Saturday, May 31, 2014

Minnie Mouse and 'Smores - could it get any better?

Do days get any better than today?  I'm hard pressed to remember one that was as beautifully sunny, fun-filled, tasty and enjoyable as this one.  Bring on summer, the Gatchel's are ready!

We spent the morning at the library (Daddy picks out the best books so they've been patiently waiting for a time to go with him), weeding in the sunshine, playing in the yard, running some errands - mostly filling it with lots of little things that made it pass in a blur.  We thought that was how most of the day was going to be, but yesterday afternoon my Dad made Grant and I aware of an event that promised to be too cool to pass up.  So we finished up lunch, poured into Sasha and headed off to Somerset Mall  to check out the Grand Opening of their New Disney Store!

Dad, you're Mikayla's hero today for sure.  She got an Ariel doll, met Minnie Mouse (who she said to me "Mom, she's the real Minnie!  Right from Disney!  And she came just to meet me!"  Yep my baby, just for you.) and got a treat from the candy store.  Her brother made out too as he got to go to the Lego store which is right next to it.  I had two very happy kiddos who called Papa on the way home just to say thank you for telling us about it.

Dinner tonight was quite the Massachusetts (with a Boston oriented nod, it seems) feast!  I made broiled cod (one more seafood dish for the Bean!), Boston baked corn, and Boston brown bread for dinner with a glass of crisp Boston iced tea to go with it.  (Don't worry, the iced tea isn't the only place you'll see cranberries this week - I haven't forgotten that they're important to Massachusetts (though they follow Wisconsin in overall production of them, FYI).  Tomorrow's dinner is laced with the super fruit)  It was the perfect meal to enjoy outside tonight in the ever warming state of Michigan.  I mean, I'm in a sleeveless dress and flip flops - it must be warm!

After dinner the fun continued as we set up the sprinkler in the yard and set out the most amazing fire pit that my parents surprised Grant and I with for our anniversary last weekend.  The evening had 'smores written all over it, so we of course busted out the supplies and enjoyed.  Even better, Keith, Tess and the kids came down and joined us for the evening.  (I have a feeling this is going to be a recurring theme this summer.  Oh how lucky we are to have them 3 doors down!!!)  Best.  Day.  Ever.

A quick programming note.  The third week in June (God will and 'if the creek don't rise' as they say) the kiddos are headed to Cincinnati to visit Aunt Sarah for a few days and Grant and I are headed up north for our own mini vacation.  I'm not quite sure when at this point we're all going to be making it back to the Hills, so I've decided to post-pone the state we had planned for that week, Missouri.  I thought about splitting it half and half with the week following, but that is now Michigan, which I have BIG plans for and I don't even want to try to squish that all together.  So I'm right now planning to move Missouri to either the last week of the year (which is free), or swap it with Washington DC which will then move to the last week of the year since it probably won't need a whole week to itself.  We'll see.  Point being, we're going to be taking a State Project break the week of June 23rd (actually starting the 21st, Mississippi is going to be shortened a bit).  Which means, we'll finish up Massachusetts, do Montana next week, then Minnesota and Mississippi, take a week off and come back and do Michigan in style!  Phew!

Tomorrow morning we're headed to the Science Center for a Mystery I-Max movie for members only - totally excited.  And I hear that we may be giving Sasha and Blue baths in the driveway tomorrow afternoon.  Can't wait.  So until then...

Massachusetts Fun Fact of the Day:  The Boston University Bridge on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston is the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train driving under a car driving under an airplane.

My crew's favorite - build your own waffles for breakfast 

Boston Brown Bread fresh out of the oven

In her element

This is her singing "Let it Go" with the video screen they have

One very happy Mikayla


I got to get in, too!

Bye Minnie, thanks for coming to Michigan just to see the Bean!

Had to try out a 'Malificient' crown, too

2 very happy Gatchel kiddos

Sliced up the brown bread for dinner

Boston Iced Tea

Boston Baked Corn

Broiled Cod

First outdoor dinner of the year!

Mom and Dad - you guys ROCK!  We love the fire pit

Janoch's joined us for outside fun and 'smores

Roasting away

I'm not sure Mikayla could have had a better day if she'd tried

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Game of Life

I've spent today being thankful.  Thankful for the beautiful sunshine.  Thankful for friends who mean the world to me and make me a better person just by having them in my life.  Thankful for my two adorable kiddos - one who is all wrapped up in school and having a blast and one who has become my partner in crime that I don't think life would be half as entertaining without.  Thankful for a husband who loves me and does the little extras like flowers to make me smile on a Friday afternoon.  Thankful for people who have reached out and helped us with our little project - both those we know and those we don't.  Thankful to be alive.

I've had so many reasons to smile and enjoy today and of course have to share a few of my favorites.  This morning after both kiddos helped me get some housework tackled (Noah zipped through getting ready for school just so he could dry mop the floors.  Are they my kids or what??), we got Noah on the bus, the Bean helped me finish up and then we trooped down to the Janoch's to pick up Tess and A for a surprise that Tess had been planning.  Since both both boys will be out of school soon, Tess wanted to make sure the girls had on last fabulous "Girls Only" playdate this morning and went and snagged a copy of "The Pirate Fairy" just for two little girls who have asked to see it quite a few times.  It was so much fun to watch how excited the girls were watching the movie and afterward (they went around 'argging' for at least fifteen minutes) and it gave Tess and I a chance to catch up for awhile as well.  You know those friends I'm thankful for - she ranks right up there at the top for sure.

Bean and I made a quick trip to Walgreens to snag the pictures for the scrapbook page which she helped me put together after lunch today.  She also jabbered ENDLESSLY about Tinkerbell and how she now wants to be a pirate.  I think it's safe to say my Bean has inherited her Mama's gift for gab.

We took a walk in the sunshine to grab Noah and then came home to open some special delivery Massachusetts mail.  Straight from Andover, Massachusetts came a sweet note and some pictures from a friend of my friend, Kristina (who you may remember from Maryland week last week!).  She told the kiddos about what she enjoys in Massachusetts (the Fall!) and sent the pictures of Boston Harbor and some of the ships there.  Again that thankful thing - for friends with connections and the time and generosity of perfect strangers.

When my wonderful husband got home (with flowers!) the troops headed out to play in the sunshine while I put together our dinner of Chocolate Fluffernutter sandwiches, Boston Baked Beans and watermelon (thanks Tess!).  If you've never had a fluffernutter sandwich, you truly haven't lived.  According to my awesome Taste of Home "Recipes Across America" cookbook "The first shelf-stable marshmallow cream product, Snowflake Marshmallow Creme, was introduced in 1913 by the brother and sister team of Avery and Emma Curtis.  From heir factors in Melrose, Massachusetts, Emma devised all types of uses for the new product, including the classic Fluffernutter sandwich - peanut butter and marshmallow creme on white bread, which is still very popular in New England."  This seemed like the perfect Friday night treat and of course they disappeared in the blink of an eye around here.  The Boston Baked Beans I had in the crock pot all day yesterday turned out scrumptious - though I can't get everyone here 100% on board with them as I think my crew would pass on any baked beans (like the ones we did from Maine) that have such a strong molasses flavor.   All in all, the crew gave dinner an 8 of 10 ;-)

After some much needed baths (late night last night so no baths and running around outside tonight = 2 very dirty Gatchel kiddos) we sat down for a family game night.  American game pioneer, Milton Bradley who is credited by some as launching the board game industry, was actually born in Maine but spent the majority of his life in Massachusetts, including the time he spent establishing his Milton Bradley Company.  His first successful game was called The Checkered Game of Life, which because the basis for the now popular Game Of Life.  The Milton Bradley Company (based in Springfield, Massachusetts) is also responsible for such games as Candyland, Connect 4, Operation,  and Battleship.  It seems only fitting this week that we spend some time putting to good use some Massachusetts products!

I have a feeling the majority of tomorrow is going to be spent outside as it is supposed to be absolutely beautiful again and there is still plenty of yardwork around here that needs to be tackled.  I've also got a seafood dish planned to appease my youngest munchkin and a bread from Boston that is brown and corn baked in ketchup??  Rumor has it there may be a movie at some point tomorrow too and a trip to the library is definitely on the agenda.  So until then...

Massachusetts Fun Fact of the Day: Robert Goddard, inventor of the first liquid fueled rocket, was born and lived much of his life in Worcester and launched the first rocket fueled with liquid fuel from the neighboring town of Auburn.

The Bean got her own mail today - tattoos and a thank you from Mrs. Porto!

Massachusetts mail call!

Helping me with the scrapbook page

Massachusetts scrapbook page is done

She was proud of her efforts

Checking out their mail

He read it himself - so proud of him!

Thanks Helen!

This has "mom of the year" written all over it, right?

Fluffernutter perfection

Boston Baked Beans!

A dinner of champions

Game night for the Gatchel's!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blooming, Bowling and a surprising state

What a beautiful sunshiny day!  I'm posting a little early tonight before we head off to the Dads & Dogs event at school because while the kiddos and Grant will probably be home shortly after 8, I'm not sure when I will make it back.  And I know how you all are just chomping at the bit for a post, so far be it from me to hold on out the latest Gatchel happenings ;-)

Mother Nature decided to co-operate much better today and after getting a chance to catch up with my friend, Jen, for a walk and some gabbing after dropping Noah off on the bus (the Bean got to ride in the wagon), Kayla and I set out to get our flowers planted.  I am by no means an expert gardener, I wouldn't even say that I have a green thumb but I love flowers.  One of my favorite things every Friday afternoon is when Grant brings me home a beautiful bouquet to celebrate the successful completion of the week (isn't he great??) and they make me just as happy outside in the yard.  So my favorite shadow and I had quite the time digging in the dirt and putting some beautiful pots together to go in the front.  Our actual flower beds are very rocky and I haven't had much luck with planting in them, so this will have to do for now.  Though I did notice that the ants are starting to do their work on my peony bushes - can't wait to see those in bloom.  Makes me think about taking a trip to the arboretum soon again.  Remember last year?

After wrapping things up inside, we decided to try our luck with the bowling alley again.  We met up with Tess and Alexis and the girls bowled their hearts out.  I have a feeling that we are going to be frequenting the alleys quite a bit this summer.  Noah was super bummed to learn of our trip when he got home from school, but I was quick to remind him that we have passes for EVERY DAY all summer, I'm sure he'll get to go once or twice.  Come on school, get over with for the year already!

Speaking of Noah coming home, when he did the kiddos tackled their Massachusetts coloring map.  Any guesses?  (It surprised me!)  As usual the pictures do way more justice to it than I ever could.

Making my house smell heavenly all day, I have tomorrow's Boston Baked Beans cooking away (the recipe says they taste even better served the next day, so we're trying that out) in my crock pot.  Can't wait to try them out then.  Also, one word for tomorrow - fluffernutter.  Yep, I said it.  You don't want to miss that, right?

Okay, shutting down so I can head off to Dads and Dogs for some fun at Beechview.  Taking the camera, so may post a few more pictures tonight or just save them for tomorrow.  Not exactly sure what the Bean and I are up to tomorrow (though rumor has it Tinkerbell may be involved...) but I have no doubt it'll be excellent!  So until then...

Massachusetts Fun Fact of the Day: James Michael Curley was the first mayor of Boston to have an automobile. The plate number was "576" - the number of letters in "James Michael Curley." The mayor of Boston's official car still uses the same number on its plate.

Think my Bean is ready for summer?

Ready to get her plant on!

 The following pictures are brought to you courtesy of Mikayla's camera skills (she took pictures of most of the pots we did):

Ready to bowl!

And she's off!

Chilling between frames

She got the hang of it pretty quickly

This is Noah's Massachusetts - "This is the chocolate chip cookie that was invented there and this (the black) is a bowl of the scallops we had last night - they were really good mom"

Mikayla's Massachusetts - (I kid you not she went off and did this all on her own and then came in to explain it to me) "At the bottom are the 4 president guys.  This yellow is them having the feast after they got off this boat (blue to the right of the hook).  The green is them hanging witches.  And the red on the side is them throwing the tea"

I was impressed :)