Pictures, pictures, pictures

I realized that over the last couple of months that I hadn’t been taking as many pictures as I normally do. I got busy and started leaving my camera at home and when I went to see what I had captured for the months of August and September, it was pretty anemic.

So, starting today, I’m going to start carrying my camera with me everywhere and taking pictures of lovely things, creepy things…pretty much anything and everything that captures my interest. The only way that I can get better at photography is by practicing, so practice I will! Here is today’s batch of photos. The weather was lovely, so I arrived downtown 30 minutes before I needed to to pick up Lexi and I decided to walk around a bit (and pay a visit to the library).

Slowly but surely, leaves are changing.
Reaching for the sun.
Beautiful bark.
The brightness of the pink on these flowers is surreal.
This bee (wasp?) was clinging to my windshield for about 3 miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A List…

Today, I woke up with the feeling that something great was on the horizon. You know the feeling – it’s like something is bubbling up inside of you and you can’t help but smile about it. It’s a feeling of optimism, of excitement, of outright glee. The best part (or maybe the worst part) is that I can’t really pinpoint one specific thing making me feel this way. Maybe it’s the fact that within another month, our mountains will look like this:

 

Maybe it’s because the girl child is sleeping for almost 10 hours at a stretch 4 nights a week (hey, I’ll take it!). Or maybe it’s a hormonal imbalance causing a surge of happy hormones in my system making me feel this way. Most likely, it’s because I’m biking my tooshie off (literally) and I’ve found my groove at work so I no longer feel like a hamster spinning at warp speed. I swear, a good and consistent workout makes my soul sing and without that balance in my life, I feel a bit nuts. Regardless, I thought that on this fine day, I’d write a list about the things I love because the world could do with a bit more optimism and a bit less strife. So here goes:

1. I love that my children don’t try to kill each other regularly. I’m sure that it’s coming, but for right now, they adore each other and the way that they look at each other melts my heart.

2. I love that I live in these beautiful mountains and that my husband loved me enough to support me in our move to the middle of nowhere. It’s a gorgeous middle of nowhere, but whereas I thrive in the isolation, he occasionally struggles a bit with it.

3. Speaking of that, I love that we are a family unit. I’ve said it before, but in Tallahassee, we were living parallel lives. Here, we do things together all the time. Our weekends are mostly spent as a group and if we want to do things alone, we typically try to squeeze it in before the kids wake up (me) or after they go to sleep (him).

4. I love that right now, in this moment, everyone is healthy and whole. I know that can change in an instant, so I will savor it while I can.

5. I love that we’re headed into the season of hot chocolate and pumpkin muffins.

6. I love that I still feel young and that’s I’m still able to do the silliest of things (like riding my bike over a mountain range) without too many aches and pains.

7. I love that my job allows me to travel. There is no experience on this earth that I cherish more than learning new cultures and seeing new places – I’m thrilled to be able to share this world with my children.

8. I love that I’ve grown wiser with age. I’m still regularly prone to making mistakes, but I’m a softer, more tolerant version of my college self and I think it makes me a much better teacher and parent.

9. I love that I was fortunate enough to be born into a good home and in a 1st world country. The fact that I don’t worry about clean drinking water, proper sewage facilities or finding shelter is such a global privilege.

10. Finally, I love that I have all of you here to share this with. The Internet makes the world such a small place and even though I’m not physically near most of you, whenever I post on this little blog, I feel like I just picked up the phone and caught up with all of ya’.

Now go ahead and post a comment so it wasn’t entirely a one-way conversation. I sure do a lot of ‘talking’ around here! Ha!

Make Ahead Sausage Biscuits

One of the biggest challenges in Parker’s transition from pre-school to kindergarten was the loss of the morning snack. Like me, he isn’t really a big breakfast eater. Sure, he’ll eat a little something, but it usually takes a couple of hours for him to really build an appetite. In pre-school, the schedule was perfect for this. He’d get there around 8am, they’d have outside play and then snack time was at 9:30am. This year is a whole different ball game. We’re out of the house by 7:30am and lunch is at 11am – that’s a long time for a little guy to go without eating.

So this fall, I’ve had to put a bit more thought into breakfasts. Even knowing that he’ll be hungry in a couple of hours, Parker still can’t/won’t eat a big breakfast, so I’ve gotten smarter about making sure that his breakfast is staying with him longer. For the first couple of weeks, we had been giving him two whole grain waffles with peanut butter in the middle (served like a sandwich) and while that had been holding him over, he was getting bored with it.

Last week, I decided to try something new – homemade sausage biscuits. Parker is always asking for them at the store, but I’ve been avoiding buying them for a couple of reasons: (1) they’re expensive – a box can run you $8; (2) they’re made with factory farmed pork, which I try to avoid.

Thankfully, we have a local farm that raises their own pigs (free-range) and processes their own meats. We’ve bought their pork chops, bacon and sausage and it’s amazing how fresh it is compared to the store bought meat. I picked up a pound of sage sausage last week (which was slightly more expensive than Jimmy Dean, but still cheaper than buying the boxed sausage biscuits) and a canister of refrigerated biscuits (because let’s face it – who has time to make biscuits from scratch?!).

I rolled the sausage into patties, baked the biscuits and assembled my little sausage biscuits. Once they were cooled, I wrapped them in foil and put them directly into the freezer. I made 10 biscuits for $5.25, which isn’t too bad considering that the pork is organic and local.

The best part is that in the mornings, the Irishman can just take the sausage biscuit out of the foil, wrap it loosely in a paper towel and microwave it for 60 seconds. Parker gets a high-protein breakfast, I don’t have to mess around with cooking in the mornings and I still feel pretty good about what he’s consuming. Paired with a banana and a glass of milk, he has a full tummy all the way up to lunch time and his griping has ceased (which I’m sure his teacher is thankful for as well).

I’m glad I can now add these to my repertoire of cook ahead breakfasts (which include my breakfast burritos) – I’m all about putting in a bit of time on the front end to save loads of time on the back end. Enjoy!

Becoming a Soccer Mom

Parker’s self-assigned ‘fierce’ pose.

This fall, Parker joined his first organized sports team – the under 6 soccer league for our county. What that means, folks, is that I am officially a soccer mom. I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure how I feel about having that label and all that it implies, but I can tell you that I am thrilled to be spending my Saturday mornings at games.

Headed to the field for game time.

I spent my entire childhood and adolescence training and competing in sports, so it’s an arena that I’m very comfortable with. I have a feeling, though, that the Irishman is terrified that I will be one of “those” parents. You know the kind – those parents who have high expectations for their rising starts, who follow behind the coach yelling out instructions to the players, who are disappointed if their kid doesn’t play well.

Parker strategizing with his teammates before kickoff.

I swear, he spent more time watching me than Parker during that first game. While I can see where his concern comes from (I’m probably the most competitive person this side of the Mississippi), his fears are unfounded for one very important reason that became quite clear to us during the second soccer game of the season…

The breakaway!

It just so turns out that Parker is as competitive as I am (without any prompting from me). I know this because he burst into tears when his team started losing and when he failed to immediately score a goal. I know that feeling all too well. It’s a need to excel and I swear, it’s an inborn trait. My parents were the most laid-back and supportive parents you could possibly have had and I still felt the need to ‘win’ (whatever that means).

Jockeying for position.

My parents never had to push me to succeed. Instead, they had to tamper my drive. “It’s okay if you don’t make your best time.” “Make sure you’re still having fun out there.” “Why don’t you take a day off and go catch a movie?” I was the most hyper-motivated kid out there and that motivation came with lots of tears and lots of frustration until I learned to channel it productively.

Look mom, I’m getting ready to kick the winning goal!

So while I understand the Irishman’s uncertainty about how I’ll handle this new sports-mom role, I can assure him that I’m probably the best person to help Parker through how he feels because I understand it perfectly. Boy, do I ever.

 

 

My “Spin On Cancer” – I Need Your Help!

Cancer. It’s a word filled with pain, fear and dread. Cancer changes lives and sometimes, it takes lives. Every single person I know has in some way been personally affected by this horrible disease or knows someone who has. I’ve had a number of friends and family who have lost their fight against cancer, but I also have friends and family members that have received early diagnosis, great treatment and care and have emerged as survivors on the other side of their ordeal.

Cancer. It just flat out sucks. The good news, however, is that new treatment options are being developed every day that will hopefully one day put every single cancer victim into the survivor category. So, here’s where you and I come in. My brother, fueled by frustration and anger at losing friends to cancer, founded a charity. A bit of back story – in Dean’s former life, he used to be a DJ (random, I know). While he eventually moved on from his DJ days, he had a huge collection of vinyl records taking up space in his house and one day, he had an epiphany – why not sell his vinyl for a good cause? Why not make that good cause the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute? And so, Spin On Cancer was born.

Motivated by his charity, I wanted to get involved, too. Here’s my “Spin” On Cancer:

Do you remember a couple of months ago when I entered a blog contest to win a trip to attend the Brandcation Event in Pigeon Forge, Tennesee? Well, I won (YAY!) and my charity bike ride is a go! On October 4th, I will be riding my bike over the Smoky Mountains from North Carolina to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (*gulp*) and I need your help! The ride is almost 40 miles of climbing over mountainous terrain and I need all of the motivation in the world to make it over. Please click on the link below and consider donating to the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute through my fundraising page. The Florida Hospital Foundation  is a non-profit, community benefit hospital and one hundred percent of your gift will be applied to the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

www.myfhfoundation.com/CyndyHughes

Every single donation is greatly appreciated, no matter how big or small. Also, please feel free to share the charity link with your friends and family! Thanks so much for your support and I’ll be sure to document my journey over the Smokies. It’s going to be EPIC.

A Beauty Product That I Love

I’m normally a morning shower kind of person. Outside of my morning gallon of coffee, it helps me wake up and shift my day into high gear. Lately though, I’ve found my mornings are crazy rushed (since I leave the house around 7:20 to drop Parker off of school) and I end up looking and feeling frazzled and harassed. As an aside, I’m fully aware that this is the default feeling for parents who have to get their kids off to school every weekday morning.

To minimize the morning rush, I toyed with the idea of shifting my shower to the night before. The only thing stopping me was the dreaded flat and funky ‘second-day’ hair that I always seem to get upon waking. Since I need to look more or less professional at work, I wasn’t sure how to pull off the night-before shower without looking marginally homeless (nothing against homeless people, naturally).

Alas, a solution came to me accidentally. Doesn’t it always? Months ago, my mom’s stylist recommended Aveeno’s Nourish + Moisture Shampoo as a stand alone product.  That is, to be used by itself and NOT followed by conditioner. I was baffled by this advice since my hair is generally unruly and tends towards the frizzy, but when I was in Greece (and I forgot my own hair products), I used my mom’s Aveeno shampoo without conditioner. I ended up loving it and when I got back from Greece, I bought my own and had been using it daily (and only conditioning when the mood struck me).

And here’s what I noticed – when I washed my hair with just the Aveeno shampoo at night  (and then styled it like I normally do), I woke up with perfect looking hair. Seriously, I didn’t even need to brush it in the morning. Crazy, right? But, on the nights when I followed shampooing with conditioner, I woke up with weird wrinkles in my hair and greasy bangs.

This week, I’ve defaulted to washing my hair at night and saving myself the 45 minutes that it was taking me for my morning shower and hair drying/straightening routine. Plus, taking a shower after the kids are in bed without needing to rush is such a nice change to the Olympic sprint that had come to characterize my morning routine. It’s so nice not to spend the mornings fussing with my hair and while I’m not getting any more sleep out of the deal, I am feel far less rushed and so far this week, I’ve been getting out of the door with plenty of time to spare.

Since so many of you are busy bees also, I thought I would share the tip in case you found yourselves in the same predicament. While I realize that cute hair is definitely a “first world problem,” I always feel better when I look put together.

**disclaimer: Aveeno has no idea who I am. I just happened to love their product and wanted to pass that on to you all. That’s all!