My mum lived there until she left for college and has only been back a few times in the past 30 years.
I spent the year after I completed highschool living in Nigeria with my grandparents.
It was life changing.
My mum is going over this November and when I told Paul in a wishful thinking sort of way how fun I thought it would be to be in Nigieria with my mum he said we'd make it happen.
And, after much prayer, it is happening.
This past week I have gotten all of my vaccines needed for travel.
My anti malaria pills are currently sitting on our kitchen counter.
The boys have appointments with the international travel doctor the middle of July.
Passport forms are filled out and ready to go in.
I have talked with a travel agent - who has not only given me invaluable information about direct flights from Atlanta to Nigeria (who knew!?!) but he also found prices cheaper than I could find myself.
I am looking at being there for 5 weeks.
5 short weeks in my beloved third home with my grandparents.
5 long weeks away from my love.
While Paul will be greatly missed I am thankful he has encouraged this adventure.
I am so excited to travel with the boys and to introduce them to a new culture of beautiful people.
And I am excited to finally be sharing this with everyone.
I have ordered food from Schwan's a few times this year and it's such a fun treat as well as wonderfully convenient to have the individually frozen foods waiting for me in the freezer.
I love pouring through their catalog, and have used it several times to inspire my own dinner ideas. It's always scary buying a new food item because you don't know if you'll actually like it or not, so I wanted to share some of the items I love that I think are worth buying and the one item I have tried that I don't love.
From Facebook comments and messages I know quite a few have ordered from Schwan's before and have shared your favorite foods - if you would do it again in the comments here I would appreciate it! That way I will easily be able to find the tried and true favorites when I go to make another order and want to try something new.
The chicken breasts are so tender and are equally as good as chicken breasts I have bought from the store that sell for nearly three times the price. These come individually frozen in a large bag, resealable bag - it is so easy to grab out the amount needed for dinner.
The frozen fruit blend is our favorite blend for smoothies that we have tried yet - with strawberries, peaches, mangos and pineapple it is delicious blended up in the green smoothies! The bag says you can thaw and eat them, but I can't quite imagine eating thawed fruit and haven't tried it myself.
Another item we have enjoyed are the Black Angus Steak Burgers. These are really tasty and a good size. I usually make my own burgers, so this isn't something I would order often, but it's been a fun treat to have preformed burgers and these ones taste really good!
The Stuffed Chicken Parmesan is decently good. It's not our favorite, but with a bit of sauce, some extra cheese and a bit of seasoning it can be doctored up to something that is rather amazing. For the price I don't think it's really worth it, but we did enjoy the box we ordered!
The one item that we have tried really hard to enjoy, but don't, are the Mini Steak. They are such a cute idea and since we are huge breakfast people I thought this would be a wonderful addition to a breakfast or brunch - but they come out tasting rubbery. I have tried cooking them a few different ways and it's just not working for me.
The other night we had a stay at home date that involved a nice dinner after the boys were in bed and us making this dessert together. It was so fun to make together and tasted so uniquely yummy. It is definitely one to make again. The presentation is so fun!
4 large grapefruit
2 teaspoons rum extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
3 egg whites
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
1/4 cup sugar
8 maraschino cherries
Halve grapefruits and section (so, so important!!); drizzle 1/4 teaspoon rum extract over each grapefruit half. Top with 1 rounded tablespoon of whipped cream, place on a foil lined baking sheet.
In a large bowl beat the egg whites, cornstarch and cream of tarter on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff, glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Mound 1/2 cup on each grapefruit half; spread meringue to edges to seal.
Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until meringue is brown. Top each with a cherry and serve immediately.
The original recipe makes enough for 8 - I only used one grapefruit (enough for 2) and then followed the recipe for the meringue and made cookies out of the extra.
The recipe called for cherries to top the meringue, but we settled for toasted walnuts as that is all I had on hand.
I haven't written an update on my Thrift Store Shopping Challenge in awhile because, to be honest, it's no longer a challenge. My closet is now full of clothes I love and every item has been purchased second hand. I have gotten more compliments on my clothes - from friends and strangers - since I have started exclusively buying clothes and accessories second hand.
That's not to say it hasn't been a challenge. Up until a month ago it was a challenge I tackled with great enthusiasm.
One weekend in May I went away with some friends and we spent one afternoon at the Outlets - and that is where I was truly put to the test! There were incredible deals, cute clothes and my friends were shopping. It was hard not joining in the fun! They even offered to buy me what I wanted and have me then pay for something non clothing related for them... ha! We women certainly know how to work a system.
But that afternoon I did stay strong and stuck to my commitment to not buy any clothing or accessories from a store - and I am so proud of myself for that! It encouraged my resolve. And what was once a challenge is no longer a challenge. I am now bored of my challenge to only shop second hand stores and yard sales for myself and the boys because I have found it to be both easy and fun - the challenge is gone.
I have started to think of a new challenge for myself and I am leaning towards following in Rebecca's steps and not buy anything for a year or follow the path of the extreme minimalists and only own a small amount of clothes. I am not able to commit to either challenge quite yet as I have already dropped two pant sizes this year and plan to drop one or two more by the end of this year and out of necessity will need to buy more clothes - but I am playing around with both ideas.
In the mean time I am stocking up on cheap accessories as I find them - once I up the challenge I won't be able to indulge in these little fun finds.
Here are a few fun finds of recent:
Tweed purse by Express - $1.75
Brighton Belt - brand new with $45 tag - paid .75 cents
Summer is my favorite season and I just love living in the south as we get so many hot summer months down here. I thought I would share some of our summer plans and share links of those who have summer plans that have inspired me. We are planning on keeping things low key and simple, and most activities revolve around being at home.
1. Read. Both boys love being read to, listening to audio books or looking at picture books themselves and so we are going to be doing more of that this summer. We are currently working on reading Dr. Doolittle and recently finished reading The Little Prince. It takes us awhile to read through chapter books, but both those books have been a lot of fun to read out loud to the boys. We read a lot of picture books too - Bill Peet and Where's Waldo books being current favorites. I was inspired by Jennifer's plan to spend 2 hours a day 3 days a week reading - how fun!
2. Play at home. At the end of last summer I picked up a small kiddie pool for a ridiculously cheap price (somewhere in the 95% off range) and we have been enjoying the fun it has provided. The boys have been out in it almost daily. I picked up some water guns for them and given them smaller containers to use out there too and I don't think I could pay money for them to have more fun! Emily has a great list of frugal summer fun to do at home, complete with really cute pictures.
3. Head to the beach. We are 3 hours from the ocean which is a reasonable distance for a day trip and the boys are such a fun age for this! We have made it out there 2 or 3 times each summer for the last couple years, so hopefully we'll be able to do a couple trips this summer.
4. Have grown up friends over a bit more often. For dinner or just desserts. And games. Always for games. I would like to spend a bit more time investing in the lives of others and building friendships. And I dearly love the interaction between our friends and our boys.
5. Inspire the imagination. I love toys like this marble run where you can create to your hearts content - legos and building blocks are also favorites here as they all inspire creativity. On top of playing I want to encourage the imagination with experiences and letter writing. We made a recent trip to the Fire station and Judah talks about it all the time and uses facts he learned there in his imaginative play. I love that!
The boys also sit with me and "write" a letter with me once a week - I hope to do this more frequently with them through the summer.
6. Go camping. Our recent planned camping trip got rained out and the boys are as excited as anything to go camping. Depending on Paul's work schedule we may do this a couple times this summer. We recently found all the camping supplies we could imagine needing at a yard sale for an excellent deal and so are all set and ready to go as soon as he gets some time off!
I have long aspired to stop buying bread from the grocery store and make all of my own from scratch.
While my sister was staying with us for 6 months she very kindly took on the job of making bread for us and came up with two fabulous recipes that she made many times and since she has left I have made several times. It was during her time here that I stopped buying commercially made bread products - apart from tortillas. I buy a lot of flour tortillas and it suddenly hit me today that I should try making my own, and so I did. WOW! What an incredible difference. Before sharing the recipe and how I served them here are the other two bread recipes I frequently make:
The Ciabatta Bread is so very easy to make and is delicious - most especially with soup!
It literally takes minutes to prepare the dough and then you can let it sit all day or all night and then just pour onto your baking dish. Seriously easy and so good!
The Hamburger Rolls are incredible - I don't think I can go back to store bought rolls, these are so delicious and they really are very simple to make, you just need to account for the rising time and plan accordingly. Esther made them look so fun with different toppings sprinkled on hers, I just used Italian seasoning.
I made them this week and served them toasted with BBQ chicken breasts from Schwan's - their chicken is my new favorite! So tender and yummy.
I used the left over BBQ chicken and mixed in some black beans and added some cheddar cheese and rolled it up in the homemade tortillas - so tasty and simple. Paul requested that it become a regular dinner! What a sweet compliment.
Homemade Flour Tortilla Recipe
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder
2 TBS butter (called for lard, but we don't use it), softened
1.5 cups water
Mix the dry ingredients. Add the butter and mix with your hands - it will be sort of lumpy but not really. I almost panicked as it didn't seem like a proper consistency, but it worked out fine in the end! Add the water and mix (I continued doing so with my hands) until the dough is a smooth and elastic consistency.
Divide the dough into 24 pieces and roll into balls. I patted each ball with flour as I shaped them - it helped make the ball easier to shape and also made rolling it out easier too. This recipe really does make 24 balls, however several times I did combine two balls to make one larger tortilla.
Preheat a large skillet to medium-high heat. I used a tiny bit of butter in the bottom, but I don't think it's required.
Using a floured rolling pin roll out the tortillas - getting them super flat takes a bit of work, as does getting a nice circular shape. Mine were either perfectly thin or perfectly shaped - I didn't nail both in the same tortilla. (And you know what? No one cared!)
Place the rolled dough in skillet until golden and bubbly and then flip - about 30 seconds per side.
Continue rolling and cooking the tortillas as you eat the ones you have prepared.
...while writing this out I had a sudden weird feeling that maybe I have made these in the past, but having searched this blog and my recipe blog I can't find any mention of it. But regardless, this recipe will now become a constant.
I found this decorative bird cage at a yard sale for $2.50 I thought it was so cute and was inspired to use it to hold some hydrangeas from our garden. Are they not just spectacular in their array of colors? I love the former owners for all the beautiful plants they planted!!
I am toying with the idea of painting it white.
But everyone paints everything white these days, and I'm not so much a fad follower, so I am trying to decide if I'd really love it white or if I am just tempted to do it because that is what everyone else is doing.
You never lose it.
I had the arrangement on our back porch and then moved it to the table by our front door - it's such a cheerful arrangement to see when we walk in the front door!
And this frame now has a picture in it - I am just too lazy to take a second picture of it!