Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Catching up....

Oh my!  It has really been 4 months since I last wrote!  I can't believe how quickly time flies!  Things here have been super busy, but I got the urge to get on here and catch up...with Christmas coming and all the baking I've been doing, I know I have lots of fun recipe's to share with you all, plus some fun crafts and activities for the kiddos!

So let's see...where to start??

Baby Henry is due in 7 weeks!!  I can't believe how quickly this pregnancy has flown by!  My two little ones keep me so busy I haven't had much of a chance to think about it!  But I've been working like crazy getting the boys shared room put together, cleaning out the closet and the changing table, and trying to get organized and prepared for the arrival of Parks baby number 3!  I know it'll seem like he's here before we know it with the business of the holidays and him being due in mid-January!  I just can't wait to meet my little guy!!

Here I am at 7 months pregnant!

Halloween was an absolute BLAST this year, we took the kid's out for trick or treating and they both loved it!  I wasn't sure how interested Charlie would be at 18 months, but once he figured out that he was getting candy in his pumpkin bucket, he was pretty thrilled with it!  He would run up to the houses and say "TREAT!" Of course everyone thought he was adorable :) Lily did really great with trick or treating as well!  She usually lets her nerves get the best of her, but she was really into it this year! I was so proud of her, letting loose and not being so afraid.  She was great about her "thank you's" which made me really happy too :)  It was definitely a fun night and great memories made for all of us!

Lily as "Crumb SugarCookie" a Lalaloopsy doll

Charlie as "Jake" from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

In more big news here at the Parks household, Miss Lily just turned 4 over the past weekend!  I cannot believe that I have a four year old!  We celebrated her birthday a few different ways. Saturday my husband and I gave her gifts from us and Charlie and then we took the kids to "build a bear" as Lily was begging for their new Gingerbread Hello Kitty stuffed animal.  We also visited Santa while we were there, though Lily decided she wasn't interested in the Big Guy. *sigh* maybe next year ;)   

Saturday night my parents came to visit the Birthday Girl and we spent some fun family time together, opened gifts, had dinner and of course playing with new toys!  Sunday we had our first big birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese (Usually my Mom has the parties at her house). It worked out really well and the kids seemed to have a blast!  Lily wasn't too keen on all of the attention, but loved playing all of the games and spending time with her family (especially her little cousins who came to play with her!).  It was a fun and busy weekend, added in with Thanksgiving festivities....I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend at home this weekend, but I'm so glad she had so much fun!  What is it about planning birthdays that make you feel more like a Mom than ever? Is that just me? :) 

Miss Lily's birthday collage - the middle picture is this year's preschool photo!
 *sniff* she's grow up too fast!
SO that's the gist of what's been going on here with us!  I'm almost finished up with this semester at school before taking some time off for baby Henry to come and for us to adjust to being a family of Five! I'm hoping  to have more time to come here and write....now both my kids are screaming, so I'm off to calm the craziness ;) Hope you all have a beautiful day!!

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Christmas in July 2012 - Red Velvet Mini-Cupcakes!

A few years back, my family and I started Celebrating Christmas in July.  Christmas has always been my MOST favorite time of year! The reds and greens, sparkles and glitter, the coziness of it, the decorations, the music, wrapping gifts and drinking hot chocolate, the holiday movies, and of course the story of Christmas. I just LOVE the holiday season....and because we enjoy it so much - we celebrate it in the summer as well! :)

This year, it was a two day celebration for us :) One day for baking, and one day for Crafting.  Amy Grant and Kenny G's Christmas albums were playing on repeat in my Kitchen, it was rainy outside, but festive in my home! Lily was old enough this year to get the idea, and she had so much fun with it as well!  (Although she's STILL upset that I wouldn't put up the Christmas tree ;)

So for Part one of our Christmas in July I decided to bake Red Velvet mini-cupcakes.  Lily has always loved baking with me and Charlie's starting to take an interest as well (he knows that yummy things come out of baking with Mommy!).  Lily's old enough to do most of it herself, she loves to pour the ingredients in the bowl and do all the stirring.  We're still working on the egg cracking, but she does a great job for a three year old! :)

I've had this recipe for lots of years, I'm not sure where it came from originally, but I used to make this with an old friend of our family's when I was younger (Although we made it as a layer cake). It always comes out moist and delicious! Enjoy!!

Christmas in July Red Velvet Mini-Cupcakes

1/2 cup cocoa
2 oz. red food coloring
2 1/4 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs.
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 350* and prepare cupcake tin with liners. 
  • In a small bowl, combine cocoa and food coloring, set aside.
  • In another small bowl, combine flour and salt. 
  • In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electrix mixer for 30 seconds. add sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined. 
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing well, then mix in the cocoa mixture (this is where it gets pretty!!) 
  • Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating on low  until just combined. 
  • In a small bowl, combine vinegar and baking soda (it'll bubble!!) Add to batter until well combined. 
  • Spoon into mini-cupcake tins, about 2/3 full. 
  • Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire cookie sheet before frosting - makes about 75 mini cupcakes!
Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
5 1/2-6 1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. gradually beat in one cup of powdered sugar at a time until it reaches a consistency you like.  Frost cupcakes and enjoy!!!

Here's my little sweet-pea helping bake!

The rest of our "Christmas in July" Tuesday was spent snuggling and watching Christmas movies.  Most of my favorite movies are Holiday ones - Christmas with the Kranks, Deck the Halls, Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause, The Family Stone, any of the Christmas Carol's....ah I could go on and on!  It was such a great day!!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Easy Baked Chicken Tenderloins and Christmas in July

It's a beautiful sunshiney morning here in Ohio...I love sitting here at my desk and looking out the window to see the bunnies (we have TONS of them in our neighborhood), birds, squirrels and even a couple kitties, enjoying the sun. My little ones are eating breakfast and watching cartoons, so I thought it was a good time to sneak away and write a quick post :)

Yesterday was one of those wonderful rainy days when you just stay home and relax!  We've been celebrating "Christmas in July" here at our home so the kids spent the day watching Christmas movies and we baked some YUMMY Red Velvet Cupcakes (recipe will be coming to you soon!). I had Christmas music playing in the kitchen and our little electric fireplace going all day!  It was such a nice, lazy day.  Lily's really getting into the Christmas in July fun...although she doesn't understand WHY we're not getting out the Christmas tree ;)

Today my Mom and Sister are coming over to celebrate with us - Mom made Chili, we're making Cinnamon-Applesauce ornaments (another recipe to come for you soon!), listening to christmas music, watching movies, and lots more fun.  A few years ago we got into celebrating "Christmas in July" and now it's becoming a bit of a tradition!  Christmas is always my most favorite time of year and it's fun to celebrate it in the summer too!  So that's our plan for the day (We'll pretend it's NOT 94 degrees outside today! ;) and enjoy spending the day together with my family.

Because it was a cozy kind of day yesterday I was in the mood to cook up some "comfort food".  Mashed Potatoes, Corn and my FAVORITE "Easy Baked Chicken" was on the menu! You know it's a good recipe when the pickiest of kids (My daughter!) likes it as well!  By the way, this is a REALLY flexible recipe as far as how much chicken you make and how much seasoning you use.  This is just how I do it, change it up and make it your own if you'd like :) Hope you enjoy!!

Easy Baked Chicken Tenderloins

8-10 Chicken Tenderloins
1 c. Italian dressing
4 c. Corn Flakes cereal
2 tbs. Italian Seasonings
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tbs. butter, melted

Marinate Chicken in Italian dressing for 2-3 hours. In a large ziplock bag, combine cornflakes, italian seasonings and garlic powder.  *this is the fun part!* give the bag to your kids and let them crush the cornflakes.  You can use a rolling pin or your hands and crush until you find a consistency you like.  Pour into a bowl.  Coat chicken in cornflake crumbs, it will stick well because of the italian dressings!  Place in a greased 9x13 pan.  If you like a heavier coating, you can sprinkle the remaining corn flake coating over the top.  Pour melted butter over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 30  minutes or until juices run clear. Enjoy!!

(excuse the date on my pictures, I just got a new camera and I haven't figured out out to remove the date yet!) ;) 

I'm off to go get ready for the day, but you can expect a couple of Christmas in July posts soon!  Hope you all have a wonderful day!!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer LOVE!

As a girl who loves fall and winter, summer is not usually my most favorite time of year.  This year though, I'm learning to enjoy it again - like I did when I was little!  I think what has changed my mind so much is seeing the joy in my children's faces when they play in the sunshine...running through the sprinkler, digging in the sandbox, outside dinners and picnic lunches, it's so much FUN for them. You can see how much they love the freedom of it...no coats, hats or mittens, running free and being wild - who wouldn't love that!

Unfortunately, due to the extreme heat we've had this year, we haven't gotten to enjoy being outside as much as I would like do...it's just been too much for the kids (and their pregnant Mommy!) but we have had a few fun days, and the first thing my little ones want to do is play in the pool! I thought I'd share a few pictures with you from one of our summer play days outside :) 

Charlie prefers to sit on the slide rather than go down it ;)

keeping cool!

my handsome boy!!

taking a juice break :)

....and a Popsicle break :) 

Even Daddy got in on the action!

It's so easy for us to complain about the seasons, winter is too cold, summer's too hot...it's easy to get wrapped up in the inconvenience of it all - I know I do!  But watching my children play makes me realize that we need to enjoy the seasons as our do - soak up every moment because time flies by so quickly!

If it's too hot outside, fix a nice glass of lemonade and go run through the sprinkers with your kids!  Maybe snow isn't fun to drive in - but it IS fun to build a snowman, then share some hot chocolate and cookies together with your family.  I always find myself wishing for the next season, wanting cold when it's hot or hot when it's cold, but slowly...slowly I'm learning to step back, and take life one day at a time.  Enjoy the summer when it's hot because you'll be dreaming of it in the cold of the winter.  Things could be so much worse for us all.  But a lot of us have homes, air conditioning, and people to enjoy it all with...there are so many out there who do not!

We had a big power outage here earlier this month and over the Fourth of July holiday.  We were SO lucky to have been able to keep ours (we'd lost power twice before in our home, once for 9 days and once for 6 days!) but there were people suffering through the hottest temperatures of the year with no power, no air conditioning, and no groceries.  Things can ALWAYS be worse. 

So go play outside with your little ones today, or read a book in the sunshine, or if you're lucky enough to get some, go dance in the rain!  Enjoy every minute of your day today!  That's my goal as well!!  Have a great one!!

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Friday, June 29, 2012

A project worth every penny....

I've been meaning to blog about this fun project for some time now, but it always gets pushed to the bottom of my list as other things go on in life....But now seems like a great time (especially with this HEAT WAVE we have going on here in Ohio!! WHEW!)  About a year ago I came across an awesome blog with lots of great stories, crafts, and more!  One of the projects that stood out to me immediately was her "A Frame Tent" tutorial.  Find it here!   As soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it for Lily! And let me tell you, it has been one of the greatest projects that we've ever done - she LOVES it!

You know there's something really fun about tents...it doesn't matter how old you are - you want to play in a tent!  We have a "beach tent" that we set up in the backyard often and it entertains the kids for hours (and I like to hang out in there and read a book while the kids are playing!)  This is our INSIDE version of that, great for fun in the winter time when it's too cold to go outside, or for days like today, when it's 100 degrees and too hot to play outside!!

It's a really simple project and yes, you have to have a drill and a sewing machine, but it really doesn't take a whole lot of skill to complete.  My hubby drilled the holes for me and I did the sewing. We finished it in about an hour for about $50, maybe $60 dollars.  But if you find a fabric you like on clearance, you can make one for a LOT cheaper!

I did make one small adjustment to the frame.  We drilled another hole on the bottom of each piece of molding, about 3 inches up, and then slid a dowel rod between them, one on each side, to help sturdy the bottom a bit more.  So you'd need three dowels instead of one to do it this way :)

So if you're looking for something fun to do, head on over and grab the tutorial and the supplies you need and your kids will have a blast with it all year long!!!

I'm off to get the babes ready for naps and work on some homework!!  I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Afternoon tea and A little unexpected Surprise....

Oh my!  Has it really been nearly 6 weeks since I've last written?  I can't believe how quickly time flies!  I've been so busy here lately, I started taking online classes (which are keeping me MUCH busier than I expected!) and I've been keeping the kids occupied with summer fun.  We've already made a couple of trips to the zoo, some days by the pool, played in the sprinklers, the water tables and lots and lots of playtime outside!  I'm trying hard to enjoy summer this year, even though you're talking to a girl who loves the COLD.  It's easier to enjoy it when you have little ones to have fun with!

I feel like I should tell you to grab a cup of tea before you read this, because I'm trying to play catch up ;)  So if you want to fix yourself something cold to drink and settle in, I'll be here when you get back! :)




All set???

Well, where to begin?  Last month my little Charlie turned one....ONE!?!  I can't understand where the time has gone!  I feel like I just brought him home from the hospital, all snuggly and cute in his little froggy sleeper....

But those days are long gone and now he's my ornery little boy who makes me giggle all day long with his antics...and he's ONE!  

Of course, we had to make a big to-do of his first birthday and we had most of our extended family over to my Mom's house for a super-fun JOHN DEERE themed birthday party!  Of course, i didn't get many pictures of the cute decor, but I'll see if I can steal some pictures from my Mom :)  We had a really great time and Charlie's favorite part, I think, was his own personal "smash cake" which he devoured OUTSIDE before hosing off in the water ball with his sister and his cousin!  It was a great time and I still say thank you to everyone who came and made it the great party that it was!

Lily and her cousin Shelby

Lily, Shelby and Grandpa!

digging into his cake!

he'd had enough at this point :)

Birthday cake!  Photo by Kelly Buehrle
check out her blog for some fabulous photography!

In other wonderful news, My husbands brother and his wife welcomed their first baby boy into the world on June 22nd! We were lucky enough to take a trip up to see them and we all go the chance to snuggle with the sweet little boy! So tons of congrats to Adam and Mickey!  We couldn't be happier for you!!

Lily, Matt and Finn <3

So I know you're all dying to hear my little Surprise.......;) 

Our little family is growing fast!  Matt and I are expecting our THIRD child!!  We are thrilled!

This little baby was quite an unexpected but wonderful surprise!  I took a pregnancy test the day before Charlie's birthday and was overjoyed with positive result!  Now with both of my children, and my angel-baby as well, I had to take medication to be able to get pregnant.  Because we didn't think were were QUITE ready for another little Parks, I had not been taking my medication.  But the universe works in miraculous ways and it must have thought we were ready to continue growing our family!  The baby is due in January - and I can't wait to meet our sweet little one :)  
Luckily, this has been an easy pregnancy for me and I'm feeling great!  Can't wait to find out if we're expecting a boy or a girl - but not until September!  

Here's wishing you all a wonderful week and weekend!  We're expecting record highs today of 102! So if you're experiencing the heat like we are I hope you can stay cool!!  

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quick and Gooey Breakfast Roll Ups

Oh where to even begin!!  It's been a week since I've written and it has been a busy one!!  Mother's Day weekend is always busy for us as we like to make time to visit with all of our families!  Mother's Day has quickly become one of my most favorite holidays....and maybe that's silly. Growing up, we usually celebrated Mother's Day for my Mom with breakfast in bed, homemade cards, flowers, gifts and the usual stuff Mom's love.  It was never that big of a deal for us, but I could tell that my Mom always loved it.  Now that I have a family of my own, I realize how special it is.  To take a second and realize how much my life has changed since I've had my little ones, to get to celebrate the family that my husband and I have created, the life that we live, it really is a special day.  (And you KNOW we so enjoy getting pampered after all the hard work we do all year!)  Let's face it, being a Mom is TOUGH and it's nice to have a whole day devoted to us! :)  So I thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast that I woke up to Sunday Morning, fixed by my wonderful husband, the cards (especially the one that Lily decorated herself!)  and I wasn't complaining about the brand new Vera Bradley purse and wallet either! I was quite spoiled this year, but none of the gifts compared the the time that I enjoyed spending with my a family.  <3  It was truly a wonderful Day and I have MUCH to be thankful for!

That same weekend, we were lucky enough to get to have some family photos taken.  Charlie's first birthday is in a week (Oh my goodness!!!) and I wanted to have some pictures taken.  Matt's cousin, Kelly, has been taking photography classes and has a wonderful blog (check it out HERE!! It's fantastic!!) and she was kind enough to take time out of her Saturday to come take some pictures for us! She did an absolutely fabulous job with the pictures and we are just THRILLED with them!!  Here's a few of my favorites :)

My husbands birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I've been meaning to share the recipe for the birthday breakfast I made for him.  Have you ever noticed how there is a FINE LINE between breakfast and dessert?   Think about the cinnamon rolls, french toast, monkey bread, turnovers...they are all almost nearly dessert.  This recipe is one of those...You could really add a scoop of ice cream to the side and it would make a great dessert!!  My Mom made these a few years ago for a family get together and my husband went crazy over them.  The only difference between mine and hers is that I coated mine in cinnamon and sugar.  She makes a glaze out of milk, vanilla and confectioners sugar.  You can top them that way and add a few walnut pieces if you'd like!  There are a lot of great ways to make this, but try them out and I know you'll love them!!!

Quick and Gooey Breakfast Roll Ups

2 (8ct.) packages crescent rolls
16 large marshmallows
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (or to taste!)
1 stick butter, melted

Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.  Roll one marshmallow in melted butter and then in cinnamon-sugar.  Place marshmallow at the large end of a crescent roll and roll up.   Tuck in ends and pinch seams closed.  Dip crescent roll in butter and then in cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining marshmallows and crescent rolls.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes and Enjoy!!!!

find this recipe and lots others at the gooseberry patch recipe roundup!

Time for me to hop off this computer and get the kiddos ready for bed.  (It feels so strange to be writing so late!) I hope you all had a fantastic Mother's Day weekend!!  

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