Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Carter's Second Birthday Party

This past Saturday we gathered together with our family and friends to celebrate Carter's 2nd birthday. Even though a number of our family members couldn't be there with us we enjoyed our time with the ones that made the trip up to DC and our close friends.

This year I decided to go with a circus theme for the party. It was an easy theme to pull off thanks to Pinterest and Oriental Trading Company. I decided to have the party mid-afternoon so we wouldn't have to worry with serving a full meal. We enjoyed corn dogs, soft pretzels, popcorn, animal crackers and fruit to go along with our circus theme. And of course we had birthday cupcakes for the birthday boy!

Courtesy of a local mom. They were amazing! Let me know if you want her contact info.

We decided to have the party at our house. We did the same last year and it turned out great. We have a nice patio that opens up into a large backyard so there is plenty of room for the kids to run around. My only worry with an outdoor afternoon party is the weather. Fortunately we were blessed with picture perfect weather, as we were last year. We couldn't have asked for a better day! It wasn't too hot and there was a nice breeze to keep everyone cool. The kids enjoyed playing with the water table, bubbles, tattoos, stickers and going on wagon rides. The kids are still young enough that you don't have to have a lot of organized activities to keep them entertained. I know that day will soon come to an end so it was nice to just let them run free! 

As I mentioned above, I got most of my party ideas from Pinterest. I ordered all of my party supplies from the Oriental Trading Company and they were great. Everything was reasonably priced and great quality. I even got the cute cupcake stand, banner and popcorn boxes from them! I received their catalog in the mail about a month before Carter's birthday and they had categorized all their party supplies by theme and just so happened to have a circus theme! It couldn't have worked out any better. I found the idea for the balloon banner from Parenting Magazine. It was really easy to make and the key was definitely the balloon clips. You can find them at any party supply store.

Carter had such a good time at his party and we appreciate everyone that shared his special day with him! We capped off the weekend with a pool day on Sunday. It took Carter about 30 minutes to get accustomed to his puddle jumper and then before we knew it he was a little fish.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Father's Day

We had a fairly low-key Father's Day weekend, although if you were to ask Chris it may not have been low-key enough! Chris played golf on Saturday so Carter and I went to music class and then ventured to the Virginia Highlands Park for the rest of the morning. For the past few months Carter has participated in a weekly music class hosted by Music Together Alexandria.When you register for their classes you can choose from various locations throughout Alexandria. We're fortunate enough that one of the locations is less than a mile from our house.Typically there are 4-5 other kids in the class each week and Carter has really enjoyed it. They give you 2 CDs and a music book at the beginning of the session which allows you to learn the songs so you can sing-a-long with the teacher during class. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not because inevitably I find myself singing the songs on a regular basis.

Saturday evening we drove up to Solomon's Island to join the Murphy clan at Stoney's for dinner. This has become a favorite semi-getaway dinner spot for us. You can sit right by the Chesapeake Bay, enjoy fresh seafood and most importantly their orange crushes! Since it was Father's Day weekend we left the guys there after dinner to enjoy some downtime and Jana and I piled all the kiddos in our car and headed back home. I've never had so many car-seats in my car before!

On Sunday we went to Ted's Bulletin for breakfast where Carter enjoyed eating their homemade pop-tarts, yum! After breakfast we took a little stroll around Eastern Market before it got too hot. The rest of afternoon was spent playing outside and watching the US Open. Even though I didn't get to spend Father's Day with my dad, it was nice to have had some time with him the week before. I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful dad and such a wonderful grandfather to Carter. I'm also very grateful that Carter has such a wonderful father in Chris. He is Carter's biggest cheerleader and loves his family unconditionally. There is no doubt that he puts our family first and always puts other people's feelings ahead of his own. He is our rock and always manages to keep us sailing on smooth waters. Carter is a lucky little guy to have such a great daddy and I'm blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful guys in my life!

Courtesy of an app called Waterlogue

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Welcome Summer!

Even though the heat and humidity have arrived in full force it's nice to welcome summer. Even though I work full time it's a nice change of pace especially once August arrives.

Carter and I kicked off the summer with a trip to Charlotte a few weeks ago. My boss' daughter got married in Charlotte so I decided to head down there for the week and work out of our district office while my parents spent some quality time with Carter. A win for everyone! It was really nice  to be back home for a couple of days. My parents still live in the house that I grew up in so there is something very comforting about going home. I still get to sleep in my old bedroom, we still have the same neighbors and I just seem to fall right into place. It's also nice to have four extra sets of hands to help with Carter!

Carter started walking in April and he has been on the go since then. He has lost his desire to sit on the floor and play with toys and read books. I guess he had to do that for so long compared to other kids his age so he's making up for lost time. He loves to walk around, open and close doors and drawers and just explore. My parents live in a ranch style house so there was a lot to be discovered! I told Chris that I have a new appreciation for our little townhouse after chasing him around my parent's house. It took me twice as long to get ready in the mornings because I always had to check on what he was getting into around the house.

We spent a lot of time with my parents and brother, Justin. We visited with my both of my grandmothers and my great aunt Vi. A dear childhood friend and her son even paid us a visit which was nice. It was fun to see the boys playing together and to compare mom notes. We took Carter to Discovery Place which I hadn't been to since I was a child. It was pretty much just like I remembered and Carter had a blast! On Saturday my mom and I packed a picnic lunch and took Carter to their neighborhood pool. This is the pool that we grew up going to and I have a lot of fond memories of my summers there as a kid. It was fun to see Carter have so much fun in their kiddie pool area.

Visiting with my grandmother in Statesville. Carter especially loved the Cheetos she gave him!

Discovery Place 

Play date with Mason and a little fun at the pool 

Thursday night, while I was in town, Justin and I went to the Whitewater Center for Riverjam. Thursday evenings throughout the summer they have live music from 7:00p.m.- 10:00p.m. You can bring chairs or a blanket, stretch out, enjoy dinner and a frosty beverage in a great atmosphere. If you haven't been out there before it is definitely worth the trip. You're free to walk the grounds during the concert and will most likely catch some whitewater rafters and/or kayakers.

So far we've spent a lot of lazy weekends at the pool this summer and look forward to many more. I just ordered Carter a puddle-jumper so we'll see how he does with it this weekend. He's in the process of cutting two of his two year old molars so he hasn't been the most pleasant person this week, ha! Hopefully he'll be in a little better mood this weekend so we can give it a try. We've visited a few local splash grounds in the area that have been a lot fun. Since Carter wears orthotics in his shoes I was on the hunt to find him a good water sandal that provided some decent support. I ended up buying him some Keens from Zappos and they work great. They give him enough stability so that he doesn't have to wear his orthotics and they dry easily.

Keen Kids Newport H2 Sandal
Penrose Square Splash Ground

It's hard to believe but we're quickly approaching Carter's second birthday! He turns two years old on Tuesday so we're having  a little party for him next weekend. We look forward to celebrating his special day with our family and friends. The week of the Fourth of July we're headed to the beach for a little R&R.

Cheers to a wonderful summer!

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.