Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our New Purchase & Sangria Recipe

On Sunday while Greg and I had a little free time without kids we went to the furniture store to look at couches again. We've been doing this off and on for a few months now. We decided that instead of getting each other an anniversary present for the sake of getting an anniversary present we'd get ourselves a couch for our anniversary. It's something we've both been wanting, and after I looked up what the 9th year gift is it seemed to liked it was meant to be. The modern gift for 9th anniversary is leather goods. Designer handbags was also listed as a modern gift for the 9th year, but Greg wasn't going for that. So with that said we went with a leather couch. After debating for awhile at the store between two different leather couches we finally made a decision and chose one. It was delivered today and WOW what a difference it makes in our living room. It really gives the room a whole different look and I like it! We moved the old couch downstairs which Evan is pretty excited about. Here's a look at our new purchase. I didn't really like the pillows it came with when we were at the store, but now I'm having second thoughts. I'm going to have to take a little time to decide if I want to keep them or not. They actually kind of pull the red from our kitchen in. What do you think?

In other news... as promised here's the awesome sangria recipe I promised that I told you I served at bunco the other night!

Super Fruity Sangria

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes


  • 1 Bottle of your favorite white wine ( I recommend a Pinot Grigio) You can use a red wine if you choose)
  • 1 Lemon cut into wedges
  • 1 Orange cut into wedges
  • 1 Lime cut into wedges
  • 1 Peach cut into wedges
  • 1 Cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 Cup lemonade or limeade (I used Minute Maid light lemonade)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 shots of apricot, peach or "berry" flavored brandy (or you can use peach schnapps which is what I used)
  • 2 Cups ginger ale
  • Optional: one can of diced pineapple pieces with juice ( I omitted this)


Pour wine in the pitcher and squeeze the juice wedges from the lemon, orange and lime into the wine. Toss in the fruit wedges (leaving out seeds if possible) and add sliced peaches, strawberries limeade/lemonade, sugar and brandy. Chill overnight. Add ginger ale and ice just before serving.

If you'd like to serve right away, use chilled white wine and serve over lots of ice.

NOTE: Chilling overnight allows for the maximum flavor which I recommend. Also, I suggest putting the strawberries in at the end with the ginger ale and ice because they get mushy. I got this recipe from my friend Eileen (she found it on also had served it at bunco. It was a real hit then as it was at my bunco the other night.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Potty Training & Catching The Stove On Fire

It's time to catch you up on the past couple of days and ending with my excitement this evening. Saturday I told you I had bunco at the house. I'm the June hostess and when I picked that month I was thinking it would be fun to have a summer month. I didn't know how busy people get already this early in the summer though. I got a good amount of yes rsvp's and a whole lot of no's with people saying they're going to be out of town. It was quite the bummer as I had good prizes picked out and good food planned. I exhausted the sub list and then some, but it just turned out it was a bad weekend to have bunco. I really didn't have any other choice, but to have it on Saturday since we were gone the beginning of the month and then it was Father's Day weekend. Oh well, it happens. We ended up having seven people to play which still worked, but just not as much money and prizes to win. In the end though I won $30 and actually had two big buncos which means I won table prizes, but since I was the hostess I didn't take the table prizes. The food and company was great and tomorrow I will post my recipe for the awesome Sangria I made. For those of you who wanted the Oriental Salad recipe that's already on here. I forgot to take pictures throughout the night, but I did take some of the table prizes and food. The theme was "Summer Fun" so the prizes had to do with summer.

Picnic Blanket
Beach Towel & Mugs (The kind you put in the freezer)
S'mores KitThe spread of food! Yum!
Thanks to all the ladies that showed up. It's always nice to gather with the girls and eat, drink, play bunco, and gab!

The kids stayed with Greg's mom Saturday night so while I had bunco Greg was working on the wedding pictures from Arizona. Hopefully not too much longer family members who are patiently waiting. Sunday we were kid free for most of the day still so Greg and I went to see the movie Grown Ups. You know the movie with Adam Sandler, Keving James, Chris Rock, Davis Spade, and Rob Schneider. Totally hilarious! We loved it and laughed the whole way through. You really can't go wrong with those five in a movie. It was nice to see a non-cartoon for a change! I highly recommend it if you want a good laugh!

Yesterday didn't bring about too much of anything exciting. Greg went for an eye exam for the first time in years. Ends up he needs glasses which he kind of knew. Also yesterday I decided to make Emme a potty chart so we can try and conquer this whole potty training thing. She was doing good going on the potty when one of us took her then before vacation she didn't want anything to do with it. I would really like her to be done with diapers before her birthday. So we made the sticker chart and stuck with it diligently yesterday. She gets a sticker if she goes when she's on the potty, a sticker if she keeps her diaper or pull-up dry in between times going on the potty, and at the end of the week if she does good she gets to play with play-do (which I absolutely hate because it gets everywhere), but that's what she chose so I'm sticking with it. She also gets M&M's if she goes #1 & #2. She didn't do too bad yesterday.

Today was a little bit of a struggle, but she went a few times. I decided after her nap to put some panties on her to see how she would do, and she did good with those on and didn't wet them at all. I kept asking her like every 5 minutes if she needed to go and I kept getting a no. Then it was time to start dinner so I told her to come get me while I was making dinner if she needed to go. I decided to make up some homemade shortcake for dessert tonight since I had a bunch of strawberries left from bunco night. I got the batter mixed up and dropped spoonfuls on the cookie sheet. I was waiting for the oven to warm up and had the cookie sheet sitting on top of the stove. Emme came into the kitchen and said, "I need to use the potty mommy." I got so excited that she came to tell me (while she was wearing panties no less). I said o.k. just a second, as I turned the burner on to start boiling some water for dinner. We hurried to the potty and she went right away. Yeah for Emme!!! As we got in the bathroom Greg walked in from work. He went right into the kitchen and thank goodness he did. The cookie sheet with the shortcake on it was burning. I had turned the wrong burner on before I took Emme to the potty. There happened to be a paper towel under the cookie sheet which I don't remember being there and so it was on fire a little bit. Thank goodness he walked in when he did or things could of been worse, I bout burned the kitchen down. I guess I've learned my lesson to not try to do so many things at once especially when it involves trying to cook and get Em to the potty in time. Here's hoping Emme does better tomorrow with the potty and we can get a hang on this potty training really soon! I really thought she'd have it mastered by now. I was always told girls are easier to potty train than boys.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Days Seven, Eight, & Nine On The Road

O.k., I'm finally finishing up the road trip post. I've been pulled away from the computer again the last couple days so now I'm really behind. Thursday, I was in Grandville for an Uppercase Living party, Friday I was on a cleaning mission around here, and Saturday I continued on my cleaning mission and was busy in the kitchen because I was hostessing bunco Saturday night. More details on that later along with some delicious recipes.

On to the road trip. The rest of the trip isn't all that exciting so I should be able to wrap it up. Wednesday (June 9th) we left Blanding, UT and headed for Boulder, CO. Greg did most of the driving this day because we thought there would be a lot of up and down through the Rocky Mountains to get to Boulder. I couldn't have been happier when we got out of Utah. There was a short period of the drive that was pretty around Moab, but then it was so desolate and boring. Thoughts of your car breaking down & being stranded for awhile go through your head when you're out in the middle of nowhere in these desolate towns. I swear there was absolutely NOTHING. We passed this ghost town out in the middle of nowhere which at one time people used to live there, but now just abandoned buildings, cars, etc. "decorated" the field. The drive through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado was pretty. We saw snow at the top of the mountains from time to time, we drove through tunnels in the mountains, and at one point we reached our highest elevation of 11,000+ feet. The drive actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I'm not a fan of driving on the edge of the mountains and sharp switchbacks which I thought would be most of the drive. Thankfully though most of the freeway wound through the bottom of the mountains and when it did climb up and down it wasn't too bad. We made it into Boulder around 5pm at our destination which was at Tom's who is Greg's cousin. Tom graciously opened his house up to us to stay there for two nights.

Wednesday night we went downtown Boulder and grabbed some dinner at a bike themed burger restaurant. Greg and Evan liked this as all the burgers were named after famous bike riders or bike things. After that we walked around a little and then went back to Tom's to chill for the evening. Thursday morning Tom had to work a little so we hung out at his house and took the kids to the park across the street from his house. Then we headed downtown Boulder to the Pearl Street area and had lunch with Tom and Tony (Greg's other cousin that also lives in Boulder, they are twins for those of you that don't know). We shopped around a little and the kids loved the Crocs store. They each got to pick out their own new pair of Crocs. We pretty much chilled the rest of the day and hung out with Tom & Tony and later ordered pizza and watched some of the NBA finals. Unfortunately this was the kids worst day of the vacation and we appreciate Tom putting up with the kids being so hyper and not listening very well. A big thanks to him as well for letting us stay there for two nights. It was nice not to have to be at a hotel.

Friday we got back on the road continuing to head home. It was the boring drive through all of Nebraska and part of Iowa. Nothing exciting about driving on 80 through those two states. The two highlights were finding a Taco John's for lunch (a place we used to have in Michigan that Greg loved back in the day), and listening to Omaha by the Counting Crows while going through Omaha, NE. See I told you it wasn't that exciting of a drive. We finally stopped in Grinell, IA for the night after about 10 hours on the road and about 730 miles of driving. It was a long day for both us and the kids, but we wanted to only have about an eight hour drive home on Saturday so it was worth it.

Saturday we got going fairly early and we had to start out in downpour rains for the first hour. Not how we wanted to start our last day on the road, but we didn't really want to wait it out at the hotel til it stopped. We were ready to be HOME! We made our way out of Iowa and Illinois, and made a quick stop in Michigan City to grab some lunch for in the car, and then got out of Indiana. We finally made it to Michigan and were so happy to be back in our home state! This was the part of the drive though where you just wish you could be home. We made it though and finished up our road trip reaching our FINAL destination of home at about 5pm Saturday. It was so nice to see our red house that we missed so much. We tallied a total of about 2300 miles on the way home from when we left Tucson to East Lansing.

After 18 days away from home, 4,385 miles of driving (+ an extra 547 around Tucson that week), and 12 states later home sweet home was exactly what we were ready for! We also clocked on the car about 100 hours of driving time while we were gone. HOME felt really good Saturday night. It's nice to be back in your own surroundings after being away for so long. We had a fantastic trip and are very thankful and blessed that we had a safe trip, good kids in the car, and no car trouble. My Mountaineer did us well and got us there and back! It was great to see our family in Arizona and Colorado. Our first family vacation was a success! A big thanks to my Mom for helping us out with the trip on the gas and hotels and the condo in Arizona. Thank you!!!! Also a big thanks to Greg's mom for cutting our grass a couple days before we got home (which was super long) and watching Molly the whole time we were gone. She saved us about $400 which the kennel would of cost as well as the fact that Molly would of had to been in a kennel for a really long time. So with that said, I think I've wrapped up our road trip. I hope you've enjoyed our journey and now I can post more up to date things.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Road Trip Day Six

Before I begin about our road trip on day six, I have to wish my wonderful husband a happy anniversary. Nine years ago today we tied the knot! It's hard to believe it's been nine years. I remember it like it was yesterday. I've been blessed to have Greg in my life as my husband, father of my children, love of my life, and my best friend. We've had ups and downs, as any marriage does, but overall it's been a great nine years, and with two wonderful healthy children in our lives I can't complain. So with that said, with nine years and counting under our belt, here's to many more years together. I love you Greg, thanks for everything you do for me and our family!

Now onto the road trip where we left off in Flagstaff, AZ at the end of day five on the road. Tuesday morning (June 8th) we got up fairly early we thought so we could get going to the Grand Canyon. Well early wasn't early enough as the sun was up more than we wanted before we got to the Grand Canyon. For picture taking Greg didn't want the sun too bright, but that wasn't going to happen after the sunrise had already happened way before we thought it would. At that point nothing we could do, but journey on. The drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon wasn't bad at all and when we got just outside of the Grand Canyon entrance we stopped at a tourist info spot to find out what the best spots were to stop at. After getting a map and some info we headed on in through the main south entrance and parked at Mather Point which was at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center area where there was a gift shop, restrooms, and a trail leading to the south rim. The area was under construction so we had to take a roundabout way and walk about a mile to get to the rim. Once we got up to the viewing area and made sure we were hanging on good to the kids (no fences at the Grand Canyon, the park ranger told us) we took our first look at the Grand Canyon and it was absolutely breathtaking! The two words that first came to my mind were WOW and BEAUTIFUL! I've seen pictures before so I had images in my mind of what I thought it would look like, but until you actually see it in person you really can't imagine it to it's full extent! It really is a sight that everyone should see in their lifetime. There really aren't words to describe it that can do it justice. Yes, it's beautiful, amazing, big, unbelievable, and the list could go on, but it really is so much bigger than any picture or description can do it justice. Here's one of my pictures (I'll share more on Facebook).

Before we left Tucson my uncle had said we'd probably only need about an hour at the Grand Canyon. I was a little shocked by this, but thought maybe I'm imaging more than it's going to be after being so excited to go there. He said he preferred Sedona to the Grand Canyon, and while the Grand Canyon is nice we wouldn't want to spend too much time there. Well, I don't know if it's an age gap thing or what, but for us we totally loved the Grand Canyon way more than Sedona. We spent five hours there and it still wasn't enough! We were kind of disappointed that we had spent so much time in Sedona the day before. We wished we would of drove further than Flagstaff the day before and stayed a little closer to the Grand Canyon so we were right there in the morning and possibly even visited it a little the night before. The time we spent finding a hotel in Flagstaff (an hour) we could of been to the Grand Canyon and probably gotten some wonderful sunset pictures. Had we known too the park pass was good for seven days we probably would of driven closer the night before. Live and learn I guess, but for those of you who have never been, both Greg and I felt like the five hours wasn't enough and really you need at least a whole day if not more.

We walked and walked and walked along the south rim. The guy at the visitor bureau we stopped at before entering the park pointed out many stops along the south rim where you could park and view the canyon. We didn't realize though that the paved path we took from where we parked at Mather Point went on and on and on. We ended up walking all along the path versus getting the kids in and out of the car so many times. We figured that was a waste of time and we might as well just continue on the path and see the canyon all at the same time. While you can see the Grand Canyon all along the path we walked on, there's spots you can climb down a little ways and view the canyon from different levels. Some of the spots where people were standing were just nuts. It was fairly windy there, and there's no way on a calm day you'd find me standing where these people were. Check them out!
Way out on the edge with a huge drop off, no thanks. I was good with staying up on the path for the most part. After spending quite some time walking along the path we headed east along the rim. My uncle recommended we head back towards Flagstaff instead of this two lane road the AAA map told us to go, and then go onto Utah where we were headed to end our day. We saw signs for stops along the rim that were on this two lane road and almost to the end was a viewing area where we were told we could see the Colorado River. We opted to take the two lane road instead of back towards Flagstaff and am I glad we ever did. In the end it made more sense because as we were driving we could still view the Grand Canyon. It was a beautiful drive and as we got towards the east entrance we made a final stop to see the much talked about Watchtower at Lipan Point.
Here's the WatchTower
We ended up spending about an hour and a half there and got a great view of the river at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Another beautiful sight. Here's a view of the Colorado River from Lipan Point.

The kids absolutely loved the Grand Canyon and had a good time. I wonder down the road how much of it they will remember since they're so young. Evan probably will remember quite a bit since he remembers about everything, but Em being only 2 1/2 probably not so much.

We exited out of the park at the east entrance and continued on our drive heading towards Utah. We could still see the Grand Canyon for quite some time as we drove northeast. The Grand Canyon really does go on and on and on and on. We were hoping to make it to around Moab, UT that night. On our drive we drove through Monument Valley in Arizona. My uncle told us about this area and it was quite the sight. Lots of different shaped stand alone mountains that looked well, like monuments. Very neat scenery on our drive. We stopped along side the road at one point to get a few pictures, but once again the sunlight wasn't right. Here's one shot of the "monument" like mountains.

It was a good thing we passed through this area because basically once we got away from the Grand Canyon, northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah were horrible to drive through. Seriously readers, absolutely nothing around! I really don't know how people live in these little po-dunk towns. Not my cup of tea. The drive was long and boring (besides Monument Valley) and there were a few spots where there were some ups and downs through the mountains which I'm glad Greg was driving because I didn't like it. We finally decided to call it a night when we got to Blanding, UT around 9pm. It was a long day and we were still a little over an hour away from Moab, but decided we'd had enough. Our total mileage for that day at the end of day six on the road (day two heading home) was 327 miles.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Road Trip Day Five

It's time to tell you about our journey back home to Michigan from Arizona. I'm debating whether I should call this day one on the road since it's our first day heading home or day five since it's our actual fifth day driving (not our fifth day of vacation). I'm going with the latter so from here on out it will continue in order or our days on the road. So day five of being on the road after our week long break in Tucson took us to Sedona, AZ. We left my aunt and uncles Monday morning (June 7th) about 10am and headed north. We were advised by my mom and uncle to spend a good chunk of the day in Sedona. My uncle told us about some spots to stop at that would be good picture spots for Greg. Since it was after lunch time when we arrived in Sedona, the kids were hungry so we thought we'd better get them some food before our sightseeing. We ate lunch and then started driving through Sedona stopping at some lookout spots along the way. The sight of the red rocks were really pretty. We spent a few hours stopping at different scenic spots taking pictures. We also stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This church is tucked back in the mountains a little and is built right into the mountain. Quite the sight. We parked at the bottom and walked up the road to the church. The kids thought the walk up was never going to end and were relieved when we got to the top. We were told to look for the eagle in the mountain when we got to the top. Sure enough we found it. Here's a picture. Look closely and you'll see it towards the upper left. You'll probably have to click on the picture to see it better.

Here's a picture of the church from the bottom.

There's a mountain called "Snoopy Rock" that unfortunately we didn't find, but we did buy a souvenir magnet with it on it so we kind of saw it. Here's a few more pictures from our drive through Sedona. I'll share more on Facebook.

One spot we didn't get to stop at was Slide Rock. Apparently I've been there as a little kid, but don't really remember it. It's a spot where you can slide down the rocks in the water. It was toward the end of the drive through Sedona, but when we got to it the road was closed off. I'm not sure why, but we had to keep driving. I was glad Greg was driving too because there were some sharp switchbacks that I didn't like at all. Very pretty scenery, but scary roads with drop offs which I didn't like.

After making our way through Sedona, we arrived in Flagstaff for the night and got a hotel. This was our last stop before seeing what we all had been looking forward to... the Grand Canyon. I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about that. Our total for day five on the road was 298 miles of driving and quite a bit of climbing as the elevation went up along the way by the time we got to Flagstaff.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Our Week In Arizona

Here we go readers, I'm back and going to try my best to speed up some of these vacation posts. This one is going to be the highlights of our week in Tucson, AZ. It'll probably be a little long, but I'll do my best to whip through the days. We got there Friday (May 28th) and didn't leave Tucson until Monday, June 7th so a little over a week. Saturday, my sister & Kaite arrived. They flew in since Kaite was still in school and could only be out there a week because she had to get back for final exams. We got our condo after they got in from the airport and got settled in and unpacked for the week. The condo slept six so it was the four of us and my sister and Kaite. After we all got a little unpacked we headed back to my aunt and uncles for my cousin Kevin's graduation open house. Kevin graduated from high school the week before, which we missed, but it was nice we were able to attend the open house. Congrats to Kevin on his graduation, but we're sorry to hear that he's going to the University of Arizona in the fall. We kind of think a school very near to our home would be much better. LOL.

Sunday we all headed to Sabino Canyon for part of the day. I've been there a few times before and thought it would be a nice place to take the kids. We took the guided 45 minute tour on the trolley into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are several stops along the way so after we rode all the way to the last stop and turned around, we got off at one of the stops on the way down. We picked one of the stops that had water where the kids could get out and wade in the pools. It was very nice since it was a hot day. We discovered though that Emmaline didn't like to touch the rocks in the water with her bare feet or walk in the wet sand. I think the pretty princess doesn't like dirty feet. It was a nice day to spend part of the day, but it sure was hot out there. You can check it out more at Sunday night Matt & KaiAnn came over to my aunt and uncles and we all helped them assemble the rest of their wedding programs. We had an assembly line going and got them done in pretty good time.

Monday was our day to go to Old Tucson. This is a place I used to go when I was kid on our trip to Arizona at Christmastime. I wanted to take the kids there since I enjoyed it as a kid. I had a good feeling Evan would like it, and I was right. He LOVED the place. Old Tucson Studios is Arizona's Hollywood in the desert. They feature film and television shoots and Wild West entertainment. We happened to pick the right day to go because when we were walking up to the ticket booth a lady handed us some free passes. We only had to pay for Evan to get in so that was nice. We also hit it at their slow time of the year so it wasn't very crowded which was a big plus. While there were limited shows, there was still plenty to see in the few hours we wanted to spend there especially in the heat. The kids got to ride a few rides like the carousel, a mini water log ride, the train, and old fashioned cars. We saw a Wild West gunfight and stunt show as well as a few other shows. It was fun to be back there after so many years. Amazingly I remembered quite a bit of it from being there as a kid. Go to to check out more details.

Tuesday, was girls day in Tucson, well except for Emme because she was a little too young. First we all went to Eegee's for lunch and Greg and the kids came along too. Eegee's is a sandwich place and they're know for their special eegee drink. It's a slushy kind of drink. After lunch, Greg took the kids to the Tucson Children's Museum and my Aunt Debbie, my Mom, my sister, Kaite, and I all went for pedicures. We wanted to get our toesies all beautified before the wedding. I chose to get a French pedicure which turned out nicely. It was a fun afternoon getting our feet pampered. Thanks to my mom for the pedicure. I think it's time for another one.

Wednesday was our laid back day with no real plans. We took it easy and went to the Tucson Mall for a little bit then back to the condo to hang by the pool for a bit. Wednesday late afternoon was the rehearsal for the wedding. We all went to that so Greg could get a feel for things since he was going to be taking pictures the next day. My aunt and uncle held the rehearsal dinner at their house. Their backyard is really beautiful and it was a nice spot to have the dinner. Beef brisket and mahi mahi were on the menu along with a bunch of salads and fruit. It was a very nice evening hanging out visiting.

Thursday was the big wedding day! The wedding wasn't until 6pm so we had most of the day to hang out and have some pool time before Greg had to go to work at 3pm to start taking pictures. The wedding was outside and it was a beautiful setting with the mountains. I was Greg's assistant while he took pictures. We did all the guys and then the girls before the ceremony and then the together shots of the bride and groom and whole wedding party after the ceremony. While we were out on the lawn taking the girls pictures two javelinas came walking past us. Then one decided to stop and lay down not far from us. I was about to check-out as the assistant at the time. We kind of all stood still and took a pause from picture taking for a few. Thankfully after about five minutes the one that was laying by us got up and started to walk away and join his buddy. Crazy stuff, but I guess not as crazy as the bobcat that my cousin Kevin said he saw while on the other side of the building with some of the groomsmen. The wedding was absolutely beautiful! KaiAnn made for a very beautiful bride and Matt cleaned up pretty good as well for a good looking groom. Kaite was in the wedding and was the junior bridesmaid. She looked very beautiful in her dress as well.

The reception was a lot of fun and the food was delicious. On the menu was Chicken with a prickly pear sauce which was quite tasty. We ended up buying some prickly pear sauce in hopes to make some yummy chicken on the grill here at home. The kids had a blast dancing the night away especially Evan. He was going non-stop on the dance floor. What a kid I tell ya. He's got some moves and was quite the entertainment. Emme didn't last very long though and ended up falling asleep on a couch during the reception. I'm not sure how she slept through all the loud music, but she did. Greg was busy taking pictures during part of the reception, but he did get to enjoy some of it after awhile when he finally put the camera away. He took about 1600 pictures. Isn't that crazy? While I don't drink all that often, I did manage to enjoy quite a few drinks throughout the night. What a great time we all had at Matt & KaiAnn's wedding. Congrats to the two of them and wishing them many years of happiness to come!

Friday we enjoyed a brunch with the wedding couple and family and friends at the hotel Matt & KaiAnn had stayed at the night before. Then we watched them open their wedding presents. Of course they got a lot of really nice things and it was fun to watch them. Later on Matt, KaiAnn, some of the wedding party, and my sister and the kids and I hung out by the pool at their hotel. Greg stayed back at the condo to work on the wedding pictures a little for a viewing party on Sunday. I got to enjoy a pina colada and strawberry daiquiri by the pool while Kaite and KaiAnn entertained the kids in the pool for some of the time. Kai used to be a swim instructor so she was teaching Emme how to swim a little. After our pool time we headed back to the condo and some of KaiAnn's family were staying at our same condo and grilled out by the pool and they invited us to join them. It was a nice way to spend the evening.

Saturday we had to check out of our condo. That meant packing up everything and loading the car up to head back and stay with my aunt and uncle for a couple days. My sister and Kaite had to leave that morning to head home. The plan after we checked out of the condo was to go see Matt & KaiAnn's house and they were having a kickball/picnic at their neighborhood park. Unfortunately there was some horrible news Saturday morning that none of us were expecting. Matt & Kai's house was broken into late Friday night/early Saturday morning sometime. They weren't actually home at the time because they had stayed another night at the same hotel. A lot of their stuff was stolen, mostly electronics, and their house was trashed. No real damage, but a lot of items thrown all over the place. There's still no evidence and more than likely they'll never catch who did it. We're all pretty much convinced that it's someone who knew they had just gotten married and were looking for wedding presents and money. Thankfully all their wedding presents were at the hotel they were staying at so none of that was taken. It was a damper to the day, but they ended up having the kickball/picnic later in the day anyway, and it was a nice way to take everyone's mind off the break-in for a little bit. I didn't play kickball, but Greg did and I never knew he was such a great kickball player. He was awesome kicking that ball way out in the field and getting the runs in. A terrible morning for Matt & Kai, but a fun day nonetheless in the afternoon.

Sunday was our last full day in Tucson. That morning my Aunt Debbie and my Mom took the kids to the zoo in Tucson. Greg and I had a little free time which was really nice. We ran a few errands that we needed to and then we had a date lunch at the Guadalajara Grill down the road from my aunt and uncle. We had to get in one last Mexican meal before we left. It was so so yummy. Definitely a good choice for our date lunch and once again I was in guacamole heaven. That afternoon we all gathered at my aunt & uncle's to view the wedding pictures. Greg still has some work to do on them, but this was just a little preview so they could see most of the pictures. Greg did a fantastic job and I'm pretty sure everyone was pleased. If you ever need a wedding photographer or just a photographer for that matter I think I could hook you up with one.

Monday was our day to hit the road again. Time for the week travel home. We headed for Sedona that day and I'll be back tomorrow with more details and maybe some pictures of some of our days in Tucson!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jammin' Time Again

Sorry folks, the past couple days got away from me. I'm interrupting the vacation blogging with a quick update about the jam making. If you remember, Thursday it was time to make strawberry jam. This year because of schedule conflicts it was only my friend Liana and I that made jam on Thursday. One of the gals Sarah, who made jam with us last year decided not to do it this year. Then Ellen, Elizabeth, and Liana had talked about doing it last Sunday and since that was the day after getting back from vacation I couldn't commit to that. It was pretty much the last thing I felt like doing after being on the road and gone for almost three weeks. I didn't have all the stuff bought, I had laundry, unpacking, etc. to do last Sunday, and I just wasn't up for it. So with that said, Liana decided to wait for me and we chose Thursday to do it. Ellen and Elizabeth went ahead and made theirs on Sunday though.

We headed out late afternoon on Thursday to Felzke Farms where we pick the strawberries. It was beautiful weather for picking. It didn't take us too long to pick the berries, maybe 45 minutes. Then we headed home and tore up Liana's kitchen making the jam. This year I picked 15.18 lbs of strawberries. A little less than last years 18.30 lbs. We discovered that the berries weren't as big as last year, and while there were plenty to pick they weren't as ready as last year. There also wasn't as many strange looking ones as last year. If you recall last years jam post there was the picture of all the weird shaped berries. We started making the jam about 6pm and finished about 9:15pm. It seemed to go pretty fast, but we figured that was probably because there wasn't five of us sharing the sink, stove, measuring cups, etc. We cleaned the berries, mashed the berries, mixed them with sugar, added the pectin, and repeated over and over. We ended up doing a great job of multi-tasking as we made the jam. Once the mashed berries and sugar are mixed it's supposed to sit about 10 minutes, so during that time we cleaned and mashed more berries, and boiled the pectin. We managed to time it all really good.

It felt really good to get it done and now the freezer is stocked with homemade strawberry jam for another year! We even remembered to add the pectin to all the batches this year! After about three hours of work I ended up with 25 containers. More overall than last year (the count was 24 last year), but this year I used more smaller containers instead of the larger ones. I discovered that the smaller ones stack better in the freezer and I like to take out a fresh batch more often than trying to use up a big container. So here's the finished product!

Sorry, the picture is a little crappy. I took it with my phone. It's the only picture of the night I took this time around. I didn't have my camera when we picked and I didn't take a picture of all the berries after I picked them. Oh well. I'm sure I'll have plenty of jam to last another year since I was trying to get rid of some before I made the new batches up. So while I'm not giving ALL my jam away, I may be able to spare some here and there this time around too!

Click here for the Strawberry Jam Recipe

Hopefully I'll be back to continue with the vacation blogging, as I'd like to get it wrapped up in the next few days so I can get back to the current events at the Shearwater Nest!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Road Trip Day Four

Good morning readers! You're hearing from me a little earlier than normal today. That's because today is jam making day so I'll be busy all night plugging away container after container getting the jam ready for the next year. Remember last year all the strawberries I picked and all the containers of jam I showed you? Well, it's that time of year again already so I thought I'd better get blogging this morning since I won't be on the computer tonight.

Here we are on day four of our road trip story which mean we're just that much closer to our destination of Tucson, AZ. We knew we only had about a six and a half hour drive so we didn't have to get up and leave all that early. We had our breakfast at the hotel and then decided we'd check out a downtown shopping area before we hit the road (all the shops were closed the night before so we couldn't go to them). Before we left the hotel, I had to take a picture of the kids in front of this window with the water falling down it. They thought it was really neat and they wanted a picture. So here's my two Albuquerque turkeys ready for our last day on the road!

We left our hotel and went shopping for about an hour. Then we got on the road about 11am. The drive wasn't bad at all. We got to see the Rio Grande through different parts of New Mexico. It's really a surprise when all you see is mountains and dessert and then all the sudden there's a spot with a large amount of water. It was very pretty scenery though. The kids were excited to get to Tucson and still remained pretty good in the car. We decided to just eat lunch in the car again that day to save some time. I really wasn't fond of the hour we would waste in fast food places just to eat lunch. Being our last day on the road anyway, we were just eager to get to our destination and the sooner the better. My uncle had told us once we were into Arizona there would be a rest area where there was some very pretty scenery and lookouts called Texas Canyon. Well we crossed into Arizona and drove and drove and did not see this rest area spot. After awhile I figured we must of missed it. Finally though about an hour away from Tucson we found the rest area. (It was a little further into Arizona than my uncle remembered.) We didn't really want to stop again at that point, but we did just to take a few pictures. Here's a couple shots of Texas Canyon.

The rock formations were really cool.

All the times I've been to Tucson over my many years, we've always come from Phoenix so that means we'd come in from the north. This time though driving from New Mexico, we came in from the south so it was nice to see a little bit different route into Tucson. We arrived at our final destination for a week in Tucson, AZ at about 5:15pm. It felt really really good to get there! Four days on the road were long, but actually went a lot better than I expected with two kids in the car.

It was exciting to get to my Uncle Dick & Aunt Debbie's house and see the family again. The kids had never really met their cousins. Evan & I were out in Arizona when he was three months old, but he obviously doesn't remember that (even though he tells me he does). Then two years ago when my aunt and uncle came to Michigan Em was only 10 months old so she really doesn't remember meeting them. Evan did though so he was excited to see Uncle Dick & Aunt Debbie. My cousin Kevin is the only cousin still living at home. He just graduated high school though so will be moving out soon. The kids took to Kevin right away and loved playing with him!

Shortly after we were there, my uncle announced "the bar is open" which is pretty common at the Stamp house in the evening! We had a drink, visited, and then enjoyed a nice spaghetti dinner. My cousin Matt who was the one getting married the following week came over with his fiancee KaiAnn that night to see us and visit. It was so nice to see them. The kids hadn't met him before and both the kids and Greg hadn't ever met KaiAnn before. Ev and Em loved both Matt and KaiAnn and took to them quickly too. We settled in for the night at my aunt and uncles because the condo we were staying at for the week we couldn't get until Saturday. So folks, that's our trip getting out to Arizona. Next up will be details on our stay in Tucson, the wedding, and then our trip back. Lots still to tell so as I've said before, stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Road Trip Day Three

Time for the details about day three on our road trip to the southwest! We ended in Amarillo, TX on day two, and as I mentioned yesterday we were glad we drove the little bit extra the night before. Over the first couple days we kind of had planned that we'd try to get to Albuquerque by the end of day three so we'd only have about a seven hour drive on the last day to get to Tucson, AZ. Since by day two we had made it to Amarillo, TX that meant it was only a four hour drive to Albuquerque. Greg threw out the idea in the car on Tuesday that maybe we should go see Santa Fe since we were basically "right there" on our way to Albuquerque. This was going to be a short day unless we drove further than Albuquerque, but since Tuesday was such a long day in the car we figured we might as well stick with a short day for the sake of the kids and not keeping them cooped up in car seats. From Amarillo to Albuquerque it was a four hour drive and from Amarillo to Santa Fe it was a four hour drive. Then from Santa Fe to Albuquerque it was only an hour drive so basically we were only adding an extra hour onto our drive time. With that said, it was a go to see Santa Fe because who knows when we'll ever be back that way. An extra hour sounds fine as opposed to a couple days of driving years down the road.

We had breakfast at our hotel and then hit the road about 9:30am. The drive through the top of Texas let me tell you is NOT exciting. Blah, blah, & blah. Nothing around but a bunch of cows here and there. Seriously I don't know how people live in these places, but each to his own. We got into Santa Fe around lunch time and decided we wanted to find some good Mexican food and then we'd shop around. We parked the car in a parking garage, took the elevator down (we had the stroller) and then headed to this shopping area where everything is in walking distance. We stopped at a visitor center to ask for restaurant recommendations and headed to the place they suggested. Only to find out that all the power in Santa Fe was out. Seriously it wasn't even five minutes from when we left the car. Everything was shut down. No restaurants serving food obviously since there was no power and all the shops started closing up because they had no power. Just our luck. We walked around a little bit, but basically all the store owners were standing at the doorways or had locked up so there was nowhere we could go. So we decided to head back to the car and try this other restaurant that was located a little ways away (More out by the mall, Target, kind of area as opposed to the quaint downtown where we were.) in hoping the power outage wasn't expanded that far. As we went back to the car we realized, we obviously couldn't take the elevator so we folded the stroller up and headed up the stairs. It was then that it dawned on us, we were lucky we didn't get caught in the elevator when the power went out because like I said it was less than five minutes after we were out of the elevator that the power went out. Can you imagine? Two little kids and us in a strange town stuck in and elevator. No thank you. Thank goodness that didn't happen!

We found the restaurant we were looking for and thankfully the power was on. We ate at the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery which was delicious. Authentic Mexican food.... yum-o! We both love Mexican food (Greg a little more than me), and when I started eating the guacamole it was like I was in guacamole heaven! So so good! I used to not like guacamole until a couple years ago I started eating it. I grew to like it and now I'm hooked. Once I had the guacamole in the southwest I was craving it all the time! Mmmmm! O.k. enough about the food. We had our lunch and were a little disappointed that we didn't get to do much in Santa Fe with the power outage, but what were we to do? It was out of our hands so we figured we might as well go on to Albuquerque. Greg had waited 13 years to get to Santa Fe and it was a huge bummer this power outage happened. He had actually wanted me to drive to Santa Fe with him for a photography convention when we first started dating, but we never went. I'm sure someday he'll want to go back! As I was posting Facebook statuses along the way on our road trip and mentioned we were headed to Santa Fe, an old friend we both worked with from the College Store commented that we should take the Turquoise Trail while in Santa Fe. We had no clue about it, but after checking with my aunt and uncle in Arizona they looked it up for us and told us where to go. It was a scenic drive to Albuquerque on a two lane road instead of taking the interstate. So thanks to Karen for mentioning it because it was a beautiful drive. See how great Facebook can be?

As we got off the two lane road and hopped on the interstate heading into Albuquerque, we hit a bad storm. It was actually a really freaky storm with the way the sky looked. It was kind of a rain, wind, dust storm all rolled into one. Not a typical storm like at home. Of course we were hitting Albuquerque at rush hour again so the traffic was pretty heavy and the interstate exits were going in every direction and we weren't sure which way to go. I wanted to get off the interstate because the storm was freaking me out so I told Greg (thankfully he was driving this time) to just get off at an exit. We'd drive around and check out the downtown and look for a hotel. Soon after we got off the storm lifted a little and after driving around for a bit we found a hotel for the night. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express which I had never stayed at before. It was a wonderful hotel and very very nice. I'd say it was probably our favorite hotel of the whole trip. After getting settled we decided to drive around a little and check out the historic Route 66. We had a late lunch so we weren't really hungry for a big dinner. We found a Route 66 diner and decided we'd just have ice cream for dinner. I think the kids thought we were the best parents ever letting them have ice cream for dinner. I knew though after a late lunch and snacks in the car that they wouldn't eat a whole meal. It worked out perfectly and the kids enjoyed the diner. Since I loaded some of my pics to Facebook today you get the bonus of some pictures on here today.

Here's the Route 66 diner

This is one of the scenic lookout spots along the Turquoise Trail

We got back to the hotel and settled in for our last night on the road. The totals for the day were about 360 miles of driving. We had left about 9:30am from Amarillo I said, and by the time we got to Albuquerque after stopping in Santa Fe it was about 7:00pm. Not bad since we were out of the car a lot in Santa Fe. It really felt good to have a shorter day on the road! The kids did great again in the car. I'm thinking we made the right choice with a shorter day or it might not have gone so good. The next post will be all about our last day on the road before arriving at our destination in Tucson, AZ. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Road Trip Day Two

I'm back to tell you about day two on the road, but I have to pause a moment and give a shout out... Wooooooooo Hoooooooooo! I'm am super ecstatic that Coach Izzo is going to continue to be the basketball coach at MSU. In case you haven't heard over the last nine days there was talk that Izzo may go Pro to Cleveland. When I heard that when we were out in Arizona, I thought no way is he going anywhere. Then the days went on and on, and I became a little worried. Finally tonight though it's been confirmed, and I just watched the press conference and Izzo is a Spartan for LIFE! I just couldn't even imagine Spartan basketball without him, especially this next year with the team he has coming back. I'm elated with joy and it was the best news to hear today that he was going to continue on at MSU. All of us here in Spartan country are beyond thrilled, and I'm really looking forward to Spartan basketball next year! GO GREEN!!!!!!!!

Back to our trip details now. Day two (Wed., May 26th) we got started about 9:15am that morning from Eureka, MO where we had stayed the night. We grabbed a quick McD's breakfast and got on the road. This was the only morning our hotel didn't have breakfast. All our other hotels had free breakfast which was really nice. This was our LONG day on the road. It was one of the least exciting too since there really wasn't anything to stop and see like the Arch the day before. Most of the driving this day was through the state of Oklahoma. Not a very fun state to drive through. Not to mention the $8.00 of tolls we had to pay to get through there. Boring, long, long, and long drive, however the bonus was the speed limit was 75! After whipping through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and part of Missouri all in a day, getting through Oklahoma seems like eternity. The only real excitement which wasn't a "good excitement" was going through Oklahoma City. The GPS didn't tell us to turn when we should have so we ended up driving smack through Oklahoma City instead of taking the bypass. It was of course rush hour time when we were passing through (that was our luck with big cities- we always managed to hit them at rush hour time) and on top of that there was a horrible storm. It was windy, pouring rain, and then hail. The traffic was bumper to bumper which ended up not being such a bad thing since it was raining so hard I could hardly see driving so it was better off that we were moving slowly. Not a fun time, especially for me as the driver because I hate driving in the rain and at night.

Finally we drove out of it and I handed the keys over to Greg to drive the rest of the way that day. The driving and storm had stressed me out. We ended up stopping a little ways past Oklahoma City for dinner and had to made a decision to stop for the night or keep driving. We either had to stop in this po-dunk town in Oklahoma where we had dinner or drive a little further into Texas to make it to Amarillo. There basically was nothing in between. Since it was getting late and starting to get dark, Greg said he'd drive if we kept going to Texas. I was fine with that and figured in the morning we'd be glad we had drove a little longer the day before so we'd have a much shorter day on day three. So after 724 miles, 13 hours (about 10 1/2 of driving and 2 1/2 hours consisting of stops for gas, restroom, traffic, & meals) we made it to Amarillo, TX for the night. Miraculously the kids did pretty good for such a long day on the road. They were ready to get out of the car and be done for the day when we stopped in the po-dunk town in Oklahoma, but they hung in there and were real troopers. Actually the first two days on the road were better than the first two nights at hotels. They seemed to let it all out at night at the hotels and were a little wild. So that in a nutshell was our day two. Like I said, not too exciting since it was all driving. We had lunch at a Sonic which we were glad to find since we don't have them around here. Greg and I used to eat at Sonic's when we drove to Florida several times. However this time it didn't really hit the spot like we thought it would and weren't too impressed. Then we had Subway for dinner which really isn't my favorite place, but we had gift cards from Christmas still so it was free and in that case... it worked. Day three was a little more exciting as we hit New Mexico, so stay tuned readers...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Road Trip Day One

Here we go folks! I'm going to try to give you the condensed version as there's lots I can go on and on about on certain days, but since I'm way behind I'll try to keep it as brief as possible. (Don't hold me to it though.) We left for our big road trip on Tuesday, the 25th of May. I wasn't sure what to expect for our first long day on the road and two kids in the backseat, but it turned out pretty good. Most of the car was loaded the night before, and after we loaded the final few things that morning it was time to leave the Shearwater nest and hit the road. Here are my two wonderful little travelers all ready to go.

We pretty much got out of the house on time that morning around 9am like we had planned. We figured it was probably going to be a long day so we made a pit stop for coffee at Beaner's (well Biggby, but I still call it Beaner's) and then got on the road about 9:30am. Let the road trip begin! The kids were all settled in the back with their DVD players and their backpacks of things to do. I started out driving until we stopped for lunch and then Greg took over. We managed to make it about five and a half hours before the first, "How much longer?" was spoken. Not bad I'd say. I really expected to hear it a lot sooner. I can't remember now who said it, but I think it was Evan. We drove and drove until we reached St. Louis, MO where we had planned to stop and see the Gateway Arch.

Neither Greg or I had seen the Arch before so it was a first time for us all. The kids thought it was really cool and we did too. It really is quite neat to see. We took lots of pictures outside and then headed inside. Did you know there's a whole museum, gift shop, and more underground of the Arch? Did you know that you can actually ride up inside the arch to the top and look out the windows at the top? Apparently I'm out of the loop or something because I didn't know you could ride up to the top. We happened to get there right before they closed so we had to whip through the museum in 10 minutes and unfortunately the ride to the top stopped an hour before closing time so we couldn't do that either. I guess we should of checked into it before we got there, but apparently there are shortened hours before Memorial Day and then they have extended hours for the summer. I figured it would be open until at least 8pm though, but that wasn't the case and closed at 6pm. Oh well, at least we got to see it. We also got to see the arena where MSU played in the Sweet 16 so Evan thought that was neat too.

We decided after seeing the Gateway Arch that we'd drive a little further so that we didn't get stuck in all that St. Louis traffic in the morning. We ended up stopping in Eureka, MO for the night after our first day on the road and called it a day. We totaled about 530 miles for the day and just under nine hours of driving. Not bad for day one. I really have to commend my children for their first day on the road. I don't think they really knew what to expect, and they ended up doing fabulous in the car! They watched four movies on day one- Toy Story, Snow White, Ice Age, & Cars. It was a great first day and I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly our day on the road went! Stay tuned tomorrow for details on day two of the road trip...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We're Back!!!!!!

Hello my dear readers! It's been... well forever since I've blogged. Geez last time I blogged it was May and here we are almost half way through June! By the way, happy June everyone! I feel like I've neglected my blog while we were gone. I sort of did, but it wasn't really by choice so much. We had long days on the road and while the hotels we stayed at had free Wi-Fi I only got on the internet for a very short time at night to check email and wasn't really up for blogging. I was too tired to do much of anything, but go to sleep. Then the condo we stayed at for a week in Arizona didn't have free Wi-Fi so I basically wasn't on the computer much. Only for short amounts of time while we were at my aunt and uncles. It's crazy how much we depend on our computers and the internet these days. Not being connected to email, Facebook, etc., very much for two and a half weeks made me feel out of the loop. Now I feel like it's time to play catch up on everything I missed. So now that we're back it's time to catch you all up on our road trip and tell you about the wonderful time we had and the fabulous things we saw. Over this next week, I'll fill you in on everything so by the end of the week hopefully I can get back up to date on here.

We made it back yesterday about 5pm and it was good to be home. 18 days, 4,385 miles, and 12 states later it was nice to arrive at our Shearwater nest and end our trip. Don't get me wrong, we loved our trip, but after being gone so long it always feels good to be home and in your own surroundings. My own shower, my own bed, etc., all were so very nice last night! I look forward to sharing our road trip events with you and hope you look forward to hearing about it because that's what all the blogging over the next few days will be about. I will probably wait until the end to share pictures with you since I took a ton, and I've still got to weed through them. There's way too many to post on here, but I will be posting some and then putting the rest in albums on Facebook. I managed to get the car all cleaned out today and have been doing laundry non-stop. I think I'm on load number six. So I'm going to leave you tonight to finish up some things and start fresh tomorrow with trip details. Hope you all have been well while I was gone! Before I leave, a quick belated birthday wish to my sister. Yesterday was her birthday and while I did talk to her, I didn't get the chance to wish her a happy birthday on here like I had planned. The evening got away from me after we got home. Happy Birthday Jen! Hope you had a great day!