Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Our little pumpkin helping carve her first pumpkin. We look forward to this every single year! Before we were married Mike and I spent so much time apart because of our schools in different states, we missed out on so many memory making opportunities, so these little things are so important for us to do. 
We started carving our pumpkins together our first year in Maryland and we haven't missed one yet. 
Of course this year was even more memorable because Kensi was able to do it with us. She worked hard at punching little holes in the sides to help her daddy and had even more fun scooping the seeds and guts out of the pumpkin, then put them all back in the pumpkin. Let's not forget to mention she had an absolute ball feeding the pumpkin to Stella and sneaking a few bites and locks for herself. 

Once I started carving out her little pumpkin, she started running her eyes. We let her stay up for our special pumpkin carving fun, but she just couldn't last. She ended up falling asleep on my lap as I finished her cute little 'Boo!' pumpkin. She went to bed a total mess, as we did out best to wipe all the pumpkin goo out of her hair and off her face and pick as many seeds as we could find stuck all over her little butt and legs. 
All of our little family traditions are becoming more and more memorable as Kensi gets bigger. I can hardly wait until we have two little munchkins digging in all the goo! 

Happy Halloween Eve!!!


Yesterday we were able to walk through our house with our contractor and the excitement is really starting to rise! The outside is completely done, minus the yard of course. Today, they’re wiring all the cable and starting to insulate and then putting up all the drywall! Our house is so close to being done!!! 
This is the first time we’re beginning to see our color choices come together....and our house doesn’t look exactly like every other house on the block which makes me happy as a clam. This walk through allowed us to take pictures of all the plumbing in each room for future reference and choose where we wanted each cable hook up in the house. I was over the moon when our contractor showed me there’s a light in my pantry! It’s not a huge pantry, but it’s bigger than any we’ve had in the past and light inside put the sprinkles on top! 
They’re telling us we’re about 7-ish weeks away from being done, so we’re praying we can be done and moved in a week or so before Christmas! I would love that. I am so ready to be in our house and turn it into our home. I’m ready to have our stuff back and make it feel like ours; I’m ready to do fun activities with Kensi again like baking and crafts. I’m so ready...Let’s get this thing going!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


This past weekend we spent time celebrating my nephew TJ and his now wife Carolyn in Kansas City. They were married Saturday and we love the date 10.26 because Mike and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary of being together. I’ve been a little anxious about this weekend for some time for a couple reasons 1) I had to do a reading for the wedding and although it was great I was a nervous wreck just with my simple fear of public speaking, but all went very well! 2) As every family has its issues, we do too and we were all going to be together and it’s been awhile since we’ve all been together, but it all went very well! 
Mike’s family even made the trip to see us and I know it meant a lot to him. We haven’t seen most of our family since we moved at the end of July.
 Kensi was very excited to see everyone; I know my parents {my dad especially} thought she wouldn’t remember who they were, but we talk about everyone all the time and we’re not about to let her forget anyone! As soon as she saw my parents and Mike’s parents she said “Gamma!” & “Gampa!” Needless to say, my dad was very very excited!
After a very busy few days celebrating for the wedding, we decided to stay an extra day to celebrate my nephew Colton’s 11th birthday. We stayed the night at The Great Wolf Lodge and of course the kids went wild, including Kensi. 
Colton convinced me to ride an enclosed water slide with him and Mike, which took some convincing since I hate being enclosed. The little booger tricked me and sent me on the pitch black enclosed slide.....I was not happy, but as soon as we were done and he knew I was upset he just looked at me and said, “Come on, it was fun right?” And yes it was. 
Kensi loved the water and dunked herself quite a few times and kept going back for more. I think she’s definitely part fish. 
The weekend was a hit, the weather was gorgeous with all the beautiful confetti colored leaves falling to the ground, we were so excited to see family and they were happy to see us too. The wedding was beautiful and elegant, perfect for TJ and Carolyn....I really don’t think I could have asked for a better weekend.....oh wait, I can...sleep would have been nice!
Living in a hotel for even a few short days absolutely sucks with a 16 month old. Not only was her schedule completely thrown off, she didn’t want to miss out on anything and refused. to. sleep. the. whole. time.
Needless to say when we came home late Monday night, we all slept in on Tuesday until around 10. Talk about catch up! I can’t even remember the last time I slept in that late! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I am ALWAYS the person to do things at the last minute....always! And Halloween costumes are no different. I know I planned on posting this much earlier in the month, but I've been looking for different pieces for our costumes all month long. This past weekend I was finally able to start Kensi's parrot costume and it had to be done this week because Mike is taking her to a Halloween party on Thursday night. Her costume isn't difficult at all. I used Martha Stewart's DIY tutorial {Click Here} as a guide to make our costumes this year, just as I did last year. Kensi's parrot costume is made of a onesie, safety pins and colored boas. Yes, that's it. This is a no sew costume for those out there who don't have a sewing machine or don't know how to sew. I picked up all her materials from the fabric store and bought her onesies from Carter's because they fit her so well. 

When trying to figure out how I was going to arrange the boas on the onesie for a parrot, I knew I had to do it a little differently than what Martha Stewart shows on her video. Her video after all is for a chicken costume and I didn't want Kensi to be as puffy, so I bought baby feather boas that are more fuzzy than feathery for the front. I did buy the large feather boas to create the back tail. I also did NOT add batting in-between the two onesies, I didn’t even sew them together. All I did was put a sleeveless onesie on first and then added the costume on top just to protect her little body from the safety pins touching her little body. I did buy the large feather boas to create the back tail.
The great thing about this costume is there’s really no wrong way to make it. You can use whatever colors you’d like. I saw a photo where they used all red large feather boas and then lined the neckline with one multicolored boa. I chose to use several different colors, to each their own! I also made Kensi a headband instead of a hat just to make it a little more girly for her.

As for our pirate costumes…I tried to keep it pretty simple and the cost down, using items we already had and buying a few inexpensive props at the store. Again, I used Martha Stewart’s tutorial and it really couldn’t be easier. {Click Here

Monday, October 21, 2013


A few weeks ago I found a pack of multi-colored foam leaves at Target. There are dozens and dozens of uses for them. We've put them in the bathtub and Kensi sticks them to the sides of the wall. We also sort them by color and older kidlits can sort them by shape. They're also great for writing on with a sharpie. I would use these in so many ways in my classroom....matching numbers (numeral with quantity--one to one correspondence), match upper and lowercase letters. 
Kensi pretending to be a tree, using her arms as branches blowing in the wind!

Today Kensi and I used them for pretend play. We pretended we were trees swaying in the wind and let the leaves fall from our branches. Your babies are never too little for these fun activities. 
Kensi and I talked about how the weather changes in the fall to cooler temperatures and how the wind blows. She's not going to understand everything we talk about, but she knows what cold is and says 'brrrrr'. She also blows with her lips to make the wind. Not only she is having fun, building an imagination, but she's also learning and that's awesome! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013


This recipe was published in Cooking Light a few years ago. My mom and sisters visited me in Maryland and we always try new recipes and this so happened to be one of our test recipes. We all still make this today, but we each do a few things differently. One of my sisters cuts out the pasta, one add less edamame and I add extra basil & lemon. This recipe is so good, you'll find yourself eating the entire bowl. 
The arugula is divine in this salad with its peppery crunch alongside th burst of tomato and buttery edamame. Not to forget the delicsious blend of unexpected flavor from the fresh herbs. 
This recipe is also very kid friendly!

Edamame Arugula Salad
Courtesy of Nancee Melin,Tucson, AZ Cooking Light 

8 oz uncooked Whole Wheat Penne pasta
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 cups frozen shelled Edamame, thawed
2 cups packed Baby Arugula
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
1/4 fresh Lemon juice
3 Tbsp fresh Basil, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 oz fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, shaved

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain. 
Heat oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. Add edamame to pan; cook 2 minutes or until it's heated through, stirring occasionally. Combine pasta and edamame in a large bowl. Stir in arugula and next 6 ingredients, toss well. Sprinkle each serving with cheese.

Serves 4

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Kensi's library is always growing. We are very grateful we can provide her with books to help her learn, imagine and eventually read. I rotate her books out every month or so to add new material and to avoid boredom. The last couple weeks her basket has been filled with Halloween related books. Last year she had two books in this category, but she was also four months old. This year we've added a few more, some new and some old. 
Her favorite books to read over and over are Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex and The Haunted House by Walt Disney Productions. The Disney book was mine, was actually my brothers and sisters book when they were little, then it passed to me. I've read it so many times to my nieces and nephews and once Kensi found it I laughed because honestly, I'm kinda sick of reading it. But she loves it and if it helps her fall in love with books, then I don't have a problem reading it for the millionth time. I'm actually surprised our book is in as good of condition as it is because it's been used so much. 
We did get Room on the Broom this year at Barnes and Noble because they had a deal going on with it, this book is seriously so STINKIN' cute! It's a little long, but Kensi actually sits and listens to the entire book and finds it hilarious when I try and read it super fast. It's all rhyme and she thinks its just so funny when I get tongue tied.
Where's Kensi? 

If you ask me which of her books are my favorite it would be The Monsters' Monster by Patrick McDonnell. I love the monster book because it shows not all monsters are scary, throws in some manners and the best part is that they eat donuts at the beach, which is what we do! So it pulled at a heartstring and I wasn't about to leave without our newly loved monster donut book.

Other books we have and/or recommend for toddlers...

5 Little Pumpkins 
{No need to buy the book the poem is online}
Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin & Betsy Lewin
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds {better for 3 years +}
Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hill
Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara
Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly
Halloween by Aaron Frisch
Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson
Little Goblins 10 by Pamela Jane
Ollie's Halloween by Olivier Dunrea
Spooky: Bright Baby Touch and Feel
The Spooky Smells of Halloween
The Spooky Wheels on the Bus by Ben Mantle
Where's My Mummy by Carolyn Crimi
Who's There Little Hoo? by Brenda Ponnay

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Last year it was freezing when we took Kensi to Vala's Pumpkin Patch in Gretna, NE. It is by far the best patch we've been too and compare all others to it. Even though it was cold, somewhere in the 20's or 30's I believe and she was 4 months old, we had fun none the less! Okay, Mike and I had fun and Kensi kept warm and slept part way through. 

This year was a game changer and I mean a good one. No we couldn't go to Vala's since we're in NC, but we found a cute family owned pumpkin patch just outside of Jacksonville, NC called Mike's Pumpkin Patch...with just that...a pumpkin patch. They may not have had all the other activities we're use to, but we still had a lot of fun with our 16 month old. 
Kensi was so excited to see the tractor and called it 'Ganpa!' the first few times. She was nothing but smiles pulling the hay out of hay bales and sharing with Mike, me and the little girl sitting across from us. She kicked her feet and oooo-ed at the witch and ghost hanging in the trees. When daddy told her 'I spy orange pumpkins!' her eyes LIT UP.  Best. Moment. Ever! 
She's getting to be such a big little girl. Always wanting to do things herself, even walking off the hay ride and through the pumpkin patch, which included a face dive into the sandy dirt when tripping over a vine. Not her best moment, especially when she couldn't get up because she refused to let go of a pumpkin! Miss independent I tell ya! 
Once she finally chose which pumpkin she wanted to take home and show her Minnie and other baby, we rode back to the farm and finished our visit with meeting a few new friends and touching other babies' pumpkins. Typical life of a toddler, right? 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


When I was little I always looked forward to decorating our windows and doors with window clings. I called my mom yesterday asking her if we still had our Halloween clings that we got from a school fundraiser. It was so cool, a glow in the dark skeleton that wore tennis shoes. Oh man I loved that set. 

Last year I bought the gel window clings and that will be the last time I buy those, at least for awhile. Sure the kids love them, but they love them because you can pull them and stretch them and you know tear th apart! I don't think I had any whole pieces left after Halloween last year. I definitely prefer the flat plastic-y ones much better. Plus they're a very inexpensive activity for kids as they can rearrange them. 

I found these two sets at Target for $2. Kensi really enjoyed placing them on the window and she's at the stage of making noises for every creature or animal she sees. Her favorite creature to find is the bat and it says 'EEK!' in a very loud SHREIKY voice. 

We did have a teachable moment this morning with the window clings too. Kensi learned she can't take them off and crumple them up into a ball. Not only are they a huge pain to straighten out, but the coloring will also peel off when it's stuck to itself. Yeaaaaah....we had a tantrum and an I'm sorry moment. She may not have liked it, but she learned how to play with them nicely. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Please remember I am still a teacher and I have several songs I kept on my iTunes from my PreK teaching days and yes I sing and dance around the house to them, thank goodness it's makes a little more sense now with Kensi around, but I will admit this was going on before she was ever here. I was a teacher, I am a teacher, I will always be a teacher. 
So my favorite Halloween song of all time goes way back to when I was in 1st grade in Nebraska. It was 'H-A-LL-O-W-EE-N Spells Halloween' and I cannot for the life of me find it anywhere that I can download it and put it on my playlist, but I do sing it to Kensi and every October for that matter.  
Most of these songs came from an album I bought for my preschoolers...which makes it a very kid friendly playlist and Kensi loves it. 


Friday, October 4, 2013


I love decorating for fall and one of my favorite ways to decorate is by using artwork. In the past I've bought prints online and I've framed my own. Some of my favorite things to frame are scrapbook paper, greeting cards and fabric. It's an easy way to do it yourself, especially if you're on a tight budget, but sometimes you can't find exactly what you're looking for. A couple years ago Mike gave me Photoshop for Christmas and I haven't spent a ton of time on it, but I do love using it to make some simple art prints for our home.

These prints are now up in my shop, and ALL profits made from these prints in the month of October are going to St. Jude's Hospital. It's hard to believe that this year is almost at its end and I would love to give as much as we can to our charity for the year, especially since we'll be choosing a different charity for 2014. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


September, October, November, December.....heck, all the months call for homemade applesauce, especially after we just and I mean just on Sunday bought a gazillion apples and they're crappy! But they made some pretty awesome applesauce. I basically followed my recipe {here} but I didn't have any apple cider or apple juice so I used orange juice instead and added a little Allspice. Although, now that I think about it, I coulda (shoulda, next time I'm gonna) use some of my Hard Cider that was in the fridge! How delish would that be? Hmmmm I think we need to try and see! 
The best part for me making applesauce this year is my incredibly awesome partner in crime, Kensi. Not only was she a great little helper, she was clever enough to lick most of the apples and take a few bites here and there, toss them back into the know....that way no one else would eat our yum-a-lish applesauce and we could have it. all. to. our. selves. 

Man I love her! 
I adore this photo of this Lil Pumpkin, you'd think she would be lick in' up frosting or ice cream....nope...this girl is getting every speck of cinnamon dust she can get out of the spoon. 

Sorry to our new neighbors, this batch is strictly for the Braden household. 
{Excuse our very messy, overloaded with furniture, furnished apartment. There's no where to put things!}

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Happy October!!! My favorite fall month is finally here and we are celebrating with pumpkin waffles (from Pinterest last year) and dancing to our favorite Halloween soundtrack, yes Kensi dances to The Monster Mash. 

 Pumpkin Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups milk
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.
Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, salt, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the pumpkin, milk, and egg yolks. Whip the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form.
Stir the flour mixture and 1/4 cup melted butter to the pumpkin mixture, stirring just to combine. Use a whisk or rubber spatula to fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, stirring gently until incorporated. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Cook waffles according to manufacturer's instructions.
To make the syrup, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a saucepan. Stir in the apple cider and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil; boil until the syrup thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of butter until melted. Serve warm.

We also pulled out our Halloween books (that weren't packed away). This year is so much fun now that Kensi can really participate in our festivness more so than last year! 
This week I'm starting our costumes so look out for my planning boards for Kensi's parrot costume and our pirate costumes. I also stumbled across this fun Halloween checklist on fun, right?!?? We are so excited to kick off this Halloween season!!!


Step Numero Dos: Going
to the design studio is like a kid going into a candy store. We were able to drop in before our appointment just to take the edge off, which definitely helped and we highly recommend you doing so if possible. Think about when you go shopping. You see this adorable dress. But you instead of buying roght away, you window shop it for a week or so, revisiting it to find if you really love it as much as you did when you forst laid eyes on it. After looking at the dress for awhile it doesn't seem as cute. This is the same thing. You're taking the urge to splurge away. 
When choosing your upgrades, think about the bones of the house. It's important to make the structure of the house the way you want it, because once it's built there are certain things that cannot be changed and other things that will be very difficult to change. 
For our upgrades, we chose mostly structural items. We upgraded our ceilings to 9 feet, added gutters, a water softner line and added recess lights in the kitchen. We also upgraded our cabinets in height and I won the battle for the front door, I've always dreamed about my front door, have you?  For everything else, we went standard, including all our flooring and fixtures. 
Yes we actually chose to keep the vinyl flooring and basic plain fixtures. These are things that can be updated with time and by doing them on our own we are saving a lot more money in the end. If we were to add all these upgrades into the price of our house, it will become part of our mortage which we'll then be paying on for 15-30 years. So that harmless upgraded faucet for a mere $150.00 actually turns into.....a whole lot more cash! That faucet doesn't seem so appealing any more, huh? I know how easy it can be when picking out all these little details of a house, because anyone would want it to be perfect....but it will be even better and appreciated so much more over time, espeically when so much money is being saved. 
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