Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

Well, Christmas has come and gone and the year is nearly wrapped up.  I can not believe how fast it all goes.  I swear I remember thinking back in January that the year would fly by and if I'm honest, I had NO IDEA just how fast it would go. 

Abby's second Christmas was very different from her first.  Not only is she fully mobile, but she's got her own little personality and we can definitely understand what she wants.  By the time we got to our third round of presents on Christmas day she was finally getting the hint.  She walked right up to the Christmas tree at David and Corda's and started grabbing at presents.  "These are all for me right?!?!"  Poor peanut didn't quite understand that no, they weren't so that brought on some tears.  She was much happier when it was time for everyone to sit down and start opening (course, having a few of her own to open helped too). 

A month after getting our own tree up I sort of figured she'd be over pulling at the ornaments.  Nope, wrong.  Much to Ryan's chagrin, our tree came down the day after Christmas.  I'm so happy be done constantly reminding Abby that the ornaments are "pretty" and not to pull at them.  In fact, I told Ryan that I identified with the Christmas story the Grinch.  Hold on...let me explain.  In that story they say his heart grew two sizes that day (Christmas).  I told Ryan that I feel like the day we take down the decorations my HOUSE grows two sizes!  Don't get me wrong, I love to festivity of it all and I love how pretty the living room looks when it's lit by the lights of the tree....but I swear it's like you've got a whole new house when you finally take it all down!

Abby made out great this year!  She got a ton of clothes (which she could care less about but I love!) and toys to fill up a whole room.  She got a tractor, a bowling set, books, a bath frog (that is awesome by the way!), a fake iPad, puzzles, two baby dolls, a tool belt and a full workbench (so she can work like Daddy), a really cool wooden snail, some mega blocks, and a really cool fox sweater (that I can't find the link later).  I'm sure I'm forgetting some things because the house is packed and Abby is in seventh heaven but she loves everything and we are so thankful for family and friends that love us so much.  We are one lucky family!

**See, finally getting the idea of present opening :O)

Christmas was a long day for all of us (especially Abby).  She did great considering we drove over 150 miles and went to three houses in one day.  She got in a nice long nap at Dan and Ellyn's which I was SO grateful for.  I got to sit down and eat brunch slowly at my own pace and enjoy every bite instead of trying to feed her and rushing to finish to occupy her when she decided she was finished eating.  When she finally woke up from her nap she had her own personal brunch complete with french toast casserole, quiche and fruit. 

But, in typical baby fashion, no matter how many cool toys she got we weren't surprised that this one occupied her for a full 10 minutes.  Gotta love kids!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

1 Family x 12 (December)

Well, how can we take our family picture for December without Santa??

Can you believe it?  Santa came to visit Grandpa and Grandma's house on Christmas Eve!  Abby is one lucky lady...though, she was pretty scared.  That's ok.  Next year :O)

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Family Photoshoot

I already shared the pictures we took of Abby's Cake Smash but now it's time for some of the family pictures we took that day.  But, let's call it what it is, end of the year clean up.  At the end of every year I take all the posts I've done on the blog and print them out into a great re-cap of the year for our family.  I already have the last two and a half years printed and I can't wait to add a third book to my collection.  I can't wait to share all of these memories with Abby as she gets older!!

We took these pictures at a local apple farm and it was the perfect setting.  I'd originally wanted fall leaves as the background but our late September shoot date meant we got apples instead of orange and red leaves.

*This is one of my all time favorites from that day.

I also love who these unplanned last minute shots capture "life" as we lived it.  Naked baby and a Tinker Bell bag slung over my shoulder....

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Letter - 2013

Christmas cards went out over a week ago now so I shouldn't be ruining the surprise by posting it here for those of you that didn't get one and are wondering what's been going on with us.  A friend commented that the Christmas letter is just like a mini-blog which made me laugh.  If you read the blog, none of this is news to you....just the picture.  Enjoy!!

As I started thinking about my Christmas letter this year I initially had a hard time remembering just what happened!  After 2012, the year of change, I feel like 2013 was been relatively quite.  Though, I think that is just want our little family and specifically “this girl” needed.  In the sleep deprived days of 2012 just after Abby was born, moving to our new house in Hampshire, and returning to work after maternity leave I felt like life would never normalize.  But now, a year later, I’m happy to say that things have slowed down a little and we’re enjoying just “being”.  All that being said, 2013 isn’t without its merits.

One of my favorite memories of the year was the 10 day camping trip that we took as a family in August.  We’d just traded up in the camper division and we loaded up the car, the dogs, and all the baby crap that goes along with a one-year old and embarked on an over 1,500 mile journey as a family.  We camped our way through Michigan, the UP, stopped off at the cabin in northern Wisconsin for a few days and then back home again making a big loop through the 3 states.  Let me just go on record as saying camping with a one-year old is hard work!  Abby had just learned to walk and she wanted nothing to do with being contained.  She wanted to explore and explore she did.  The first day or two I worried about her eating dirt or bugs and getting hurt but by the end we figured “she’s gotta learn somehow” and just embraced the fact that yes, she was going to be dirty.  I started calling her Mogli, from the Jungle Book, because by the end of the trip, she looked like a wild baby!  I’ve never been so grateful for running water and rooms with doors as I was when we got back from that trip.  Though, I’d do it again in a heartbeat and we’ve already started planning a similar trip for next year. 
How’s the progress with the house going?  Well, we finally finished the remodel of the master bath and I’m here to say that everyone should install heated floors in their bathroom!!  We did a ton of yard work including spreading 10 yards of mulch and getting the pool up and running (with was a feat considering it was literally black from the previous owners).  We gave the gazebo a huge face lift and started finishing the basement in the last few weeks.  We expect we’ll have it done around spring, complete with a guest bedroom, play area, bar, and at least roughed-in bathroom.  Goals for 2014 include new kitchen counters (good bye grouted tile counters!), a paver patio off the existing deck and more yard/garden work.
And finally, a Christmas letter just wouldn’t be complete without an update on our little Peanut.  Abby’s growing up so quickly.  She started walking around her first birthday and though she’s slow to get her teeth, she’s got 2.5 teeth now; I expect she’ll have 5 by Christmas.  She has a few words now like Doggie, Momma, Dadda (everything is Dadda…including Dadda himself), Pree (which means pretty.  Or, in other words, don’t touch that!  You’ll break it).  She says Cool in the funniest way and Woa when she falls down.  She loves to be chased and tickled and is especially funny when Grandpa is chasing her around the house.  She understands when I ask her simple questions like “where are your socks” and will bring them to me (this, my friends, is awesome and totally worth having children).  She loves her books and knows that if she wants me to stop and play with her all she needs to do is bring me a book.

All in all, the McGrath family is doing great and we hope you are too.  Merry Christmas!  We love you!!


Sadie, Ryan and Abby

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cake Smash

Back in late summer we did a family photo shoot with a local photographer, Chrystl Roberge (if you are local and looking for someone you should defiantly check her out!!).  I wanted some family photos for our Christmas card which I'll share later, but I also wanted to do something special for Abby's first birthday.  Yea, yea, I know, her birthday was back in August and here I am posting pictures for it in December.  Call it the end of year clean up *smile.

After snagging a few family shots we quickly changed her into her birthday dress and staged these pictures.  It was getting towards the end of the day and we'd already done pictures for about an hour so Abby was pretty much over the whole process.  That is, until we brought out the cake!!!

Gosh, looking back on these pictures I can't help but notice how much Abby has changed in just a few short months.

I can't get enough of her baby blues!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Continued adventures in messy

*Check out that baby mullet!!

Let's be honest, if there is one thing that babies are good at, it's making a mess.  Abby's been in a particularly frustrating stage going on about 3 weeks now where she really doesn't want anything to do with any food that I've touched.  Forget about me trying to spoon things into her mouth, we're over that.  She doesn't even want it if I try handing her the spoon and letting her try.

It's instantly "No" in a tiny muchkin voice with a hint of whine behind it.  Then add exaggerated head shaking and hand flailing and you'll get a picture of what I've been dealing with these past few evenings.

So, we're onto food that she can feed herself....which only works part of the time (as witnessed here where she's got more food on her face then actually IN her mouth but at least she's smiling).  Of all the stages we've gone through this far, this one seems to be annoying me the most.  I worry about her not getting enough "real" food to eat.  Goldfish crackers, fig newtons, bananas and toast are about all I can count on these days.

I have found that she'll eat those squeezy packs of food that only cost about 3 times as much as normal baby food because she can hold them and feed herself, but other than that, it's a guessing game each night about what exactly she'll eat.  Please don't let me have a picky eater on my hands....please let this be a stage!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Tree Cutting 2013

Ryan's family has traditionally cut a real Christmas tree every year for the holidays.  So, when I joined the family, I joined this little tradition as well.  Want to see how much Abby has changed from last year?  Check out this post from last year.  She's still in a pack, but she's so much bigger!!!

It was a beautiful day for cutting.  Probably about 40 degrees outside and sunny.  After eating WAY too much stuffing on Thanksgiving (thanks Peggy!), it felt good to get outside and move around a little bit.

It didn't take us long to pick out the tree we wanted.  Next year we can go a little taller and I think I'll try to get one that's a little fuller but all in all, we're pretty happy with it.  That's one funny thing about not having a fake tree, every year it's just a little bit different.  Sometimes it's too tall, or too short....other times its too wide or too skinny.  It's so hard to tell how it's going to look in the house when you're standing outside and the sky is your ceiling!

How's Abby doing with the tree?  Well, the first night we put it up ended in tears.  She couldn't understand why she couldn't bang all the balls together or ring the bells on the tree (we put all the unbreakable ones at the bottom just in case), but what she had a really hard time with was understanding why there was a tree in the house.  She wanted to grab the higher up ornaments so badly that she'd get really close to the tree and try reaching up and would inevitably end up getting poked in the belly by the tree.  It's a little poky, but more than that, it's scary!!!  She'd instantly fall down and start crying wondering why this poky thing hurt her.  I have to admit, I laughed, and she learned.  Now, after having the tree up for about 4 days, she's less interested in it.  She still goes up to it and grabs a few of the ornaments, but mostly she says "preeeyy" which means pretty (and don't touch it because it's pretty and you'll break it), so that's a start!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

My how time flies

On Thanksgiving we took my Mom's family photo for the Christmas cards.  As I was downloading the pictures to my computer I realized the last time we had a family photo like this was back in June for Kayden's birthday:

Now, almost 6 months later we look like this:

Of course the snow makes a big difference, but check the babies.  Abby still really looked like a baby back in June but now, 6 months later, she's not so little anymore.  Well, that's a lie, she's still pretty little but she's defiantly more grown up.  My sister's also changed her hair color and I couldn't love it more.  Joey's been a blond for her entire life but this is a change I defiantly think should stay around.  Finally, the last change is pretty hard to see.  This picture was taken at my parents new house.  They  moved back in October to an amazing house/property just outside of Cedarville.  About 5 minutes north of the house that we grew up in.

I sort of wish I could pause time right here where we are, but I know that's never going to happen.  So, I'll continue to enjoy the moments while we're in them.  Life is good!

Friday, November 29, 2013

1 Family x 12 (November)

Happy Thanksgiving ya'll!!!

My sister gets 100% of the credit for this picture.  She staged these for my Mom's Christmas letter photo and I got her to squeeze in our monthly family photo as long as we were at it.  Got this one in by the skin of my chinny chin chin this month too.  I'm going to try really hard to get December's done early but Christmas sure is tempting.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows Eve

Happy Halloween ya'll!!

This past weekend we hosted our 8th annual Halloween party.  I can't take much credit for this tradition, Ryan and his friends have been dressing up and celebrating Halloween together long before I came along.

At this point, everyone knows they better come in costume.  It's not optional, and I'm so glad we've set it up this way.  This year we had some GREAT costumes....but of course, I slacked on the picture taking after the beer started flowing so I've only got shots of the first few people that came.    Lo and Bri flew in from LA for the party and were dresses as LA Hipsters this year.  It was great to see them and hear all about how things are going for them in Cali.  They've been living there since April and we miss them more that I can say!

Chris and Brenna were Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World.  Pretty creative, and comfy outfits if I do say so myself.

Meg and Greg were a skeleton and muscle man.  Greg's costume was officially creepy.  First off, it was skin all areas (all the ladies know what I mean), then there was that weird mask.  The mask part was supposedly thin enough to drink through but Greg didn't test it.  It didn't take him long to figure out that major flaw of his costume was that he couldn't go to the bathroom without completely stripping down.

They even brought the deer foot along.  If you're part of the Murphy family, you already know that this foot has been re-gifted between the cousins for the last 5 Christmas's.  There's a photo book and tons of stories to go with it.  That foots been to New York, California and just about everywhere else in between.  It's been bedazzled, seen whales and even has a beer bottle open added to one end.

Since I suck and didn't get any other pictures of the night (except these cuties of my little Peanut) I'll just have to tell you about some of the other costumes.  Nick and Kimmy Kat came as Cruella De Vil and a Dalmatian puppy.   Sam and Juan might have to win the prize of the best costume.  They came as Gatsby and  Daisy from the Great Gatsby.  Sam even made herself a yellow car that she could wear/drive around in.  They stayed true to costume and drank only out of martini classes and Sam was even carrying around one of those long cigarette holders.  They looked great!

Anthony and Teresa get the award for most creative costume.  They came as Dexter and one of his victims.  Anthony's outfit was pretty apron and a knife but Theresa stole the show with her scantly clad dress.  She wrapped herself in a mini-dress of cellophane with some fake blood smeared between the layers.  I don't know how she could have stood out by the fire for hours but she did!

Who else am I forgetting??  Jamie and Zach came as a Teen Mom (her excuse to wear sweatpants and a t-shirt, but I can't blame her!) and a paintballer.  Betsy was a cowgirl for sure, but I can't remember what Pat was.  Ug...that's why you take pictures Sadie!!

We had a great time and are so happy that everyone came!  We'll be hosting again next year so mark your calendars for Saturday November 1st!!!  Start planning your costumes.  I'm thinking of giving out for real prizes next year.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1 Family x 12 (October)

For the first time in the history of knowing Ryan, he agreed to do a couples costume.  In years past when I've mentioned it, he's quick to turn me down, but this year, when I spun it as a "family" costume, he was on board!  I wish I'd gotten a few pictures of Abby standing up because her costume is so dang cute, but I'm dressing her up for daycare tomorrow so I'll grab some then.

Didn't our costumes turn our great?  I can't take ANY credit for them.  Ellyn, Ryan's mom, spent the last two weeks working hard making our costumes great.  When I was younger, my mom hand made our costumes every year.  I vividly remember the excitement of driving to Joann Fabrics in late September and flipping through the pattern books to pick out what we wanted.  I don't remember Mom ever telling us we couldn't be something, though I do remember having to think about how I'd bundle up if it was cold.  I was everything from a pumpkin, to the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, to a ballerina.  One year my sister wanted to be a Genie....and mom racking her brains on how to make it warm enough for her while still looking like a bare bellied genie.  

Ryan's mom also made the kids costumes and Ryan is NOT easy to please, nor did he "grow out" of requesting costumes from she was not surprised at all to hear us asking for these custom made outfits.  Ryan's been everything from Darkwing Duck to the Thundercats.  He has an affinity for being scantily clad, so the idea of not having to wear pants as Fred was right up his alley.

With two great seamstresses in the family I'm debating if I want to take over the costume making for Abby as she grows up, or just keep letting the grandmas do what they do best :O)

More pictures from the party to come tomorrow.  Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Weeknight Fire

You might remember from earlier in the week when I posted our family picture for September, that we were outside enjoying a nice fire as a family.  Well, it was too perfect of a moment to pass up snapping a few extras of my two favorite people in the world.

Abby's recently started to enjoy having her own mini furniture to sit on.  Joey and Andy got her a tiny couch for her birthday and it took her a good two weeks to not be afraid of it, but now she loves that thing.  She doesn't sit still on it for long, it's more like, sit down, stand up, sit on the arm and fall down on the floor, laugh, stand up, sit down, stand up, climb on top, jump around, sit down, etc.  But it does keep her busy and every so often she will lay back on it with her water cup and just relax for a minute or two.

This little green chair had exactly the same affect.  As soon as we brought it out, she knew it was for her and she plopped her little butt down and just chilled.  It was great!

My gosh, she's growing up before our eyes!!!  I love how independent and silly she is, she really has her own little personality, but I miss my baby too!

Just over a year after moving to this house, we still realize every day how happy we are living here.  For the first time in a long time we've finally got the space we need to spread out and enjoy the outside.  We're loving our little town of Hampshire and are so grateful for everything that happened to get us here.  #lovinglife

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Late Summer Garden Roundup

Most of these pictures have already been posted on Facebook or Instagram so forgive the lack of new content.  I wasn't originally planning on doing a post about the garden but I've gotten a few requests and figured I'd be glad next year when I had all my thoughts here to refer back to so here goes nothing.  This is going to be a long post, so great your reading glasses on!

This year I started with the basics and figured I'd "fake it until I could make it".  I've never gardened before.  My parents ever had a garden when I was growing up, though my mom says she had one before we were born, and other than the Wares, I don't remember anyone else ever having one.  So I sort of started out by doing some reading, and talking to a co-worker about where to start.  Then I picked what I knew we would eat and went from there.

So, just what did I plant?

- 5 raspberry bushes.  Only 3 have survived the summer (I blame the dumb dogs) but I'm told they will spread in the years to come so they should be ok.  Raspberries take a few years to start producing fruit so I wanted to get them in the ground ASAP.
- 35 strawberry plants.  Like raspberry plants they take a season before you can let them fruit.  So we didn't have a strawberry crop this year, but I'm planning jam and all other strawberry sweetness for next summer.  Oh, and strawberries over ice cream?!?  Count me in!
- 40 feet of asparagus.  Again, this plant takes a few years of establishing before you can actually harvest.  Next year we should be able to eat a few shoots but likely we will have to wait til the following year.

Ok, on to the stuff that we actually got to eat this year!!  Jeesh!

-3 types of potato plants.  I planted Red, Yellow, and fingerlings.  I was able to start harvesting the red (or new) potatoes early in the season, around the 4th of July.  The remaining ones have already been pulled out of the ground and we've been using them here and there for dinners.  Next year though I think I will plan more red potatoes since those tend to be the ones we like best.  I also liked that they came up so early.  Perhaps I'll do half the bed with red potatoes, and then use the other half to try out pumpkins of squash for next year.

-3 tomato plants.  I bought some specialty plants from Jungs Garden Center out of Wisconsin.  They were grafted and touted larger crops.  Boy were they right!!!  I had tomatoes coming out of my ears!  I planted Romas and two other types.  I swore I planted grape tomatoes, but they came out larger than I'd expected, maybe they were cherry tomatoes?  The third type was a bit larger and I would not plant them again.  Next year I will probably do 3 plants again but I'll make sure to grab grape ones.  Oh, and green tomatoes!  I didn't grow them this year (or know to pick them before they were ripe) but Abby's sitter shared a fried green tomato with me the other day and I was hooked.  These babies are in my gardening future.  I'll talk more about what I did with them all in a bit

-1 cucumber plant.  This made just the right of cucumbers for our family, until I decided to start pickling them.  I felt like I had too many cucumbers to eat myself so I started asking around and although I though mine were to big to use, I tried anyways, and they turned out great!!  I used this recipe and they are so good.  I've got a few jars left for sharing if you want to try them!  Oh, and this plant came from seed!  Yea me!  I'll probably do 2-3 plants next year and plan to pick them small for pickling.

- 10ish red onion plants.  I bought the starts from a local farm stand/grower (Klein's for anyone local).  They were perfect and I'd do them again, though I'll probably add yellow onion next year as well.

- Spinach and Arugula.  I started these both from seed and neither of them took.  I didn't end up with any crop of these this year, so I'll try again next year.  I'll probably try a Musclun instead and see how that goes.

- 20ish plants of green beans.  I started these from seed as well and they actually grew!  Who knew!  I planted three different kinds, regular green beans, yellow beans and then these really flat larger ones.  I'll probably cut my crop in half and plant only the normal green beans next year.  Either that or I need to figure out how to can before next year.  I had too many beans to count.  I ended up blanching them and freezing them in freezer bags for the winter.  It works fine, but I need a bigger freezer.

- 40ish carrots - these guys are NOT making the cut for next year.  They were impossible to get out of the ground, a pain because I was always having to thin  them out and we just didn't eat the ones we finally harvested.  Ry likes carrots, so I did them for him, but honestly, they just didn't do it for me.  Maybe I'll try to do baby carrots and see how that goes.  I'll start small next year though!  But, i did grow them from seed, so bonus points for that!

- 5 green pepper plants - YUM!  These guys I started from seed, inside, and moved them out when it was finally warm enough. I got tons of yummy peppers.  Have you ever checked the price of organic peppers at the store? It's crazy!  Next year I will mix it up though and grow some other colors, like purple (yep!  They have those), yellow and orange.  5 plants is probably all we need though.  I sliced and froze quite a few bags for the winter.  I wouldn't eat them raw after freezing though.  I'll likely use them for cooking with.  And, I'm going to plant at least 1 jalapeno next year.  We aren't fans of really hot food, but I do use them occasionally, so why not grow them myself?!?

- 30ish beets.  Like carrots these need to be thinned and were sort of a pain.  But they are oh so good!  I can probably cut my crop in half next year, or can them, but they are so tasty.  Ryan's not a fan though so I can only eat so many on my own.  I used them this year to make beet salad a few times and as a side for dinners.

And, I think that is FINALLY the end of the list.  I'm really happy with most of the choices we made, though I pointed out a few changes I'll make for next year along the way.

After all that, you're probably wondering what I ended up stocking for winter right?  Here's the down and dirty on that.  I've got the pickles that are dwindling fast.  Though, that's ok.  They look canned here, but they technically aren't sealed and shelf stable.  They are refrigerator pickles so they'll last awhile in there, but we do need to eat through them here sooner rather than later.

I've got the bags of beans and peppers that I talked about above frozen and ready for winter.  And then the makings from my tomato cash crop!  I decided to keep it simple and stuck to three simple types.  I've got pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and salsa packed up in bags and bags (and bags) for the winter.  We better start eating it now or we'll never finish it.  Plus, I need my freezer space back!  I debated between trying to do something from scratch but in the end it ended up just getting these spice packs and calling it a day.  I had a full weekend of just boiling, skinning and prepping to make the three combos.  I'd say it took me around 10 hours to put up just the tomatoes this year, so this process is not for the faint of heart (or for someone who has 10 bazillion projects coming out of her ears, like raising a baby, knitting, quilting, blogging, weekly photo projects, and a life that tends to lend it self towards being gone on weekends!), but I did it!  And I'll do it all again next year...with a few tweaks.

Anybody want to volunteer for helping next year?  You can take some of the spoils home at the end!  I see canning in my future for sure.