Sunday, December 6, 2015

"Life is Short; Eat Dessert First"

Someone somewhere sometime ago said something along the lines of it being the small things that shape who you are. Looking back, I realize it was two childhood friends - one who would shut her bedroom door and let her parakeets out of their cage, and another who had a giant rooster that chased and pecked children - who sparked my intense fear of birds (I have yet to reach my fear of butterflies epiphany), and a random kitchen magnet emblazoned in my mind that I constantly find myself returning to: "Life is Short; Eat Dessert First."

A present from my mom's mom to her, I didn't understand it until Mom explained, "It means that you never know what is going to happen next so you should do the good things first - dessert."


Mind. Blown.

So while it's not necessarily what I'd refer to as my "life motto," it was this year's Thanksgiving theme; what I like to call Dessertsgiving.

All homemade, Bitches (including the kid, if you can spot him in the picture)! Our Halloween McJackolanterns turned into that pumpkin pie, I made Apple Crumble (which turned out to be my best yet and can no longer be called Apple Crap), brownies, both plain and with candy canes inside, and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. And what compliments dessert better than booze and hot cocoa? Ummm, nothing!

I also bought some vanilla and Butter Pecan ice cream to accompany but we got distracted and full from everything else.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always a big holiday, filled with smells of yummy deliciousness and screams at the TV. As Jacob and I have gotten older, and thus more adult-er, Thanksgiving has turned into just another Thursday. I do, however, put out some decorations, and - although I've been watching Christmas movies since Halloween - refuse to put out a single Christmas decoration until December.

These are by far my most favorite fall decorations of them all.

And I do make it a point to cook a bird of some kind. Our family is a tad small for a giant turkey, and my leftover options aren't as expansive as with chicken, so that's what I made. Zoey was a little disappointed we weren't having turkey until I reminded her that she's had chicken the last three Thanksgivings, and we're especially honoring the turkey because we spared one; our own little Presidential Pardon.

I also made green bean casserole (with homemade cream sauce and fried onions!) because it's my favorite, and roasted sweet potatoes because they had been sitting on my counter and I didn't know what else to do with them.

And then we had a little more turkey and ham.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Drink n' Treating!

Just like I never thought I'd think football was part of the fun of fall - or that I'd even think there *were* fun parts of fall - I never thought I'd enjoy one of the pinnacle points of the season: Halloween. But if I've learned anything from my countless hours of Hallmark Channel viewing, it's that nothing makes you appreciate something more than experiencing it through your children's eyes.

Oh, and booze. Booze makes everything better. But I learned that simply from being a parent.

 I never imagined I'd even acknowledge Halloween, much less actually decorate. But I think it has more to do with me loving the Dollar Tree.

 I bought this pumpkin to kick off the season with various pumpkin-flavored foods - breads, coffee creamer, etc. But Zoey had other ideas...

 So, we gonna carve these, or not?

Dear Adult Zoey and Holden, Please do THIS...

 Aside from Trick or Treating, I hadn't considered any other Halloween-themed activities. Mer asked me if we were going to carve pumpkins and I was like, "Meh." I asked Jacob about it and he said, "I like it, and the kids would think it's fun," so I bought two pumpkins, and envisioned Holden playing with the goopy insides. Instead, he wanted no part of it, playing with his toys on the floor, while Zoey was quickly distracted and ran around the house with bat wings she made at school that day. Jacob was outside with a gentleman he sold his truck-topper to, so I sat on the floor and carved the pumpkins by myself. They sat out on the stoop for a couple of days before I cut them in half and threw them in the oven for future Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

A freakishly MONSTROUS stack of pancakes.
While exploiting the kid-friendly aspects of the holiday is enjoyable for us parents - free candy, silly decorations, the one day a year you can wear jammies in public and not be ridiculed (yes, people of Wal-Mart, we are judging you) - we've also found ways to adult-up the day, like our now-annual tradition of Drink or Treating.

It started back in 2011 when Meredith and our book club friend, Whitney (of the happy, yet crazy house), suggested we take our similarly-aged children Trick-or-Treating. The house we were living in at the time was in a neighborhood not conducive to the occasion, and Mer's neighborhood really goes all out for the holiday, so that's where we trekked, dogs with their cooler backpacks included. We've since moved to my (new/different) neighborhood, Cooler Dogs still included, and now us adults look forward to it just as much as the kids.

 Zombie Debbie and her Exorcist Pumpkin. When she arrived, I said of her costume, "Let me guess, you're a Mom!" Oh, I'm just so clever...

 Hot Dog Mummies, this year with my homemade biscuit dough.

 Coffin Quesadillas (suck it, Pinterest!)

 Spider Donuts

 Eliza, the Fairy without wings, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a witch of some sort. A+ for creativity!

 Debbie brought some face paints so Zoey became the Butterfly Ninja Turtle. And for the rest of the night, every 10 seconds she'd rip off her mask and ask the person standing nearest to her, "Is my butterfly face paint still on?!"

The Drink or Treating Crew! Mark, Mer, Me, Jacob, Andy, and Debbie. And the Coolers, Kona and Boone.

McInTurtles in a half-shell! Turtle Power!

We all had a lot of fun this Halloween, and I legitimately can't wait for next year; Holden will be older and able to participate more, making my future holidays filled with even more kid-fun. I'll take that over the gruesome parts of the holiday any day.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Trippin' in the Name of Tradition

Just like driving the Beartooth Pass has become a staple in our lives, so has visiting the small tourist destinations literally in our own (town's) backyard.

Every summer we like to make the trek to Pictograph Caves State Park, but this year we just...didn't. Luckily, we were gifted a random 85-degree day in October so decided to go then; it just wouldn't have been "summer" without it.

I had hoped to see more fall colors but it still pretty much looked like summer.

And we all looked like summer, too.

Dropping her off in her new home!

What? How do you hike? If it's not fully accessorized then we have nothing to talk about.
(Photo cred to Zo.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Fun About Fall

There are definitely some fun things about fall:

* Going to bed early (although this is unfortunately accompanied by waking up early)

* Pumpkin-flavored everything (which only sounds like a good idea two months out of the year)

* Wearing clothes you haven't worn in awhile (that start to feel constricting and drab come December)

* Being able to use the oven without your house feeling like the oven (I actually love this and, considering how expensive electricity is, probably use my oven more than I should)

But the icing on the cake (PUN!) is that fall has turned into the official Season of the Birthdays.

Holden's birthday doesn't really count but we'll just say it does since it's the second to last day of July when people are getting excited for fall. Then it's mine and Zoey's turn come September.

 A little throwback fun to the first birthday I "shared" with Zoey. She was three days late and showing no signs of entering the world. It's ok - I think God knew what challenges lay ahead of me and spared me her being a Virgo (like me).

The Torture of the Housewife: Presents arrive while Husband is at work. And then I find them in his "hiding place," the back of the closet, which wouldn't be such a terrible idea if I wasn't the sole person putting away his laundry.

When the blessed day arrived, I got to find out what was inside. The one from Zoey was my new favorite show, The Middle, on DVD. (No, I didn't get a boob-job; yes, I wish I had; yes, they look amazing in this picture.)

The one "from Holden" was a coffee mug from my other favorite television show, Parks and Recreation. Hey, I'm a Stay-at-Home Mom; of course TV is my hobby.

The only way I can explain my shirt is with this: CLICK HERE

I'll be honest, I was pretty anti-birthday this year. Since it landed on a Saturday, I thought about just planning a normal day at home where everyone is nice to me, then takes me out to a restaurant of my choosing for dinner. But when a couple of friends and I were trying to find time in September to get together, I suggested gathering at my house. I "leaked" that it was my birthday, and Mer said, "Oh, I'm coming over! And bringing birthday cheer!" So then I thought, ok, I'll see if Debbie and Holly want to come too, and that's how we wound up making less than good choices on my back deck (we signed Holly up for Snapchat, and decided she was going to have a hysterectomy). But boy was it fun! And such a great - and appropriate - way to ring in my 33rd birthday.

The best friends give the best gifts.

About a week later, it was Zoey's turn to have her special day. It landed on a Thursday so no hoards of friends came over, and we kept it relatively weekday-tame. 

Immediately when she woke up, she wanted to open the box of presents sent by her Grandparents that had been taunting her from my closet for a week. After discovering a box of Pop Tarts in said package, that's what she decided we were having for breakfast. I then surprised her by putting on the usually-forbidden Disney Channel while I made food, just in case her mature 5-year old self decided she wanted something more substantial to eat (she did).

It was then time to strip-down for some naked pool time, which she took sporadic breaks from in order to eat Birthday Cake flavored Oreos and chicken nuggets.

Once she was worn out for a while, she asked to have her nails painted, each one a different color, and watched PBS Kids while they dried.

She then got a surprise visit from her other Grandpa, who, of course, came bearing presents. After that, it had been way too long since naked pool time, so she stripped down and finished out the afternoon just as she had entered the world all those years ago - in her Birthday Suit.

Also in her box of presents was a hot dog slicer made to look like a Wiener Dog - whom she named Hercules - so we, of course, had to have hot dogs for dinner.

 We then sang to her while she blew out her candle on a Birthday Cake Oreo waffle cone.

After watching Tangled, she cozied-up in her basement fort for the night.

She said, "This was the best birthday ever, guys."

In between all of the birthday fun, we made sure to soak up as much of the outdoors as we could.

Who needs water?!

 Fall in Billings.

 Yellowstone River.

 Once a parent, always a parent - walking the fur beasts in Two Moon Park on a rare weekend we scored a kid-free night.

 The other fun thing about fall is football. I never thought I'd be saying that, but there ya go.
Jacob and I usually root for each others team, but we couldn't on one such Sunday Night Football - we were a house divided.

And this was pretty much how the game ended - apparently the Packers didn't think they needed to show up.

 Fall is also a good time to cozy up with a hot beverage and an even hotter novel. This particular book was a Jackie Collins, something I had never read before (and fulfilled two squares of my Reading Bingo card, bringing me into first place!)

 Hashtag: he got it from his mama.

 One of these days, summer will be back again, and I'm bustin' out of this joint.