The other morning I went into Wes’s room. All the coins from his front loader money bank with out on the floor. “I’m trying to make a volcanu,” he said, “but the coins aren’t stacking. How can we make a volcanu?”

I paused and thought. How can we make a volcano? Hey wait! There’s an abandoned newspaper next door! As luck would have it our next door neighbors went on vacation just the day before. We talked to Mr. Steve in the driveway as he canceled his newspaper. He told us he was too late to cancel his Sunday edition, so we could have it!

“We’ll papier-mâché a volcano today, Buddy!” I said. And he giggled. I love when he does that. He doesn’t really know what I mean about something but he can tell enough that I’m making something happen for him so he giggles in delight. It’s so great.

Sean did a decent amount of this himself, but he was happy to do it. We used a recipe that called for boiling the flour and water, so it was really hot at first. Plus, he wanted to get a good base going before Wes started to add things.

But Wes did help!

And it was a success! What a fun little experiment! I’m so happy our neighbors forgot to cancel their paper in time so that there was an abandoned newspaper on the morning Wes asked to make a volcanu! What are the chances!

Peach Pie

When NanaPapaAuntMaggie&Evelyn came to visit, we were wanting to watch some Downton Abbey re-runs on PBS. The PBS station in Pittsburgh was playing those re-runs but the PBS station in DC was playing The Great British Baking Show. I had never seen it. I loved it!

One night shortly after their visit I went to the bathroom before Sean and I settled into TV for the night, and I came back to find The Great British Baking Show all cued up on Netflix! I skipped to the family room, hugged and kissed my husband, and have been delighting in the show ever since. We watch a lot of Sean shows. I mostly like them, but I just don’t have a lot of shows that make sense to watch with Sean (I spare him the torture of RHONYC…it’s kind of embarrassing that I love that show anyway).

It just so happened that the day Beth sent me the peach pie recipe (because even though I had been instructed to get it, I totally forgot to take the picture myself) was the day we watched the pie episode from season 2!

They kept talking about soggy bottoms on this episode so I was curious. How does one avoid this? I want to be really clear here that Beth doesn’t have a soggy bottom. She makes a perfect pie. Really. But I had no idea this was a thing and that there were tactics to conquer it! So I wanted to try a few things. Plus, this recipe is border-line written like a technical challenge.

How do you slice the peaches? How much butter are we dotting? Are you mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl first? 15-30 minutes on 400 is a huge range! Unlike the technical challenge, our recipe’s author was very helpful. She got us through it.

First, this is how you slice the peaches. This is not how I would have done it. Sean knew and did a lot of this part.

Actually, Sean did a lot. It was funny how I had to come home with this recipe like I would be in charge of making this all happen, but he really did a lot. Wes helped too. And then made lemonade out of our left over lemons.

Beth told us she only used 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of sugar, and we went with 1/2. Sean stuck a teaspoon of cinnamon in, and I totally forgot the butter. So we did play with the recipe a bit. Then to combat the soggy bottom I did an egg wash on the bottom crust layer before the filling went in and stuck a baking stone into the oven as it preheated and put the pie plate on that. Both were tips I sort of picked up during The Great British Baking Show but confirmed here.

I will also admit that I did not make my own crust this time. I know. I bought one in case my second attempt at the cherry pie crust didn’t work. Since we had it I didn’t want it to go to waste.

Definitely would not have scored very high in the technical challenge with that cracked crust. The bottom crust was also not perfect. It wouldn’t say it was soggy, but it wasn’t the perfect golden firm bottom I’ve seen on the show. I’m still very curious about how to achieve the perfect bottom crust. Anyway, not a bad looking first attempt at this very important pie recipe.

I’m itching to do more baking out of my comfort zone. I want to try macaroons, but also think having some madeleines made for Madeline’s first birthday would be fun. I also have an email with bread baking tips from my Uncle Don. He makes great bread, which he shared with us at Deep Creek. I’m so intimated by yeast.

Kansas City

Often Sean’s mom’s birthday and an annual golf outing for his parents’ church fall around the same weekend in August. We went this year for the first time in awhile and had such fun! It was too short.

I took the most pictures on our first night, when we went out for pizza with everyone, including Great Grandpa.

I love this series of pictures of Wes and Great Grandpa! I have no idea what was going on with these two, but it looks like a nice, sweet time. I feels special that I got to capture it.

The pizza at this restaurant is now some of our favorite pizza anywhere!

Can you see how all the adults have their phones out so Wes wanted to be a picture taker too?

Such excitement and fun to be together!

Of course we had to check out the caboose and the fountain before heading home.

More sweet Great Grandpa photos! I swear Madeline enjoyed herself!

We finished the night with pie and a tour of the fairy garden. How fun is the fairy garden!? Also, I was instructed (definitely not asked) to get Beth’s peach pie recipe because it’s Sean’s favorite. I’m writing this the week before Labor Day, knowing I will attempt this favorite for that holiday weekend. I’m a little nervous. It’s a lot of pressure to recreate a favorite from not just your mom but grandmother. I’ll probably have to do a follow up post to let you know how that goes! I hope well!

Look at that car! That’s a MG Midget! That is the type of car Rich had in high school (I think, or around then). He found someone selling theirs and bought it as a retirement gift to himself! It really is a midget. Sean and I went for a drive. I’m so glad Rich has it and drives it and loves it, but my goodness car safety has come a loooooong way. I wish I had taken a picture of the “safety” belt. The two pieces hardly stay together. It was fun to take it for a spin, but not safe.

Again, too short of a trip. But fun! Looking forward to our return at Thanksgiving.

Swallow Falls State Park

Weeks before we arrived in Deep Creek and even while we were in Deep Creek, the weather was supposed to be rain. All day everyday rain most of the days. But that wasn’t the reality! There was rain, but we were all so happy we were able to get out most of the time. The morning of our Swallow Falls walk was one of those mornings we thought we’d be rained out but weren’t.

Sean, Wes, and I went with Maggie, my mom, and Madeline, while someone (maybe just my dad) stayed home during Madeline’s nap.

Isn’t my momma so cute watching the drips come down from the rocks?

I’m so glad we did this hike/walk. It was at the perfect level for our 3-year-olds. A little bit of a challenge but not too long and really pretty. It reminded my mom and me of Oregon. (Again, must go back and read more about these childless people in Portland for the sole purpose of tracking down a wine seller! Such fresh faces!  There’s just one picture in that post that reminds me of Swallow Falls but I’m linking it anyway.)

It also reminded me of the gorges in Ithaca.  (Not quite so fresh faced….)

We thought we’d end up in a swimming whole. I’m not sure this was really it, but the adults were ready to head back and the kids were really needing to make it to the swimming whole, so here we are! Thanks, Sean for not making me take off my socks and sneakers and taking one for the team here.

This was wonderful outing and a great way to end the Deep Creek series.  Until next year!

A treasure hunt!

By Friday, everyone had arrived at Deep Creek. It was a big crew. Sean, NanaPapaAuntMaggieEvelyn, Aunt Ginger, Uncle Don, Aunt Joanne, Uncle Mark, and of course Wes, Madeline, and me. Aunt Joanne helped organize a treasure hunt for Wes and Evelyn. Which was so fun for both and kept them separate for a little bit of time. Something I think we all needed at this point of the trip.

What a “surprise” it was to find sparkly stones and seashells in the backyard of our house! How could they have possibly gotten there?!

After finding the “surprises” everyone was so excited to see what other treasures we could find! A feather, bird houses, a hornet’s nest, and countless rocks and leaves. Both bags of mostly countless rocks and leaves were promptly dumped on Maggie’s lap when she arrived. She was a good sport about it.

Right before Maggie arrived we built a fire for s’smores a little later. It was getting a little chilly and how hilarious is Evelyn turning just a summer chill into a whole Eskimo experience?

Friday turned out to be National S’mores Day! There was also a chance of rain but by great luck we got a s’more in right before the rain came!

I think this next picture happened the next day, but I want to mention our first annual cousin hammock picture. We used to take hammock pictures in the Adirondacks. So here’s the first one of this newest generation and one from the last (although not fully representative of all the cousins, just Maggie, Taylor, me, and Nikki.)

Guess I should add hammock picture taking to the lists of great things about both Adirondack trips and Deep Creek trips. I can’t wait to see how the faces in this new picture change over time!

Deep Creek State Park

While I obviously struggled during my first vacation with children, there were of course so many great times. Our day at Deep Creek Stare Park is the first of a few I’ll separate out.

Do remember that Wes had this wish list of places to visit for the summer? I never thought we’d accomplish his list because I didn’t think lakes had sand and we’re not really beach lovers, but it turns out the lake at Deep Creek State Park does and so we checked off everything! I’m so pleased! Anyway, we went to the lake beach just once. On our first full day. I wish we had gone back. The sand and water were so fun!

Hooray, beach, Madeline says! She loved the sand, but she didn’t eat it! Which was great but really surprised me.

Also, portrait mode on the iPhone! How amazing is this feature?! I think I had used it one time before and then this trip Maggie took all of these amazing pictures. I really never need a real camera again.

Wes, of course, loved the sand too. He had trouble getting into lake swimming. It really is a unique experience. I had a little trouble at first getting back into it. The bottom was super squishy at the house we rented and very rocky at the state park. Hopefully with time he’ll get the hang of it.

Red solo cups for the win! A trick I’ve learned from other moms. When you find yourself somewhere that you would care if a sand toy was lost but still want a sand toy, just buy a bunch of solo cups! Wes observed a few boys playing in the sand and he went up, introduced himself, and asked if he could play. I think they were unsure if him at first but were very interested in his solo cups, so they let him play. And he eventually got his hands on their big bucket! So that’s what happens when you introduce yourself and have solo cups!

Then Nana gave him dinosaur legs right before we left for the day. So happy we were able to check this one off of Wes’s summer bucket list!

Deep Creek Lake

Growing up, my Papa and Steppie had a house by a lake in the Adirondacks. A trip to upstate New York, with a stop at that lake house, was part of our summer vacation every year until I graduated from high school? Maybe just a few years before that?

It was pretty magical, these trips to the Adirondacks. I loved every lake swimming, motor boat riding, Jelly Belly and Half Moon cookies and popover eating, Saranac root beer drinking, deer feeding from my hand, Jeep riding into town moment of that experience. Magical.

When my parents told me they were going to rent a cabin in Deep Creek for 10 days, I said we will be there the whole time! I want to create some lake magic!

When I thought about creating lake magic it was more of a recreation of lake magic for me that would spill over to my children. I got it wrong. Instead, I created lake magic for my children that maybe splashed over to me. Trickled maybe? I got a drop?

I was too busy being the mother this time.  Turns out being too busy being the mother can wreck a vacation if you’re not careful.  I was not careful.  Is that a lesson one is able to learn in time?  Is the answer no?  Is this one of those reasons all the mothers in elevators are telling me to enjoy this time?  Because we’re too busy being the mother to be careful and so all we can do is tell the next round of mothers to be careful?  Does that make anyone else want to cry?

I left our time at Deep Creek thinking never again! But that’s not true. Because looking at these pictures and remembering every lake swimming, Swan raft riding, s’mores and monkey bread and ice cream for dinner and kettle corn eating, chicken feeding, lavender farm and goat cheese store visiting moment of this trip, I realize it was pretty magical. I just hope I can remember next time that it’s going to be chaotic and wild but that’s part of how the magic is made so just relax.

I actually can’t wait to go back. Plus anyone else wishing they had purchased 97 more bags of kettle corn?!

A morning at the farm

Frying Pan Farm Park is a favorite of ours and I’ve written about it before. Wes and Madeline have been recently when Rich and Beth were watching them, but I hadn’t taken them in awhile. I really love this place!

We were meeting friends, if we got there a little before them. So we played on the tractors and when they arrived and we went back to the tractors! Amazing how much simple things really occupied the kids for a decent amount of time.

The sign coming in promised lots of baby animals. Baby pigs, cats, bunnies. We only saw baby goats.

Can you tell that there are two chickens back there swinging on a swing?! It really tickled me for some reason.

Their vegetable garden was open. We all had a fun time seeing the vegetables growing right there in the garden. I want a vegetable garden so bad. We have some plans for one but aren’t sure it will get enough sun. Having the kids care for their own vegetables, things that then end up on our dinner table, seems like a really rewarding experience. Hopefully someday!

We finished with a carousel ride! It was such a good morning! Fun to be with friends, and everyone did great! Madeline is not an on the go napper, but I thought I’d see how an outing would go even though she should have been taking a morning nap. It went great! I will probably continue to respect the morning nap for as long as she needs me to, but it was nice to know she can be more flexible than I thought. I’m still anxiously awaiting the days of just one nap!


When I explain to Wes that these four are coming for a visit, sometimes I will shorten it to Nana & Papa. Because the whole thing is a mouth full. Wes is always quick to correct that it’s “NanaPapaAuntMaggie&Evelyn” and it gets all mashed together like that. They are a unit and no name can be excluded. Those four came to visit us four a few weekends ago.

It was hot but still a nice enough day to get outside. This is the “Ant House,” one of Wes’s favorite digging places on our street. Wes could dig to the center of the Earth. Have I mentioned that before? I think I may have. It is named the “Ant House” because you can often find ants there, just like we did on this day.

Another favorite digging place. I think in the fall it was called “The Castle” but may be nameless now.

It was very cute to watch them trace each other and then spot the random arms or other body parts in the middle of those tracings.

As close to an on the ground cousin picture as we will probably get these days. (Past cousin pictures here and here and here.)

Nana’s turn!

I had been hearing great things about an ice cream shop in Clifton, VA. So I thought it would be fun to take everyone there. We had a nice dinner followed by a visit to a train car.

Wes and Evelyn really wanted to find a way in!

My mom asked Wes where he was driving. “Kansas City!” Luckily for him we are headed there later this month! Although not by train, even though he keeps making that request.

We had started to leave the train car when lucky us! A real train rolled on by!

Clifton is a very cute little town. The Main Street here is very small, but it’s so cute! I can’t wait to go back!

Totally missed that the train was not for climbing! Sean saved us on that one.

We finished our night with really great ice cream! Such a great visit and a fun little night out in Clifton. I had wanted to get a group picture but that did not happen. Another time, hopefully.

Lunch with Dad

A few Fridays ago the three of us took a trip into DC to have lunch with Sean. What a big time! The last time Wes and I did this, I was still pregnant with Madeline. And the time before that was our first time when Wes was Madeline’s age! Oh my gosh!

Between construction and tow trucks and being with Dad and hotels and people everything the city has to offer, there was such excitement from Wes. He’s in this phase where he refers to Sean as “my dad.” “Is my dad home?” “Where is my dad?” “Is my dad having lunch?” I don’t know if he’s trying to distinguish that I have a different dad or take ownership of the dad in our house away from Madeline or what, but I think it’s sweet.

I got sushi! Helped satisfy that craving from way back on my birthday!

We walked Sean to his office (that building in the background, if you’re curious) and then back to the car. Wes was so sad about leaving Sean. So sad that “my dad” couldn’t come home and not fully grasping that the next day was Saturday and he’d be home with us anyway. When do kids have a better understanding of time? It’s so funny to me how at dinner we might talk about what’s happening the next day and he’ll ask “today?” and I’ll explain that I was talking about tomorrow and he’ll again ask “today?” Maybe it’s just Wes.

As we drove out of the city I knew that I could get myself home, except I know it better by sight than street names and when we pulled out of the garage I had a hard time thinking through the streets so I used my phone to map it. It took me a way I didn’t want to go and so I said, mostly to myself but out loud, “I don’t want to go this way but I don’t want to make a bad decision.” And from the back seat I hear “don’t make a bad decision, Mom.” So I followed the phone. It was fine. Right before getting on the highway I didn’t like how a few cars cut me off and if I said something I don’t remember what. Then I hear from the back seat ” relax, Mom. They can turn. It’s their chance.” I laughed both times, especially that second time. Because when you are the car cutting someone off but not meaning to so you can avoid taking the wrong turn, it really does feel like your chance. Sometimes I’m so surprised by how grown up his comments can sound. And sometimes we go back and forth 10 times about “today?”