family · life · through my camera lens

First Fire Pit Fire

We decided to wrap up our weekend by testing out our fire pit for the first time. It was nice to just sit outside and enjoy the crackle of the fire. The boys didn’t want to go to bed, but wanted to stay outside and watch the fire. We are looking forward to when the nights aren’t so long and we can enjoy the fire at nighttime and not have it be 9pm when it starts to get dark.

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Colby and I had tossed the football around for a while before Richard got everything together to start the fire. Then we all stood/sat around watching the fire

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Blake decided that he was going to take my camera and take some pictures too

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I know we will spend a lot of time around our new fire pit

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family · life · through my camera lens

Open Streets Pittsburgh

What a fun way to wrap up the weekend, and the month! Today we went downtown with our bikes. They had a 4 mile strip of road closed off to traffic and open to pedestrians. We took advantage. We ended up biking around 11.5 miles. This was a slow leisure ride and we stopped along the way. The boys played pickleball, rode an obstacle course, we had free ice cream and free Jimmy Johns sandwiches.

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family · food · life


The windows are open. The breezes are blowing. We have music playing and the boys finished their math workbook pages for today. I already cleaned the bathrooms, went to the grocery store, made pizza dough and cut up the watermelon I got at the store.

Blake is making our dinner tonight. Each Friday one of the boys will be picking and making our dinner. This week we are having steak pizzaiola pasta. We will share a review of this dish later.

We are hoping that the weather is nice on Sunday. From 9-1 the streets in one section of Pittsburgh will be closed to street traffic. It is set up for people to walk, bike, stroll or however they want to meander down the street. They do this in May, June and July. This weekend it is on one of our favorite areas of downtown Pittsburgh. So we hope to load all four bikes onto the bike rack and go ride the streets of the “strip” and see the sights. Open Streets Pittsburgh is sponsered by UMPC Heath as a way to get people out and moving and see the streets as a place for people.

The rest of the weekend will be spent trying to figure out where to locate all the sprinklers so we can begin the process of growing grass in our yard. This will be a project since our WHOLE backyard was reconstructed to flatten it out and make it more usable. It will be really nice once we have grass instead of yards and yards of hay mats. Oh well… life doesn’t happen in an instant.

I finished my library book, Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah, and now am going back to a kindle book until we go back to the library next week. I often struggle to find books at the library. I either gravitate towards mystery series or to authors that I’ve read in the past. I know this is an opportunity to read new books, but nothing ever jumps at me in the “lucky day” or new book sections. Then to find something in the shelves you have to sort of know what you are looking for… oh well it gets more books in the hands of my sons and gives me a new book each week.

Hope you have some fun plans for the weekend. Chat with you soon



June 24

Today was the boy’s first quiet day of summer break. Yes they have been on break for two weeks, but they were at camp those days.

They slept in late. The had slower mornings. After breakfast, they did some school work. Yes, I am one of those mean parents who insists the children continue to do some type of learning through the summer. This year both boys are working on math practice.

We then headed to the library. Last year we went to the library every  week. Yes, every week. The boys will take out 5-10 books and will plow through them in the week. I have them take out a few non-fiction books on a topic of their choosing. This week Blake took out a few on WWII and Colby choose mountain biking.

We came home and they put on the women’s world cup game.  Later we will head out to mountain biking.

The sun is actually shinning right now. Originally we were supposed to have rain all day. Then it was going to start at noon. Then 3pm. Now it is saying 6pm. We will see. Hopefully it holds off until after 6:45pm when biking is done.

I always look forward to the slowness of summer. I know that I need to provide activities for the boys, but the balance between that and doing nothing is nice. As soon as the game is over, they will head out to the playground and see who is around. They will enjoy just hanging out with friends.

family · food · life · through my camera lens

I didn’t run away… weekend update

I just realized that I haven’t posted anything since Thursday. I’m not sure why, but hey such is life. So here is a quick update on all the fun and frivolity that occurred in our lives.

Friday found us back at the theater. This was the boys second week of theater camp. This time they did Peter Pan Jr. This cast was made of children ages rising 2nd grade through rising 8th graders. This made my boys some of the older kids. For this cast both of the boys were part of the lost boys. They were twin one and twin two. While they have spent most of their lives  trying to convince people they are not twins I guess it played a part in their casting.

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The nice thing about Friday was we finally had a day without rain. It was overcast and never really warmed up, but at least it wasn’t raining. Richard and I originally planned to go have dinner somewhere that we could eat outside, but by the time he got home we decided that Chick-fil-a was a better choice time wise. After the play, we headed to sonic. Colby asks to do this after every play. I got a strawberry limeade this time. This was a nice refreshing drink. I love that they used real strawberries and limes in it. I even filled my cup up with just water when we got home and enjoyed the lime strawberry water. I need to do this more often.

Saturday found us being a bit lazy in the morning. We then headed out in search of lumber. Richard has decided he wants to build us a farmhouse table out of cedar for our back patio. Finding the cedar wood needed turned out to be a bit more challenging than we originally thought it would be. We went to two different lumber yards. The first was 84 Lumber. Ok this is a big name lumber yard they must have what we need…. NOPE! Everything we wanted would have to be special ordered. We decided to check out a local lumber yard that we saw when we went to the a home show. This place was pretty impressive in their selection. I should have taken pictures of some of the cool wood they stock. They had purpleheart, zebra wood, and so many other types. We were able to get everything we wanted/needed there. This probably cost us more than if we could have got it at/through Home Depot or Lowes (which did not stock the sizes we needed), but hey we helped the local economy.

We then had a late lunch and headed to Costco. We decided to get the boys super soakers. Over the years they have had a variety of water shooting toys, but never try water guns or certainly not ones like these. They came home and decided to test them out.

We finally decided to get ready for dinner after 6pm. We decided to head to the restaraunt in North Park. We wanted to sit outside on the lake and enjoy the view. When we got there, there was a 45min-1 hour wait. We decided to stay and just go for a walk around the area. The boys played on the playground and then we walked over to a small bridge/waterfall area that we enjoy.

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The food at the Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe is decent.. it isn’t OMG I need to wait an hour for this food. but the view and atmosphere makes is that much more enjoyable. This was my view from my seat at the table.

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family · food · life · reviews · through my camera lens

popcorn in a brown bag

in a recent episode of Rachael Ray’s 30 minute meals she made popcorn in a paper bag. I had to try this out for myself. I did it last week, but didn’t season it. I was waiting to try it again with Colby.

So tonight he was looking for something to have as a snack so we made popcorn.

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So take regular popcorn and pour it into the bottom of a brown lunch bag. You want to just cover the bottom of the bag. Fold the top of the bag over two or three times. Make sure you crease it well. Ok ready…. put it in the microwave on the popcorn setting. Yep that’s it!

Melt butter to pour over the top when it is done. I only melted 2 tbsp and that wasn’t quite enough. I also purchased white cheddar popcorn cheese to put on it, but you don’t have to do that.

Think about it… you control how much butter. You control the type of toppings and how much.

It is time to take control over our popcorn again! I know we will be making our popcorn like this again.

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Last day of spring

Rain, rain and so much rain. We have had so much rain this week. The temps are on the cooler side too. I can’t believe that we are more than half way through June and I’ve worn my jeans all week.

Oh well… it is!

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. That is the longest day of the year. I will tell you that the days are long here. I don’t remember the days being this long when we lived in FL. It is still light outside around 9pm right now. I just looked it up and sunset tomorrow is 8:54pm. In Orlando the sun will set at 8:26pm. That just shows you how much variation there is in the time zones. (sunrise in Pittsburgh: 5:49am, Orlando: 6:28am)

This means that the days are really long. Wonder how much of the sun we will actually see tomorrow. They say it is not going to rain, but I won’t hold my breath. Oh well… I have to take my car in to be serviced.

Next week, we start our real summer. The boys do not have camp or other plans. We will turn off the alarm clocks. We will let life slow down. We are ready to welcome summer

family · food · life · reviews · through my camera lens

Celebrate Father’s day with Cheesecake!

Today is Father’s Day. It is a day to celebrate those men in your life. Today is a quiet day in our house. Richard was actually the first one up and moving. After the boys finished their chores, Richard opened his gifts. We got him things to use in our new fire pit. Now we just need them to finish up so we can have our first fire.

I asked Richard what he wanted for our meal and he choose steaks and sweet potato hash. So that is what we will have for dinner tonight. On Friday I made our desert for today. I typically do not bake on the weekends there usually isn’t time for it. So I made it on Friday. So, we have been enjoying it the last few days, oh well the thought was there.Image may contain: food and indoor

I made cheesecake “cupcakes”. I used Philadelphia’s 3 step cheesecake squares recipe, but made it in a cupcake pan.

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Cheesecake “Cupcakes”

  • 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of butter melted
  • 2 blocks of cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • toppings if desired ( I used chocolate chips and peanut butter chips)
  1. Heat oven to 350
  2. line muffin pan with cupcake liners
  3. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter
  4. press mixture into the bottom of the liners
  5. mix together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla
  6. Add eggs to mixture and mix until just combined
  7. pour over crusts
  8. add desired toppings
  9. bake for 40 min
  10. allow to cool on a cooling rack and then put into the fridge for 3+ hours

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The cheesecake in this is really tasty. The crust needs work! It did not hold together and was not sweet enough. Next time I will use a bit less graham cracker crumbs, as it was also thicker then needed.

I think the next time I will try this:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar

I will also add more butter if I notice it isn’t sticking together next time instead of guessing it will be fine.

The chocolate chips were tasty. These were dark chocolate chips. I also liked the plain one. The peanut butter didn’t do much for me. It may have been better as a combination of peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Oh well… Richard is enjoying them and that is what counts when it is a father’s day treat.

family · food · life

Friday is show day

It’s Friday! This means that the weekend is loading.

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Today is the boy’s last day of of camp. They perform Camp Rock tonight. I still am amazed that they audition on Monday and put on their performance on Friday. This cast was students entering 5th grade and up. This puts them at the younger end of the cast. While it found them both with ensemble rolls, it is such a great learning experience for them. One of the cool/unique parts of this performance is they are having the kids play instruments. Well, those who know how to play that is… so not my boys. So, this means that their are characters who needed to learn lines, songs and memorize the music to play guitar, piano, drums and more. I give them all major kudos.

Next week, they are back at camp. This time they will be doing Peter Pan. This cast is for students entering 2nd-8th grade. They will be on the older side of this cast. It will give them a totally different experience to be on the older end instead of the younger end.  We did the same thing last year.

Tomorrow we are heading to the movies to see Secret Life of Pets 2. (I knew enough to buy my tickets ahead of time this time, read about that life lesson here) We all loved the first one and hope this one lives up to the standard set by the first one. We are looking forward to seeing some of the Disney movies that are out on the cruise. This is one of the perks of Disney Curises is they show first run movies on the ship. We hope to see Toy Story 4 and Aladdin…. hmmm Lion King opens while we are on the ship I wonder if they will show that one too??

Tomorrow I am making another RR recipe. This time is it meatballs with garlic bread. Yes, I will take pictures and share our thoughts. Sunday we are having steak and sweet potato hash, Richard’s choice for Father’s day. Oh and I’m getting ready to make cheesecake bites, yes I can share that recipe too if people are interested.

There have been some big changes to the backyard. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve got a sneak peek the other day. I will update everyone over the weekend.

Hope everyone has a great Friday

family · life

This week of summer

The boys started their first week of theater camp yesterday. They always leave there excited and ready to go back the next day. They came home and had a bit before we were back out the door for moutain biking. Last night it POURED while they were biking. When we were getting ready to leave, I asked them if they wanted to go. It looked like it was going to storm the whole time. Colby said as long as I don’t get struck by lightning I’m good to go…. well that or as long as a tree doesn’t catch on fire and fall on me. Comments like this make me laugh. Ok dude… those are good goals to have. I’m glad you are game for a soggy ride.

They did ride and had a great time. I love seeing how much they enjoy getting out and doing things that are not typical activities.

I love that they are able to have their own fun and enjoy their own summer. Today they came home from camp and shortly after cleaning up a mess they left in the basement, completed their 20 min of educational tech (they are both doing math on Khan Academy this summer)… got to keep up those learning skills… the door bell rang. They were off to the playground with friends. They came home for dinner and were back out the door until it is time to come home and get ready for bed.

This is what summer should be… getting outside and having fun. Doing extended activities that you enjoy. Relaxing and being yourself.

I have been in and out of work the last few weeks. I went in yesterday and told them I would be back in August unless they needed me before then. I’m done. I’m ready to do me things. I am finding more time to read (I’m reading two books right now so it seems slower, but that’s ok). I have a lot of personal work things that I want to do so that I am ready for next year. I want to go and do some on-line professional development to keep up my skills. I want to do a whole year re-vamp and re-sort my book boxes to match my new order. I want to work on some projects that I have started for my teacher pay teacher account.

But I also want to slow down. I want to be able to bake. I want to go for a walk in the middle of the day. I want to be able to sit out on the new patio, when it is finished and type my blog post, read a book or do nothing.

Its summer. I want to relax and enjoy.

Tomorrow there will be a cookie recipe/review coming. Today I had the urge to bake and didn’t have butter, I googled “What can I bake without butter?” I found a recipe for oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (pictures on my f/b page if you follow me there). I’ll share the details tomorrow. I will have updated pictures of the backyard soon. Hopefully a new book review. We will see… but for now I”m going to enjoy the wind blowing in the open windows and the few more minutes before the boys come home from the playground.