Summer 2012: Having Fun One Day at a Time

As I sat down to work on our Summer 2013 bucket list, I decided to review what all we did in the Summer of 2012.  Looking through all of the pictures made all of the memories come flooding back.  I cannot wait to start celebrating the Summer of 2013!

1.  Have a Welcome to Summer party on the last day of school.

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– June 1, 2012 – We completed this the moment school was out for summer. While I did not have the time to make everything as festive as I had intended, I did make the sign and put together a quick, little indoor picnic. I loved watching them run through the sign and into their summer adventure. I will definitely try to do something like this each year.

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2.  Have a Science Experiment Day.

– June 19, 2012 – We decided to do science experiments just for fun.  The volcano eruption was definitely the favorite one.

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3.  Go to the Peach and Melon Festival Parade.

August 8, 2012 – After a rain storm delayed the parade, we were all happy to celebrate our annual tradition.

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4.  Have a bubble day, and make homemade bubbles.

July 24, 2012 – We incorporated this into our backyard obstacle course.  We made giant homemade bubbles and used the store-bought ones, too.

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5.  Water balloon fun.

– June 6, 2012 – We decided to have a water war with water launcher guns, rather than water balloons so that the fun could last longer.  The littles had so much fun attacking each other…and me…with their streams of water.

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– June 14, 2012 – We had planned to play in the sprinklers, but when my niece came out carrying a box of water balloons, we decided to combine the two activities – water balloon wars while running through the sprinklers.  They all had so much fun!

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6.  Have a watermelon themed day and eat watermelon foods all day.

August 11, 2012 – We did not have a watermelon themed day, but we did have a watermelon slicing.  And, it was perfect.

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7.  Have a shrimp or crawfish boil.

– June 10, 2012 – We had our very first shrimp boil, and it was perfect.  I definitely see many more in our future.

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8.  Plan a red, white, and blue menu for the 4th of July.  Sample the treats – Berry Spritzer, Star Spangled Strawberries, Red, White, and Blue Pretzel Sticks

July 2, 2012 – We made Red, White, and Blue Jell-O cups.

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July 3, 2012 – We made Strawberry, Cream, and Blueberry Popsicles.

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July 4, 2012 – I made homemade Strawberry Star Spangled Cobbler, and it was delicious.

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9.  Attend a Family Reunion.

August 2-5, 2012 – We attended our annual family reunion at Barton Creek, and it was absolutely perfect.

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10.  Go to Sea World…at least once.

July 19, 2012 – We went to Sea World and had a magical time.  It was a perfect family day, and I cannot think about it without smiling.

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11.  Make water balloon pinatas.

July 24, 2012 – We incorporated this into our backyard obstacle course, too.  The littles absolutely loved the balloon piñata station.

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12. Make KoolAid Playdough.

– June 13, 2012 – With Gabriel and Summer both sick, I looked for activities that we could do indoors.  I decided to make play dough, not knowing if Gabriel would enjoy it as much as Summer and Ethan.  Not only did he enjoy it, but my oldest niece, 12, had a great time, too.

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13.  Swim and play at San Gabriel River.

July 30, 2012 – We went to San Gabriel River for the afternoon to see the dinosaur tracks and have a fun family outing.  The river was low, but it did not dampen the adventurous spirit of our littles.

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15.  Go on a nature scavenger hunt.

– June 5, 2012 – I added some items to a list, printed it out, packed a small bag, and we walked to our neighborhood park/walking trail. It did not take very long to find everything on the list, but it was still a fun little outing.

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After exploring nature, we cooled off at the park before walking back home.

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16.  Visit some fun swimming holes.

July 26, 2012 – We went on a family outing to Hamilton Pool.  It was a beautiful, perfect family afternoon.

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18.  Make homemade bird feeders.

– June 12, 2012 – We made homemade bird feeders, froze them, and then hung them in trees on the 13th. Even though they fell apart within an hour in the Texas heat, it was still fun putting them together.

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19.  Make homemade finger paints.

– June 14, 2012 – We had decided that it was a day worthy of fun in the sprinklers.  So, before running through the sprinklers, I decided to let the littles get messy with homemade finger paints.  It was a perfect combination of fun – messy art followed by wet fun in the sun.

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20.  Build a fort and live in it all day.

– June 16, 20012 – With Summer and Gabriel both sick and doctor’s order to rest, we knew that it would be a perfect day to build a fort and live in it.  We watched movies, ate popcorn, and enjoyed our day in our living room fort.

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23.  Go cloud watching.

July 24, 2012 – We did not go far to cloud watch.  We just put a blanket down in our backyard while we all pointed out the clouds and what we saw when we looked at them.  We found bunny rabbits, dragons, puppy dogs, and pirate ships.

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24.  Make spaghetti and meatballs and watch Lady and the Tramp.

June 11, 2012 – I made spaghetti and meatballs, and we watched Lady and the Tramp, while having a spaghetti party, picnic style, on the floor.  It was a perfect Monday night movie night.

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25.  Have ice cream at least once per week.  I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to ice cream.

– June 10, 2012 – I made milky way ice cream, but it did not freeze well.  So, we had milky way milkshakes.  I think that I tried to freeze it before the ice cream mixture had time to cool.  We all loved the flavor, though, so we will definitely be trying this one again.

We had ice cream many more times throughout the summer, but it was usually just vanilla with fun toppings.  We all love vanilla, so it was fine with us to stick to that.

26. Make paper rockets for the 4th of July.

July 2, 2012 – Since making a big mess after finally getting the house clean did not sound like fun to me, we made Glitter Paint Fireworks instead.

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28.  Give the littles cooking lessons…these pies would be a great place to start.

July 9, 2012 – We had our first cooking lessons of the summer by making monster cookies. The littles did great, and they loved cracking the eggs!

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29.  Make giant bubbles.

July 24, 2012 – We made giant bubbles to use as a station when we did our backyard obstacle course.  It was my favorite station!

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30.  Have a homemade water park day….or just have a sprinkler day.

July 26, 2012 – It was one of our 103 degree days, and I knew that it was a perfect day for the littles to cool off in the sprinklers.

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33.  Have an indoor camp out with sleeping bags, movies, and s’mores.

– June 7, 2012 – We walk up to a cloudy day, and we went back and forth between building and all day fort and having a morning camp-out.  We decided on the morning camp-out since the afternoon was promising sunshine.  We got out sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets, and we all cuddled together while we watched Scooby Doo.  Then, we made  a mess with some yummy s’mores.  It was such a great, peaceful, relaxing, fun morning.

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34.  Have at least one pajama day.

– June 20, 2012 – It was a rainy morning, and Summer and Gabriel were still coughing and weak.  So, it was the perfect day to spend in our pajamas, resting and relaxing.

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35.  Make homemade doughnuts.

August 18, 2012 – I had been wanting to make homemade doughnuts all summer, and I finally got around to making them.  They were delicious!

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36.  Have a rainbow day.

August 25 – We had our Somewhere Over the Rainbow back to school celebration.  It was perfect!

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38.  Jump in the trampoline at night…just for fun.

– June 9, 2012 – The littles excitedly asked me at 9:45 pm, if they could jump in the trampoline.  I told them that they could and then found the glow sticks that I had bought them for just this occasion.  They had so much fun.  And, it was one of those moments that was so simple, took no planning, and created memories that will last a life time.

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39.  Create a new school backpack and papers area and decorate with chalkboard paint.

August 18, 2012 – Sean made backpack lockers/shelves, and they are absolutely perfect for organizing their backpacks and other miscellaneous school supplies.

40.  Continue our fun gardening project.

We continued taking care of our garden all summer.  This year, we just started with several different kinds of peppers.  We are already looking forward to planting even more things next summer.

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41.  Have a weekly cookie day and try new recipes.  Keep notes and vote on our favorite at the end of the summer.

– June 6, 2012 – We made our first cookies of the summer, Brown Eyed Baker’s Thick, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.  The littles requested adding M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces, so, of course, I granted them their candy filled cookie wish.

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– June 13, 2012 – Sean and Gabriel both reminded me that I had not made a batch of weekly cookies yet.  After thinking about it for a minute and looking through my s’mores Pinterest board, I settled on Bakingdom’s S’mores Sandwich Cookies.  In a word.  Perfect.

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June 29, 2012 – I made Chocolate Chip Double Doozies, and they were a huge hit.

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July 1, 2012 – I made Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter cookies, and they were Sean’s favorite cookies so far. Actually, he said that they were the best cookies I have ever made.

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July 9, 2012 – We had cooking lessons and cookies all at the same time.  The littles made some delicious Monster cookies.

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July 20, 2012 – I made Bakery Style Chocolate Chip cookies to celebrate Cooking for My Kids turning 1.

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42.  Have a movie and popcorn day.  Watch movies and make different kinds of popcorn all day.

– June 16, 2012 – We built our fort, watched movies, and made popcorn.

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43.  Have a Harry Potter Marathon and make Butterbeer.

July 12, 2012 – We started our Harry Potter marathon with some homemade Butterbeer. It was a perfect summer afternoon. Truly.

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45.  Make homemade limeades.

– June 7, 2012 – We made Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Limeades for our afternoon snack.  And, to make the ordinary day just a little bit extraordinary, we drank them out of champagne classes.  Yes, sometimes it is all about the little things that combine into one big, great, fantastic memory.

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46.  Play balloon ping pong.

July 11, 2012 – It was a rainy day, so we decided that it would be a perfect time to play some balloon ping-pong.

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48.  Make different homemade smoothies.  Keep notes and decide on our favorites so that we can have a weekly smoothie day.

– June 5, 2012 – We made our 1st smoothie of summer break. It was Strawberry/Mango/Papaya/Banana, and it was delicious.

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June 11, 2012 – Gabriel woke up feeling under the weather and asked for a smoothie.  After a quick glance in the refrigerator and freezer, I settled on the Lime Mango Banana Smoothies.

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49.  Make homemade ice cream sandwiches.

July 23, 2012 – I made Chocolate Fudge Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches, and they were absolutely delicious.

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50.  Have marble races.

July 18, 2012 – Gabriel was sick with an ear infection and asthma complication, so we decided to have an indoor summer day with some more Harry Potter and marble races.

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51.  Make a hand print tree.

July 2, 2012 – We started our hand print tree.  We just need to add Sean’s hand print to complete it.

54.  Go for a ride on a train.

– June 18, 2012 – We took the Metro Rail downtown, ate lunch, and then rode the train back.  The littles loved the little adventure.

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56.  Go to Mt. Bonnell.

– June 9, 2012 – We decided that it was a good day to hike at Mt. Bonnell, since the temperatures were a mild 90, instead of 100. As an added bonus, Sean’s cousin, Betsy, was in town.  Betsy is a rock star to our littles. So, having her come along with us made for a perfect morning.

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58.  Go to a Farmer’s Market….or explore several different ones.

July 28, 2012 – We visited our local farmer’s market.  I loved the atmosphere and the little family outing.

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59.  Play in the rain….if it rains this summer.  Please, please let it rain this summer.

July 11, 2012 – The littles enjoyed the afternoon rain, while they jumped in the trampoline and rain around outside.  After a long drought last year, the summer rains this year were a welcome, happy sight.

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61.  Watch a sunset at Enchanted Rock.

June 30, 2012 – We decided that watching a sunset at Enchanted Rock likely would not work because we would be on the road to late at night with our precious cargo, the littles.  So, we decided to make it a day trip instead.  Sean and Gabriel had been before, but Ethan, Summer, and I had never been.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I am so happy that we were able to experience it as a family of five.

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62.  Have a card and board game day.

July 5, 2012 – We played board games all morning and had a great time.

July 12, 2012 – While the littles watched a movie, Gabriel and I played games.  It was so much fun having the one-on-one time with my oldest boy.

64.  Make fizzle paint.

July 25, 2012 – In keeping with Gabriel’s summer science camp theme, we made fizzle paint.

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65.  Family reading fun.

We read throughout the summer but never had a family read-in day.  It is definitely something that I am looking forward to doing later – maybe in the fall or maybe next summer.

66.  Have a sponge bomb water toss.

July 24, 2012 – We incorporated the sponge bomb water toss into our obstacle course.

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67.  Make popsicles…lots and lots of popsicles.

– June 5, 2012 – We made our first homemade popsicles of the season – Strawberry/Mango. The littles loved them, and I was happy that they were made from scratch and had a serving of fruit in them.

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– June 11, 2012 – Gabriel requested Pina Colada Popsicles, so I made them for him.  They disappeared in two days.

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July 3, 2012 – I made Strawberry, Cream, and Blueberry Popsicles to celebrate Independence Week.

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68.  Watch fireworks.

July 4, 2012 – We watched fireworks for the first time together as a family.  It was perfect.

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70.  Play with shaving cream…just for fun.  And, then run through the sprinklers to get clean.

– June 6, 2012 – We decided to have some fun, outdoor water fun.  Since the littles wanted to play in the sprinklers, we decided to make a shaving cream mess first and then clean off by running in, through, and around the sprinklers.  Hearing the squeals and laughter was music to my ears.

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71.  Have a one-on-one date with each of the littles.

– July 29, 2012 – Sean, Gabriel, and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises.  Batman has been a special movie for all of us to watch together, especially since Gabriel has had a batman fascination since he was about three years old.  It was a great little one-on-one date with our sweet oldest oby.

– August 22, 2012 – The only true one-on-one date that we had with Summer was to Meet the Teacher night.  In the end, though, it was the perfect date because it was such a huge milestone for our little sunshine girl.

– August 23, 2012 – My one-on-one date with Ethan was simply just running errands.  At first, it seemed a little lame.  But, really, that is what Ethan loves to do with me the most – just simply spending time with me running errands.  We had a great morning buying groceries and finishing up our back to school shopping.

72.  Make Sharpie tie-dye or regular tie-dye t-shirts.

– June 6, 2012 – I found some tie-dye kits on a huge discount at Target and bought several t-shirts on sale at Michaels so that we would have everything ready when we decided to make our summer travel shirts.  When we go places like Sea World, I like for the littles to dress alike in bright colors so that I can easily spot them. They each picked out their design and got to work.  It was so much fun to watch them, knowing how much their skills and confidence has improved in just a year.

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73.  Go fishing.

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– June 3, 2012 – While Sean and Gabriel were on their boys weekend trip, Summer, Ethan, my nieces and I went to Gorman. On the last night, I looked out, and they were fishing with Gran. I grabbed my camera and ran just in time to see everyone start catching fish. We lost count, but we think that Summer caught 8, while Ethan caught 5. They needed some help reeling in the fish each time, but it was their catch. And, it sure was fun to see them fist pumping, jumping up and down, squealing, and smiling each time.

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– June 22, 2012 – Gabriel and Ethan decided to fish while we were having fun at Nonna and Gran’s house. Gabriel caught the biggest fish, weighing in at 18 pounds and measuring 36 inches.

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74.  Set up a backyard obstacle course.

July 24, 2012 – We had a backyard obstacle course complete with balloon pinatas, giant bubbles, a sponge bomb water toss, and bubble blowing.

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76.  Buy new water bottles, decorate them, and take them on all of our fun adventures.

– June 5, 2012 – We decorated water bottles with paint, Sharpies, and stickers. It was a quick, fun activity, and the littles loved it.

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That just about sums up our Summer of Fun 2012. What great memories!

Let Freedom Ring – Recipe: Strawberry Cobbler

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We had a fantastic Independence Day.

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It was about celebrations…and about food.  For the food part, I turned to some of my favorite bloggers for inspiration.

It all started with breakfast.  When I saw these adorable pancakes on my Pinterest board, I knew that they would be a hit at our 4th of July breakfast table.  Amanda at i am baker is simply brilliant, and I love how creative she is when it comes to turning something like breakfast into a special event.

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Since we had late mid-morning breakfast, I was not expecting us to be very hungry for lunch.  I put together some appetizers, which would not have been complete without Pioneer Woman’s Stuffed Jalapeños.  While they are still too hot for Ethan and Summer, Gabriel is starting to like them now, too.

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I had started preparing dinner 1st thing in the morning, starting with these amazing crockpot baked beans by Jessica at How Sweet It Is.  Her blog is one that I try to visit often because she has amazing recipes, and she always has a side of humor to go along with them.

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I knew that I wanted homemade macaroni and cheese, too, but I did not know which recipe to try since I had pinned more than my fair share on my pasta board.  I decided to go with Panera Mac and Cheese by Annie at Annie’s Eats.  I have professed my adoration with her before, and I continue to be amazed with her recipes each time I visit her sweet blog.

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Sean wanted to make pork ribs that just fell off the bone, and I am happy to report that he succeeded.  I will post the recipe later.  I know that everyone has their favorite rib recipe, and this one is now ours.  They were truly, truly amazing.

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Rounding off the dinner menu was some grilled chicken and burgundy mushrooms.

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Dessert had me stumped.  I just could not decide what to make.  So, I turned to Gabriel for help.  I asked him if he wanted cobbler or ice cream.  He appropriately responded, “Both!” and smiled.  So, of course, both it was.

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I made vanilla ice cream and strawberry cobbler.  For the cobbler, I kind of made it all up as I went.  There are so many different ways to make cobbler that I decided I pretty much could not go wrong, especially since it would be topped with a big ‘ole scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

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The meal part of our day was great because we were all able to sit down together at a red, white, and blue table, cheers to the day, and talk about what the day meant to us.  That is why I try to make every detail of these days memorable.  It is about so much more than the food.  It is about the memories.

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And, I will remember every minute of their fireworks experience.

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This is the first year that we went together as a family because it was the first year that they were all able to stay up late enough to attend.  Since we did not want to go into the crowds because of how loud and, well, crowded, it would be, Sean found us a beautiful spot overlooking the city.

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We were literally able to see fireworks from all over the greater Austin area.  It was beautiful.

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My fireworks pictures were far from perfect, but when Gabriel sat next to me and told me, “Momma, you know the best camera is your mind, right?”, I knew that he was right.  I have taught him well, and he has been listening.

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It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Strawberry Cobbler

Strawberry Cobbler

Ingredients

Crust

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup butter

¼ cup cold water

Filling

2 cups strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups water

Instructions

    Preparing the Crust
  1. Mix the 2 cups of the flour, salt and sugar together lightly in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter cut into the flour using a pastry cutter or by mixing together with clean hands. The mixture should look like large crumbs and begin to cling together in clumps.
  3. Add the remaining ½ cup of flour and mix lightly.
  4. Sprinkle the water over the dough and continue mixing together with clean hands until the dough holds together.
  5. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray.
  6. For the bottom layer, I just took half of the dough and pressed it onto the bottom of the pie pan. It does not have to look pretty or be prefect because it will be covered up with the strawberry filling.
  7. For the top, roll out the other half on a generously floured surface. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes to add to the top. But, first add the filling.
  8. Filling
  9. Place the strawberries, sugar, and water into a pan and cook over medium high heat.
  10. Cook for about 15 minutes, allowing the liquid to reduce by half.
  11. Putting It All Together
  12. Preheat oven to 350.
  13. Add the filling to the top of the crust in the pie pan.
  14. Place the stars on top of the filling.
  15. Sprinkler the top of the stars with sugar.
  16. Put the cobbler in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  17. Remove from the oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
http://cookingformykids.com/2012/07/05/let-freedom-ring-recipe-strawberry-cobbler/

Summer Fun: Make Weekly Cookies – Recipe: Chocolate Chip Double Doozie Cookies

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It has been a busy, fun summer.

After substitute teaching a few times last year, I decided to get my teaching certification.  I enrolled in a program, took 27 online courses, and started studying for my teacher certification exam.  I got up early and stayed up late studying so that I could have fun with the littles during the day.  I had a lot of mommy guilt when I was studying during their waking hours.

On Wednesday, when my brain was at capacity, and I wanted to let my creative energy flow, I decided to bake cookies.  A quick look at my Cookies Board on Pinterest landed me on these cookies by Kristan at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.  Given how much I adore Kristan, her blog, and, especially, her growing baby bump, I knew that these cookies would be just what I needed to get me over the studying hump and ready for the exam.

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It looks like I was right.  I took the exam on Thursday and received my results on Friday.  All of the hours of hard work paid off, and I passed the exam.  Now I can breathe a sigh of relief and just focus on my littles…and bake many more batches of cookies…for the next 8 weeks of summer break.

If you have never visited Kristan’s blog, now is the perfect time.  Click here for the recipe. While you are there, stick around. I can promise you that the baked yummies, her sense of humor, and/or her adorable baby bump pictures will have you hooked on her sweet blog.