Friday, August 31, 2012

Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards

I'm a finalist, Friends!!!  Honestly, I'm shaking right now as I type this.  I really can't believe it! 

 I need your vote!  Please click on the link below to vote!!!

So, last week I was contacted by Country Living Magazine (still trying to pick my jaw up off of the ground) and they let me know that my little blog is a finalist in the Lifestyle category of their Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards!  I am stunned.  Honored.  Thrilled.  I can't even pick the right words! 

The judges from Country Living pick the winner in each category.  There are six finalists in my category.  There are some really amazing blogs in the lifestyle section, but if the judges don't pick me, there's still hope.  You, the readers, get a chance to vote as well!  You can vote every day until September 17th.  Of course, I'll be telling everyone I know, so they can cast their vote.  There's only one little problem.  Most of my in-real-life-friends are teachers and we're just a little busy this time of year! 

Please help!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seaside Memories and Crab Chowder

Every summer my Mother-in-law rents a house in Seaside, Oregon.  I'm pretty sure my kids think of "The Blue House" as their second home.  We pack the car and the cargo box full of beach toys, skim boards, and bicycles, and my sister-in-law's family does the same.  For a week in August, the beach (and The Blue House) are ours.

I can't say I've ever seen a more beautiful sunset at Seaside.  I was lucky enough to be standing on the Promenade as the sun was going down.  I think I took about 100 photos.  This was my favorite.

We woke up early for a low tide walk.

Oregon and Washington beaches have so much character.  You can see the dark, gray clouds off in the distance, but it was actually pretty warm as we were walking and wading in the water.

We're not always this lucky, but we found several whole sand dollars this year.

Of course, there were the annual sunset beach poses.
(Note to self:  Feed children and dads before picture time.  Everyone will be happier.)

The sandcastles are my favorite part of beach days.  The dads  kids absolutely love using the beach as a blank slate.  They spend time building, carving, digging, and sculpting.  Often times, people walking by will stop to take pictures of their creations.  They will spend HOURS on a masterpiece that will be washed away by the next high tide.  But, they don't mind.  The tide just brings another blank slate.  (Honestly, I don't know if it's the kids or dads who love the castles more!)

This year they went for the traditional castle, but also sculpted a dragon, Air Jordan, and a shark eating a mermaid.

There was a little beach volleyball, inspired by the Olympics.
(I love the filters on Instagram!!!)

One of my favorite parts of the trip is crabbing.  I don't exactly love the work of crabbing, but OH MY do I love the product of crabbing!  24 keepers this year! 

 I smell dinner!

I absolutely love any type of seafood chowder, but crab chowder has got to be my favorite.

Here's my recipe:

24 steamed clams (or as many as you dig up when you're out crabbing and claming)

Lots and lots of crab (I think I used about 3 cups, minus the huge bites that didn't quite make it into the pot... yum!)

4 slices cooked bacon, cut into bite size pieces

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

2 bottles of clam nectar

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup corn (We had corn on the cob the night before and cut some off for chowder.)

3 cups 1/2-inch cubed, peeled potatoes (precook by boiling for a few minutes)

2 cups heavy cream

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/4 cup minced parsley leaves

Old Bay or Johnny's Seafood Seasoning to taste

I started by melting the butter and browning the onions.  Then I added my flour, followed by cream to make a roux.  All of the other ingredients followed, and I let it simmer for about 20 minutes. 

I think we must have been pretty hungry because we devoured this chowder.  It was thick, yummy, and absolutely packed with crab. 

All in all, I'd say it was another wonderful year at the beach. Thanks for the trip Grandma!  We always have happy memories.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer Fun

Every summer, my mind is filled with fun activities to do with my kids.  I find so much joy in taking my kids on a ferry boat ride, out to pick berries, or just spending time in our own garden.  This summer was no different.  With summer winding down, I was browsing though pictures today and thought these photos represent a few of my favorite summer activities.
Happy summer memories.

The First Day Back

Whew!  That was a long day.  Thirteen-plus hours of meetings, planning, moving furniture, prepping, presenting, and greeting many excited 5 year olds has finally come to an end.  If you're curious about my life in kindergarten, this video will give you a good idea. 

 It's a busy, crazy, stressful life, but it's a pretty good life!

Click here to view this video
Tired, but happy. Happy back to school time!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Could This Day Get Any Better?

I woke up this morning to the feeling of dread, almost like I was in mourning.  I didn't even want to drag myself out of bed. 

(Ok, it wasn't really that bad.  It makes the story sound so much better though.)
If I've already lost you, please keep reading because I have BIG news!!!

So, I was feeling pretty down, realizing that this was the last day of my summer break.  Teachers head back to the classroom tomorrow and the kids come next week.  I decided that I needed to embrace the last day of freedom and spend some time in the garden.

Weeding is actually enjoyable, when you know that by the next day you'll back in a windowless classroom wishing to enjoy the sunshine on your face.  A friend told me that it's like a coal miner heading back to the coal mine after enjoying the fresh air and daylight from the earth above.
(Again, not really that bad, but makes the story sound better.)

I weeded, watered, threw the ball for my four legged friend, and watched my kids jump on the trampoline.

When we got hot, we stopped for a popsicle break on the deck.  Of course, that led to a little relaxation in my comfy chairs, a good book, and a few teacher catalogs.  Then came the REALLY EXCITING part of the day!

I received an email from COUNTRY LIVING MAGAZINE. 
Did you hear me? 
I said, Country Living Magazine.  I am a finalist for the Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards.  The logo (below) is from last year, so this is the second year they've done this.  I cannot even begin to tell you how exciting this is for me.  I blog because I enjoy writing, working on becoming a better photographer, and sharing with other families out in Blogland.  Never, in a million-gazillion years, did I think I would ever be considered for something this cool!

Seriously, this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me.  Do you know what happens if I win?  They fly me to New York for a luncheon!  Now, if you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I'm scared to death of Seattle - the Big City.  I'd definitely have to take my hubby with me... oh, who and I kidding?  I couldn't even imagine being nominated, let alone becoming a finalist or even winning!

Anyway, I'll let you know how the voting will be going.  Voting for Reader's Choice begins on August 31st and I'll be begging for votes at that time.

As I was scrolling through my emails, still shaking from my exciting news (yes, I really was shaking), I received another email from the Teachers pay Teachers website.  Yesterday, I finished writing an ebook that I've been working on for over a year.  It's all about Writer's Workshop in the kindergarten classroom.  I started writing it because I host demonstration lessons for other teachers.  I wanted to be able to tell them more about my classroom and how I structure a Writer's Workshop.  I started writing and my little ebook just kept getting bigger and bigger.  I decided that it was A  LOT of work and that I'd share (free) with teachers who come into my classroom for demonstration lessons, but maybe I could make a little money if I sold it on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Well, it's been up for a day and I've already made a sale!  I've never sold anything in my life, so this is pretty cool for me!

More on my little ebook later.  I'm just too excited about the whole Country Living thing!

Ok, so then I checked a different email account that I have, and an
that I did with an educational outreach company was up on their site.  Click on the link above if you'd like to read it.  Seriously, it was turning into a really awesome day.  I've never been interviewed for anything, so it makes me feel almost famous.

After that, the mail came.  Both of my kids got letters telling them who their teachers are for the coming school year.  They were both absolutely thrilled!  Not only do they already love their teachers, but they have their closest friends in their class!  Happy kids = happy mommy!!!

Then, my hubby came home from work and told me he had gotten a huge raise!
(Ok, that didn't really happen.  But, I felt like it had been such an amazing day that it probably should have happened.)

Anyway, I'm on Cloud 9 today!  It was a truly fabulous day at my house, even if it was the last day of summer break and tomorrow means back to work.  Oh, and did I mention that all of those terrific things happened before my massage? 
(That part really did happen.  Don't judge.  Teaching is stressful.  I needed a massage before going back.)

Happy, Happy, Happy Day!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Boxed Cake

It was my daughter's 8th birthday last week and yesterday we hosted a family party for her.  I asked her what kind of dessert she wanted and here was her wish:

The birthday cake that you buy in a box that has sprinkles.

Chocolate frosting.

Then, that Oreo frosting that you squeeze out.

Oh, and an Oreo on top.

Well, it wouldn't have my first choice.  So, we went to the store and bought a bunch of prepackaged cake stuff and got to work.  I think it was the fastest dessert I've ever made, but the kids (and their dads) loved it.  As a matter of fact, at one point I yelled, "Hold on, people!  You don't fight like this over my home made desserts.  There's more frosting in that Oreo tube."

Who knew that I boxed cake and a tube of frosting would get everyone so excited!

Happy birthday to my little munchkin!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gingerbread for Kindergarten

Why, hello there, little Gingerbread Man!
Did you say you want me to bake you up and take you to meet the kindergartners on the first day of school?  They love it when you surprise us during our gingerbread hunt.  You're always the yummiest little treat on the first day of school!  I'll bake you up now and save you in the freezer for the first day.
Did you say you want me to bake your brothers too?  Enough for all of the kindergartners at Hilltop?  Well, ok, if you say so!
Run, run, as fast as you can.  You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man!

The Shed - By Request

A friend recently requested to see the dream picture, from Country Gardens Magazine, and the finished garden shed again.  So, here's the side by side.  The picture on the left is the photo from the Country Gardens magazine that I've been holding onto for many years as inspiration.  The photos on the right were taken last week. 

I guess I need to have my dog sit in front of the shed and maybe add a few more flowers.

If you'd like to read more about the garden shed, you can click here or here.

Happy gardening!
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Family Photos

While we were on vacation in Oregon, I convinced the family to take some new photos.  I'm a bit of a freak, when it comes to sharing pictures of my kids online.  So, you'll have to be happy with this one, where they're not facing the camera. 

It gives you an idea of the colors we wore, the lighting on the beach, and the processing I did with the pictures.

I was inspired by several different poses I found on Pinterest.  You can see my photography pins here.  You'll find lots of beachy inspiration there.

Our clothes were inspired by this photo, found on Pinterest.

Pinned Image

The original post was from  She has several color schemes on her blog, which were so helpful!  I told the boys and dads that they could wear drab browns or raspberry/maroon.  For the girls and moms, we went with pinks, yellows, and whites.  I absolutely love the way our family photos turned out!  It was a perfect night at the beach for photos.  Everyone cooperated nicely and I was thrilled with the color choices for outfits.  Melissa's blog is going to be my new favorite place for finding clothing inspiration!

Happy beach photography!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

American Girl Clothes at the Astoria Market

Last week we were on vacation down in Oregon.  On Sunday, we decided to visit the Astoria Farmer's Market.  It's a really big market (as farmer's markets go) and they had a terrific variety of booths.  Of course, there were fruit, veggie, and flower stands.  There were several bakery, soap, lotion, and jam booths.  My favorite booth was done by Pipsqueak Designs. Nadine Faith is the nice lady who hosted the booth and sat, hand quilting her doll quilts. I know many artists don't like their booths or work photographed, so I asked first, and she happily let me take a few pictures.

Nadine had hundreds of outfits for 18 inch or American Girl dolls. There were jammies, dresses, farm girl outfits, Chinese New Year outfits, coats, and just about anything else you can imagine.

This classic little dress was my absolute favorite!

Look at all of the colors this dress comes in! I absolutely love the fabrics she chose.  Reproduction fabrics just make my heart melt.

I was thrilled when I ran across the Pipsqueaks Designs booth.  Although we didn't buy anything, my daughter and I loved looking at all of the clothes.  My mom makes most of my daughter's American Girl clothes and I'm always encouraging her to start sewing a stash of doll clothes and set up a booth at the local markets. Who knows, maybe she'll be inspired after seeing the rainbow of colors from Nadine at Pipsqueak Designs.

Happy sewing!
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Beach Life

Beach + Sunshine = Happiness

Homeiswheremystorybegins is on Instagram. Come join me!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Garden Shed Changes

I've always thought I needed a window box on my cute little garden shed.  I haven't gotten around to buying one yet, so I moved my old wagon over to the shed.  It adds a little "vintage" to the shed.

I had just repaired my wagon when a large branch fell on it and broke the wheels off again.  It's not functional anymore.  It just looks cute.

I also added a potted hydrangea back behind my little plow. It hides the fact that we haven't finished our wall and that the fence is falling down.

The Annabelle hydrangeas, on the side of the house, are in full bloom now too.

I'm just loving my Country Gardens inspired shed.

Happy Gardening!
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Caramel Apple Dip

I've shared many recipes on my blog.  I've told you how much my family loved certain recipes, or the story behind a recipe.  Friends, I'm about to share the best recipe I think I've ever made. 

The. Best.
I can tell you this recipe is the best I've made because of the reaction of my family.  It was actually quite comical.

I made this caramel dip last night, while the boys were at football practice.  I was thinking it was going to be a nice little treat after a hard practice.  (I'm struggling to find yummy treats that aren't peanut butter or chocolate - thanks to kidney problems.)  Wow!  We loved it! My son simply said, "Oh my gosh."

We shared one apple and a bit of caramel and I put the rest of the caramel dip in a canning jar and put it in the fridge.  Tonight I had my niece and nephew over and I told them that apples and caramel dip were for dessert.  My kids, who had tried it the night before, were absolutely giddy. We warmed the caramel, sliced the apples, and the feeding frenzy began! 

I had to move out of the kitchen!  It was all too intense for me.

When all was said and done, we had eaten every single apple in the house.  Ummmm, we keep A  LOT of apples in the house.  Then they started scrounging for other things to dip in the last remaining caramel.  They tried marshmallows, graham crackers, and even a peanut butter cookie.  I believe I saw "someone" licking the bowl too...  he was quite a bit taller than the four kids, much closer to my age, and big enough to elbow his way through the kids to get to the goods.

Are you craving caramel yet?

Here's the recipe:

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup butter

(You'll also need whipping cream to add later.)

Combine the above ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil (it takes a while).  Whisk ingredients the entire time. Let boil for 5 minutes and continue whisking. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Slowly add cream to the mixture.
2/3 cup whipping cream

Let the caramel cool and store the leftover (if there is any) in a jar.  Keep refrigerated and warm up the caramel dip when you need a sweet treat.

I'm telling you, friends, this is the best thing ever.  You can't say I didn't warn you!

Happy dipping!

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Little Treasures

I was talking to my mom tonight about the boxes in her garage.  She's a collector.  No, not like those that you see on Hoarders, but she has a good amount of stuff. Now, I completely understand.  I have a box in the garage labeled, "Special Things."  I'll be honest, it has my cast from 5th grade, the tail I had for five whole minutes after a haircut, and probably some really important notes from junior high.  You never know when you're going to need treasures like that!

(Side story:  If you lived through the 80's, you know exactly what I'm talking about with the tail.  Well, I really wanted a tail, so I rode my bike to get a haircut and had the stylist leave a tail.  Then I had a friend dye it.  It was supposed to be blond, but when you have dark hair, it just turns orange.  I had my orange tail for about five minutes, and then my mom saw it.  She said, "We're going out to dinner.  If you want to cut that tail off, you can come with us.  Otherwise, you can eat out back with the rest of the animals with tails."  That was the end of the tail, but I saved it in my box of special things just for the memory.)

Now, back to my mom and her garage. She has a box labeled, "Nanie's junky old jewelry nobody wants" and another labeled, "Really really really old old stuff."  The box labeled really old spices proved to be a nice little treasure.  I love these little containers!  They are no longer in my mom's garage.  They have a new home in my kitchen.  I found a few at a vintage store and added to my collection too.

Happy treasure hunting!
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