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August 9, 2016

Olympics Time!!!

Hello world!  Thanks for stopping by!  I feel like I am finally getting back into the swing of life here in PA.  Our house is (sort of) clean, and I don't feel like I'm trying to balance too many things at once.  Of course, now that August is here I'm in a state of excitement and sadness about back to school - more on that later.

But first, this August brings the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio!  I LOVE THE OLYMPICS!  I've loved watching the Olympics as long as I can remember.  They are an amazing display of hard work, healthy competition, and athletic excellence.  I also enjoy learning about other countries and their customs and cultures! I enjoy all of the summer Olympics, but I really love watching swimming, gymnastics, track & field, and volleyball in no particular order.

THAT BEING SAID.

One thing this Olympics is making me crazy.  I'm about to rant a bit, so I'll try to keep it reasonable.

NBC.  They are awful and out of control.  The prime time coverage has been absolutely insulting to many of the athletes.  First of all, several commentators have credited male coaches and husbands for the victories of female athletes.  That is frustrating, but I am willing to forgive this since commentators are still human and are talking in the moment.  If that was my only beef, it would not be blog worthy.  BUT.

I fail to understand the insane amount of time, in primetime, that is being wasted on things other than medal events.  I'll use last night as an example.  Last night, I waited ALL night to watch the men's all-around team gymnastics final.  I've watched all things gymnastics every year.  Primetime is from 8-12, with NBC showing reruns of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune from 7-8. Men's Gymnastics didn't even get TV time until 11;40.  At that time, they showed two of the events for the US men only, and then at midnight said to "switch to late night" to see the outcome.  The local news spoiled the ending 30 seconds later.

The men's all around was super-ceded by several swimming and diving medal competitions, which was totally acceptable.  What was NOT acceptable was the many qualifying swimming heats that were shown AND a beach volleyball match where the US handily beat China - again not for medal contention.  In addition, there were SO many montages and stories about athletes and their families/struggles/etc that it was ridiculous.  Don't get me wrong, I love to hear about the athletes, but NOT at the expense of missing an actual competition for a medal. At one point last night, there was a 4 minute commercial break, followed by 3 minutes of coverage showing how Michael Phelps puts his baby in a baby bjorn, followed by another 3 minutes of commercials.  That's 10 minutes of nothing - and with the men's all around only getting 20 minutes in primetime, that is completely unacceptable.

For those of you that remember the games in the late 80's and early 90's - I can't ever remember this happening in that time.  Moreover, back then they showed the entire event, or most of it.  I can't be the only person that is angry that I didn't get to watch ALL of the teams in the men's all around, regardless of the US men's chances for a medal.  One of the things I used to like BEST about the Olympics is getting to see athletes from other countries (and our own) do well!

So in short, NBC has horrible coverage and I have been consistently disappointed.  How many more years do they have the contract for the Olympics?  I hope not much longer!

Sorry for the sort of long rant, but I think I'm not the only one feeling this way!  Do you love the Olympics?  Are you disappointed by the coverage so far?  Let me know your thoughts too in the comments!

July 30, 2016

Summer Passions - Canning Season Part 1

One of my favorite things about the summertime is being able to cook with and preserve fresh and local ingredients!  Last year, we did a CSA for the first time and loved it!  (Click here for more information about our CSA, or CSA's in general.)  We chose to do a CSA instead of a big garden for the past few years because having a toddler means giving up some of your hobbies - and gardening is one that takes a lot of time and energy so I cut back in the garden quite a bit.

This year, I have carrots, radishes, potatoes, and beets going in my garden, and most of them are still growing so we will see how they turn out. Along with our own garden veggies, we have been going out to pick your own orchards, getting produce from friends, and ordering extra from our CSA in order to gather the supplies for LOTS of delicious canned goods!  

This season so far I have made the following:

 - Strawberry Freezer Jam
 - Rhubarb Conserve (Conserve is like preserves, but with citrus and nuts)
 - Pickled Radishes (various types, from our garden)
 - Green Tomato Chutney
 - Bread and Butter Pickles
 - Gingery Pickled Beets

Here is some eye candy of all of those lovelies:
Rhubarb Conserve
Bread and Butter Pickles
Strawberry Freezer Jam
Pickled Radishes
Green Tomato Chutney
Pickled Beets
We use our canned goods as gifts, and to eat throughout the winter, fall and spring!  There's something so wonderful about opening a jar of something that you have made yourself - its one of my favorite things!  Plus with our diabetic daughter, it really allows me to control how much sugar goes into what we are feeding her!

Hopefully, early next week we are going blueberry picking, and I'm definitely making more (dill) pickles as well as some jalapeno pepper jelly in the next week or two!

Do you do any home preserving?  If so, what is your favorite thing that you make?  Or what is your favorite home preserved snack that you've ever had? I definitely love a good pepper jelly with cream cheese and crackers - or some fresh dill pickles on a roast beef sandwich!  =)

July 29, 2016

Update Post 2 - Alaska!

This summer our big adventure was a huge family trip to Alaska with some of my husband's side of the family!  His stepdad lived there for 14 years, and still has three siblings there with many of their children and families.  We have been planning this for a long time, and I was both excited and nervous for this trip!

The nerves were mainly for two reasons - and both involved the travel itself.  First of all, this would be our first major trip with our daughter since her T1 diagnosis and her first plane ride ever!  And it wasn't just one plane ride, it was three planes each way for a total of over 12 hours of travel - and a 4 hour time change to have to deal with all while managing the blood sugar of a 2 year old.  What was I thinking?  On top of this, I have awful issues with motion sickness and so while I don't mind flying, it often makes me queasy and then I am useless in helping with a restless toddler and it's all up to my husband.  So in all honesty, I was very anxious and terrified about getting to Alaska, but I knew if we could make it through that, we would have a great time!

As usual, my daughter is a rockstar and continues to amaze me on a daily basis.  She was a total boss on the planes, and the only problem we had at all involved my motion sickness on the way home.  Here's a picture of her being a total airplane rockstar:

Total Airplane Rockstar.
  Now onto the trip!  I'm going to share the highlights here - and there were SO many of those that I'm really going to have to cut it down to the ultimate highlights.  For a more comprehensive version of Alaska 2016, please come over and see my 45 minute photo presentation. =)

We stayed in Juneau for 8 days at the Shrine of St. Therese.  It was an amazing cabin, surrounded by nature and peace and quiet!  The views were amazing and it was an extremely affordable option for a vacation if you have 10 or more in your group.

Our Retreat Cabin at the Shrine
Our view from our porch!
Alaska is known for glaciers, and so of course we went to see the Mendenhall Glacier while in Juneau.  It was both amazing to see a glacier for the first time, and to hear about how much it has changed over time.  It has definitely receded over the last 20 years quite a bit, but it was incredible none the less!
The Mendenhall Glacier
Much of our group also did a hike out near the glacier while we were there (the hubs went and I stayed back with the little one for this).  Hubs got some super awesome up close pics of the waterfall near the glacier.

We also spent some time in downtown Juneau.  Juneau is a really neat city.  They have a device called the TRAM, that takes you up a mountain for views of the whole bay and city, and hiking and shopping!
The Tram
View of downtown Juneau from the Tram
Also fun in downtown were visiting the historic Red Dog Saloon, eating king crab at Tracy's, and getting some fun and unique souveniers!
BIL and I at Red Dog Saloon
Downtown Juneau
 The highlight of our tourist experience was most definitely going whale watching!  My sister in law was one of the main planners for the trip, and so she asked around and got us an amazing experience taking a private whale watching tour!  It was wonderful to have a boat to ourselves, and even more amazing to see what we saw!  We had an exceptionally amazing whale watching experience, even getting to see a group of whales do something called "bubble net feeding." It is extremely rare and only happens with humpbacks in Alaska - and we got to see it TWICE!  We also had a whale come about 20 feet from our boat - it was completely awe inspiring and such an experience!

video

Now, that was the highlight of the tourist experience of our trip, but the BEST thing about Alaska was family.  Our family is very large and spread out, and so having so many of us together for 10 days was amazingly fun.  Watching our daughter play with her cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparent was a memory I will cherish forever.  Here are some of the highlights of family in Juneau:

These two girls.  Man I love them!  One of our daily rituals was to go and get coffee everyday at a local place called "The Grind."  I don't normally even drink coffee, but I loved being a part of their special travel ritual.  They have taken me on as one of their own, and I am so grateful for both of them in my life.

I said for the entire trip in Juneau that I felt like an "insider tourist" because we were spending time with all of the family that live there and getting the insider scoop on what to do and when to do it.  To all of our family in Juneau, I thank you for an amazing experience of your home.  Thank you for your kindness and generosity.  Every night we had a full cabin of people laughing, sharing food, stories, and happiness.  One of my husband's cousins brought out his boat for us to fish with for the entire week - my husband caught two halibut that we brought home!  My brother in laws had an incredible experience boating up the Taku river.  Our whale watching experience was on the recommendation of family.  Basically, everywhere we turned we were surrounded by kind and generous family, and that made our trip feel much more authentic than it ever would have without that personal connection.  I know we will go back to Juneau someday, and I hope that all of our Juneau family know that we have lots of room in Pennsylvania to return the favor!  =)


Family Love

 So overall, it was a great 10 days and my heart is so very full of new experiences and family.  I will remember this trip forever, and am so glad we did it!  I also now know that my toddler rocks on airplanes, and that we are capable of managing her T1 on the road!  (We even made a T1 friend in Juneau - more on that in another post later!)  Summer vacation was awesome!

July 28, 2016

Update Post 1 - Diabetes and Life

Hi readers!  Wow, I've been rather bad at updating this blog in the past few years!  I know for certain that having my little one has definitely had a lot to do with that!  Every time that I think I'm finally "settling in" to a new routine, life seems to have other plans and I have to start over.  But I miss blogging, and so I'm simply going to start by writing about the main thing that has overtaken our life in the last year - having a toddler with Type 1 (T1) Diabetes.

This post could really be a book - so I'll do my best to keep it reasonable.  Type 1 Diabetes is the insulin-dependent type that is an auto-immune disorder.  Basically, my daughter's pancreas no longer makes insulin, and so we have to check her blood sugar and give her insulin multiple times a day in order to manage her blood sugar levels appropriately.  It was a gigantic change in our routine, and requires a huge amount of structure, measuring, and monitoring.  Here is a link to the basics from the American Diabetes Association if you'd like to read more!

Basically, about six-eight times a day we take my daughter's blood sugar and then give her insulin based on the blood sugar level.  Imagine giving your two year old over eight shots a day.  My husband and I were terrified at first, but our child is amazing and does the finger tests and shots extremely well.  She is also a good eater and sleeper, which has made us having a very structured routine much easier than it might have been.  I do think she has a sense that there's no choice in it, and that to be healthy we need to do all of the things that she's asked to do.

People have told us that her young age is a benefit because she will never know life without diabetes. I agree with that in the long run - I've spoken to many T1's who were diagnosed older and had a very rough time transitioning into the lifestyle.  However, right now her age provides many challenges.  The first one was childcare.  No daycare in our area was trained to take care of a T1 child, because most of them aren't diagnosed until they are well into actual school.  We were lucky that our amazing daycare did not turn us away, but offered to get trained and work with us on a very close basis to manage her diabetes.  They have done and continue to do a phenomenal job!

We have still had challenges with daycare, mainly because when our daughter gets sick, it is much more complicated than any other normal toddler - and kids at daycares get sick.  In the past year, we ended up getting our daughter ear tubes and spending a LOT of time with her pediatrician (new since her T1 diagnosis, her original pediatrician missed her diagnosis several times and we chose to leave the practice).  We also have an excellent team at our local children's hospital that I love and speak to very regularly.  Lots of communication and learning through experience has made us better at dealing with these challenges.

Also - the most important part of the team to me has been my husband.  He is a fantastic father, the "nighttime blood sugar ninja" and my partner in the T1 management in every way.  I could never do this without him and am very thankful to have such an amazing partner in parenting.  =)
Me and the Hubs - my T1 Dream Team
Bottom line - we have learned a lot about how to give our daughter the best setup for success with having T1 at such a young age, and much of the first few years is going to be determined by the actions that my husband and I take with regards to her disease.  We work hard each day to balance keeping her diabetes managed and making her childhood feel as carefree as it should for all children.  Other than making insulin, there is nothing else wrong with her body, and T1 should never be a reason to hold her back from doing anything she wants.  She is an amazing child, and my personal hero.  I'm constantly in awe of how well she handles life as a T1 toddler.

Whew, this was a long post but one that I've been wanting to do for awhile. If you have any questions about our life with T1, please feel free to ask!  Thanks for reading, and I'll be back soon!


July 24, 2015

Summertime CSA Goodness - Pickles Edition

Hello there readers!  I hope everyone has had a great week!  I know it has been SO great to see the sun shining in Pittsburgh!

I want to start by talking about a great decision that we have made this year - joining a CSA!  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it basically means that you pay for a share in the goodies from the farm's growing season!  We paid for the entire season in May, and then from June - October we get a box of fruits, veggies and herbs once a week!  It's a really great way to try things you might not pick up at the grocery store, and to support local agriculture!

Another added benefit of our particular CSA (all work a little differently) is that we can order extra or specialty items each week as well!  This is really great for me during canning season, so I can order extra fruits and veggies to preserve for the whole year!

This week I loaded up on the pickling cucumbers - they were way cheaper than the store or other farmstands would have been AND the quality was awesome.  Even when I've grown my own pickling cukes, I never got ones that were this tasty, size appropriate, and crisp:

I mean, seriously.  Aren't these beautiful?

I had about 5 pounds of cucumbers, so I broke it up to make both fridge dills and bread and butters. I divided the batch into 1.5 lbs for the bread and butters and 3.5 lbs for the fridge dills - my favorite!

I find that when it comes to dill pickles, I get the best results making short term (fridge) dills that aren't water bath canned.  Honestly, they never last too long anyway in my house because they are so tasty!  I use a Bobby Flay recipe that I originally found over at One Perfect Bite.

            Sliced cukes mixed with garlic and dill.                                        Packed pickles in the jars after an overnight brine bath.

 Beautiful jars of briny goodness.                                                     `             All ready for the fridge!        `

As for the bread and butter pickles, I find those are much better when they are water bath canned.  I don't prefer the bread and butters, but my husband LOVES them on sandwiches so I always make him a few pints!  The recipe that I use is from one of my favorite canning cookbooks, Food in Jars.  Marisa also has a website with lots of great recipes and tips!  But I really REALLY recommend buying her book -- it's a great canning resource!

                                             Bread and butters getting heated through.                                               Finished bread and butters ready for the pantry!

The quality of the cucumber that you use definitely matters - so try to go as fresh and local as you can!  Being a mom now, I don't have as much time for my garden as I used to, so I only grow certain things.  Joining the CSA has definitely helped me to continue to get some of my favorite fruits and veggies in large quantities without having to grow them myself!

Are you canning anything exciting?  Do you belong to a CSA?  I'd love to hear all about what you are doing with your own gardens this time of year!  =)  Thanks for reading!