Friday, February 7, 2014

MLK Weekend

As I mentioned in my earlier post, MLK weekend turned out to be a four day weekend thanks to an unexpected snow day. We got around six inches on snow on Tuesday, January 21st and all the lingering snow melted just a few days ago! It has been freezing cold lately and I am beyond ready for spring. It's fun to get a snow day here and there, but when you have to work twice as hard from home than  you would at work it just isn't worth it. I'll take temps in the 70's and playtime outdoors any day.
Cartoons in bed. Not a bad way to start your day.
Since it has been so cold we've been looking for fun activities to do over the weekends with Carter. We're all on the verge of going stir crazy so it's nice to get out even if we do have to bundle up. Chris had to work on MLK Day (farmers don't take vaca) so Carter and I decided to venture out to the National Building Museum and meet Chris for lunch. The National Building Museum has two open play areas for kids. One area is called the Building Zone which is basically a large play area designed to introduce kids to the art of building. They have large blocks, toy construction vehicles, books, tool hats, and tool sets. Kids can play until their heart is content and parents can take a break. It really is the perfect place to go on frigid days like we've had or in the miserable days of summer. They have timed entries so it's best to arrive early. Admission is $3.00 for 45 minutes of play. Admission is free for member so if you plan on visiting frequently it may be well worth joining. Tickets are available every hour, starting at 15 minutes after the hour and the last entry is 3:15p.m. Membership information can be found here.

If you're like Carter and me and you don't arrive in time to play in the Building Zone, they currently have another great exhibit for kids called Play, Work, Build. It combines a hands-on block play area where your little one's imaginations can run wild, a huge play area full of over-sized building blocks, and an original digital interactive wall that allows kids to build a wall with virtual blocks and then knock them down. There is also an area where kids can play with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. This exhibit is scheduled to run through November 2014.

If you don't want to pay admission or the play areas are full you can always let the kids run wild in The Great Hall. It's an atrium where kids can run around, you can grab coffee from Firehook Bakery, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy sightseeing. The National Building Museum is definitely a must see for those with kids. We enjoyed our morning there even though it was packed. Of course weekends and holidays are their busiest time but if you can manage to sneak into work late one morning definitely plan a trip with your kids.

After our play date we headed to the Senate side to meet Chris for lunch. We opted for Mexican food since we knew we'd get quick service and we didn't have to worry about keeping Carter quiet. After we got in the car Carter absolutely crashed. He was worn out from our morning out!

Little did we know that we'd get to stay home the next day with our little man, but thanks to about six inches of snow we enjoyed a snow day! Honestly it was more work than it was worth. The House was in recess that week but of course my boss was scheduled to fly in that afternoon for several meetings. Really? The one recess week he decides to come to town and we get a snow storm!! So I spent the majority of my day on the phone with the airlines and car service companies while Carter had meltdowns because I wouldn't give him my iPhone or Blackberry. My snow day was way too much work! It looked pretty while falling but I'm so sick of it now. Our five day weather outlook currently shows snow showers every day. When will spring arrive?!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Make Your Own Pizza Night!

The weekend before last was a long one for us thanks to MLK Day and an even longer one thanks to a snow day on Tuesday. On Sunday I thought it would be fun to have a make your pizza night. I've always noticed that Trader Joe's sells their own pizza dough and I've always wanted to give it a try so this was our perfect opportunity. We have had a hard time finding a good pizza delivery place near us. We've tried every pizza place you can think of and none of them are that great. No one does pizza better than Mellow Mushroom and until recently we didn't even have one in our area. They opened one in DC but it isn't convenient to our house- bummer! So we settle every few weeks and order so-so pizza and move on with our lives.

For my pizza I decided to use pesto as my base and loaded it up with roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, sauteed mushrooms, artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese. Trader Joe's also sells pizza sauce so Chris used it for his base and mixed in a little pesto for extra flavor. He topped his with sauteed mushrooms, Kalamata olives, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.

To get started remove the dough from the package and let is rest on a floured work surface for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place your pizza stone into the oven to heat, or spray a large baking sheet pan with cooking spray. Add more flour to your work surface, then roll the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough onto the pizza stone or a well-floured peel and then place your toppings. If you top your pizza beforehand the pizza will get heavy and has a tendency to stick when transferring it.

We baked them in the oven, one at a time, on our pizza stone for about 10-12 minutes and they turned out great! We drizzled each one of them with some high quality olive oil once they came out of the oven and they tasted better than any pizza we've ever had delivered. We also decided that my pizza was the tastiest of the two! The process was a little messy but all in all, well worth it.
Chris's pizza

Erin's pizza

Our little helper for the evening. This is what you get when you let a 19 month old play with a container of feta cheese!
In the summer I love to make dessert pizzas and grill them. Talk about a tasty dessert! If you want to take the easy route buy a pre-made pizza crust, like Boboli, slather it with mascarpone cheese and top it with mixed berries. Place it on a hot grill and let it grill until the crust toasts nicely and the cheese begins to melt. Once you remove it from the grill drizzle it with melted chocolate. You could also use Nutella as your base, top it with berries and drizzle with white chocolate. Yum!!
Berry Dessert Pizza

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Carter's First Hair Cut

We decided over the holidays that it was officially time to get Carter's hair cut. Around the time of Carter's first birthday Chris wanted to get his hair cut. I wasn't 100% on board but agreed to make the appointment. I was shocked when Chris changed his mind after several friends told him to wait. Carter has the rest of his life to worry with getting his hair cut. Why the rush? But over the holidays the hair around Carter's ears and at the base of his neck was a little out of control! When he would wake up in the mornings with knots in his hair I decided it was probably time.

I hadn't given much thought to when I'd make his appointment until I was getting my haircut one Friday evening. I was telling Katie, my hair dresser, how we decided it was time to bring Carter in to see her and she told me that she just so happened to have an opening the following morning. So the morning of Saturday, January 11th we took Carter in to see Katie for his first hair cut.

Carter was all smiles until we were seated and Katie placed the cape over the two of us. That completely freaked Carter out and the tears started to flow! Chris didn't understand why I was making such a big deal of this event and originally he wasn't going to join us. I decided to make him tag along so he could snap some pictures since I would have to hold Carter in my lap. I'm thankful he joined us because Chris had to hold Carter's head still, while I held his arms down just so Katie could trim his hair. You would have thought someone was torturing the poor child. Fortunately there wasn't a lot to cut so it took all of 5 minutes to complete his new do!
Katie was kind enough to gather some of the clippings and place it in an envelope for me. Call me crazy but I'll certainly file them away in Carter's baby book. Now that his hair is cut he really looks like a little boy! He's so handsome but it makes me a little sad because I have to come to terms with the fact that he's no longer a baby.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Family Getaway to Lake Anna

Over Veteran's Day weekend we traveled to Lake Anna with my family. We rented a great house that was located directly on the water. Lake Anna is the second largest lake in the state of Virginia, measuring 17 miles long with 200 miles of shoreline. The greatest part of this little weekend getaway was that it was only about an hour and forty-five minutes from DC. You can take I-95 to Fredericksburg or I-66 to I-29 if you're looking for more of a scenic route.

The name of the house we rented was Libby's Landing and my mom just so happened to stumble across it online at Vacation Rentals. It had great reviews so we thought we'd give it a shot and it certainly didn't disappoint! As you can see from the pictures it is a huge house with 6 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths. Its peak season are the summer months for fishing and boating; however, we found it to be the perfect fall escape.

A view from our backyard
Lake Anna is about 50 miles outside of Charlottesville so we decided to make a day trip into town on Saturday. We enjoyed lunch at Michie Tavern which had some of the best fried chicken I've ever tasted! One of my dad's cousins, Cathy, and her husband, Hal, live in Charlottesville so they came and joined us for lunch. The Tavern itself is located about half a mile below Monticello and accommodated travelers with food, drink and lodging more than 200 years ago. Today visitors are welcome to tour the grounds and dine at their rustic restaurant where the servers dress is period attire and offer you nothing but the best southern hospitality. Their buffet is based on 18th century Southern recipes so be prepared for a very rich and filling meal! Following lunch we visited the General Store and stopped for a family picture.
The General Store 

After lunch we headed up the hill to Monticello. We were excited to tour the grounds of Thomas Jefferson's home but were disappointed to discover that all the home tours were sold out through the afternoon. We decided that it wasn't worth the price of admission to go on the grounds without getting an opportunity to tour the home so we visited their new museum and then headed to Carter Mountain Orchard for some tasty apple cider doughnuts! This is a great place to take kids on a nice day. They offer hayrides, apple picking and gorgeous views.
Playing at Monticello's children's museum
Gorgeous views from Carter Mountain Orchard
The best apple cider donuts!!!
On our way home from Charlottesville we decided to make a pit stop at Barboursville Vineyards which is home to Virginia's Octagon wine. We enjoyed a fun wine tasting (16 to be exact!) and a gorgeous sunset before heading back to the house for the evening. Carter went without an afternoon nap on Saturday so he was beyond tired by the time we hit the road to head home! It was the perfect time of year to be in Charlottesville. All the leaves had changed color and the views were spectacular.

We decided that Sunday was meant for rest and relaxation! We enjoyed being outside and taking advantage of the beautiful weather and of course the guys had to squeeze in some quality time for football. Mom and I even managed to convince the guys to take a few family pictures. My mom always struggles to find the perfect picture for her Christmas card and I now realize her frustration. It's not easy getting the entire family together and snapping that perfect picture but I certainly think we managed to do it this year. I made sure to leave those pictures off the blog for a Christmas surprise, ha!

Since Chris, Carter and I are staying in DC for Thanksgiving I decided it would be fun to have a separate pre-Thanksgiving dinner with my family since we were all going to be together. Chris fixed a rack of pork and green beans and I was in charge of the sweet potato casserole. We also managed to squeeze in some biscuits and cranberry sauce onto our plates too! It was a wonderful meal and it was nice to be together as a family considering we won't see each other at Thanksgiving. We also celebrated another Panther victory which made dinner even better!

Lazy day around the lake
Can you tell that Carter enjoyed his first fishing experience? Ha, maybe uncle Justin will have better luck next time. Carter wasn't the biggest fan of our evening fires either. 
These ducks came to visit with us every time we walked down to the dock. Notice how Chris is trying to show them "all finished" in the picture above when he ran out of bread. The ducks weren't happy.
Yummy rack of pork, Carter's Jacuzzi tub for the weekend, lounging by the fire while watching TV and snuggling with dad. Hard to beat!! 

The best thing about the group shot in this frame is what happened immediately beforehand. We had our camera set-up on a tripod so Chris had to move very quickly from the shoreline to the pier to get in place. He was in the process of running from the tripod and made a jump to the pier and little did he know that one of our friendly ducks was directly beneath him in the water. I guess Chris's sudden movement scared the duck so he flew up directly at Chris. There was a huge splash and we all thought Chris fell into the water. Notice how we're all laughing except for Carter. He wasn't amused. 
Pre-Thanksgiving dinner with the family. Notice how we all got dressed for the occasion. 
It was just the weekend we all needed. If you haven't visited the Charlottesville area I highly suggest making a trip. There were several things that we didn't get to see while we were there so I would certainly go back. I had a number of people tell me that Charlottesville has some of the best restaurants they've ever eaten at so if you have a babysitter or can manage to get away for an adult weekend let me know and I will send you the recommendations. If you plan a trip there in the fall make sure to check UVA's home game schedule.

I'm not sure if I'll get another post up between now and Thanksgiving. I feel like we've had so much going on lately. So in case I don't get to say this later, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love and joy. It's been a great year and we certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween!

This past weekend was filled with Halloween fun! On Friday night we attended the Fairlington Mom's Club Halloween party. This is their biggest party of the year and they had a great turnout. It's a potluck dinner and all the little kiddos, and some parents, get dressed up for the occasion. At this year's party we took pigs in a blanket (that were gone in the flash of an eye) and these cute sweet treats (thank you, Pinterest)!

Each year two of the moms in the club, who are professional photographers, volunteer to set up a photo booth. You can get your child's picture made for a $5 donation or 2 canned goods to give to the Arlington Food Assistance Center. This year our club raised $120 and collected 317 pounds of food items. The photographers snapped a great picture of Carter in his monkey costume. I don't have the link to it yet but when I do I'll make sure to share. After we had Carter's picture made we did an arts and crafts project and ate dinner. That was about all he could handle considering he decided not to nap Friday afternoon.

On Saturday we went to pick out our pumpkins to carve for Halloween night. This is also the pumpkin patch we used for Carter's Halloween card photo opp. For several years we've have picked out our pumpkins from the patch at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria. This year they are celebrating their 20th anniversary. The pumpkins are grown on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico and are distributed to Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill and over 1,300 other churches of various denominations throughout the nation. More than 20 non-profit organizations benefit from the proceeds of the sale including ALIVE!, Carpenter's Shelter, Community Lodgings and he Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry.

The pumpkin patch is open daily from 10:00a.m. - 8:00p.m. from October 6th- October 31st and is located at 3606 Seminary Road. Upon your arrival you're given a Radio Flyer wagon to pull around the patch to gather your pumpkins. They have pumpkins of all sizes, sweet treats and autumn soups.

Following the pumpkin patch we took Carter to Shirlington to go trick-or-treating. Most of the stores and restaurants were participating which was fun. A few places had special activities for the kids. Cakelove had free mini cupcakes for the kids to ice and decorate. I diligently worked to ice and sprinkle a cupcake for Carter and he ate it in a matter of seconds! The library had a few arts and crafts stations set up for the kids and Cafe Pizziolo gave away free slices of pizza and had a painting station for kids to decorate miniature pumpkins. It was a fun way to enjoy a nice afternoon in one of our favorite areas.

On Sunday we went into Del Ray and ate lunch at Del Ray Pizzeria. If you haven't eaten there you should definitely give it a try. I'm a bit of a pizza snob and I loved their pizza, especially the deep dish! They have a great bar and a lot of TV's so if you need a place where your husband can watch a game and grab a beer this is the place. After lunch we had a little time to kill before the parade got started so we walked around the shops. We stumbled across the cutest store called Del Ray Variety. It's like an old mom and pop shop with a little bit of everything. They have toys, party supplies, home decor, greeting cards, craft supplies, food, cosmetics, books, electronics and more! They're having a sale through the end of the month and offering 25% off all Melissa and Doug items. We've been looking for a wooden block set for Carter to play with and of course they had and we got it for $15! It was down a side street so I haven't come across it over the many years I've shopped in Del Ray but I'll now add it to my list of favorites.

Following our shopping spree we put Carter in his costume and marched in the annual Del Ray Halloween Parade. I never knew this parade existed until this year and it was so much fun! There were hundreds of parents and kids. Just as many people lined the sidewalks to watch the parade as there were participants. Carter got a little impatient towards the end because he was sick of riding in his wagon. He decided it would be fun to take everything out of his diaper bag, drop it on the ground, have me pick it up and hand it to him- repeatedly. Not fun!

We're (or maybe it's just me) excited about Halloween Thursday night. A few moms in the neighborhood and I are hosting a Court potluck dinner before the kids go trick-or-treating. It should be a great time for all the neighborhood families to get together and eat before their candy extravaganza! We have the absolute best neighborhood for trick-or-treating. There is townhouse after townhouse and they sit back off busy streets so it's safe for all the kids. In addition to the sweet treats I made above I'm also going to make these two things for our potluck dinner.

Funny Bones- PS if you make the Oreo spiders & Nutter Butter ghosts then you'll have plenty of pretzel sticks and white chocolate leftover to make these. Just purchase a bag of small marshmallows.
Crescent Mummy Dogs
I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Leftover Invitations

I'm sure you have leftover party invitations stashed in a container somewhere in your house. If you're like me I hate to throw them away. I have extra wedding invitations, holiday cards and party invitations that I can't talk myself into tossing in the trash. Why? That is a great question. I guess I'm a sentimental person (insert Chris's laughter). However, a few weeks ago we were invited to one of dear friend's second birthday party and I realized I didn't have a card. I didn't have time to go to the store so I decided to get crafty and came up with a great way to recycle Carter's birthday party invitations!

Carter's Under The Sea Birthday Party Invitations 

Jack's personalized birthday present!

Now if I can only come up with a creative way to use the remainder of my wedding invitations!

I hope everyone has a great weekend. We're off to the Fairlington Mom's Club Halloween party tonight. Check out these cute little sweets I made.

The spiders are Oreos with pretzel sticks as the legs and M&Ms as the eyes. Put a dollop of chocolate icing in a Ziploc bag, cut the tip of one of the corners and pipe the icing on the back of the M&M and there ya go! The ghosts are Nutter Butters dipped in white chocolate candy bark and the eyes are mini chocolate chips. Super easy and tasty!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cox Farms

This past weekend we decided to take Carter to Cox Farms in Centreville, VA. It is a family owned and operated farm situated on 116 acres of undeveloped land in the Centreville/Chantilly community. They host a fall festival each year which is easily one of the most popular in the DC area and Cox Farm's biggest event.
Carter enjoyed sitting on the John Deere tractor
I have heard friends and co-workers talk about this event for years so I was excited about our first trip. It surely didn't disappoint! We started off our afternoon by enjoying some BBQ, which was smoked on the farm. After lunch we ventured to our first slide. That is one of the best things they have at Cox Farms. There are over six different ones to choose from, the biggest and baddest being the Dino-slide which is 150 feet long and six lanes wide. Unfortunately we didn't get to give them all a try, but that's what next year is for. Chris took Carter down the treetops slide and Carter joined me on the castle slide. I don't really know what he thought about them but he certainly didn't cry. I think he was overwhelmed by everything surrounding him. There were hundreds of people there and little children running around everywhere.

Chris & Carter going down the treetop slide!

Waiting to go down the castle slide.
A view of the Dino slide in the background.
Throughout the farm they had bails of hay stacked high for the kids to climb on and beneath them they created a tunnel to crawl through. Carter wasn't really interested in either. He preferred to pull himself up on the bench and watch everyone else. They also had a kid zone for the little kids to run around.

Enjoying the kid zone!
In the center of the farm they have a music stage featuring live bluegrass and classic rock music. If milking a cow is more your thing, they have a stage for that too. They feature a musical milking show and guests are allowed to go on stage afterwards and give it their best shot. If you're looking for a little something sweet you can treat yourself to funnel cakes, caramel apples and kettle corn. They also have fresh pressed cider for everyone to enjoy. There is a Nacho Cheese House, the Dawg House (featuring gourmet hot dogs), the BBQ Shack, Cox's Kitchen for hamburgers and pizza, among many other options. Maybe you're in the mood for hot chocolate or a pumpkin spice latte, not to worry....they have it too!

Besides the great slides, the hayride was one of my favorites. They take you on a 20 minute hayride throughout the farm pulled by an antique tractor. You go through an enchanted forest, encounter some aliens, see Charlie Brown and friends, visit an old western town and Superman even made an appearance to help pull us through a muddy ditch.

I could go on and on about this place. It is huge and a lot of fun. The only downside was that it was really crowded on Saturday. Obviously the weekends are the most popular time for families to attend; therefore, I definitely think it would be worth taking a morning or afternoon off work to take your family. We spent a lot of time waiting in line to go down the slides and to take a hayride so we didn't get to do everything that I wished we had. We stayed about two and half hours and that was all Carter could take before we had to head home for his nap. So my suggestion is to go on a weekday and call ahead to make sure there isn't a school field trip on the day you plan on going. There is an option to purchase your tickets online which I highly suggest doing. We were able to avoid long lines to get into the farm by purchasing ours in advance. There is also a secret entrance to the farm which helps you avoid long lines of traffic entering and exiting the parking lot. Visit their website for further details.
The new mascot for the Pork Producers!
When you're leaving the farm everyone gets to pick out a pumpkin to take home for free. There is also a great market to visit where you can purchase fresh apples, cider, homemade pies, pumpkins and many other fun treats.

On Sunday we took it easy around the house and Chris smoked a pork shoulder and I made taco soup. Justin came to town on Sunday and is staying with us this week while he's here on business. Brandon came over on Sunday night and we all enjoyed each other's company while watching football. I think Carter really enjoyed all the attention and was a bit of a show-off!
U.S. Capitol tour on a gorgeous day


We're approaching a busy weekend filled with fun Halloween activities. It's hard to believe that Halloween is just a week away. Before we know it Christmas will be here!