Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Summer Bucket List!

Now that the summer weather has arrived (and hopefully, to stay!) I am thinking about all the things I'd like to do with our little family this summer. Last summer I felt like we got a little gipped because we were in the middle of our move and it distracted us from doing fun summery things. This summer may also be our last summer in our current hometown because we will likely move to a parish by the end of the year, so I'd like to really do everything we can fit in to these next few months and make the best of our last summer here...I'm really going to miss all of our current nooks and hotspots!

Without further ado, here is our summer bucket list! I'll keep you posted on our activities as we do them! Being that it is not even June yet, I think we will be able to do all of these things in the next three months before fall comes around. 

Summer Bucket List

1. Go to the beach or pool once a week (but hopefully more!)
2. Have a picnic once a week
3. Visit a farmer's market at least once a week
4. Eat dinner in the sun room each night
5. Spend two hours a day outside, if the weather allows
6. Have an in-home date night once every other week for hubby and I
7. Go to San Francisco in the end of June with hubby and baby 
8. Go strawberry picking
9. Visit one new park each month
10. Go to the Chicago Botanical Gardens
11. Sprinkler time
12. Explore a new town
13. Have a one-on-one date with each older child (for Mama and Tata)
14. Go to the zoo
15. Use the fire pit and make s'mores
16. Take a mini-vacation to Michigan during a week of the summer
17. Go to Lake Geneva for a bagel breakfast one morning in the summer, followed by beach time

What's on your summer bucket list??

A Matryoshka-themed Birthday Party!

Our older daughter just turned two on May 15th. Even though some days as a Mama can feel like they are never going to end, the months always seem to fly by faster than I can be ready for them to pass! Our little Miss Pink has blossomed into our family clown and has developed a personality that I can't describe in just one word. She is a comfort in rough times, coming to her Mama and patting me on the back, hugging me and telling me that everything will be ok. She is our main eater in the house, loving everything she ever tries, and watching her eat is nothing but a pleasure. She is the mini-mama of the family, copying my every move with her baby doll and reminding us all when we forget to cross ourselves or pray throughout the day, and loves the Mother of God most of all.

Even though my parents never really did birthday parties for us when we were growing up (my mom was a working mother and I think she just didn't have the energy for a party for each of 5 kids...), when we had our first baby, I decided I'd like to try doing birthday parties for the kids. Sometimes people can view birthday parties as a way of spoiling their child, but I think it's a really nice way of celebrating life with not only family, but friends too. When my cousin died suddenly a few years ago at the age of 38, I realized that every year is truly worth a celebration. I love to pick a little theme for each party, and this year, I chose a matryoshka theme for my little Pinky. Here are a few photos from the day...

I always try to make the birthday cakes for my kids and like the cake to go with the theme. I LOVED making this cake!!!! All I did was bake a rectangular cake and a circle cake (filling each pan half way with batter to ensure even sized cakes). I then cut the corners off of the rectangle to make it an oval, and cut a little from the circle cake. Put both pieces together, and use the scraps to make arms for the matryoshka.

Then, frost away!

Continue frosting the details, now! If you'd like to make details on a cake, I really recommend using a toothpick to trace what you are drawing first, and then following it up with the right color icing. I used gel cookie icing for the details on my matryoshka.

Since it was still Pascha season, I pulled out a cheese paskha and kulich for dessert, too!
I had so much fun putting together this party! I have to admit that all of the planning was last-minute. I was scrambling a few days prior to put together a menu and to gather decor (which was basically all matryoshkas I had in my house already). Thankfully, my best friend came to town from New Jersey and she helped me a lot in cooking but in decorating especially. We were so exhausted afterwards though, that I told my husband I'm glad we get a break from birthdays in our family until December. :)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Finally, after a full five weeks of being away from home, we're back. It feels good, but strange at the same time! I got so used to being fed freshly cooked meals which were prepared by my grandmother or mama, and having babysitters around all the time, and now I am having a reality check getting back into the groove of my housekeeping routine!! It's good though...being away for so long has made me feel like I'm getting a new beginning with being a homemaker, and I really like that.

A few of the necessary things to do when getting home from vacation have so far included making several to do lists: meal planning for the week ahead, unpacking suitcases and doing laundry (though I try to always come back from NY with freshly laundered clothes), cleaning each room (ideally this would be done prior to leaving, but never have I accomplished this yet...).

One of the best things about being back home is that spring has really sprung here while we were gone, and I feel like a load was lifted off of my chest because finally we can spend a lot of time outside without being uncomfortable or cold. It's been in the 60's and 70's this week and I love it! I have been thinking about a new daily routine for the spring and summer months and so far, I have nothing really concrete, but here's an idea of what I am shooting for (an what we stuck to today).

-Wake up before the kids (6 AM is what I'll aim for) - This will give me some "me" time and time to get a headstart on laundry and emptying the dishwasher
-Morning family time - Prayer, Today Show
-Hubby goes to the office, Mama and kids go for a walk around the lake
-Play time in the house for the kids while Mama does housework and prepares lunch
-Nap time for all 3 babies, Tea time and down time for Mama
-Snack time
-Outdoor play time
-Indoor play/Dinner preparations
-Tata comes back from the office
-Family time (outdoor play or a family outing)
-Bedtime for the kids

I really thrive off of having a routine and I know that most importantly, children thrive from one as well. I'm really going to try to stick to this...especially the morning walk. I find myself to be much less crabby if I get some fresh air in the morning and I don't feel like I'm overwhelmed by lunch time this way.

I'm very excited for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend! Late tonight, one of my best friends is flying in from New Jersey to be with us for the weekend. And on Saturday, we're having a barbecue for some friends in honor of my older daughter's 2nd birthday. We celebrated it in New York with family, but now we'll celebrate with friends whom we missed so much while we were gone!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Living and Learning for May...

This is a bit belated, but I did create a Living and Learning plan for May. It's going to be a "hopeful" plan more than anything, since we are out of town still and will not return home for a bit more time still.


Keep within
 the monthly budget for kids/fun/house
Get back into meal planning and weekly shopping trips
Sign up L for pre-school for the fall
Have dinner outside
Cozy up our outdoor set-up
Make plans for June
Celebrate K's 2nd birthday
Plan and have K's birthday party
Sign up for a photography class or craft class
Re-read Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
Read The Ascetic Lives of Mothers
Keep up with planner
Get up before the kids each morning

Special Days
Mother's Day - 11th
K's 2nd Birthday - 15th
Serafim's Birthday - 18th

Reading before naps and bedtime
A one-on-one outing with parent/kid once a week (alternating the parent and kid)

Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park on our road trip
Practice being still and quiet during family prayer time and church services
Singing "Christ is Risen" in Slavonic (Serbian and Russian melodies)
Setting & clearing the table, & thanking God for the meal
Structured learning time for L every other day

Ebates: Where it Pays to Shop Online

So many families in America these days are trying to live a more frugal life, and our family is most definitely one of them. I'd like to use this post to introduce one of my favorite online shopping resources. Ebates (click on the word to go to the website) is a website one can use to get cash back from every online shopping trip they make! I find that being a busy mother means having to plan pretty well for any alone time, let alone a shopping trip, so for  me, online shopping has become a major lifesaver in the last few years (as long as I know what I'm shopping for).

Here is what Ebates is all about:

Joining Ebates is free. All you have to do is sign up (using your email address), answer a few questions about yourself and your preferred cash-back method, and then you are ready to start shopping! Before you make an online shopping trip, go to the Ebates website first. Log in, and then select your store (while most online stores are a part of Ebates, not ALL of them are). The Ebates website will directly take you to the website of the store which you're looking to shop at, and then all you have to do is proceed as usual with your shopping trip/checkout. Ebates will take care of the rest. Soon after your shopping trip is completed, you will receive an email from them detailing your latest online purchase and letting you know exactly how much cash back you will receive from that trip. While some stores give only 2% cash back, others give more, and every dollar really does add up! From my last Ebates check, I received $70! The checks are mailed every four months or so, and the best part is, a few times a year Ebates has a Refer-A-Friend bonus!

If you'd like to sign up for Ebates, please click here and get started!

P.S. Currently, Ebates is giving back extra cash for many stores as a Mother's Day deal! What could be better than shopping from your home AND getting some of the money back for it!?