Bramell, Party of Five: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some Ozark Mountain Beauty

 I knew it would take me at least a couple of posts to get to everything that I wanted to share about my weekend at the Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View.  We had some free time to look around the craft village and check out the shops. We got to see many of the crafters at work, which was pretty cool. I'm sorry the photos are so small; I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with them.

Roger Fountain was having a jam session with his buddies.

I enjoyed looking in the pottery shop. There were lots of things my kids would break, so I didn't bring anything home.

The shops at the Folk Center are normally closed on Sundays, but a few of them opened up just for us. I had a nice visit with the broom makers.  I found out the gentleman--Shawn, maybe?--really likes cake. Coincidentally, I had a cake and he had some worked out nicely.  I'm showing him some bloggy love, so go check out what they do at Laffing Horse Crafts .

These are my brooms. They are so cool!  A Whisk, a Silker (for removing corn silks) and a Cake Tester.

NOW. THIS.  Is what you've been waiting for.  (ahem, Shannon).  The blogger ladies were treated to a fun cookout and hoedown on Saturday.  And we got our boots!  I loved every pair that I saw.

Above:  all the pretty boots just waiting to be loved.  Bottom: these are the Ariat boots that I chose.  Long story short--I didn't get to bring them home (yet).  Apparently, I have a freakishly small foot and they were way too big.  No fretting, though, as the ladies from Country Outfitter are totally cool, and they are letting me swap them for the right size.  After all, they don't want me to lose my boots when I'm kicking up my heels.

Shhh!  I had to at least try to make them fit! Alas, it was not meant to be. (*tear*)  I should get the new ones next week. I totally loved these boots, so I am ready for them to come home to me.

If you think you might like some boots of your own, keep watching the Party of Five blog right here.  I'll have an exciting announcement soon to let you know how you can score a free pair for yourself.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Creative Awakening

Many of my blog readers and Facebook friends know that I headed off to the Ozark Folk Center for the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference (#AWBU) over the weekend.  Ladies from all over the state (and one brave dude) came together to share ideas, inspire each other, and most importantly for me, encourage each other. There may have also been massive amounts of bacon consumed, along with a few adult beverages that required some tricky maneuvering in a dry county. And by that I mean that I had no idea you had to go turn the truck around every time you needed a drink!

So, now that a few days have passed, I'm really taking the cheater's way out since I've already read many of the other bloggers' reviews from the event.  You can read those at Arkansas Women Bloggers, if you are interested in seeing what kind of riff-raff I've been hanging out with.  In all seriousness, I've enjoyed seeing the personal impact that the conference had on everyone else.  For me, I can honestly say that the questions I had going into the weekend were answered, and then some:

1) Will I be out of my league? Will I feel like a loner in this group?

2) Does anyone really care about my "family blog" besides my family?

3) What will I wear with my fantastic new cowboy boots from Country Outfitter? (more on that later)

Was I out of my league? Yes and no.  Yes, because I still don't understand a lot of the technical aspects of managing a blog. But I'm way closer to figuring it out now than I was a week ago.  Also, I have about 75 ladies I can ask for help, which gives me great comfort.  Did I feel out of place and invisible?  HELL NO! Shocking, right? I put on my big girl panties and found so many ladies willing to chat with me, give me advice and some great ideas to make my blog better.  At least we were all willing to embrace our inner nerds together, and it was awesome!

Another cool revelation I had was this--yes, people do care about my little blog. And they should! I have a story to tell (or lots of stories) and I am going to tell them. We spent a lot of time talking about why we blog and what it does for us. There were food bloggers, craft bloggers, tech bloggers and mommy bloggers....but everyone had something valuable to contribute. That many smart women in one room was infectious.

And the boots?  Oh, the boots.  There were some happy girls in Mountain View with new boots! I took some photos, but wouldn't you know, I'm having some kind of technical snafu and they won't load correctly. But I won't sweat it; I'll just figure it out later.

It's hard to say what was my favorite part of the weekend. There were some fantastic presenters with great information, there was plenty of fun conversation and idea sharing and sweet swag to bring home from the great sponsors of the event. But I really think my favorite part was the conversation and idea sharing gathered around the table during meals. I was able to talk out my worries and my plans for my blog, and get some great ideas and feedback in return. I feel like the creative part of my brain got a big nudge over the weekend to wake up and get busy. Stay tuned for more changes and probably a few more posts about the conference (with photos).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We have a kindergartener!!

Today is Wednesday, the third day of kindergarten. I intentionally waited a few days to write this post so I would be more calm. I don't want to be a blubbering fool here. Our wonderful, curious, independent, and sometimes shy, baby girl has gone to kindergarten. I worried all summer over how she'd do for the first drop-off. I dreaded her clinging to my leg and crying; dreaded her looking at me like I was abandoning her and never coming back. I dreaded leaving my baby with a school full of people we don't know.  Seriously, we know one kid there. I never worried about her skills or her readiness for kindergarten, only about her tender heart. I never worried that she wouldn't make friends. Really, who wouldn't want to befriend this little sweetie? I never worried that she would hate it there. I just worried that she'd be scared. Crap, I'm crying. When we talked about it over the summer, she told me she was sad. Why? Because she didn't want to go without Evan and Carley. This is the first time they have been split up in two years, and that may be the sweetest thing she's ever said.

Anyway, this is the part where I say that her first day was great! She had a lot of things to tell us when she got home. And, most importantly, she wanted to go back again for day two (and three). I know she's going to do great and have unlimited possibilities to learn. She's a little sponge; she'll be bossing that class around in no time.

At home, before school.

They had all the kindergarteners meet in the cafeteria together before school. They had stations set up with puzzles, blocks and crayons/paper.  Of course, Becca chose the coloring. No shock there.  That's the instant I knew she'd be fine. She was in her element right away.

This was actually the second day of school. I had begged her to stand by the sign on Monday. She said she needed to "think about it," and finally conceded on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Little E's first haircut

 I got to looking back at some old pictures on the camera. With all the excitement of us going to the MLB All-Star Game, I just forgot to post up some pictures from Evan's first haircut. I took him the day before his 2nd birthday (June 9, 2012). You can tell he wasn't too keen on the idea. He never fussed or cried, but he frowned the whole time.

I have to admit, I actually teared up this time. It didn't bother me when the girls got their haircuts, but with Evan, it did. I think it was hard to cut off those sweet baby curls of his. Luckily, she left it longer on top so he still has some!

Here is the photo progression:

Look at that handsome little boy. Not a baby anymore!  (And, thank goodness for suckers).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time for Conversations with a Two-Year-Old

Yes, it's been a very long time since we've had an installment of Conversations with a Two-Year-Old here on the Bramell blog.  In fact, I probably haven't done one since Becca was two! Now, it's Conversations with a Pair of Two-Year-Olds.

What's funny is that we didn't think Evan would ever start talking; I even talked to the doctor about it at their 18-month check up.  He assured us that boys are slower to master talking than girls and his language skills would kick in around the 2nd birthday mark. And he was right!  It's not easy to have a real conversation, as he still is not putting whole sentences together. Maybe he'd talk more if Carley would shut up. She likes to do the talking for him. That's why it's quite ironic that he's provided us with not one, but two, nuggets for tonight's post.  Both in one day!

I picked Evan up from daycare today on my way home. He was very excited to see me, and was desperately trying to tell me something. Nearly the whole way from daycare to home he was saying, "my balls, my balls" over and over. I could not figure out what was wrong with his balls! I asked him a million questions; I felt like I was having a conversation with Rain Man.  Finally, I figured out that he just wanted me to know he played with balls outside on the playground at school!!  Not specifically his balls, but balls in general.

Then, Evan was sitting in my lap after dinner. I was smooching on his neck and ears, which usually makes him giggle. But tonight, he pushed me away and said very plainly, "No mas"!  Really? In Spanish??!!  I guess that love affair with Dora has taught him a few things.

Now, on to Carley and her little sassy self.

A couple of days ago, I had to pee really badly when I got home from work.  Instead of going back to the master bathroom, I just went to use the hallway/guest/kids' bathroom. Of course, no mom pees alone.  Within seconds, Carley was standing in the doorway in hysterics.  She was crying and hollering at me, "Other one, other one!!"  Oh yeah, and pointing.  Very dramatic, this girl.  Again, as no mom pees alone, Lee was also standing there. We tried together to figure out what she was freaking out about.  Turns out, she was yelling at me to go to the "other" bathroom!!  The child did not want me using HER bathroom, I guess.  By the time I flushed, she was laying in the floor kicking and thrashing around.  Seriously.

As you can see, the wee ones are coming into their own. They are mouthy, needy and full of drama.  It appears that big sister's influence has started to show.  Oh, did I mention they will one day all be teenagers at the same time? Yikes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

If it's FREE, then it's for ME! (And possibly for YOU, too!)

As I'm preparing to do some new and exciting things with this blog, I have to share some pretty cool  news. I've signed up to attend the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged 2012 August 24-26, at the beautiful Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View. This is a conference for women bloggers, put on by women bloggers to network, share information and ideas for making our blogs better.  If you are a woman blogger, there is still time to sign up and join us.  #AWBU 2012 registration info  I. Am. Going. Alone.  How crazy is that?  I'm scared out of my mind, but so looking forward to it.  I am so excited by the thought of what I might learn! I can't wait to get back and get started.   I've really been feeling like my creativity has been stifled lately. I just desperately want to start writing and channeling all my thoughts into something coherent and productive.  Sharing with others will be a bonus, at least for me.

So, what else am I excited about?  FREE BOOTS!!  Yes, I am going to receive a lovely pair of cowboy boots from Country Outfitter who is a sponsor of the conference (#AWBU).  I picked them out this week and they are sweet! I swear, my feet are literally itching to put them on.  I am such a nerd that I've already gone through my closet to see what outfits I can put together to wear with my boots.  I am not ashamed of that.  These are the ones I'm getting:  These Boots Will Be Mine .  Don't you love them?

What's better than MY free boots?  FREE BOOTS FOR YOU!  Yes, Country Outfitter is giving some of the participants an extra pair of boots to give away on their own blogs. If you want to win, just keep checking back here for more details.  Once I get my boots, I'll write up a review and let you know what I think.  Although, I'm pretty sure I will love them!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Party of Five Favorite Recipes

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the blog lately, and about some changes I want to make. The main purpose, of course, is to serve as a virtual scrapbook for my kids. I'm printing it out year by year to create some wonderful memories in hardback for them to bicker over later. Yay!

One goal I have is to start branching out a little bit to be less about my kids and more about other things.  Those things are yet to be determined.  But one thing I'm starting with will be recipes. Here in the Bramell house, it's no secret that we do a lot of cooking. Because we do a lot of eating!  I won't say that cooking dinner every night is easier than eating out, but it's definitely healthier and easier on the wallet.  I'm starting to realize that buying groceries for a family of five is no picnic either.  What do you spend for your family on groceries?  Right now, we are running about $120 A WEEK!  I cannot imagine when we have three teenagers in this house; we'll be broke for sure!

Being the busy working family that we are, we have two requirements for our dinners.  1) Quick and 2) Minimal Effort.  I'm fortunate that for the past two years, Lee has been mostly in charge of starting dinner before I get home in the evenings. That has been so nice! What helps is meal planning---each weekend, I try to sit down and literally write down what we (or he) will cook every night. You'd be surprised how much stress it takes away.  No standing in front of a half-empty fridge thinking about calling Pizza Hut.

So, here is one of our favorite go-to dinners.  It's the Foil-Pack Chicken Fajita Dinner.  I got it from a Kraft Foods magazine in the mail.  Love it!

1 & 1/2 cups instant white rice, uncooked
1 & 1/2 cups hot water
1 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix
4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
green & red pepper cut into strips
1/2 cup your favorite salsa
1/2 cup shredded taco cheese

HEAT oven to 400 degrees.

FOLD up all sides of each of 4 large sheets of heavy duty foil to form a 1-inch rim.  This means just tear off a square and fold up the sides; spray with cooking spray.  Combine rice, water and taco seasoning; spoon onto foil squares.  Top with remaining ingredients.

BRING up foil sides; fold down to make 4 packets.  Place in baking pan (I use a cookie sheet or 13 x 9 pan)

BAKE 30 to 35 min. or until chicken is done (165 degrees.  Cool 5 min.  Cut slits in the foil to release the steam before opening--HOT!

The beauty about this recipe is that you only have to open a can of vegetables and you have a meal!  If you try it, let me know what you think.  If you have a recipe to share, email it to me at .
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