Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Daddy and his Beauty Queen

Labor Day weekend in our town means our little homecoming festival. Sassy always enters the pageants. 374 always drives a truck through the parade. Here's our first runner up with her Daddy before the parade. She was also in the parade on a pageant float.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup

"What do you want for dinner?"

"I don't know, what do you feel like?"

"I don't know, I'm just hungry and I want to eat."

"Well I don't know either, just make whatever you want."

Common discussion in our house that usually ends with both 374 and I annoyed. I dread the "dinner debate", so I've been trying to come up with new dinners that are both easy (both kids have started back into their school year routine of Boy Scout and Girl Scout meetings - on the same night) and everyone will enjoy.

We have some pretty different tastes in this house - from not being able to handle too much spice, to being picky about vegetables, and one of us doesn't really like much meat. It's hard to please everyone with one dinner, but that's my main goal.

Tonight we are trying a new recipe for the first time. I'm hoping it goes well. It's a taco based dinner, which is always a hit here. I'll post the recipe here, and then come back tonight and update -- hopefully with it being a success!

Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup

*2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
*1 can of corn, drained
*2 cups chicken broth
*1 can cream of chicken soup
*3-4 (depending on size, I used 4) boneless chicken breasts (I used frozen ones)
*1 small onion, diced (because of my picky eaters, I opted for eyeballing some dried onion flake, but would have preferred an onion)
*1 packet taco seasoning (i prefer the lower sodium one)
*1 can diced tomatoes (with or without green chilies -- again to oblige picky eaters i opted for without)
*shredded cheddar or taco blend cheese
*sour cream
*crumbled tortilla chips

In your crockpot layer the onion if you used onion, then the chicken breasts on top of that. If not, I laid my chicken breasts down first, then sprinkled the dried onion on top. Add corn and beans on top of chicken. In a separate bowl mix together the chicken broth, soup, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning. Pour over the top of your beans, chicken and corn in the crockpot. I plan on cooking this on low for 6-8 hours (my chicken breasts are frozen). You could do high for 4 hours, but I'd only do that if you are using thawed chicken. about an hour before serving I plan on pulling the chicken out and shredding it, and adding it back in.

I will serve this topped with the shredded cheddar cheese, a scoop of sour cream and some crumbled tortilla chips.

I will be back with an update later this evening!

This soup was a huge success! Seven and a half hours cooked on low was perfect for this dish! Everyone had seconds. The only thing I was worried about was the diced tomatoes. I knew it would set radars off with Sassy and Bubby -- but much to my surprise they are them up without a word! This will definitely be added to our regular meal plan. I am loving being able to add soups to our options for the upcoming cold months!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review: Blauer 6'' Clash Tactical Boot

About a month ago I was contacted by Blauer to gauge 374's interest on a review for a new line of tactical boots they were rolling out. For anyone not familiar, Blauer is a company that has been offering uniform garments for law enforcement, fire and EMS professionals since 1936. We were more than willing to partner with them for this review, their products are high quality and well known. We appreciate their offer, and are happy to have the opportunity to provide this review for them and our readers!

We chose to review the 6" Clash Waterproof Boot in black. The boot is constructed of a full grain polishable leather, suede and nylon outer. After a month of wear on countless fire and EMS runs, as well as 374 wearing them a few times to his full time day job constructing ambulances, these boots held up nicely and still look brand new. Any dirt or wear is easily polished off and their new out of the box shine and appearance is restored. The nylon allowed for his foot to breath nicely in our humid summer climate.

The sole of this boot offers a non-slip rubber and hybrid traction tread that offers superb stability and grip on just about any surface. 374 ran them through their paces with gravel, dirt, muddy ditches, and car fluids leaked on pavement at accident scenes - just to name a few scenarios these boots found themselves in. 374 reports they are very light weight and easy to maneuver in. Most notably he appreciated this when lifting patients on EMS calls when your concentration needs to not be on your feet, but on the task at hand.

The Clash boots hugged his feet providing confidence in every step he took. This was provided by the heel patch on the back of the boot as well as the polyurethane foam insoles and heel cup. The one comment I heard over and over was he felt like there was never a "break-in" period - from the get go these boots felt like they were molded to his feet to provide the utmost comfort. One of first few days after receiving the boots, he wore them to his full time day job to really test their comfort. He runs around a plant on concrete floors assembling ambulances - crawling in, out and under them for hours on end. When he came home at the end of a nine hour day he enthusiastically reported the Clash boots were far more comfortable than his regular athletic shoe he typically wears.

One of the main features of this boot is the Boa™ lacing system. The Boa™ lacing system features steel laces, nylon guides and a mechanical wheel that allows for a glove like fit. 374 found it easy and quick to slide his foot into the boot, and turn the wheel to tighten the boots to his desired fit. In a volunteer firefighter profession, seconds are crucial in their response time to the station. He found himself getting out the door quicker with these boots. Removal is just as easy - pop the wheel out and the laces let go and loosen. No knots to untie, no laces to pull out.

Another feature to note is the waterproof membrane that allows your foot to stay dry in the elements. While 374 did find himself out in some rain, it was no where near enough to really test this feature. We are very interested in seeing how these boots hold up this winter in our snowy area. Given the quality of all the other features offered by Blauer on this boot, we are sure his feet will stay dry and we won't be disappointed.

After experiencing the ease of use and comfort of the Clash boots, 374 has retired his previous tactical work boots he previously wore. He is very happy with their performance and quality. At a price point of $144.99 you really get a lot of bang for your buck. He would gladly buy these boots for himself. As much as he'd like to have some constructive criticism for these boots he finds himself at a loss for anything negative about them. Blauer has produced a great qaultiy boot with some top notch features. If you or your firefighter are in the market for a new pair of boots, we highly recommend checking these out!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bubby's Duck Dynasty Birthday

Over the winter, Bubby decided he wanted a Duck Dynasty party for his birthday this spring. With all the Duck Dynasty merchandise you can find in stores, I thought it might be a bit easier to come by supplies for this party. I didn't have much luck in our local stores, and everything I could find online was more than I cared to spend.

Again, I hit Pinterest. Seriously, how did I function before Pinterest?!? Bubby sat with me at the computer a few times, and we compiled all our favorite finds. I think this party was one of my favorite ones we've done.

For his paper items, I found camouflage themed stuff at Walmart. We used the cake sized plates, table cloths and birthday banner. I like to use regular paper plates for the food at our parties because it's so hard to fit much on plates from the party isle. I found a poster of Uncle Si on eBay that read "Hey Hey it's party time Jack!" which I ordered and we used for his banner over the present table. A "Duck Commander Buck Commander" sign even hung on the outside door, just like at their office.

Speaking of food, this was one of my favorite parts of this party. We did themed food this time -- using meals or foods that have been featured on the show. On the menu was Miss Kay's Mac n Cheese, Miss Kay's Baked Beans, Miss Kay's Boudin Sausage Bites (Little Smokies in the crockpot with BBQ sauce and grape jelly), Ham Sammiches, Chips and Yuppie Dip, Uncle Si's Sweet Tea, Phil's Lemonade and More Pretty Yuppie Food -- the cake!

Like always I made the cake. The inside was camouflage (brown, tan and greens all mixed in together). I decided to make my own buttercream icing this time. It was amazing. I won't admit to how much I ate from the bowl as I was assembling the cake. I also tried my hand at the Duck Commander logo, which I think turned out pretty good for my first time with anything like that.

Other additions to the party was a Willie pinata from the lady who did the Llama Llama pinata. Like Sassy, Bubby requested Willie not be used as a pinata, so he stood guard over the party as decor. I ordered iron ons for the girls' custom shirts which read "I ain't no yuppie girl Jack!" and they had custom Duck Dynasty hair bows as well. Bubby wore a Duck Dynasty shirt as well as his hat.

The favors consisted of Duck Dynasty cups, with beards I made from card stock and popsicle sticks, homemade duck calls from camo duck tape and whistles, ducks and bucks tattoos and of course some candy. These were a big hit!

Sassy's Llama Llama Red Pajama Birthday

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you've probably come to realize my kids ask for themed birthday parties every year. Usually the theme isn't something that I can go out to the store and pick up supplies for. This post, and the next post, will attest to just that. I know it's been quite a few months since Sassy birthday, but I still want to share her theme as well. I spend hours scouring Pinterest to help with ideas for their party, so afterwards I like to pin some of my favorite things from the day in hopes of helping someone else out.

For Sassy's sixth birthday she requested a Llama Llama Red Pajama birthday. She LOVES Llama. She has all the Llama books and a stuffed Llama from the Kohls Cares line. I knew at some point this theme would present itself, she loves her Llama so much.

From the start of planning, Sassy and I decided it would be fun to find her a pair of red pajamas to wear to her party, in true Llama fashion. Then, Bubby decided he wanted to wear pajamas too. We decided it would be fun to inform guests on their invitations that if they wanted to attend in their pajamas they were welcome. I think just about every kid did show up in their pajamas!

In the planning process I came across a local lady who makes pinatas. I decided to message her about a llama pinata. I figured it'd be a long shot - after all a llama isn't something simple. I sent her a picture of Llama Llama in his red pajamas and she said she would see what she could do. A week later she sends me a picture of a completed Llama, in red pajamas, complete with his own "Fuzzy Llama" -- Llama's own llama stuffed animal from the stories. When I met her to pick up the pinata, I was amazed. He was nearly as tall as Sassy, and looked just like Llama! I was so excited to have him, he really would be the only Llama decoration we had. When I brought him in the house, Sassy declared we could not use him as a pinata, she just didn't want to destroy him. Instead we used him as a decoration. I also cut Llama tail shapes out of brown card stock and he doubled as our game -- Pin the Tail on Llama. The kids had a blast trying to get their tails closest to his bum.

Because decor was hard to come by, we decided to go with a blue and red theme from the cover of the Llama Llama Red Pajama book. At the time of the party, Sassy had all of the books in the Llama series by Ann Dewdney so we used them as the centerpieces for the tables. Some of her guests were older family members who wouldn't be familiar with the theme or who Llama was, so we decided they might enjoy leafing through the pages of the stories to meet Sassy's favorite character.

Overall the party was a hit. The kids enjoyed the game and the decor. I made red velvet cake and cupcakes. It was just what Sassy wanted. I enjoy putting time into my kids' parties. I want them to look back and remember these special days and know that I loved putting smiles on their faces. Here's a few more from her party. I can't believe it's almost time to start planning her SEVENTH birthday!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Keep Up...

Also on Instagram! LifeBetweenTheTones!

I Never Win Anything...

But last week I won a sticker pack from Fireman Up on Facebook. I chose the Couples Pack. I have been eyeing these for a while now. 374 likes to collect fire related stickers on his toolbox at work. Not only does he work for an ambulance company, but a lot of his co-workers are volunteer firefighters and EMS members.

Obviously his half of the sticker pack went to work with him today. He even swiped the cartoon that came with the stickers! Mine will eventually go on my car -- if I ever have time to wash it.

When we were at FDIC in April, my friend Heather and I stopped and chatted with the Fireman Up booth. I really enjoy Darrell's cartoons - my favorite being the Twerking one. If you've ever spent any time on a fire or training scene, you fully understand the little dance they do to quiet their PASS Device.

Fireman Up is not all about being the biggest, the best or the most popular. They are about quality products. Much like the attitude of a firefighter. Fireman Up offers a number of apparel items, hats, as well as their stickers. You can also purchase prints from Darrell as well. Check out all their amazing products on their Fireman Up website.

374 snapped a couple pictures of his toolbox at work this morning. He loves his stickers! I think they look great on his box. Thanks to Darrell and Candy for the chance to win!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Nutty Friend

We have a grey squirrel who hangs out around our house all year long. He's usually in our back yard in the big shade tree, or eating acorns on our back deck. This was one of the first times we found him hanging out in the front yard -- and we quickly figured out why. He has a whole stash of acorns buried in my empty flower bed on the end of the house. I *ALMOST* planted some flowers in that bed, now I'm glad I didn't. I caught some cute pictures of him munching away... he stuck around for quite a while.

The Dress Hunt Begins...

Every Labor Day is our little town's Homecoming celebration. It's a little "festival" of sorts that the entire community pulls together to put on. There's food stands open all weekend, small rides and games for the kids, various games like Price is Right, a scavenger hunt, and a photo contest just to name a few.

One of the biggest events is the pageant. The pageant is broke down into categories for Little King and Queen for Kindergarten, First Graders and Second Graders. There are girls only categories for older girls. It's just the girls in nice dresses with their hair done. Nothing over the top like spray tans, fake nails, etc. Just about every kid that has ever lived in our town has done the pageant one year or another. I can remember seeing pictures of my mom and other family members on stage all fancied up.

Last year was Sassy's first year in the pageant. She was so excited to pick out a dress, and find a boy to escort her. It was an obvious choice, her best friend M was excited to join her. They were absolutely adorable together. I found the PERFECT dress for her. It wasn't huge and poofy and over the top like some kids wear. The pageant is always done under a tent and Labor Day is always hot and humid. I had visions of her melting into a puddle in a dress that was drowning on her. We got so many compliments on her dress, it was exactly a "Sassy" dress.

Now that it's summer, I've started the dress hunt for this year. M is accompanying her again this year. My fear is we loved last year's dress so much we won't find another. What a problem to have, right? #firstworldproblems I've been looking with the same company we bought her dress from last year. I found one that is just similar enough that I really like it, but it's also different enough that it won't seem like she's wearing the same dress just in a different color.

Here are a couple pics of her from last year. Sassy and M took first runner up, and of course she had to take a picture at the station in her sash. #firekidproblems -- right???

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: Pixie Pies Baby Boutique

When I tell most people in my area that I cloth diaper, I am usually met with shocked faces and comments such as "You WHAT?" or "You wash those yourself?" When you say the words "cloth diaper" to most people, they think of prefolds, diaper pins and those noisy plastic covers that generations past used.

I used cloth diapers on Bubby and Sassy, but not until they were a year old. We had some pretty cute prints for them, but most of their diapers were solid color. We had enough to get through the day, maybe a day and a half with them. My purpose was really to save money, as we had two in diapers for a short period of time, and I hated seeing that money fly out of our bank account.

Sister Bear's diapers, well that's a whole other ball game. So many things have changed since I last used cloth diapers, there's a whole realm of work at home moms who have their own diaper making businesses. These diapers are beyond cute, very functional and high quality. Addicting, did I mention addicting? Sister Bear's diaper stash is borderline embarrassing. I didn't know how many we had already until I had them all washed at one time and laid out in front of me. 374 just shook his head and said I needed help.

We do have some diapers from bigger companies, but I much prefer work at home mom made diapers. They take so much care and pride in their product. They aim to please their customers, and each diaper is made specifically for you. My favorite diaper maker is Pixie Pies Baby Boutique. I came across her Facebook page through word of mouth from other cloth diapering moms. I was not at all disappointed when I ordered my first diaper from Janna. Her products are well sewn, and can be customized with almost any fabric choice of your liking.

Our Pixie Pies stash currently consists of two Hybrid Fitteds, an AI2 and a OS Pocket. For those of you who aren't familiar, a Hybrid Fitted is a diaper that usually has a woven or knit outer fabric. It has a lay in liner for absorption. If you are using this diaper for an extended period of time a cover is needed because there is no waterproof material in this diaper. Since Sister Bear is still little, we can get away with a Hybrid without a cover. An AI2 (this stands for All in Two) is made just as a fitted, except there is a waterproof layer added to the diaper. In diaper production, PUL is used for this. Both the Hybrid and the AI2 from Pixie Pies fits a range of sizes. It is not a OS with a adjustable rise snaps, but Janna does include fold down rise snaps. With these, you fold the top of the diaper down to expose another layer of snaps that allows for a shorter rise. A OS Pocket is a one sized diaper with adjustable rise snaps to accommodate a wide range of sizes. Pockets get there name because of the opening in the back of the diaper. You stuff a pocket with the material of your choice for absorption. Pockets also have a layer of PUL, requiring no cover. I love all three of these diapers for different reasons. A pocket can be stuffed with any material of your choice. You can add a little more to the pocket for over night or long naps. AI2 are helpful if you do use prefolds. An AI2 can be used for a cover as well as a diaper on it's own. Hybrid Fitteds are made of breathable material - because there's no hidden waterproof layer, air can get through the fabric to your baby's bum. I like to use these on warm days.

We have used all three types of diapers on Sister Bear. She is nearing three months old. A little over a month ago she was just an ounce off ten pounds, and was over 22 inches. As with most OS diapers, they are a bit bulky on her because she is still smaller, but they do fit and do the job. When we have used the fitteds on her, we have not experienced her soaking completely through the diaper. She can go 2-3 hours in one without much dampness at all to the touch on the outside of the diaper. Pixie Pies fitted really are absorbent and go the mile. Her AI2 and Pocket hold up nicely as well. We don't experience any leakage from the leg holes. We get a good fit with the adjustable snaps and they fit her legs well, even as a smaller infant.

One of the awesome features Janna offers with her diapers is embroidery. Her mother takes care of this part of the business, and Shelly does a wonderful job! We JUST received our first embroidered Pixie Pies last week and we get asked all the time where we got it. I wanted to surprise 374 with a special diaper, you know, to try to woo him to the dark side. Maybe then he'd stop rolling his eyes at me every time I ooh and ahh over a new diaper design. He swears it's all out of love though. At my request, Janna and her mom crafted an amazingly soft Pocket diaper from black minky, with red embroidery. They embroidered a maltese cross, with 374's station and badge number underneath. It's absolutely gorgeous. Hands down the favorite diaper in our stash. The embroidery is top notch.

We did a little impromtu photo session with 374 and Sister Bear in her diaper the day we got it. It looks a little more bulky than it is. I had to hurry because she wasn't thrilled with being topless... so the angle isn't the greatest and is misleading. Her fire hair bow is from ~Topped with a Bow~.

Another complete custom Janna made for me is a Hybrid Fitted with a flannel outer in a firefighter themed print. Since it's nearly impossible to find any fire fabric that is girly, Janna added a removable ruffle to the back of this diaper. It adds just enough "girly" to the diaper and we love it.

So how do you get your hands on an amazingly crafted, adorable Pixie Pies diaper? Pixie Pies opens up their shop to custom spots. Janna offers them in a variety of ways. A draw to buy (DTB) where she randomly draws numbers and hands the spots out to those chosen. Sometimes it's a quick comment with your PayPal address to grab a spot. She also offers already made diapers in stockings - on Hyena Cart or on the Pixie Pies group page. Again, sometimes it's just one or two diapers offered up on the page, or a whole list of diapers offered on Hyena Cart for purchase. Pixie Pies also offers more than just diapers. Underwear, swim diapers, and burp cloths are some of the other products offered!

I'm absolutely certain there will be many, many more Pixie Pies added to our stash. My dream would be an entire stash of all Pixie Pies! Janna and her mom are very easy to work with. Communication is quick and detailed. They contact you to clarify your order if there are any questions, and lots of times post or send you progress shots if they have time. I love watching the group page when these shots are posted, even if they aren't my diaper! They are all gorgeous as can be!

I will leave you with a shot of all four of our diapers. I can't wait to add more!

Top Left: Hybrid Fitted with removable ruffle
Top Right: Embroidered Pocket
Bottom Left: AI2
Bottom Right: Hybrid Fitted

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Getting Back Into the Groove...

Oh! Hello again. I can't believe it's been nine months since I've wrote a blog post here. Wait, yes I can. Life has been filled to the brim with events, changes - both good and bad, and hectic schedules. I could go on and on about everything that's filled our calendar since I last wrote but most of it will bore you. Two really big changes happened, life changes that are near to my heart. They've taken up the most time and energy in the last nine months.

In October, my beloved Grandpa passed away. He was more like a father to me than a Grandpa. He was always there when I needed him. He was the most generous man I've ever known. He'd give you the shirt off his back even if he didn't know you. I know it sounds cliche, but it's the truth. He was an amazing man, and we miss him tremendously. He was a solid part of my children's lives. They were devastated to lose him. I've spent a lot of time and energy helping them navigate the rough road of grief, which hasn't left much time to do so myself. One of their favorite things to do is write notes on balloons and let them go at his house. We've done this a few times since October, every time it's heart warming yet heart breaking to watch. I'm glad that they have a way to still feel connected to him, it really helps them manage their pain.

Even through all the grief and sorrow surrounding Grandpa's passing, there was a light to hold on to. In July, previous to him getting sick, we found out we were expecting baby number three! Our due date was March 23, 2014. I really think us finding out a month before he got sick happened for a reason. It seemed to me it was the positive that we needed to focus on, to help us get through this rough time. 374 and I decided nothing was more fitting than naming this child after Grandpa. He had done so much for us over the years, he had been so accepting of 374 into our family from the get-go - it was just the right thing to do. We found out a few weeks after his passing that we were expecting a bundle of pink joy. It was hard to know that this child would never know the amazing love of her Great Grandfather, and that he'd never have the pleasure of hearing her giggle and watching her grow like he did with Sassy and Bubby.

My nine months of pregnancy flew by. Just three short weeks ago we welcomed Sister Bear into our family. She's been an amazing blessing. Our family is officially complete. Her big brother and sister are absolutely in love with her. She's the light everyone needed. She definitely fits right in around here. This proud Mama can ensure there will be more posts on her in the future. It's hard to not turn this little welcome back post into one that's only about her.

Now that life has settled down, and Sister Bear has settled into her place in the house I am so excited to take the time to blog again. I have really missed writing posts and sharing things here with you all. I figured what better time than now, especially the week before FDIC. We are excited to return to the exhibits again this year, with Sister Bear in tow. Yes, she will be sporting the adorable bunker gear she's wearing in the above pictures. My dear friend from Crocheted by Rae made this adorable set for us, complete with 374's number. She can custom make these in a variety of newborn and infant sizes, as well as colors and badge numbers! Will any of you be attending this year? Leave me a comment if you are! We will be there Friday and Saturday. If you can't make it this year, watch for my review post that will be up sometime the week after!