Our Fall Bucket List

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Even though it is insanely hot at the moment in Texas, I’m so excited about it being the first day of fall tomorrow! Fall and winter are my favorite times of year, and, now that I’m out of the new mama haze, I can’t wait to show Owen how fun this time of year can be. So, to keep myself accountable and remember everything I’m intending to do this season, I’ve made a toddler-friendly fall bucket list:

  1. Pumpkin Patch. This is probably one on everyone’s to-do list. It’s just not fall without going out there, picking your own pumpkin, and getting some cute pictures to put in your family album.
  2. Hay Maze. I’d never done a hay maze until last year, when Owen was 11 months old. It was so much fun, and that was before he could even walk! It’s definitely going to be a repeat for this year.
  3. Hayride. Same thing with the hayride. I had never done one until last year. Since Owen is all about anything that moves, a hayride is right up his alley. It’s a tradition I see us repeating for a while with our little guy.
  4. Hot Air Balloon Festival. We have a lot of hot air balloon festivals to choose from where we live. It seems like all of the surrounding towns have one. We went to one last year, but we didn’t come at the right time to actually see…hot air balloons. This year, Owen is able to stay up a little later, and I plan on seeing one of the evening “glow” launches with him this year!
  5. Pumpkin Pie Play-doh. We haven’t introduced play-doh to Owen yet, so I think it will be extra fun if it smells like fall when we do!
  6. Pinecone Bird Feeder. I saw a tutorial online about this, and it looks easy and cute! My parents have pine cones falling in their backyard from a neighbor’s tree, so we plan on collecting some and making feeders out of them. Then, I want to hang them on the tree outside of Owen’s room, so he can watch the birds eat from them.
  7. Seasonal Masterpiece. I’ve seen a couple of people mention painting with pinecones, leaves, acorns, etc. for a fun fall craft. I think this would be so much fun! I think I’ll only use fall colors, to make it extra festive.
  8. Pumpkin Washing. This is a simple, practical activity that’s great for developing toddlers. Since we’re still hot, I plan on doing this outside with cold bubbly water, so Owen can cool off. Plus, it helps us get ready for…
  9. Pumpkin Carving/Painting. I think I’m going to have Owen paint his pumpkin(s), but maybe do a separate one with my husband where we actually carve it. Maybe we’ll choose something to carve into it based on Owen’s interests, so he gets excited when he sees it all lit up. Plus, I’ve heard great things about pumpkin “guts” sensory bags.
  10. Nature Hike. This one is for once our seasons actually change. We have a great park just up the road from us that has miles and miles of hiking and biking trails, amongst the trees. Once there’s a chill in the air, and the leaves start changing, it will be absolutely stunning.
  11. Puddle Jumping. And, speaking of when our seasons change, we always get a lot of rain, so it’s the perfect time to go puddle jumping! Owen always enjoys it, and he looks for any reason to put on his boots.
  12. Fall Songs. This may be the music teacher in me, but I love singing seasonal songs, whenever possible. So, I looked up some fall songs, ready for Owen to dance to!
  13. Educational Activities. I’ve recently been more purposeful with doing educational activities with Owen. We’ve always done them, but now I plan them out a little more. I’m excited to start doing fall themed educational activities. I already have some ideas up my sleeve.
  14. Halloween Party. I was recently talking to some of my friends who also have little ones, and we decided that we’re going to have to throw the kids a Halloween party this year. It’ll be so cute seeing everyone in their little outfits! (I fully intend on making Owen’s again this year, but I’m still trying to decide on what to make. Ideas?)
  15. Gluten Free Fall Baking. Since we’re still currently gluten free with Owen, I get to play around in the kitchen and figure out some old favorites (and maybe some new favorites) using gluten free ingredients. I’m not going to let being gluten free get in the way of one of the most delicious times of year.

I’ve already started a few of the things on my list because I just couldn’t wait to get started! What’s on your fall bucket list? I would love to add to mine!

Owen’s Best Day Ever!

A couple of weekends ago, one of our neighboring towns was hosting a “Touch-a-Truck” event. Naturally, we couldn’t skip this, since Owen loves anything that moves. So, even though it was muddy from some rain earlier that morning, we set out to check out all of the trucks, with our boots handy.


Owen loved seeing all of the huge trucks, and he even got to sit in some of his favorites!


He even enjoyed the constant chorus of truck horns from all of the enthusiastic kids sitting in the driver seats! Our shoes may have gotten a little bit muddy, but it was definitely a success in the eyes of this toddler!


As we were walking out, we heard rumor that there was a classic car show going on about 45 minutes away, in our old college town. So, figuring it was perfect timing for Owen to take a nap in the car, we headed over and continue with the vehicle theme of the day.

Owen and his dad were all about checking out the old cars, while I was simply content to sip on my coffee from one of my college days’ coffee houses and eat a meal on the lawn in front of the courthouse.


Once we were done there, we checked to see if Owen’s uncle was working in a nearby town, and, finding out that he was, decided to head to the fire station and say hello!


Owen had so much fun seeing all of the trucks and being shown around by his uncle. He even got to play some basketball at the station!


By the end of the day, we were all worn out and ready for a quiet night at home, but one thing was certain: for a little boy who loves anything that moves, Owen had the best day ever!

22 Months

It seems like the last couple of weeks just randomly sped up and my days became more full than I could handle! Now that I’ve caught my breath, it’s time to catch up on all the fun things we’ve been up to! We were so busy that little man turned 22 months old two weeks ago, and I haven’t done an update yet. Whoops! This will be the second to last monthly update I do with Owen, since he’ll be turning two in November. How did he get so big??

It seems like, within the last month, he has had a major developmental breakthrough with a few things. He’s pretty much mastered the art of using a spoon without getting stuff all over him. He wasn’t too bad at it before, but, with things like yogurt, he still got pretty messy. Now, he concentrates a lot harder and has much more deliberate movement while eating. The end result? I don’t feel like he needs a bath after each meal anymore.

We’ve also been able to have much more relaxing dinners on the rare occasion that we go out to eat. We used to hurry through our meal and end up having to trade off on who walked around outside with him because he just became too antsy. Now, I bring his reusable sticker sheets with him, and he’s content to sit in the booth with us and play quietly, when he’s not eating his meal. We’ve had him at a restaurant for an hour or more, no problem. For such an active little boy, that’s practically a miracle!

If we have guests at the house, he’s always excited to show them his toys and books. For the last month, my mother has been watching him for a couple of hours one day a week, so I can go teach a few music lessons. As soon as she gets there, he takes her hand, leads her to his room, and more or less says “see ya, mama.”

Some other new developments this month have included him using a monster voice while playing, figuring out how to whisper (even in his monster voice), and becoming obsessed with all things dad. A school bus is now a “dad truck” (he works at a school), a saxophone is now a “dad boom” (or, dad instrument because that’s what my husband plays), and he’s developed a hilarious game with my husband where he points at him, yells “DAD” in his monster voice, and then giggles hysterically when my husband does it back to him with his name.

Owen’s turning out to be such a funny kid with the sweetest disposition. I can’t wait to see him develop even more over the next month!

Pumpkin Spice Granola

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September is finally here, and, as much as I try to resist the pumpkin spice craze until it actually feels like pumpkin spice weather, I caved when I found a really tasty granola recipe on Pinterest.

My husband is all about his granola with pumpkin seeds in the morning, so I decided I wanted to try making our own. The one I found definitely has more of a pumpkin spice taste than his does, but he really likes it. Bonus: so does Owen. And, since this recipe is gluten free, I’m able to let him go to town and eat as much as he wants!

All you need are gluten-free oats, walnut pieces, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and flax seeds in one bowl…

and melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in another bowl.

You add pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon to the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.

You put it all on a cookie sheet and toast the granola in the oven for roughly 30 minutes.

Once everything’s toasted, you add raisins and golden raisins to the mix and put it in an airtight container.

For full recipe, check it out here.

I had a lot of the ingredients already, and, what I didn’t have, I was able to get in the bulk section at Sprouts, keeping the cost down.

I may have caved and started the pumpkin spiced everything season earlier than intended, but I still refuse the latte until it starts feeling like fall. Until then, the amazing smell this made while in the oven gave me my fix. For now…

 

 

Summer’s Last Hurrah

On Sunday, we went to the zoo as one last hurrah before school started back up on Monday. It was really nice to have a family day with no distractions from work. As soon as Owen woke up in the morning, we hurried into the car. The drive to this zoo is over an hour, so we decided to have breakfast on the go, so we could fit in as much as possible before nap time.

Since Owen has been particularly obsessed with them recently, we started with the elephants.

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He was so excited to see them, and was perfectly content pointing at them and making elephant sounds for a good 10 minutes. We were a bit disappointed they didn’t decide to get into the water this time, like they did last time we were here, but they did come quite close to the window, so Owen had a great view!

Next up were the giraffes (“Fffs”), since they are one of Owen’s longtime favorite animals. Not pictured is his Sophie the giraffe that he had with him.

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Not only were the giraffes cool, but he was especially excited about all of the pelicans and ducks that were around the giraffe enclosure. He spent more time quacking at the birds than he did looking at the giraffes!

Then, we went to see a tiger. He had just woken up from a nap and was particularly active. He kept rubbing up to the window next to us, so, once again, Owen had an amazing view of him.  He was holding his tiger toy from last year’s trip to the San Diego Zoo, and he tried to tell everyone he saw about the big “cat.”

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After the tiger, we went to see some tropical birds, and we had our first ever experience with a random act of kindness. Upon entering the bird area, we saw that you could buy little sticks with bird food on them for $1 each, but they only took cash. We checked our purses and wallets, but, unfortunately, we only had change, and it didn’t quite add up to a dollar. So, I just said, “that’s okay, it’ll still be fun to see the birds!” and we started walking away. No sooner had I said that, a guy in his 20s handed me $3, so Owen could get some bird feeders. It meant so much to us that this guy cared so much about our little one’s experience! I definitely intend to pay it forward.

And, the birds ended up being Owen’s favorite part! He absolutely loved feeding the birds. He couldn’t get enough.

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After the birds, we ate a picnic lunch and heard a train whistle blowing. We decided that that would be the perfect ending to our zoo day, since Owen loves trains and it was starting to creep towards nap time.

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Even though he was getting tired at this point, he loved riding on the train, hearing the whistle, and eating the rest of his lunch while checking out the scenery. Afterwards, we went to the car, and he fell asleep before we even got out of the parking lot. Definitely a successful trip!

First Day of School

Well, here we go again! We’re on year two since I decided to become a stay at home mom, and we’re working on getting back into our school year routine. Although my husband has been working more or less throughout the summer, today was the official first day of school, bringing the typical long work hours along with it.

Things around here have felt a little weird recently because we had an unexpected “cold” front come through, and it’s been rainy and cool (for us: upper 80s, lower 90s, instead of our typical 100s) for over a week now. It almost feels like fall is on its way, although I know better than to get my hopes up.

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We’ve been trying to get out and enjoy this beautiful weather between storms and rain showers.

We’re getting back into our daily routines filled with libraries, play dates, and as much outside time as possible. However, I do need to remind myself to do every day to-dos like make my husband’s lunch and get his coffee machine all set up the night before. I’ve fallen out of the habit of doing those things over the summer.

This time of year always feels exciting to me. It’s filled with new beginning and the start of the anticipation of fall and the holidays. However, with fall comes Owen’s birthday, and I’m not quite ready for my little boy to turn 2 just yet. So I’m trying to savor these moments, crazy faces and all.

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

 

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For a while now, we’ve suspected that Owen is sensitive to gluten. He has some of the stereotypical signs that you see whenever you Google it, and he always seems to have a better night sleep whenever he doesn’t have any gluten in his system. We were hoping he’d have grown out of it by now (I’m hoping it’s something he grows out of, anyway), since that will make life easier for him as he grows up, goes to friends’ houses, etc. However, after trying to reintroduce it to him again recently, we’ve come to the realization that his system still isn’t ready for it yet.

It’s not too difficult for me to make him gluten free meals, since he can still have things like potatoes and rice. The difficult aspects for me are remembering to check labels because they hide gluten in all sorts of weird places (luckily we don’t eat too many processed foods), and figuring out the bread situation. We’ve tried many store bought gluten free bread, and, while we found our favorite, it was also the most expensive (of course).

So, being the frugal mama that I am, I set out to find a good everyday bread recipe that I can make in our bread machine. While the ingredients were a bit pricey upfront, since I had to buy 4 things not normally stocked in my pantry, we will be saving in the long run. I’m also looking into places that I can buy my ingredients in bulk, to cut the cost even more.

My parents printed out some recipes they found online, and the first one turned out great! I may have had to put more ingredients into the bread machine than I ever have before, but it is a really good loaf of bread that can be thinly sliced for sandwiches and toast.

Everyday Gluten Free Bread

Makes a 2 pound loaf. 

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 9 ounces lukewarm water (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • 3/4 cup potato starch flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2/3 cup non-fat dry milk
  • 1 tablespoon xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, lukewarm water, oil, and vinegar. Whisk or beat together. Pour mixture into bread machine pan.
  2. Measure and blend together all dry ingredients, except for the yeast. Place on top of the liquid ingredients.
  3. Make a shallow well in the middle of dry ingredients, and add yeast.
  4. Program machine for its gluten free setting. If you don’t have that setting on yours, set it for basic rapid or basic/specialty. Program in that it’s a two pound loaf with medium bread color.
  5. Press start.
  6. When mixing/kneeding action starts, use a scraper to help mix it and get it off the walls for a few minutes. Then, the machine can handle the thick batter itself. Just make sure it all gets into the mixture. It will not form into a dough ball like regular bread.
  7. Once the bread is done, turn the machine off, remove the bread (with the help of pot holders), and set it on a rack to cool.
  8. Enjoy your homemade gluten free bread!

Now that I have a great everyday bread recipe, I’m looking forward to trying out more gluten free recipes. This is completely new for me, and it’s kind of fun! Do you have any go-to gluten free recipes?