1 Year North Carolina-versary

This weekend marks one year since us Smiths moved from Lititz, Pennsylvania to North Carolina. In some ways we still miss our friends and small town that we left behind (heck, we still miss Florida too!) but in most ways, we feel like we’re finally home. This last year has seen our boys reaching new milestones- Nolan learned to walk and talk and Brady has completely blossomed into an independent pre-schooler. Our kids have gotten to experience so many new things since moving to North Carolina. They’ve explored lakes and trails, visited the mountains and beaches, and have been to tons of downtown museums and festivals. Here’s some of my favorite pictures from the last year of getting to know North Carolina.

If the weather was nice, we were at a park. Lots of biking, running, playing, and boating took place this year, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the amount of cool parks to check out.

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We’ve tried to spend a lot of time enjoying all of the lakes near us as well with picnics, swimming, fishing and boat rides.

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We’ve celebrated all of our birthdays since moving to North Carolina…Brady turned 3 last summer and Nolan turned 2 this Spring. Side note: This summer Brady will celebrate his 4th birthday in his 4th house. Time to stay put for a while!

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We’ve really gotten to enjoy all 4 seasons. In fact, that might be my favorite thing about North Carolina. You get a taste of each season without ever feeling tired of any one type of weather. Just when the Summer heat got annoying, Fall gave us a welcomed break. When Winter got on my last nerve, Spring began to give us some relief. It’s just gorgeous here.

Summer

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Fall

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Winter

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Spring

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Some of our favorite memories were when we ventured out of Raleigh and checked out what else North Carolina had to offer.

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Visiting Boone, Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain.

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Checking out UNC Chapel Hill

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At Oak Island, NC

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Day trip to the NC Zoo

While we know the state of North Carolina has a lot to offer, we’re especially happy that we chose Raleigh as our city. We’ve had so much fun checking out the museums, shops, parks, restaurants, festivals and Farmer’s Markets downtown.

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It has been a fun year of exploring this area, and now that we have built our forever home, we are really looking forward to seeing what else there is to discover. I’ll always miss seeing Amish buggies in PA, and I’ll never be as close to the beach as I was in FL, but, despite the fact that NC has the worst Spring pollen I’ve ever encountered, it really feels like the perfect fit for our family. We’re looking forward to seeing what else this area has to offer and making lots more memories!

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Winter Weather Wackiness!

Ah, Winter time. That lovely time of year where noses never stop running, feet never seem warm enough, and cabin fever sets in. Admittedly, this North Carolina winter has paled in comparison to what went down last winter in Pennsylvania, but when you’re a mom of two small kids, cold is cold. No outside playtime and always having to bundle up to go anywhere is a drag. Then when you add snow or ice that keeps you housebound, well, that’s a lot of togetherness!

So, I’m sharing what we do to keep sane in Winter months.

First of all, without a doubt, there is more T.V. watching and iPad time. I just don’t know how to completely avoid that.

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At least it’s educational!

 

We have literally played with every.single.toy. in our house. We build and take apart various train tracks all day long. We paint pictures. We play with Play-doh. We read and re-read our favorite books. We do puzzles. We make buildings with Legos and blocks. We have races around the house. We jump on our trampoline. Aaand, that gets us to right around lunch time. Whew!

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Working on those fine motor skills!

 

Another life saver during winter months is a new toy added in the mix. Anything new that can be a distraction, is always a win! Except for this toy. It’s called a Wubble. It was described by Brady as, “The BEST toy ever!” And, it popped the day after we got it. We didn’t even have time for the novelty to wear off! Ugh…

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The real winter fun begins when we can get out and play in some cold weather. Last week we had this weird ice/snow storm that froze everything, made roads impossible to drive on, and canceled school all week. Thankfully we were stocked with lots of food and Chris was home with us as his travel plans were canceled for the week because of the weather. We couldn’t go anywhere, so we just used that time to bundle up and play on the ice.

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Nolan kept saying “Pretty Snow. Wow.” but he only kinda tolerated being outside in the cold. He refused to wear gloves and was much more interested in coming inside the warm house to eat breakfast.

While North Carolina does have it’s share of warmer winter days where temperatures reach into the 50’s, for the most part it’s much chillier this time of year and you are forced to find inside activities to fill the day. Some of our go-to places to venture to are the mall play area (if I’m up for dousing the kids with hand sanitizer afterwards), the train table in the children’s section of Barnes-n-Noble, a friend’s house for a playdate, the Chick-fil-a play area (so mommy can get an iced tea and a moment of sanity), story time at the library, Marbles Kids Museum (definitely getting our money’s worth out of those annual passes!) and the North Carolina Science Museum.

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At the “World’s Largest Dinosaurs” exhibit at the Science Museum.

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Dino dig at the Science Museum. Brady was in heaven.

When all else fails and we just can’t think of anything else to do, we make music, play music, and dance.

Another winter pastime of ours is finding a house project/re-decorating. It must be all that time spent sitting around the house that makes me start to critique every piece of furniture, paint color or throw pillow. Our house is new, so theoretically I shouldn’t have that much I’d want to change, but my dining room table has been on my mind for sometime now. I’ve always loved the table as it used to belong to my grandparents, but the chairs were not my style. During our week of being stuck inside, I finally bit the bullet and ordered some new chairs. Then, our first outing after the ice storm was to Home Depot for a new light fixture for the dining room. Thanks to winter storms, my hubby was in town all week and had some time in the evenings to put this all together for me!

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I’m a much bigger fan of the “After” look.

We try to make the most of our time together during all the cold weather, cabin fever loveliness, but some days seem to turn into a blur of baking cookies, watching movies, and taming toddler madness. I’m sure Spring is right around the corner, but for now we’ll keep searching for our lost gloves, watching the Planes movie on a continuous loop, and checking the news for school closures. cbn1 cbn2

Keep warm, friends! And for goodness sake, if you’ve got some better ideas for entertaining kiddos during the winter, please share them with me!

 

 

Home.

We’ve been in our new home for about 3 weeks now. Honestly, it feels like a lot longer! This place just felt like home from the minute we moved in. Here’s a little recap of how our home has shaped up since December 26…

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We had our closing at 8 AM the morning after Christmas. Every year Chris holds back one present for me for the day after Christmas. This year it was keys to a new house!

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Shortly after we closed on the house, the movers arrived to load up our stuff from the rental house. Nolan was an excellent supervisor.

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Good-bye rental house! You were good to us for those quick 8 months we lived in you. (Sadly, our awesome tree did not come with us. He found a new home in the woods out back.)

 

 

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Moving into the new house…patiently waiting for the movers to bring all their toys in!

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Chris and I did not waste any time unpacking. Our first night in the new house was fueled by Chardonnay as we made our way through the boxes.

 

Here’s what our house looks like now!

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North Carolina doormat!

Here’s how she looks from the inside…

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This is the hallway and stairs that are to the left when you walk in the front door. We hung our very favorite pictures that reflect all the places our family has lived- Florida, NC and Pennsylvania. (Thank you Darrah and Kisha for 2 of those!)

 

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This leads into the boys’ playroom. (Otherwise known as formal dining room, but that’s not how this family is using this room!)

 

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The playroom (doorway leads to the pantry and kitchen) with our Pennsylvania barn star. We also have the boys’ birth announcements hanging (gift from Auntie MB!)

 

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The builder gave us some extra windows in this room so it is nice and bright. Perfect for a cheery playroom! (Or formal dining room someday!)

But truth be told, this room is never this neat and tidy. It usually looks like this…

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Down the hall is our kitchen. I love that I can see the playroom from the kitchen now!

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Next to the kitchen is a little bump out area that we added. This is where we have our dining table. We really like it because it’s close to the kitchen and next to the living room. It’s all very open. It also has a sliding door that leads to the deck out back.

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This is another super bright room!

 

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This is what you see if you look straight down the hall from the front door. Would love to eventually update our dining chairs, but for now, that’ll have to go on the wishlist.

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Here’s Brady in the open area between our kitchen and living room. It’s usually where they use their riding toys and race in a circle through the playroom and kitchen.

 

This leads into the living room. We just hung some pictures, so now it’s really feeling more homey. (Sidenote: the pictures currently hanging are of just me, Chris and Brady! I ordered some new prints to reflect the fact that we are now a family of FOUR! Sorry for the delay, Nolan.)

 

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Hi Albert!

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We’re really happy with how everything has turned out. It’s crazy to think that less than 6 months ago this was all just a plot of uncleared land. We feel very blessed to have been a part of the process of creating our forever home. But of course, regardless of the house we’re in, home is wherever I’m with these guys!

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Merry ChristSMITH! {December Shenanigans}

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December has been a quick and busy month. We kicked it off with some Christmas decorating and tree trimming. Our tree this year was less than stellar, but it got the job done. While we didn’t put out all of our ornaments or decorations because of our impending move, we did just enough to make it feel festive. Plus, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without a tree filling the house with that awesome smell and glowing lights!

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We had a 9 day trip to Savannah and then Daytona (Chris went to Clearwater for a work trip) in the beginning of December. It seemed like a good idea (before we got our December 26 closing date). Even though it was right in the middle of Christmas season and our big move, we had some nice visiting time with my dad and step-mom and then my mom and Grandma in Daytona. The kids loved all the time with their grandparents.

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One of my favorite memories from last December was our advent calendar. Each day was filled with a fun activity or treat to experience with Brady. This year we did something similar, but we wanted the focus to be more on the act of giving and doing for others (with some fun stuff for the boys mixed in.) Here’s some of our activities we did…

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Making cards and giving candy to the kids in Brady’s class.

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Surprising the boys with their train track around the tree one morning.

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Donating a gift for Toys 4 Tots.

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Eating treats and watching a Christmas movie.

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Visiting with our elderly neighbors and bringing them a Christmas present.

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Picking out Christmas presents for Albert and Gato.

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Getting Peppermint Chocolate Chip milkshakes from Chick-fil-A (mommy’s favorite tradition!)

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Making Candy Cane Brownies for our neighbors.

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Christmas presents for the trash collectors (Brady’s most favorite activity!!)

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Breakfast for Dinner!

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Baking cookies for Santa (frosting/sprinkles for Brady and Nolan!)

Some of our other activities included cleaning out our old toys and giving them away, putting a surprise present in the mailbox for the mailman, looking at Christmas lights, and surprising Brady’s teacher with her favorite coffee one day. I hope these are traditions we continue as it was such a joy watching the boys experience the act of giving and getting to spoil them a little along the way.

While much of the month was consumed with thoughts of our new house and tons of to-do lists, we appreciated any small moments where we got to slow down and enjoy Christmas, our boys, and our new hometown. I loved getting an afternoon to myself to do some exploring and shopping downtown.

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Nothing like walking around downtown on a chilly day! (especially if you have hot coffee in hand, like I did!)

I also loved baking cupcakes and getting to go to Brady’s class celebration for Jesus’s birthday.

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How cute are these kiddos?!

But, admittedly, lots of adult beverages were consumed after bedtime this month to help keep our sanity.

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Even though adding a big trip and a big move to an already busy month at times made us a little, cray cray…

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We are abundantly aware of the many, many blessings God has bestowed upon us. We are constantly in awe of all that He has provided for us and give thanks for the good, the bad, and the crazy every day!

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We spent our Christmas with Grandpa and Nana, opening gifts, eating, and getting ready for our big move.

We hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and will have a blessed 2015!

 

 

 

 

Building Our Forever Home…Almost Done!

In true Smith fashion, things are nice and crazy right now (and exciting!) We’ve been traveling for the holidays- Atlanta last week and Savannah and Daytona next week. We’ve also been putting up our Christmas decorations. Oh, and we are moving into our new house the day after Christmas! Our original closing date was scheduled for February. That got bumped up to January, and while it was a little sooner than we had planned on, we went with it. THEN, our builder came to us and said they’d like to close before the New Year. Whoa! We quickly had to make arrangements with our current rental house, look for movers, and wrap our heads around moving over Christmas break. (We also negotiated a few concessions with our builder to compensate us for accommodating their expedited schedule!) Despite the stress that comes along with yet another move (our 3rd in the last 2 years) we are pretty giddy about the idea that we’ll be starting out the new year in our forever home.

The boys look forward to our weekly trips to the house on Sundays to check out the progress. It’s always a fun game of chasing Nolan around and trying to keep him from picking up rusty nails, touching wet paint, grabbing insulation, etc… Brady has the house memorized and has been able to give a tour since it was just framing and floorboards. He loves to show us where “his” playroom is going to be and always likes to remind us that we need to remember to bring the T.V. from the old house.

Here’s some pictures of the recent progress…

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Nolan checking out the new bathtub in the boys’ future bathroom.

It was really exciting when the siding started going up!

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Drywall really made it start to feel like a home!

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The original deck. They ended up re-building it because it was just all wrong.

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The new and improved deck with the stairs moved to the side.

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My favorite part of the process…seeing the kitchen cabinets installed. Not gonna lie, I almost teared up when I saw my kitchen. {The site of future Kids Cook Monday posts!}

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Another exciting day was when the stonework started going up!

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Paint and trim- getting closer!

 

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The driveway was poured this week and our fireplace has a mantel. I can’t wait to see the flooring and countertops go in next. It’s hard to believe that in less than a month we can unpack our boxes for good!

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes {Kids Cook Monday} *Farmer’s Market*

 

One of our favorite things to do is to take a trip to the weekly Farmer’s Market in Downtown Raleigh. Besides the abundance of farm fresh produce, there’s always fun free samples, live music, and lots to look at. My boys always get a kick out of checking out what’s in season and sampling different vendor’s goodies. For this week’s Kids Cook Monday recipe, we headed downtown to see what was in season this time of year. We were inspired by all of the apples and sweet potatoes for sale. Not only did we get to sample some yummy granola and peanut butter, but we also got the ingredients for this week’s Kids Cook meal.

 

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I should note that not only is the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market entertaining, but the produce is SO cheap! This slow cooker apple/sweet potato dish cost about $2 for the whole batch. Even if you doubled the batch, it would still be a super affordable Thanksgiving side dish!

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Sweet, tart, and slow cooked goodness!

Ingredients

3-4 apples, peeled and chopped
2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup water
3 Tbs. Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
2 Tbs. Butter

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I used a combo of sweet and tart apple varieties. You could also mix up the spices you use- nutmeg would be delicious!

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Mine and Brady’s favorite part of cooking- chopping!

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As you can see, we gave the apples a very rough, not perfect, peel and chop.

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Dump the apples and sweet potatoes into the slow cooker. Pour the water over them and toss your butter on top.

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Sprinkle on the brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. Give the pot a big stir and then put the lid on. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours. The apples cook faster than the potatoes, so check your potatoes to make sure they are nice and soft.

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Patiently wait for your sweet potatoes to finish cooking…

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Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through, remove from the crock pot. We ate ours just like this, but you could also top with more brown sugar and pecans. Or, even add a little cream and mash them up a bit for a apple sweet potato mash. Yum!

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Not only do these sweet potatoes end up tasting like apple pie filling, but your whole house will smell delish!

This would be the easiest Thanksgiving side dish ever. Plus, it won’t take up that precious oven space! Our kiddos enjoyed this farm to table treat, and hopefully yours will too!

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Building Our Forever Home

After almost 6 months in Raleigh, us Smiths are smitten with North Carolina. We’ve fallen in love with the mild weather that still boasts a distinct change of seasons. We can’t get enough of all the parks, lakes, and biking trails that the area offers. We are addicted to trying new restaurants and exploring downtown Raleigh. It’s a perfect mix of big city, Southern charm, with a little bit of Crunchy Granola thrown in. Our kids are always active and learning as there is so much to experience- Farmer’s Markets, Kids Museum, Science Museum, libraries, parks, and activities with the “Mom’s Group” we’ve joined. We’re also loving being a little closer to family and having easy access to the beach and mountains. To sum it up, we’ve decided to stay put here in North Carolina.

We decided to build a home in a neighborhood that we absolutely LOVE that is about 5 minutes from our current rental. We’re hoping to be in the new house early next year. Brady is loving watching his new house go up and keeps asking to get his tools to help. He’s especially excited because of the golf course that is visible from our front porch! This past weekend, the framing was completed and we were able to walk into our new house for the first time. As Chris and Nolan crossed the threshold, Nolan sweetly said, “Home.” How completely perfect.

We do daily drive-by’s of our new home and have become it’s official stalker. I take pictures of it every time we pass by to document the progress, so we can always look back and show our boys how their childhood home came to be.

Here’s the journey so far…

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Empty lot on the corner…ready for the Smiths!

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SOLD!

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Here’s how the house currently looks!

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Checking out Brady’s new room!

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Let’s get my tools and get to work!

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We’re so grateful for this opportunity to build our forever home and can’t wait to start this new chapter of our lives!