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Posts Tagged ‘togetherness’

  1. Fire Pit!

    August 2, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1722This TRFamily loves a cozy fire crackling in a fireplace on just about any evening of the year.

    It has been too long since we’ve had a house with a fireplace or property well suited for a fire-pit.  But the wait has finally ended!

    After some quick research on reviews and a few days of best-price hunting, we picked up a very affordable fire-pit from our local chain, Farm&Fleet.

    It required some simple assembly that took about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.IMG_1590

    Tip1: Be careful of the size of the bowl you are considering when researching what might work best for you. Your bargain find may have a very small burning surface which doesn’t work out well. We went with a 30 inch fire bowl and couldn’t be happier!

    We are fortunate to have a cement slab “deck” area in our backyard that is perfect for safely positioning a fire-pit. Make sure you consider the placement of your pit carefully and have access to the usual fire safety tools.

    TRDad spent a good amount of time discussing proper fire building with our young Bluey.  TRDad also made sure that Bluey understood that you must respect your fire and use great caution while stoking or minding it.  They gathered up kindling and before long, our first fire was burning bright.

    Tip2: Keep the makings for S’mores tucked away in your pantry.  The ingredients are super cheap and the enjoyment is guaranteed.  You can even find vegetarian marshmallows at most specialty stores and coops.

    A fire-pit is a great addition to a backyard.  But it does require a full commitment to safety.  Your home, neighbors, pets, and children are very susceptible to injury from an unattended fire.  But with the properattention and tools, you’ll enjoy it for years to come!!

  2. Stok It!

    June 28, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1123We had been discussing the purchase of a grill now that we had our own property and yard. And with careful planning, we had some money stashed away for these types of bonus purchases.

    Our STOK drumgrill is a welcome addition to our new home!

    We stumbled upon this orange beauty on a recent trip to our favorite box store. A quick google search proved their price (with 5% off and Redcard member discount) was not to be beat. We eagerly purchased it.

    We so infrequently grilled out in the past, that we were a little apprehensive about the functionality of the STOK and the ease of preparing our meals. But our new grill outperformed all our worries.

     Assembly – under ½ hour with the need for a screwdriver.

     Initial heating – discovered that we needed a few applications of lighter fluid to really bring our grill up to temp rather than simply lighting paper as the instructions recommended.

     Performance – We had a nice distribution heat on the main surface with no hot spots. But we highly recommend the purchase of a heat glove to handle the various accessories and lid.

     Clean up – It was a breeze. The entire grill was cooled down in less than 3 hours.

    Tip: Briquettes are a fire hazard. Be sure to properly handle their final disposal.

    We enjoyed our STOK grill meal so much that we are already planning future meals and an entire season of enjoyment.

    We did establish safety rules for our kids. Our grill is set up on a small concrete patio and our TRFamily rule is that when we are grilling, you are NOT allowed on the entire concrete area without asking permission of an adult first. Be sure to discuss safety and grilling with your family, too.

    Enjoy the summer!

  3. These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Reads

    May 1, 2015 by admin

    We love to read. And we love to read out loud to Bluey. Our evening culminates in reading before bed. And our day begins with reading while snuggled up on the couch.

    Bluey and TRMom have two favorite new series that we think you may like check out, too!

    IMG_3026Violet Mackerel is a series written by Anna Branford that follows an independent, quirky, and insightful young girl as she reacts to the world around her. The writer manages to capture the subtle genius of childhood thoughts and is never condescending towards her young characters. You can’t help but fall in love with Violet as she defends trees or attempts to save money to purchase a treasure.   The books are perfect for reading out loud to your youngster.

    Mighty Monty is another series but this one is written by Johanna Hurwitz. The books follow a young boy with asthma who is timid, intelligent, and thoughtful. His many adventures will have you cheering him on and wanting more. The writer’s style is simplistic without being patronizing to her young readers or exascerbating to read aloud for a parent.  Ms. Hurwitz also writes the Riverside Kids series, and we really enjoyed Super-Teddy which was our introduction to that series.IMG_3027

    What are your favorite books of late?

  4. Mac & Cheese: Variations

    April 15, 2015 by admin

    IMG_3001 Our TR family loves comfort food!  Our feel-good dishes bring a satisfying end to a hard day or a work great as for rainy day pick-me-up.

    One of our longtime favorites is Macaroni & Cheese.  Everyone in our family can dig deep into a piping hot casserole of cheesy noodles any day of the week.

    We long ago perfected a satisfying, quick and easy homemade mac&cheese.  It tastes fantastic and goes together in just a few minutes.

    TRMom’s recent shift to a vegan diet may seem like it spelled the end of mac&cheese night, but it did not.  We just reworked the recipe a bit and use two separate casserole dishes.  We can easily make two versions of mac&cheese: the traditional favorite and a vegan version that TRMom adores.

    First up, the Vegetarian Version:


    1/2 Pound dry macaroni pasta

    1/3 Cup Cream Cheese

    3 T Butter

    1/2 to 3/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar

    Salt & Pepper to Taste

    1/4 Cup Bread Crumbs


    1.  Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add dry pasta and boil for ten minutes.

    2.  Drain pasta and return to the same still-hot pot.

    3.  Mix in Butter and Cream Cheese, and stir until fully melted.

    4.  Mix in shredded cheddar and stir thoroughly.

    5.  Transfer to an oiled casserole dish.

    6.  Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, and bake at 350 for fifteen minutes.IMG_3002


    The Vegan Version:


    1/2 Pound dry macaroni pasta

    3 T Earth Balance

    1/2 Cup Teese

    Salt & Pepper to Taste

    1/4 Cup Bread Crumbs


    1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add dry pasta and boil for ten minutes.

    2. Drain pasta and return to the same still-hot pot.

    3. Mix in Earth Balance and stir until fully melted.

    4. Mix in Teese and stir thoroughly.

    5. Transfer to an oiled casserole dish.

    6. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, and bake at 350 for fifteen minutes.

    We usually make a much smaller portion of vegan mac&cheese, since it is for one serving.  You can scale down or up as necessary to feed your hungry crew.

  5. Don’t Miss Out On Michaels!

    February 18, 2015 by admin

    Michaels_Logo.svgWhy is it that Michaels craft store is so easy to overlook? It is not a part of our heavy store rotation – like Target. But every time we visit Michaels, we question why we don’t frequent it more often.

    Bluey loves a crafty or tinkering activity. And if you can catch Plum at the right time, she’ll eagerly join in the fun. Michaels offers a fantastic selection of craft and building model kits, as well as lego knock offs, and a line of construction sets.

    If you join Michaels mailing list, download their store app, or simply google your nearest location – you can enjoy 40% off any regular priced item. This readily available coupon brings a large amount of products well under $10. More often than not, you can also find coupons for about 20% off an entire purchase. And Michaels after holiday clearance sales are fantastic!IMG_2418

    Tip1: Be prepared to wait in line upon checking out. We don’t know why, but all Michaels seem to have a real problem ushering their guests through check out in a timely manner.

    We understand that Michaels also offers a Kids club that allows you to sign up your children (3 years of age or older) for a 30 minute craft for around $2. And they also have a spattering of adult classes throughout the month. We haven’t explored these offerings yet. But they sound fun.

    Tip2: You aren’t just limited to kits! Michaels has plenty of other low price point items for your family fun time. Consider getting a plain wooden box to decorate into a container for treasures. Or pick up a plain t-shirt and some fabric paint for some fashion design time.

    Rather than purchasing yet another generic toy on a trip to Target, why not visit Michaels and get something that will challenge your child, encourage family time, cooperation, and creativity, as well as result in a unique finished product?

    We’re already excitedly talking about our next trip for another car model kit!

  6. Costumes

    October 5, 2014 by admin

    IMG_0996This TR Family adores Halloween. Our kids love dressing up and trick or treating. We all enjoy decorating the house and feeling spooooooky for a bit.

    We view Halloween as a chance to put our creative juices to good use. We ask the kiddoes for their costume ideas and brainstorm on methods to create their vision.  Over the years our kids have been giraffes, zombies, tigers, astronauts, housecats, witches, devils, vampires and more. It’s always great fun to bring their ideas to life.

    The process of choosing and making a costume helps make Halloween into a season, rather than a single night’s adventure.IMG_7219

    Most of our costumes are fairly simple (we are effective, but not extremely accomplished tailors). We start at the base: what articles of clothing do we need to make this work?

    A well chosen second-hand sweatshirt or pair of pants can become a great beginning to a costume. A yellow shirt fabric-painted with tiger stripes and the addition of an attached tail, and you are halfway to being a tiger. A different pattern and you could be a giraffe.

    Tip: We live where it is usually quite cold on Halloween, so we buy the base a few sizes too big to make sure we can fit some warm layers underneath.

    Once you have the basic framework, try to find a few small bits that clearly identify the character.  It’s little details, like the right tail for a giraffe, that are easy to construct and make all the difference for a successful costume. We use an inexpensive hair band as the mount for ears, antennae, or horns that we sew on ourselves. We just get small pieces of cloth in the right color from a craft store- easy cheesy!

    Tip#2: For little kids especially, but true as well for older ones, there’s not much need to worry about the design from the waist down. We just go with a pair of pants that match the general color scheme.

    Likewise, a small amount of make-up can be applied at home without needing a degree in special effects. Whiskers, vampire blood and zombie paleness are simply achieved.   A creative older kiddo might enjoy trying to make a scar or bleeding wound by sing some of the theater make up sold at a pharmacy or specialty store.

    IMG_2175So skip the store-bought costumes and put your creativity into gear for the month of October.  You’ll emerge with a fun costume that you and your kiddo made together, along with memories to last a lifetime.

  7. How Do You Like Them Apples?

    September 28, 2014 by admin

    IMG_2310Fall!  One of our favorite seasons in the TR family.  The air is cool and crisp!  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner.  Bugs are dying by the truckload!  And apples are ready for picking.

    FullSizeRender.jpgWe love apple picking.  We look forward to it every year.

    Walking through rows and rows of trees, seeking out the perfect pieces of fruit that we can take home, is a memory none will soon forget.  And when you find that perfect apple, and take a big bite standing under the tree it grew on- well that’s just out of sight!  It’s a great combination of outdoors activity, good eats and good fun!

    With our bounty of apples we’ll make pies, tarts, and maybe applesauce?  Who knows?  We have plenty of apples to work with.

    Our orchard of choice is Door Creek Orchard.  They have a great selection of different varieties of apples in a beautiful, hillside setting. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the prices excellent.  They also have cider and grapes available and Black Welsh Mountain sheep to admire.IMG_2313

    If you don’t live near Madison, find your own local orchard and give it a try.  You’ll come home with  tons of fresh fruit and good stories, too!

  8. Make The Best Of It

    September 26, 2014 by admin

    IMG_7431Everything that we set out to do as a TR family doesn’t result in astounding success with high fives all around. A few of our adventures fall just short of the mark, and some others are utter failures. But we never give up. We have found that if you don’t allow yourself to take some risk, you won’t reap as many rewards.  And one point of heading out on a jaunt is to spend time together- we can always find a way to pull some fun out of any experience!

    We recently headed out to the town of Racine, WI. We had read that their local art museum (RAM) was hosting a fairytale inspired exhibit. And then we discovered that Racine has a small Heritage Museum that is free to visit. Sounded like a great combination for a day trip!

    But it didn’t quite work out that way…

    After paying to gain admittance, we found RAM was smaller than we had hoped and the fairytale exhibit was a bit esoteric for our kids.  But we had a great time when we discovered an unexpected display on pop-up books- including some titles we all recognized.  We also enjoyed an avant garde clothing display, where everything was made from recycled food containers (like juice boxes and sugar packets that were sewn together.)

    Nonetheless, we didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time at RAM and headed up the street to the Heritage Museum.  This museum also not very big, nor particularly geared for kiddoes.  It didn’t take us long to cruise through their exhibits.  Soon enough we found ourselves back on the sidewalks of Racine.

    But our eyes are always open for an unexpected treat, and our family is accustomed to the fact that not every jaunt is going to knock it out of the park.  When we head out to an unknown place, we tell the kids quite clearly: “We don’t know what to expect.  We’ve never been here before.”

    Knowing our proximity to the Lake Michigan shoreline, we looked for a chance to continue exploring Racine in that direction.  We found a parking spot near a marina and walked along the pier for a bit.  We also stumbled upon a little memorial to the Underground Railroad.IMG_2170

    Recharged with some fresh air, we headed for the S.C. Johnson Company factory.  An architecturally unique building, designed in part by Frank Lloyd Wright, it seemed like a fun place to visit.  But it was not to be– tours are permitted only when scheduled in advance and are talking tours aimed at adults only.

    Ah well.

    We decided that it was time for lunch, knowing that some food would help everyone refocus.  We found a fantastic meal at Z’s and finished up our trip to Racine.

    By keeping our spirits up, and our eyes open, we were able to take aways some good memories of Racine.  When our research turns up some more places to check out in that town, we’ll head back.  And if it doesn’t work out– we’ll still find a way to make it a worth while trip.

  9. What Happened Today?

    August 17, 2014 by admin

    We have a simple daily tradition at our home at dinnertime: Tell us what happened today?princess_11_md

    We like a little conversation with our evening meal, it’s a chance for us all to connect and reflect at the end of the day. But we don’t want it to just be TRMom and TRDad doing all the talking.

    So we have a time where we go around the table and ask: What happened with your day? Or: What’s the best thing that happened to you today? Or some other variation on the same theme. It gives everyone at the table a chance to share something, or tell us what’s going on.

    And we mean everyone. Guests at our home usually find themselves asked the same sorts of questions. We have two young friends who come over a few times a week, and while at first they were hesitant to talk, now they argue over who gets to go first!  These conversations give us a chance to learn more about our friends and our children’s friends.

    Rather than silent, sullen, or rushed meals- our dinners are a chance to speak your piece, to share an exciting event, or talk about an upcoming event.

    This dinner conversation is also a great learning opportunity. When Bluey was younger, much of his grasp of the passage of time came from these conversations.  It required him to think about the recent past and upcoming events, and to try and set things in order. For Plum, many dinner conversations start out simply enough but evolve into talks about dealing with school, friends, or life in general- topics many tweens are hesitant to bring up otherwise.

    Not every meal is scintillating conversation at our house. Sometimes the kiddoes don’t have much to say. And that’s OK, too. We encourage, but we don’t force, conversing at our meals.

    We’ll ask again tomorrow.

  10. Hating Your Kid’s Music

    April 16, 2014 by admin

    “OMG!  If I hear ‘Let It Go’ one more time, I’m going to explode!!!!”

    Let It Go!

    Let It Go!

    We hear this a lot lately.

    It happens that this TR Family loves the film, Frozen, and the awesome soundtrack.  But we understand that the Broadway style music may not suit everyone.

    Explain to us two things:

    1. Why is so much adult energy being spent on this adolescent competition of who likes the coolest music?
    2. Why go out of your way to tell your kids that their opinion is worthless?


    This ‘my music is better than your music’ stance is pure BS.  It was stale when we were all high school freshmen, let alone in the here-and-now.  Different music appeals to different people, no matter their age, so just get over it.

    If your kid likes Frozen, or Bieber, or whatever- that doesn’t mean your kid is hopeless.  Your music isn’t better, it’s just different.  Millions of people around the world like Bieber.  Maybe they’re all onto something?

    Or maybe not.

    Even if, on some absolute plane of music judgment you can prove that Let It Go is the worst song ever- where does it get you?  Your kid likes a song.  Just allow him/her the joy of the moment, without being made to feel bad about it.

    Or use this song, or whatever song your kid is obsessed with, to become a bridge to other music you happen to like more.

    Our Plum loves Taylor Swift.  And through her enjoyment of Swift, we’ve been able to introduce her to Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Coldplay and Tegan&Sara– to name just a few.

    And it goes both ways.  By opening yourself to the possibilities that there are other types of music out there for you to enjoy, you might learn a few things from your kiddo.  Plum has shown us some cool tunes from Selena Gomez or Sara Bareilles.  Bluey’s love of the Figureheads has us enjoying some fun kid-hop.

    Open your mind and use music as a way of sharing and connecting with your kids, rather than creating another wall between you.