Hello, hello from Cass, West Virginia! As you read this, we're probably winding through mountain roads on our way back home from a quick Steam Engine Getaway...but more on that later! First, let's back up to last weekend and play catch-up!
It was the first week when I had all 3 boys home from school with me, and Keith also happened to be out of town on business travel. Needless to say, I was exhausted by Friday night -- but we did survive, and I did enjoy a slower schedule and less driving around in the car for school drop-offs and other activities. Summer vacation is definitely here!
Last Sunday morning we took a walk before the rain arrived,
with mandatory stops to throw rocks into the water!
I spent a little bit of time in the kitchen to prep food for the week, including a frittata with squash, asparagus, green onions, herbs, and Cheddar. I also browned the meat for Monday night's dinner and prepared the Sloppy Joe sauce.
In between dodging rain drops, the boys spent plenty of time in Star Wars Battleship wars!
That evening I put on clean clothes and headed out for the last preschool Board meeting before our summer recess, so Keith was on his own with the boys for dinner (FYI -- they headed into Charlottesville to stuff their faces with junk at the Hibachi Grill Buffet!)...
while I drank a beer with the ladies and snacked on appetizers like the almonds, grapes, cheese, and crackers that I brought along. Definitely NOT the normal Sunday evening, but it was nice for a change!
Monday started off the best way possible -- with an early morning workout with my friend Maggie! She joined me for a fast-paced sweat session with Mark, where we did plenty of jump rope, atomic push-ups (my nemesis!), and other tough exercises like this Kettlebell Clean and Press. It's amazing how much we can accomplish in about 20-30 minutes. ?
Later that morning the boys had some homemade trail mix for snack (air-popped popcorn from our Pop Corn Popper, almonds, dried cranberries, and a few dark chocolate chips),
Spencer's annoyed by the photo-taking when all he wants to do is EAT! ?
before we headed out to the school playground to burn off some of their never-ending energy.
Once they were tired, I figured that it was safe to give the library a shot. They've been asking to go to the library a lot recently, but I've avoided it for the past year or so because I was traumatized after some VERY BAD experiences there in the past. Let's just say that keeping three rambunctious boys quiet and well-behaved in a small town library has never been easy. We caused quite a scene on more than one occasion, and it often ended in tantrums, fights over toys, and running through the aisles. NOT my idea of a good time.
But, I'm happy to report that they've all grown up (at least a little bit) and we had a successful 30 minutes in the library. We weren't necessarily quiet, but everyone behaved, we checked out a bunch of books, and the older two boys signed up for the summer reading program. Mission accomplished!
Afternoon entertainment included water guns,
and baking a batch of chocolate chunk cookies (because the trays from the farmer's market never last more than a day or two around here)! I had 3 assistants in the kitchen!
When it was time to roll the dough into balls to place it on the baking sheet, I gave each child a scoop of dough to shape in their palms. Without hesitating, Spencer ate the entire chunk of dough...wanted more...and then got mad when I put the trays in the oven. I suppose he didn't understand the concept of actually baking the treats -- he thought the raw dough was perfect! ?
Snack included snap peas and grape tomatoes from the farmer's market dipped in this new hummus flavor. I picked it up on a whim at the grocery store and HOLY MOLEY it's good! Definitely my favorite flavor so far. The lemon is subtle, but it makes the dip taste so fresh and homemade.
And these new sippy cups arrived from Amazon for Spencer. I had completely forgotten about them (they used to be Casey's favorite when he was 2), but I saw them pop up when I was searching for a different John Deere product for Spence over the weekend, so of course I scooped them up. Big hit for any tractor-loving kiddos out there!
Dinner that night was about as easy as it gets: my Slow Cooker Turkey Sloppy Joes (made with chicken instead). As I mentioned, I prepped the meat and the sauce on Sunday, so I just had to dump it into the Crock Pot on Monday afternoon. Always popular around here!
I halved the recipe since I only had 1 pound of ground chicken in the freezer to use up, so I put it in my small slow cooker instead. Worked great! Normally I use the little Crock Pot for dips or side dishes, but it was perfect for a smaller meal too.
I served the sandwiches with a farmer's market salad (greens + tomatoes + snap peas + feta cheese + almonds + dried cranberries) and some Alexia fries!
Keith left town for the week on Tuesday for business travel. Before he headed out, I squeezed in another workout at the gym when Shannon and I did one of Mark's Boxing Bootcamp classes. In addition to punching stuff with pink boxing gloves, I also learned this fun(?!) new twist on Mountain Climbers: Stability Ball Mountain Climbers! Definitely a total body exercise -- with emphasis on the CORE! ?
We stayed close to home that morning so the boys entertained themselves outside for a couple of hours,
Casey's "frog fort" on our picnic table! ?
before coming in to build a giant train track (Spencer's dream come true).
We headed out to Target around lunchtime,
Can you see that my boys are eating peanut butter sandwiches in the cart while I shop? Best strategy ever to get them to sit still -- packed lunches! ?
and I treated them (and myself) to Sweet Frog for dessert next door afterwards. Summer fun!
We took an afternoon walk in the woods,
Don't even mention the fact that Spencer's wearing pajama bottoms. Some battles just aren't worth fighting!
and I returned to a great mail delivery! Apparently the folks at SKS Bottle & Packaging noticed how much I use glass bottles and jars around here, so they sent me a hand-selected sample pack to experiment with! Whether used in a salad, a Father's Day gift, or a smoothie, glass jars are staples in my home. They fill my cabinets storing baking supplies and additional ingredients like chia seeds, cocoa powder, ground flax, protein powder, bee pollen, and hemp seeds -- just to name a few!
The set that you see above includes (clockwise from top left) a clear glass mason jar, a glass woozy bottle, a clear glass marasca square bottle, a clear glass jelly jar, a clear PET plastic spice bottle, a clear glass French square bottle with a cork stopper, and a square metal tin.
This mason jar will be used constantly for shaking up (and storing) homemade salad dressing, jam, or applesauce,
and since I buy so many of my spices in bulk at Costco or Yoder's spice jars like this are great for keeping my pantry clutter-free!
If you like reusable, environmentally-friendly, practical, and affordable storage options for your kitchen, definitely check out the SKS website. You can customize your order to meet your specific needs...whether it's canning jars, spice containers, juice bottles...whatever!
Since Keith was gone that evening, we had a quick and kid-friendly dinner:
Chicken Soft Tacos (chicken, cheese, salsa) + avocado + corn + green beans
I put the boys to bed by about 7:30, spent some time on the computer, and then headed up to bed early to read my latest book...but not before snapping one last photo from a beautiful evening on our front porch!
Can you see all of the hay bales across the road? The farmers have been working like crazy over the past week or two, which makes Spence a very happy observer...
Rebekah came over on Wednesday morning to stay with the kids while I went to Charlottesville for a check-up with the dermatologist and a Costco run (SO MUCH EASIER without kids in tow)!
Re-stocked with the usual diapers, wipes, laundry detergent, bread, and produce!
I grabbed an iced coffee on my way home...perfect!
Since Maggie and I both had husbands who were traveling this week, we were not able to make it to the gym for our regular early morning workout. Fortunately, Mark is flexible (and kid-friendly!), so he agreed to meet us at the local school playground for a quick session. He brought the TRX straps to hang on the monkey bars, some kettlebells, battle ropes, and resistance bands for a new variation on deadlifts:
Our kids had fun playing together, we got some vitamin D and social time (plus a good sweat), and the weather was a gorgeous 75 degrees!
When we walked in the door shortly before 5:00 p.m., the kids were all starving and wanted dinner. They had these whole grain Fish Nuggets (which they all enjoyed), along with some pasta and broccoli.
I wasn't too hungry right after exercising, so I grabbed a salad and an open-face tuna melt with white cheddar cheese on top. Hit the spot!
After dinner I blended the almonds that I had been soaking all day to make another batch of homemade almond milk (recipe is from THIS cookbook). I sweetened it with dates and doubled the amount of cinnamon and vanilla -- such a treat.
Stored in my new jelly jar from SKS!
My mother-in-law arrived bright and early on Thursday morning so that she could watch the kids while I went to a dentist appointment. Not only does she come to babysit, but she brings along gifts! These are the tea towels that she found for me, along with an envelope containing a couple of her favorite dessert recipes (now I just have to find the time to make them and share them with you)!
But you know what really won her the Grandmother of the Year award this week? The fact that she carried this baby fawn off of our property to release it on our neighbor's farm!
As I was running out the door to my appointment, Carole and the kids noticed that our terrier, Molly, had cornered the tiny deer at the base of our front porch. Our entire property is fenced, so the poor animal couldn't escape. We still have no idea how it got inside to begin with (Mamma Deer was nowhere to be found), but at least kind-hearted (and brave!) Carole helped to remove it unharmed. She's a good sport -- she drives for 2 hours from the city to join us in the country, only to have to deal with wildlife as soon as she gets here!
On my way home from the dentist I even snuck in a very short SOLO grocery shopping trip!
We snacked on homemade fudge pops that afternoon (can't WAIT to share the recipe with you!)...
and I grilled salmon for dinner. It literally took about 5 minutes to cook the fish and it was the kids' favorite meal all week. Go figure.
Served with Costco's Asian Sesame Cashew salad mix and quinoa that I made in the rice cooker. The boys also had some French bread and polished off an entire jar of homemade applesauce that we canned last fall. All of the fresh air makes these kids HUNGRY.
On Friday morning the boys and I whipped up another batch of cookies -- this time their request was Monster Cookies (because those are their favorites to buy at the Farmer's Market). And by "whipped up," I mean that we made a total mess of the kitchen, bickered about who got to do which job, and then ate too much cookie dough before lunch! But, hey...it was entertainment for a quiet morning, and the cookies turned out well. So we'll call it a success!
After almost a full week off from school, everyone was ready to see their friends! Hope and Mollie brought their children over and we spent the afternoon indoors, outdoors, and managing the 6 kids.
When Mollie suggested that we do a workout together in the yard while the kids played, I thought it was a great idea! Here's what we did:
- Run 1 lap around the property
- Set 1 (repeat 3 times): 10 Push-Ups; 20 Squats; 30 Jumping Jacks; 30 second Plank
- Run 1 more lap around the property
- Set 2 (repeat 3 times): 10 Tricep Dips on the bench (shown below!); 20 Alternating Lunges (10 per leg); 20 Skater Jumps; 10 Reverse Crunches
- Run 1 final lap around the property
After everyone left, I threw together some quick chicken quesadillas and veggies for dinner before putting the kids to bed EARLY! Keith was home from a red-eye flight from the West Coast, the kids had been up since 5:20 a.m.(!!!), and I was worn out from a week on my own. ?
But we were up bright and early again on Saturday morning to head off on a family adventure -- completely planned and organized by Keith!
We drove 3 hours west over the mountains to get to Cass, West Virginia for a ride on an old-fashioned steam engine that was once used for mountain logging. The boys were in COMPLETE HEAVEN!
We had lunch in the restaurant at the station,
played on a nearby playground,
enjoyed some homemade ice cream,
climbed on some old trains,
and eventually got on our own train for a ride up the mountain.
It was about a 45 minute trip up the mountain to an old logging station, where we got off for about 30 minutes and had some snacks and wandered around to see the restored workers' quarters and mess hall.
The views from the scenic railway weren't too shabby either!
We had dinner at Foxfire Grille at the nearby Snowshoe ski resort,
Spencer danced to 80's hairband music all throughout dinner. He entertained the entire restaurant!?
before returning to our rental house in Cass for the evening.
This was the perfect short trip for our family of train-loving boys -- and they're already asking to come back soon!
This morning we're headed back home and will likely spend the rest of the afternoon doing loads of laundry and getting ready for the week ahead. Have a good one!