Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The End of Summer is Bitter Sweet

The end of summer is bitter-sweet. I know Fall is coming soon because Nick, Piper and I went to our first football game of the season last weekend. It was a game at the high school where Nick and I started dating; the same school district where Piper will go when she grows up. Bitter-sweetness all around..

I'm sure we will still have plenty of nice summer-like days ahead of us but, we are definitely winding down a bit over here. The late summer nights are coming to an end as the sun is setting a little earlier than it once was. The evenings are getting cooler and the over-night chill is starting to linger on a little more into the mornings, now. Before we know it, Fall will be here and I can't let the summer go quite yet without mentioning this one thing. Piper, Nick and I had one of the best summers of our lives this year; summer treated us so very well.

Being a stay-at-home mom in the summer is the biggest blessing of all. Piper and I were able to take advantage of all of the nice days. We went on countless walks, and visits to the parks. We frequented the beach and all of our favorite local spots. This was definitely a summer to remember! Having a one and a half year old in the summertime is quite the adventure. Seeing life through her eyes has awakened my soul. I had the time of my life this summer with Piper, and I'd like to think Piper feels the same way.

If you haven't heard it before, let me be the first to tell you that being a stay-at-home mom has it's way of making you feel disconnected from the world. While that can be hard at times, I have come to realize that feeling of being disconnected is a blessing in itself. In experiencing this "disconnect" with society, I have been so much more connected to nature this summer; especially while seeing the world more through my daughters eyes. How amazing the clouds are in the sky above, and the grass beneath our toes. How beautiful and calming it is to lay under a tree and watch the leaves blow in the wind. How beautiful and peaceful it is to watch the sunset with the ones you love by your side. Being "disconnected" has allowed me to see more of all of the beauty there is around us.

If you're a regular reader, then you know that I took a long blog break in August. This break made me realized that my blog is one of the few ways I do manage to stay connected with society. While I missed sharing my world with you during my break, I think it was a good decision. I come back to you now feeling refreshed from my time away and I hope to be sharing some more new content with you soon.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats

We're in our last days of August now and I can't let it completely get away from me before re-sharing  an old favorite recipe with you; zucchini boats! 

If you planted zucchini in your own garden this year, you may find yourself needing some creative ways to put it to use by now. We had an over abundance of zucchini this year and making zucchini boats for dinner was definitely one creative and delicious way to put them to use!

All you need are a couple garden zucchini, about a pound of Italian sausage, a can of tomato sauce, a handful of chopped fresh basil and cheese.

I chopped up my zucchini as pictured and scooped out the centers. When scooping, you'll want to leave a little edge at the ends of the zucchini; it helps keep all the ingredients in the "boat".

I browned up some Italian sausage, which provided some great flavor. I use plain tomato sauce to tone the spices down from the sausage. It made for a delicious combo!

I made sure to drizzle a little tomato sauce on the bottom of the pans before putting the zucchini boats in, and proceeded to drizzle some more tomato sauce on top of the boats before adding the meat.

I layered the meat, a sprinkle of cheese and some chopped basil in the zucchini boats before drizzling the remainder of the tomato sauce on top.

I baked these in the oven at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes. They were so good and filling! This recipe easily served 8 people, but it tastes so good you might want to count on it serving only 4.

This is just one way to make zucchini boats. You can really customize them any way you'd like by adding whatever ingredients you want. Here's another recipe I used for zucchini boats a couple years ago: Sausage and Onion Stuffed Zucchini Boats. ENJOY!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Piper Grace: Eighteen Months

During Piper's first year, I managed to post monthly updates from her birth story up until she turned one. You can look back on those monthly updates by clicking any of the links, below.

Out of all of the update posts I've done on Piper, I want to say that this 18 month update has been the hardest post to start. That's why it's coming to you a month late. I've known for quite some time that this milestone was coming up fast but, 18 months old, how can we be here already?

While this time with my baby (now toddler) is going by so fast, I do take some comfort in knowing that I have spent every day of Piper's life at home with her; it kind of makes up for the fact that she's gotten so big, already. Being a stay at home mom is absolutely a dream come true in that aspect. I haven't missed a thing and I take comfort in that fact. It makes all of the sacrifices I've made worth it.

As I just recently re-read my twelve month update post on Piper, I smiled when I saw that I was worried about missing out on holding Piper while feeding her a bottle. At that time, we were about to switch her to cows milk. It's 6 months later now and I'm happy to say that I still get these sweet moments with her. The only difference is that instead of warm formula, she's drinking warm milk in her bottle. She still lets me hold her while she drinks her bottle and she even lets me rock her for a bit afterward. I know these moments won't last forever, and so I cherish every night bottle that I feed her.

I recently did a "day in the life post", which can give you a little more insight into our daily routines at this age. The post can be found by clicking this link: A Day in the Life at 18 Months.

Piper took her first steps at 12 months old and was fully walking on her own at 13 months old. March 3rd was the first time she decided that she wanted to walk on her own, across the living room, without me prompting her to do so. I was so shocked and proud. I went through so many emotions when that happened! My heart was full of gratitude; I am so thankful I was there for her first steps.

Piper has always been a teething machine. By the time that she was 13 months old, Piper had 12 teeth; both sets of her first molars were fully in. At 14 months she had 14 teeth. Then she had 15 teeth for 15 months, 16 teeth for 16 months, and now we are at a stand-still; waiting on her big 2 year molars to make their debut.

Although she's only 18 months old, Piper's two year molars have been clearly bugging her because she'll put her fingers way back into her mouth and she can get fairly miserable about it at times. She even goes as far as hitting her cheek where it hurts. It's very sad to watch when she's in pain, but I know this stage is almost over.

Piper loves to be underneath the blankets. She loves to play peek-a-boo, and she just being under the blankets in general. A day can't go past without her sitting on our bed and her hiding underneath the thin quilt we fold at the end of our bed. She goes underneath the blankets and says "hello?" (which sounds more like "ello") until I go underneath, and then when I go under, she giggles and jumps around. She also loves to walk around with blankets over her head. Being under blankets brings her so much joy, and it's so fun to her. I think she loves the thrill of it! She is my little thrill seeker.

Piper loves playing in her playhouse outside. She loves to swing and the way she says it makes it sound more like "swing-a". She also loves us to countdown for her, and actually needs us to count down before doing anything scary (like dumping water over her head in the bathtub). She always starts it off by saying "one-a" and holds up her finger with a grin. She can't say (or rather has decided not to try to say) two or three yet, so we always have to finish it for her, and we often end it with a tickle. Oddly enough, she can recognize and say the number 6 and 7. I'd like to thank Sesame Street for that accomplishment. We'll be working more on our numbers, soon. Apparently she is ready before I am to start pre-preschool activities. I have a hard time with her growing up so fast.

Piper can tell people how old she is, and she can tell us her name -- which sounds a lot like "Papa" but can also sound like "Becky" or "Betty" (mostly because I think she's calling herself "baby"). It makes Nick and I laugh so hard because she says it wrong because she says it so confidently at times.

Piper is picking up things so incredibly fast. She can repeat a lot of what people say to her; she comes out with new words each day. She also understands just about everything that's going on around her. Lately when I've trying to wrap up a conversation by saying something like "I'll talk to you later then" or "alright, well I've got to go" she will start saying "bye" and waving her hand before the other adult even catches on that it's time to say bye (which is also very funny.)

Piper remembers a lot of our local spots that we like to frequent. We can't even drive past the park now without her squealing "up up" because she wants to get up out of her seat and run around at the park. She also starts saying "nana" or "papa" anytime we turn down their street or pass their house in the car.

Piper needs all the "lambies" when she's going to bed. Around 13 months, out of nowhere, Piper needed to start bringing the lambie that I put in her crib at night with her everywhere. She needed lambie with her everywhere she'd go for a few months but right now, she can leave without him most days. The number of lambies she has to sleep with at night has grown though from just one to three.

Piper loves silk! Both her blanket and her lambies have a silk on them. Piper strokes the silk with her fingers as a soothing mechanism. She also calms down when I gently rub the silk from lambie on her cheek as she's crying. She loves to sleep with lambie on her face, around her face, and on her neck. Piper is very good at saying binky (which sounds more like "keykey") and lambie (which sounds more like lalalammie) because those are the two things she absolutely needs to go to sleep at night. That and me singing "You are my sunshine" on repeat.

Piper's personality is unmistakable.

Piper is independent. She loves to do things on her own. She doesn't like to hold hands or be held unless she's in the mood. If she sees you do something she thinks she can do, she'll insist on trying to do it herself.

Piper is a thrill seeker. The faster, the higher, the bigger the better. One of Piper's favorite things to do outside is to run up and down hills; hills that an 18 month old shouldn't really be running up and down by themselves. However, whenever she insists on doing it herself, and if I think it's safe enough, I let her go on her own because I do believe in the "live and learn" way of life. A couple tumbles later and she's starting to be a little more apt to let me hold her hand up and down some of these mountainous hills she's climbing, just for the thrill of it.

Piper is so sweet. Piper gives the best kisses, when she's willing to give them away. Whenever she does something bad, she'll often say "hi mama" and hum "mmmm" while leaning in to give me a kiss. Also, if you're one of her friends, she will find something nearby to give to you (usually a rock or a blade of grass). She loves to give things to other people.

Piper is smart. Sometimes she's even a little too smart; which can also translate to her being sneaky. She's already finding her way around things, and she knows what things really push my buttons. Right now we are having a hard time learning not to hit things, people and dogs.

Piper is sassy. She wasn't waiting until the terrible twos to throw her first tantrum. Stomping feet, throwing herself on the floor, and all that fun stuff has already begun.

Piper is particular. She needs things done a certain way. She does best with a routine (just like her mama).

Piper is a party animal. She loves to sing and dance. She is quick to join in on your excitement if you're laughing about something, she will too.

While raising a wildly independent girl can be difficult at times, I couldn't be more proud of how strong and determined Piper has become. She is definitely going to get what she wants in life, she doesn't give up easily, and that makes my heart happy. 

God truly knew what he was doing when he made me Piper's mom. I couldn't be more in love with my baby (now toddler) and I couldn't be more proud of the little girl that she is becoming. Her father and I are truly blessed to be her parents.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Less Blogging in August

As my summer break from Anything Rustic is coming to an end (read more on that: here), I am starting to think more about exactly what I want to spend my last month of summer doing. Aside from the usual to-do, which is "enjoy summer weather as much as possible", I have a couple other things that will be getting more of my attention this month. 

My sister is leaving for Guam in about a month, and since I don't know when I'll get to see her again, it's a given that any spare time she wants to spend with me, I'm there this month. 

Also, as you may know, I'm currently hosting a health & wellness accountability challenge with over 30 members. The challenge group is something I'm very passionate about right now, and so it's taking up a big chunk of any spare time I have, too.  I am very active in my challenge group (multiple times a day), so if you're a member, you'll hear from me often.

On top of that, I am gearing up to participate in a craft show on Sunday. It's our first craft show of the year and I'm really excited about it! Right after the show, on Monday, my online Etsy shop re-opens and we're officially back in business!

Right now, I'm left here wondering how much time I will have left over to blog in August. I honestly don't know how often you'll be hearing from me this month, but I did want to let you know it may be less than usual.

Have a great month!