Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sesame Place Trip

We had a lot of fun this summer. Some relaxation with picnics and a local beach visit, plenty of work around the house (with still more to do, of course), and lots of learning with some simple workbooks and Kindermusik. Throw in trial-and-error attempts at potty-training, a few bouts of illness, simply being pregnant, and it's been a pretty full summer!

In our pre-summer planning, we had wanted to take plenty of trips. While we took some local trips, one of our most-anticipated trips to visit friends in Massachusetts fell through, with Hadman coming down with a cough and fever. It ended up lasting quite awhile and turning into pneumonia, so we're glad that the week prior we were able to take at least one kid-centric trip.

(And we fully plan on attempting a quick day trip back to Mass this fall...SOMETIME! Pre-baby, is my guess. *wink*)


Planned well in advance, we had decided on taking the little guy to Sesame Place. We had plenty of reasons for heading here, but the most important was to do something that we could all enjoy together before becoming a family of 4 (7, including cats...which we do). Goodness knows if/what we'll be doing next year!

Dave took a 3-day weekend and we left for Pennsylvania. I'll admit, the driving took longer than expected and both adults were rather beat by all the driving of the weekend. But, along our way, we saw what, to my guys, can only be described as a mirage on the road...


Wait, what?! Yup. The 1960s Batmobile. (Not THE original, but still...a perfect replica. Not kidding.) Sitting in front of a bar, in a field. Like, seriously.


Can you feel the excitement? I know I can. We already knew it would be a memorable weekend.

So, after numerous hours of driving, a Thomas DVD on a borrowed portable player (we've become those parents, apparently), and zero naps, we reached our hotel. This part of the trip worked perfectly: the hotel had a shuttle service that ran quite frequently to bring us back and forth to the park. So, since we had tickets for two days (BOGO, for the win!), we got ready for the dry rides and headed over.

Let's just say that Dave wins the award for the fact that I couldn't go on a vast majority of the rides with a baby bump. So, he had to ride with the little guy. Did I mention that he has issues with certain rides? Like, with the height and spinning and...stuff. So, clearly he gets the "Best Dad" badge for not only hitting up numerous rides but for keeping his cool and smiling while doing it. *starts a slow clap*





 


Anyhoo, we stayed for a few hours and enjoyed the Sesame-ness of the place (it really is awesome), then headed back to the hotel. We used the hotel pool, which was a hit for a non-swimming kiddo like ours, then hit the hay.

The next day, we had our complimentary breakfast and struck out for the far longer lines of a Saturday. I highly suggest renting a locker in advance; it worked out great for our changes and general ease of movement.

Okay, this is totally my favorite picture ever. My beach bums (who both HATE the heat). I'm the embarrassing spouse/mom, clearly. 



So, we spent a long, very hot morning there doing water stuff, getting splashed, and generally enjoying the place. But, with how long the lunch lines were, we quickly decided to buy any souvenirs we wanted, then head back to the hotel. We actually ended up ordering a quick lunch and eating at the hotel, then ALL took naps (my first clue that our systems weren't adjusting well to travel). When we finally came to, we got ready and went to Hadley's favorite place - Barnes and Noble - to play with the Thomas train and look at books before going out to a crappy dinner then back to try the pool again.

Between the food that our systems weren't used to, being rundown from the trip itself, and any kid germs we came in touch with, we were all feeling pretty blah and ready to come home Sunday. On our way, we happened upon a "Taste of New York" boutique at a rest stop and, I've gotta say, it was the best meal we had the whole weekend. Some of the fruit I brought along mixed with a bunch of local, fresh snacks from around the state (and super local grassfed Greek yogurt and cheese curds), and we were able to make it home feeling a little more like ourselves.

But, by the end of the week, 2/3 of us were sick. I've definitely learned that I need to try to up our immune system protection before we take trips. Big-time.

All in all, though, the trip was SO worth it. Hadman is way more into Sesame Street lately, so he LOVED "meeting" several of the characters (namely, Count, even if the Count's splash area upset him, hee hee). It was fun to see the diversity of people visiting and thinking, "Wow, this is what Sesame Street has promoted from the beginning!" It was also interesting to hear people in one of our shuttle vans say that their daughter isn't really a fan of Sesame and wondering, "Wait, why are you spending all this money to...nevermind." ;-) Eh, no judging. Anyone could have a blast there.


Gotta say, we all had a great time. And Mama got a new "cookie mug" for my milk and organic cookies...win-win! Three guesses which character mug the Dorky Daddy got.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cleaning Your Washing Machine

Donna Reed, I am not.

Apparently.

I'm one of those "I'll do laundry today" people who starts a load, gets distracted by life, then gets back to it a couple of days later. Please tell me I'm not alone.

So, I assumed it was my own laziness that led to THE STANK. You know THE STANK. It's not necessarily a mold/mildew smell, but it's that scent that, should you happen to finish the load without rewashing (SUCH a waste of energy and water, my Lord) and actually wear the clothing, your nose is perma-wrinkled all day. It's a lingering smell that is downright distracting. THE STANK.

Then, I stumbled upon a little tip about washing one's washing machine, particularly if it's an HE. At first, I thought it was a total Danny Tanner move, like cleaning his rubber gloves or vacuuming the vacuum (which I've actually done...doesn't work great). But, then I thought to myself, "Huh. Maybe this would help with THE STANK." See, even after an overnight, THE STANK was seeping in quicker and quicker and getting to be a terrible nuisance.

So, I tried the tip and it worked. Here I am to pass along the wealth.

As with most of my natural cleaning favorites, this tip comes courtesy Clean Mama. Seriously, what doesn't she know how to clean? Her post has great advice depending on the type of washing machine you have, and suggests either chlorine-free bleach or white vinegar. I'm working with a HE top-loader and, of course, used white vinegar.


Yup. Just that easy. And it has worked phenomenally! No more wasting precious resources (water and, of course, the soap!) to re-wash stinky clothes. You can do this monthly or as needed.

Bam!



Oh, and stop by last week's post to weigh in about, well, this here blog. Please and thanks!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Things 'n Stuff

I've obviously been pretty sporadic (at best) with my blogging this summer. I don't have any excuses for that, but I have spent my time well: hanging out with an awesome toddler, working on getting said toddler potty-trained, doing fun family stuff, letting my brain sit and stew, and writing for Green Child Magazine and Thirsties cloth diapers. While I've had ideas galore for blog posts, every time I sat down...nada. And that's okay.

Over the past year or so, the blogosphere has taken an interesting turn. There's definitely a sea change going on, isn't there? Some of my favorite bloggers have called it quits, and that sucks (I still mourn Young House Love...daily), but I can't blame them...or anyone. The pressure, especially when you're getting tons of hits and tons of money, is incredible.

Luckily, I don't have that problem. My hits took a hit (ha) this summer, and I'm fine with that. I make $0 here on the blog currently. Yet, I enjoy writing and sharing, and I'm not ready to give it up. So, even though things will be getting busier, I'll be easing back into posting more.

That said, things will be different.


I'm looking to streamline my posts. As you may know, I'm a pretty random writer. Seriously, I talked about pickles yesterday and have a post about cleaning your washing machine coming up. Personal posts about trips and others about nursery decor. It's how I write and who I am. That aspect won't change, necessarily.

The focus, however, will. Ultimately, we're a pretty normal, down-to-earth (I like to think) family. What makes us a little different than most is the fact that we're trying to live a simpler, more natural life.

So, that's where I'm going here. I'm planning on doing a complete blog overhaul (which may take a month...or a year...no big hurry, we're dealing with enough of that lately) with better organization, particularly regarding the topics that I love talking about that may help people in living a happier, simpler life.

What I'm asking for today is a little input of your own. No SurveyMonkey, no quiz - just leave your thoughts in the comments. Where do your interests lie? What visual style do you prefer for a blog? What do you already like here and what do you dislike? Go ahead and share!


Oh, and one of the most important changes I'll be making? My name. I've loved "Meg Acts Out" (or "Meg, Acting Out" -- I never figured out how the heck to use it), but considering that a) I haven't had much time for community theater acting and b) I'm ready for a fresh start, I'm starting new.

I'm brainstorming everything from "Simply Meg" to titles not utilizing my name to jumping on Dave's "The Dorky Daddy" bandwagon with a "The Dorky Family" (because, let's face it...we are). That last one may not align well with the natural thing, though. So, I'm always up for suggestions. Heck, it's how I got my original blog title. ;-)

A little rambly, but you guys are used to that, right? Please and thanks for any comments, and I welcome you along on the ride!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pickles!

How can you not smile, at the very least, at the word "pickles?" Seriously. (It also brings me back to the early days of Nick Toons...) Say it three times. Feel good?
Awesome.

And who doesn't love the taste? My husband. That's who.

Regardless, he was enamored with the pickle-making process. I threw these together the day before our mini-vacation (is three days a mini-vacation, including driving? Or is it a full-blown vacation?) to use up a bunch of the cucumbers we'd been hoarding from our weekly CSA boxes. Of course, we still have more, but I figured 6 pints would do us just fine and help with the glut of cukes.

You can make these refrigerator pickles and make this quick as well as easy. But, nope, in the midst of cleaning, doing laundry, packing, and the usual toddler-watching rigmarole, I undertook the delight of washing and sterilizing mason jars, rings and lids. Silly girl.

It really wasn't that bad. I'd call it "easy" if you follow the steps. Just not quick. And, of course, I went rogue, so we'll see how they turn out in the end!

I used the recipe blogged about on Elephant Journal, but made some adjustments. I left out the green onions (more room for cukes! Shove 'em in until you can't shoves no more, folks!) and tried one with more garlic, another with some habanero pepper. But, when it was time to process the jars in hot water, I'm afraid I might've ruined the texture of 'em -- one site I read said to process for 5 minutes after reaching a boil, which meant that NONE of the jars sealed. Attempt #2, they all sealed. However, that means that the final pickles will probably be a little limp. If they taste good, though, I'm happy. ;-)

I'm thinking about giving the green and yellow beans I've got a "dilly bean" treatment. Can you believe I've never tried 'em? I know. Bad, BAD natural mama.

Oh, and if you're wondering: Hadman loves pickles. He's been picky about a lot of veggies lately (fruits, however, he could survive on, so thank goodness for small victories), but I think if I continue to preserve and save - and I totally mean in a "zucchini muffins" way - them in ways like these, he won't know what hit him.

Mwahaha.

So, here's my version of the recipe...





Homemade Dill Pickles (for 6, 1-pint containers)  

- 6-8 cucumbers, washed and sliced (however you like them, but the bigger they are the better texture they'll have)
- dill seed (NOT weed), about 1 tsp. per jar
- lots of garlic, smashed, 3+ per jar
- red pepper flakes, pinch per jar (or more)
- ground pepper or peppercorns, 1/2 tsp. or so per jar
- thinly sliced jalapeno or habanero pepper, optional

Put spices in the bottom of each jar. Tightly fill with cucumbers (and pepper, if using). Pour following brine to cover cucumbers, cover with lids, and seal.

Brine - Simmer the following until dissolved: 3/4 c. apple cider vinegar, scant 1/4 c. white vinegar, scant 1/2 c. water, and 3/4 T. salt PER JAR {for me, this came to about 4 1/2 c. ACV, between 1 1/4 & 1 1/2 c. white, about 2 c. water, and 4 1/2 T. salt total}. Slowly pour into each jar before processing.


So, who else attempts pickling? What's YOUR favorite recipe? I'd love to try different ones out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Best. Day. Ever.

Our trip to Old Forge last year was kinda lackluster. I can never say that a trip is a waste because we always seem to have fun regardless of the situation, so it wasn't a waste and did rejuvenate. But, between the rather cool temperatures (for August), rain, and just general stuff like that, it wasn't great.

So, we gave it a go again this year. We only took a handful of pictures, but it was a lucky happenstance that we hadn't cleaned off our phones' memory; we were able to enjoy the moment far better. Especially since we fit in so. Much. Fun.

We left early enough to grab some discounted tickets to Enchanted Forest Water Safari, extra cash and breakfast on the road. This was the first year we were going to try hitting up the park with the little guy, knowing full well that most of the rides weren't for him. Being some of the first in the park definitely helped - we were able to meander around the storybook area (PERFECT for a kid his age), check out the petting zoo (the animals bummed us out), do the few "dry" rides (first time on a merry-go-round!), hit the little kid splash pad area, and try the Lazy River together by noon.







Bam. We could've eaten and headed home at that point and it would've been an awesome day.

But, nope. We went on a walk to try Nutty Putty golf (something Dave and I used to do as children, then years later when we started dating), which was probably the "low" part of the day. Hadley was clearly getting tired, which made for lots of tripping and falling on the uneven parts of the "course." But, we all seemed to have fun, followed by some ice cream before heading back to our car to get the stroller.

So, the fact that the little man took a nap in the stroller mean a) he must've been EXHAUSTED and b) some sort of miracle must have occurred; he hasn't done that in a long, long time. We had a chance to look around the hardware store (SO much more than a hardware store!), do some Christmas shopping, then wander over to rest and watch ducks swim around.

While naptime continued at the bench, a little dramatic duckling rescue ensued. We observed a mama duck with her three ducklings go to a chained-off area of the lake next to a drainage waterfall area...with two babies taking the leap. Off ran Dave (I wanted to, but had to stay with the little man), along with two young guys, before the mama duck attacked one of the kids for interfering. Before too long (although our hearts were in our throats, seriously), she showed them how to hop back up where they belonged.

Whew. After that, we hit up The Mill Restaurant, another place Dave and I visited in our dating days. By the way we headed home, we all were exhausted but happy. A rain shower even produced this view (that happens to be my school, LOL)...



I mean...seriously. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Not the most eloquent description on Earth, but it was an AWESOME day. Hadley's asked several times why we can't go to Water Safari EVERY day. Good lesson to learn.

Oh, and while we were still on the "having fun" kick, I upped the ante with some blueberry picking the next morning. Best. Weekend. Ever. (Even if Sunday was "let's do some crap around the house" day. They can't all be winners.)




    
Knowing that next summer may look different (okay, definitely...it's definitely going to look different) with another little one in the mix, we've totally been making this summer count.

How have you guys been enjoying your summers? :-)