Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Black Pearl Lego Set

Martin loves Legos. He has been interested in the Pirates of the Caribbean lately. (although he's never seen any of the movies!) He has been wanting the Black Pearl Pirate ship for months!
Can you even imagine how excited he was to open up this birthday gift and find The Black Pearl?? It is a set with over 800 pieces!

He opened it late one night ... and was up very early the next morning building. He started building it at about 7 AM and was completely finished with it at about 9:30 AM. He's a pretty fast builder. (I did make him stop at one point and eat his breakfast!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Frog Eggs ... Here we go again!

The day we came home from Virginia, the ditches were full of water ... so Martin checked out the ditches and found frog eggs. Rich told him to collect some of them and bring them inside so we could watch them grow. One of the things that frustrated us about our previous experience with tadpoles is that we never knew whether they were frogs or toads. This time, however, we knew without a doubt that they were frog eggs. Frogs lay their eggs in clusters ... and toads lay their eggs in long lines. The picture above and below is a picture of our ditch with BOTH frog eggs and toad eggs. The day after we collected the frog eggs, we saw that a toad had laid eggs the evening before.

You may be able to see the clusters of eggs and lines of eggs better in this picture ... the toads eggs are almost black in color(in the long chain of eggs) ... and the frog eggs are much lighter in color and floating in clusters. 

This picture above show the eggs in our plastic container ... as you can see some of the eggs are now tadpoles ... but at the time I took the picture had not hatched yet.
Since I took the above picture, they have all hatched and are swimming around. It will be very interesting to find out what kind of frogs they are. We have been trying to identify the frog sounds that we hear at night outside our house ... and we've definitely heard the Fowler's Toad call, the Cope's Gray Tree Frog, and Spring Peepers.
So ... here we go again!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Visit Without My Camera

We recently got home from a week long trip to Virginia to see my parents and sister's family. We really enjoyed it ... and as always the week flew!
The first day we got there, the children got to swim in my sister's pool. They had a blast! Rosalie wasn't too keen on getting in the freezing cold swimming pool, but the three boys loved it. Unfortunately, it was too cold the rest of the week to get in it.
My parents live about 30 minutes from the Virginia Zoo, so my Mom and I took Aaron, Jonathan, Rosalie, and my niece GraceAnn there the same day that Rich took Martin to Busch Gardens. (more about the Busch Gardens trip later) We LOVED the Virginia Zoo! Thankfully, we were able to use our NC Zoo Passes to get in without cost. I am so glad that we were able to go! 
We were able to see the elephants, rhinos, and giraffes up close ... and that was incredible! I cannot believe that I didn't have my camera with me!
We enjoyed several cookouts while we where there too. We had a great time!
Now we are back ... 
...back to our normal routines
....back to being fully engaged in schoolwork 
...back to reality.
I'm so thankful to have such a wonderful reality!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Frosting

Chocolate Cake
2 Cups Organic Sugar
1 Cup Coconut Oil 
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup of Cocoa Powder
1 Cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 Cup boiling water
Blend the sugar and oil until creamy. Add vanilla and eggs and blend until smooth. Mix in the Cocoa Powder then add the flour, baking soda, and salt gradually while also adding the buttermilk gradually. Once mixed thoroughly, add the boiling water. Pour batter evenly into two 9 inch round baking pans. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

**You can use regular white sugar in place of organic, you can substitute any oil that you have on hand for the coconut oil. (I use coconut oil almost exclusively for baking ... and it is the best oil I have ever used in baking!)

Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
1 stick Organic Butter
2/3 Cup Cocoa Powder
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1/3 Cup Organic Milk
1/4 tsp sea salt

Cream together the butter and cocoa powder and vanilla extract, then gradually add the powdered sugar, salt, and milk until fluffy. 

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting
1 stick of Organic Butter
1 Cup of Natural Peanut Butter (no sugar added)
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
3 Tablespoons of Organic Milk

Place the butter and peanut butter in a stand mixer (or electric mixer), and cream until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar and once it gets thicker incorporate the milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until all the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick, fluffy. and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes to get it fluffy. You can spread the frostings on the cake any way you like. I put a layer of peanut butter frosting on the first layer, chocolate on the 2nd layer, peanut butter on the 3rd layer, and chocolate on the top layer and all around it. You will end up with more chocolate frosting than peanut butter frosting using the recipe above. . . so keep that in mind when you begin frosting your cake!

I cut the 2 round cakes in half to get the 4 layers of cake. I think that the next time I do this, that I will change the recipe so that the cakes will be taller, therefore making the layer of cakes a little bigger. I am not a real big sweets eater. I don't crave sweet food for the most part ... but this cake was impossible to walk away from without stealing a bite!  If you ever make this cake ... please make a point to tell me how yours turns out!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Martin's Birthday

We started off the day by taking the birthday boy (and siblings) to a place they had never been before ... Krispy Kreme! It's true ... Martin had a Krispy Kreme Donut for the very first time on his 10th birthday. It was a very FUN treat! They got the royal treatment with hats and balloons all around!

Next, we went to play at the park. Martin got to choose the park we went to ... and he chose the park near our old house.

A little bit later in the day, he opened a few of his gifts ... can't go wrong with LEGOS!

He also got several books from the Viking Quest book series that he has been reading. Excellent books ... and I know because I get to read them too! (I read the first one in the series out loud to him for history read aloud ... the rest of them I am reading on my own ... by choice ... because they are just that good!)

This card he is reading is a gift from Daddy. Rich is taking Martin to Busch Gardens for the day this weekend. Rich's birthday tradition for all of the children is that he takes them out to lunch for a special birthday lunch ... they choose the restaurant. For Martin's very special 10th birthday, they will be spending the entire day together ... eating lunch at Busch Gardens. He is super excited about it! He can't wait to spend the day riding roller coasters!

For his birthday dinner ... he chose to have Chicken and Bowtie pasta in an Italian Red Pepper Cream Sauce. YUM! I'll post the recipe later. 

It's getting harder and harder each year to blow out those candles! It took a couple of blows to get all 10 of them out!

His cake this year was so good! It is a 4 layer chocolate cake with alternating layers of a fluffy peanut butter frosting and chocolate frosting. It was RIDICULOUSLY good. It may just become Rich's traditional birthday cake too. Martin is pretty sure that this is the cake he wants every year from now on too! I will post a recipe for this special cake later - it's worth the time and effort!
It was such a fun day from start to finish! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Martin!

My first baby boy is 10 years old today. It's so hard to believe that 10 years has already past. I had no idea even when I was sitting in the hospital bed waiting to hold my first born ... how incredibly blessed my life would be.

He was a dream come true for me.  

He filled my days with hugs, joy, laughter, and adventure.
Martin has always been kind and nurturing to his brothers and sister!
About 2 years old

My mom with the 2 boys
Martin (3 yo) with Aaron (1 yo)
4 years old - shortly after Jonathan was born.
Martin doing Kindergarten
Martin with me at about 5 years old.

He has always been so sweet with his baby siblings! Here is kissing Jonathan.
About 5 years old
Martin was always super excited to add another baby to our family!
Sparks - AWANA
6 1/2 years old - always being the nurturing big brother!
Best friends!
Spring of '09
Summer of '09
First day of 2nd grade
Spring of '10

First year of Truth and Training

End of 3rd grade - Legos are his favorite thing!
Almost 9 years old - catching lizards

Summer of 2011

A few days before turning 10 years old!

Martin is my first born child. He is smart, loving, tender, helpful, and kind. I am so thankful for him. He has always had an easy personality. He has always been a wonderful big brother - kind and helpful. He is full of facts and information that never seems to stop. He is an avid reader and has a large variety of interests. He loves watching documentaries to fill up on even more information. He will spend entire days building lego creations. He loves roller coasters.
Our family is so blessed by Martin. I am blessed by Martin. Our conversations get better and deeper and more interesting with each day. Happy Birthday to my sweet and wonderful 10 year old. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring Strawberry Picking!

We love going to Vollmer's Farm in the spring! It is so much fun to pick strawberries ... and even better that they are organic strawberries!

Oh yes we did! Ice cream for all the kiddos! Homemade fresh ice cream. 

Oh, how I love Jonathan's sweet smile ... and that he actually stopped moving long enough for me to take a picture of him!

I have to tell you ... I have some excellent strawberry pickers in my family! They were super cautious about which berries to pick - and only picked the very ripe berries. It was so much fun!

Yes, I would like to freeze her right at this very age and stage. LOVE this girl!

Would you care for a strawberry?

So, this week, we will be having strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, and strawberry muffins ... if and only if the berries don't get eaten by the time I get around to baking. And if there are any leftover berries ... they will get frozen for our Sunday Night Smoothies!