cooked on the grill, and I decided to pick up an iced cookie cake from Jewel so we could sing Happy Birthday to our little Sweet P one more time.  The picture is blurry, but I'm sharing it to remind you not to overlook the iced cookie cake from the grocery store.  It's so tasty.  Every person at the table enjoyed it.  An easy and inexpensive item to add some celebratory flair to a meal.

And for anyone tempted to be like, "Oh, MEP, do you know how much HFCS and hydrogenated oils are in the grocery store cookie cakes?" I would also like to share this photo of the beautiful vegetables that were part of our meal.  Not that my kids ate them.  

As I write this, I'm eagerly awaiting the return of spring weather and all the summer fun to come.  Life is good here, and I hope the same is true for you.

What's putting a spring in your step this spring?  Please share in the comments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Homeward Unbound -- Spring Break 2012

Spring Break 1982: My parents had kids ages 8, 6, 4, and 2. Will have to double-check, but I'm pretty sure that spring break was spent in Fairfield, OH.
Spring Break 1992: One of our many happy spring break trips to Florida with lots of other families. I believe we were in Panama City Beach that year.
Spring Break 2002: Hubby (then-fiance) and I were both in graduate school. We went to Disney World during his spring break, but I'm pretty sure I traveled to Fairfield, OH for mine.
Spring Break 2012: I pack up the kids and drive the van to Fairfield, OH.

You see the trend, right? Fairfield, OH is one of my favorite spring break destinations. Really, it is.
There is no feeling in the world like going home. As an often-harried mom of young kids, it is a wonderful treat to be in a place where I am a mother and a daughter. Where my awesome dad takes donut orders each evening before bed and makes his grandkids laugh by warning them that he'll dump buckets of water on anyone he catches snoring. Where my mom will come out of her bedroom in the six o'clock hour when I am starting my day with Sweet P and Melmo and say, "Go on back to bed, Meg. I can sleep in whenever I want to."
Where I can sit at dinner with some of my oldest and most treasured friends in the world, listening and talking for three hours and thinking, as I drive away, that I could have sat in that seat with my empty wine and water glasses for even hours longer.
Where we hang out with my sister and her girls as much as we can -- dinners, afternoon playtime, playing outside at Grammy and Pop's, a soccer game, a birthday party -- good, easy, fun times, a glimpse of the life we might share if I lived closer.
Cousin dress-up. Classic. Bub and Swiper as, um ...eighties movie tourists?
My little bride and her police officer could not be any sweeter.

Where we get to spend time with beloved Uncle Boo, heading to the backyard to test out all the new t-ball gear.
Bub: "Uncle Boo gave me a really good tip. When you are hitting, you're supposed to stare at the ball."

Where we can go around to all the angel statues (many were my Grandma P's) that live in the garden and give each an acorn hat.
Where the grub is good. Meals from my mom's kitchen as well as Skyline, Frisch's, Graeter's, Dewey's, and Flub's.
My more restrained choice at our second trip to Flub's: small vanilla cone with crunch coating. Okay, fine, it was a medium. Earlier in the week, I enjoyed my annual Cousin Weezie's Reese's Pieces Cyclone.

And speaking of food, I can't forget to mention Bub's culinary masterpiece. He wanted to create a special dessert for pizza night with his cousins. Grammy was able to make his vision a reality.
I present "Brownies José" (Bub 100% responsible for that name) -- brownies, frosting, and gummy worms. Bub's original recipe also called for whipped cream, but we were able to talk him out of that. Why mess with perfection?

We also had some fun field trips -- EnterTRAINment Junction (continuing to add more cool stuff) and the Cincinnati Zoo (zoo zoo you can come too too too). I failed to get a photo that did justice to the beauty of the tulips blooming at the zoo, but trust me, they were gorgeous.
As gorgeous as this beauty who posed for us.
Tulips in even more colors than those of Sweet P's coat. Please note Sweet P's pained expression, evidence that we have moved into a new frustrating stage where she detests being buckled into a stroller yet would prefer to stand in front of the stroller playing with its buckles than to, say, walk on her own.
Little Bit enjoyed the zoo. However, my mom and I made the mistake of taking a teachable moment to talk about extinction and endangered species. Little Bit then kept obsessively asking about why "all the animals are dying" and "why the animals kill each other" (???).
I just have to mention the new (at least to me) Night Hunters exhibit, which was super cool. There is poetry everywhere, setting the mood and describing the specific hunters. Loved it. I probably photographed six poems in there, but am showing restraint and only sharing one.

So it was good to be home in Ohio and then good to come home to Chicago. There are no places (plural) like home(s).
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For those of you wondering where the heck I've been (besides Fairfield, OH), I'm trying to jump back into blogging. It's only stuff like laundry, kitchen clean-up, and general exhaustion getting in my way. Here are some teaser topics: our awesome March trip to Florida, complete with pirates; the pantry organization I did that will make women of Pinterest everywhere weep before its beauty, NTB; the story of the ice cream sandwiches I loved and lost and my attempt to replace them; the new cleaning spray that makes my heart sing; all the cool stuff growing in my yard; cardinals everywhere; speculation about why when I parked at the library yesterday, I saw there were grown men sleeping in the cars on both sides of me; and so much more. Stay tuned. Come back. Leave a comment telling me how you spent spring break.

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