Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SUMMER 2015 HOUSE TOUR

I just love reading about other people's homes, so I thought I'd share ours. I'm joining the party with Momfessionals today. If you'd like to read a little background as to what brought us to this house two years ago, read this post. So if you're new here, our current house was built in the early nineties. And then just left for dead. Okay, okay, not dead. Just unconscious. Or in a coma. (A sad, ugly coma.)

We've poured a whole lotta love -and blood, sweat and tears- into this kitchen, all on a strict budget. There are kitchen posts here and here. We also tackled some kick plate problems, flooring, and updated the kitchen island with a little DIY ingenuity in this post.



Love this view every morning and every evening. This deck used to be the ugliest psycho pumpkin color you can imagine. Painting it was actually easier than I'd thought it would be, and it looks so much better! Our front steps were the same horrid color, and looked like bad cabin stairs to boot, so we did some more DIY on a budget. Still love that project!

The day we moved Ryder's doggie crate downstairs was one of the happiest days of my life...because it used to be in here! Ugh. The piano used to be in here on the left, and then that spot became my sewing nook. And now? Now it just serves its dining roomly duties. The way it should.

Last month I tore down the tired tan drapery panels that I'd gotten on clearance for our old house, and whipped these babies up. They're a calm grey with white quatrefoil and they open up the space beautifully. I change out pillows (fyi, throw pillows are the bane of my existence- I never choose the right size/color/shape/look...) seasonally so now we've got cool aquas, blues and greens going on.

Besides the dining room table, this is where the homeschool magic happens. And I write stuff.  =) Our music corner is to the right. The future plan is to find a large, comfy chair to create a proper reading nook over there in that sad little empty corner. It used to be my sewing office, but I just cannot handle that much chaos out in the open and on a regular basis. We shall see what happens here...

I'm not one of those who ban la tele in the bedroom. In fact, I kind of love it. Don't get me wrong, I don't even watch much TV, but I like that I've got options.

Step into my personal office space for a moment...this is to the left of our room. Truth be told, I'd prefer a master bath to a squat little office space. But. This Mama ain't got no options in that department right now.

Kid rooms- the middle boys chose their own paint colors and helped paint the walls. It was no big deal since the flooring was all being replaced. They did a super duper job! I love their cheerful rooms. Jose the beta fish dwells in this room. We lost Flame during our trip to Washington, DC this spring.

The Red Sox pennant over his bed fell off the wall...looks a tad bare here. Hulk the beat fish lives to the right.

And my girly girl's room. She talks about sharing this space with Baby Sister aaaaaalllll day long.  (Check out the adoption posts from the sidebar labels if you'd like to read about our most recent adoption journey.)

I did a recent update in here...



Yum.

So.Much.Better.


Our oldest son lives in the pit. I had mixed feelings about this, but it suits him and he really likes it. It works.

Diego the corn snake lives down here. I figure I'm either a really cool Mom or I'm simply neurotic. Jury's still out on that one.

And THIS! We just created this space out of, well, nothing but cold, hard concrete. The kids helped a ton, and I'm really proud of them all! This is, obviously, phase one of the rec room. It's pretty basic, but it's working great. I'm going to do an extra post on the dark beam we created which hides pipes and such, and the cheap, easy "fix" to the two 2x4's that are the post at the end of the stairs to make them not look like 2x4's.

Lastly, the landscaping. We've worked just as hard on the outside as we have on the inside! Landscape transformation posts here and here. I wrote about some helpful landscaping tips in this post.

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Monday, July 20, 2015

WHAT TO DO IN PORTSMOUTH, NH WITH KIDS: ONE DAY

Good Monday morning! I thought it might be fun to put together a little summer fun series highlighting family-friendly (and often cheap!) things to do in New England, specifically Maine and New Hampshire, for those of you who will be venturing this way with your families. Or maybe after reading these, you will add New England to your itinerary.  =)

Portsmouth is a beautiful harbor town, rich with history, character, and fabulous architecture. We love to spend the day there. It's a great city to stroll through, and you'll find plenty of places to eat and shop that can accommodate any budget.



On a sweltering day, nothing feels better than the spray of the harbor. Take your little ones on a narrated harbor cruise. There are a few options, and they are such fun for kids and kids-at-heart. And you're bound to learn some new things, too! We use the coupons found in the Breathe Free Fun Pass booklet, which saves a bundle. Try the Portsmouth Harbor Cruise or Isle of Shoals Steamship Company (reservations may be necessary for certain cruises).


It gets breezy out there. Notice how everyone has lost their hats by this point, ha!


From here, you can venture over to Prescott Park, where the garden displays are breathtaking. Occasionally, you can find free parking along the side road here (2-hour limit), but there is on-street parking with meters, and just about a quarter mile over a small bridge, you can visit Pierce Island, with free parking, and walk back if you don't mind a little stroll. This is often what we do; there is more info further down. If you don't have a vehicle, check out the local trolley system: http://www.seacoasttrolley.com/


At Prescott Park, you'll find brick walking paths that meander through more private gardens, including a water fountain and this majestic towering tree, perfect for an informal family portrait. You can also walk along the Piscataqua River, venture out on a long dock, and grab an ice cream or other snack. There are plenty of places to sit and relax, too.


Stealing a smooch from my little leading man atop one of the impressive theater stages, part of a summer arts festival.


Take a stroll through Pierce Island, located on the left just over the bridge beyond Prescott Park. There is a playground, open grassy fields (perfect for playing catch or soccer), and plenty of wide open walking paths that meander all along the shore of the Piscataqua River.


You could even pick a few posies for your baby doll... You're looking at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the background, fascinating history for all you history buffs out there. You can climb down onto the rocks as well and putter along, which is what my boys love to do- the shoreline is safe and flat.


There are several gazebos and picnic tables outfitted with trash containers and grill pits. If you look closely, on this particular day, there was even visiting wildlife, besides the gulls and birds anyway. There was a very large groundhog just having himself the best old time- he is in between these two picnic areas, near the water. 


There is also a large public swimming pool on Pierce Island. Costs and times vary. You can find more information at http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/recreation/outdoor.htm.
   
Several nights each week you can see a play or musical at Prescott Park. They are fabulous! Pack a picnic supper or grab something from a nearby shop or cafe, and settle in to enjoy a free summer theater production. (Donations gladly accepted.) More information and schedules can be found at this website: https://www.prescottpark.org/ 

Here we are about to see Peter Pan a few years ago...this summer, Peter Pan is back! It was spectacular.


And since you're so close, check out the beautiful beaches, all just a few miles down the road. Our favorites are Jenness Beach (limited metered parking) and North Hampton State Park Beach. Wallis Sands is great for smaller children. These last two options cost about $15 per vehicle for all day parking. There are rest rooms available at each beach.



I hope you've enjoyed these insider recommendations for a wonderful day spent in Portsmouth, NH. I'll be writing another post about what to do if you've got two or three (or more!) days to spend in this beautiful area, as well as what to enjoy as a couple if you happen to be visiting sans kiddos- and all on a budget, of course- so be sure to check back. Happy travels with your loved ones.

Monday, July 13, 2015

GIRLS DAY: SPA AT HOME & OTHER FUN THINGS

Last week, Isabelle and I found ourselves all alone again. What to do, what to do... Actually, I'd been scheming this up for a while now, so it was really fun when the day finally arrived. Don't get me wrong- I'd love to go spend the morning at a "real spa," but funding summer camp times three (plus driver's ed...yikes!!!)  forces encourages a girl to get a little creative.

We pampered ourselves silly, from face masks to fancy breakfast to toenails.

 I joked on instagram that she is a much cuter face mask model than I am. =)

 Do you spy the gold glittered doll shoes? ha ha

 I spilled the purple polish on the carpet. You'd think this was my first rodeo here. Ugh. The stains lessened but did not come out. Double ugh. Oh well. My girl has cute toes!

 We used up the last of the strawberries we'd picked- I baked while she drew big brother a picture. She was missing him so, so badly. Me too!


 I surprised big Isabelle with little Isabelle's new nightgown/dress that I'd been working on. I guess she really liked it because that was the day little I started getting buckled in. I got the biggest kick out of that when I glanced back, ha! She'd never done that before, probably because all our seats are normally filled up with...boys!

 We ran into friends from church while getting our Dunkin Donuts fix, so that was lots of fun.

And then we headed to the pool for some Mommy-daughter swim time. She is my little fish, just like Caleb. It has been super hot here lately and it felt so good to be in the cool water.

Isabelle has such a sweet and thoughtful heart. She adores her brothers (most of the time, ha) and often wants to surprise them with special little things. She is showing me more and more what a helpful and responsible young lady she is growing into, even though I'm probably stifling her because I can't bear the idea of her not being my baby girl. I know things will change as our family grows, but she will always be the one who first made me a girl Mommy. And I know that she is going to be the best big sister in the whole world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

REFLECTING

OhMyGoodnessGracious.

I stumbled upon this gem the other day, ironically, just after we'd gone strawberry picking. Sans Ethan.  :( Look at those babies. Those faces, those little legs, those chubby cheeks! Those days were tiring, and some were undoubtedly looonger than others, but oh how my heart aches for them. The world as I knew it seemed so different then as a Mommy to little ones. The biggest hurdles were nap strikes, finding a potty on demand, and the occasional fit or temper tantrum. Now the issues are of greater importance, and consequence; things just matter more. Will I have taught them what they really need to know?


Right now as I write this, my oldest son has been away at camp for ten days (but who's counting?) and my youngest boy left Monday. It gives me a glimpse of what my days will be like in just a few short years, and I am so not ready. I thought I would be, back in the trenches when it all seemed so exhausting and even mundane. But I'm not.

And that's okay. I always want to be near my children, to rally for them, to encourage and uplift them, so I know that I will always be involved in their lives. While our relationship changes and grows, it actually gets so much stronger and even more wonderful. They truly are the most amazing people to know. When I look back on those early days, my whole heart is just filled to the brim with gratitude. I got to be with them, and we had such fun, special times together. Yes, they're growing up and things shift and change, but we will always be there for each other. And no matter how old they (or I!) get, I will always be their Mama.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come.
Proverbs 31:25
 
A few versions say that "she smiles at the future."

I just love that. That's how I want to live, not just as a mother but as everything. Here's to warmly remembering the yesterdays, savoring the todays, and delighting in the tomorrows. Hope you have a great day!

 

Friday, July 3, 2015

BERRY CRUMBLE PIE RECIPE

Hey Hey! Popping in to share this fabulous pie recipe with you. We are in full-on summer mode over here, living every hazy, hot moment to the fullest! Happy 4th of July tomorrow!


This Berry Crumble Pie could alternatively be named Impossible to Photograph Pie. The crumble topping is so, so good, but it doesn't cut through evenly, the berries roll all around, and well, it's just a mess. But worth it. It tastes fabulous! (It did retain its shape better after spending the night in the fridge.)

Yeah. Attempt #1 to get a good slice cut. HA

What You'll Need
Pie filling
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 - 3/4 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp flour 
Crumb Topping
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter, cubed, room temperature

pastry crust (frozen premade one would work fine, but I did attempt my own for this)

What You'll Do
Prepare pie crust if needed
Preheat oven to 425 F degrees
 Place berries in medium bowl; add the sugar, cornstarch, and 1 Tbsp flour, tossing gently to coat berries. Pour berry mixture into pie crust.
Combine the next ingredients for the crumb topping, cutting in the butter with a fork (I used the same bowl). Sprinkle all over top.
Place a baking sheet on the bottom shelf of oven to catch spills/juices. Bake pie at 425 for 12-14 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
 Cool slightly before serving, and garnish with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Yum! (Or eat it straight from the fridge the next morning, plain and cold...it's got fruit in it, it counts as breakfast. Don't judge me.  ;) )


 Here are our other favorite festive desserts for celebrating the Fourth of July. Enjoy!

 Another variation Jonah made:
 

You can find the recipe for this cake in the link above.