More Gran and Aunt Rejene Fun

As mentioned before, Gran and Aunt Rejene came to visit over the weekend.  Monday was pretty calm.  Taft stayed at home and spent the day with Gran.  Gran, Taft, and Shane came to eat lunch with me and my co-worker, Yvette.  Then they went shopping and I worked.  Later - we just ordered a pizza, ate, and relaxed.
The only major event was Gran giving Taft his piggy bank money.  She keeps a little pig at her house and puts change in it.  She has one for Jenna, Izzy, Evan, and Taft.  She emptied it out for him and he was able to load up his pig we have here.  I think that there is almost, or even enough, to get a bike before long.

On Tuesday, Taft went back to Preschool.  He needed to get back into a bit of a routine and I am pretty sure that Gran enjoyed being able to stay at the house and get some sleep and rest herself.
Aunt Rejene made it back to our house before time for dinner.  The adults came to pick me up from work and then we went to Taft's school.  He was very excited that Gran was going to come pick him up.  We met his teacher on the way out and went to the room where he was waiting.  It was great that the kids were already out of his main classroom so he could take Gran there and show his room all alone.  He then took her out to see Miss Phyllis, the music teacher, on the playground.  Miss Phyllis had a surprise for us.  She had taught the kids a new dance and song about the Number Rock.  The two of them preformed it for us.

Then we drove across the bridge to eat on the beach at The Golden Lion.  It is one of Gran's favorites down here.  Everyone loved their food.
We decided to drive down the beach on the way home and show Aunt Rejene some of the sites.  We went through Hammock Beach, the old side of town, drove by our old house, and then to get ice cream.  Taft was still short enough to get a free baby cone with sprinkles (which he loved).  And I think that by the photo, so did Gran and Rejene.

 We really enjoyed the visit and hope that they can come again soon.  Hopefully at a time that I can take off work and spend more time with them.


As Simple As A Spray Bottle

A simple spray bottle keeps this boy pretty happy.  And now that Spring is here and his daddy is outside most afternoons working on the yard and getting the pool ready, he gets to use it all the time. 
He uses it to "wash" the patio furniture and windows.  And yes - that child safety fence is always closed unless we are right there with him.
Happy Friday!

How to Use Chocolate In Your Easter Menu

Are you working on planning your Easter Feast?  This great Guest Post will give you some wonderful ideas on using chocolate in the meal.
Isn’t chocolate one of the best parts about Easter holidays? We get to see Easter baskets filled with chocolates and even colorful plastic Easter eggs filled with chocolate candy for children. It’s the best sweet treat for everyone. Then why not incorporate it in your Easter meal and make some chocolate treats for all the guests? Here are 4 ways to use chocolate in your Easter meal this year.
Yes you can introduce chocolate in the hors d’oeuvres or snacks. Here are a few ideas to get you started off.
a. Chocolate coated strawberries
It is Easter and the time and spring has just started. Use some fruits as hors d’oeuvres for your guests to nibble on till dinner is served. They are fairly easy to make. All you have to do is melt a few bars of bittersweet cooking chocolate in a pan and dip the strawberries in it. Place them on a sheet covered with butter paper and leave to cool in the refrigerator.
b. Chocolate coated almonds
Almonds are a favorite and when you chocolate coat them they look like little eggs, perfect for Easter. Coat them with chocolate the same way as above. You can even find them in the store if you don’t have time to coat your own almonds. Every store has a big variety of these.
Who would have thought that you can have chocolate in your main dish as well? Don’t be surprised, cocoa powder and cooking chocolate is an ingredient in an increasing number of main dishes. Here are a few main dish ideas to get you thinking:
a. Mexican Moles
b. Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub
c. Cincinnati Chili with Chocolate Recipe
d. Chicken chocolate enchiladas
Chocolate is a popular dish in the dessert section. You can keep that tradition too. You will find dozens of chocolate dessert recipes in cookbooks and online. Chocolate cake is a favorite dessert for any occasion and if you have an Easter Bunny made on it or it is shaped liked an Easter Bunny that will just add to the festivity of your Easter meal.
Chocolates in the Easter baskets are a must along with other candies like colorful jellybeans and sugar eggs. You can also make these treats yourself. Here are a few ideas.
a. Make chocolate eggs
Use colorful plastic eggs, the ones that snap open in half. Drill a hold on one side. Spray them with non-stick spray inside. Pour in melted chocolate from the hole and refrigerate them till solid. Snap open the plastic shells and your chocolate eggs are ready.
b. Make chocolate bunnies
Just as there will be bunny-shaped cookie cutters available in the market, you will also find plenty of bunny-shaped molds. Use them to make chocolate bunnies yourself.

Allan loves chocolate hampers and anything to do with chocolate. As a regular blog contributor, Allan loves sharing tips and ideas.


Zambi the Baby Elephant

Gran was here to visit over the weekend, and as usual, she brought Taft a few treats.  One of those was a baby elephant.
Taft and I decided to name him Elbert.  He makes noise and kisses, and likes to be petted.  One of the best things about him though is that he is part of ProjectZambi.com.  They are made by Hasbro and are part of the FurReal Collection.  Each elephant that is sold goes to help the children in African that have been orphaned due to the AIDS crisis there.
Here is the video from Hasbro:
We think he is pretty special and adorable to boot!  Thanks Gran!


Should You Get a Real Bunny or Duck for Easter?: Guest Post

Are you thinking about what to get the children for Easter?  Considering a live bunny or duck?  Be sure to read this awesome guest post from Alexandra Kelly first.

As a parent you always want to make the holidays special for your children. In the Springtime, you tell them stories about the Easter bunny and how he’s going to hippity-hop around the yard hiding eggs everywhere. It’s kind of ridiculous, to be sure. But your kids love it.

So what if you’re thinking about taking it one step further? Around Easter-time, pet stores around the country see sales of baby bunnies and baby ducks skyrocket. Lots of parents want to take the magic of Easter and make it real. Are you considering getting your kids a real, live bunny or duckling this Easter? If you are, should you do it?
Surprising Your Children
Lots of parents buy bunnies or ducklings as novelty gifts during Easter to delight their children. There’s no doubt that your kids will be thrilled to see a real life Easter bunny or baby duck. But does their excitement and joy really justify purchasing such a pet?
With baby bunnies and ducks, there are two potential outcomes. One is that because these baby animals are so fragile, they can die very easily, which may devastate your child. The second possibility is that they’ll live a very long time, and you’ll have the pet for many years. However, most kids lose interest in pets like these fairly quickly. No matter what, the pet will be your responsibility to care for on a daily basis.
A Lifetime Commitment
When baby bunnies and ducks survive their delicate infancy, they can live for several years. If you can’t commit to the daily care and upkeep of these animals, you should not purchase one. Far too many Easter-time pets end up in shelters because parents made impulsive decisions and purchased them without realizing what they were getting themselves into.
Bunnies and ducklings require care on a daily basis. Bunnies need to be fed, played with, bathed, brushed, and their cages need to be cleaned. Ducklings also need the basic provisions, as well as a place to swim. In addition, ducklings will one day be full-size ducks. Do you really want to have a rabbit or a duck as a pet? You must consider the long-term effects of live animal Easter presents, and whether or not you’re really prepared to take in another member of the household.
Cuddly Bunnies and Adorable Ducklings
One of the reasons parents consider getting baby bunnies or baby ducks for their children is that they’re so darn cute. What kid wouldn’t go, “Awwwwww!” at the sight of one? We want to make our kids happy, but the truth is that bunnies and ducklings aren’t as cute and cuddly as they appear. Bunnies don’t like being picked up off the ground, and have you ever seen someone snuggling with a duck? If you really want to get your child a pet, you might want to consider a more affectionate animal. There’s nothing wrong with breaking away from the theme of Easter and just going with a traditional pet puppy.

Alexandra Kelly is a school teacher and devoted mother with a passion for writing and a love for animals. She regularly uses a grammar checker to ensure her writing is of a high quality and is free from any grammatical mistakes. She cannot wait for her family vacation to the Bahamas!


Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole

You Need:
1 whole chicken, boiled and deboned
1 box of chicken flavored stuffing mix
2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayo
1 family size can of cream of mushroom soup
1 lb bag of frozen broccoli

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix the soup, mayo, and 1 cup of cheese together.  Set aside.
Cook the broccoli until tender.  Layer the chicken, stuffing mix, soup mixture, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake 20 minutes or until bubbly.
I am linking up to Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays at Blessed with Grace.net. 


West Florida Lighthouses: Cedar Key, Gasparilla Island, Sanibel, Ancolte Island, and Egmont

Do you love lighthouses? Today we have a great guest post from Samet Bilir about the lighthouses on the west coast of Florida. I need to add these to my list!

Lighthouses have served an important part of our nation's history, as well as the history of the West Florida coast. Florida has a rich maritime history both in the shipping trade and in Naval operations. Over the years, Florida's lighthouses have provided that beacon of light - warning ships of danger and welcoming sailors home.

Cedar Keys Light

The Cedar Key lighthouse around 1894.
The Cedar Keys light actually resides on a neighboring island - Seahorse Key - not on Cedar Key itself. Structurally, the lighthouse is one of the shorter lights in the state. The light itself is only 30 feet tall, but was built on a part of the island which is 40+ feet above sea level, so the effective overall height is just over 70 feet.
The light was decommissioned in the early 1900's, and several decades later the island was incorporated into the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. As part of the refuge, the lighthouse is not open to the public, although tours are generally offered for a couple of days each year during the Cedar Keys Annual Seafood Festival which is usually held in October. The lighthouse itself and surrounding structures are leased to the University of Florida, which operates a laboratory there. The surrounding structures are used as dormitory space accommodating roughly 25 students, faculty and staff.

Anclote Keys Light

Anclote Keys Lighthouse when it was still manned.
The Anclote light was decommissioned only fairly recently - in 1985. It had been unmanned and converted to an automated light during the early 1950's. The tower and light were originally constructed in the late 1800's. Many sailors heading south from the inter-coastal waterways in the Florida panhandle use Anclote as a waypoint on their Gulf crossings, and are always happy to bring the lighthouse into sight. The dwellings and pier will be refitted, and will house a new park ranger station.

Egmont Key Light

The Egmont Key Lighthouse before its lantern was removed in 1944.
The light at Egmont has stood at the entrance to Tampa Bay since the mid 1800's. It is very likely the oldest structure in the Tampa Bay area to still be utilized for it's original purpose. The light's beacon can be seen from a distance of 15 miles, thanks to it's flashing 140,000 candlepower light. The Egmont light was not automated until 1990, making it one of the last in the country to be converted.
Egmont Key is accessible only by boat. Several sightseeing boats ferry visitors to the Key from Pinellas and Manatee county beaches. Egmont is also a popular anchorage for private vessels.

Gasparilla Island Light

The structure is now a museum, and the buildings have faced destruction from the seas on more than one occasion, but it's still with us. The light was built in the late 1800's, and is housed at the roof apex of the one story bungalow which originally served as home to the keepers. It's original use was as the rear range mark for vessels entering Charlotte Harbor.
Rock Jetties now help protect the structures from the seas, and the lighthouse bungalow was opened as a museum in early 1999. The light is now part of the Gasparilla Island State Recreation Area.

Sanibel Island Light

The Sanibel Island Light Station in 1933.
The Sanibel light and it's surrounding compound of structures is a favorite subject among many Florida artists, and can be seen in numerous pen and ink drawings, post cards, and on canvas at almost any art show. The light was constructed in the late 1800's, and remained manned until it was automated in the mid 1950's. It was converted to electric power ten years later. The light has stood over considerable change on Sanibel Island, which is now a popular tourist destination and thriving beach community. The lighthouse and it's surrounding structures were the first construction on the island.

Samet Bilir writes about technology trends, digital camera reviews, and photography, such as Lowepro pro roller AW and Sony alpha a65. To read more articles from him visit his website at www.chi-photography.com.


Adventures at Kohl's and Other Happenings

On Saturday, Gran and Aunt Rejene came to visit.  It is a pretty long drive from Alabama to our house so they got here in the late afternoon.  We had a nice dinner of Five Spice Ribs (that Gran LOVES), had a walk around the neighborhood, and spent some time out by the pool playing with the new sidewalk chalk that was given to Taft.
Aunt Rejene left this morning to visit her sister that also lives in Florida and Taft wanted to go to Kohl's with Gran.  He had talked about it for a few days and Gran agreed that it was a good trip to take.  So - we ate our pancakes, bacon, and eggs, and got dressed to go shopping.
Our first stop was Taft's favorite store, Kohl's.  Gran and Taft picked a few outfits (Jumping Beans are one sale for $5.99) and a new pair of shoes.
Taft tried on a few pairs before decided on that nice white, red, and blue pair of Nike's (also on sale).
He also enjoyed trying on a few things that were not in his size but that he liked a lot.
We also went to Bealls Outlet and Wal*Mart.  We picked up so groceries and dessert for tonight and headed home.  Taft and Gran took a nap while I got started on some yummy Broccoli Chicken Casserole (a recipe that I will be sharing on Tuesday) and washed all the new clothes that the little darling got.  He always likes to wear all the new items as soon as possible and loves picking out his own things.
Now it is almost time to end the day.  I am going to work tomorrow but Shane and Taft are staying with Gran.  Shane has a few things to do and that works out great since I know that Taft will enjoy some one on one time with Gran.  On Tuesday, Taft is going to school and Gran will be able to get a little rest before Aunt Rejene comes back and they head home to Alabama on Wednesday.


Crock Pot Corned Beef

For St. Patrick's Day, we made corned beef and cabbage.  I decided to give it a try in the crock and it worked great.

You need:
4lb corned beef with seasoning pack
1 large cabbage, roughly
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups water
10 red potatoes
5 large carrots, chopped

I put the onion, water, corned beef, seasoning pack, sugar, and vingar in the crock pot and set it on low for 8 hours.  After 5 hours, I added the potatoes and carrots.  Then I added the chopped cabbage one hour before the finished cooking time.
It was wonderful!  The meat was tender and falling apart and the vegetables where perfect.  It went great with out Irish soda bread we picked up at Publix.
You can find more of our recipes here.

I'm linking up with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.


Make-Up and Mud Boutique: Facebook Store Review

I got a wonderful little package in the mail this weekend.  Two pair of earrings that I had bought from the facebook store Make-Up and Mud Boutique.  I got what I would call the Auburn and the Alabama pairs.  Both are very cute and well made.  I am surprised at the weight in fact.  Not too heavy but you know that they are there.  That happens to be something that I really like.
The Auburn or Florida Gator pair
The Alabama pair.  I must say that I am not an Alabama fan but I love RED.
Make-Up and Mud Boutique also makes neckaces, earring/necklace sets, made to order peices, and items for the home.  And you really can't bet the prices.

*** I was not compensated in any way for this post. I just truly love the product and wanted to spread the news with others.***
*** All photos are by Make-Up and Mud Boutique.***


Book Club Friday - The Last Dickens

This week I managed to get in one book.  I have just not been able to make myself read.  Hopefully I will do better next week.  ;0

Here is the summary from Goodreads:
In his most enthralling novel yet, the critically acclaimed author Matthew Pearl reopens one of literary history’s greatest mysteries. The Last Dickens is a tale filled with the dazzling twists and turns, the unerring period details, and the meticulous research that thrilled readers of the bestsellers The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow.
Boston, 1870. When news of Charles Dickens’s untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields & Osgood, partner James Osgood sends his trusted clerk Daniel Sand to await the arrival of Dickens’s unfinished novel. But when Daniel’s body is discovered by the docks and the manuscript is nowhere to be found, Osgood must embark on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel that he hopes will save his venerable business and reveal Daniel’s killer.
Danger and intrigue abound on the journey to England, for which Osgood has chosen Rebecca Sand, Daniel’s older sister, to assist him. As they attempt to uncover Dickens’s final mystery, Osgood and Rebecca find themselves racing the clock through a dangerous web of literary lions and drug dealers, sadistic thugs and blue bloods, and competing members of Dickens’s inner circle. They soon realize that understanding Dickens’s lost ending is a matter of life and death, and the hidden key to stopping a murderous mastermind.

My thoughts:
This was the first time that I have read Matthew Pearl and it was due to it being a recommendation on Goodreads.  With that being said, I love historical fiction, although this is not a time period that I usually pick. 
The book started out a little slow for me in the beginning.  After the first chapter, I was hooked.  I even started reading to my self in an accent that reminded me of Sherlock Holmes.  ;0
I really liked it and would give it a B+.

I am linking up with Blonde, Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.


Wednesday Love

Another week down and another Wednesday full of things that I love....
This week is a little short because I am doing the post of Tuesday night (as always) and I am going to bed early.
10 Ways to Make a Garland - I love the simple one with tied cloth.  Perfect for our Pirate Party.
Love this way of using a large photo in the divided page protectors.
I LOVE the monster cupcakes.  These would be perfect for Taft's school party.  Now just to convince him that he wants these instead of Spongebob. 


Play Date and Farm Party

We had a busy weekend!  Taft is starting to get a social calendar and that means not a lot naps on Saturdays and Sundays. 
We started out on Saturday with a play date with his "best fend" CJ at his house.  They had not seen each other since January.  I promise that they were happy to see each other, but I could not get both of them to look at the camera at the same time.
On Sunday we had a birthday party.  Our friend, Stran, was turning 1!  He had a great farm party complete with pony and horse rides, potato sack races, stick horse races, baby animals to pet (chicks and a calf), goldfish, a pretend cow set up for roping, a barrel cow to play rodeo, and a hayride to feed the cows.  It was so perfect!

 Shane trying to convince Taft that the calf was friendly.
 The birthday boy!  How cute is he?

Here are just a few of the decorations.  The drink options were my favorite.  We had lemonade, sweet tea, and milk.

Casey did an awesome job!  It will be hard to top.  ;0


"I speak for the trees."

I have been wanting to take Taft to the movie theater for quite a while.  Every time that a cute kids movie is out, I entertain that idea.  Finally at 3 1/2, he got to go to his first movie.  The timing could not have been more perfect since he spent last week studying about Dr. Seuss at school.
One of the the local elementary schools had two theaters tonight for $6.50 per person (adults included).  You had to have a pass that they send home and Taft and I scored one from a friend that was not using it tonight.
He was so excited.  I told him that it would be the biggest television that he has even seen.  His face was priceless when we walked up the little "tunnel" and around to the stadium sitting.  We were even able to lift the arm rest between us and get very comfy.
He loved it.  He laughed and laughed and kept asking which one was Dr. Seuss.  ;0
We also like the previews.  It seems that there is going to be a Despicable Me 2 and another Ice Age.  Both have to be added to out list.
Here a few photos from the night.
 Taft deep in thought.
 Of course Bunny went to the movies too!
And the one and only photo of me from the night.  Taft took it in the parking lot on the way home.
I loved having a date night with my favorite little man.


Wednesday Love

Oh dear!  I almost forgot that it was Wednesday.  This week has gone by so fast already, not to mention that it is a full moon week.  Anyone in the health care field can tell you that it really makes a difference.  Not in a good way.
Anyway - here are the loves for this week.
What I am loving on Pinterest:
Cucumber Salad.  While I am not a fan of cucumber myself, I know a lot of people that are and this would be great little gifts.  Here is the source.
I fell in love with succulents in Carmel.  This makes me want to get lots of them for beside the pool.
Aren't these cute?  This site has so many cute ways to use buttons.

What I am loving/random thoughts:
*  Taft went to Hooter's for the first time this week.  We went to Ormond Beach for haircuts and then decided to get some dinner in Daytona Beach before heading home.  Taft was not sure what to think.  I am pretty sure that he liked it though.  What do you think?

*  When I was giving Taft his bath last night, he told me that the Hooter's girls wear underwear to work and that he saw their booty's.

* Last Thursday, we went to Publix.  Taft and I were looking in the produce section and I noticed that they had nice little herb plants.  Shane and I decided to pick up the rosemary and catnip.  Before I could get the catnip out of the bag, Trevor had started to pull off pieces and was acting insane.  It really is like crack for some cats.

* Speaking of catnip, after I went to bed, Shane gave Trevor and Goat a leaf off the plant to enjoy.  This is what Taft and I found the next morning.
Shane said not to touch anything.  It was a crime scene.  Poor Trevor was the victim of assault and lost his pretty pink collar.  It was returned pending an investigation.


Cuppacoffee - Etsy Store Review

Last week I got this beautiful ring.  At $19 I think that it was a steal!
It was made by a GREAT little Etsy Store called Cuppacoffee.  I absolutely love milk glass and this seemed to be a great way to not just collect milk glass dishes that set around and get dusty, but a way to make it useful.
The milk glass cameo is from the 1940's and then she set it on a brass ring base.  It is pretty big.  About two inches long so it makes a statement.  ;0  I really love it and I think that I need to get milk glass earrings to go with it. 
Cuppacoffee was very easy to work with and it came within a week from the time I placed the order.  You can't ask for much better than that.  She has a lot of great pieces for sale so head over to Cuppacoffee and check them all out!

***I was not compensated in any way for this post. I just truly love the product and wanted to spread the news with others.***